Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

Les travaux de la Chambre ont repris le
21 septembre 2017

Hansard -- Mon., Apr. 23, 2001

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HALIFAX, MONDAY, APRIL 23, 2001

Fifty-eighth General Assembly

Second Session

2:00 P.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Murray Scott

DEPUTY SPEAKERS

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

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. We will begin the daily routine.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Community Services.

RESOLUTION NO. 574

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

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Whereas Dress for Success is a non-profit organization that helps low-income women make the transition back into the work force by giving an interview-appropriate suit of clothing; and

Whereas Dress for Success achieved official status to come to the Halifax area in March 2001; and

Whereas the Dress for Success volunteer board members held their first Halifax suit drive with the help of the staff of the Department of Community Services at their Spring Garden Road Offices this morning;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize the initiative of these Halifax area women who have brought this wonderful service to our community.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Education.

RESOLUTION NO. 575

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

Whereas legendary actress Vanessa Redgrave will receive an honorary degree from St. Francis Xavier University during convocation ceremonies on May 6th; and

Whereas Ms. Redgrave's talents as an exceptional actress are well known, including winning a best supporting actress Oscar for her role in Julia and five other Academy Award nominations; and

Whereas she has also worked tirelessly for a number of human rights causes and was appointed as UNICEF special representative for the performing arts in 1995;

[Page 1381]

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate St. F.X. and Ms. Redgrave for her outstanding personal, professional and humanitarian accomplishments.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Health.

RESOLUTION NO. 576

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of my colleague, the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas an estimated 18,000 Nova Scotians are infected with food poisoning every year, related to the undercooking of meats and poultry; and

Whereas the provincial government has made a commitment to the areas of children, health and education;

Whereas Canadian teachers have outlined that learning through fun and educational activities are effective methods of teaching children;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House celebrate the efforts taken by the Canadian Partnership for Consumer Food Safety Education to develop the Fight Bac! learning program that educates children ages 9 to 12 about the four components of food safety - clean, cook, chill and separate.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 1382]

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 577

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

Whereas in this age of plenty there are still many who can't afford regular meals; and

Whereas food banks run by concerned and dedicated volunteers ensure no one must go without completely; and

Whereas Bernice Donaldson of Enfield has dedicated much of the past 16 years contributing to the operation of the local food bank, among other charitable works benefiting those without;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly recognize the good works of Bernice Donaldson of the Enfield Food Bank and congratulate her for her dedication to the less fortunate in her community.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

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RESOLUTION NO. 578

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

Whereas Addiction Services, under the Department of Health, does not offer long-term residential services for women with addictions; and

Whereas the Society for Women Healing from Addictions and Abuse, arising from Exodus House under the Sisters Service of Notre Dame; and

Whereas this neglected service requires resources and recognition through Addiction Services within the Department of Health; and

Therefore be it resolved that this House demand that the Minister of Health recognize his responsibilities to the unmet needs of women with addictions requiring long-term services.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Eastern Shore.

RESOLUTION NO. 579

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

Whereas the people in Sheet Harbour have honoured one of their own who has recently come home; and

Whereas Martin Currie grew up in Sheet Harbour, went on to become a priest, later served in Peru and the became a Monsignor; and

Whereas this year he was ordained as Bishop of Grand Falls, Newfoundland;

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Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House join the community of Sheet Harbour in honouring Bishop Martin Currie for his achievements and wish the new Bishop all the best as he embarks on the new challenges ahead.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

RESOLUTION NO. 580

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

Whereas Grade 12 students from Nova Scotia high schools are now thinking about their future plans for university in September; and

Whereas Chrissy Costard of Porters Lake and Vikram Lehki of Bridgewater have been awarded the TD-Canada Trust Scholarship, each worth $50,000; and

Whereas TD-Canada Trust Scholarships are awarded to only 20 students from across Canada;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House congratulate Chrissy Costard and Vikram Lehki on winning the TD-Canada Trust Scholarship and extend best wishes for success in their future academic endeavours.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party.

RESOLTUION NO. 581

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

Whereas the Annual General Meeting of the Liberal Party of Nova Scotia, with over 600 registered delegates, was held this past weekend in Halifax; and

Whereas volunteers gave many hours of their valuable personal time to make this meeting a resounding success; and

Whereas these volunteers, who gave so willingly of their time, keep the democratic political process functioning in our province.

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the Liberal Party of Nova Scotia and its volunteers on a tremendously successful annual meeting.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Health.

RESOLUTION NO. 582

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

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[2:15 p.m.]

Whereas the Truro and District Chamber of Commerce is a voluntary group of 300 area businesses, representing over 4,000 employees, who have joined together in their efforts to be the principal voice of businesses in Colchester County; and

Whereas Duane Rath of Bible Hill, President of Blaikies Dodge Chrysler Ltd., has been elected as the President of the Truro and District Chamber of Commerce; and

Whereas promoting the positives Colchester County offers rather than dwelling on its perceived shortfalls is a major goal for Duane Rath in 2001;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Duane Rath on being elected as President of the Truro and District Chamber of Commerce and wish him every success in his efforts to strengthen the economic and social fabric of his community.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, before I do my resolution, with your permission I would like to make an introduction of a guest in the gallery. Today in the west gallery, we have a Grade 11 student from Queen Elizabeth High School, in Halifax, who, as part of her Career and Life Management Program, is following me around today to learn a little bit about what an MLA does, because she tells me that she has political aspirations for the future. She also tells me how much she enjoys political science, and that she has an excellent teacher, Mr. Millar, at the school. Her mother works in the NDP caucus office for the honourable members across the way. I would like to introduce Alison Baker, and I would like the members of the House to extend a warm welcome to her in her work today. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We certainly welcome our young guest to the gallery today, and hope she enjoys the proceedings.

[Page 1387]

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

RESOLUTION NO. 583

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

Whereas yesterday marked the start of Education Week in Nova Scotia, an annual event observed since the mid-1930's, that has schools across the province celebrating the value of education; and

Whereas children and youth are Nova Scotia's greatest resource and deserving of a strong public education system, properly resourced, that will help our young people prepare for their tomorrows, helping them reach their personal goals; and

Whereas this government has dampened Nova Scotians' enthusiasm for this week because school budgets are so inadequate, many schools have no paper and other supplies so basic to providing education, yet administrators, teachers and students struggle on;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate all the participants in our public education system for all their accomplishments in spite of this government's inadequate funding of public education.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Victoria.

RESOLUTION NO. 584

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

Whereas the Wagmatcook Culture and Heritage Centre opens on June 8, 2001; and

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Whereas this centre includes a great hall, a museum and interpretive centre, community classroom space, and other features; and

Whereas this community economic development project has the potential to add significantly to the cultural and tourism industries of Cape Breton Island;

Therefore be it resolved that this House extend congratulations to Wagmatcook First Nation for its foresight in developing the Wagmatcook Culture and Heritage Centre as a resource for all Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Pictou West.

RESOLUTION NO. 585

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

Whereas of the more than 25,000 portable sawmills Wood-Mizer Products, Inc. has distributed worldwide, only 500 sawyers have accomplished the goal of sawing 1 million board feet; and

Whereas compared to traditional circular mills, these portable bandsaw-like mills maximize each tree that is harvested and provide each customer's specific requirements; and

Whereas Alex J. MacLeod of Scotsburn, a portable sawmill operator, has reached this milestone by serving many people's needs and by milling 50,000 board feet of beams and planks for the launching of the Ship Hector;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Alex J. MacLeod on reaching the 1 million board feet mark, and wish him well on his future projects.

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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 Fairview.

RESOLUTION NO. 586

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

Whereas Sunday, April 22nd, was celebrated across the world as Earth Day and continues on through April 29th as Earth Week; and

Whereas more than 6 million Canadians staged events and projects to address local environmental issues; and

Whereas the Clean Nova Scotia Foundation is provincial co-ordinator in our province and heads efforts to improve the state of the environment as part of Earth Week, promoting activities and resources to find solutions to air pollution, climate change, ecosystem and wildlife protection;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of the House join in celebrating Earth Week and show how much we appreciate our Earth by commending the Clean Nova Scotia Foundation, Earth Day Canada, and all those who are involved in creating successful community programs to help Canadians help the Earth.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton East.

RESOLUTION NO. 587

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 Hamm Government cash grab from the Sydney Casino has cost charities $1.6 million this past year; and

Whereas the grand total now would be $3.8 million that charities will never see; and

Whereas the Premier is quoted as saying his government didn't cut a program, it just opted not to create one promised by the Liberals;

Therefore be it resolved that Premier John Hamm stop making excuses and give the money back to the people who really need it.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Kings North.

RESOLUTION NO. 588

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

Whereas Missionary Ventures provides teams of personnel to various Central American countries in order to help with medical assistance and construction expertise; and

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Whereas Dr. Peter Bagnell and Dr. Paul Morgan volunteered for a recent trip to Honduras, taking with them their sons, William and Noel; and

Whereas William's and Noel's classmates in Margaret Hayes P-2 class at Port Williams Elementary School donated 20 boxes full of items which children in Honduras would enjoy;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate Dr. Peter Bagnell and his son, William Bagnell, and Dr. Paul Morgan and his son, Noel Morgan, along with the students at Port Williams School for their generosity and willingness to help those in need.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

RESOLUTION NO. 589

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

Whereas April 22nd to April 28th marks Volunteer Week; and

Whereas Douglas Rogers of Halifax and Winnifred Surette of Yarmouth are among 28 volunteers chosen to receive the prestigious Caring Canadian Award for their volunteer activity over the years; and

Whereas Douglas Rogers and Winnifred Surette will receive their awards at Rideau Hall in Ottawa this week;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Douglas Rogers and Winnifred Surette for receiving the Caring Canadian Award and recognize their stellar volunteer efforts.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Richmond.

RESOLUTION NO. 590

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

Whereas a three week old strike by Toronto school janitors and teachers' assistants has caused the Toronto School Board to shut down the schools in that city; and

Whereas the strike by school janitors and maintenance workers with the Halifax Regional School Board is now entering its fifth week; and

Whereas if the Toronto schools are considered unfit for occupancy after three weeks, surely the Halifax schools must be in even worse shape after five weeks;

Therefore be it resolved that this government take immediate steps to bring about a fair and equitable resolution to the strike at the Halifax Regional School Board so that students can return to schools that are safe and healthy.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Community Services.

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RESOLUTION NO. 591

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

Whereas Kathy Coffin of Bedford has been a volunteer with various women's organizations for the past number of years, as well as an employee of Health Canada for the past 20 years; and

Whereas the Maritime Centre of Excellence for Women's Health is located in Halifax and serves all four Atlantic Provinces; and

Whereas Ms. Coffin was recently one of 20 women who received an award from the Maritime Centre of Excellence for Women's Health for her ongoing work on healthy public policy development;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House extend their congratulations to Kathy Coffin and all award winners recognized by the Maritime Centre of Excellence for Women's Health for their hard work and dedication to this important cause.

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. 592

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

Whereas Voluntary Planning has assumed the responsibility of conducting a public review of the non-resident ownership issue at meetings across the province; and

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Whereas it is vital that as many Nova Scotians as possible are heard from during this review; and

Whereas Voluntary Planning has agreed to host three additional meetings in Sydney, Sheet Harbour and in the Peggy's Cove area;

Therefore be it resolved that the Legislature congratulate and thank Voluntary Planning for its decision to expand this important review to these three new locations.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

RESOLUTION NO. 593

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall (Interruptions)

AN HON. MEMBER: Resign.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

MR. MACKINNON: Well, at least I don't have to worry about eating mud, Mr. Speaker, or crow too. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Cape Breton West on the notice of motion.

AN HON. MEMBER: Crow, mud, foot, it is all the same thing.

MR. MACKINNON: It was a good weekend, Mr. Speaker.

[Page 1395]

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

Whereas the Tories allocated $88 million in the last fiscal year for government restructuring; and

Whereas the amount the Tories actually spent was closer to $53 million, leaving $35 million left over; and

Whereas one can only surmise the extra $35 million is locked away somewhere in the Minister of Finance's slush fund;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Transportation and Public Works stop hiding this money from Nova Scotians and start using it to repair our roads.

[The notice is tabled.]

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

MRS. MURIEL BAILLIE: Mr. Speaker, this afternoon it gives me great pleasure to introduce five very distinguished men from Pictou West, and after I have named them I will ask them to stand and receive the warm welcome of the House: Ron Baillie, Wayne Murray, Harold Winmill, Ken Grant and Rev. Donald Sutherland. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

RESOLUTION NO. 594

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

Whereas Norway made significant contributions to Canada during the Second World War; and

Whereas a plaque was unveiled at Pier 21 in Halifax yesterday honouring Norway's generosity during the war; and

Whereas many Canadian merchant sailors served aboard Norwegian vessels during World War II and Norway lost about 4,000 sailors during the war;

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Therefore be it resolved that members of this Legislature join with Nova Scotians in thanking both the Canadian Merchant Navy and Norway for their outstanding aid to Canada during World War II.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 595

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

Whereas the Clare community is very proud of its dedicated volunteers; and

Whereas this year the Clare community has selected one of its outstanding citizens as Volunteer of the Year and this individual has given much in the way of time and energy to various organizations; and

Whereas through this individual's genuine warmth and caring towards others, she has become a valuable asset to the organization that she is involved in;

Therefore be it resolved that this House extend its best wishes and congratulations to Darlene Saulnier of Church Point for her outstanding contributions to her community.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

RESOLUTION NO. 596

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

Whereas 14 year old goalie Nicole McKenzie helped lead several Pictou County Peewee hockey teams to victory; and

Whereas Nicole was picked as all-star goalie and the championship game's Most Valuable Player with the New Glasgow Bombers;

Whereas Nicole also won the top goalie award when she played with her home team, the Westville Peewee B Miners,

[2:30 p.m.]

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House congratulate Nicole McKenzie of Westville for her expertise at goaltending and for her many awards.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Colchester North.

RESOLUTION NO. 597

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

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Whereas the member for Timberlea-Prospect is prone to grading government decisions as if he continued to work in education; and

Whereas the NDP member's alleged high standards never seem to apply to his own research methods; and

Whereas it is this member who deserves an 'F' for flawed research methods when, on Friday, he slandered the member for Yarmouth;

Therefore be it resolved that now that the member for Timberlea-Prospect has accepted responsibility for this mistake, that he do the right thing and apologize to the member for Yarmouth.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

RESOLUTION NO. 598

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

Whereas John MacNeil of Dartmouth has been awarded the 2001 Elizabeth Ann Seton Award; and

Whereas the Elizabeth Ann Seton Award is presented annually by the Sisters of Charity to a man or woman in Nova Scotia who best exemplifies Elizabeth Seton's commitment and dedication to those living in poverty; and

Whereas Mr. MacNeil is a native of Antigonish and has worked tirelessly for many years to help the less fortunate by establishing Hope Farm in Colchester County and contributing to the operation of Metro Turning Point Centre and serving as a Deacon of the Archdiocese of Halifax;

[Page 1399]

Therefore be it resolved that this House commend John MacNeil for his compassion and dedication to those in need and congratulate him on receiving the prestigious Elizabeth Ann Seton Award.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

RESOLUTION NO. 599

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

Whereas the Chief Scout Award was created in 1973 by Governor General Roland Michener, then Chief Scout of Canada; and

Whereas a Chief Scout must have earned the Pathfinder Award in citizenship, personal development leadership, outdoor skills, the world conservation badge and first aid, plus a challenge badge in seven other categories; and

Whereas a Chief Scout must report on Canada's world scouting involvement, do 30 hours of community service and other projects that aid the scout in becoming a valued and active citizen with high ideals;

Therefore be it resolved that this House extend congratulations to Sarah Almon and Erin Murphy on the occasion of becoming Chief Scouts of the 1st Woodlawn Troop in Dartmouth.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 1400]

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

RESOLUTION NO. 600

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

Whereas Christmas tree shippers and exporters from eastern Nova Scotia, as well as representatives from the Cobequid Christmas Tree Products Association, Northeastern Christmas Tree Association and the Christmas Tree Council of Nova Scotia held a special meeting to address the proposed changes of the gypsy moth regulation boundaries in the province; and

Whereas a unanimous decision was made to strongly oppose any proposal to categorize the entire province as regulated for gypsy moth; and

Whereas the Canadian Food Inspection Agency is encouraged to continue recognizing the fact that eastern Nova Scotia is, in fact, free from gypsy moth population;

Therefore be it resolved that the Nova Scotia Legislature supports our Christmas tree industry and requests the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to examine all the facts, data and pertinent information so as to not unfairly impact this valuable enterprise.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

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RESOLUTION NO. 601

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

Whereas Nova Scotians have a long, honoured and glorious history of racing Americans, of which the Bluenose II reminds us constantly; and

Whereas Mr. Scott Fraser of Shubenacadie, who has raced for many years in this province, has jumped to the highly competitive American Speed Association; and

Whereas a string of top five finishes has placed Mr. Fraser 66 points ahead of his nearest rival for Rookie of the Year honours and only 88 points behind the current national points leader, good for seventh place;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly cheer on Mr. Fraser in his racing quest as he takes on the Americans in the grand tradition of our heritage.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

RESOLUTION NO. 602

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

Whereas on May 1st a smoking ban will be mandatory in correctional institutions across the province; and

Whereas the guards at these institutions have requested that government provide additional equipment and the necessary training to enforce this new policy; and

[Page 1402]

Whereas government has now agreed to the union's request to provide the important resources needed to ensure the safety of guards and inmates;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the guards and staff at Nova Scotia's correctional institutions for successfully convincing the Minister of Justice to provide them with the necessary safety and protective equipment for a smooth transition to the non-smoking policy coming into force on May 1st.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

RESOLUTION NO. 603

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

Whereas hundreds of individual Nova Scotians went to Quebec City to demonstrate their concern regarding democratic rights in the Americas; and

Whereas Nova Scotian MPs, including Alexa McDonough, were in Quebec City to take a stand against the secret negotiation of agreements that denied democratic rights; and

Whereas after the Summit of the Americas finished, the Prime Minister endorsed investors' rights as having precedence over citizens' rights;

Therefore be it resolved that this House urges the Prime Minister and government to hear the voices of the many Nova Scotians who are opposed to trade deals that infringe on democratic rights and public services.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 1403]

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

RESOLUTION NO. 604

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

Whereas Rockingstone Heights School has recently instituted the Healthy Kidz Program; and

Whereas together, community partners Tim Hortons, Sobeys and Superstore recognize the need for a program for children and families who are experiencing issues such as family violence, instability, addictions abuse and neglect, which have a negative impact on a child's self-esteem;

Whereas this program will focus on improving self-esteem and problem solving through leisure-based activities;

Therefore be it resolved that all here congratulate the Greystone community and partners for recognizing the value of youth and their unwavering commitment to enriching the lives of their children and youth.

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-Cole Harbour.

[Page 1404]

RESOLUTION NO. 605

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

Whereas the 2001 World Under 17 Hockey Challenge took place in Truro and New Glasgow from December 29, 2000 to January 3, 2001; and

Whereas the organizing committee of the hockey challenge has received the Truro and District Chamber of Commerce Outstanding Volunteer of the Year Award to be presented at Keddy's Truro Inn on April 24th; and

Whereas this is the first time a group, rather than an individual, has been recognized for this award;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this Legislature recognize the organizing committee on their tremendous success in bringing this international event to Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

RESOLUTION NO. 606

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

Whereas April 22nd to April 28th is National Volunteer Week, a week dedicated to honouring the many volunteers from across the province; and

Whereas volunteers give so generously of their energies, skills and family time and are the unsung heroes and the backbone of our communities; and

[Page 1405]

Whereas Sylvia Jean Anthony of Dartmouth North was recognized at a provincial Volunteer Award Day held on April 19th for her many efforts in the community, including serving as Hall Rental Chairperson at Emmanuel Anglican Church in the Ladies' Guild, fundraiser for the Girl Guides and Boy Scouts, Secretary to the Northbrook Community Association, Coordinator of the Purple Ribbon Campaign, as well as being involved in the Neighbourhood Watch Program, the Heart and Stroke Foundation, and the Dartmouth North Community Centre;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of the House recognize the important role volunteers play in our lives and pay tribute to Sylvia Jean Anthony for her provincial Volunteer Award as an outstanding volunteer who has contributed much to the well-being of the Dartmouth North community.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

RESOLUTION NO. 607

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

Whereas Elaine Dooks and Ralph Dahr have been employees of the Dartmouth School Board and more recently the Halifax Regional School Board for many years; and

Whereas Elaine Dooks and Ralph Dahr spent many of their years of service at South Woodside School, and appreciation for their services was shown by staff upon their recent retirement; and

Whereas Elaine Dooks and Ralph Dahr have provided invaluable support and encouragement for the many young children who have attended South Woodside School;

[Page 1406]

Therefore be it resolved that this House join the staff at South Woodside School and its community in congratulating Elaine Dooks and Ralph Dahr on their recent retirement and wish them all the best in the coming years.

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. 608

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

Whereas safety on the busy tourist Lighthouse Route, along Highway No. 333, must remain a top priority; and

Whereas the Swissair Flight 111 Memorial at the Whalesback continues to attract visitors; and

Whereas area residents have expressed the need for an expanded parking lot at this memorial site;

Therefore be it resolved that this House thank and congratulate all involved, locally and provincially, including the Minister of Transportation and Public Works, in achieving safe parking at the Swissair Flight 111 Memorial at Whalesback.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 1407]

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

The motion is carried.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

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. 30.

Bill No. 30 - Financial Measures (2001) Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, I am going to take some time today to talk about Bill No. 30, the Financial Measures (2001) Act. Bill No. 30 is the bill that contains amendments to Nova Scotia's statutory law, made necessary as a result of the budget. So to a large extent, it is symbolic of this government's direction, their approach, because this bill is just as important for what it doesn't say as what it does say. I am going to talk about that for awhile today, about what it doesn't say and not just what it says.

Mr. Speaker, I was elected and I am in this House to tell the truth. I will tell the truth to a government that doesn't want to hear it, to a government to whom this Legislature is a bore and an annoyance, to a government that is already tired of listening and convinced that it has all the answers. I will tell the truth to a government that scoffs at freedom of information laws, to a government that abolished the one office in government that was dedicated to defending the rights of the citizen. I will tell the truth to a government that promised more free votes for its backbenchers and has allowed precisely none.

Mr. Speaker, this kind of old-style politics is a road that this government has adopted very quickly and very easily. It is like the 1988 Nova Scotia election, where Premier John Buchanan, who had already been in office for 10 years, ran a campaign around the theme of "the new Conservatives". Of course there wasn't one thing new about them, it was the same

[Page 1408]

old crowd with the same old ideas. There were a few Tory candidates who had never run before, but they weren't the ones who were elected, they weren't the ones calling the shots.

[2:45 p.m.]

A short while ago I was reading a book by a Tory strategist named John Laschinger. It turns out Mr. Laschinger reveals in his book that Tory strategists thought this 1988 campaign to be uproariously funny and was the subject of much comment and jokes in the Tory backrooms because it represented the ultimate triumph of appearance over reality; the ultimate triumph of old-style politics. The Buchanan Government was able to sell to people this idea that they were new Conservatives, even though they didn't have one new idea among them.

Of course, we know now in hindsight that the Buchanan Government was a little inept, a little corrupt; frankly it made Nova Scotia a laughingstock elsewhere in the country, and I am reminded more than a little of the Buchanan years when I look at the government that we have in Nova Scotia today. The most notable feature of the budget - and this Financial Measures (2001) Act that flows from the budget - is the triumph of appearance over reality.

I heard the Premier say the other day that this budget delivered what the government promised, but that is as far from the truth as it is possible to be. The truth is that this government has been working hard since the last election to redefine what it promised to the people of Nova Scotia. It says now that what it promised was to balance the budget and then a 10 per cent tax cut.

That's not what they promised. The truth is that this government - the Party that's now in government - promised everything to everybody. The balanced budget and tax cut was only one promise among 243 in their book of shame. There are even more promises they delivered along the campaign trail, the most prominent of which, or one of the most prominent of which is the infamous promise to immediately twin, or start twinning the Highway No. 101. Altogether, there were 260 promises. No one in the Tory campaign could possibly have believed that all of those promises could be kept; nobody could have possibly believed that all those promises were even doable.

Even the words on the cover, which were Strong Leadership . . . . a clear course were put there because Tory polling showed that is what people wanted; that is why they were on the cover and not because that is what was inside.

How cynical that is. The truth, which I am here to tell, is that John Hamm, now the Premier, promised Nova Scotians repeatedly during the campaign that health care is, was, and always would be his government's number one priority. Let me read you those promises in the Premier's own words. He said inside the cover of the book of shame, "As your premier, my first priority will be to fix the health care system."

[Page 1409]

He said later on in the blue book, "Building a responsive, outcome-based and efficient health care system is the Progressive Conservative Party's most urgent priority . . . In everything we do", it says, "we will put the health care needs of Nova Scotians first." In a campaign speech on June 25th, the Premier said that first and foremost, their priority will be to stabilize the health care system.

From the day after the election, the Premier and the members on that side of the House have been struggling mightily to redefine or simply to forget that commitment, or that series of commitments that were around the theme of health care being the number one priority.

The pledge to fix health care by cutting the fat from administration, I think we all remember this, $46.5 million, to be precise, would be cut from administration and would be used to save the health care system. That promise was nonsense from the day it was first uttered to the day it was abandoned. They knew it was nonsense, that it always was nonsense and it always will be nonsense that there was $46.5 million to be cut from administration and that that was enough to save health care. I hope everybody on that side of the House remembers that promise. They said it anyway. How cynical.

Nowhere in this Financial Measures (2001) Bill is there the least hint of that priority. You cannot tell the young mother in my constituency who held her daughter for eight hours in the hospital emergency room . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Halifax Fairview has the floor. I would ask the honourable members to take their conversations outside, please.

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, the truth hurts. I know that. I know the truth hurts. They don't like to hear it. They cannot tell the woman in my constituency who watched her elderly sister collapse on her front doorstep when she was sent home too early from the hospital that their priority is health care. That woman, my constituent, is still in anguish many months later and tells me she will never forget the look on her sister's face that day when she was sent home from the hospital too early - to save a buck.

You cannot tell the woman who is at home caring for her husband and who tells me that the home care agency does not have enough workers to provide the home care services which she has been allocated, that their number one priority is health care. They cannot tell that to that woman. They increased the number of hours, Mr. Speaker, that are available for respite care and the woman got the increase in allocation and the home care agency does not have enough workers to provide that service. She got the extra hours and it is theoretical only because her home care agency cannot provide workers to fill those hours. You cannot tell that woman that this government's number one priority is health care.

[Page 1410]

You cannot tell the elderly man in my constituency, a retired career civil servant who tells me he does not know how he will get by when his Pharmacare premium goes up again, that this government's number one priority is health care because, buried in the budget documents, not yet in Bill No. 30, the Financial Measures (2001) Act, but buried there is the promise from this government that, starting next year, Pharmacare premiums are going to go up every year. That is the promise that is in this year's budget, of which Bill No. 30 forms a piece, that Pharmacare premiums are going to go up starting next year and continuing every year.

These people, their needs, their voices, are being drowned out, Mr. Speaker, by the scrape of the accountant's pencil, adding here, subtracting over there, coming up with a budget and a Financial Measures (2001) Bill that knows the price of everything and the value of nothing. The truth is in the Premier's own words. As your Premier, he said, my first priority will be to fix the health care system. I know a few people in my constituency who simply don't believe that is true and there is nothing in Bill No. 30 that will change their minds.

The truth, which I am here to tell, is that the Premier promised the education system would be refocused on the classroom and students. Instead, this government has starved the education system, forced last year to dole out a token amount, again this year, doling out a token amount that doesn't even keep pace with inflation.

Let me tell you a little bit about the face of this cruel downloading. Look in the eyes of the young parents in my constituency with a special needs child living in a basement apartment, and tell them that the removal of their teacher's aide last year was the right thing to do. Look in the eyes of the school caretaker in my constituency who has been out on strike for a month now, whose school board has been driven by budget cuts to take a hard line with workers who already receive only modest pay and do a marvellous job in return. Look in the eyes of the teachers in my constituency and tell them it is okay for them, routinely, to take money out of their own pockets to pay for such necessities as paper.

Mr. Speaker, just this past weekend as I was going through the check-out of my local grocery store, I saw that as a school fundraiser some junior high school students were bagging groceries, to raise money for their school. Look in their eyes and tell them what fundraising, by bagging groceries on the weekend has to do with a quality education.

Mr. Speaker, appearance and reality. This government has mastered the art - it took John Buchanan a long time to master - of talking appearances and apparently forgetting about the reality. I want to take few minutes now to talk about an aspect of this budget, an aspect of Bill No. 30, in one of my critic areas, namely Municipal Relations. I have talked about Health, I have talked about Education, now I want to talk about Municipal Relations.

[Page 1411]

During debate on the estimates in the Subcommittee on Supply, I questioned the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations about this government's municipal service exchange plan. That was the plan that was announced on February 27, 2001. Bill No. 30, the Financial Measures (2001) Act does contain some measures dealing with Municipal Relations but it is very far from dealing with the real needs of Nova Scotia's municipalities.

Mr. Speaker, it is my contention that this government is obsessed with appearances rather than realities, that this government released a plan on February 27th because it was designed to obtain maximum political benefit for the Conservative Party in the Cape Breton North by-election. It seems not to have mattered to this government that provincial-municipal relations and relations between municipalities would be extensively damaged. No one can seriously question that damage has been done. The only question is how much and how long it will take to repair it.

For those members on that side, for whom the truth hurts, let me tell you a little bit about what we learned in the subcommittee. By way of background, the roles and responsibilities review was a joint consultation process of the government and the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities. It was started in 1998, so that the provincial and municipal governments could resolve some of the outstanding issues about which services were being provided by which level of government. The review process resulted in the identification of and resolution of many outstanding issues. The roles and responsibilities review was important and effective. Today there are four issues identified through roles and responsibilities that have still not been resolved, namely roads, housing, equalization and education. Mr. Speaker, I am taking some time to deal with this because none of this is in Bill No. 30.

[3:00 p.m.]

Equalization was a particularly worrisome item for the government. They knew that the financial pressures on some municipalities, largely the result of downloading but also the result of a declining economies meant that equalization would be a large and growing liability in the future. Naturally, this government tagged the equalization line item as a prime candidate for downloading to the municipalities themselves.

