Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

Les travaux de la Chambre ont repris le
21 septembre 2017

Hansard -- Tue., Apr. 24, 2001

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HALIFAX, TUESDAY, APRIL 24, 2001

Fifty-eighth General Assembly

Second Session

12:00 P.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Murray Scott

DEPUTY SPEAKERS

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

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Before we begin the daily routine, the subject for this evening's late debate was submitted by the honourable member for Cape Breton South:

Therefore be it resolved that rural Nova Scotia has been completely, utterly and unquestionably abandoned by the Government of Nova Scotia.

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

We will begin the daily routine.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

1515

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GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

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

RESOLUTION NO. 614

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

Whereas Nova Scotia is observing Education Week with the theme Critical Thinking: Opening Doors to the World; and

Whereas later today, the minister will be presenting awards to 26 outstanding Nova Scotia educators at a ceremony at Government House as part of Education Week; and

Whereas Education Week has been observed annually in Nova Scotia since the mid-1930's;

Therefore be it resolved that this House acknowledge the dedication of our teachers and all those who work in the education system, and particularly those who are being honoured today.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

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RESOLUTION NO. 615

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

Whereas the parents of children in Sherbrooke and area are deeply concerned about their children drinking the water at St. Mary's Education Centre; and

Whereas the parents were forced to hire their own toxicologist to examine a sample of water taken from St. Mary's, which showed high levels of contaminants including aluminum, lead and iron; and

Whereas the government is promising to allocate approximately $1 million of this year's budget for the safety of children in Nova Scotia schools, including regular water-quality testing and maintenance;

Therefore be it resolved that the minister immediately take the necessary steps to ensure that the parents and children of Sherbrooke and area can safely drink the water at their educational centre.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 616

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 Acadiens Peewee A Team participated in the SEDMHA Hockey Tournament in Dartmouth on April 8th; and

Whereas the team played against Baddeck in the Accord Division Final; and

Whereas Nicholas Titus, Jacques Lombard, Ghislain Gaudet, Daniel Surette, Joel Saulnier each scored once for the winning team in the divisional final game;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House of Assembly congratulate the winning team and their coaches for winning the Accord Division Final at the SEDMHA tournament.

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 Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 617

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

Whereas the presence of the RCMP in a community helps to make it a safer one; and

Whereas the officers of the RCMP detachments make enormous contributions to their communities above and beyond the prevention of crime; and

Whereas the RCMP will officially open a new detachment in May, in the Town of Middleton, under the command of Wilmot native, Corporal David Cunningham;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House congratulate the RCMP for opening a new detachment, and wish good health and safety to the officers as they serve and protect the eastern communities of Annapolis.

[12:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

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The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

RESOLUTION NO. 618

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

Whereas the new library at the Bridgeport Elementary School will be named after the late Rose MacDonald, who died in September 2000 at the age of 110; and

Whereas Rose MacDonald spent most of her life in Bridgeport, and all of her children attended school there; and

Whereas the special ceremony to dedicate and name the library in her honour will beheld at Bridgeport Elementary School on May 16th;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House join with the people of Bridgeport, Cape Breton, in honouring Rose MacDonald's memory by naming their new library after her.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Victoria.

RESOLUTION NO. 619

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

Whereas maintaining good water quality in the Bras d'Or Lakes is important for aquaculture, fisheries, recreational and aesthetic reasons; and

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Whereas the Department of Environment and Labour staff have been collaborating with other community interests to develop partnerships with a focus on specific water quality problems that were identified in the 1995 Bras d'Or Stewardship Report; and

Whereas Section 105 of the Environment Act requires the Nova Scotia Department of Environment and Labour to prepare a water resource management strategy for the province;

Therefore be it resolved that the department continue to build positive, long-term working relationships in the Bras d'Or to resolve target problems and provide the foundation for future collaborative work.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Kings North.

RESOLUTION NO. 620

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

Whereas the highest honour which can be given in the Rotary movement is the Paul Harris Fellow, named after the founder of Rotary, Mr. Paul Harris; and

Whereas the distinctive Paul Harris Fellow medallion, lapel pin, and certificate are given in recognition of individuals who have made substantial contributions to their communities and the promotion of goodwill, peace and understanding throughout the world; and

Whereas Joe Ueffing, Past President of the Rotary Club of Kentville and his wife, Susan, the club's singing ambassador, were recently named as Paul Harris Fellows;

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Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate Joe and Susan Ueffing on their reception of this award, and wish them all the best in their work on behalf of the Rotary Club.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Annapolis on an introduction.

MR. FRANK CHIPMAN: Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise in the House today and welcome a constituent of mine - I should say a former constituent as he is now residing in Halifax - Cape Breton native, Mr. David Gentile. I would ask him to rise and accept the welcome of the House. (Applause)

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

RESOLUTION NO. 621

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

Whereas area residents throughout the growing constituency of Timberlea-Prospect have conscientiously collected the signatures of homeowners on petitions requesting paving; and

Whereas the residents of Lynwood Drive, Ben's Court and Carmichael Court, in the community of Brookside, have submitted these petitions for attention to their roads; and

Whereas these taxpayers have agreed to pay their share of this road paving;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Transportation and Public Works state clearly for these residents when their roads will be paved.

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MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes.

RESOLUTION NO. 622

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

Whereas every year the Cape Breton Sport Hall of Fame inducts male and female athletes of the year; and

Whereas Amy Cotton from Judique won the female award for her excellence in judo, having won gold medals at the United States Open and gold at the PanAmerican Judo Championships; and

Whereas boxer Scott MacIntosh won male athlete of the year, having represented Canada in the Sydney 2000 Olympics and winning gold at the Senior Boxing Championships in British Columbia;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate these two athletes for their outstanding athletic 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 The Premier.

RESOLUTION NO. 623

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

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Whereas what was a devastating Easter Sunday for the Ludlow family of Broughton turned into an outpouring of community spirit, generosity and plain hard work; and

Whereas upon learning of the loss of the uninsured family home and possessions to fire, the Ludlow's friends and neighbours gave generously, and Glace Bay businessman Tom MacPherson called 50 tradespeople into action to rebuild their home; and

Whereas when asked why he pulled the project together, Mr. MacPherson said, "It's to help another human being.";

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House praise this tremendous community effort that was an amazing combination of the talent of the tradespeople, the kindness of suppliers and the love of a community for their neighbour.

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 Atlantic.

RESOLUTION NO. 624

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

Whereas the New Glasgow Junior High School Junior Jazz Band received the gold rating in Dartmouth on April 6th and 7th at the Maritime Musicfest; and

Whereas the band competed against groups from the three Maritime Provinces to win this prestigious title; and

Whereas the junior jazz band has been invited to the National Musicfest in May;

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Therefore be it resolved that members of the Legislature congratulate all 80 choir and band performers from the New Glasgow area who competed in the Maritime Musicfest and, particularly, the junior jazz band as they travel to the National Musicfest in May.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Richmond.

RESOLUTION NO. 625

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

Whereas the Administrative Committee of the W. Blair MacMillan Memorial Trust has announced the creation of an annual public award for the promotion of literacy in Richmond County; and

Whereas the purpose of the award is twofold: first, to perpetuate the memory of the late W. Blair MacMillan and, second, to further the benevolent educational efforts of the Richmond County Literacy Network; and

Whereas W. Blair MacMillan, who passed away last July, was a former Air Force officer who became a Coast Guard specialist in oil and spill containment, pollution control and hazardous waste disposal; a bagpiper who provided Scottish music for many occasions; and an individual who gave generously of his time to the promotion of literacy in Richmond County;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House commend the Administrative Committee of the W. Blair MacMillan Memorial Trust for the establishment of the annual public award for literacy and wish the Richmond Literacy Network continued success in their promotion of literacy.

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 Halifax Bedford Basin.

RESOLUTION NO. 626

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

Whereas Nova Scotia teachers now have a new and important resource to help make classroom learning more hi-tech; and

Whereas the Nova Scotia Learning Exchange, the first of its kind Web site in Canada, includes 80 Canadian and Nova Scotian sites and is a resource of sample lesson plans, research papers and discussion forums while incorporating a directory of more than 30,000 educational Web sites; and

Whereas this project, sponsored by Apple Computers and worth more than $100,000, was developed by Mount Saint Vincent University's Education Department along with the Nova Scotia Teachers' Union and the provincial Department of Education, has now been successfully launched;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House applaud the establishment of the Nova Scotia Learning Exchange and thank the project's sponsor and partnerships who have brought this important resource to teachers in this province.

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.

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The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

RESOLUTION NO. 627

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

Whereas Cecil and Ruby DeYoung has been active members of the Eastern Passage community for many years, having raised their children in the community; and

Whereas Cecil and Ruby have been active in various community organizations, including the Caen Branch of the Royal Canadian Legion and the Royal Antideluvian Order of the Buffalo; and

Whereas on April 30, 1951, Cecil and Ruby DeYoung were married in Halifax;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Cecil and Ruby DeYoung on their 50th Wedding Anniversary and wish them many more years of happiness.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

RESOLUTION NO. 628

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

Whereas the Minister of Environment and Labour has not acted on a request to have officials in this department secure and review all 152 Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committee reports since the commencement of the strike at the Halifax Regional Board; and

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Whereas the refusal of the minister to act on this request is nothing short of dereliction in his duty; and

Whereas as the health and well-being of HRSB students are being compromised, so too are their educational opportunities;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Environment and Labour apologize for putting politics ahead of his ministerial responsibilities and do the honourable thing and resign.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

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

RESOLUTION NO. 629

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

Whereas Chris Wentzell is an active and contributing member of the Lunenburg County Chapter of the Brain Injury Association of Nova Scotia; and

Whereas Chris exemplifies the Brain Injury Association's hard work to promote a better understanding and awareness of the challenges faced by people recovering from brain injury; and

Whereas through Chris' work and that of the Brain Injury Association of Nova Scotia, perceptions about brain injury are changing and support is gaining for those who are in recovery;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of the House commend Chris Wentzell and all members of the Brain Injury Association of Nova Scotia for raising the level of understanding about brain injury and for advocating on behalf of those still in recovery.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

[Page 1528]

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 630

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

Whereas Halifax-St. Margaret's Ringette Association has a strong tradition of involvement; and

Whereas players, parents and coaches have enjoyed another successful ringette season; and

Whereas the Halifax-St. Margaret's Tween team captured a provincial championship to finish off the season;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate all players, parents and friends of the Halifax-St. Margaret's ringette teams.

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. 631

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 Acadiens Atom A Team participated in the SEDMHA Hockey Tournament on Apil 8th; and

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Whereas the Clare Acadiens played against TASA in the Prelude Division Final; and

Whereas Mario Blinn, Stephen LeBlanc and Colin Comeau each scored once for the winning team in the divisional final game;

Therefore be it resolved that members of the House of Assembly congratulate the winning team, the Clare Acadien Atom A Team and their coaches for winning the tournament Prelude Division Final of the SEDMHA tournament.

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 Shelburne.

RESOLUTION NO. 632

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

Whereas the Southwest Shore Development Authority wanted to lure filmmakers to the area by building a state of the art motion picture production centre; and

Whereas Virginia's Run is now being produced in Shelburne County with a budget of $9 million dollars and employs mostly Nova Scotians; and

Whereas the new sound stage, which was built at the site of a former DND base, is being used for the first time;

Therefore be it resolved that members of the House commend the Southwest Shore Development Authority for their enormous contribution to diversify the local economy and showcase local talent at the same time.

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 Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

RESOLUTION NO. 633

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

Whereas the Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission was created by the provincial government to deal with discrimination in the Province of Nova Scotia; and

Whereas the Ombudsman is an officer of this House who does not report to government, whose duty is to aid citizens facing unfair treatment by the Government of Nova Scotia; and

Whereas this government proposal to merge these two offices would result in one jurisdiction with the Human Rights Commission investigating itself;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier takes the necessary steps to appoint an independent Ombudsman on the established all-Party basis.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes.

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RESOLUTION NO. 634

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

Whereas the Cape Breton Sport Hall of Fame held its 4th annual awards dinner on Saturday; and

Whereas six athletes, two builders and two teams were inducted; and

Whereas those inducted included: Fabian Joseph, Clifford Roach, Sandy Snow, Donald MacMillan, Jimmy O'Dell, Ron Sampson, Fred Compton, Marshal Desveaux, the 1956 Glace Bay Junior Miners and the 1959 New Waterford Giants;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the inductees on this prestigious award.

[12:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Eastern Shore.

RESOLUTION NO. 635

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

Whereas successful athletic competition is usually the result of training and experience; and

Whereas Adrienne Power, a 19 year old Dalhousie University student, is a newcomer to the sport of track and field; and

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Whereas Adrienne has shown amazing natural talent and this ability has yielded her a bronze medal in the 60 metre event at the recent CIAU Track and Field Championship;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Adrienne on her bronze medal and recognize the strength and talent it takes to come late to a sport and yet finish a winner.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Richmond.

RESOLUTION NO. 636

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

Whereas the L'Ardoise Economic Association for Development, also known as LEAD, was formed to provide community economic development initiatives for the L'Ardoise catchment area; and

Whereas LEAD has achieved early success by pursuing several economic development ideas, such as the Business Builders Program; and

Whereas the Business Builders Program is meant to allow youth to establish their own business to run during the summer months, with the help of a $100 grant from the program which will also include basic training in bookkeeping, advertising and marketing;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House commend Allison Martell, LEAD project coordinator, Florence Reynolds, the Board of Directors, and the many volunteers for their efforts to develop the economy of L'Ardoise and Richmond County, and wish them great success with their Business Builders Program.

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 Pictou East.

RESOLUTION NO. 637

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

Whereas six students from Nova Scotia will soon be going on an Environmental Leadership Program to Costa Rica; and

Whereas the program is an exchange with students from the Central American country, bringing Costa Rican students to Nova Scotia for nine weeks at a later date; and

Whereas two of the six Nova Scotia students are Jonathan Cumminger of Plymouth and Christopher Anderson of Barney's River, Pictou County;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this Legislature extend their best wishes to Jonathan and Christopher as they set out on their exchange program to Costa Rica.

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.

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RESOLUTION NO. 638

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

Whereas Gunnar Sonsteby of Oslo, Norway's highest decorated living veteran, was on hand Sunday as a plaque was unveiled commemorating Norwegian service personnel who joined Allied Forces in World War II as well as Norwegian immigrants; and

Whereas the unveiling took place at Pier 21, whose doors the immigrants passed through as they began a new life in Canada; and

Whereas the ties that bind veterans like Mr. Sonsteby of Norway to our country run deep due to the intervention and sacrifice of Canadian military personnel who fought together with Norway to preserve the democratic rights during the Second World War;

Therefore be it resolved that as this week of activities continue, bringing war heroes from two countries together to remember their fallen comrades, this House pay its respects to these incredible heroes in our midst.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Justice.

RESOLUTION NO. 639

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

Whereas 44 students participated in the 2001 South Shore District Science Fair recently held at the North Queens Rural High School; and

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Whereas Josh LeCain, a Grade 9 student at Centre Junior High, designed a wind tunnel to determine aerodynamic ratings; and

Whereas Josh was awarded a bronze medal, the Atomic Energy of Canada $100 award, a scientific calculator and tote bag from Nova Scotia Power and a paid class trip to a Nova Scotia Power plant for his project;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate Josh LeCain on his recent achievements at the 2001 South Shore District Science Fair.

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 Agriculture and Fisheries.