Let me now review, with that background, what we learned in the Subcommittee on Supply. We learned that on February 27, 2001, at 8:30 a.m., there was a meeting of representatives of the minister and the UNSM. The minister's people advised the UNSM that they were going to announce publicly a service exchange plan. The UNSM was asked if it would be willing to be party to a joint news release. The UNSM said that it would have to take time to consider that request.

[Page 1412]

Now, Mr. Speaker, this request to announce the proposal was itself highly unusual, in fact it was unprecedented. The normal process was that the roles and responsibilities review would reach a consensus and an announcement would be made only when there was a consensus. In this case there was no consensus, far from it. In fact, the plan had never been considered in the roles and responsibilities process. Not only that, but many of the key details of the plan had not yet been worked out. Furthermore, it was bound to be controversial and the minister had to know that. The UNSM was told that the 12 month statutory notice period meant that they could have only one month for consultation.

So to summarize, Mr. Speaker, on the morning on February 27th, the UNSM was presented with a one-sided, half-baked controversial proposal, with a pressure-packed deadline and they were told the department was going to make it public. At some point later that day, the UNSM contacted the department and declined the offer to issue a joint news release. I would add, parenthetically, that the UNSM is, by its nature, a cautious organization with a membership that sometimes has markedly different needs and perspectives. I, for one, am not surprised the UNSM did not go along with the government's plan to announce the proposal publicly that day.

Nevertheless over the course of the day, and despite the UNSM's refusal to go along with the news release idea, officials of the department contacted selected media outlets and urgently requested the opportunity to give them a briefing on the plan. Among the media outlets contacted at the department's initiative - not the outlet's initiative but at the department's initiative - were the Cape Breton Post and The Halifax Chronicle-Herald. A news release was issued at 5:17 p.m., far too late for broadcast media, far too late for other media outlets to gather background information.

Why did the department go out and spread news of this proposal on February 27th? The minister offers the pretext that his department had heard that a member of the UNSM executive committee had approached the media, specifically Global TV, so he felt compelled to go ahead and release all the information. The real reason the minister released the plan on February 27th is political and partisan. One key piece of context, Mr. Speaker, is that February 27th was exactly one week before the people of Cape Breton North and Halifax Fairview voted in by-elections. The truth hurts, and I am going to tell the backbenchers over there something that they probably haven't been told and that is that your Party polled in Halifax Fairview and concluded that your candidate didn't have a chance. They also polled in Cape Breton North . . .

MR. CECIL CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, on a point of personal privilege. The good people of Cape Breton North have respected the decision and wisdom of the good people of Halifax Fairview, and I am here to put on the record that I expect the member and the people of Halifax Fairview to respect the decision of the good people of Cape Breton North and they were not bribed, that they made their own decision on facts, not fiction like we are hearing here today. (Interruptions)

[Page 1413]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I appreciate the comments of the honourable member for Cape Breton North but they are not a point of privilege.

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, the member knew perfectly well that wasn't a point of personal privilege but that's fine, I respect his opinion. I have mine and I am going to speak

it. I am going to tell the truth. Another key fact (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, on point of order. With all due respect to the member for Halifax Fairview, I certainly respect the opinion of both the people of Halifax Fairview and the people of Cape Breton North, as our Party has. What the honourable member has been doing not only here in the House, but has done it in the committee, he is imputing motive of the most negative fashion that I have ever witnessed coming from that Party. It seems to be getting worse by the day.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask if you would please review, in full, the context by which the honourable member . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Sit down . . .

MR. MACKINNON: Well, the has-been Leader says sit down and shut up. Well, the people of Nova Scotia told him what to do. (Applause) We know about his integrity, Mr. Speaker. We know all about his integrity so we don't have to worry about that.

Mr. Speaker, on that point of personal privilege and the privilege of all members of this House, I would ask that you please review the transcript and make a ruling on the motive that is being imputed by the honourable member for Halifax Fairview. I believe it casts a negative note on all members of this House and I believe this is lower than low and should be stopped. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. At the request of the honourable member for Cape Breton West I will review Hansard and report back to the House.

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview has the floor.

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, while you are reviewing transcripts, you might want to review the transcript of the Subcommittee on Supply which that member didn't attend. I am recounting the facts that are in that transcript and if the truth hurts that Party, that is that Party's problem.

[Page 1414]

Mr. Speaker, another key fact, until now not known publicly, is that the minister had authorized advance release of the plan to a very small group. The Mayor of Mulgrave got it on December 20th, the Executive Director of the UNSM got it in early January, the Chief Administrative Officer of the CBRM was given the plan on January 24th, the Mayor of Wolfville got it on February 8th and the Mayor of Stewiacke got it on February 13th. The Halifax Regional Municipality was not told about the plan until February 26th, says the minister. Even then, it was given only an outline of the principles, not the full plan.

This carefully planned doling out of the service exchange plan meant that on February 27th departmental officials were able to and did direct reporters to municipalities that would support the plan. In particular, CBRM Mayor John Morgan was fully familiar with the plan and was widely quoted as offering his full support. In contrast, HRM officials had to scramble over the next few days simply to get more information and analysis.

The ultimate political plan, Mr. Speaker, was in the run-up to the March 6th vote in Cape Breton North to make it look like the Hamm Government was on the side of CBRM, that a vote for the Conservative candidate would secure $4.1 million for CBRM. The plan worked like a charm. Press reports in Cape Breton were very positive. Press reports in Halifax were very negative. In contrast to the member for Cape Breton North, the Conservative candidate in Halifax Fairview, who only 20 months earlier had gotten 27 per cent of the vote, fell to only 12.5 per cent which by any measure, was a crushing defeat for the governing Party.

Mr. Speaker, the interesting thing is that immediately after the by-elections the government started backpedalling furiously. Ministers and Conservative backbenchers stressed that the plan was only a proposal; nothing was carved in stone. It was very far from being a done deal, they said.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. What has all this diatribe about the election got to do with the Financial Measures (2001) Bill? Perhaps he should be drawn in and talk about the issue that is in the bill, not about his Leader who lost an election.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Cape Breton West is correct. We are discussing the Financial Measures (2001) Bill and I ask the honourable member for Halifax Fairview to bring his comments back to the bill, please.

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, of course, as everybody in the House knows, Clauses 2, 3 and 19 of the Financial Measures (2001) Bill deal with this government's vision for municipal relations in the province, and I am simply pointing out what should be there and isn't.

[Page 1415]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I did make an order when I asked the honourable member for Halifax Fairview not to discuss what is not in the bill, but what is there. So I would ask him to bring his views back to the comments of the Financial Measures (2001) Act.

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, if I could raise a point of order. If you are willing to investigate the points of other members, I would suggest that it would be worth looking into whether it is, in fact, appropriate for a member to address what is lacking from a bill, as well as what is in it, because not addressing what the government should have done as compared to what it did, surely is within the legitimate scope of debate on the Financial Measures (2001) Act. So I wonder if I could ask you to consider that point of order as well.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I am sure the member for Halifax Fairview perceives the fact that the Speaker's decision is not to be disputed or to be argued with. All I said was I would ask you to bring your comments back to the Financial Measures (2001) Act relevancy. To say that you are going to discuss it and compare it with things that are not in the bill could be anywhere from marbles to used cars. I disagree with that and I ask the honourable member to bring his comments back to the Financial Measures (2001) Act. If not, I will assume that he is finished and he can take his place. (Applause)

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, because, of course, the fact is that if the plan had been pushed through, it too would be in the Financial Measures (2001) Act. As it is, Clause 19, dealing with the municipal capital grants is all that remains of the plan. So it was part of the services exchange plan and I am addressing Clause 19 of Bill No. 30.

The interesting thing, Mr. Speaker, is all that is left of the service exchange plan is Clause 19 of Bill No. 30. After the by-elections, the government started backpedalling furiously. Eventually the UNSM asked for three more months for consultation, which of course is time they should have been given in the first place; the minister at that point said three more months would have been just fine. A government that brings forward this bill, Clauses 2, 3 and 19, as their vision of municipal relations in Nova Scotia, has a lot to answer for.

This government has damaged - this is the truth, Mr. Speaker, and I am sorry if it hurts them to hear it - provincial-municipal relations by putting forward a one-sided, half-baked controversial proposal. That is no way to do business. They use the 12 month advance-notice period as a hammer against the municipalities when it was always intended to be a shield for them. This is a government that needs to do something immediately and directly to address the financial crisis in the CBRM, and they haven't done that.

[Page 1416]

[3:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I have talked about this government's promises on health, I have talked about this government's promises on education, I have talked about what this government has actually done, in fact, on municipal relations. A number of sections in Bill No. 30 deal with taxes, so I am going to address those now.

Mr. Speaker, what is, for me, and always will be the most telling story about the government is on the subject of tax cuts. If the members want to see the truth, they can look it up in the newspapers, because this is what happened. The day after the 1999 election was called, John Hamm was in the food court in Scotia Square, just up the street from where we are now, and he said, I won't promise a tax cut because people won't believe me. That is what he said. One week later, John Hamm stood up and promised a tax cut. What happened during that week? Is that tax cut here in Bill No. 30? No, there are other tax cuts but not that one. What happened, of course, is that the backroom boys got to him. They said, you have to promise a tax cut because that is what people wanted. Maybe he said back to them, but they won't believe me, and they said, thinking back to the Buchanan days, that doesn't really matter.

Mr. Speaker, the tax measures contained in Bill No. 30 are really a pale reflection of the truth. The truth about the tax cut that the government is promising is that it is now driving this government's entire policy agenda. The entire policy agenda is being driven by the desire to offer a 10 per cent tax cut before the next election. The truth about the tax cut is that it is not even as big as they are letting on, because the cut applies only to Nova Scotia tax, which is itself only a fraction of federal tax. The overall cut they are promising is only about 3.6 per cent.

Mr. Speaker, the truth about the tax cut - and the truth is right here in Bill No. 30 - is that very many Nova Scotians won't see a dime. That is because very many Nova Scotians don't pay any Nova Scotia tax as it is, and 10 per cent less than nothing is nothing. These are the very people I was speaking about, who are paying for the tax cut over and over again whenever they go to a hospital waiting room, whenever they see their social assistance cut, without the supports they need to get back to the workforce. It is the tax cut they are paying for whenever their kids go to school, whenever they are hit with another user fee. They are the ones paying for that tax cut every day and they are not going to see a dime.

The truth about the tax cut is that we are all paying for it right now. The senior who can't afford that Pharmacare increase is already paying for the tax cut. The parents and students we all saw, who cried because their schools are closing - even schools in Dartmouth North that are in good condition and nearly full, they are closing because of this government's fiscal agenda - they are already paying for the tax cut.

[Page 1417]

Those parents of the special needs child living in a basement apartment in my constituency, who I will never forget - they lost their teacher's aide last year - they have already paid for that tax cut. Every citizen who has nowhere to turn because the Ombudsman's Office has been abolished has already paid for the tax cut. Every farmer who has to pay for consulting services that used to be free, they are already paying.

Everyone who feels a chill down the spine when they hear there has been another fatal accident on Highway No. 101 because someone that they love is on the highway that day, they are already paying for the tax cuts. Every school custodian in Halifax who has to watch scab labour take their jobs, every school bus driver who had to take a pay cut this year, every teacher who has to dig into their own pocket to pay for basic supplies, they are already paying for that tax cut.

What is drowning out their voices is the scrape, scrape of the accountant's pencil across the page, adding columns of figures over here, subtracting figures over there, putting in the odd tax cut for business in Bill No. 30, taking another one out over there. That noise of the accountant's pencil being scraped over the page crushes hope because in the end that is what is missing from Bill No. 30, it's what is missing from the budget, that is what is missing from anything this government has to say. It's something that fortunately the Finance Minister hasn't yet tagged and put a price on. So far, it has eluded him, thank goodness. It's an essential element of every life with dignity.

I am here in this House because I believe in the need for good government. This budget and this Financial Measures (2001) Act are not good government. There is a narrowness of vision, there is a tightness of the heart, there is a meanness of spirit in it, there is an absence of hope. There is only the scrape, scrape of the accountant's pencil across the page.

I am going to tell the truth to a government that doesn't want to hear it. I am going to tell the truth to a government that holds this elected Chamber in contempt, that finds it a bore, that finds it a place that just gets in the way of doing what they have already made up their minds to do. I am going to tell the truth to a government that if it ever knew how to listen, has forgotten. I am going to tell the truth to a government for whom accountability is only an abstract idea and for whom openness is only a word. I am going to tell the truth to a government that, like Liberal and Tory Governments before it, mistakes its own longevity for good government.

I am going to go back (Interruption) Mr. Speaker, the member for Preston says that I should sit down and I know that he would like me to sit down. I know he would like me to stop saying these things that the members are very uncomfortable with and I know the members of the Liberal Party want me to sit down and I think that more than anything else the display from the Liberal Party just cements the firm belief of myself and many Nova Scotians that those two Parties are just perfectly interchangeable, that when people say things

[Page 1418]

that they don't want to hear that they know they are just as guilty as that Party over there. A government that crushes hope, a government that celebrates appearances over reality.

I would like to read to the members (Interruption) Well, I am certainly not going to read Bill No. 30 to them, but as a contrast let me just read the headings so they can hear their government's vision of good government. Clauses 2 and 3 are amendments to the Assessment Act. Clause 4 is an amendment to the Children and Family Services Act which is an important Act, except this particular measure allows the government to charge a new user fee. Then there is the Equity Tax Credit Act that goes on at some length about a tax credit; of course, that is only available to corporations. Then there are a number of measures that make technical amendments to the Income Tax Act, none of this speaks to the people in my constituency that I talked about. None of this speaks to them at all. Their voice has been drowned out by the scrape of the accountant's pencil across the page.

Section 19 of the Municipal Grants Act, oh sorry, municipal and capital grants are being abolished. Sorry, that is what it says. Then we get to the Revenue Act, but of course nothing in here has any relevance at all to the real lives of real people in my constituency. Then we get into the tobacco tax. I know the Liberal Party has their view on the tobacco tax, and I hope they have fun with it. It really doesn't have anything to do with the promises that were made by this government.

Mr. Speaker, there, I have just gone through the bill and that is what is in it. That is the government's vision, their fiscal vision. I am going to close. (Interruptions) I know they want me to sit down, because the truth hurts them. I am going to close by reading to them. I am going to close by contrasting what I just read there in Bill No. 30 with the words of their own Premier, their own Leader, and I wonder if in their hearts those backbenchers, who aren't being allowed free votes, which is what was promised in the blue book - that was promised, it is there. Are you all over there still lobbying for that in caucus? I hope so, it is one of the promises. For all of you backbenchers over there, I hope you reflect on what your Party did to the Conservative candidate in Halifax Fairview. They polled, and then they cut him loose, and they will cut you loose if you don't fit into their plans.

Mr. Speaker, I am going to close by reading the words of the Premier, this is what he promised, and I want the members on that side of the House, and I want Nova Scotians to reflect on the difference between this, Bill No. 30, and what was promised. The Premier said, "As your premier, my first priority will be to fix the health care system." What is there in Bill No. 30 about fixing the health care system?

Mr. Speaker, further in the book it says, "Building a responsive, outcome-based and efficient health care system is the Progressive Conservative Party's most urgent priority." The most urgent priority. Remember that promise? Do you remember that? It is only a year and a half ago, getting on to two years now. I hope you haven't forgotten that. Can anybody on that side of the House show me what in Bill No. 30 demonstrates that the most urgent

[Page 1419]

priority of this government is building a responsive, outcome-based and efficient health care system? No, you can't because it is not there. It is because you on that side of the House are transfixed with the idea that what matters more is appearances, what you can make people believe.

Let me read another quote, and I am not making this up, this is a quote from your Premier, he said it. John Hamm's campaign speech, June 25, 1999, "First and foremost our priority will be to stabilize our health care system." Do you think that there is one person in my constituency who believes that is the government's most urgent priority? No, they do not. They do not believe that, they do not believe that for one second. They do not believe it. There is nothing in the government's budget, there is nothing in Bill No. 30 that would make them believe that that is their most urgent priority.

Mr. Speaker, those are the words of that government. If they could live up to them, that would be wonderful. I am not expecting it, because what we have seen instead is a government that has struggled mightily since the last election to redefine what it promised. I am here to tell the truth about what you, on that side of the House, did actually promise - 260 promises, last time we counted. Well, you see the member for Preston says 243 but you see that is not true. The truth is there were more than 243 promises, there were 260 because your Leader made a number of promises on the campaign trail that are nowhere to be found in the book of shame.

[3:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, if you want an example, if the member for Preston or anybody on that side wants an example, the promise put out on Progressive Conservative Party letterhead during the campaign to immediately twin Highway No. 101 is not anywhere to be found in here. That was one of the other campaign promises that you are working so hard to forget.

Mr. Speaker, if only they would keep their promises because frankly, they are contributing to this pervasive cynicism that I have talked about that is in the province. Certainly I came face to face with that in the by-election and any of you who have run in an election will know or any of you who knocked on doors during these campaigns will know. They know that it hardly seems to make any difference to them who they elect. It doesn't matter whether they have a Conservative Government, it doesn't matter if they have a Liberal Government, promises get broken and they don't see the point anymore.

Where is that attitude borne of, Mr. Speaker? It is borne of people who are prepared to make 260 promises. A government that says over and over again that their number one priority in office will be health care and then from the day after the election they work to try to redefine that so that if you ask anybody on that side of the House what their priority is, they will tell you something different, something about a tax cut just before the next election, but that is not what they said. They are prepared to damage the fabric of provincial-municipal

[Page 1420]

relations for electoral purposes. They are prepared to redefine what they promised in the last election. They are prepared to be just like the old-style politicians that they said they were going to be better than, just like that John Buchanan campaign in 1988 where they said we were the new Conservatives and then the backroom boys laughed about it afterwards. They laughed because they couldn't believe they pulled it off, making people believe that that crowd in 1988 really was new but they did, they pulled it off. This government is no different, it is no better.

Mr. Speaker, Bill No. 30, the Financial Measures (2001) Act is the ultimate triumph, the scrape, scrape of the accountant's pencil drawing across the page, adding columns of figures over here, subtracting over there, knowing the cost of everything and the value of nothing. It crushes hope and they should be ashamed.

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

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and speak on Bill No. 30, An Act Respecting Certain Financial Measures. This bill is to support the government's budget that was introduced earlier this spring session. This bill is like an appendix to the budget. This piece of legislation ensures that different measures introduced in this budget acts as the authorization that the government needs in order to implement them. Going through the bill very quickly, I know on second reading we are not allowed to go clause by clause, but in this bill we talk about the Assessment Act, and I will have a chance to talk about that later. We are talking about the income tax; we are talking about municipal grants; revenues, of course; we are talking about the whole financial situation in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, this bill will support the tax grabs or the user fees that this Tory Government is taxing Nova Scotians with. There is one thing for sure, this Tory Government can try to fool Nova Scotians all they want, but this Tory Party promised Nova Scotians that they would not increase taxes, so they came up with these user fees instead. Well, you know, when taxes are increased, Nova Scotians have to reach in their pockets for more money in order to pay for them, yet, this Tory Government is now talking about bringing in all these new user fees on Nova Scotians. Guess what? These new user fees are going to force Nova Scotians to reach into their pockets and come up with more money.

So are they tax increases or are they user fees? Well, I say, Mr. Speaker, user fees are taxes. So if these new user fees are going to cost Nova Scotians more money, then this Tory Government can believe whatever they want. If they don't believe these are new taxes, that is fair, that is entirely up to them. But, as I said earlier, Nova Scotians will not be fooled by these new user fees.

Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians will certainly remember these tricks, or this Tory propaganda, whatever we want to call those or label them with. In the end, Nova Scotians will have to fork out more money and reach in their pockets. I know there are some

[Page 1421]

government members on those benches who know that I am right, that Nova Scotians will have to fork out more money. They are taxing Nova Scotians with these new taxes, or with these new user fees. So this government, in the end, is taking more money out of the pockets of Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, I just want to touch on a few of these. Seniors and patients who are in hospitals waiting to be transferred to a nursing home will now be charged $50 a day. Last year, this government said - and you probably remember that, Mr. Speaker - they were looking at the shortage of long-term care beds throughout the province. What are they planning on doing in this budget? They are planning on punishing seniors for their own mismanagement.

Mr. Speaker, this Tory Government said that this new user fee will generate approximately $1 million more in revenue. You have to look back on these individuals, these seniors, these patients who are waiting in hospitals for long-term care beds. Most of these are seniors who have worked very hard over the years in building and supporting our province. Now they are being charged $50 a day while they are in hospitals waiting for long-term care beds. I honestly believe, and I am sure all members on the Opposition benches believe this is a real bad decision by this Tory Government. I am sure there are members on the government benches who believe in that as well. So for the sake of raising $1 million, we are going to tax these individuals, charge them with a $50 fee in order to remain in hospital while they are waiting for a long-term care bed.

At the same time, the same group that said last year that they recognized that there was a shortage of long-term care beds throughout the province, they were going to sit down, they appointed some of their friends, of course, to really look at this urgent need. Yet, we are still waiting. So, in the meantime, the best they can come up with is charging these individuals. Mr. Speaker, I believe this is a sad day for seniors in Nova Scotia. I hope seniors throughout the province who need to visit a doctor or go to the hospital will not delay their appointment and put their own health at risk.

Mr. Speaker, another user fee charge will be a $20 fee to employers such as the YMCA, Big Brothers, Big Sisters, to search names on the child abuse registry. This new user fee is expected to generate somewhere around $75,000 in revenues. So, again, for $75,000, every time they want to check on an individual on the child abuse registry there will be a $20 charge to these employers.

AN HON. MEMBER: Where are their priorities?

MR. GAUDET: Right, you have to recognize where the government's priorities are. Another user fee, Mr. Speaker, will be for registering a deed in the Province of Nova Scotia. This fee will be increased by $30. Nova Scotians, instead of paying $40 to register their deed, will now have to pay $70. This Tory Government said that this new user fee increase will

[Page 1422]

generate approximately $1.1 million in extra revenues. Is that $1.1 million going to go back to the 55 municipal units around the province? Again, we don't know what the intention of this government will be with this $1 million in additional revenue.

Another new tax that Nova Scotians will have to face will be inspection fees of $75 to $300 for large fuel storage tanks at service stations, for factories and for farmers. So, again, Mr. Speaker, this new tax will generate an additional $200,000 for the government.

Mr. Speaker, another new fee that this government is introducing with this budget is charging $100 to well drillers for a permit. So this $100 will be charged for every well that these well drillers will be drilling. So, again, the new fee will be passed on by the well drillers to their customers around the province. Again, we don't know where this added revenue will end up. Propane fuel stations will have to pay a $50 new user fee. Nova Scotians involved with harvesting marine plants will have to pay more. They used to pay $1.00 per wet ton, now they will have to pay double the price.

[3:45 p.m.]

Students following courses at the Nova Scotia Agricultural College in Bible Hill, will have to pay more for each course. This jump will go from $400 to $416 per course. I don't believe that they will be the only students who will be hit with an increase this year, as far as tuition fees or tuition increases for courses. We know that this government is providing universities with $5 million more for their operating budget, and I congratulate the government for providing universities with $5 million more in their operating budget. The Minister of Education needs to be congratulated. I am sure all universities welcome that news, but at the same time the same government is cutting $7.3 million from universities for capital funding, and that capital funding was used by universities to help with renovations, repairs or with new construction on those different campuses around the province.

When you compare $5 million more from operating grants with the $7.3 million cut in operating grants, universities are faced with a $2.3 million shortfall in this coming year. The obvious question is, you have to wonder if this shortfall will be passed on to the students around the province.

Again, unfortunately, at this time tuition costs have not been set by universities for the coming fall, and again our students are bracing themselves for next season. So here in Nova Scotia, as I have pointed out, tuition fees are going up at the Nova Scotia Agriculture College in Bible Hill. Again, tuition fees have not been set by different universities around the province, so we still don't know the full impact that this budget will have on Nova Scotians in this coming year.

[Page 1423]

With all these new taxes, or user fees, this year this Tory Government is planning to collect approximately $3 million more in extra revenue. Even the Auditor General of the province is saying that if the Tory Government cannot justify these user fees to show that they are used for cost recovery, then they should be considered as taxes. Well, that is his opinion. I think if we ask Nova Scotians whether they are taxes or user fees - in the end Nova Scotians will have to dig in their pockets and come up with more money - if it's going to cost Nova Scotians more money, then obviously it certainly meets the definition of a tax in the Province of Nova Scotia.

I want to just talk a little bit about the municipal grants, in this Bill No. 30. Of course, in recognizing or in talking about municipal grants, we have to look at the assessment. Part of this bill will deal with the Assessment Act. I think we can check the Tory blue book on Page 21, and the Tory Government, the Tory Party, back in 1999, promised to stop the downloading to municipalities.

Mr. Speaker, here we are going again. This Tory Government says that municipalities will now be responsible for providing for cost recovery for assessment services. Well, maybe you know, but I had a chance to speak with different municipal councillors from around the province to find out if they have the money within their budget to pick up this additional cost to do the cost recovery for assessment costs. I have been told that they don't have this funding within their budget in order to pick up the cost recovery for the assessment services. So, if they don't have this funding in their budgets, again, what will 55 municipal units be forced to do? Increase property taxes, in order to get the money in order to pay for this assessment service.

That means that property taxpayers around the province will have, again, indirectly, a new user fee or a new tax, a hidden tax, and that municipalities will now be responsible to pick up the cost recovery for the assessment services. So, just maybe this Tory Government will reconsider this downloading on municipalities as part of this so-called new equalization proposal between the province and the 55 municipal units within the province. But again, it looks to me as if the municipalities will have to bear the cost for the assessment services. If the municipalities bear the cost, well, in the end, Nova Scotians will have to dig in their pockets for more money in order to pay their property taxes so municipalities will have more money in order to pick up the cost to do the assessment services.

Mr. Speaker, this Bill No. 30 is talking about municipal grants to be repealed. The obvious question that comes to mind, of course, is, does the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities know that this Tory Government is repealing municipal grants? Do we know if part of the new proposal is that the minister responsible for municipalities will have some additional funding for them? As the previous speaker indicated, several weeks ago this government, this minister did get a chance to look at a proposal with the different municipalities, looking at providing them with some type of equalization.

[Page 1424]

I think everyone in this province agrees that there has to be some type of equalization for municipalities around the province. We know, out of the 55 municipal units, there are units that are well off, better off than others, but at the same time there are units that are facing difficulties in order to meet their responsibilities. With the 90 day extension that has been requested and agreed to by this government to work with the UNSM and to work with the province to try to come up with a plan, that will certainly allow some of these units that are facing difficulties to be in a better position. Mr. Speaker, we have to recognize, and this has been brought up on the floor of this Legislature several times, is this the way to go in order to provide this type of equalization, using property tax dollars?

I know in New Brunswick there is a different type of system used for the provincial government and with the municipal units. Property tax dollars are collected by the province and, in return, the province makes the distribution to the units afterwards. Here in Nova Scotia, the 55 municipal units send out the property tax bills; property tax owners, respectively, within their own municipal jurisdiction, pay their municipality; and in return, depending on what funding municipal units are able to raise, then, of course, some of these units have not the tax base in order to provide the services that municipal units are supposed to be providing right across the province. So, again, there are many units that are faced with some difficulties.

Part of this proposal that currently is being worked on, I think it is critical that, in the end, we have to recognize that we need to provide help to those that certainly do not have the tax base. But, at the same time, a lot of the opposition that has been raised - I know, Mr. Speaker, initially, when the first proposal came out, the Municipality of Clare was against the proposal. Then we had a travelling show. Staff from the minister's office came down and information was provided. Then, in the end, the Municipality of Clare did decide to support this proposal.

Then I have to ask myself, Mr. Speaker, that when we look at all the winners and all the losers - and under the initial proposal, there were more winners than losers and the minister knows this. So, unfortunately, in the end, the Municipality of Clare was the winner - I just have to ask, is it fair to take property tax dollars from one unit to send those dollars down to someone else to help them? Well, then I have to ask myself a question. What would happen if the Municipality of Clare, instead of being a loser, proceeded to get this windfall from the minister's office, we would have had to take some of our own property tax dollars and send those up to someone else. Would that have been fair? Maybe the reaction of the property taxpayers in Clare would have been different. I think it would have been different from all around the province.

I think the bottom line here that needs to be addressed, and I hope it will be in the next 90 days in the extension that the minister has provided to units in UNSM, is to look at a proposal that will be fair to all 55 municipal units and, at the same time, to be fair to the province as well. So I hope those discussions will continue between both parties and, in the

[Page 1425]

end, we will have a much better proposal that will respond to some of the needs that have been brought to the minister's attention.

Those needs have been ongoing for quite a few years. We know that many small towns throughout Nova Scotia are faced with financial difficulties. The tax base is just not there in order to continue to provide the services that are being provided next door. A lot of people are moving out of towns in the rural areas. The tax rate is lower and small towns are losing some of these revenues. (Inerruption) You are right. Sometimes there are individuals who don't have that choice in order to move out.

Again, I hope that this proposal the minister will be looking at will be fair to all parties involved, all 55 municipal units and to the province at the same time. Again, Mr. Speaker, I hope that whatever new proposal will be forthcoming in the weeks ahead will be fair to all parties.

[4:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, in all the mix of these user fees or tax grabs or downloading on municipalities, this Tory Government is planning to give Nova Scotians a 10 per cent tax cut in the year 2003-04. We have heard, time and time again, the Premier, the Minister of Finance, and government members talk about this 10 per cent tax cut that will be introduced at a later date. But if that 10 per cent tax cut ever comes we will have long since paid for it, and probably much more, with things like user fees, and I have gone through those earlier. There are many more. We heard about bracket creep - and I will get there in a minute - also the federal tax cut that the Tories clawed back. So, again, maybe at the rate that this Tory Government is taking more money out of the pockets of Nova Scotians, they may have to reconsider and increase this 10 per cent tax cut.

Mr. Speaker, you can't fool all Nova Scotians. I am sure by 2003-04, that is what is being said at this time, and it might come a little earlier. (Interruptions) That's right. So, anyway, I am sure Nova Scotians will be waiting. Nova Scotians will have paid a lot more than what this 10 per cent tax cut will cost in the end, so I hope that this Tory Government will consider giving back Nova Scotians what they are taking from them in order to meet this tax cut.

Mr. Speaker, looking at the bracket creep in more detail. Someone making $30,000 per year in 1999, and whose income remains the same in 2002 will be paying higher taxes. No matter how many ways the Premier or the Finance Minister tries to gloss over it, Nova Scotians will be no better off in 2004 than they were in 1999. So after bracket creep, we look at the failure of this provincial government to pass on the corresponding federal tax cuts.

[Page 1426]

Mr. Speaker, provincial income taxes went up each and every year the federal government raised taxes. When the federal government raised its income taxes, the province did the same thing. So it is not just something that happened in the last year, I think we need to go further out. The last couple of decades taxes have been going up. But now, what happened last year when the federal Liberal Government reduced taxes? The Province of Nova Scotia decided, no, they didn't want to be part of that. They didn't want to lose out on giving Nova Scotians a break, so they clawed back that tax cut that Nova Scotians were supposed to get.

Mr. Speaker, after paying higher taxes for quite a few years, Nova Scotian taxpayers were going to get a break. Well, what did this Tory Government do? They essentially raised provincial taxes so the province would not take a hit. They essentially raised taxes so they could keep that same level of revenue coming in. That's unfair, and Nova Scotians certainly are aware of this, this change to bracket creep, and every Nova Scotian is paying higher, taxes, and no matter which way you slice it, Nova Scotians will not get that tax cut.

Now we know about bracket creep and the lack of flow, there is also the question of user fees. Again, the Auditor General has criticized this Tory Government - and he certainly has not been the only one along the way - for not being able to justify these user fees.

As I have said earlier, this Tory Government is looking at bringing in some more user fees this year. Let's not forget all those that were brought in last year, and Nova Scotians are still paying those this year as well. I am sure everyone remembers the Seniors' Pharmacare co-pay that was increased last year from 20 per cent to 33 per cent, which the government estimates will bring in roughly $8.4 million more; that was the estimate last year.

Again, seniors in Nova Scotia still have to pay the same level of co-pay even though it was not increased this year. Again, this government will receive an additional $8.4 million more in revenues. This is the same Tory Party who were not in support of premiums for Pharmacare. So you have to ask yourself, how soon do they forget?

AN HON. MEMBER: What about fishing licences for seniors?

MR. GAUDET: Well, I hear that's coming, supposed to be coming. It's been promised here for quite a few months.

AN HON. MEMBER: Who promised that?

MR. GAUDET: Well, some government members. It was kind of interesting when those members were sitting on the Opposition benches, that was a concern of theirs. Now they have the opportunity to provide seniors with free fishing licences. Seniors are still waiting.

[Page 1427]

Another one Nova Scotians remember, they just have to look at their telephone bill. The 43 cents charge, or the famous 911 tax that's still there. (Interruption) Plus tax, yes. So 43 cents - somewhere around 46 cents. I don't want to go over the entire list but I think you get the picture. Nova Scotians are paying more every time this Tory Government brings down the budget. So if the tradition keeps going we know what to expect next year.

In Bill No. 30, the Financial Measures (2001) Act, we're talking about the Tobacco Access Act and it was kind of interesting. For the record, the Financial Measures (2001) Act was reintroduced because government forgot to include this Tobacco Access Act the first time the bill was tabled in the House. They saw fit that before they decided - because if you remember in the Budget Speech nothing was mentioned about higher taxes or tobacco taxes but shortly thereafter it was tabled here in the House.

The concerns with higher tobacco taxes in Nova Scotia, you have to ask yourself exactly where this additional revenue will go? Is it extra money that the Minister of Finance will provide his colleague? Is it money that will go to any one of his colleagues in the front benches to help support programs? Or is this increase in tobacco taxes simply money that the Minister of Finance will take into the general revenues of the province? Unfortunately, that has not been made clear. We're still not sure where these new tax dollars will end up.

Mr. Speaker, concerns that were raised by the Opposition, especially in the last several weeks, have been in regard to the fines for smuggling tobacco in Nova Scotia. We heard that the fines will be reduced. The first offence - before they were reduced - the fine for smuggling tobacco in the Province of Nova Scotia was to be no less than $10,000 and no more than $50,000. Well, as we understand now, that is no longer the case. So between $10,000 and $50,000. This government has backed down and now we are looking at a fine for smuggling tobacco in the Province of Nova Scotia to be no less than $250 and no more than $5,000. So you really have to ask yourself if this is going to have some control over tobacco smuggling in our province. Maybe it will, but, again, I have a hard time understanding why at the same time the government decides to bring the tobacco taxes up in the province and have an opportunity to generate additional revenues for the province that they lower the fines for smuggling tobacco in the province, which will, probably, encourage.

I am sure that the Minister of Finance, at a later date, will be able to provide us with an update on whether or not lowering the fines has worked. But I think if I had to make a projection at this time, Mr. Speaker, I think I would probably be tempted to say . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: You are not going to vote for this bill?

MR. GAUDET: No. I am making a projection on whether or not lowering the fines for smuggling tobacco in the Province of Nova Scotia will work.

AN HON. MEMBER: That is a Tory idea. It can't work.

[Page 1428]

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, my colleague here to the right just wanted to reinforce the new plan this government has come up with by lowering the fines for smuggling tobacco in the province.

Mr. Speaker, I want to turn now to the debt of the province for a few minutes. Many Nova Scotians understand that you need to live within your means. If you don't, you risk losing what you have worked hard for over the years. Well, the Province of Nova Scotia is no different than running our own household or running a business. We need to make some decisions and sometimes some tough choices along the way. But to further add to the debate over the finances of the province, I want to go back for a minute to June 1999. During the election, this same group over here, the Tory Party, said that they would never increase the debt. So the debt of the province would never increase under a Tory Government. Well, just last year the Tories increased the net debt of the province by almost $1.3 billion. That $1.3 billion will be costing Nova Scotians $70 million in interest this year alone; that is on top of the $900 million we already pay in interest every year on the debt of the province.

Mr. Speaker, had the Tories not wasted that $1.3 billion, the $70 million we now have to pay in interest this year certainly could have been better spent. I am sure even my colleagues to the right would agree with me. To further complicate this whole budget issue, last year the province's revenues were up, the economy was very good, generating additional dollars to the Province of Nova Scotia, and on top of that, the province received more money from Ottawa. So, with all the windfall, when you take (Interruptions) Mr. Speaker, yes, I will get my turn later on. (Laughter)

[4:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, when you look at the windfall that this government has been left with, close to $0.5 billion over the last two years since they have come to office, there is no reason why this Tory Government could not have balanced the budget this year and still made some strategic investment in health, in education along the way. Even with all the extra money, close to $0.5 billion in the last two years, this government, the best they could do was to come up with a $91 million deficit.

Mr. Speaker, this Tory Government missed out on a great opportunity. They promised Nova Scotians to control the growth of the debt, but they failed. The debt is a real problem, and this Tory Government, regardless of who is in government, the government needs to take some real actions in order to make sure that we don't lose sight of it or it takes control of us. I am afraid of what this debt will do to us as Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, there are a lot of Nova Scotians who are worried about what actually this debt could actually do to us if it doesn't get under control. You really have to wonder exactly what would happen to the Province of Nova Scotia and to the services that Nova Scotians are provided with if this debt is not brought under control.

[Page 1429]

Mr. Speaker, again, this Tory Government is hoping for another good year, and I hope, we all hope, that they are right, but what happens if the government gets less revenue next year than in this current year? It will be far harder for them to achieve their fiscal goals. It is obvious that this Tory Government has no plan for fiscal stability, no plan for debt reduction, no plan for real, meaningful tax cuts and no plan for the future. The responsibility of governing is awesome and is not to be taken lightly. There is a real need here for vision, for planning and for commitment from this group; and from what we have seen so far this Tory Government has none of those again, looking at where we are going with no plan, no vision, Nova Scotians must ask themselves the question, how much longer can this province survive without a plan?

HON. JAMES MUIR: We have a plan. Sit down and read it.

MR. GAUDET: The Minister of Health says they have a plan. This is the same individual who said he had a plan for health care. We won't go there.

Mr. Speaker, could you indicate to me how much time I have left?

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member has about 13 minutes.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, you have to recognize any time that the House is sitting it certainly allows the Opposition to hold this government accountable, because many Nova Scotians have questions, especially on the way the procedures of the House of Assembly allow the Opposition to question the government, to question the Premier and members of Cabinet.

AN HON. MEMBER: We're not getting very good answers.

MR. GAUDET: Yes, we're not getting very good answers, I am afraid.

AN HON. MEMBER: We have to ferret.

MR. GAUDET: We have to ferret a lot. Even with this budget that has been tabled there are still many unknowns. I will give you an example, Mr. Speaker. Let's talk a little bit about the Department of Education's budget. We know that school boards did receive $16 million more in operating capital grants this year, and that was certainly welcome news compared to what school boards were faced with last year. The Minister of Education needs to be complimented on that, but at the same time the obvious question that the school boards are asking, is $16 million enough? Probably not.

Unfortunately, as we speak, school boards are looking at these numbers very closely, looking at exactly what type of services or if they have to do layoffs, and both are still unknown. There have been rumours circulating. Just recently I heard the superintendent of

[Page 1430]

the Annapolis Valley Regional School Board on the radio saying that his school board will be receiving just a little over $1 million this year in extra funding, but he could not indicate at the time exactly what this would mean in the end for his school board. I am sure going around the province all the school boards are probably in the same position. Even though they are getting some additional funding, they are still not sure exactly what in the end this new level of funding will mean for them. We have heard rumours, speculations that they may have to lay off some staff; more teachers will have to be let go and probably more support staff will have to be let go.

So, I think it is critical, Mr. Speaker, that in the next few weeks we have an opportunity to ask the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Education in regard to some of these challenges and difficult choices and tough decisions that school boards will be faced with.

AN HON. MEMBER: They will have to cut out the coffee in the minister's office.

MR. GAUDET: So they will have to cut the coffee.

Mr. Speaker, again it is an opportunity for the Opposition on this side of the House to hold this government accountable to the people of Nova Scotia. Earlier, I raised the concern that capital funding for universities, $7.3 million, was cut this year. We still don't know in the end the shortfall that universities will be faced with in the coming year or if that shortfall will be passed on to students. That would be a shame. There are still many unanswered questions that exist with this budget and with Bill No. 30, the Financial Measures (2001) Act.

Mr. Speaker, the Opposition needs to have the opportunity to raise these concerns that Nova Scotians will have in the days and weeks ahead. For our caucus, as we have said in the past, it is our job to hold this government accountable to the people of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, before I take my place, I would like to move an amendment. The Page is providing all members of the House with a copy of the amendment. I want to make the following motion, "that BILL 30 be amended by deleting the following word 'that' and replace the same with the following:

BILL 30, the Financial Measures (2001) Act, be not now read a second time but that it be read a second time this day six months hence." (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The Leader of the Liberal Party has moved an amendment, "that BILL 30, the Financial Measures (2001) Act, be not now read a second time but that it be read a second time this day six months hence." The motion is in order. We will now continue debate on the amendment motion.

[Page 1431]

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I guess it is more of a pleasure to speak on the hoist amendment than it is to actually speak on the bill. Bill No. 30, the Financial Measures (2001) Act is a bill that really should spell out some clear direction of the government. The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party stated that he thought the Tory Government didn't have a plan. I disagree. I think they have a plan. I don't think it is written anywhere and I don't think it is one that Nova Scotians would like. I would say that the Tory plan is a well-focused plan and they seem to not be deviating from it very much. That plan is looking at the next election and trying to bribe Nova Scotians with their own money. To offer Nova Scotia taxpayers a tax break using the money that the government has been able to collect through a variety of fees would seem to be the plan that has not been particularly articulated by this government.

Mr. Speaker, six months would give some time, although I have to say if hindsight is worth anything at all, time to reflect has not worked on this Tory Government, and everything that we have tried to suggest and all that we have endured in the suggesting of it, has not made any headway or had any effect on the agenda of the government. I guess a couple of the first things that come to you when you start to look over the bill and in Clauses 2, 3 and 4, these are clauses that require or provide for cost recovery and the first one is the cost recovery of assessment services and the second, in Clause 4, is regulations respecting charging of a fee for searches under the Child Abuse Register for employment purposes. So the very start of this piece of legislation are more user fees.

[4:30 p.m.]

It never ceases to amaze me, Mr. Speaker, that we will soon be to the point that if there is anything, any service that is offered by this government, then Nova Scotians are going to have to pay for that. Actually, we saw a start of it last year. Having six months to reflect, obviously, hasn't impacted on the government. As a matter of fact, I would say that that reflection probably has only strengthened their resolve that they can try to get away with this with Nova Scotia voters. We saw it with the downloading to the municipalities and the school boards and in such things as the water testing. We see it again with - actually there is no more clear-cut example of the resolve of this government when it comes to imposing fees on Nova Scotians - the case of the 911 fee, which we saw the government last year back away from and this year only to bring it back again.

If six months more will cause the government to reflect on this piece of legislation, I have to say, I am all for it. I would not be hopeful that it will have any effect, but I am willing to give anything a shot, actually, anything that would slow down more costs onto the taxpayers of this province. Mr. Speaker, I know that the honourable member for the beautiful Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley would love to enter this debate and I think that one of the things we miss since this Tory Government has come into power is the fact that that member

[Page 1432]

is not on his feet as often as he used to be. If ever there was a member who could rail on a government, that member could do it. I would have to say that is certainly one member who went on about fees for seniors for fishing licences and, yet, now he can sit in the government seat and we oppose a $50 fee for a hospital bed on seniors and no break on the cost of fishing licences.

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Unless I misheard, and that is possible, the honourable member and Official Opposition Leader indicated that there was no break for seniors on the fishing licence. The fact of the matter is, the Progressive Conservative Government reduced the fishing licence fee by $10, something that that crowd over there was scared to do.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. That is not a point of order.

MR. MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, it was a good point. I knew it as soon as I uttered it that I had misspoken. I want to quote from one of my colleagues who earlier said, throw a stone in amongst a bunch of dogs and somebody is going to howl. So I guess we will call that a howl. (Interruption) Well, they are hounds for punishment, I know that.

When it comes to user fees, the members opposite have perfected that, I would say, to a science. That's not to say that it was an original idea. They picked up from the previous Liberal Government and I think that they saw an opportunity in what the Liberals had already initiated. Actually, one of the biggest surprises to me during the debate around the imposing of the 911 fee was for the Minister of Health to say in this House that it was already underway under the previous Liberal Government. I think that was probably the biggest eye-opener for me. Call me naive but I guess it's true, there's no difference between Liberals and Tories.

Six months to reflect on this bill could only have a slowing down benefit. I would say that if it were possible to hold this bill up for six months, then we would only be imposing it six months down the road.

I want to come back to Clause 4, charging a fee under the Child Abuse Register. First of all, I don't understand the use of the fee for one thing, for what it is intended to accomplish. I don't know if I can see any relationship between the fee and the service that is being delivered. I don't expect members opposite to get up on their feet, but at some point one of the ministers might want to explain something to me in regard to the Child Abuse Register and that is why it is that people who are planning to try to get a job with the school board, for example, and they fill out the form, the information goes to the Child Abuse Register - or I assume it does, probably all members in the House have had people come before their office and ask for them to sign as a Commissioner of Oaths . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I wonder if the member would permit an introduction?

[Page 1433]

MR. MACDONELL: Sure.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East on an introduction.

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, in the Speaker's Gallery today, I want to introduce to the House, Jeffrey Campbell, a school board member, District 2. He's here visiting, watching the proceedings of the House. I would like to welcome Jeffrey and ask the House to show him the usual warm welcome. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you, and welcome to all our visitors in the House.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

MR. MACDONELL: I, as well, welcome anyone here who is witnessing the proceedings.

As I was saying, all members of the House probably have had experience with someone coming before them in their constituency office to have them sign one of these forms as a Commissioner of Oaths. I have to say that here would be an area, not only don't charge the fee, but the other one would be, streamline this so that somebody who fills out one of these forms that I am assuming the information goes to the registry, why they would have to do that. If they're applying for a job in my school board, Chignecto-Central, I sign a form for them. If they're applying for a job in the Halifax Regional School Board, I can sign another form for them as a Commissioner of Oaths. Why that person would fill out two identical forms because there are two different employers doesn't make any sense. It seems to me that once you fill it out the information should be made available once, at one location within the province and they wouldn't have to fill out the form a second time. It can only indicate to me that the information is going to two or three different locations and the employer should be able to get it from one; all employers, anybody in the province, should be able to get it from a single point.

Mr. Speaker, I think one of the more obvious reasons that we should consider the hoist amendment on this piece of legislation, and I will go through some of the dollars that we have tabulated as part of the collection of fees by this government, but I want to draw the members' attention to the Eurig decision that has been identified by the Auditor General's Report, I just want to read from that. In October 1998, the Supreme Court of Canada delivered a decision on the probate fees charged by the Province of Ontario to the Estate of Donald Valentine Eurig. The court concluded that the probate fees amounted to a tax. According to its decision, if fees are levied to provide general revenues for a government, they are tax-like in character and must be imposed by legislation.

[Page 1434]

We don't even have that in this case, although, the fee for the services under the Child Abuse Register - it is mentioned in the legislation that they can charge a fee - isn't mentioned in the legislation. The probate fees were struck down because the fees were compulsory. There was no reasonable connection between the amount of the fees and the cost of providing the services, and the fees were imposed by way of regulation not legislation. The decision impacts all jurisdictions where probate fees are similarly imposed, however, the supporting rationale of the decision is not confined to probate fees.

To avoid being classified as a tax, the level of fees must approximate the cost of providing the service. Thus government departments and agencies must be able to associate the cost of service with the amount of fees charged if they are to have confidence in their authority to charge fees.

Now, it goes on, as a result of the Eurig decision, all government departments in Nova Scotia were asked to review program reviews and costs where fees were charged. DNR estimates it will collect approximately $7.6 million in ordinary revenues for the year ending March 31, 2001. No comparison of program costs and program revenues has been carried out and no review is contemplated. We are concerned that DNR is not complying with the government-wide request and may be putting sources of government revenue at risk of legal challenge.

Mr. Speaker, that is from the Auditor General's Report, and I will have these photocopied and will table a copy with the House. I don't know if there is a better reason to re-evaluate this piece of legislation for six months, other than the comments by the Auditor General. Actually, my impression of this government is that the Premier, on occasion, indicates that he has some regard for what the Auditor General says. I certainly would hope that he will take the Auditor General's comments and consider them seriously, and use this time to reflect upon the impact of this piece of legislation and what it will do to Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, there has been a litany of fees charged, user fees. The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party has gone through a number of them, so I won't go over all of that, but, I do want to go through some that we have identified; $12 million in the failure to follow Ottawa's decision to increase the basic personal tax credit. That is what the province has gained by not following Ottawa's example, a $12 million HST windfall from high fuel prices. That is probably not accurate anymore, it is probably greater than that considering prices are still going up. A $5 million decoupling from the federal tax, allowing the province to keep from matching federal tax reductions; $35 million in user fees and, actually, that is probably no longer accurate either. It is probably a greater number.

[Page 1435]

[4:45 p.m.]

The honourable member for Lunenburg West has mentioned, on more than one occasion, about bracket creep and, actually, to quite a degree and we predict that the government will gain $30 million by not securing for Nova Scotians some relative sanity in tax provisions to keep the government from actually gouging more numbers as people's incomes push them up into a higher bracket.

This bill also allows for the province to collect its increase in tobacco tax. I think our number, if I am not mistaken, is somewhere of an additional $20 million that the province will gain. I guess this is the case where, certainly, the province is indicating this as a tax increase. This is one of the few times that they actually will identify it as such. Certainly, the user fees can be shown as nothing but, and I think the Auditor General's comments are justified in that regard. There doesn't seem to be any connection between the cost of a service or the service being provided and the fees that are being imposed by this Tory Government.

Now, the extra $20 million, I think it is interesting to note, Mr. Speaker, that the figure that the government used to tabulate its $20 million for the number of smokers in the province, they used a number which would indicate they are not expecting a drop in the number of smokers. They used the existing number of smokers. The increase in the tax was supposed to deter smoking, so we would assume that the intent was to cause smokers to quit. If you are going to cause smokers to quit, then you have to pick a reduced number of smokers to make your calculations and that is not what the government did. They used the existing number of smokers, so it is obvious that they are not expecting any major decrease in the number of smokers in this province.

If that is the case, then this can only be regarded as a tax grab. There has certainly been no indication that a significant portion of this will go to anti-smoking or smoking cessation programs. The people who will be most significantly hit by this will be the poor, as in many other cases. I think something that the government hasn't actually worked into their figures, is the fact that this is an addiction, certainly for young people, students in particular, and those who may have more limited sources of income. These people will be the ones that you might possibly turn off by increasing the cost of cigarettes. But, actually, poor individuals in Nova Scotia who have severe addictions will not be easily turned away by an increase in cost. That means that money that should go to other things will go to pay for cigarettes. That only puts them and their families in a worse situation.

If the minister is going to put the appropriate dollars into smoking cessation programs, then I would say that there may be a positive outcome in the increase in tax and otherwise, that hasn't been indicated, that that will be a significant contribution from the $20 million. We would worry about that. As the Minister of Health, I think he should be concerned, I think he would be aware. It would be difficult in his position not to be aware that one of the leading costs or drivers in health care is poverty. So adding to that burden is not going to

[Page 1436]

advance the cause of health, for one thing, and it is not going to reduce the dollars spent on health care for another. I guess the one thing I don't see in this bill, which I guess I haven't seen in this government, is a comprehensive plan that tends to link what you're hoping to do with one program compared to the reality that Nova Scotians face every day. I think what we have found is we have looked at the services that we provide, decided first of all whether or not we will even offer the service or how much we will cut or how much we will charge people to get the same service. I know the argument that we have tried to make in Question Period to ministers in this House has been the question of increasing revenues and I am amazed that this is something we still back away from.

The Minister of Natural Resources has commented more than once about the significance of the forest sector and the agricultural sector but we don't see any dollars going to shore up these sectors. Actually as much as we're attacking Nova Scotians - and I mentioned earlier about the $50 for a hospital bed that seniors have to pay for and this can seriously impact people with bad health number one, people on fixed incomes number two - we're willing to make them pay more but we're not willing to try to get more for our stumpage fees, try to get the lumber companies and the pulp mills to pay more for resources that belong to all Nova Scotians.

Actually, the most striking example I think we discovered the other day in the budget estimates was to find that the mills in this province have been able to negotiate with the minister to back away from providing money into the sustainability fund which is to ensure silviculture programs for the forests of Nova Scotia. So, the first move that the government makes to back away from extra fees has to deal with those who are probably the most able to pay them, and those who are the least able to pay, is where we have downloaded costs upon costs.

Now, that's not to say that that represents a lack of vision. What it represents is something that's not our vision. It is something that's not the vision of Nova Scotians. Nova Scotians put the members of this House in this House on the assumption that they will try to take care of the best interests of the people, but that hasn't been the case. The Financial Measures (2001) Act points to that. It may be as people may say that the government doesn't lack vision, but I would say that it is a question of which direction you're looking. They certainly seem to be turning their back on Nova Scotians and looking in an opposite direction and it is certainly one that I hope Nova Scotians will first of all recognize and act on at some point in the future.

Will six months make a difference? Well, I don't know. I would have to say that when we debated the first Financial Measures Act under this government I probably would have thought six months would make a difference. I would have to say that I have lost my innocence in this House. I have come to realize that what I thought governments would do if given the opportunity with power, the Tory Government's vision of what Nova Scotians deserve, what they require and what they need to move their lives and their family lives

[Page 1437]

forward is a completely different view than what I would think. I don't see six months making any difference. A couple of hundred years hasn't, so, you know (Interruption) and actually if I had time, I probably could sit down with the honourable Minister of Transportation - he has probably been here the longest of anybody and can probably click off a number of six month periods - and just see how much his thinking has changed over that time. (Interruption) It has only served to stiffen his resolve.

The case of the $50 for a long-term care bed some people will say, how is it that this government could impose that. I think from what we've seen, the whole notion of long-term care for anyone is one where this government has missed the point. I think that is sad, I think that to try to offer Nova Scotians some measure of not only financial prudence, I think that the Premier is probably right when he says that Nova Scotians have put the government in power with the notion that they would balance the books and I don't argue with the Premier when he says that.

But I think what the Premier seems to try to relay to us here in this House and to Nova Scotians generally, was that that is the only thing that Nova Scotians put them here for and that is certainly not the case. Nova Scotians want the government to be prudent, they don't want them wasting their tax dollars, but they want the government to give them appropriate service for the tax dollars they pay. We're not getting that. We're getting a reduction in service and they're being asked to pay more and they're told that what they're paying is not an increase in taxes. But it certainly is.

I think that it is unfair to expect Nova Scotians to carry any more of the burden. It is not just the user fees that we see that the government is imposing, whether there has been a justifiable rationale for doing that, but it's those fees that they've been forced to pay that aren't seen so easily by Nova Scotians. Those are the costs when it comes to downloading onto municipalities and to the school boards and just to individual Nova Scotians everyday.

We've asked the government day after day to look at trying to bring in some form of either regulation or allowing the Utility and Review Board to have the authority to examine gasoline prices. If there is any issue, probably after health and education, that Nova Scotians mention to me when I am out and about in my constituency, it is their disgust at the high cost of fuel. I would say that Nova Scotians - whether rural or urban - are becoming pretty disgusted at what they have to pay in terms of gasoline taxes and the cost of gasoline. I think this would be one where the government might want to consider being a little more compassionate for Nova Scotians.

That is just in their everyday travel that people do - that has nothing to do with the impact that that has on the commercial side of running businesses in this province and the shipping of goods. All of us pay increased costs for that. Somebody has to bear the brunt of it and we're all doing that and I think that the government certainly has a responsibility to try to ease a burden somewhere for Nova Scotians. Don't assume that this approach - yes, I

[Page 1438]

know it is going to hurt but it will be good for you in the long run - it is getting to be a pretty old story for Nova Scotians to buy. They have been listening to it since 1993.

[5:00 p.m.]

I think, at some point, everybody is willing to tighten their belt, but I think that when the end of the belt comes back to the buckle, you cinched up a little too far. For all of those who are willing to pay their share - we saw it with the freeze that the Liberal Government put on from 1993-98. Nova Scotians felt this would be worth it in long run and they didn't see it - I will tell you, for them to expect to keep doing this with governments that mismanage their money, I think they have just about had it. This is a return to the bad old days, I think, as far as Nova Scotians go.

So, Mr. Speaker, is there any end in sight to the fees that this government has imposed on Nova Scotians? Certainly, for those who have some flexibility in their ability to generate revenue, I would say that they have probably been trying to bear up as well as they can, but for those whose ability to generate more revenue is quite constrained - that they live on fixed incomes - they are really feeling the pressure. I would have to say that the people we would refer to as seniors or those on welfare are having a tougher and tougher time. I am amazed that a government that has its power base in rural Nova Scotia for the most part, has abandoned rural Nova Scotia. If it is the agricultural sector or the forest sector, they certainly have had no help from this government.

I have to say that I am amazed that in those areas where we would have sustainable, renewable jobs, that this government would tend to abandon them - and I was going to say for whatever reason, but I can't even think of one; I can't think of a good one - in recent discussions with the Minister of Education around the appropriate technology for the new schools, it would only seem that if this government had any vision at all, Mr. Speaker, they would start to realize that having secure, strong, sustainable rural communities can only work to the benefit of this government. In other words, by allowing these communities to generate wealth, then that means that the government doesn't have to put as much money into those communities as far as trying to sustain them through welfare or any process. What they have done is they have ensured, basically, the demise of those communities if they depend on agriculture, and certainly with regard to the forest sector.

I want to say in this House, on the record, that this government should be aware that from its own numbers, the forest sector in this province is in serious trouble. Whether members will admit it on the floor of this House, they are going to start finding out in their constituencies, any of those who represent rural constituencies, you are going to find that mills will start to shut down. If they are not shut down for long periods, they will be shut down for short periods more and more often because of the lack of availability of logs. You will find that the truckers, the contractors who work for those mills, who are on the hook for big money because usually they buy the equipment that they harvest trees with in this

[Page 1439]

province - those are not owned by the mills in most cases - so therefore, as the resource becomes more and more limited, you are going to start to see some of these contractors going out of business. That has already started and this is only the tip of the iceberg for this sector.

I would say that one of the things that we have to be careful of is presently we are in a downturn in that industry and if that market ever comes back as lively as it was about 18 months ago and the trees start being cut in this province at the rate that they were, we are going to see mills go out of business at an astonishing rate because usually the smaller mills

can't compete. When good-sized mills in my area, or close to my constituency I should say, tell me that they bid $2,000 an acre for lumber and can't get it, or $2,000 an acre for timber and get outbid by other companies, then I know that small mills are in big trouble. Wood supply will not last, and if this government thinks it has monetary problems now, then they should think about trying to generate 22,000 jobs that presently exist in the forest sector.

If this Bill No. 30, the Financial Measures (2001) Act is supposed to be a vision of what they see for this province and the future in a monetary way, then they are going to have to make a major re-write on this bill, if they are going to somehow accommodate the disaster that is going to happen in this province. I am saying that in 15 years the wood supply is done, and that is being optimistic. There are people who would argue with me that it is not going to be that long. Depending on how long this government lasts with whatever its mandate (Interruptions) Well, I should say, depending on when the government calls the next election, that might be a more appropriate way to say that, certainly within the next couple of years, we are going to start to see a demise of the forest sector, and that is something this government is going to have to deal with.

Mr. Speaker, why I think they would deal with it anymore than they haven't dealt with it already is beyond me. I am the eternal optimist. All the more reason for this bill to be hoisted for six months, to have the government re-examine not just the piece of legislation, that might be the simplest thing, what they should do is re-examine the vision under which this piece of legislation was written so that Nova Scotians might actually hope that in time they will take a different view of where this legislation takes this province.

There are too many people out there without a voice who are depending on their government or depending on their MLAs to say something for the benefit of their communities. It is not happening, it is not happening on that side of the House. I think that is a shame. I think people in Nova Scotia expected more, and I have to say that when I am out and about, actually Saturday was an example. I stopped in to visit one of my constituents. This man is a lifetime Tory, and he is not impressed with this government. What he is saying to me, if that can be echoed throughout Tories in the rest of this province, then this is something that this government should seriously be thinking about, because if you are expecting that the hardest hit has been done in the first couple of years of the government, and that by the time we get to an election, people are going to forget. Well, they are not.