RESOLUTION NO. 640

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

Whereas the opportunity to develop academic skills outside the classroom motivates students to truly ask the questions, why does this happen, how does this work, and provides them with the environment to seek the answers themselves through discovery and experimentation; and

Whereas science fairs have always provided students and those with an interest in math, physics, chemistry and biology the opportunity to explore beyond the borders of the textbook or the core curriculum; and

Whereas participating in science fairs and similar competitions gives students the chance to broaden their minds;

[Page 1536]

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize the following winners from the Amherst E.B. Chandler Junior High School's 2001 Science Fair who went on to complete in the regional finals: Robbie Alexander, Ian Arbuckle, Mike Archibald, Melissa Berry, Andrew Costin, Jenny Dickson, Neil Gillis, Stephanie Higgins, Brock Jackson, Matthew MacDowell, Suzanne Maginley, Rebecca Mattinson, Tyler McKillop, Darcy McSorley, Laura Melanson, Meghan Moores, Luke Nowaczek, Elizabeth Sperry, Mike Webb and Andrew Wood.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The notice of motion is way too long.

[The notice is tabled.]

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: Question Period will begin at 12:37 p.m. and end at 1:37 p.m.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

EDUC. - SCHOOL BOARDS: FUNDING - C.B. INEQUITY EXPLAIN

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, Cape Breton again is the focus of this government's deficit cutting. I really wonder what the Minister of Education meant when she said Cape Breton is a special case when it comes to education. Did she mean that they deserve the lowest increase per student in the province? Did she mean that they can do without 53 of their teachers or did she mean that they should be made to suffer because of the economic crises that her government has heaped on that area?

Mr. Speaker, the new monies range in school boards from $133 per student to a low of $39 per student which was done to Cape Breton. I want to ask the minister why the new money per student was only $39 in Cape Breton when they are much higher everywhere else across the province?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the new funding in the funding formula doesn't work that way and the school board knows it doesn't work that way. Cape Breton-Victoria received more money this year, the same as all the other boards received and it actually has quite a high funding per student.

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MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, I will table these documents from the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board's recent budgets. You know this government has a double standard when it comes to Cape Breton. It is really sickening. Regardless of what excuses she gives, the fact and figures she may try to throw at us, the fact is 53 teachers received their walking papers yesterday, whether through attrition or direct layoff. I want to ask this Minister of Education, would she commit today to get personally involved and stop these cuts, reverse them immediately? Will you do that Miss Minister?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, my department has been involved in talking with the Cape Breton board about their problem. We have recognized they are in a special situation. The deputy and the board came to an agreement last week that would see them get an additional $900,000 to deal with their deficit in the past year. This is something that other boards are not getting. So we have been involved, we do recognize unique cases. The situation of declining enrolment does have to be dealt with but it doesn't have to be dealt with all at once.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, when is this going to be handled if it can't be handled all at once? The minister said she wouldn't force teachers' cuts this year. I guess that doesn't mean teachers in Cape Breton. I want to ask the Premier, your government attacks Cape Bretoners at every turn, Mr. Premier, whether it is $50 a day for seniors in long-term care, Sysco workers and now the lowest blow of all, students, young children, the future of the area.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. CORBETT: Why won't the Premier today order the Minister of Education to adequately fund the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board so it won't have to lay off teachers? Will you do that, Mr. Premier?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, it was interesting that the other day a leader of the Board of Trade in Sydney came to Halifax and indicated that there was more optimism now in Cape Breton than at any time in the memorable past. I believe that the policies we are bringing forward are part and parcel of that growing optimism in Cape Breton Island.

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

EDUC. - GOV'T. PROMISES: ABONDONMENT - EXPLAIN

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. Yesterday it was announced that the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board would be laying off 53 teachers as a result of their diminished budget for the coming fiscal year. It always makes me shake my head when I see the Tory Government breaking its own Tory blue book promises. The Tories promised that they would provide extra funding to ensure that the areas

[Page 1538]

of the province with declining enrolments would not be penalized with the loss of teachers and courses. Will the Premier tell the House and all Nova Scotians why his government has abandoned his own promises?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I would ask the Minister of Education to respond to that question.

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the promise had to do with untimely and detrimental penalizing of areas with declining enrolments. The Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board still has the third highest funding per student of all the school boards in the province, the lowest happens to be, still, the Halifax Regional School Board because they have a bigger critical mass. The department and the government are recognizing that some areas of the province need the kind of stability, as much stability as we can offer, but the fact remains that all boards have to deal, to some degree, with declining enrolment issues.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I know that the Premier hates it when he has to defend his own reputation like this. Again, I will go to the Premier. The simple fact of the matter is that the Premier promised during the last election that areas with declining student enrolments would not be penalized through loss of funding, and the Premier is not carrying through on that promise. Again, will the Premier confirm, for the parents and students of Cape Breton-Victoria, that they will not lose any programs as a result of these job losses?

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

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I have to point out, because it hasn't been said yet today, that 75 per cent of the funds the school board received are based on 1996 enrolment levels, that is 75 per cent of the funding is based on enrolment that was actually 3,000 students higher than it is today. Those areas are being protected.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, the Premier has not only failed those people with a vision for education, but his promise of renewed economic development has also mysteriously disappeared. Again, to the Premier, can the Premier tell the people of Cape Breton why he has abandoned their educational needs?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I can assure the member opposite that what he implies by his question is far from the truth. The minister has clearly explained that the funding formula is based on previous enrolments to soften the blow of what is a very serious declining enrolment problem in industrial Cape Breton.

[Page 1539]

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

AMERICAS, SUMMIT OF - PROTESTERS:

INCARCERATION - DETAILS

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. Nova Scotians, on the weekend, saw on television and in the press, a terrible sight of non-violent protestors, legitimate protesters, at the Summit of the Americas in Quebec City, suffering an unending barrage of rubber bullets, water cannons and tear gas. Reports continue to unfold of alleged, unacceptable treatment of protestors by the security forces in Quebec. Among those jailed were Nova Scotians and reports are that some of them still remain in jail, yet this Minister of Justice says he will do nothing.

[12:45 p.m.]

So my question to the Premier is, since the Minister of Justice won't act, can the Premier advise if he will be asking Quebec authorities whether they are still holding Nova Scotians in Quebec City jails and when they intend to free them?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Justice addressed that particular question yesterday and I would ask him to respond to the member opposite.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, the issue of what happened in Quebec City will be handled by the authorities in Quebec and the federal authorities. We have a process in Canada involving trials and a very fine judicial system. That system will determine whether or not those Nova Scotians in custody have committed a crime and, if they haven't, I am sure they will be released accordingly.

MR. DEVEAUX: Let's be clear, Mr. Speaker. No doubt, there were acts of hooliganism in Quebec and, no doubt, security forces were provoked, in some circumstances. But the vast majority of protestors, including the Nova Scotians that were at Quebec City, were demonstrating peacefully, far away from the barriers. They weren't provoking anyone. They were gassed. They were shot at and they were jailed, nonetheless. That is simply unacceptable in a free and democratic society.

My question to the Premier is, will the Premier advise the House if he will be seeking answers from the Prime Minister, from the Solicitor General of Canada and the Quebec authorities as to whether security forces acted properly in their treatment of Nova Scotians.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I do agree with the member opposite that legitimate protesters were done a great disservice by those who broke the law in Quebec City. We, as Canadians, have a right to peaceful protest. On the other hand, many people showed up and they showed by the very garments they were wearing to the protest that they had no intention

[Page 1540]

to protest peacefully. The legal process is something that cannot be manipulated from afar. It is not anything that politicians should attempt to manipulate. Let's let the judicial process, the legal process in this country deal with illegal acts.

MR. DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I guess the grandfatherly Premier expects people to go to protests in suits and ties for them to be able to be presented properly for protesting. The federal NDP are calling for an independent inquiry into the actions of security forces at the Summit of the Americas. Will the Premier, today, undertake to write the Solicitor General of Canada on behalf of those Nova Scotians still in jail and who suffered at the hands of the security forces in Quebec, and demand an independent inquiry into the actions against those Nova Scotians?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, what I am uncertain of is whether or not the independent inquiry has to do with the procedures that were put in place to isolate protestors from those that were participating in the meetings, or whether or not the inquiry is an inquiry into the administration of justice in the Province of Quebec. Those are two very different issues that have to be clarified.

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

EDUC: C.B.-VIC. REG. SCH. BD. - MINISTER'S COMMITMENT

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education. The minister sent a clear message to the people of Cape Breton yesterday. She doesn't care about the quality of their education. She has said to those people that she is not committed to the promises this government made to support programs and teachers and boards with declining enrolments. Will the minister tell the House and the people of Cape Breton why she has turned her back on the people of the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, we have provided the Cape Breton board with an extra $2.5 million in funding. We have given all the boards more funding. At no point did I ever say or imply that just because we are giving the boards an extra $16 million, they still wouldn't have to make difficult decisions. I said, from the beginning, that the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board was going to have a most difficult time of all the boards with this budget and they are having a difficult time. I understand that, but they know and we know that the issues they are facing there have to be dealt with the same as they do in the rest of the province.

MR. BOUDREAU: The fact is, the minister has indicated to the people of that area that she doesn't care about them. The students of Cape Breton deserve the same quality of education and access to the same programs as people in the rest of Nova Scotia. My question is, can the minister tell the people of Cape Breton-Victoria whether or not programs will be lost as a result of these layoffs?

[Page 1541]

MISS PURVES: This government cares about the quality of education for all the students in Nova Scotia, and I would say to the honourable member that we certainly do care about the quality of education in Cape Breton-Victoria and that is why they are still the third highest funded school board in the province.

MR. BOUDREAU: The reality is that this minister has no plan for education and this government has no concern for the people in Cape Breton. My final question to the minister is, since she doesn't consult with school boards on school closures, does she at least speak to the board before they lose more than 50 teachers?

MISS PURVES: We have had very clear consultations with school boards, both at the staff level and the board level since last September. What is going on in terms of the board having to deal with this situation is not news to the school board and I have already talked to them about it.

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

TRANSPORT. & PUB. WKS - HWY. NO. 101:

FUEL TAX WINDFALL - EMPLOY

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, my question, through you, is for the Minister of Transportation and Public Works. (Interruption)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect has the floor.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Excuse me, Mr. Speaker, the Liberals always get four questions. I don't know whether you know that or not. May I go ahead?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. If the honourable members want to have a conversation take it outside the Chamber.

MR. ESTABROOKS: The Minister of Transportation and Public Works is fond of crying poor when it comes to making excuses for his slow progress twinning Highway No. 101. He complains the federal government is holding things up by refusing to pay their fair share. I want to tell the House that this minister and this government aren't quite so helpless as they claim. This government is reaping a windfall from higher fuel tax revenues, revenues they promised in their campaign would go to roadwork. My question to the minister is, why have you not insisted that the fuel tax windfall - which your government admitted was at $12 million, before the latest price hike - be dedicated exclusively to the twinning of Highway No. 101?

[Page 1542]

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, this year we have $11 million-additional in our capital program. That $11 million is to go to the maintenance and repair and repaving of trunks and other highways across this province. With regard to Highway No. 101, we have already put $5 million into that road. It is sitting there until such time as the federal government comes forward with their cost-sharing. The honourable member opposite me laughed, but that money will come down the tubes this year and we will be spending that money this year.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Let the record show that that was not my laugh, this is no laughing matter. That laugh came from some other bench over here from this other member of the Third Party. This government's new revenues must be going into the black hole their campaign promises disappeared into. This government promised, and I am quoting from the blue book, to "Dedicate all taxes raised through motor vehicle licensing and fuel sales to highway construction and maintenance . . . " That means there should be another $87 million for roadwork today . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. ESTABROOKS: My question to the minister, Mr. Speaker, will you tell this House today that either you will immediately increase the budget for Highway No. 101 or admit that your government's promise wasn't worth the paper it was written on?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect is a teacher; I hope he doesn't teach mathematics. The promise that was made, the commitment that was made in the blue book was within the term of this government, within this mandate period, that we would be devoting 100 per cent of the funding that we received from motive fuel taxes, from licenses and registrations, and other taxes and levies upon motorists in this province, we would devote those funds to the Department of Transportation for maintenance of our highway system, and that will be done.

MR. ESTABROOKS: I can read that campaign literature, and I want to ask when. When? The federal government has said it expects gas prices to remain high all summer, and that means more taxes for your government, Mr. Minister. Still this minister is committing only $5 million in new money for Highway No. 101, and that only if the federal government kicks in matching funds. My question to the minister is, we all know we need more money from Ottawa for this project but, Mr. Minister, when will you stop using that as an excuse for breaking your own promises and take some responsibility for making better progress on the twinning of this dangerous road?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, we are making progress. There are people out there working on the twinning of that highway as we speak in this House today, and it has been ongoing all winter. I don't know what the honourable member expects, but that program is

[Page 1543]

underway and it will continue. The highway will be twinned. The protestations of the honourable member opposite (Interruptions) When?

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

The honourable member for Richmond.

EDUC. - C.B.-VIC. REG. SCH. BD.: LAYOFFS - DETAILS

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, it is always amusing to hear from the minister of landscaping speaking about his plans for Highway No. 101.

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Education is alway reluctant to provide the House with either concrete numbers or evidence. We know today that 53 teachers will be laid off at the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board: 23 of them will be through attrition, and 30 of them will be terminated. Of the 30, 10 were probationary and 20 were on full-time contract. Can the minister tell the House if those teachers have been referred to the provincial placement committee or will they be allowed to leave the province like so many young teachers here in Nova Scotia?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, as the member knows, the school board is the employer of the teachers and I can't speak for what the school board may or may not have told the teachers. There is room in Nova Scotia for plenty more teachers.

MR. SAMSON: Well, Mr. Speaker, I can tell you back in Richmond County there are an awful lot of young teachers who would like to know where those places are so they can come back here to this province. Once again we hear the minister and we see how seriously she takes this issue.

There are plans already in place that the minister could use to deal with funding shortfalls due to declining enrolment. Her Party said in their blue book they would have that plan in place for declining enrolment; for example, the minister could authorize bridge financing for the board in order to offset their shortfalls for this year. Can the minister tell the House if she has considered bridge financing to cover the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board shortfall for this budgetary year?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned earlier, my department has given the board an additional $900,000 to cover the major part of their deficit for last year so they don't have to look at doubling it up again this year. That is special treatment for Cape Breton.

MR. SAMSON: Well, once again, Mr. Speaker, we see how the minister operates. Throw out the budget, wait for the reaction. After they have begged enough and pleaded enough, we will throw them a few crumbs and tell them that is good enough for you, take it

[Page 1544]

and stop bothering me. That is a disgraceful way for this government to operate. It is the second budget in a row that this minister has done that.

As my colleague has already shown, the Minister of Education has no plan to deal with impending teacher retirements. Between 2002 and 2004, the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board will lose 213 teachers through retirement. With that in mind, will the minister consider measures to retain young teachers in Cape Breton, either through bridge financing or early retirement of teachers?

[1:00 p.m.]

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, there are a lot of options during a year for individual help with school boards, but I don't think the last big early retirement that we had is part of the reason that we are in the trouble we are in, because it is costing the provincial taxpayer plenty, so we are not going to go that route.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

HUMAN RES. - OFFSHORE EMPLOYMENT:

GENDER INEQUITY - EXPLAIN

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, through you to the Premier. I would like to table some information from the annual report of the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board. As of the fourth quarter in 1999, there were only about 40 women out of more than 900 people working in the offshore. The Sable Benefits Agreement requires the hiring of people from traditionally disadvantaged groups, but this is not happening for women. I want to ask the Premier a simple question, why are so few women working in the offshore?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I must say it is not a question that I have asked to be researched, but now that you bring it up, we will have a look at it. What I don't know is how many women have applied for positions in the offshore.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, there are even fewer women working in applied sciences and engineering fields. Sable Offshore Energy Inc., to its credit, has implemented some outreach strategies to encourage more diversified hiring, but frankly that isn't working. I want to ask the Premier what specific steps he has taken to address the fact that very few women currently work in engineering and applied sciences for our offshore?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, while the question is an offshore question, as well as a Human Resources issue, I would ask the minister responsible to respond.