[Page 1440]

People in this province are not forgetting. People in rural Nova Scotia, which is the power base of the Tory Party, they are not forgetting. Actually, long-time elderly Tories are not impressed with the John Hamm Government. If there was ever a reason, you may not want to listen to what we say on this side of the House but you certainly should listen to your own people out there in Nova Scotia. They have a message for you. I think that if you are ever going to have a reason to stop and think, give six months of reflection on this bill, there is a good one. It won't necessarily matter what the member for Hants East has to say on this piece of legislation, but you all know people in your own constituencies who have approached you on more than one occasion. I know from my experience that I have had, now and then, strangely enough, people from the constituencies of the members opposite approach me. They recognize, for whatever reason, and they will talk to me, and they are not impressed with what the government is doing. (Interruption) And neither are we. I think that would go without saying. Certainly, saying it doesn't seem to have had any impact on the government. I would say that even though I know there will be no members getting to their feet and address what I am saying, that they know that what I am saying is right, that there are people, their own supporters, their own power base who are particularly disturbed with what this government has done in Nova Scotia and, in particular, rural Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, what is the answer? Well, something tells me that the government is not going to resign and hand power over to us.

AN HON. MEMBER: What was your first clue?

MR. MACDONELL: The honourable member says, what was your first clue? Well, I think it was that our comments on the first budget didn't seem to make you do it, so I have kind of twigged to that, that you are probably going to stay. I think that the desperate times in Nova Scotia, probably there is no greater example to indicate how disillusioned people are in this province than the election in Cape Breton North, that people there would elect a Tory member. The reason they elected a Tory member was they thought having someone on the government side would allow them to have something better in their constituency. Certainly, I don't know that I can blame them for thinking that. When the chips are down you go for desperate measures. (Interruption)

I will say that the quality of the candidate is certainly there. I think he is a good individual. I think his community recognizes him as such. What I am trying to convey to the members opposite is that sometimes having a good candidate isn't enough. People rationalize - what is my best advantage? So if they had three good candidates to pick from - and my comment wasn't meant to degrade the member who won the seat. That is not my way of speaking in this House. I try to avoid it on most occasions. I bite my tongue several times, maybe. I do want to say that I think the point is well taken, or should be. If you live in an area that is suffering intense hard times and, certainly, that area is and has been for some time, if the people there were to think that governments have abandoned them - and they think that, the member for Cape Breton North comes from a riding that the previous Liberal Premier

[Page 1441]

had his seat and those people feel abandoned there. I would say that if the chips are down put a member in the government side and maybe you will have a voice that has a bigger audience than you might otherwise have.

If that is the sense of disillusion that those people have, then what about people around the province who have elected Tory MLAs and feel abandoned by them? At what point will the government move away from this strategy of abusing its own people trying to build a nest egg that they can use to give back to people as a tax cut in a year and one-half or two years, or whenever government decides to go, to bribe people with their own money. One thing I do believe is that people have more to think with than that. I mean, Nova Scotia voters are not stupid and they're going to pick up on what they have paid for having this Tory Government.

[5:15 p.m.]

As I wind up my comments, I want to say that I am disappointed by the abuse Nova Scotians have taken at the hands of this government. I think that the honourable Leader of the Liberal Party was entirely appropriate in bringing forth this amendment that we would read this a second time six months hence and maybe, possibly, allow for this government to re-examine its track record for one thing, whether or not it wants to stay on this course.

I have said before that the clear course has become the clear curse for Nova Scotians. I think that Nova Scotians have paid the price over and over and we can see it in cost recovery clauses in this piece of legislation. I think that they have had their fill. I think that the government should look at its vision again if it has one, or regenerate a new one, and give people the fair representation they deserve and the accountability that they're not achieving. It would be difficult, I would say, to support this legislation. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to stand here today as well with my colleagues to speak on the amendment on the hoisting of the bill for six months hence. I think to start off with, it is appropriate that this House be given the respect and the time to know exactly what this budget is really going to do.

To give you an example today, we heard today about more teachers being let go, more teachers being laid off and I think the way they have camouflaged this budget, the way they have camouflaged the real impact - whether it is on health boards or school boards - we won't see the true effect of that for a few weeks down the line, or a month or so down the line. And you wait, they have almost got it timed thinking that we're going to get out of the House at a certain period of time so that when all this action happens, nobody is going to be here to raise the questions in the Legislature. I believe that the reason that they should be hoisting this is so we truly understand the implication of what this budget is all about.

[Page 1442]

They would like us to think that everything is perfect, everything is fine, no problems. There aren't going to be any issues that will come forward. Trust us. Remember those days when we used to hear that from that side of the House? Trust us. Read my lips. Trust us. We've got everything under control. Remember that, Premier? Remember those days? Be happy, don't worry. Trust us. Everything is fine; there are no big surprises coming, everything will be copacetic, we will look after you very well. What we say is what we're going to do. Well, what they said and what they're doing are two different things.

But what's more important - and I want to start my debate today on the amendment - that our Leader brought forward today on Bill No. 30, Financial Measures (2001) Act, to have a six months' hoist on this bill to be read the second time six months hence. You can tell I now need glasses, it is harder to read, everything's a bit of a blur. But then again, listening to this government is a bit of a blur. The reason it is a blur is that as of today, we're hearing about more teachers being let go. I know the Minister of Education - in her words that will go down in time - no cuts to teachers. Boy, did we ever learn about that in a hurry. This time, she will not say anything about that.

She says, no, I refuse to answer that on the grounds that it will incriminate me because I can't possibly tell you with a good conscience that teachers will not be let go. Teachers are going to be let go, they're being let go here today. We're seeing more of an effect and we will see more of an effect with regard to health care. This is a government that is led by a doctor who said during the campaign, only some 600 and some days ago, that they would be the ones to fix the health care problems. Don't listen to those Liberals, they don't know what they're talking about when they talk about continuum of care. They don't know what they're talking about, about the need for specialists. Don't listen to them, they don't know what they're talking about, about nurse recruitment in a real way. Don't listen to them when the Liberals talked about the need for training and retraining of nurses and nurse practitioners and the benefit there will be for the Province of Nova Scotia.

They said, don't listen to the Liberals who had a plan that talked about how those dollars would be strategically invested in facilities for long-term care because they said they don't need that. They were the ones who said don't listen to the Liberals that talked about the need for investment in health care so that we in turn will reduce the costs of health care long term. They said, don't believe them. They said trust us because $46 million and a few cuts of administration, we will resolve the health care problems. Do you remember that?

Shame on that Minister of Health and shame on that Premier and that government for ever saying those words to Nova Scotians only to find out that since they've been in power they have not - they didn't do it at first, they wasted and frittered away opportunities of strategic investments that would have saved them money today, the Auditor General said so. In fact they've spent some $300 million of borrowed money with no plan to pay it back - we at least had a plan to pay it back - no plan to pay it back. In fact they don't have a lot of plans about a lot of things. They don't have a plan to deal with the growing debt of the Province

[Page 1443]

of Nova Scotia. They have no plan to deal with surpluses in the Province of Nova Scotia. They have no specific plan in health care other than this clinical footprint which we're all waiting and waiting to find out the reality of that so-called plan that they said they had prior to the last election. They said, prior to the last election, they had the plan, they costed it out. Does anybody remember what they said the plan cost? Was it $46 million? Well it is $300 million ago, maybe even more.

I would like to say why it might be more because here we are, the year-end is just completed, the numbers are still being tallied in the Department of Finance and they have yet to know what the true impact of last year's budget really is. We don't know if there's going to be a giant surprise, we've seen those in the past. If history repeats itself, then all of a sudden this minister, the good member for Truro-Bible Hill, will all of a sudden say, oh my goodness, oh my gracious, my golly, I've got now probably a $65 million deficit in the health boards. I never realized I had that problem but now I do, the numbers are finally in and finally being able to balance off those numbers and reconcile the accounts. All of a sudden I've got to find $65 million of problems.

Maybe that number could be $100 million and what's that minister going to do? I bet you he wishes now he wasn't Minister of Health but all of a sudden he's going to have a problem because under their law, under their plan that they brought forward, or their supposed plan about dealing with deficits, that the Department of Health's budget this year that we just voted on, could very well be less than the number that we voted on because they have to deduct the deficit of last year against their budget for this year.

I wonder what the Minister of Health will do if he's got to find $65 million over and above the budget numbers that he's got now? He'll probably take a walk off the top of the bridge between Halifax and Dartmouth because he knows if he had to find $65 million of potential deficits that those health boards have right now, maybe that he himself would not know where to begin because he doesn't even know where to begin with $1.8 billion substantially less than the numbers he's got. Oh my gosh what would he do?

They don't have a real plan. If they had a real plan, they would have realized almost two years ago that they should have started - can I just write a note here, while I talk? We will see if I can possibly do this, talk and write at the same time. I am sure the minister over there who is listening will know where I am going with this concern that I brought forward about their deficit.

Now, if all of a sudden when one would take a look at the Department of Health's budget, and if all of sudden when the Minister of Health realizes that they have operating deficits within the health boards, then he is going to turn around to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works and say, Mr. Minister, I have to find $65 million, I would like to take some money out of Transportation and Public Works, because there is no way our health boards could ever find $65 million internally. This big announcement about all

[Page 1444]

of this money in Transportation and Public Works could be gone; that extra $10 million or $11 million that is needed in Transportation and Public Works, by the way, is going to be gone, because the Minister of Health is going to need it to run that department, a department that he said he had the plan for, only 600-some odd days ago, and they could do it for $46 million.

Maybe he will look to the Minister of Education, and say, I am going to need some money because I am running deficits in Health, and I am going to need that. We are going to start seeing some of those numbers over the next period of time. When we do see those numbers, my gosh, I think the minister will be going to the door of the Minister of Education and saying, minister, I need to borrow some money because we are running deficits, and we need help. Or maybe he will go to the Minister of Tourism and Culture, the man who likes to take up all his time telling everybody what is going on instead of allowing Opposition Parties to ask questions in estimates. I couldn't believe it the other day. Maybe he would like to give up his budget to help Education.

The reality is that the Minister of Health has some very serious problems in this go-around. We would like to know what those true numbers are. I realize that the Minister of Finance is trying to get a better accounting system in place - I applaud them for that, I agree with that; we had started that process, I think he would even admit to that - to get a handle on those numbers, but at the end of the day, when they do the reconciliation, there could very well be a $60 million to $65 million problem.

If there is, well, maybe they would say, how do we deal with this? I am wondering if the Minister of Finance would say, well, I think I have found a solution to that. Even if the Minister of Education runs a deficit in the school boards, because of the serious cold weather we had all winter, and instead of having to lay off and let go a number of teachers that are required, and the fact that this Minister of Health is not managing the affairs of state the way that the Minister of Finance would have preferred him to be able to do it, and he runs a deficit, and maybe the Minister of Finance would say, well, you know, you realize we have $140 million net coming to the province from the sale of NSRL. And maybe the Minister of Finance will say, well, we won't elect to take that into the current account of last year, we will declare it this year. They can put it directly into their income stream.

We have said, it should go directly to the debt. Gosh only knows, that Buchanan Tory Government that started that, when we had the PIP grants, way back in the 1980's when he set up NSRL, they had a lot of money go into that drilling and exploration, and said, when the thing shut down instead of dealing with it in one way, they just kept it going, and compounding that interest on NSRL. When they have sold NSRL and when that sale goes through, the net effect of the sale or the profit from the sale, after they write off a lot of the debt, will be approximately $140 million.

[Page 1445]

Maybe the Minister of Finance is saying, well, maybe I have a sleeve here, maybe this is my cushion, maybe this is my ability to have a slush fund to be able to offset the massive debts that possibly the Minister of Health has not been able to manage the Department of Health with, and they are going to use that. Maybe that is what is going to happen, but we won't know that for a few months. Thus, the reason our Party has asked for the hoist of that bill is just so that we and Nova Scotians will understand what is going on.

[5:30 p.m.]

The Minister of Finance said that they were going to take the $140 million and apply it against last year. It didn't show up in last year. It hasn't shown up in that. They said they cannot do it until it has been sold. It hasn't been sold, but they are going to it anyway and they are going to use it as an extraordinary revenue and then he said, oh, it will go to debt. Well, there is a lot of what-ifs. I haven't seen those numbers categorically put anywhere. The fact that they haven't got the money, the minister is saying, well, we cannot necessarily declare it in the previous year until we have the money.

Although they can do that about Sysco and Sydney Steel; they can take $200 million or $300 million of potential costs of reclamation, greening the site, the issue of pensions and things of that nature. So he put that on the operating deficit of the Province of Nova Scotia, ballooning the operating deficit of the Province of Nova Scotia, for which we are part and parcel now saying that this is the ongoing current year deficit that the province is dealing with.

He can do that, but he could not and would not and will not take a potential net sale of NSRL's profit of $140-plus million, into either last year or this year until we know when he decides to want to take it. So maybe he built himself a sleeve. I note some of my colleagues are writing notes here on this. Maybe they want to investigate that because it could be an interesting point. That way, the Minister of Health would have a sleeve of the $1.8 billion budget. Maybe he has a sleeve built in here. Otherwise, he would be a little nervous. Maybe he is a little nervous. My gosh, what is he going to do with $65 million of overspending in the Department of Health? That would mean that they would have to reduce the current new budget of Health by $65 million. Maybe that number is a lot higher. Maybe it is $100 million. It could be $65 million. If it is $65 million, then every one of the district health boards is going to have to go back and say, how am I going to find it? It is going to be a huge problem, bed closures, there could be all sorts of problems.

They didn't want to make strategic investments that we suggested to them back in 1999. They were the ones that said we had no plan and, yet, now they are slowly starting to take hold of some of the initiatives that we talked about two years ago and are starting to implement them. They didn't want to do it before because they are too proud because they just finished telling Nova Scotians that we are wrong. Now that they have realized the error of their ways, they are trying now, desperately, to go back and reinstate some of the

[Page 1446]

initiatives. I note with interest in the budget, strategic investments; if we have heard strategic investments once, we heard it twice, we heard it about 30 or 35 times.

One strategic investment they are talking about now is facilities for long-term care. Again, the minister knows that is something that should have been done. Even if they started today, they will not be able to deal with that and they will not have anything built for some time. But, oh yes, there is another catch that the Minister of Health keeps telling us. There is this clearing house to determine who should be in these homes. Mr. Minister, I can't remember the name, the one entry system, I guess, is what it is really called. He talks about the things that have happened in Cape Breton. It sounds good, what he is saying. A single entry system sounds good, but the reality is, will it be? (Interruption) It is good. The minister for Cape Breton, the only minister that Cape Breton has, he says that that is the best system that has ever happened up there. That is good. If the minister said so, it must be true.

AN HON. MEMBER: Who said that?

MR. DOWNE: The Minister of Tourism.

AN HON. MEMBER: No.

MR. DOWNE: Yes, the Minister of Tourism and Culture says it is. So, if he said it, it must be true. I have no reason to question that he would mislead the House. He wouldn't do that. If it is the best thing, then that is good. But, you know, the single entry system is supposed to be in place April 1st, if I recall correctly. Was it April 1st it was supposed to be done, April 1, 2001? That was a few weeks ago. It is April 23rd today. I wonder if it is going to be implemented this month or next month or the month after, or maybe they are not going to have it fully implemented until next year; maybe they are a year behind. I know one thing for certain, every senior who should be in a Level 2 care facility, a long-term care facility, and is well enough to leave the hospital but not healthy enough to go home, is going to be fined, penalized $50 a day until they leave that hospital. That is what they have done, a $50 a day penalty on seniors.

I know the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley always talked about the seniors in a very compassionate way and I support him for that and I applaud him for that. He always had a lot of respect for the seniors. I am sure he is doing his part, talking to the minister about how this is going to negatively impact on seniors, on top of the Pharmacare increases since they have been in power. I am sure that member back there who talks very strongly for the seniors in his caucus is talking very strongly. As the Premier gets ready for the Cabinet shuffle that will happen very quickly - and that is another thing that they are going to be trying to do in very short order, they will be having a Cabinet shuffle. I am sure the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley is looking forward to his rightful place in Cabinet as one of the members who was elected back in 1993 and has championed the cause

[Page 1447]

for the Progressive Conservative Party/Stockwell Day federally. He is not a Joe Clarke fan, he is a Stockwell Day fan. I am sure he is waiting for his rightful place in Cabinet.

If the member, Brooke, doesn't make it, maybe it will go to the Cape Bretoner who was just elected to help shore up the other Cape Bretoner who is in Cabinet. I am sure the Premier will probably put Mr. Taylor in there. (Interruptions) You know, he has been there the longest of all the backbenchers. He has been there the longest, he is the most experienced. Isn't there something about this game, they usually want persons with experience. Mr. Taylor has yodelled his way across the Province of Nova Scotia, yodel-ay, yodel-aying, yodel-aying all across the province talking about the virtues of the Progressive Conservative Party. He has done his penance. He has received his stripes. He has gone the distance for the Party. Now it is their time to show loyalty and respect to that member.

Another member who should be considered is the member for Dartmouth. He has worked hard. He has been in the back rooms of that Party for a long time. He has made a lot of effort to make that Party become government, so he should be in Cabinet.

But whoever they do bring to Cabinet, I hope they bring somebody to Cabinet who realizes they cannot continue to penalize seniors year after year. They have gone after seniors, charging them a fee for license tests. It is either young people or seniors who have to go through those, generally. They are charging them $16 for the book, for seniors to rewrite the test. They are charging seniors again; $50 a day because they have no place to go. They are charging seniors more on Pharmacare because they don't want to help the seniors with the high cost of drugs.

That is what this government is all about. They said they are for the seniors. The member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley - it is a beautiful valley, it is almost as beautiful as Lunenburg County. Parts of Lunenburg County, Lunenburg West in particular, has some beautiful areas as well. I have driven in his area on the highways. Some of them are very smooth, very nice, some of them aren't. Anyway, he . . .

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, . . .

MR. DOWNE: No, I am not going to answer a question. (Interruptions)

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

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. The honourable member for Lunenburg West just made an erroneous statement, and for the record I would like to correct the erroneous statement and ask him if he would point out the exact locations of those smooth roads.

[Page 1448]

MR. SPEAKER: That is not a point of order. The member for Lunenburg West has the floor.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I want to go on again with the issue of health - and the reason we want this Bill No. 30 to be hoisted is because I think there is a lot of stuff going to be coming down the pipe with regard to reductions and over expenditures in that department and we don't know how they're going to deal with that. That's why they want us to get out of the House in a hurry. They want us to get out of this House in a hurry.

I brought to the minister's attention just a little while ago a letter that was written by a member of my constituency - I don't know if he ever did call her, I hope he would have - where she talks about just recently - this government has gone after seniors on items (Interruption) I haven't got there yet. They've gone after seniors, now they've gone after individuals experiencing problems with cancer. This is not a very healthy situation - 48 per cent of the cancer patients in the Province of Nova Scotia receive their treatment in Halifax - 48 per cent. Where do they go and where do they stay? You know that when you start taking those treatments, not everybody can drive home. Not everybody can drive back and forth every day. If you happen to live in a beautiful part of Nova Scotia, Yarmouth or another beautiful part, Digby, or up in Cumberland County, in Amherst or up in Cape Breton - anywhere in Cape Breton is beautiful - then you know it is a long, hard drive.

So, they were providing some assistance that started back in the 1980's, I think under John Buchanan. I don't know if George Moody was the minister at the time, but in the 1980's, the Province of Nova Scotia went into a partnership arrangement with Point Pleasant Lodge and it was a fair proposal. The Conservative Government said we will pay $15 a day if you look after the people who need to take these treatments, because these individuals that are taking the treatments - 48 per cent of Nova Scotians receive the treatments here in Halifax - those individuals would normally be in-patients. They would be in the hospital. They would normally be taking a bed and being fed three meals a day.

So, the Progressive Conservative Party of the day said no. What we are going to do is make an arrangement with Point Pleasant Lodge and we will pay ground transportation and $15 a day toward their meals. Back in the 1980's, that was a big help - today it is not as much a help, but it is still a help. The minister goes and says - rightfully so, correctly so - if anybody can't afford or doesn't have the money, then they will pay that. I appreciate that, but there are a lot of people on fixed incomes and they're just over that threshold. They, themselves, are experiencing enough trauma in their life and yet they go on with this trauma by the fact that now they are under the pressure of the financial concern about food and transportation.

[Page 1449]

I am not asking the minister to spend more money. I am asking the minister to prioritize his money correctly. I am asking the minister not to spend more money, I am asking the minister to make the priority choices he should be, and going after seniors and the sick is not the answer.

I wonder what is going to happen to this government when all of a sudden Sysco, when they realize that they have an additional $60 million of unfunded liability in a pension plan. They haven't really come to grips with that issue yet. I bet they don't even know it. Some do, but most of them don't. I understand there's another $60 million potential impact on the unfunded liabilities of the pension. I hope I am wrong, but if I am not, then where are they going to find the money to deal with this? I think we have been pointing out clearly that this government does not have a plan except their plan to go after seniors. To go after seniors, to go after the youth and to cause some hardship on some people who are experiencing a time of serious sickness.

[5:45 p.m.]

You know, I remember the days when that group across the way, the Progressive Conservative Party, stood here and quoted word for word the Auditor General. You know, it's interesting, they use the Auditor General when it is to their advantage but they don't want to acknowledge the Auditor General when the Auditor General is pointing out their shortcomings. The Auditor General stated that they will not, in his view, at the rate they're going, be able to balance the budget. He questioned whether or not they had the plan in place.

He questioned whether or not there was a plan in place. This is the Auditor General that they quoted verbatim, ad nauseum, day after day and now they say, oh, I don't think that's right; I don't think the Auditor General is right; or just watch us, we know what we're doing. That's starting to be some of their tactics. You know, now they're saying watch us we know what we're doing. We're becoming a little arrogant, don't you think.

We have said, prior to this budget being tabled, a number of months ago we made a press release or I put a press release out saying that this government has got a windfall profit. They have a windfall coming in in prior year adjustments; they've got a windfall in regard to money from Ottawa; they have a windfall in regard to taxation. We said, this government is probably going to have over $100 million more money. As it turned out, they had $249 million more money than what they had projected.

So when we told them that they had this surplus money, what are they going to do with it? They had enough to balance, in fact they had enough to balance and they could have made, as they would say, strategic investments; strategic investments in health care that in the long term would reduce the costs of health care in the Province Nova Scotia. Like little mices they ran and hid.

[Page 1450]

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Mices?

MR. DOWNE: That's what they say in Richmond County. (Interruption) Oh mouses, pardon me, mouses. I could never quite understand that member. (Interruptions)

AN HON. MEMBER: Mices, mouses, what's the difference.

MR. DOWNE: They ran and hid. They had a chance to balance the budget and make strategic investments. They could have hired some 600 or 700 nurses and, gosh only knows, I would bet you that Minister of Health would love to have an additional 700 nurses to work with.

AN HON. MEMBER: He sure would.

MR. DOWNE: He would love to be able to provide that service because deep down inside under that crust, I'm sure there's a heart and a compassionate heart of some sort toward the people that need help in health care in the Province of Nova Scotia.

This government had a chance to be able to not only pay the operating deficit of the Province of Nova Scotia, this is that deficit, that Sydney Steel part, by the way that we haven't spent any money on yet, but that's part of it. They could have provided more teachers and I think what we're going to be hearing today about teachers going to be let go, we heard today . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Fifty-three in the Cape Breton board.

MR. DOWNE: . . . 53 in the Cape Breton board alone today. This Minister of Education should be ashamed, 53 teachers let go in Cape Breton today. With that extra money they received from the Honourable Jean Chretien's Government, from the Honourable Paul Martin, the Minister of Finance - without question the best Minister of Finance this country has ever seen and that's been said by people of all political stripes - they came in and gave them money. They gave them enough money to be able to do all that. They could have hired additional teachers; they could have hired additional nurses; and they could have even done some extra paving that we all know we need whether it is in Musquodoboit Valley or Lunenburg West or Windsor or Truro or Richmond or Victoria or anywhere else in this province. We need it across the province.

They could have done that. But you know what? This government blew it. This government did not make those investments. Why? I don't know. They blew an opportunity. The Minister of Finance is saying, well, we overspent. We don't know the true overspends yet in Health and Education. We will find that out shortly. Gosh only knows, even in the Department of Transportation, but the Minister of Transportation, even though it is his responsibility, he can't control the weather. I respect that. He had a year that I bet you he has

[Page 1451]

probably spent $5 million to $10 million more in his winter budget than what he planned on, for no other reason than the weather was bad. We had a lot of storms. I remember they tried to blame that on us too but, in all reality, common sense would tell you that there is nothing a minister can do about the weather.

AN HON. MEMBER: Sure he can. He can prepare for a rainy day.

MR. DOWNE: Well, he could have prepared for a rainy day and maybe he did, but maybe he didn't prepare enough for the rainy day. The bottom line is, he is going to have an overrun and we will start seeing the effects of all that in a few weeks or maybe a couple of months. That is why hoisting this Bill No. 30 for six months is the right way to go. We will have a clear understanding of exactly what is going on and for Nova Scotians to understand what is going on.

Coming back to the fact that they have no plan. This government came in and talked about, we are the Progressive Conservative Party of Nova Scotia. We are the fiscally elite. We are the self-reliant body and we are the ones that are the champions of reducing tax, reducing the burden on Nova Scotians. I remember that. I remember them saying that with conviction in their heart only to find out that they have imposed more user fees in the last little while than anybody wants to really acknowledge, whether it is $42 million or $60 million, it is a lot of money. We can go through the list in a few minutes. It is money that is coming out of the pockets of Nova Scotians.

This is the same government that said no new taxes. But instead, what they are doing, they are increasing taxes day in and day out. As the Auditor General states, when a user fee is higher than the cost to administer, it is then a tax. The Auditor General should know, it is then a tax. That is what this Progressive Conservative Government has done to Nova Scotians since they have been in power. They have taxed them. It is interesting. They came out with a tobacco tax. I think all Parties said the principle behind the tobacco tax is right as a deterrent. I know I think we said it. I think the other one said it. It is a good deterrent. We were of the opinion, rightly or wrongly - as it turned out, wrongly - that that tobacco tax was going to be used for one thing and that is the prevention and cure and help for those Nova Scotians who are addicted to that deadly disease, that deadly tobacco cigarette. I know exactly how much trouble it is to try to quit. I know it is a hard addiction to overcome. I can tell you, if anybody says it is easy, they are wrong.

The Minister of Health said he had no problem quitting. That is the same minister that keeps saying, trust me, believe me in everything I tell you. He is saying now tobacco is no big problem. I can tell you, it was a challenge for a lot of people. It was for me. But they could have used that money to help Nova Scotians. There are a lot of people that are trying to get off this addiction and they were looking to this government for that help. But you know where it is going? The Minister of Finance was slick, sleight of hand or slick . . .

[Page 1452]

AN HON. MEMBER: He tries to be, but people see through him all the time.

MR. DOWNE: We are seeing through him now. We caught on to him now. We got his number now.

AN HON. MEMBER: He is pretty shallow.

MR. DOWNE: Yes. When you go scratch, scratch and you can tell. He said $5.7 million of that tax we are allocating in the revenue in the Province of Nova Scotia. I asked him the question, why is that? He said, we have no way of knowing when we are going to implement the overall tax. We wanted to be prudent. We took a number that would be realistic. Well, I believed him only to find out a couple of weeks later that the full amount of that tax is going to be implemented right away. In fact, it is not going to be $5.7 million, it is going to be $20.7 million to the coffers of the Province of Nova Scotia.

That Minister of Finance said that $5.7 million was the amount of money that they think they are going to . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. May I just have a little less noise in the Chamber, please. Would someone please shut that door for me. Thank you.

The honourable member for Lunenburg West has the floor.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate you taking charge of this House. It is hard to keep these guys in check, I realize that.

But back to this tobacco tax, it is $20.7 million. The Minister of Finance said to me that $5.7 million is what they project they will be able to take in this year, but it could change. Do you know what the minister never said and should have said? They were only going to spend $5.7 million towards health prevention programs on tobacco. He never said that; he never said it until after I asked him the question in the Red Room, when we ferreted out that information that members of both Opposition Parties had been grinding the government about. He said, oh, we are only going to spend $5.7 million, even though we are going to take in $20.7 million; no matter what, we are only going to spend $5.7 million.

It wasn't that they put a $5.7 million projection of revenue because that is all they are going to project they are going to get, they knew they were going to get more, but they are only putting $5.7 million because they knew that is all they were going to spend. I would say to members of this House, and to Nova Scotians, they knew all along that they were going to receive substantially more money from that tobacco tax. Where did that money go? Directly into the revenue of the Province of Nova Scotia, into that black hole that that Tory Government has, that it has no ability to manage.

[Page 1453]

That $15 million additional revenue that this government is taking in is going where? We don't know where. We have asked the Minister of Health where it is going: gosh, I don't know. We asked the Minister of Finance: oh gosh, I think it is just going into general revenue; we don't know, we will find a place for it later on. Another little $15 million slush fund. Maybe that is what he has, a $15 million slush fund to deal with the overspends in the Department of Health that we will be seeing very shortly.

I don't know, Mr. Minister, when those numbers are going to come out, the overruns in the district health boards. In about a month. Month by month. We are going to know the real number at the end of the year, pretty soon, when they do the audit on that and they do the analysis of that. I can tell you, I bet you this minister will not be on the line in that. Think about it, a 2 per cent overrun on $1.8 billion is how much money? A 2 per cent overrun on $1.8 billion is how much money? It is a lot of money, and that is if they are only over by 2 per cent, and these guys could be over by 10 per cent, and that could be $180 million.

If you are over your budget by 10 per cent, what is it, Mr. Minister? We have accountants in the front benches, Mr. Minister. The accountant who is sitting in your own front bench is nodding his head, yes, and he is saying to you . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: It is $180 million.

MR. DOWNE: It is a lot of money. We are going to have this surprise come at us pretty soon, and all of a sudden this minister is going to grunt. But this Minister of Finance, his sleight approach to the $5.7 million in taxes on tobacco was no more than a shell game, because all they were going to spend on tobacco addiction was $5.7 million. That $20.7 million that they are taking in in tax, of which $15 million is there, the principle behind it is right, but the application is wrong and it is nothing more than a tax grab on the public of Nova Scotia.

[6:00 p.m.]

This is a government that said we will build self-reliance, we will not allow taxes to grow, and we had a Premier who said we will not allow the debt to continue to grow in the Province of Nova Scotia. Yet, when I asked the Premier of the Province of Nova Scotia, do you realize that your debt is growing each and every year that you are in power until the year 2005, and possibly beyond, he couldn't understand it, because he didn't know and that Minister of Finance never explained it to him. Shame on the Premier for not knowing. He should have known, he is the Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party, the Premier of the Province of Nova Scotia and he should have realized that that debt has continued to grow.

[Page 1454]

This Minister of Finance was also cunning in the fact that just prior to the Paul Martin budget that talked about a massive reduction of taxes to all Canadians - Paul Martin, the Minister of Finance of the Jean Chretien Government that bailed this Tory Government out already in less than two years they have been in power to the tune of over $0.25 billion - what did the Minister of Finance do? He said we are going to decouple from the federal tax. If you read the Tory blue book from Ontario, which is the Tory blue book from Alberta/Nova Scotia, it says the reason they are decoupling is because in case the federal government increases tax. They figured they would decouple in case it went up. Well, everybody knew that that was never going to happen. The Harris approach of not being forthcoming to all his residents, they picked up a chapter of that book. So he said we are going to decouple.

The flow-through of those tax savings to Nova Scotians have not fully been seen. We have debated that. The minister said that is just the way it is going to be. We have in effect increased the personal income tax to the public of Nova Scotia to the tune of 60 per cent of the federal tax. We are now the highest-taxed community in eastern Canada.

Then he went on to the issue of bracket creep. A year ago I indicated that he should have dealt with bracket creep, because bracket creep is a hidden tax, another hidden tax that this Progressive Conservative Government wants to impose on Nova Scotians. Do you remember my opening comments about "be happy"? (Interruption) I won't repeat that, I could probably be called out of order if I repeated that, so I won't.

So on the bracket creep we said, why don't you deal with bracket creep? The Progressive Conservative Brian Mulroney Government in Ottawa brought it in. The members opposite who hail to Brian Mulroney, I see them on bended knee over there, hail to the master. So, it took a Jean Chretien/Paul Martin Government to eliminate bracket creep. (Interruptions) Here they go. They are getting wound up. He just got a haircut, so he is all wound up right now. Do you see that? So this Minister of Finance doesn't deal with bracket creep, so it is a hidden tax on Nova Scotians.

The indexation of Nova Scotians, there is another hidden tax. I don't know what the real number is, but we are doing those calculations. I think the New Democrats said it was $12 million, I think the government said it is $2 million or $3 million or whatever. We will have a better handle on that in short order, but nevertheless the reality is it is another hidden tax.

AN HON. MEMBER: Rely on us again.

MR. DOWNE: I actually brought the matter up and you guys are following the track. Anyway, I don't know why there are New Democrats over here. I mean they sit here and they heckle on both sides of their mouth. Either they are in favour of the Progressive Conservative Government or they are not. I think they are; I think that deep down inside they know that they are part of the Progressive Conservative team. I think maybe the House Leader might

[Page 1455]

be working for them in short order, I don't know, maybe. There is a rumour about it, but I don't know if that's true.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. Perhaps this might be a good time to remind the member that we are speaking about a hoist amendment.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I do apologize to the House. They heckled me and I followed their heckling and I shouldn't have. I should learn to just ignore them.

The bottom line is that this government has repeatedly gone after hidden taxations on Nova Scotians, either through user fees, real taxes, bracket creep, indexation, new taxes and the inability to flow through the federal reductions in the income tax.

The numbers are horrendous, what they've done to the economic opportunity of Nova Scotia by the moves that they've made. What we have said a number of weeks ago, we brought that out to Nova Scotians, the reality will be in their announcement in 2003-04, that one of their promises in this book is that they will reduce personal income tax by 10 per cent. I asked the minister the question in the Red Room. I said, minister, the question to you is, is that 10 per cent reduction from when you came in or when you get to the year 2003-04? Oh, well, it will have to be when we are at 2003-04 because we already taxed them, we have already increased it.

The reality is that Nova Scotians will have paid in excess of 10 per cent new taxes to this government by the year 2003-04 and that Nova Scotians will be only getting back the money that they gave this Progressive Conservative Party without them even knowing about it. The Progressive Conservative Party will then in turn give some of that back and say, look at us, aren't we good.

They have misled Nova Scotians. They are not forthcoming to Nova Scotians on the reality that they have gouged the people of this province. They have gouged them. That is partly because they never really knew what the heck they were doing when they took over. They don't have a real plan and the Premier states, we had a plan, we had a plan. But we happened to get $0.25 billion more and even though that was a windfall, we are not going to use that, not for the purposes of what we should have used it for and that is for putting our fiscal house in order.

AN HON. MEMBER: What should they do?

MR. DOWNE: They didn't do it.

AN HON. MEMBER: What should they have done?

[Page 1456]

MR. DOWNE: This government is making millions on the backs of Nova Scotians. This government continues to say that they had a general plan. I asked the question to the minister, where is your plan on dealing with the debt? Do you remember the debt of the province, that the Premier said when he ran in the campaign and up to his annual meeting and other places, the debt will not grow. We showed the Premier by his own numbers that the debt in fact continues to grow, not the year 2000-01, 2001-02, 2002-03, 2003-04, it goes up to 2004-05, 2005-06, 2006-07 and maybe by the year 2007, they will be able to stop the escalating debt of the Province of Nova Scotia.

So the debt of the province is growing even though they're projecting surpluses starting next year. So, if we are getting a surplus, is it because they are growing the debt to pay for the surplus? Is it possible that could be done, that they're growing the debt so they can look like they've got a surplus so that Nova Scotians will think they are good? Well, we are going to make it clear to Nova Scotians what these guys are really doing.

When the Premier last year said, you guys are going to have to ferret every bit of information out of us, I never really thought the Premier meant that. I believed what he said during the election campaign that we will be a transparent, open government; we will tell you whatever you want to know, we will explain it, we will be straightforward on all the issues; we will tell you what's going on.

The more we ask, the less we know. I remember the last time we were in this House, we had to ferret out everything we could find. Both Opposition Parties worked very hard to truly show what this government was all about.

AN HON. MEMBER: What did you find out?

MR. DOWNE: That they were not forthcoming to Nova Scotians about what was going on, that they tried to hide some initiatives, they tried to hide behind all sorts of initiatives and they didn't want to let Nova Scotians know what was really going on.

MR. JOHN HOLM: So, what should they do? What should they do with that $250 million?

MR. DOWNE: Well, I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, that the House Leader for the New Democratic Party is asking me questions while I am going through this deliberation. Is that proper procedure?

MR. DOWNE: Would you put (Interruptions)

MR. HOLM: Don't you want to be Leader? You have to be able to learn to deal with adversity.

[Page 1457]

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

The honourable member for Lunenburg West has the floor. May I remind the member again, a hoist amendment.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, that is why we are here to talk about hoisting this bill for six months, so that we can find out what is going on. As I was saying, we on this side of the House ferreted out a lot of the information from this Progressive Conservative Party because they were not forthcoming to Nova Scotians. The same is true with this budget. We pointed out to them that they have lost their political will to balance the budget; they lost their political nerve to live up to the rhetoric they gave Nova Scotians. It is becoming evident every day, they do not have a plan; they do not have a strategy; they do not know what they are doing. They do not know what, in fact, they offered Nova Scotians.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The Opposition House Leader, on a point of order?

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, no, not initially anyway. I know that the speaker is certainly somebody who is used to answering questions and always liked to be co-operative, and I am just wondering if he would entertain a brief question.

MR. DOWNE: No.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, as we stand here to debate Bill No. 30 and hoisting this bill, what we are saying now is that we need to disclose to Nova Scotians . . .

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I certainly hear the eloquent words of the speaker in talking about openness, accountabilities and plans. The only thing missing in his remarks, which I think is a very important point, is the lack of openness and accountability and a plan coming from that member. The member has accused us, on this side of the House, the Official Opposition, of speaking out of both sides of our mouths. The point of order is this: that the member who is speaking is talking about reducing the debt, at the same time he is criticizing the government about spending money on health and education and he . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. It is not a point of order.

The honourable member for Lunenburg West has the floor.

[Page 1458]

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, it is typical of the retiring House Leader of the New Democratic Party - possible retiring. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I hear the member, and he has done it several times, making assertions about my future. He is making these statements. It is something that I am unaware of, and if he is doing that, one would appreciate if the member would come forward and table the information or provide some detail so that I, and my family, might have a better understanding and knowledge of what my future is, because apparently that member knows more than I do.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. That is not a point of order.

The honourable member for Lunenburg West has the floor.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I am here to debate the hoist of Bill No. 30, and this member is doing everything in his power - you know, I can tell that this government is scared and nervous about staying here for another six months or having Bill No. 30 stay around for another six months because the government of the day will realize six months from now, as will all Nova Scotians, that what they had laid out before us is wrong.

[6:15 p.m.]

That is why we have asked that this bill be hoisted for the period of six months. With the increased cost of user fees, the fact that this government has been gouging money out of the pockets of Nova Scotians, we have fines for seniors; this government is out of control with no plan, no focus and no direction.

This government has gone after farmers like we have never seen. Then we go on to the issue of equalization, when they say in this province on equalization that their way of equalizing it is to charge property tax to take those property tax values and share it with Nova Scotians. Shame on that government. We agree with equalization but not on the burden of the taxpayer for their property tax to be used to equalize the indifferences in the Province of Nova Scotia. That is wrong.

Another initiative that this government has said, is that they are going to consult. Well, they have 90 days to find a solution and, Mr. Speaker, I think that 90 days is within the mandate of the six months' hoist, and that is why we appreciate the opportunity to speak on this amendment to Bill No. 30 giving a six months' hoist.

[Page 1459]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: October 23, 2001 is a Tuesday, and consulting my calendar I find that I am not spoken for on that day. Therefore, if the six months' hoist were to go through, I, for one, am certainly available to vote on that day on Bill No. 30 when it reappears before us.

I am sure that if all other members of the House were to consult their calendars, if they, by chance, have already committed themselves to some event on that day, they could probably, with enough lead time, clear the decks so they could make themselves available for the vote on October 23rd. I know that virtually all members would wish to arrange their lives in a way that would allow them to come back in order to reconsider the bill after the opportunity for more mature examination of what it is that the government has put before us.

Of course, I think it is particularly the government members opposite who would want to take the opportunity to think, during the six months' hoist period, about what it is they ought to do because, indeed, there are problems with the bill as it comes before us. Surely no member, and certainly no member with the stature and experience of the interim Leader of the Third Party, would have made a motion for a six months' hoist unless they considered that there were serious problems with the bill. I can only read it that way and, I think, indeed, it was intended that way.

Now, what is it that is wrong with this bill? Surely that is the main point in considering a hoist. Surely there is no other point that is relevant to our consideration when we think about whether we are prepared to support such a motion. I have listened to speeches over the last few hours by my colleague, the member for Halifax Fairview and my colleague, the member for Hants East, and just most recently, the member for Lunenburg West. What is interesting about these different speeches is that although they come from representatives of two different Parties, the members are saying essentially quite similar things when it comes to analyzing the numbers and analyzing the policies that they represent.

We have seen a detailed analysis from the Official Opposition and from the Third Party in the previous speakers that have gone through all of the problems with this bill and with the associated budget. It is clear that there are a huge number of user fees and hidden taxes. The figures have been laid out, they're quite enormous, they're staggering and they certainly aren't what it is that the government campaigned upon in the last election or promised Nova Scotians. It is equally true that there's a problem with debt as the member for Lunenburg West was pointing out. He may not have hit upon the correct solution but he certainly points out that Nova Scotia carries a fair bit of debt. It's equally true that it's far from clear what it is that the plan for the way forward is. It is equally true that the proposal for a tax cut to come at the end of the mandate of the current government will hardly offset the increase in taxes that Nova Scotians will have experienced during the first three or four years of this government's mandate.

[Page 1460]

In saying that I take, of course, the taxes as including direct taxation, bracket creep, user fees, all of the items that are either direct and manifest or hidden that have been laid out in detail by the last few speakers. Indeed I think I may have been overly generous to the government a moment ago and stated the case a little too favourably to them and therefore I unfortunately, inaccurately said that the cut will hardly offset. I have to emphasize that it won't even remotely offset the increase that have been seen. You know what, there are even more problems with that.

I turn to this subject and I'll come back to it in a little more detail because if we're considering a six months' hoist we have to know what it is that should happen during that time. What we're saying to the government members is, it is time that they should use in order to reconsider what it is that they're doing to Nova Scotians with their agenda. The bill clearly in and of itself makes provision for changes in taxation, the tobacco tax has been referred to, the setting up of a new system for assessments, although not referred to in detail it is worth noting because it represents a certain download to municipalities, there's been a continuation of the tax credit measures and so on. We're not here for clause by clause debate so I won't go through the bill in any more detail, but clearly what it represents is a movement of taxation leading up to part of the program that the government offered to people.

The problem that I want to focus on at this point is this whole question of the tax cut. Many of us will have heard talk about a flat tax. A flat tax is a proposal that says that everyone ought to be taxed at exactly the same rate. We hear from some political Parties nationally that what they're proposing is that instead of having different categories of taxation, what there ought to be is just one taxation rate. The taxation rate in personal income tax of about 17 per cent is what's usually mentioned.

The flat tax has been roundly rejected. It has been roundly rejected by our Party any number of times. Interestingly it has been rejected most recently in no uncertain terms, by the federal Minister of Finance, a Liberal, who observed that a flat tax is an inequitable tax. Paul Martin was very clear about that when he finally spoke out in clear terms last year about the flat tax proposal. This was during the federal election campaign. One of the benefits of having had first the Reform and then the Alliance Party speak out federally in favour of a flat tax is that it finally provoked the federal Finance Minister to take a position on it. He had been dancing around this issue, avoiding it for a long time, the federal Liberals had. Finally during the federal election campaign, the Minister of Finance came out and said it is inequitable.

Well, I agree, our Party has been saying that for a long time. Flat tax is inequitable. Why it is inequitable? It is inequitable because the major benefit goes to those who have the highest income. That is not progressive taxation; it is not the basis on which the Canadian personal income tax taxation system has been built. Since the time of the Carter Commission 40 years ago, when there was fundamental reform of the Canadian tax system, progressive taxation has been the fundamental principle. Progressive taxation means the more you earn,

[Page 1461]

the more you pay, and the underlying logic of that is the more you earn, the more you can afford to pay.

Now, redistribution in that way is seen by Canadians as fundamental fairness. Everyone talks about fairness, but its specific manifestation is that taxation of personal income should be progressive. I am talking about this because if it is true that a flat tax is inequitable for the reasons I have laid out, then it is equally true that a flat tax cut is inequitable. So if a flat tax cut is what we are hearing proposed from this government - and, indeed, that is exactly what it is that they are saying - they are proposing to do 10 per cent across the board, then what they are proposing is an inequitable form of tax cut.

Now whether a tax cut is an appropriate measure is very much open to debate, but what I would have thought was beyond debate is that if a tax cut is going to be given, that it should not be a flat tax cut. It is immediately apparent to Nova Scotians that if the flat tax cut comes from this government, then the benefit will be directed towards those who have the highest income. That is exactly counter to what it is that the basic principles of personal income taxation have been widely agreed to be in our country.

In fact the situation is even worse than that. It is not just that the greatest benefit will go to those with the highest income, we have to think about it in terms of three different categories of people's income vis-a-vis the taxation system. The first category is people who pay no tax at all already; that's a group of people whose income is so low that they are already exempt from paying tax. Then there are those of us in the middle who pay varying rates, and then there are those at the top. If you think about a flat tax cut and how it will impact on those different categories of people, not only is it immediately obvious that the bulk of the benefit would be to those who are at the top end of the scale, it is equally obvious that there will be zero benefit for those who pay no tax, because if you pay no tax a 10 per cent tax cut is still zero. So there is no benefit there for those people.

What about those in the middle? It is the middle class, no matter how defined, who pay the bulk of the taxation. We have to ask ourselves, just how much value is a 10 per cent tax cut going to be to those people? Here is the way people ought to think about it. People ought ask to themselves - and they will ask themselves - did I notice Paul Martin's tax cut? That is what the middle class is going to ask. They are going to look at their paycheques and they will ask, did I really get much of a benefit from Paul Martin's tax cut? Did I really notice it? Am I appreciably wealthier than I was before? The answer is going to be no. When they think about the flat tax cut that is being proposed by the PCs, they are going to come up with exactly the same answer. They are going to say, I am not going to notice this. This is an irrelevancy in my life. This is no big benefit.

[Page 1462]

Now that is why I think that the government members opposite should think very carefully about any financial measures that they are bringing before this House because of the way it fits into their overall plan for a three year balancing of the budget, followed by a fourth year tax cut. Anything that tends towards that, they have to rethink.

[6:30 p.m.]

So, of course, a six months' hoist makes perfect sense. It makes perfect sense because it gives the members opposite the chance to go, frankly, to their supposed supporters and ask them, do they agree with this or do they not? I bet that if they laid it out for them in no uncertain terms, that the citizens of Nova Scotia would say to them, this isn't what we want. What we want is something different. What we want - they will hear if they have ears to hear - what we want, the citizens of Nova Scotia in their constituencies will tell them, is we want the services that we pay our taxes for.

We want two things when it comes to taxation, Nova Scotians believe. First, they want to be part of a fair taxation system. It is fundamental to Canadians' values, and very much so here in Nova Scotia, that they want to see themselves as part of a fair taxation system. They will grumble and be very unhappy with the government if they believe that a tax system is being set up or manipulated or changed or adjusted or rewritten in any way that makes the system unfair. It is essential to them that they see a fair taxation system.

The second thing they want to see is they want the services that they pay for. When Nova Scotians pay their taxes, they pay their taxes according to an aspect of what is usually known as a social contract. The social contract is that the government will actually deliver the services that Nova Scotians are paying for. That is the higher priority. That is what the government members will find if they take advantage of the six months' hoist time to consult with people in their constituencies.

There are indicators of this. This isn't something that the government members need speculate about. There has actually been polling. The most recent polling that has been done has actually pointed out that there are only 9 per cent of the population in Nova Scotia who actually think that a tax cut is a beneficial thing to do. That is not what they want.

AN HON. MEMBER: Hear! Hear! Ninety per cent.

MR. EPSTEIN: That is just plain not what they want, 9 per cent, not 90 per cent. This was the CRA/Atlantic Omnibus poll taken in February of this year. Just 9 per cent are interested in a tax cut. Overwhelmingly, Nova Scotians are more interested in maintaining high quality public services. That, of course, Mr. Speaker, is exactly the agenda of this Party. It is, unfortunately, not exactly the agenda of the government opposite.

[Page 1463]

This is not a poll that was, in any respect, secret. I think it was made public and got a little attention in the press. I had only hoped that it would have gotten some attention from the government members opposite. The whole point about a hoist is they would get the opportunity to think about it at their leisure, not interminably, but for six months. The motion might have been for a hoist for 5 months and 29 days, perhaps, but six months is a nice round number. It is certainly adequate time for the members to get out and think about this problem. They have to think about whether they are doing the job that Nova Scotians actually want them to do.

If Nova Scotians are so overwhelmingly interested in being part of a tax system that is fair and being part of a system in which they get the services they pay for, why is it that the government is not prepared to move in that direction? No one disagrees with the objective that the government stated, to bring the books of the province into balance. I don't think there was anyone during the last general election campaign who said any different. All Parties said that, all Parties said that they were interested in bringing the books of the province into balance. But do you know what, the question that was the core question was how you get there. How do you arrive at that desirable state? Now, Nova Scotians know that the history of the Party that gained the majority has not been all that good when it comes to managing money. It is certainly the case that the Liberals didn't have a very good record of managing public money in Nova Scotia when they were the government.

Now, what concerns me here is that I don't believe that it was clear to Nova Scotians, the exact route by which the government proposed to bring the books into balance. I don't believe that it was ever said to them, in no uncertain terms, that the way the government was going to accomplish that was through severe erosion of the services that are available to Nova Scotians. That wasn't what the government campaigned on; it wasn't what Nova Scotians expected.

Let me tell you, as anyone who remembers last year's demonstrations will recall, it was extremely unpopular. Let me also tell you that no one has forgotten. It is sometimes suggested that the memories of the voters are short. I have never noticed that myself. I have, in fact, noticed quite the opposite. It seems to me that voters tend not to forget anything, they tend to be quite sophisticated, they tend to follow politics in a lot of detail, they tend to know exactly what their representatives are up to and they tend to have a fairly shrewd evaluation of whether something is in their best interests or is it not.

It is easy for a government to get out of touch with that hard fact. It is easy for a government to believe that if it has strongly held principles and a simple agenda, that they can adhere to it and that they will receive praise for having done what they said they were going to do. Clearly, this is the plan of the government. But they ought to rethink it, and that is the virtue of a hoist. It gives them the chance to rethink everything that they are planning to do.

[Page 1464]

What is it that the government thinks that its agenda is, and how will it present it to the voters the next time? How is it that they present it to the citizens of Nova Scotia right now? The claim is, of course, that the government will have balanced the budget, closed Sysco, delivered a tax cut and all of that will be summed up by the neat phrase, we did what we said we were going to do, end of story.

Well, you know, as I have said before, there are many ways to balance a budget. If it just comes down to stop spending money, say, in the Department of Transportation and Public Works and letting the roads deteriorate, anyone can do that. That is no problem. That is not the art of government. That is not what managing the province's finances is all about. It is not taking money away from school boards; that is not what the art of government is all about. It is not downloading onto municipalities; that is not what the art of government is all about. Anyone can do that. That is the way you can balance a budget. That will certainly produce a balanced budget, but that isn't what Nova Scotians want.

Nova Scotians, as I said before, like all Canadians, are prepared to pay their taxes if there is a fair system that they are part of and if they actually get the services that they are paying for. The priority of Nova Scotians, as all of us know if we keep in touch with our residents, our citizens, our voters, is that they want the services. They are prepared to pay for them, but they want the services.

Fortunately, Nova Scotia has been going through something of an economic boom the last couple of years, and it may continue for a little while yet, if we are careful. That boom, although the benefits have not been equally spread out throughout the province, has nonetheless benefited the revenues of the province. I was particularly struck by the projections of economists from the Bank of Nova Scotia that appeared publicly, about a year or a year and one-half ago, that pointed out that Nova Scotia simply through growth in revenue was going to be able to find itself in a position of having a balanced budget without doing any cuts to services at all and that it would take about a three year period.

Now, I am not asking you to believe my projections and my analysis, although I had certainly come to the same conclusion. I am saying these are economists who work for the Bank of Nova Scotia, people in those huge towers in downtown Toronto, people who are paid to be hard-nosed, analytical and well-researched about such matters. They went on record. This wasn't just a casual chat somewhere, I am quoting from the financial pages of our newspapers. They said that Nova Scotia didn't have to do any cuts, didn't have to make cuts to public services, just let natural growth take its course. Natural growth meant growth inside our province and growth elsewhere in Canada that would result in greater transfer payments to our province.

We have seen this. We have seen increases in personal income tax, in corporate income tax, in taxes that come from consumption and spending and, of course, in transfers from the federal government based on the high performance of the economy elsewhere in the country.

[Page 1465]

That has been the story, that has been the overwhelming story. So that pain that we have seen in the last couple of years has been unnecessary. The hard fact is that our budget would have been in a position of balance next year without any reduction in services.

Which gets us to the problem of what it is that the government members are stuck trying to say to voters, because that simple agenda of we kept our promises is not going to wash. The voters will know better. They will know that they didn't have to arrive at the desirable state of having a balanced budget by the route that the government chose, that there was a different and better way. They will know that. They know it now. Their preference, as that poll I cited indicated, is to have the services that they pay their taxes for.

Now, there is a limit to that, I don't doubt. I think ultimately people will get mad. Ultimately, people do get mad if they are not getting the services that they are paying for and they will especially get mad if they are paying their taxes, they are not getting the services and the tax system is made to be unfair. An across the board flat tax cut will add very dramatically to the unfairness of the system. So we have to ask ourselves, if Nova Scotians don't like this, is the government doing this negligently or are they doing it deliberately? If they are doing it deliberately, with what object? Now, that's an interesting question. This is also one of the great uses of a hoist, because it would force all members of the government to think about this problem, especially the backbenchers.

So, the question I pose to them is, if this is the wrong agenda for the government and if it is unpopular and if it entails risks, why do it? Have we just made a mistake here, they would have to ask themselves and ask people who live in their constituencies, or is there another agenda at work? Is there actually some other reason why it is that we might want to do this? For what possible reason could we want to cut government services if people want them, for what possible reason could we make the tax system more inequitable if people don't like that?

[6:45 p.m.]

Well, I think that any member of this Legislature of any Party who asks themselves that question will come rapidly to an uncomfortable but accurate conclusion. The conclusion is that if this is deliberate, then it can only be because whoever is making the decisions has decided that government ought not to be in the business of government and delivering services. Whoever is in charge of making the decisions has decided that an inequitable tax system, one that favours those who have the most wealth in our society, is exactly the kind of system that they want to put in place. I don't see that there is any other possible conclusion if this policy is being pursued deliberately rather than through error or negligence.

I cannot imagine that the backbenchers over there would really want to be part of such a government. I would be sure that if they came to their constituents during this time of the six months' hoist and they said, think about our Bill No. 30, the Financial Measures (2001)

[Page 1466]

Act and how it is part of our overall plan for a four year move towards balancing the budget and delivering a tax cut - is this really what you want to see? Are these the steps that you want to see? Because you know we are moving towards an unfair tax system and we're institutionalizing a reduction in your services.

I bet that if the members opposite went to their constituents in Yarmouth and in Queens County and in Cumberland and in Colchester and in Inverness and they asked those questions, I bet they would get some pretty straight talk from their friends and neighbours. I bet that straight talk is not going to be, we admire you because you're doing what you said you were going to do.

Certainly that is a dilemma. How do you take a Party's agenda and change it mid-term, mid-stream? Well, your problem, not mine, but I have to say that that is the only desirable thing to do and that is what a six months' hoist would allow you to do. I am looking forward to having these kinds of discussions with people in my constituency - indeed, I am having them already. They're aware of them. This analysis is one that I find reflected back to me in conversations that I have with people in Halifax Chebucto on a regular basis.

A six months' hoist would allow me the opportunity to go around and have this kind of conversation one on one with a lot more people in my constituency. I told you already I am available on October 23rd to come back and vote on Bill No. 30 if that is the time - that is no problem at all for me. I would use the time in the intervening months productively. I know that my colleagues, the members for Halifax Fairview, Halifax Needham, Dartmouth North and Hants East, all of whom are eager to have those kinds of conversations, I know that they're finding that reflected back to them in conversations with their constituents.

With the one exception of Hants East, these are primarily urban areas that I have just referred to. It is certainly the case that most of the members in the Official Opposition are based in urban constituencies, but I don't think that the picture can be much different in rural constituencies or ones that are on the periphery of the main urban area, like Hants East. I would think that it should be patently obvious to people in rural areas that they have been hard done by in a way that is even worse than the erosion of services that we see in the urban areas.

We are fortunate here because we have, right here in the central business district, the best of the health care systems that Nova Scotia has to offer. We have all, or most of the specialists and the specialized clinics and the specialized facilities, a brand new QE II Hospital, and we have all of those things handy here. Although there has been erosion, we still have lots of GPs and lots of specialists.

That isn't the case out in the rural areas. The rural areas, they see, very immediately the problems they have getting access to GPs or getting access to specialists on a timely basis or getting access to surgical services on a timely basis so that there is no waiting. They are

[Page 1467]

very much aware of how many beds there are in their hospitals. If they live in a community where there isn't a hospital, they are very much aware of how long it takes to get by ambulance to the nearest hospital. They are very much aware of how much it is going to cost them to go by ambulance to that facility. They are aware that if they have to travel to the city for health care and stay at Point Pleasant Lodge, what it is that the government has proposed.

I don't see that the members opposite, most of whom represent rural ridings, can fail to be hearing these kinds of criticisms from their constituents, from their voters. I have to ask myself what is it that the government thinks it is doing. Surely, the only explanation can be that they are taking their voters for granted and how offensive, really, that is. The rural areas are the ones that have had the roughest time in the last two years. It was clear, in the 1999 election, what voters in the rural areas of the province wanted. It wasn't so hard to figure out. They wanted a good health care system readily accessible; that was first on the list. They wanted the roads repaired; that was second. The third thing they wanted was they wanted early access to natural gas for their local industries and businesses because they saw it as putting them in a good, competitive position.

That was it. That is what rural voters wanted. It doesn't matter whether it was down in Yarmouth or the Annapolis Valley or down the South Shore or in the northwest part of the province or in rural Cape Breton, that is what they wanted and they haven't gotten any of that. They got exactly the opposite. The money hasn't been put into fixing secondary rural roads. That is the way the government has decided it was going to balance the budget. It took all the money out of the Department of Transportation. That is it; no jobs, no repairs, no roads. It is pretty straightforward. If you want to balance the budget, just don't spend the money in the Department of Transportation. Want to balance the budget, take money out of the schools, close hospitals, close hospital beds, tell nurses they have to go somewhere else, charge extra for all of the fees that you can possibly think of. Think of the array of fees. They are all over the place and all on the backs of rural taxpayers.

You know what? Among those rural residents it is primarily the senior citizens who are having the roughest time with this. I have heard and, in fact, I think I heard it from the former Minister of Finance of this province, the member for Lunenburg West, draw a parallel between the finances of the provincial government and the finances of a family at home. I don't know how many times we have to say it, that this is an incorrect parallel. You know what is wrong with the analogy? Families have a limited life expectancy. You have your employed, productive years and, usually, when you reach around age 60, 65, 70 maybe, you retire. Your income goes down. It is good if you have some pension plan and RRSPs and, of course, there is the Old Age Pension and so on, but your income will usually go down. But of course, that usually corresponds to the time in your life when your expenses go down as well. The theory is that your mortgage is paid off by that time, your kids are grown and they are established and they are off. This isn't everybody's life pattern, but it's generally the life pattern that most people can expect.

[Page 1468]

That isn't what goes on with governments. Governments don't retire at age 65. The Province of Nova Scotia, whatever stripe the government is, hasn't retired since 1867. It is still in business and is going to continue to be in business for quite awhile. There is going to be revenue every year, and expenditures. Revenue comes in, revenue goes out and is spent on things. It is not an accurate parallel, but the fact is that for seniors, when they reach age 65, their income does go down, their ability to pay does go down, which is why property taxes are a burden to them if they are still living in the family home. This is why any tax is a burden to them. This is why user fees are a burden to them. This is why hidden taxes are not so hidden to them, because they realize when they reach into their pockets they have to pay for it. If it is $1.00 here or $1.00 there or $10 here or $10 there, it is a pinch.