[Page 1545]

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member does raise a good point, as the Premier said. The difficulty in many cases has been that women have not applied for those jobs which have been traditionally male jobs and which are somewhat new to this province. I would suggest to the honourable member, perhaps she could prepare a request to the Department of Human Resources, shortly to become the Public Service Commission, as to what we are doing with regard to recruiting females for the offshore. I will be delighted to provide that information to the honourable member.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I would be very happy to do this, but, as the member knows, we don't have the resources of the government, and we want some action on getting women into good paying jobs. Currently the government does not even require offshore companies to detail the women they have hired by occupation. These companies might be more inclined to seek women for jobs in engineering and applied sciences if they were required to report publicly the number of women they have hired for these high-paying positions. I want to ask the minister if he would commit today to requiring offshore operators to report the number of women currently working by sector, engineering and applied sciences specifically?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, that was the reason why I asked the honourable member - she said she didn't have the resources, that is fine and dandy - all I am asking is what specific information she is looking for. I think she detailed that in her last question.

Mr. Speaker, I should remind the honourable member, when she talks about people employed in the offshore, is she talking about people who are physically employed on the rigs offshore, or is she talking about people who could be employed onshore in the offshore industry? I would like clarity on that, because I think that on the onshore part of the offshore she would probably find that the percentage of female versus male would probably be normal.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

HEALTH - CHIEF INFO. OFFICER: COST - JUSTIFY

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. New information from a freedom of information request shows that the Department of Health is paying big bucks to the senior bureaucrat position that was created last January. The chief information officer was hired from Toronto, and has been receiving the following: a salary of approximately $100,000 a year; paying of all moving expenses for that worker and family; $450 a month car allowance; coverage of liability and death insurance equivalent to senior civil servant. I would like to table that for the House. My question to the minister is simple, why is the minister paying so much money for that one position?

[Page 1546]

AN HON. MEMBER: Is there anybody in Nova Scotia who can do those jobs? Is there? (Interruptions)

HON. JAMES MUIR: Is that the first supplementary?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable Minister of Health has the floor.

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, one of the things that is well known in the health field in Canada and, indeed, here in Nova Scotia and is cited by the Auditor General is lack of a comprehensive information system. We felt that one of the priorities for this government - and by the way, it was interesting that the other two Parties endorsed the strategy which was released last week about information - our first step was upgrading our information. There was a search process that was wide, trying to get an appropriate person for that position. The credentials of the person filling that position are very good. As I understand, the other conditions to which the honourable member refers would be standard for senior people in the government.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, the Health Minister has the most expensive deputy minister in the government, an assistant deputy minister, an associate deputy minister, an executive assistant, a special assistant from the Treasury and Policy Board, and now an expensive chief information officer, while just last week in rural Nova Scotia a health centre was forced to close the x-ray department because there was not enough staff to operate the clinic in Wolfville. My question to the Minister of Health is, does the minister still stand by his promise to cut administration in order to improve front-line services and patient care?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, it was interesting that the honourable member would raise the shortage of x-ray technologists, because the program, the one on Leeds Street, was cut under that government, and that is why that is a problem there. What I can tell the honourable member is that we are very conscious of the shortage in that field, and are taking steps as we speak to see that the supply will be increased in the near future.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my final supplementary is to the Minister of Human Resources. Last week the Minister of Human Resources said that he would clamp down on hiring deputy ministers from outside the province because of high recruitment fees. I would like to table some of that information that indicates that was what the minister said. My question to the Minister of Human Resources is, because of this high-cost information officer from Ontario, will the minister consider doing the same for senior bureaucrats as well?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I would like to make it very clear what I said, I said that people within our own Civil Service should always have the first option in our province for senior positions within the Civil Service. I also said that we should not be going to headhunters before we search our own resources to fill (Interruptions)

[Page 1547]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable Minister of Human Resources has the floor.

MR. RUSSELL: Exactly what I am saying if the honourable member would listen. Mr. Speaker, this unfortunate trend started in the mid-1990s when that crowd over there were in power and they had a continuous . . .

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

HUMAN RES. - PUB. SERV. CAREERS: YOUTH - INCENTIVES

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question, through you, is for the Premier. Creating opportunities for youth - one of the Premier's main goals - trumpets the headlines, but reality will tell you a different story. The Minister of Human Resources reports that less than 1.5, or fewer than 20 people under the age of 30 are in management positions in the Civil Service of this province. The newest ideas, the brightest lights, the innovation and the energy of young people is not finding its way into the Public Service ranks. I want to ask the Premier, what new initiatives will his government launch to encourage young people to choose the Public Service as a career?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I do thank the member opposite for that question because it is a relevant question, and it is an issue that the government has already turned its attention to. It is very difficult when government is downsizing, when government is reshaping, to address the issue that the member opposite brings to the attention of the House. On the other hand, we are gradually getting to where we have to be. The government will be the right size, it will be the right shape, and at that particular time I can reassure the member opposite that the very issue it brings forward will come forward as an initiative of government; that is to encourage young people to advance through the system to senior management positions.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Well, I think, precisely, Mr. Speaker, cuts to Civil Service ranks, instability, heavy workload, low pay, these are all some of the reasons that life as a public servant in this province is unattractive to our young people today. I want to ask the Premier, rather than having to wait until sometime into the future, what immediate steps will he do to make the role of the public servant attractive to university and community college graduates?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I remind the member opposite that during my answer to her first question I did indicate that the government has already turned its attention to the very issue that the member opposite addresses, and in the fullness of time we will be coming forward with how we will, in fact, address the problem that the question implies.

[Page 1548]

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, well in the meantime young people are leaving this province and going elsewhere, and I don't think that that is a very good situation to have. I want to ask the Premier will he commit, today, that his government will not put off addressing the virtual absence of youth in the Civil Service until the children he has written about in this article, in Grades 1, 3 and 6, are young adults, 10 or 20 years from now?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I can assure the member opposite that the issue she is addressing is being considered by government, and before long we will be coming forward with our policy that I believe will satisfy the concern of the member opposite.

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

EDUC. - HFX. REG. SCH. BD.: JANITORIAL STRIKE -

CLOSURE CONDITIONS ASSESSMENT

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education. Yesterday, 75 schools in the City of Toronto were closed to students because of unsanitary conditions caused by the strike of the janitors. That strike is certainly not as long in progression as the one here at the Halifax Regional School Board. We have had a long list of concerns and complaints from parents and students about the conditions in several schools around metro, and we have tabled and identified those for the respective ministers. My question to the minister is, will the minister tell the House how bad conditions would have to be before she would order the closure of schools in the Halifax Regional School Board?

[1:15 p.m.]

HON. JANE PURVES: The Health Department is monitoring the conditions in the schools and the Health Department will decide if and when a school has to be closed. I have already told this House that if the Health Department should recommend the closure of a particular school, the board would close it and the school would be cleaned.

MR. MACKINNON: Again, the minister is wrong. There is more than one ministry responsible for that closure of schools. So far, there has only been an inspection of 10 out of 152 schools, representing less than 7 per cent. My question to the minister is, will the minister commit here and now that she will formally ask the Minster of Environment and Labour to inspect all the schools in the Halifax Regional School Board, ensuring the safety of those students?

MISS PURVES: The Capital District Health Authority's Dr. Robert Strang is monitoring the situation, inspectors from the Department of Environment are working with him. If there is a need to close schools and clean schools or if the health and safety of the

[Page 1549]

students are at risk, that will be dealt with. At the moment, conditions in the schools do not require something as extreme as closing them.

MR. MACKINNON: The minister is misleading this House. The minister is misleading this House because she knows that unless the Minister of Environment orders all schools to be investigated we won't know for sure if those conditions are safe for the students and the teachers in those schools, and both refuse to order the inspectors to investigate. To investigate and review the JOSH Committee reports from all 152 schools would cost little or nothing for the department. My question to the minister is, will the minister clearly lay out a plan outlining when schools would be bad enough that she would close said schools?

MISS PURVES: Unlike the member opposite, I do have faith in the public health officials with the Department of Health and when they judge that a school needs to be closed or cleaned, then it will happen.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

COMMUN. SERV. - KENDRICK REPORT:

RECOMMENDATIONS - IMPLEMENTATION SCHEDULE

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, last Friday I received a copy of a letter sent to the Premier by an elderly parent of a 26 year old mentally disabled man. I will table that letter. They have managed until now to provide a home for their son, but can no longer do so. The services needed for him to live independently of them are not available. They are urging the Premier to act upon the Kendrick report. My question to the Premier is, when are you going to direct your government to act upon the recommendations of the Kendrick report?

THE PREMIER: I refer that to the Minister of Community Services.

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: To the honourable member, he is quite aware that the Kendrick report has been out, he is quite aware of all the recommendations. We had an opportunity to speak about them in estimates last week. What he is also aware of is that the Kendrick report indicates that for stabilization and for a proper flow-through of this, it is going to take about 5 or 10 years. The Premier has directed the Departments of Health and Community Services to undertake a review and get started on that immediately, and we have started.

MR. PYE: I heard that through the budget estimates, 5 to 10 years. That is too long to wait. This couple are in their 80's and in poor health; 5 to 10 years won't do that. Their son has been hospitalized for many weeks and is preparing to leave hospital and his parents have been informed that he should not live alone and that a small group home would be best to suit his needs. Community Services have told this couple that there are no group homes

[Page 1550]

available. Once again I am going to ask the Premier to explain to the families in similar situations, where are these disabled people supposed to go? That is the question; explain.

THE PREMIER: I would ask the Minister of Community Services to respond.

MR. CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable member, there is a lot of challenges for people with those handicaps and those needs. We have to look at all of those with needs. We have to do a variety of things. You will remember last week the Minister of Health and the Department of Community Services introduced the program to start with children's mental health. We will carry those on and continue to serve those people.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, this family is in their 80's. This couple is afraid that they are going to die before there is a suitable living arrangement that is going to be available to their son. They are not the only elderly couple in fear. They asked the Premier to provide their son and other disabled adults a place of dignity in this society. A place to call home. That's what I ask.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. PYE: I want to ask the Premier, can the Premier alleviate their fears and assure them and other families that their sons and daughters will have a place to call home? The Premier should be able to answer this question.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I am referring now to the letter that the member opposite has tabled. It contains a specific request, which I will read, "Please act on the recommendations of the Kendrick report as soon as possible." Now, the Minister of Community Services has indicated that he has an instruction to do that and he is proceeding with that. So I believe that the concerns that the member opposite has brought through by way of this letter are, in fact, being answered by the government.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

FIN. - INDEXATION: PREMIER - COMMIT

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. In 1986, the federal Finance Minister, Michael Wilson, partially de-indexed tax brackets and credits. Since that time, both the federal and provincial governments have collected billions of dollars in back door hidden taxes. Since the year 2000, that has been eliminated and now provinces and federal governments can do the honourable thing, and that is get away from bracket creep. My question to the Premier is, will the Premier, today, commit to full indexation to tax brackets and tax credits before the next fiscal year?

[Page 1551]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the government has been very clear as to the timetable that it will follow in addressing the very serious financial situation that it inherited from the previous government. I believe that what we have undertaken to do is a balanced approach. There will be, 12 months from now, a balanced budget; 24 months from now, there will be income tax cuts.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, this Premier doesn't catch on. All we are asking for is that the government freeze taxes at current levels. Now, this is the same Premier and the same government that has gone around and promised no new taxes to Nova Scotians and yet we have seen, two years in a row, this Premier, this Minister of Finance and his government raise taxes to Nova Scotians each and every year they have been in power.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. DOWNE: Will the Premier do the honourable thing here today and commit to freeze tax rates at the current level?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I would remind the member opposite that we are debating the Financial Measures (2001) Act. This year the only increase in taxation is the increase tax that we are introducing on tobacco products, something that we said we would do during the election.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, this Premier has no idea what is going on with regard to the fiscal issues of the Province of Nova Scotia. He did not understand the fact that they were raising the debt of the province in Nova Scotia and he has no idea about the fact that they are increasing taxes to Nova Scotians every year they have been in power. Nova Scotians . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Would the honourable member put his supplementary question, please.

MR. DOWNE: Nova Scotians won't recover what has already been lost to them by this Premier and by this government. My question to the Premier is, why won't the Premier stop the rising taxes through the back door and do the honourable thing and the right thing, what the federal government has done to the rest of Canada, here in Nova Scotia?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the government does look for advice in all sorts of places, from all sorts of directions, but the one place that we won't look for financial advice is from the former Minister of Finance, who in 1998-99 introduced a budget that resulted in the largest increase in the net direct debt in the history of this province. He is number one.

[Page 1552]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

TOURISM - FIXED ROOF ACCOMMODATIONS:

LICENCES - FEE STRUCTURE EQUITY

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Tourism and Culture. One of Nova Scotia's great attributes is our growing number of small country inns. They are a tourist attraction and they are a terrific business in our province. Every year, however, these inns need to renew their fixed roof accommodation licence. These small operators pay between $20 and $30 per room for licence renewal, while large hotels pay less than $3.00 per room. So the licence fee is scaled, the more rooms you have the less per room you pay. My question to the Minister of Tourism and Culture is, in light of the Premier's pronouncement that "Small business is the backbone of Nova Scotia.", does he believe that this scaled fee structure is fair?

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I won't pass this as a lateral, no. I would like to thank the member for the question. Certainly, the fees which are charged through the Tourist Accommodations Act are ones which we keep a very close eye on. I will certainly go back and review that for the member, and I will table that in this House. The fees reflect those in the marketplace throughout the country, and reflect what is fair for those individuals, for those inns across the province.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, well, the organization which represents these small businesses, the Nova Scotia Association of Unique Country Inns has already contacted all Nova Scotia politicians, presumably including the minister, asking that common sense prevail in this matter. They are just looking for a fair rate. I would like to know why it is that the minister's government insists on charging small inn operators more than the operators and owners of large totals for their fixed roof licences?

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I can tell you, as I said, the rates that are charged through the licence accommodations is fair. I suggested to him that I will go back and take a look, to the point he made, and I will bring it back to this House. I have no problem with that. But, indeed, if you look at what happens across other jurisdictions, such as Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and across this country, we are very much in line.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, that sounds like a fairly dubious and skeptical approach that the minister is proposing to take. These small inns just want a fair shake. They want a government that honestly cares about small business. If they had one, they would seek to reduce the burdens that these high licence fees impose. If the minister is saying that he is going to revisit it, how soon will his government revisit its policy on fixed roof accommodations to ensure that small inns are being charged a fair rate and not lumped in with the big hotels?

[Page 1553]

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, what I can tell the member is that we are reviewing the regulations, and something will be coming forward to the Treasury and Policy Board in the month of June.

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

ENVIRON. & LBR. - OH&S ACT: CHANGES - SAFETY

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Environment and Labour. Our caucus has raised grave concerns over changes the Tories have made to the Occupational Health and Safety Act in the last session of the Legislature. It is our feeling that this has compromised worker safety. Does the minister feel the changes to the OH&S Act has made for a safer workplace in Nova Scotia?