Many seniors would have voted for the government opposite, but this isn't what they expected. They heard we are going to put the fiscal house of the province in order, and they thought this was going to be a good thing. They didn't realize it was going to be done on their backs. They didn't realize that especially if they live in rural areas, the services that they paid their taxes for - and as good Nova Scotians, good Canadians, they traditionally were prepared to pay - they weren't going to get the services they were paying for. They are not happy about it; believe me they are not happy about it.

If the members opposite were to take the six months' hoist time and consult, especially with the seniors in rural areas, they would find that. I find it in my area. In my area, we have a high demographic of seniors; 20 per cent of the people who live in Halifax Chebucto are seniors. They are in that position. Nationally, it is only a little over 10 per cent, 12 per cent of the population that is over 65, and in Nova Scotia as a whole it is 13 per cent, maybe 14 per cent. In my constituency, it is 20 per cent. So, I am very much aware of what it is that goes on in the minds of seniors, and there are concerns. I hear it a lot.

I know that the members opposite don't really want to take for granted the votes and support of any group of residents, especially seniors. They shouldn't take them for granted, but I can't see that a different message is being sent. How can the government opposite contemplate this kind of scheme, moving through the next few years, the last two years and building on the next two, is going to be to their benefit? Surely the backbenchers opposite, members of the government Party must think about that.

If that hasn't been part of what has been delivered, has anything really been delivered to the population in the rural areas? I am hard put to think of something. Clearly, the gas distribution system isn't there. We all know the current woes with the gas distribution system, the only place that it perhaps made it into has been into part of metro, into part of Dartmouth. Even recognizing that it is probably a difficult and perhaps potentially expensive decision for people in their homes to convert to natural gas, the advantage is probably for commercial and industrial enterprises, but that hasn't been delivered. It is just plain not there for people in the rural areas, for their businesses to be able to compete. It is just not there. It

[Page 1469]

is especially not going to be rolled out to the people in Cape Breton or industrial Cape Breton until at least seven years hence.

I would think that this is exactly the kind of question that people would want to ask of their constituents between now and October 23rd. Indeed, if there is something that the government has actually done for rural areas, then maybe they can think of it during that time and tell the rest of us what it is because it certainly isn't obvious. It's not roads, it's not gas, it isn't the health care system. So if it is none of the things that were on the list of what it is that the voters in those areas clearly said they wanted, what is it? If it is there, I must have missed it. I mean, was it improved agricultural services? Somehow that seems to be missing from the array of benefits and services that the government has offered in years past.

[7:00 p.m.]

My colleague, the member for Hants East, has brought out in a great deal of detail what is missing from the quality of services delivered by the Department of Agriculture plus the additional fees that are now about to be charged. So now we know it's not roads, it's not health care services and it's not gas and it's not agriculture. Well, maybe, it is forestry. Is it forestry? I don't think so. Somehow that seems to not be on the list of improved services that made it into rural areas. Again my colleague, the member for Hants East, has done wonderful work pointing out the difficulties - well, difficulties is too mild a word - the terrible things that have happened in terms of forest policy, silviculture and the leadership that's necessary in order to preserve us and preserve the jobs of all those many people who depend on a healthy and sustainable forestry in this province. If it is not gas, not roads, not health care, not agriculture and not forestry, could it be standing up and protecting the water supply? Well, it doesn't look like it.

When I think about what we've learned about the Department of Environment and Labour and the many problems that exist, the cutbacks in terms of number of personnel out in the field offices, the number of inspectors, the phoning up in advance to tell people before you go and inspect their place, and all the difficulties with water supplies in different communities around the province, I don't think the rural voters are going to look at it and say to themselves, well the government stood up and protected our water supplies, even if they didn't deliver us gas or fix the roads or deal with the health care system or help us out in terms of what it is in agriculture or forestry. They are not going to be able to do that.

What about that other big one, the education system? It was only last year that we had big demonstrations here at Province House over the education system. This was spontaneously led by children in the schools who talked among themselves and realized that the cuts weren't doing them any good in terms of their education. How could the government have done this? Surely the first and most credible report that the government commissioned right off the bat came from the special task force of Voluntary Planning that told them, when it was addressing the question of how to get the province's books in order, don't cut

[Page 1470]

education. Voluntary Planning said lifelong learning is important. We have to, as a province, invest in education at all levels.

Well, that just hasn't happened. We are seeing school boards all over the province struggling to deliver education to the children of this province in the face of inadequate funding. The most recent announcements came from the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board where they are looking at laying off about 50 to 53 teachers. Well, that is amazing in a government that apparently values education, was told by its chief advisors, the Voluntary Planning group, that they should invest - invest, by the way, means put more money in - in education.

We can't add education to that list, so here is the problem. Problems with education, health, roads, gas distribution, agriculture, forestry. I cannot think that the rural constituencies that voted so overwhelmingly for the government members opposite the last time can be very thrilled when they think about that list. I cannot imagine why it is that the members opposite would not be looking forward to spending six months in close, personal, frank conversation with residents and voters in their constituencies about what might be a better way to go about governing the province. I would have thought indeed, this is exactly the kind of opportunity that they would welcome.

One of the great things in some of the rural constituencies are universities. I spoke about education just a moment ago, mostly in terms of the schools. We couldn't possibly overlook at all great institutions like St. Francis Xavier or Acadia University, but we saw in the report of the advisory council on post-secondary education that just came out last week, that they documented deferred maintenance and renewal needs in the university system of $302 million. The Nova Scotia Council on Higher Education's annual report for the year 2000, look it up on Page 21, it's right there - $302 million of deferred maintenance and renewal to their buildings.

I mention this because this is the way a budget and the way a Financial Measures Act should be generated. A government should say to itself first, what are the needs of the citizens of our province? And then they should cost it out and then say how much of this can we afford to pay for, how can we raise the money for it, how can we get on with the job? I haven't seen that, but the numbers are there, they're easy enough to generate. If the universities know how much money they need for deferred maintenance and renewal, schools certainly do and we've seen figures for that. The hospitals certainly know what they need and to that they can add their needs for equipment and we have seen those figures over the years.

There's another point as well, if we're talking large figures. There is that $131 million that municipalities are required to put in to the cost of schools. They don't like that and that's something that is still on the backs of municipal taxpayers that shouldn't be on the backs of municipal taxpayers. So it is easy enough to add all of these items up and say, there is a big need out there for reinvesting in services. This is palpable to people. It is palpable to people

[Page 1471]

in terms of the health care services, that they're aware that they get or don't get. It is palpable to people when they simply look at the buildings and what has been the biggest problem in terms of schooling, in the metro area just recently it was the forced closure of the Halifax West High School because the building was a sick building. And of course, all the spinoff that then follows from that - the double-shifting at another school, the turmoil and disruption of students' lives and the difficulty of now building a new school and so on.

All the things that flow from that had to do from the fact that not enough money was being spent over the years in fixing problems. We know on the commercial side of the economy, economists refer to it as "pent-up demand". There is a huge amount of pent-up demand when it comes to fixing the buildings - just fixing the buildings.

This is the kind of thing that all of us should be discussing with our voters, with our residents, with our constituents during a six months' hoist. One could only wish that all of a sudden there was going to be another big lump of money coming in that we could spend fixing up those buildings. Bringing ourselves up to a reasonable standard so that we can then carry on with normal year-to-year expenditures and maybe this time take the additional step of putting some money aside into sinking funds every year as over against the repair needs of the buildings in the future. Well, you know what? It turns out that there might actually be a little lump of money coming in this year. This time I'm not talking about the natural growth in revenues through increased economic activity that seems to be going on in Nova Scotia. Nor am I talking about increased transfers from elsewhere in the country through equalization because of the dynamic economy elsewhere in the country. I'm talking about the dollars that might flow to the Province of Nova Scotia through the sale of Nova Scotia Resources Limited. This is part of the agenda of the government.

They've already said, and quite correctly I have to say, that that money will not be counted as normal revenue. Of course, it shouldn't be. It is a one time receipt of money that comes from the sale of an asset. You can only sell the asset once; it isn't like taxes, it is not that they come in every year. Unfortunately, of course, once we sell Nova Scotia Resources Limited, that's it in terms of our major assets. We've already sold Nova Scotia Power, there's not much else we're going to be left to sell.

So if we sell Nova Scotia Resources Limited, clearly we need to get the right price for it. We have had that discussion last week and this isn't a discussion today about the wisdom of whether to sell Nova Scotia Resources Limited and that's very questionable. But let's just assume for the moment that Nova Scotia Resources Limited will be sold this year. Let's just assume that we actually get a reasonable price for it. The question then is, what do we do with the money?

I think there are really only two choices. Clearly, we can't put the money into normal revenues and say, oh, let's just pay our day-to-day expenses out of it. That would be wrong because it would cook the books of the province in a thoroughly unacceptable way. So, the

[Page 1472]

two choices are: you put the money into paying down debt, and there's certainly a good argument for that. The second possibility is you use the money to pay for some of this pent up demand, some of this deferred maintenance and renewal that our infrastructure has. It is a special one time use of the funds to fix our universities, to fix our schools, to fix our community colleges, to fix our hospitals, to buy some equipment.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The Speaker is trying to determine the correlation between the sale of NSRL and the hoist. I know the honourable member has been very germane to the topic, but seeing as how he's nearing completion of his dissertation, I thought perhaps for the benefit of all members he would draw that correlation before his time expired in a couple of minutes.

MR. EPSTEIN: I would like to thank the Deputy Speaker for that and I hadn't lost track of where I was by any means and, indeed, I was just about to point the lesson. As I was just saying, just to briefly sum it up, we only have two choices and this is exactly the kind of question that ought to be debated by members of the Legislature with their voters, with their constituents, with their supporters. It is part and parcel of what it is that the government's economic agenda is. So what I am saying is that during the six months' hoist period, they could usefully ask, along with all the other questions that they ought to be asking the voters, what ought to be done with that money.

Now, I can see that the Deputy Speaker seems to think I've drawn a long bow there but there's no doubt about it, this is part of what it is that the government's economic agenda is. Overall I think I've covered the ground; I've said why it is that the hoist is a good idea, why it is it could be profitably used by all members of the House. So, I am looking forward to having this kind of conversation with my residents, with the constituents of the good people of Halifax Chebucto between now and October 23rd, a date which I hope all members of this House have set aside in their calendars. Thank you very much.

MR. SPEAKER: Do we have an introduction prior to the next speaker? Yes we do.

The honourable Minister of Education.

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, up in the east gallery we have some visitors this evening from the Dartmouth North Progressive Conservative Association and they are just stopping by for a visit on their way out to dessert. I would like to introduce them, if I may: Sandra Everett, Greer Marks, Dan Sameoto, Marie Travail, Jean Jewers, Geraldine MacKay, Jennifer Richardson, Dorothy Richardson and Jane MacKay. If you would all like to rise and receive the welcome of the House. (Applause)

[Page 1473]

[7:15 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Welcome to our guests in the gallery. We hope you enjoy your time down at the Legislature this evening.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I, too, welcome the guests to the gallery. I must say, it is the first time that I have seen the Tory members stand up and acknowledge officials from the Halifax Regional School Board. Perhaps they may have an opportunity to in reference to this hoist bill, because this is what we are doing. We are asking the government to give Nova Scotians some time to demonstrate, quite clearly, to all the people of Halifax Regional Municipality what their budget is doing to the school system here in HRM.

We are a little disappointed at the silence of the elected officials at the Halifax Regional School Board, as it pertains to this particular budget. This budget slashes and burns and lets a number of important issues go unchecked, (Interruption) most importantly what is happening with our labour force.

Mr. Speaker, what this hoist will do is it will bring some sanity back into the process, particularly in the education system at HRM, and stop beating up on the workforce, using them as whipping agents for mismanagement. Those at the top get bigger and stronger and seem to do quite well when it comes to pay raises and those that are on the front lines don't seem to do so well, as has been demonstrated here in the last week and one-half. I am disappointed that there hasn't been a greater effort to bring these issues to close.

We are concerned about the quality of our schools. We are concerned about the quality of education for our children. We are most concerned about the environment that seems to be going unchecked; reports that have come before this Legislature, violations of occupational health and safety, stolen equipment, abuse of entry by replacement workers and what do we get? We get silence from the school board and we get silence from this government. That is why we want a hoist. We want time for the people of Nova Scotia and, in particular, the people in HRM to see what, in fact, is happening.

Mr. Speaker, last week we asked the Minister of Labour and Environment to provide the JOSH Reports for all 152 schools so that they could clearly demonstrate that the Opposition was wrong in the assertions about not having a safe and conducive, clean environment in these schools. Has the Minister of Labour and Environment done that? No, he has not. I would venture to say that he hasn't even put the request in, which is not surprising considering the track record. Why the Minister of Education is being slow off the mark on this concerns me. That is why we want this hoist, so that we can examine in detail her budgetary issues.

[Page 1474]

Mr. Speaker, we were led to believe, during budgetary debates, that there would be no cutbacks. There would be no layoffs at the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board. What happened today; 53 jobs were cut, teaching positions. That is why the Minister of Finance was so anxious to debate the budget first, because, do you know what it is coming down to? Cut and run, cut and run, because the Premier says, we will table 28 pieces of legislation. He didn't say that they will pass them. They will be on the order paper in the fall. Most of them will be. (Interruptions)

HON. JAMES MUIR: Get off the filibuster . . .

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Health is saying, get off the filibuster and we will pass the other bills. Wouldn't they love that, wouldn't they love to just get off this bill, because they don't like accountability. He doesn't like it brought up, the $50 fee that is being charged seniors and the disadvantaged in this province, because they can't afford to fend for themselves. It is one thing to boast about being an affiliate of the Conservative Party, it is quite another to stand up for the interests of the people who put you there. That is what it is all about.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would ask all honourable members to please turn down the private conversations a little bit. The honourable member for Cape Breton West is speaking quite forcefully, but it is difficult for the Speaker to hear.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, if it is the wish of the Speaker, I could certainly speak a little louder.

MR. SPEAKER: Honourable member, that won't be necessary.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, that is a sign of a good Speaker, when he has control of the House. Now, if you could only get control of the government and the way they are trying to ram this budget down the people's throats, with over $91 million in hidden taxes, and they do it under the guise of a user fee.

Mr. Speaker, departmental budget after departmental budget, the government acknowledged increases in user fees, indicated there would be new user fees, but how many times have ministers given undertakings that they would provide that detailed information, and, to this very moment, they have not done that. They are asking us to agree to a blank cheque. They are asking the Opposition to agree with them that they will impose these hidden taxes, but not tell us how much money it will generate. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, the garbledegook that is coming from the Minister of Health over there . . .

[Page 1475]

AN HON. MEMBER: Gobbledegook not garbledegook.

MR. MACKINNON: Gobbledegook, it is hard to say, and it is harder to distinguish at times. If the Minister of Health really wants to participate in this debate, let him table the list of user fees that his department will be imposing, let him table the list of user fees that are now in existence that will be increasing and by how much, and give us the exact amounts. Don't give us generalities, give us details. That is what this whole budgetary process is all about. But he won't do it. Mr. Speaker, it is very disappointing.

It wasn't that long ago when we saw senior members of that government when they were in Opposition take a totally different point of view. Let's just understand why the Opposition wants this six months' hoist. Let's look at the Minister of Transportation and Public Works, when he sat on this side of the House, on the financial measures Act, and how it relates to what we are dealing with here today. He insisted that the provincial government eliminate the provincial portion of the HST, eliminate it.

AN HON. MEMBER: You are kidding me.

MR. MACKINNON: He did so. November 26, 1997. He didn't believe in a tax on a tax. Let's go even further. I will quote what the honourable member said about this particular tax, on Page 726 of the Assembly Debates - Hansard - Monday, April 21, 1997, "I think this is a scam to be quite honest.", referring to the HST. But, he has done nothing in government, absolutely nothing in government to reduce or eliminate, in fact, he relishes the thought of these increased user fees, because people really haven't caught on to the full impact of what these user fees are doing to them but they will.

Mr. Speaker, even when that honourable member was on this side of the House, here is what he had to say about Nova Scotia Power and the government's position. "I will leave that for the moment and carry on and we come to Part V, Nova Scotia Power Privatization Act." I will fast forward, ". . . the minister, in his press conference, didn't really deal with the matter in great depth. What bothered me was the fact that Nova Scotia Power was going to stop paying the present system of grants in lieu of taxes, instead of which was going to start paying to the Minister of Municipal Affairs and then the Minister of Municipal Affairs would be giving out money to the municipalities."

Well, Mr. Speaker, who was the government that privatized Nova Scotia Power and put that tax regime in? The very government that that member sat in. He was the one who sold out the municipalities in this province as a member of that government. Yes, the member for Hants West, now the Minister of Transportation and Public Works. He was the one who sold out the municipalities, and now they come on with this grandiose scheme of equalization saying that they want to help the municipalities. What they are doing in reality is downloading. They are downloading a tax burden and they are trying to pit one municipality against the other. Now, how can that be a co-operative, positive relationship?

[Page 1476]

Let's go to the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank. I am glad that the members of the school board are here, Conservative or not. That honourable member, when he was a member of Halifax Regional Municipality, wasn't happy with the supplementary funding formula, the percentages. He was condemning the government. It should be back to 90/10; 90 per cent provincial, 10 per cent municipal; 75/25 just wasn't good enough. It didn't cut the mustard. What is he doing now, Mr. Speaker? He is hiding in the backbenches, sticking up his hand and voting against everything he stood for as a municipal councillor because he is now toeing the Party line. You wonder why we would like to have a hoist to do a detailed examination. Perhaps the members of the school board would invite some of these metro members to a meeting and find some ways of resolving this strike.

They won't stand up in the House and debate it. In fact, during the opportunity to debate this, Mr. Speaker, Thursday past, that same member wanted to talk about volunteerism. He didn't care about debating the strike issue or the impact of that strike on the children in our classroom or the quality of education or the budgetary process at the Halifax Regional School Board or the fact that - yes, and I have said it before and I will say it again today, that - Mr. Reid is out of control and he is unaccountable. Perhaps that honourable member for Sackville-Beaver Bank will ask some thoughtful questions of Mr. Reid when he comes before the Public Accounts Committee in the weeks ahead. That may help, depending upon the answers we get, whether we will continue to support this six months' hoist.

[7:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, let's be real. This is politics; the government has the majority and those backbenchers will toe the government line. They will not stand up for their constituents. They have proven that time and time again. We can't even get the ministers, Heaven forbid, to stand up and debate the issue. Why wouldn't we want to spend six months to examine this in a little more detail? Yes, I am pleased to see some high profile Conservatives come to our gallery, because they can see that the government members refuse to stand up for the interests of the stakeholders at the Halifax Regional School Board, the parents, the students, the teachers and, yes, the custodial workers, most importantly, at this juncture.

Are they lining them up as scapegoats? Is this what this is all about? They are going to use them as the firewall for the next two labour contracts that are about to be dealt with. Is this what this is, use them as the whipping agents for some of this high-handed activity over at the Halifax Regional School Board? A $280 million budget and they come and tell us that they can't find the figures from the previous years because, I am sorry, we erased the disk. Well, you would have to be in Disney World to believe that. You would have to be in Disney World to believe the pronouncements of Mr. Reid, or anyone from the Halifax Regional School Board who would make such a statement.

AN HON. MEMBER: Have a Ouija board.

[Page 1477]

MR. MACKINNON: We are expecting another diagram to arrive, another cartoon from the Minister of Education. Perhaps that is what they are using. Could be.

AN HON. MEMBER: Sounds like it.

MR. MACKINNON: It sounds like it, Mr. Speaker.

AN HON. MEMBER: They may have had a seance.

MR. MACKINNON: Maybe that is what is happening; it could be. They are going down to the bunker, keeping the lights not too bright because they don't want to see the figures that are before them . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Light a few candles.

MR. MACKINNON: Light a few candles, it has been suggested, and have a seance as to how to resolve this problem. Mr. Speaker, that is getting a little off the target and I realize that, but I think the point is well made, the lack of accountability and the lack of reasoned debate that surrounds this particular bill, Bill No. 30, the Financial Measures (2001) Act. It is quite disappointing that the honourable members won't even participate in this debate. Not 1 of 30 members on the government benches will engage in this debate. I will give a half-hearted credit - perhaps a cookie from the member for Halifax Bedford Basin - to the member for Dartmouth South for an effort, at least in talking about the difference between a janitor and a custodial person.

Mr. Speaker, yes, it ties into the six months' hoist.

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

MR. TIMOTHY OLIVE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for Cape Breton West for yielding the floor. It gives me great pleasure to introduce to you another member of the Dartmouth North Provincial Progressive Conservative Association, Hal Dodge. Thank you for coming, Hal.

MR. SPEAKER: Yes, thank you, and welcome to all our guests in the gallery this evening. We hope you are enjoying this dissertation.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, that is another high profile Tory. I hope that will encourage this government to get off its butt and do something to help resolve this strike at the Halifax Regional School Board. The children of this municipality are suffering. There are no extracurricular activities and that has a major impact on the whole dynamic, the whole picture, the whole embodiment of what their education is all about. It is suffering.

[Page 1478]

Mr. Speaker, shame on the Tories. This hoist on Bill No. 30 will certainly allow the Minister of Education to stand in her place and defend the actions of the Department of Education.

Let's look at some other aspects of this particular bill and why it is so concerning. I means, it is obvious the Minister of Education, the Minister of Environment and Labour, and indeed the Minister of Health, seem to be so silent on this issue, I think the point has been well made. (Interruptions)

Now if we could only get the Tory members to stand in their place and debate the issues. Wouldn't that be helpful? But I guess that's not going to happen, certainly on this hoist. Let's look at the Minister of Finance when he sat on this side of the House. Well, his position, he was so concerned about the way the Liberals were treating the farmers in this province, he went on to say on Page 2028 of the Assembly Debates on Thursday, October 15, 1998, ". . . I guess in a sense . . ." referring to the government, ". . . forgot about rural Nova Scotia some years ago and they brought about a change as to how farmers are going to be treated in this province."

Well, when we review the actions of this government last year and again this year in their Financial Measures (2001) Bill, we wish that they had even forgotten about them. We wish they had because if they were at least left the way we left it they would be much better off today. There would be 99 more employees working there, the technology branch, the inspection services, all these vital services in the Department of Agriculture would have been safe from the Minister of Finance. He was so concerned when he was sitting over here. The number of protestations and pronouncements by the then honourable member for Argyle when he was on this side of the House are in sharp contrast to the reality of his actions today; Enough said for that particular day.

Some of the most disturbing features of what this government has done is with regard, for example, to the issue of the Child Abuse Registry. In this particular budget it is now becoming evident with little help from the government of what this government is contemplating. After we contacted some of the non-profit organizations across the province we see that these non-profit organizations that are providing programming for children weren't aware that the government brought in legislation, or were bringing in legislation, that when they hire employees, or hire summer students for that matter, they have to pay a $20 search. So now you have to pay to get a job. The government would charge any private corporation or any private individual running a company, they would charge them under the laws of this province because it is illegal to charge somebody for them to secure employment. It is illegal.

So what does this government do? It does it under the guise of a user fee. It's a tax it's an illegal tax and that is why all these non-profit organizations could come before the red committee - the Red Room - the Law Amendments Committee or whatever organization or

[Page 1479]

perhaps a select committee of the Legislature could travel the province and find out exactly what the impact is. The Minister of Justice, anyone in this Legislature, should be concerned about that. I find that most disturbing. This, for a government that claimed that it was going to be open and accountable and now we're finding out from the non-profit organizations they weren't even aware of this charge until after the fact.

Wouldn't it have made more sense for the Minister of Justice or the Minister of Finance to have consulted with these organizations? He would rather spend taxpayers' money fighting the gun legislation. It would be interesting to find out how much the Province of Nova Scotia spent on that constitutional challenge.

AN HON. MEMBER: How much do you think?

MR. MACKINNON: How much do we think? We don't know. We put a FOIPOP in and didn't get an answer. We put that in several months ago - three months ago to be exact. Now, he says, well, maybe if he knows he should tell us. How many of these individuals could be hired at no charge if we hadn't wasted that money? The minister knew that was constitutionally sound, but it was for political bravado because he comes from a . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Besides the questionable gun registration, does the honourable member have anything to say about the hoist?

MR. MACKINNON: Yes, Mr. Speaker, the point I am making is, these are the reasons why we need the hoist, because of the chicanery of the Minister of Justice. That is why we need the hoist so that the people of Nova Scotia can see what kind of an underhanded, not open and not accountable government we have, to see where we can actually benefit on some opportunities where we get better value for dollar and not waste taxpayers' money to satisfy a political promise because the Minister of Justice has almost as much as admitted he represents a very right-winged school of thinking and the interests of the gun lobbyists.

It is like what the leaders in the aboriginal community has said with regard to him being Minister responsible for Aboriginal Affairs and then prosecuting the natives on certain violations of laws in Nova Scotia. He is in a conflict and let him stand in his place and try to defend that.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice on a point of order.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, on a point of personal privilege.

MR. SPEAKER: On a point of personal privilege?

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker . . .

[Page 1480]

MR. SPEAKER: . . . in the House.

MR. BAKER: That is right, Mr. Speaker, a point of personal privilege. The honourable member forgets that the actual charges laid against those good native Nova Scotians were laid when the honourable member was a member of the Executive Council, not when this member was a member of the Executive Council.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The point is taken and duly recognized. The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, it is a good point and the minister is right on what he says, but that does not negate the reality of what the native community is saying. The minister presently is in a conflict of interest and he is doing nothing about it. He may throw stones back into yesterday because of a previous administration. The people of Nova Scotia have judged and said, okay, we want to give them a chance because they said they were going to make those changes and they haven't. So it is double-talk coming from the Minister of Justice. That is all we get. We get double-talk. Now that he's over on that side, it's his job to do what he said he was going to do.

[7:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, that is the measure of what we are getting from the Minister of Justice. Oh, that is what somebody else did. That was what happened 10 years ago, 15 years ago. We wouldn't expect much more from the Minister of Justice. We saw what he did with the cigarette taxes. The Minister of Finance introduced a financial measures bill, and then withdrew it and then brought another one in.

Well, it has been a long time in this House of Assembly since we have seen a government withdraw its own financial measures bill before it was even debated. You wonder, why would we want six months to examine the detail of what they are trying to ram through the House now? A government that claims that it was so tough on criminal activity is reducing fines on cigarette smuggling and tobacco smuggling.

AN HON. MEMBER: Caved in.

MR. MACKINNON: Caved in is exactly what the Minister of Justice did. He would rather get the gun legislation challenged, so he can satisfy his political promise.

AN HON. MEMBER: What did that cost them? That is what he did with the casino money, the charity money.

MR. MACKINNON: Is it any wonder that some people are suggesting that he is the Rambo Justice Minister?

[Page 1481]

AN HON. MEMBER: Who said that?

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, it is shameful, shameful when he is going soft on illegal tobacco smuggling. The government has gone soft, even the Minister of Health, on his comprehensive tobacco strategy that he said was going to be released this fall. Well, it is in his possession, and he knows the recommendation was an $8.00 increase per unit, per carton, he knows that. But what did they bring in, $4.00?

AN HON. MEMBER: Tough on tobacco.

MR. MACKINNON: Tough on tobacco.

AN HON. MEMBER: Ask him if he got the money.

MR. MACKINNON: Tough on tobacco. Only the half-hearted government.

AN HON. MEMBER: Does he have the $4.00? Who is getting that $4.00?

MR. MACKINNON: Half-hearted government, Mr. Speaker, . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Heart and spine, they lost the spine.

MR. MACKINNON: . . . and during their Speech from the Throne, they said they were a government of heart and spine, but they forget the little component on the edge of spine, l-e-s-s, spineless. Heart and spineless. (Interruptions) I know it is illegal, it is not parliamentary in this House to say that they are stealing from the pockets of Nova Scotians. So I am going to say, Mr. Speaker, that they are surreptitiously removing from the pockets of Nova Scotians, without their knowledge. That is what is happening.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. I have to advise the honourable members that the term, stealing, is unparliamentary, as is spineless. I would ask the honourable member - he knows that - if he would withdraw those two statements, please.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I said I would not use that because it is unparliamentary. So, I said the government is surreptitiously removing from the pockets of Nova Scotians, without their knowledge. That's what I said.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I recognize that the honourable member believes that he has somehow got around calling the government spineless and stealing, and I am asking the honourable member if, in fact, he would withdraw those two comments.

AN HON. MEMBER: A second time.

[Page 1482]

MR. MACKINNON: Well, Mr. Speaker, if you feel that I have said that, I withdraw them, but I haven't said them and Hansard will show that. If you feel that I have, I will withdraw them.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member has the floor.

MR. MACKINNON: But they still have surreptitiously removed from the pockets of Nova Scotians, without their knowledge, tax dollars, hard-earned tax dollars.

AN HON. MEMBER: Where is the money going?

MR. MACKINNON: And they have put them back in the hands of that government over there, through the device of user fees. That is what is happening.

AN HON. MEMBER: Where did the $4.00 tax on tobacco go? Is the Health Minister getting that?

MR. MACKINNON: That is right, Mr. Speaker. Six months would allow us to examine in detail whether that $4.00 per carton is going to the Minister of Health . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: For anti-smoking.

MR. MACKINNON: . . . for anti-smoking programs to combat the effects of smoking on Nova Scotians. So we don't want the government to go halfway. We want the government to do what it said it was going to do, go the full distance, Mr. Speaker. It is like the Minister of Health is in a relay race and he gets halfway there and he says, oh, there is a bench, I am going to relax, I will finish the race later, while everybody else finishes the race and he is just sitting there wondering if he should increase the taxes another $4.00. He who hesitates is lost and I would suggest the Minister of Finance is lost on this issue. That's why we need six months.

AN HON. MEMBER: At least.

MR. MACKINNON: At least, possibly more, but we are being reasonable, Mr. Speaker (Interruptions) That's right. There is life over there. I know there is life. The Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations indicated that the process or company or organization that will be used to do assessments will be available in the next little while. Well, that's John Buchanan-style politics all over again - in the near future. (Interruptions) It is good to see that we are finally getting a murmur out of the members opposite.

AN HON. MEMBER: Little Rollie is awake.

[Page 1483]

MR. MACKINNON: Little Rollie is awake, that's true. Now if we can only get him to stand on his feet and stand up for his constituents and explain to them why the children in his district are suffering because of this strike. Why do we have a senior CEO of the Halifax Regional School Board using children to deliver messages about the school board's position on the strike? Is that the way we conduct our affairs in a professional way? Where is the member for Dartmouth South? Silent. Not even a murmur. What a sorry lot. (Interruptions) That is one of the good things about taking these glasses off, Mr. Speaker, I can't see them all. What a sorry lot, that they won't even stand up and defend their own budget. They won't even defend their own budget. (Interruptions) There is more bite over here than you think.

Mr. Speaker, we are disappointed. Obviously we are disappointed and we were hoping that the government would look at this as an opportunity. Perhaps if the government really feels we are filibustering and wasting valuable time, let each minister for each department table the list of user fees that are now going to be implemented and the user fees that will see increases, let them table them in this House by tomorrow and we will reconsider, I am sure we will. (Interruption)

The Minister of Justice, well, well, well. Well, he has been a strong advocate of his department, hasn't he? The whimper man. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I know the honourable member is very much involved in this debate but I don't think that calling honourable members across the floor by name will strengthen his case. I would ask him to bring himself to order. (Interruption) No, it is not in Beauchesne, just in my Beauchesne this evening. (Laughter) We will try to keep the debate lively, but at the same time civil.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West has the floor.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, actually I checked Beauchesne before I made the statements so I know that unless you rule it out of order, there is no precedent to say it was out of order, but we'll get back to the fact that the six months' hoist is the primary objective here. Consultation, that is really what we are asking. We are asking ministers, who have given undertakings during their budgetary process, to provide this vital information (Interruptions) The opportunity to do it (Interruptions)

Well, that's correct, Mr. Speaker. I must compliment the Minister of Education. At least she was forthcoming in providing some detail that was of material value in the budgetary process, but not the rest. I don't hear the Tory backbenchers saying, boo, shame. They only cheer if something is good over there.

AN HON. MEMBER: Did you get anything from Environment and Labour?

[Page 1484]

MR. MACKINNON: Environment and Labour, well, well. (Interruptions) Oh, we have an opportunity, Mr. Speaker. A couple of Tory backbenchers would like to rise and enter into the debate. They want to speak. Let's look at another department, the Minister of Environment and Labour. You wonder why we want a six months' hoist, an opportunity to examine what has transpired in that budget; 48 questions, I believe, the total number to be exact, to find out exactly how much was in that sweetheart deal in his backyard in Kings County.

AN HON. MEMBER: Who?

MR. MACKINNON: The Minister of Environment and Labour. Then he said that he couldn't tell us because of the confidentiality clause. Then, the next day, to save his own political bacon before the media he disclosed it. It is too bad he didn't tell the other party back in Kings County about it. They know about it now, but they didn't know about it when the minister disclosed it and they didn't know the minister was going to breach that. You wonder why we want a six months' hoist to examine the financial detail.

He, as a minister, gave an undertaking that he would provide a list of the user fees, that are now in existence, that will realize an increase. He has not done that. He has given an undertaking that he would provide a list of the new user fees in his department. He has not done that, Mr. Speaker. The Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations, during his budgetary process, gave an undertaking that he would provide a list of the user fees that will realize an increase. He has not done that. He indicated, during Budget Debates, that he would provide a list of the new user fees in his department. He has not done that.

AN HON. MEMBER: Yes, he did.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I would like to see the complete list because I see no evidence of it. It is shameful when they ask you to support their budget and they won't give you the financial details. We might as well give this to Mr. Reid at the Halifax Regional School Board. He could probably do just as well. (Interruptions) I am driving them away? Well, I am sorry if the facts and the figures are driving anyone away.

AN HON. MEMBER: No, no. They are going down to turn in their memberships to the PC Party.

MR. MACKINNON: I doubt it. Perhaps they are going to ask all the people in HRM to become actively involved in support of this six months' hoist, Mr. Speaker. I had the occasion this morning to speak with some strikers up at one of the high schools. I was out for my morning walk. It wasn't that I went out looking for the strikers, I just happened to pass by and I was quite glad I did. It makes you realize, as a legislator, how honest, hard-working people have some real concerns and there are two sides to every issue. It behooves me - if these employees are not, at this juncture, looking for a pay increase, why the school

[Page 1485]

board is still forcing them out on the street. All the other issues, I am sure, could be dealt with in a reasonable fashion without this extensive delay, which seems to have very little merit.

I am quite concerned about the quality of education for our students. The minister, during her debates on previous days, made reference about getting back to basics in education, the three R's, about the code of conduct for students in the classroom, disciplinary codes and everything else. This all falls in measure with what is happening in the Halifax Regional School Board district. Six months would allow us to examine the details of why we are sending that money over to Halifax Regional School Board without full accountability. We are not going to do it in 20 hours, or 10 hours, or even a couple of days by the sound of things. I do have a concern when we are asked to vote for a budget and we are going to be giving money to officials that question the motive of our Auditor General on the issues of financial accountability.

[8:00 p.m.]

We ask for the six months' hoist and I think it is an opportunity for each minister with their respective departments, from the Department of Community Services, Tourism and Culture, Justice, Transportation and Public Works, each and every one of them to demonstrate that they are open and accountable. They are not doing it, they are sitting like somebody in the backrooms, whether it is down in the bunker or from over in the Premier's office, the political backroom people who are developing all the policy issues for this government, and the strategies, and the spin doctors are saying to say nothing, weather the storm and in a few weeks' time it will all be forgotten because we will be out of the Legislature and nobody will know. But you know what? They are underestimating the resilience of the minds of Nova Scotians. They do have a good memory and they don't forget easily. The didn't forget when we made mistakes, and certainly they won't forget as this government continues to make mistakes.

AN HON. MEMBER: What mistakes did you make?

MR. MACKINNON: Enough to put us on this side of the House.

Of course, they did have help from the socialists who were just lusting for power, and it backfired. That is why the socialists feel so bad and they will support the six months' hoist, they will because it is their way of doing penance for sending that lot across. That is what is happening. (Interruptions)

One of the issues is certainly this equalization plan as proposed by the government. They are now trying to backtrack and say it is not their proposal, but they are the ones who ran to the media on the equalization with the municipalities. They were the ones, it was the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations who ran to the media with his press

[Page 1486]

release advocating this. Regardless of what his motive was, he was the one who brought it to the people of Nova Scotia through the media. It is part and parcel of this budget and he really hasn't explained how this will impact on the people of Nova Scotia and the budget, and this six months' hoist would certainly allow ample opportunity to consult with the municipalities one-on-one, or collectively region by region, so as to be doing a detailed analysis.

I don't believe that the minister responsible for that department has even given a clear indication as to how much money the Province of Nova Scotia is prepared to contribute to the infrastructure program that is being offered by the federal government. I know that the federal government is offering upwards of $80 million or $80 million-plus as their one-third contribution. But how much is the province prepared to put in and where is the money coming from? Is there a line item? I don't see it.

Mr. Speaker, that is very concerning, because they are asking us to agree to a blank cheque once again. All we are saying is, let's examine it in detail. We can't do it. Six months would certainly offer ample opportunity. Now, the good member for Annapolis says, what about the $600 million health care plan that the Liberals brought in? Well, that ties in to this budget, and all the more reason why we would want some delay. The Premier, when he was campaigning in the 1999 election, said that they were going to cure all the health care problems for $46 million. So far, they are well over $400 million, into the kitty. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, it is ironic, they are following the same health care plan that the Liberals had brought down. That is essentially what they are doing. They can disguise it whatever way they want and put different titles and different names and hire as many different deputy ministers as they want. (Interruptions) Please do. I would invite the Minister of Health to table as many letters on the issue as he wishes, but it will bring us back to one reality, we need more time to examine what this government is doing to the people of Nova Scotia.

Despite the fact that they have essentially carbon copied, they have essentially used the Liberals' $600 million health care plan, they still have gone one step further with charges on seniors in hospitals, that $50 fee, for those who can ill afford it; they have restricted the access to certain prescription drugs for people who are very sick. So they have gone one step further. They have actually carved into all the good points that were proposed by my colleague, the member for Dartmouth East, when he was Minister of Health.

So, if the honourable member for Annapolis wishes to engage in the debate, he may want to consult with what has happened on that health care issue before he gets too far in over his head. He may want to see just what is happening in the Annapolis hospital and the Yarmouth hospital. (Interruptions) Yes, they have downgraded it that much, they have even taken it down. (Interruptions)

[Page 1487]

Oh, Mr. Speaker, don't let the member get too excited. Last year, the Minister of Environment and Labour brought in a bill to downgrade the health and safety issues at that hospital, against the wishes and the orders that were given by officials in his department, and put officials in his department, in the Public Safety Division, the stationery engineers were ordered to rescind orders respecting safety in the boiler rooms of those hospitals. So he may not want to get too excited, that member for Annapolis.

Mr. Speaker, why did they do it? To save money. That is how they downgraded, they downgraded safety issues and, in my view, they have compromised the safety of every individual in that hospital. They have done that and I would advise the honourable member for Annapolis to check with the Minister of Environment and Labour. He may not want to talk about the financial issue but that is the reality. Officials issued orders because of violations under the Stationary Engineers Act, several orders, because they didn't have qualified personnel manning the boiler systems and all these complex pieces, generators and so forth. That is exactly why we want the six months' hoist, so that people will be able to see why this government wants to cut and run and hide. They can bury their stuff under the carpet for awhile but sooner or later somebody will lift up the carpet and the Minister of Environment and Labour will stand in his place, like last week, and say that he doesn't know anything about it.

Mr. Speaker, the records will show that his predecessor met - they had a meeting without public officials who issued the order and the director in that department in an effort to undercut the efforts and the safety laws of this province. That is the same minister who brought in the sunset clause for the occupational health and safety laws of this province. So we don't have confidence. We are going back in time. (Interruptions)

Yes, we did. We brought in one of the best Workers' Compensation Acts that the history of this province will ever see, Mr. Speaker.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Do you know that there wouldn't be replacement workers in the Halifax strike if anti-scab legislation was brought in by . . .

MR. MACKINNON: Yes, Mr. Speaker, that is correct. The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid, well, I wasn't sure which riding he's representing at this juncture. However, . . .

MR. HOLM: I try to represent all 52, except for the . . .

MR. MACKINNON: Well, Mr. Speaker, that's clear evidence that the honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid is going to retire. It is clear evidence, because now he is saying he is retiring . . .

[Page 1488]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. I am enjoying the debate as much as anyone, but I really don't think the future of the member for Sackville-Cobequid has much to do with the Financial Measures (2001) Bill, at least not at this point. So I would ask the honourable member for Cape Breton West to bring himself back to the business, please.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, you are right, we should focus on this. The six months' hoist would certainly allow the Minister of Environment and Labour to at least read his briefing book, so he could be up on the issues when he comes into the House. I have never seen a minister who could direct his questions to everybody but himself. The irony was when we didn't have a Minister of Environment and Labour, we had six replacements and now that we have one, he wants the six replacements to do his work. So that is why we need the six months, perhaps that is what the honourable Minister of Environment and Labour needs to get up to speed on the issues in his department. Perhaps he could take some counsel from some of the backbenchers.

Mr. Speaker, I am not going to be dogged by rabbit tracks over there, this is too important. The people of Nova Scotia won't tolerate the shenanigans over there. That is all it is. (Interruptions) We are going to have to let the chickens calm down over there, there is too much clucking over there. It is very disappointing. All members know that this is very serious, because ministers of this government are asking us to approve a $4.5 billion budget and they refuse to give us the details. They refuse to give us the details that they themselves have made commitments to in this House and through the committee. Even on a point of personal privilege, I can certainly attest to the fact - the members of the Public Accounts Committee who are in this House will agree - that a commitment was made by Access Nova Scotia officials that they would provide certain pieces of detail that would have had an impact on this budget and they haven't done it.

[8:15 p.m.]

They themselves gave an undertaking that it would be provided last week. They are violating the rules of this House and I would ask that perhaps by tomorrow you would rule on that, that the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations and Access Nova Scotia will stand in his place tomorrow and live up to the ministerial commitment and to the commitment of officials in his department that that vital information would have been provided last week.

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

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

MR. JOHN HOLM: It's a bit of a pleasure to stand up and speak on the amendment that is before us and I have to say as I begin that listening to the previous speaker's comments, the former Liberal Labour Minister, that it sounds as though he has been

[Page 1489]

converted. I know and I do appreciate his genuine concern for the workers, like the workers of the Halifax Regional School Board who are on strike. And genuinely, I suggest that the member is serious in his concern for them and those are concerns that are shared by - I can assure you - each and every member of our caucus.

I wish, however, that member, the former Liberal Labour Critic had had that same feeling of compassion for the workers of this province when he was minister because then he might have taken the advice of more progressive people like those in the NDP caucus who were urging that the government adopt anti-scab legislation. If anti-scab legislation were in place, then the school board would be forced to . . .

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. It is quite clear. During a minority government, all three Parties had to agree. All three Parties did not agree. Much the same as the NDP didn't agree with our budget and put that government on that side and the member knows full well that without the consent and approval of all three Parties, that would not have proceeded to the successful conclusion that he now advocates.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. That is not a point of order. It is a disagreement of facts between two members. The honourable member for Cape Breton West had his hour and now the honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid has the floor.

MR. HOLM: It was not a point of order, as you correctly point out. However, it would have been a pleasure, it would have been a treat for the government members of the time, for us, had they approached us and said, would you support anti-scab legislation? Something that has been our policy for years and years and I can assure him we would have.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. HOLM: And that would have passed.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, the member is misleading the House about the co-operative efforts when we were in government.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I haven't recognized anyone yet. The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. We asked for the co-operation of the NDP caucus on the approval of the Workers' Compensation Act. They did and when they got in the House, they turned hightail and said no. So you can't trust those socialists on any point. (Interruptions)

[Page 1490]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. HOLM: I feel like I have been spit on, I have been reprimanded. I almost want to run and hide and repent. (Interruptions)

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

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid has the floor. I would remind him that he is speaking on second reading of the Financial Measures (2001) Bill, just in case he has forgotten.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: The hoist, the hoist. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. At this time, we are speaking to the hoist. It has been so long since I heard anyone mention the hoist, I have forgotten myself.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid on the hoist.

MR. HOLM: Well, thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, I want to commend you on your ruling. I think that that is a very fine ruling, and try as I do, I always love to try to be co-operative with you and members of this House. I certainly hope that I am not the only, and that members of this side of the House, in fairness - I do say and I do commend many of the members, in fact all of the members who have spoken from the Liberal caucus as well as those who have spoken from ours, very eloquently. All have talked about the six months and the importance of having some time to consult with Nova Scotians about what exactly is happening.

That might be a novel idea to the government members, but if they scratch a little bit, scratch their memory, scratch their blue book, they might remember that they promised that that is what they were going to be doing. They had a plan. They had noble ideas when they were over here. They made grandiose commitments to the people of Nova Scotia. Like the former Liberal Government that did not have a plan and which deserved to be defeated, so, too, do the Tories.

AN HON. MEMBER: It is too late, John, you blew it.

MR. HOLM: So, too, do the Tories. What we hear from this government, and what we heard, let's remember a couple of things, they were going to be providing and fixing health care, as others have said. You can always figure, Mr. Speaker, that prefacing all of these remarks is the word six months, what we could be doing in that six months. Within a six month period, we could actually examine what has happened within the Department of Health. Not only we, here as legislators, in here, we could actually have the Minister of

[Page 1491]

Health, we could have members from all Parties and representatives from the health care providers and consumers going around to see what the record actually has been.

Mr. Speaker, I haven't had one call, not one, from citizens who are saying they support the charging of fees of $50 a day for those who are confined to long-term care beds in a hospital because the government has not made sure there are enough facilities available outside the hospital. But I have had calls from seniors and those who are representing seniors' organizations who are appalled at what this government is doing. I haven't had one person say that they agree with that process. I am still getting calls from individuals who say they have just found out and they are shocked and they want to express their opinions.

Those individuals are of the belief that we in here can force the government to change their plans. So you have to explain to them that the Tories have the hammer, the Tories have the numbers. You can't hang it all on the Minister of Health or the Minister of Finance, even though they can try to hold up their hand and say, it is not our decision. The honourable member for Chester-St. Margaret's, the honourable member for Annapolis, the honourable members for Sackville-Beaver Bank, for Shelburne, for Cape Breton North, each and every one of you, each and every one of you share an equal responsibility with the Minister of Health for that fee because you supported it. (Interruption)

I see the honourable member for the beautiful Musquodoboit Valley is interested in my tie from across the floor. It is one of the Save the Children ties and we will have an opportunity to talk about saving the children when we turn to maybe things like education. I am sure that the honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley hopefully will not be in the chair at the time and he will actually have an opportunity to speak, himself, as he used to speak so eloquently. You know, you couldn't keep him down when he was in Opposition. He had all kinds of positive progressive ideas. He was then the progressive in the PCs in many areas. Now that he is over there, you know, somehow he has become the conservative with a capital C. Sometimes you might think that he has developed a bit of an alliance with the most conservative elements of the Party.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. HOLM: However, over a six month period of time, there would be an opportunity for people to look at alternatives in health care. How are we going to fix this shortage of doctors? How are we going to address the shortage of professional nurses and nursing assistants in this province? (Interruption) I hear the honourable member for Annapolis over there, he does speak from his seat where there is no record because it doesn't appear in Hansard. Before the session ends, that member may be permitted, maybe the Government House Leader will say, okay, you can actually get up and talk, or maybe the Premier will say, you can actually get up and talk, we will let you.

[Page 1492]

You know, before the last election, the Tories even talked about having free votes, about members of the Tory caucus going to be allowed to stand up and defend their constituents. That was to be the plan, that was the plan. Unfortunately, the plan disappeared. There were to be no taxes, no tax increases. My colleague, the Leader, the honourable member for Hants East, already talked about major tax increases. The government may not want to call them taxes. The former Minister of Finance for the Liberal Party, he also outlined, and quite correctly a lot of the tax grabs that this government has embarked on.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. My wife is a school teacher and lots of days she has to take objects from children in the classroom that play. I would ask the Page to go over and take that device from the honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes and bring it here to teacher. (Laughter) Now if you wouldn't mind taking your chair, we will continue. The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid has the floor.

MR. HOLM: I thought for a minute you were after my pen that I have been waving around. The government likes to talk about no new tax increases, that was a commitment, but as members have pointed out for example, and maybe I will come back to a few others in a little bit, but the $12 million the Tory Government - it is a Hamm Government, yes - but it is also the members from each and every one of your ridings, each and every one of you are part of that, and therefore are responsible for the tax grab of over $12 million that the Tories have taken by the failure to increase the basic personal income tax exemption, as was done by the federal government. Now you know, Mr. Speaker, those kinds of grabs, the user fees that I may come back to in a few minutes, those grabs affect the middle- and low-income people the most. But what are they doing to increase revenues?

[8:30 p.m.]

I have raised this in the House and some people on the government side sort of dismiss it. We have and we are, despite - I was going to use a word there for a second, Mr. Speaker, but I think you might have called it unparliamentary - the foul-ups by this government and the former one, going to have and we are having some growth related to our resources, the oil and gas resources. Not what we should have had, not what we will have and can have, but we will have some. It can't be enough fast enough. While we are grabbing this money from seniors and others who have to spend time in a hospital bed, long-term care facility bed at $50 a day, this government is continuing to lease land for onshore oil and gas exploration at the grandiose rate of a whole 11 cents an acre; two bits would get you four acres.

Government members say, oh, if we don't keep our rates low we won't attract those companies to Nova Scotia to explore. I remind members on the government benches of a Tory Premier in the Province of Alberta. His name was Peter Lougheed. In the 1970's when the oil companies said we are unable or unprepared to pay you a decent rate of return for your resources, your natural gas resources, he said, then keep it in the ground. That is what he said. He said leave it in the ground. If there is not much in it or nothing in it for the people

[Page 1493]

of the Province of Alberta, leave it in the ground. Guess what happened, Mr. Speaker? It may come as a shock to some members who are less astute than yourself on the government benches, but those companies came back and said, oh well, I guess we can belly up to the table a little bit more, and oil and gas revenues, although not the only things, were certainly a major cornerstone to help turn Alberta around.

We are getting $50 a day for seniors and others who are disadvantaged in those long-term care bed facilities. We have increased the user fees on almost anything and everything that goes around and then the government defends 11 whole cents an acre for the exploration. We have already leased over one-third of the Province of Nova Scotia. Over one-third is under lease. If somebody over there doesn't think I know what I am saying on this one, if that is what I am hearing them say, I would suggest that he then check with his own Minister of Economic Development who provided the information about the price that is paid per acre and the numbers of hectares - which I simply multiplied by 2.2 to put it into acres - that are under lease. Over one-third.

You know, if we had gotten just a dollar, just a buck per acre, we would have generated $3.5 million. You tell me that $1.00 an acre is going to drive away those companies who want to explore for our oil and gas. We are not in the situation that we were back in the 1960's and 1970's. We are going to have - although this government is doing the best to foul it up and delay it by the lack of leadership - a distribution system and the gas can be then plugged into that distribution system.

So our resources are far more valuable now, and just a buck would have provided $3.5 million. Bang, there goes the fee for those who have to pay to stay in a long-term-care facility bed in the hospital. But the government made a choice. Leave it 11 cents and make those seniors and others who are disadvantaged and forced to be in one of those facilities, pay. Had we charged $10, that's $35 million that would have rolled into the coffers, and I am not charging or talking about excessive rates.

The Province of Alberta, no, we can't expect to be charging what they are out there. They do have a mature industry, but they're getting over $100 an acre. Virtually every acre of Nova Scotia that is deemed to be an area where somebody would want to get a licence to explore is now leased. Talk about lost opportunities. It's priorities, it's planning, it's talking about looking for ways to grow the economy.

Look at what else we're doing. Look at gas distribution. As we speak, people in the Province of New Brunswick and people in New England are burning Nova Scotia's natural gas. If people were listening to or reading the comments of the new U.S. Ambassador to Canada, from Massachusetts, there was some discussion about energy and he said that the Massachusetts and Boston area has benefited greatly from Sable gas.

[Page 1494]

But you know what? Nova Scotians haven't. There are, I am sure, in the riding of the member for Preston some businesses that might like to be able to use natural gas. There are, in a number of ridings, businesses that might like to use it, or might like to locate in that area if natural gas was available, but instead, businesses in Boston, New England, and New Brunswick are now having access to our natural gas and are able to use that to their competitive advantage against Nova Scotian businesses.

Lost opportunities. Nova Scotia was supposed to be the primary benefactor. We gave away for nothing - when I say "we" I mean the Government of Nova Scotia. I don't blame this on the blue team, this was a red team before them, called the Liberals - gave away the pipeline that we would have had 50 per cent ownership in, which would have generated profits. Yes, you would have had to borrow, but the rate of return that you are given, the toll rates would have been sufficient to pay for that, plus a guaranteed profit on top of that.

So there was a lost opportunity that the former red team blew. We could talk about the Cohasset/Panuke field and how we could have had 100 per cent, but one team gave away the first 50 per cent and the second team gave away the second 50 per cent and, voila, what happens, major discovery. Don't fault PanCanadian one bit. They are astute business people, and their job is to make money for their business and for their shareholders.

But it is the responsibility of the Government of Nova Scotia to look for ways to grow the economy in this province, to grow the revenues of the people of the Province of Nova Scotia so that the essential services that they need in health and education and others, like fixing roads, will be there. I defy anybody on the government benches to get up and disagree with that, because that is needed.

You talk to a lot of the businesses, and what will they talk about, a couple of the key, crucial things, the key infrastructures to attract good, well-paying jobs to Nova Scotia, and two of the key infrastructures are health care and an education system. It is not just roads, it is not just rails, it is no longer just who has what kind of wires for computer hook-ups and so on, that is all-important, but those things many areas are getting. What we also have to look at are what are some of the other things that will attract and make those businesses want to come here.

The member for Chester-St. Margaret's, you know the importance of education. You know, as a former teacher. You have seen what has happened with many of your former students, those who get an education and the skills, I am not talking just about a university degree, this, that or the other, but those who learn the skills to become creative thinkers, creative writers, problem solvers through a good, solid education have far more chance at being successful in the long term in employment, happy employment, than those who don't.

[Page 1495]

I don't judge success just by the amount of money you are making, because that is not how you judge success. It is whether or not you are able to be successful and happy in the work you are doing. We have, in this province, some of the best universities in the country, I would suggest, being so bold, being a little bit of a proud Nova Scotian, some of the best in the country or the world. We have hardworking professionals in the school system, but it seems to be the view of government that a convenient thing to do is to blame the professionals. Blame the teachers, if you don't get the so-called test results or scores that are needed.

If we want to be successful, we want to have a highly-educated, well-trained population of young people, that means they have to be able to be creative thinkers, that means they have to be taught and helped to become problem solvers, to be innovative. It is not only, gee whiz, do you have a computer screen in front of you. Technology is important, but teachers and teachers' assistants and libraries, even the old-fashioned kind, are still important. Extremely important. (Interruptions) Sounds like somebody is playing Pac-Man over there. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. There was an agreement in this House that all computers that were going to make any kind of introductory noise, music, whatever would be turned on outside, before they are brought in. (Interruptions) The teacher already has one.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid has the floor, on the hoist, just in case the teacher forgot.

MR. HOLM: So you are not going to confiscate his computer over there. It would have kept the duck company.

AN HON. MEMBER: Chicken.

MR. HOLM: Chicken, oh, I am sorry, it was a chicken. It is Monday night, I guess, isn't it? We are on the hoist.

[8:45 p.m.]

Over a six month period, Mr. Speaker, members of this government would have an opportunity to go around to speak to their constituents and to talk about, and find out, what their constituents think about the importance of that education. (Interruptions) Now, I hear the member for Yarmouth, he says, how can anybody blow so much hot air? I think he is referring to me. Well, if he thinks talking about the importance of our children and their education is a lot of hot air, then I am happy to blow hot air. I would challenge him to go back and say to the people in Yarmouth - if I heard him correctly - that that is, in fact, his view.

[Page 1496]

Mr. Speaker, we also have some other things we can do over a six month period of time. You know, there have been some pretty serious breaches and other lost opportunities, breaches of commitments. Am I wrong, did that bunch over there, the blue team, the Tories of the Liberatory Party, did not the Tories say that they were going to stop the downloading to municipalities? Didn't they criticize you folks when you were in power for downloading? The Liberals say, yep, that's right, they did. They agree. I seem to remember that they were quite critical of the Liberals for downloading to municipalities, as was I. But they said they were different, didn't they? (Interruptions) Yes, we said we were different. Yes, we did. (Laughter)

AN HON. MEMBER: You are different.

MR. HOLM: I may be very different. But you know, somehow no matter how much time and no matter how many things supposedly change, they seem to stay the same because that downloading seems to continue. This government, the Tories, have ended capital grants to municipalities. If you are eliminating the capital grants to those municipalities, that doesn't mean that those projects that those grants were aimed at addressing are going to disappear. Instead what it means is that the municipalities have to raise that or get that money somewhere else. That means increased taxes.

The Tories like to be, like the Liberals before them, a little bit devious. They don't want to take responsibility for that, they will just say in this bill, this obnoxious bill, that they are going to simply eliminate that and then when the municipalities have to increase the taxes to provide for those capital projects, the province will say, oh it is not us who are increasing taxes.

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, on a point of privilege. I am wondering if by way of unanimity, if the House was to agree, would you be kind enough to give the honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes back his chicken.

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I would just like to rise on a point of privilege. It is in regard to this toy. I walked in, it was on my desk, I picked it up, then you asked to have it. I passed it to the Page. I want the House to know that I did not own that toy. (Laughter) (Interruptions) I don't own the toy. I didn't purchase the toy. I don't have anything to do with the toy. To my knowledge, Mr. Speaker, the toy came from across the floor. I don't know, in fact, if that is real or not because I wasn't here when the toy arrived. I don't feel it is very important . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. It is not a point of privilege. It is a disagreement of the facts between the two members. But I can tell you this, the Speaker now owns it.

[Page 1497]

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I am sure that many people who are watching might think that it would very appropriate if the toy was donated to a daycare centre. (Interruptions) When we look at what is going on here tonight and we are trying to talk about some pretty serious issues, we are trying to talk about the financial measures in this province. We are trying to talk about health care. We are trying to talk about education. We are talking about the downloading of services and costs to municipalities.

Some members are most concerned about a little, I don't know if it is a stuffed chicken or what it is, but a little yellow chickadee or something, I just have to say I am sure that people who read this or watch this are going to be truly impressed and they will be every bit as impressed as they should be.

Mr. Speaker, I think that those who are most concerned with the chicken would do well to support a six months' hoist, because in six months you might actually learn what is important to your constituents. When one looks at what Nova Scotians are actually saying, and I know that the Tory Government have their (Interruptions) when one takes a look at what Nova Scotians say are most important to them, number one is to know that there is a reliable, high quality health care system that is available to them, their families and their loved ones and just their community members at large when they need it.

They also want to know that there is a top quality education system available for their children, for their grandchildren, for their nephews, for their nieces, for their neighbours' children. Down the list is a reduction in taxes. Yes, everybody would love to have a tax reduction. I am no different than the others, I would, too. But you know, if you are going to be providing a straight across the board 10 per cent tax reduction, those who have a high income and who pay a high tax now, they are going to save far more money than those who are low income families or modest income families.

Just for comparison, a Cabinet Minister, certainly, will save more money than a backbencher, no doubt about it, because the tax rates are different. Those who are making in the hundreds of thousands of dollars and more are going to be saving one heck of a lot more than the 50 per cent of Nova Scotians who make $20,000 or less. Where are the priorities? Who are you aiming for?

Mr. Speaker, equalization. The Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations - I guess it is Service Nova Scotia, I can never remember, keeping up with all of these name changes - has said that he will welcome the discussion with municipalities and the UNSM on alternate ways to deliver equalization. I am pleased that he is welcoming or willing to entertain alternate methods. But he said, regardless, a new process will be in place next year. What the province did was rather clever, they designed a system, then they threw it out to the municipalities and said, if you don't like it, you come up with another one. In so doing, even by the one they designed, they have pitted one municipality against another.

[Page 1498]

The member for Eastern Shore, you know that down in your riding there are many families who own properties who are of low income. I have to ask you, because you were a very outspoken critic of the amalgamation and what your citizens were getting under the forced amalgamation.

AN HON. MEMBER: He wanted to pull out of HRM.

MR. HOLM: And wanted to pull out of HRM, talked about it quite a bit. (Interruptions) He was consulting with his constituents, did a survey. My point is this, there are people in that member's constituency, just as there are people in mine, who are not high-income earners but, if the government's plan were to go forward, would be forced to pay higher property taxes, so that that money can then be shared with other areas of the province which are less prosperous. I am not disagreeing with equalization and funds being provided to assist municipalities, not at all.