[1:30 p.m.]

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member opposite for drawing attention to the fact that, as part of our blue book commitment, we felt that there should be a process put in place of continuous improvement and scrutiny of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulations.

MR. MACKINNON: That is the saddest answer I have ever heard. Mr. Speaker, the recent incident at Amherst Fabricators has caused us to question the independence of the labour inspectors being able to do their job. In fact, today, one man is dead and two others are in hospital following three separate industrial accidents in the Halifax area this morning. One man was killed when caught in a shredding machine in Burnside Industrial Park. The second sustained leg injuries when caught in a piece of machinery at a steel company and the third lost his thumb in a hanging chain block at the shipyards. My question to the minister is, does the minister still feel this Tory Government has created a safe working environment in Nova Scotia?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to express my condolences to the family of the employee who was killed in Burnside this morning. That was a terrible tragedy. I think, with regard to occupational health and safety, we have to understand that it is a process. We tried to manage the risk, put the protections in place to prevent accidents. That requires constant scrutiny and, in fact, the bill that changed the Act last fall, in fact, does this. So I want to thank the member opposite for, again, pointing out how conscientious we are about occupational health and safety.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, this minister is an embarrassment to the safety laws of the Province of Nova Scotia. I spoke with a senior director in his office this morning and they are absolutely afraid to go out and make a decision for fear of political interference. That is what is happening in the Department of Labour. Will the minister give his commitment

[Page 1554]

that he or his deputy will not interfere with the investigation with these three job site incidents?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member opposite for this chance to assure Nova Scotians that politics is not part of occupational health and safety in this province. Our concern is paramount for the health and safety of the workers and we think that is good for all Nova Scotians. We will continue to abide by those principles.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

HEALTH - LONG-TERM CARE:

ASSETS (JOINT) - ASSESSMENT POLICY

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I am perplexed by a situation that has come to my attention concerning long-term care. I spoke with an elderly lady whose husband is suffering from Alzheimer's and has needed to be placed in long-term care. This government has assessed the couple's join assets, but when it came to the husband's substantial pension, they did not split the pension, as would seem to be the norm. They seized the entire pension amount. I want to ask the Minister of Health, is it the policy of his department to assess joint assets only when it benefits the department?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, there is a process in place for determining assets when people are classified for entry into long-term care. I do not know the specifics of the case that the honourable member is mentioning. If he would care to provide details, then I could have staff take a look at it.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I do intend to do that further, but I have another question. This woman did not have a career outside the home. Her work inside the home enabled her husband to achieve the success he did in his career, a success that resulted in a generous pension. This woman would be entitled to half of her husband's pension - should be, but instead, this government has taken that entitlement and left her with only the OAS, the GIS and a $20-a-month CPP pension. I want to ask, would the minister tell us, do you agree that this woman should be entitled to half of her husband's pension?

MR. MUIR: There is a protocol in place for determining how assets are to be divided and I am sure that protocol is followed. If the honourable member would like to present details of that case, I could have staff take a look at it.

MR. DEXTER: In fact, I do intend to provide the minister with the specifics, but there are policy questions at work here. I want to say that if this couple had been separated by divorce, this woman would have been entitled to half the entire family assets, including her husband's pension. But it was not divorce, it was illness that separated them. My question to

[Page 1555]

the minister is this, why is this woman being financially punished by this government for her commitment to her husband and her marriage?

MR. MUIR: There is a protocol in place for determining division of assets. If the honourable member would care to provide some details of that situation, I would have staff take a look at it.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes. You have about 10 seconds.

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Last week, the national safety group, Canadians Responsible for Safe Highways, CRASH . . .

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

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

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

PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 30.

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

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes. You have approximately 20 minutes and I will remind the honourable member we are speaking to the hoist amendment motion.

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Six months' hoist, Mr. Speaker, thank you for reminding me. It is a pleasure for me to arise today and continue with my debate on the amendment to Bill No. 30. After last night I felt refreshed this morning. I appreciate the fact I do have 20 minutes, although it is a short 20 minutes so I am going to refer to two issues this afternoon.

As I was closing last night, I was discussing the impact that the good Minister of Tourism is having with that bunch over there. Of course, I don't want to beat up on him, that could be easily done if I wanted to; however, I think it is important to recognize that the six months would be an excellent tool for this particular minister to go out and explain to the

[Page 1556]

residents of Cape Breton in particular, why this government is having such a negative impact on that particular community. Six months may seem like a long length of time when we are looking six months ahead, but as I indicated last night if this government was really serious about this and really wanted to educate the people of Nova Scotia, they could organize this in a rather short period of time and then the six months would enable them to educate and make sure that every Nova Scotian was aware of the impact.

Now, Mr. Speaker, they are saying this Bill No. 30 is so great. Well, that would provide the avenue where they could explain to Nova Scotians first hand, right from the government's mouth, what impact is going to result as a result of the passage of this bill in this House.

I want to come back to the Minister of Tourism. It is vital that he obtain six months because I think it is important to recognize that he is going to get beat very badly in the next election, particularly on his home turf. The minister had difficulty with the farmers, look at the mess that this government created for Sysco and the workers. There is no initiative whatsoever - there is not even a comment on how this government intends to replace the jobs that were at Sysco.

Mr. Speaker, six months is a short period of time. This government could take that period of time, go into the CBRM and explain what they are going to do for job development in that particular area. For instance, tell the steelworkers just exactly what type of opportunities are going to be available for them in the near future. The way I understand it is many of them have already exhausted their EI benefits and many more are soon to run out. So it is a vital issue in that particular area and this government has done nothing. It hasn't indicated one way or the other what they are going to do for displaced workers.

Mr. Speaker, this government has done nothing. It has not led one job creation in Cape Breton, not one. EDS employs many people but the federal government was responsible for the creation of that project in that community, and that Premier and that government knows that. Six months would provide an avenue for the Premier. He continually claims that he has many friends in Cape Breton and that he cares about the people down there and the issues are really dear to his heart. Well, then this is an opportunity for this Premier to show first hand to the people in that area that he does care about their daily life, that he cares about their education system that I see being dismantled before our very eyes.

This Premier should welcome the opportunity to go forth into the province and educate the community on the impact that this good bill is going to be having on the province. Six months is a perfect length of time, I would suggest, Mr. Speaker, and that is why our amendment indicated six months, because we felt that we wanted to give the Premier an ample length of time to be prepared and gather all his information that was necessary so he could indicate what his clear course is going to be for that area.

[Page 1557]

Mr. Speaker, economic development should be a provincial responsibility, and it is. Unfortunately, the federal government had to step in and take the role with Tesma, EDS, Marine Atlantic; any issue that comes to mind it is the federal government. Thank Heavens the community down there was fortunate enough to intelligently elect two federal MPs who are committed to that community. Without the commitment of those two MPs I don't know what the good people in Cape Breton would do, really. If the federal government decides to abandon that community, it will be a ghost town. It is as simple as that. It is obvious that this Premier and this government has done nothing to support anything pertaining to Cape Breton Island.

Even yesterday, Mr. Speaker, 53 more jobs were lost through the Department of Education; 53 teachers, our most important vital resource in that community. Young teachers, 30 of them, 30 young teachers that are hot to move out of the community, and we lose them. They are gone. They are a resource we are exporting and it seems to me that this government is getting pretty good at exporting things from Cape Breton.

Six months would give the Premier and his minister, particularly the Tourism Minister, an opportunity to go down in all areas of the community, not just in Cape Breton, but in Halifax, the South Shore, down in the New Glasgow area, Antigonish, you could have meetings set up in an organized manner and it could be done easily in six months. That would provide this government and its members, as well as the backbenchers over there who used to be my former colleagues, that I am shocked they are sitting there like little lambs now. The Premier has certainly hush-hushed them, got them quiet. I am not really sure if they are invisible, but they are definitely told to keep quiet. It is a good thing they are listening because the government, the taxpayers, would have to buy muzzles to put on them. But there is no fear of that because they seem to be a lot that fall in very well and do what they are told.