Mr. Speaker, surely, there should be no requirement for a low-income earner in Nova Scotia or in the HRM or any of the other municipalities that are deemed by this government to be have-ones, who are struggling on a low income to maintain their home, whether they are working or whether they are on a fixed income, maybe they are seniors trying to maintain their home, they should not be forced to pay a higher property tax to subsidize, let's say, former Premier Donald Cameron's properties, down in, I think, Pictou would have been one of the areas that would have received some of the equalization funding or the Sobeys or anybody who has a high income.

Why would you do that? That is not fair. A fair way would be to ensure that the equalization is being paid by those who can most afford it. The way you determine what somebody can afford is not necessarily on where their house is located, but it is how many dollars are in their pay envelope, whether that pay envelope comes in the form of a wage from an employer or their labours in self-employment or as a result of the years of service and work and now their pay envelope comes in the way of a pension cheque or investments. That's not the fair way to do it. That is the kind of thing that this government could learn over a six month period. What are we getting? Well, bracket creep is going to take approximately $30 million more out of the pockets of Nova Scotians. There has been a lot of discussion about that from both our Finance Critic and the Liberal Finance Critic and others. I am not going to bother going into that.

[9:00 p.m.]

The user fees which keep getting cranked up on almost anything and everything. I seem to remember - people can correct me if I am wrong - but the Premier said well it wouldn't be too difficult to pull together the full list of user fees that are charged. It's what we are looking for. In fact, if it's not too hard, I am sure that the government members would support, and I am sure the Government House Leader would like to call, therefore, a bill that

[Page 1499]

was introduced by my colleague, the Finance Critic, that would require that the government release its full list of user fees, Mr. Speaker.

HST, gasoline in this province. I am sure most people have filled up a vehicle recently. I had the - not what I would call a pleasure today - it's not something I enjoy doing, I filled up a vehicle today and if you were trying to reach new heights, I did it. I managed to put more, in terms of dollars, of gasoline in my vehicle today than I have ever done in any car or vehicle I ever had, 82.9 cents in metro. Somebody tells me it was 86 cents. Well, I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, it was 86 cents in, I think it was, Chester-St. Margaret's, as I was driving back from the Bridgewater area yesterday. In fact the prices differed between 78.9 cents, I think it was, at one station I drove by in Bridgewater to a high of 86 cents. I filled up in my constituency, Mr. Minister. (Interruption) No.

Mr. Speaker, that was about an 8 cent increase and it does go up and down but it doesn't seem to get down to where it had been. Now that the prices are up by that 8 cents - it went up 8 cents last week and now it has actually gone down 2 cents so it is only 6 cents higher than it was a week ago - but the price of it today is less per barrel than it was last fall, last November. But, you know, it is interesting. The heating season is over and I would be willing to bet that if you checked the price of things like home heating fuel, they are probably starting to drop. Coming towards the summer, this is just absolute coincidence that it happens like this yearly. As we move towards the summer, prices of gasoline products just seem to go up.

These big oil companies with all their high-priced oil executives, which are making record profits every quarter, it must be just coincidence that that is happening. They obviously can't notice it, that there happens to be that kind of a trend. They just couldn't be expected to plan enough ahead to say, summer is coming on, people are going to be driving more, we had better switch more of our production into the producing and storing of gasoline products and less into home heating fuel. That would be too logical for them to come up with that kind of idea so, lo and behold, supply and demand, there just happens to be a shortage so prices go up.

The reverse seems to happen in the fall. It is just coincidence. Where I am next week I will be very happy to say the same things to those industries. You know that those who are involved in Nova Scotia, the companies that are involved in the oil and gas business, those companies would very definitely like to see a higher Nova Scotian content in the contracts and the production of that because that creates the jobs. We are not getting it in the royalties. Our royalty structure - what is a parliamentary word that I can use to describe the full flavour of what I am thinking?

AN HON. MEMBER: Aromatic.

[Page 1500]

MR. HOLM: Aromatic, thank you, that wasn't what I was thinking but it certainly is a suitable substitute for where I would have gone if I hadn't thought I would have been ruled as using an unparliamentary term.

Let me just put it another way. We are, in Nova Scotia, we are not a business but we are a major organization that controls and manages literally billions of dollars a year, billions. I remember coming to this House quite a few years ago, outside that Chamber and a former member was laughing, he was laughing quite hard. I said to him, what is so funny? He said look, and he pushed open the door and he said look around. I did. I didn't see anything funny, everything was normal, everything was going on. I said, I don't see anything out of the ordinary. He said think of it this way, we are running a multi-billion dollar operation, nobody was paying attention to the Speaker or looking at the issues and he just said to me, would you hire them to be your board of directors?

We are in a sense the board of directors for Nova Scotia. That is a pretty heavy responsibility and we owe accountability to our shareholders. The shareholders, if we can put it in that business sense, are the people of this province. Those who are here today, the present; and our future shareholders are the children of those who are here today. That is reality. We are the custodians, it is our job and I would suggest primarily the job of members on the government benches, that includes the backbenchers because the backbenchers also have the job of keeping your front-benchers' feet to the fire. You may not feel comfortable about doing that on the floor of the House, fair ball.

This is a game of politics which is serious business and truthfully, as much as we chide you, we don't really expect that you are going to be doing that in public, might like it, but I don't expect it. But you do have the opportunity in your caucus meetings and in private meetings to go aboard the front-benchers and you do have the power to say to them, we will not support you unless you do certain things. You do have the power, as do members of the Opposition, to try to force changes in this government. You do have the power and you therefore have that responsibility. It is your responsibility as much as everybody in the front benches.

We don't have natural gas being distributed in this province, and by the looks of things it ain't going to be going very far any time soon. It ain't going to happen. So our businesses are being disadvantaged in comparison to other businesses that have our own resource. In six months, maybe they can hear about it. We haven't been getting, and aren't getting, the benefits in terms of employment or contracts. We certainly didn't get it from the first phase of Sable. But you know the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board doesn't have the power to demand it. They can recommend it, they can monitor it, but they can't enforce it or impose penalties for our resources.

The Premier can run around and he can go off and he can put out press releases and he can talk about a Campaign for Fairness.

[Page 1501]

AN HON. MEMBER: What does that get him?

MR. HOLM: Somebody asked, what does that get him? I will tell you what it gets him. It gets him some good political headlines and that is what it appears that the government is after, those political headlines.

AN HON. MEMBER: What does it get Nova Scotians?

MR. HOLM: Another question is, what does it get Nova Scotians? That is a better question, and so far, zip. It is not only issues that should be of concern to members over on this side of the House, the member for Annapolis, I am sure there are a number of farming operations down in your area that could benefit from natural gas, as in Shelburne operations.

I know when I had the opportunity and went out and toured around in Alberta to look at where natural gas was distributed and I saw the vast distances. I know our provinces are very different. They don't have the rock structure that we do. They have dirt, soil that is easier to lay in, but their distances are much greater. There are industries in far out rural communities that located there because natural gas was available and they could not locate in an urban community, an urban setting, because they would not have been acceptable in those communities because of possibly the odour or possibly the dust that was created, but they were fine in large rural areas. They created jobs in those communities, good-paying jobs, long-lasting jobs because they ensured that the resource could be delivered.

They developed a plan, Mr. Speaker. In six months it might be nice for them to develop a plan. We then could grow revenues and we wouldn't have to worry about trying to gouge more money in the way of HST off of gasoline. As I was talking earlier about the price increase, don't forget that every one cent that gasoline products goes up a year generates over $12 million - and now it is probably close to $13 million - taken out of the pockets of Nova Scotians. So therefore a 6 cent increase on an annual basis will generate close to $80 million in more money taken out of the pockets of Nova Scotians.

That is money that is not going to be spent on other things, $80 million, of that $80 million, the Minister of Finance is going to be collecting 8 per cent of that, because 8 per cent of that price increase is the provincial share of the HST. The 7 per cent would amount to about $5 million. That $5 million more in federal HST from that one gas increase is more than the amount that the Minister of Transportation and Public Works is hoping that the feds will cost share on Highway No. 101 this year.

The province is prepared to put up $5 million if the feds do as well. Between the two of them, if the current gasoline price stays where it is, on an annual basis those two levels of government on that one gasoline price increase will collect more than the amount that the two of them would put into Highway No. 101.

[Page 1502]

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

MR. HOLM: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

[9:15 p.m.]

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

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise and speak on behalf of the amendment to Bill No. 30, the six months' hoist. Why did we move the motion, I guess, is the most important question? I think it is important to note that what we are really looking for is information. We are requesting that the government provide a six month period to allow Nova Scotians to be educated on new fees and new taxes, whatever you want to call them.

I guess they are all the same. In my house, a fee is a tax and a tax is a fee; a tax grab is a tax grab, period. So, why the six months? Well, the six months will allow Nova Scotians to become familiar with this bill and what it means and educate themselves on the impact that it will have on their daily lives. Simple.

Mr. Speaker, within the bill, of course, we have the child abuse registry charge, just for one issue. We have been in contact with some non-profit organizations that provide programming for children. They weren't even aware that this government brought in this bill. They certainly weren't aware that when they hire employees or a summer students, more importantly - if it is a summer program in which it is vital that our students obtain employment of any kind because of the high cost of education, if the government has to be reminded of that - that these organizations would be penalized for hiring a student. That sounds like it is a little bit of insanity to me.

This government promised to be open and accountable; why aren't they open and accountable? That is a good question. I would like to hear the reply to that because I know many of the residents that I represent continually ask me. So I believe the six months' hoist will provide a period of time in order to allow Nova Scotians to get familiar with this bill and, more importantly, to be aware of the effects that this bill will have on their daily lives.

Now, Mr. Speaker, for this government to believe that organizations such the YMCA, Big Brothers, Big Sisters, if that is acceptable that every time they hire a summer student they have to pay $20 bucks to register them, then I believe that is creating an unfair playing ground for many groups and organizations throughout the province. So the six months' hoist would be very beneficial to those groups, so it could provide the period of time to get familiar, as I indicated, with the issues pertaining to them or their neighbours or their relatives or whatever.

[Page 1503]

The six months would create a period of time where the government could go out into the community and throughout the province and educate all these groups and citizens. They could have consultations in various facilities throughout any community in the province. I could suggest even the individual MLAs could do that. That would eliminate any high cost or any hardship imposed directly on the government. I am sure that six months is not that long a time and it would provide that period of time, particularly over the summer and early fall that would allow the honourable members to make sure that their residents are aware of these issues.

It would be a good summer - we have seen this the last time there was a make-work project for the backbenchers over there, the committee was created and it went about the province and it came back with no results. We didn't learn anything of what they did because they actually didn't really make any recommendations because the recommendations that they presented were available before they went out. Of course, the government would have to do a better job on consulting with the community than which they did in that particular little structure that they put together, but I believe they may be capable of doing that.

So, the six months' hoist would provide them a length of time to get their presentations put together and get organized. Of course, they could assist one another and we could ensure that Nova Scotians are aware just exactly what this government is doing to them, particularly when it pertains to their daily lives.

One of the issues that baffles me for instance, is the fine structure for smuggling. The structure for smuggling, they dropped the fines to $250 from $10,000. It is insanity and I heard the honourable minister stand in this House and indicate that it was the courts that would not administer these fines. I have personal knowledge of two individuals that were caught by the police for smuggling during the last time we experienced high cigarette prices in this province and one individual was fined $5,000 and the other individual - the total was $8,000. So that doesn't jive with the Finance Minister indicated when he acknowledged to this House that the courts wouldn't administer those types of fines and that the courts felt those fines were too heavy. I believe there are documented cases in this province where the courts held people accountable under that platform and the record shows that. That babbling that the honourable minister let out here in this House is just simply untrue.

On organizations, it is obvious that right across the province many of the convenience store owners and the larger malls - anyone that stocks cigarettes of any amount are concerned that smuggling is going to take place down the road and cut into their business and their profits. As a result, it is a deterrent against their business, so this is a very important issue for these small businesses.

This six months' hoist would provide the government, as well as the backbench members to go forth into the community and educate the community and provide the necessary information for Nova Scotians to judge this bill based on the information. They

[Page 1504]

could come to their own conclusions as to whether this is a good structure or whether it isn't a good bill.

Lowering the fine in regard to smuggling simply sends out the message that this government simply doesn't care. If you wait for six months, this will almost coincide with the release of the comprehensive tobacco strategy that the Minister of Health indicated would be released in the fall of 2001.

I have to ask, did this government consult with the Cancer Society, the Medical Society, the Heart and Stroke Foundation, organizations such as these? Perhaps this strategy would alleviate some of the concerns with these organizations? Perhaps this strategy will include initiatives that would counteract the reduction in the fine structure.

Mr. Speaker, that is why it is so important for the six months' hoist, because it would provide an ample amount of time for the government, the ministers and the backbenchers, to go out, educate the community, as they indicated before, and provide the correct information. The government is always blaming Opposition members that we are creating unfair situations for them and creating an image that they don't care, and they are loaded with mismanagement over there.

Mr. Speaker, the six months would provide an avenue for the government to prove the Opposition wrong. It is simple. It sounds simple. All they would have to do is create and organize it, go out with it in a planned, organized manner. You could do it in six months and the hoist would have real meaning. Then Nova Scotians would be well educated, and then the government could put the facts on the table and show Nova Scotians that the villains are on this side of the House. That, really, we stand here and this is all a bunch of baloney. I believe it is a very important opportunity for the government to show the population of the Province of Nova Scotia that the Opposition is, in fact, wrong, and that the six months' hoist is good, so it will allow them the length of time it requires to prove this.

Mr. Speaker, I would welcome the opportunity to see what these backbenchers are going to go tell the people, because it is written. When you look at the bill, it is in the bill, it is clear. Even I can understand it, so I am sure there are honourable members over there who can understand this. Let's get it together. I am looking forward to these backbenchers, always over there sitting there quiet, playing with some different things and even sometimes they send them over to this side of the House. They're bored. Just look at them, sir, they're bored.

This would provide a real meaning. The Premier really has an opportunity here to create, make a real - these guys could be something, they could really be part of the government, over a six month period, to go out and tell all Nova Scotians what a bad crew there is over on this side of the House and that we are providing all of the misinformation

[Page 1505]

and presenting facts that aren't true. They could show Nova Scotians that that is what we are doing.

Mr. Speaker, I can almost assure you that this government is not prepared to do that, because they can't go out over a six month period or a over a twelve month period or over a four year period and indicate that at least this caucus is providing wrong facts and information to the people of Nova Scotia, because when we stand up and we bring these issues out, they are in the bill. They were presented when that bill was tabled in this House. The government can't confront us with that, they can stand up the odd time when we can't respond and blurt out something that isn't, perhaps, true. However, they now have an opportunity for six months to explain to Nova Scotians just exactly how bad the information we are presenting really is.

[9:30 p.m.]

As I indicated, you know, I know, all members of this House know, that again it will take a lot longer than six months, in fact it would have to take this bill being removed and a new one being presented because those changes are there. We are not really creating fear for anybody in the Province of Nova Scotia because they are living under fear ever since this government got elected. You can look at any issue and I will touch on some of them later on.

One of the ones I want to talk about right now, the one increase that I am a little concerned about is the tax increase on cigarettes. It is important that this minister only went halfway. Now, he publicly indicated that he wanted to double the tax increase that he put on cigarettes, which was $4.00. The minister indicated publicly that he wanted to double it. But really, when the information came out of Ottawa, we found out that this minister, along with the other Atlantic ministers, requested the $4.00. Now why didn't the minister request the $8.00 if that was what he wanted? That is why the six months is so important. That minister can go out and explain, provide the information to his backbenchers and then he could justify what he said and what he did.

Let us continue to see what he did. The comprehensive tobacco strategy that the minister said he wants to release in the fall, he now has in his possession a recommended $8.00 increase; but the increase only went to $4.00 so the whole thing has everybody baffled. The minister wanted an $8.00 increase, he said that publicly, but he requested through Ottawa and the Finance Minister, the Honourable Paul Martin, a $4.00 increase. I don't understand that, I really don't.

In all fairness to the minister, he would have six months to put something together. He could print it out if he had to for some of the backbenchers and they could go out into the community and educate their residents in their constituencies and tell all Nova Scotians what is so right about this bill. They could explain why the fees are being implemented; at least they can individually explain why many of the other fees are being increased and where taxes

[Page 1506]

are being increased. They could justify, they could explain to Nova Scotians why they continually operate with a deficit and increase the debt. They could explain that to the people of Nova Scotia over the six month period.

I can't for the life of me understand why any member over there would vote against this amendment because, in all fairness, it makes good sense. It really does. It provides the avenue in the body that the government continually indicates that we all, over here on this side of the House, are using scare tactics and we are doing this and we are doing that, you know. They could go out and really put the facts on the table. Throughout this six months, they could tell Nova Scotians what we over here are doing and why we are so wrong at what we are saying. I would like to hear that too because I hear daily here in the House, debates, I read the material and, for the life of me, I have yet to see anyone on this side of the House, in this caucus in particular, stand up and say something that wasn't, in fact, either true or a fact.

So it is interesting, for me at least. I would like an opportunity, in fact, I would be eager to attend one of these meetings, throughout the six months' hoist period, where these backbenchers and the government ministers, of course, would participate, and they could really explain to us why they are doing what they are doing.

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations indicated that the process or the company or the organization that will be used to do assessments will be available in the next little while. In this case, the six month delay will enable the municipalities, the minister could have his staff or if he has an assistant over there - I know Nova Scotia Sport and Recreation has an assistant, to my knowledge that assistant is still in place, that honourable member goes out and announces good news things, close to home, of course. This would provide an avenue for the municipalities to be fully informed, totally, as to their costs and what type of value they will get for their dollar.

Mr. Speaker, why would anybody want to vote against that? That sounds like a real good idea to me. This government could slow down a little bit, take six months, put a platform together, go out, make arrangements to meet with all these municipal units, and educate on the issues and they could ensure totally, make municipalities understand that they really are getting their value for their dollar. At least the units that I have talked to and consulted with certainly don't believe they are getting their value at all. In fact, they are starting to question even if $2.00 is worth anything anymore, with this government.

Mr. Speaker, given that the Financial Measures (2001) Bill lays out the groundwork for assessments, it would seem logical that municipalities should be fully informed, prior to this bill being passed in this House. In my opinion at least, that seems reasonable. It makes total sense. I notice some of the backbenchers over there are beginning to look my way, and hopefully they are going to vote in favour of this amendment, because I am sure that every municipal unit within their constituencies would welcome the opportunity to sit down and

[Page 1507]

be totally briefed on this issue, and that they would be prepared, they would be well-informed, they could be better organized, it could be all planned in the proper stages.

Mr. Speaker, why anyone would vote against that is beyond me. Of course, it is not what this budget indicates, it is what it doesn't indicate that concerns me in particular. I think the majority of my colleagues would agree. Education, for instance, teachers. I heard the minister and during estimates, I asked her about the pending teacher layoffs at the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board. The minister indicated that although the school board was requesting more than what the minister was willing to give them, she indicated to me, at least if I recall correctly and to my knowledge my memory is okay, when I asked the question, the minister indicated that she recognized that that particular board has

issues to deal with and that her staff was in the process of negotiating with that particular school board.

They need over $1 million on that board. All they needed was for the amount this government took from them last year, all they had to do was put that same number back. That happened in many other instances right across the province for other school boards in other areas. In fact, some boards received more this year than they were actually cut last year. It seems that the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board, their's was cut last year. They were given back a few peanuts this year and the rest was taken and given to somebody else, which is really not uncommon when we look at any issue pertaining to Cape Breton in regard to this government.

Mr. Speaker, we learned today that 53 teachers will be losing their employment with this regional school board in Cape Breton. That is terrible. We are not only losing our youth, but we are at the crossroads down there and that community needs to be supported. We are going to have to start sending our children, at a very early age, I would suggest, outside the community. Maybe we could get some kind of shuttle service set up or something. Maybe the minister would respond favourably to that. If we could just get them to Antigonish or somewhere on the mainland, they could be educated there.

Mr. Speaker, six months would provide an opportunity for this minister to go to Cape Breton, sit down with the residents and the parents and explain to them why they are losing 53 teaching positions at that board. I don't know - I guess I do know - I don't expect any of these ministers to go to Cape Breton any time soon, given the fact that they go there with security guards and police officers.

AN HON. MEMBER: No, we just go with Cecil now.

MR. BOUDREAU: The minister is awake. I am not going to respond to that because the individual he indicated lives there and I really don't want to see him having to hire security for going around his own community. I won't even let on I heard it, Mr. Speaker. It is not worth a comment anyway.

[Page 1508]

The Minister of Education, back to my train of thought here, Mr. Speaker, should welcome the opportunity for a six months' hoist. She could go down there and meet with the board. She could meet with the teachers and tell the teachers down there why 53 of them have to go home this year. She could meet with the parents. I would even be willing to volunteer my effort. I would even visit a few elementary schools with the good minister. The good minister could tell the children, she could explain to the children - because I know the minister and I would never question her intelligence, that is for sure, she is a very smart individual. I admit that and I acknowledge that. That would give a benefit to this minister. She could go down and really explain to the little children because we are having trouble down there trying to explain to the little children why our teachers are going away.

That will give this minister an opportunity that no other Education Minister had in this province. She could really hit home. Go down there and just tell the people the way it is, just the way she does here in this House. It sounds simple, but I don't believe she would have the courage. Maybe that is why she is going to vote no on this amendment because, really, it is about courage and six months is not a long time. I believe everybody inside this House realizes that six months - by the time they got a platform, got organized, made sure their presentation was professional, then they would be prepared to go out into the community and meet in all areas and Nova Scotians would be educated on all these fees, tax increases, teacher layoffs, smuggling, that could be all explained.

[9:45 p.m.]

I wouldn't suggest Nova Scotians should hold their breath because the good Minister of Education, she was kind enough to provide a little bit of money - you know she threw some scratch feed at the board down there. I believe the amount they were looking for was a little over $1 million and the good minister said, we have no money, but then at the eleventh hour she threw them some chicken feed. Instead of laying off 60, they only have to lay off 53.

The Finance Minister should welcome the opportunity over a six month period to go out into the community and tell all Nova Scotians, explain it, my honourable colleague and critic, the member for Lunenburg West, the minister says my colleague is wrong. Well, this would provide an opportunity and an avenue for that Finance Minister to explain issues like bracket creep. He could tell Nova Scotians what bracket creep really is and what it is going to do to them. (Interruption) A Tory gouging tax, that is what it is, a Tory gouging tax, simple.

The greatest deception of all that this government is painting is that it will give a 10 per cent tax cut in the year 2003-04. This is only a sham, just a total sham. The minister, over that six month period would go out and educate all Nova Scotians and he could really have the opportunity to educate Nova Scotians on issues like bracket creep. This is what I say about bracket creep, someone making $30,000 in 1999, whose income remains the same in

[Page 1509]

2002 will be paying higher taxes. That is what I say, Mr. Speaker. No matter how many ways this Premier or this Finance Minister tries to gloss over to Nova Scotians, Nova Scotia is not going to be any better off in 2004 than it was in 1999. That is what I say.

If the government doesn't agree with that, this six month period would provide them, like I indicated, the avenue, the body, the organization to go out and tell all Nova Scotians that I am wrong. What is wrong with that, really?

After bracket creep we can look at the failure of this government to pass on the federal tax cut. We all do recall the federal tax cut that the good Finance Minister wouldn't allow Nova Scotians to enjoy after it was initiated and put forth by our cousins in Ottawa as we are told. We are told they are our cousins in Ottawa whenever this government doesn't get their own way with them. This would provide that minister an opportunity, over a six month period, to go out and really educate Nova Scotians, and then I wouldn't have to stand here and explain all this to Nova Scotians, because of course they would be getting the true facts from the government members.

Mr. Speaker, these are the true facts, and that is why those backbenchers, those members, those ministers will not go out and they won't support this amendment, because they are afraid to go out into the community and provide the six month period of time to educate Nova Scotians on these issues that are contained in this bill. They don't have the courage to do that, as I indicated before. You know there are ministers who visit universities on Cape Breton Island and bring security and RCMP officers with them, so I don't suspect that they will vote to go out into the community and meet under those conditions.

Each and every year prior to the last year, provincial income taxes went up every time the federal government raised taxes. They went up. They went up and they went up for two decades. Every time the federal government increased taxes it was passed on to the consumers in this province. The increases, they were whacked with them right away. Not 10 seconds after they were announced, boom, it was done. Up goes your taxes. No such thing when it comes to forgiving taxes. No such thing happened there, there was no reduction. They wouldn't dare pass that on to Nova Scotians. You can't decrease something, you have to increase something if you are a Tory in this province. Decreases just don't fit, and they don't fit because they are not part of their agenda. It is as simple as that.

They are trying to create a smokescreen, and lead Nova Scotians to believe that they are doing all these good things, these great things. Nova Scotians are more intelligent than that, I can assure you. If this government thinks they are going to go out and fool all these Nova Scotians, well, have I got news for them, because Nova Scotians are not a stupid lot, regardless of what this government thinks. All you have to do is look at the history and the tradition of this province, and that will tell you that very directly, that the vast majority of Nova Scotians are hardworking, intelligent individuals, contributing on a daily basis for the benefit and the prosperity of this province.

[Page 1510]

What does this government do to them? This government presents a bill of this type in this House; that is what it does, and that is very unfair. Nova Scotians were paying 57.5 per cent of the federal tax; now we are paying 60 per cent. So the six months' hoist makes sense, again, to me. Really, if I was sitting over there with that gang, I would welcome the opportunity to go back into my constituency and call a meeting, I am going to bring the Premier in there, I am going to bring the honourable Education Minister, and of course she could come with the honourable Minister of Tourism and Culture, he is a Cape Bretoner. He is doing a real good job over there.

AN HON. MEMBER: Is he?

MR. BOUDREAU: Oh, is he ever. (Applause) Is he ever. He is doing a great job over there. The Tourism Department is going zoop, ever since he took over. Great. We lost 30 jobs in Sydport last month, he never said a word, not a word out of him or the honourable member for Cape Breton North. Fifty-three school teachers today, not a word. Those guys are doing a great job. Well, they need a pause. Really. Look at the steel plant. That honourable member over there, I will be glad when the Premier puts the other honourable member in the Cabinet, because he surely needs help in that room.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Would the honourable member like to move adjournment on debate?

MR. BOUDREAU: Yes, Mr. Speaker, it would be my honour to move adjournment of the debate.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is to adjourn the debate. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

[The motion is carried.]

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now rise to meet again on the morrow at the hour of 12:00 noon, to sit until 8:00 p.m. The order of business, after the daily routine and Question Period will be Public Bills for Second Reading, Bill No. 30. Should we finish Bill No. 30, we will go on to Bill No. 20.

Mr. Speaker, could we please revert to the order of business, Presenting Reports of Committees.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. There was a motion to adjourn, it is on the floor now.

MR. RUSSELL: It hasn't been voted on.

[Page 1511]

AN HON. MEMBER: We can still revert by consent.

MR. SPEAKER: Is there consent to revert to the order of business, Presenting Reports of Committees?

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[The motion is carried.]

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.

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

Bill No. 7 - Lobbyists' Registration Act.

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

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move the House do now rise.

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

[The motion is carried.]

The House is adjourned until noon tomorrow.

[The House rose at 9:57 p.m.]

[Page 1512]

NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)

RESOLUTION NO. 609

By: Hon. Murray Scott (The Speaker)

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

Whereas Luciano Onichino recently held an information meeting to explain his Community Building Project to the people of Parrsboro; and

Whereas the Community Building Project will be a four to five month schedule of training, boat building, youth leadership exercises, community service projects, mentor workshops, field trips; and

Whereas the idea behind the project is youth using strong community ties and hands-on skills as tools to connect with their past and build for their future;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Luciano Onichino on his Community Building Project and wish him well as he strives to assist the youth of the Parrsboro area to build productive and prosperous futures.

RESOLUTION NO. 610

By: Hon. Murray Scott (The Speaker)

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

Whereas the 4-H Program focuses on developing well-rounded, responsible and independent citizens who will become tomorrow's leaders; and

Whereas 4-H Clubs draw on the skills and dedication of parents and volunteer leaders who are dedicated to teaching skills, organizing activities and assisting with the individual 4-H member's goals; and

Whereas the Ro-Win-Lea 4-H Club is celebrating its 50th year this year;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate all Ro-Win-Lea 4-H Club members, volunteer leaders and parents - past and present - whose dedication and hard work have sustained this important club for half a century.

[Page 1513]

RESOLUTION NO. 611

By: Hon. Murray Scott (The Speaker)

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

Whereas volunteers are the cornerstone of Nova Scotia's strong towns and villages because of their selfless dedication to others; and

Whereas the Municipality of Cumberland recently honoured several county volunteers at a luncheon; and

Whereas those people were recognized by the Municipality of Cumberland for their commitment to their community by their giving of themselves in so many different ways to others;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Ken Wilson, Helen Cameron, Carol Hyslop, Doug Curry, Larry Ogden, Boyd Taylor and Phalen "Ben" Griffen upon being named the Municipality of Cumberland's volunteers of the year and thank them for all they do for others in their communities.

RESOLUTION NO. 612

By: Hon. Murray Scott (The Speaker)

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

Whereas volunteers are the cornerstone of Nova Scotia's strong towns and villages because of their selfless dedication to others; and

Whereas Leona Brown of Springhill is the town's provincial representative volunteer for 2001; and

Whereas Mrs. Brown has held numerous volunteer positions in the community but is best known for her unwavering support, kindness and generosity to other families in Springhill;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Leona Brown upon her selection as Provincial Representative Volunteer for the Town of Springhill in 2001 and thank her for her commitment to others.

[Page 1514]

RESOLUTION NO. 613

By: Hon. Murray Scott (The Speaker)

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

Whereas Mary McPhee has been named the Town of Parrsboro's Youth Volunteer of the Year; and

Whereas this Grade 12 student of Parrsboro Regional High School is very involved in her school and community, serving on her school council, as a member of the year book committee, writing a bi-weekly school column in her local paper, sitting on the Youth Town Council and acting as a member of the Parrsboro Historical Society; and

Whereas Mary appreciates the difference volunteering at school and in her town has made to her own life, enriching her education and giving her a sense of connection with her community;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House salute Mary McPhee's volunteerism and wish her the very best in her future endeavours and encourage her to continue to be an active volunteer.