[1:45 p.m.]

Now these are the same individuals that I used to attend conventions and meetings with at the UNSM level, and these guys would be up there ranting around all these big ideas, this is the way we have to go, we have to tell this government that and we have to do this. You want to hear this crew. I admired a lot of them and respected many of them.

Mr. Speaker, since I entered this House some 20 months ago, I am shocked that they would sit there and allow that gang up front to get away with what they are getting away with. The only response so far that the good Premier has for the backbenchers was to create a make-work project for them last year, so they would go out and tell everybody that Sunday shopping was a great thing, and they were going to create another situation for the municipalities, where they could bicker, fight and argue about whether they wanted their stores to remain open or closed on Sundays.

[Page 1558]

After they spent all that money and went across the province, all the transportation costs - I can just imagine the expenses that went out on that one - and then at the end of the day the Justice Minister stands up and says, we are not going to deal with that for five years; so that whole make-work project is obviously marked failure on the report card. It is a failure that carries from one issue to the other, across the board. It doesn't matter what issue we talk about, this government is allowing Nova Scotia to decay right before our eyes.

Mr. Speaker, it is no secret that the Minister of Education had promised that hospital beds would open when they closed Sysco. Well, where are the hospital beds? They must be imaginary because there certainly isn't anybody in them; that's for sure. Now six months could provide the Minister of Education an opportunity to explain those comments and, not only that, the Minister of Health could tell Nova Scotians where these beds are. Where are they?

We learned today that the wildlife park in Mira will finally get some support. The member for Cape Breton North thinks that is a big deal; in fact he made a special trip to Cape Breton, expenses included I might add, to announce that they are giving a measly $20,000 to a wildlife park, the only wildlife park in Cape Breton. One wildlife park on that Island. That gang over there thinks that $20,000 is the greatest thing since sliced bread. The good member for Cape Breton North, expenses included, travels all the way down to the Mira to deliver this message that this great Premier over here is really being kind to Cape Breton.

Imagine, 53 teachers' jobs, take your youth, export them to the mainland to educate them, but we are going to give you $20,000 for the wildlife park, the only one you have by the way, but we are going to let you have it. We are going to let you people have it. Here we are going to give you $20,000.

Mr. Speaker, these people are just insane, and they expect the people in Cape Breton . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I know the honourable member is caught up in the moment of heated debate, but I would suggest that to say that someone is insane in this House would be unparliamentary. I would ask the honourable member to retract that, please.

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I will apologize, maybe they are not as insane as I thought.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton Lakes has the floor. You have another eight minutes.

MR. BOUDREAU: Anyway, I apologize. They are probably not like that. They are just being led by the chain, the gang, the dirty 12 over there or whatever they are, the dirty 13.

[Page 1559]

AN HON. MEMBER: The Dirty Dozen.

MR. BOUDREAU: The unemployment rate in Cape Breton is 18 per cent. Imagine, 18 per cent and it has not budged one ounce, Mr. Premier, not one bit, not a dilly. It has remained the same since these guys were sworn in. Now this is the plan that is in place to create opportunities for Nova Scotians, particularly in Cape Breton. These guys got a plan. The only thing is, it's about time they started telling people what the plan is. Not only that, I think it is vital to put this plan to action so that people don't have to beg at the doors of the welfare office.

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Economic Development has demonstrated his dislike for Cape Breton basically on a daily basis, not only the dislike for the people but for the issues pertaining to Cape Breton. He actually thinks that the unemployment situation is just as bad in other areas of the Province of Nova Scotia. As a Minister of the Crown, that individual should be aware that Cape Breton carries the highest level of unemployment in this province and second to that, and it is a close second, and on this side of the House we are concerned about the South Shore area, too, but it is second at 12 per cent and that, Mr. Premier, is also unacceptable for our people in this province.

Six months would provide this Premier and this government an opportunity to go out and explain to the people why these rights are staying the same and this great plan that the Premier has is not working. It is obviously not working, Mr. Speaker. The member for Digby, the good Economic Development Minister, he is either stupid or he is blind or he has an irrational dislike for Cape Breton. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. Again, the honourable member is using language that is unparliamentary.

AN HON. MEMBER: It's not unparliamentary, it is rude!

MR. SPEAKER: Just downright nasty. I would ask the honourable member to please retract that and to refrain from using language like that please, in the future. I would ask the honourable member to apologize and to refrain from using that language.

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, if I may, which word was it? Was it coward, blind or stupid? What is the word?

MR. SPEAKER: All of them.

MR. BOUDREAU: I apologize, Mr. Speaker. (Laughter) In any event, the last time the good minister came to Cape Breton, he took two body guards with him. Imagine, what a way to visit a community that you represent, bring body guards and RCMP officers. Not only that,

[Page 1560]

into a university at that. That is a good impression to leave on the young people in our community. Unbelievable.

Mr. Speaker, Serca, the food division in Sydport in my constituency, owned by Sobeys, I am sure the good Premier is aware of that, 30 employees laid off - not a shot fired. They even forgot about that one I didn't see the same attention as given to the good people in Pictou when 140 jobs were saved but this government does nothing for the jobs in Cape Breton. Mr. Premier, it is about time you started looking in the mirror and making yourself up here aware of the commitments and the promises you made to those people in Cape Breton.

Mr. Premier, another thing, you led the people to believe in Cape Breton North that you were going to put that honourable member in your Cabinet. Now you didn't come right out and say it, sir, but you led people to believe that and it is obvious that that Minister of Tourism needs the support in that bunch.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would ask the honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes to direct his questions and his dialogue toward the Speaker, please.

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

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I take it that it means I must point at you, correct? (Laughter)

This government has done nothing, Mr. Speaker, in Cape Breton, nothing. Will you think about Marine Atlantic jobs for a minute? Just think about them. The federal government last year announced job creation on ferries in North Sydney. Do you know what the good Premier of Newfoundland did? He went out and he put extra funding in the training programs in the Province of Newfoundland and trained Newfoundlanders and prepared them for job opportunities that were announced at Marine Atlantic. What did this government do?

Zilch, nothing and, basically, what they did was surrender those jobs to another province. That is what they did. If that is not disregard for the people that you represent, you tell me.

Mr. Speaker, six months could provide an avenue for this Premier to go down and tell the good people in that community why he is taking the position that he is on these issues. Did they forget about the sorting station in North Sydney? Well, this honourable member and this caucus does not when that government abandoned those workers at that site, approximately 27 jobs, with a $500,00 a year impact on the Town of North Sydney and that government never did diddly for them, nothing. That Premier is sending his member for Cape Breton North down there to announce a $20,000 piece of peanuts. I would suggest he should support this amendment. Six months will provide an avenue so those honourable members can go forth and tell the people in North Sydney and those employees why they abandoned them. They can tell them the truth why they did it.

[Page 1561]

Mr. Speaker, this government has done nothing for the people of Cape Breton, nothing. All they did was close down jobs, real good paying jobs at Sysco . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable members time has expired.

The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I must say that was an entertaining 15 minutes. There is a saying that says if you have no case, the best thing to do is to abuse the other side. I see that the member has taken full advantage of that. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, I hear them yelling over there. I know you are otherwise engaged. I remember there is another saying that if you throw a stone into a pack of dogs and you hear a yelp, you know you hit something.

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

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, we are speaking today on the Financial Measures (2001) Bill and, specifically, on the hoist amendment that says this should be brought back to this House in six months' time. I think that that is a fair amendment in these circumstances and it is a fair amendment because, as was pointed out by my colleague for Halifax Needham, the appropriate title for the Financial Measures (2001) Bill really ought to be the user fee and hidden tax and deception Act. That is what the Financial Measures (2001) Bill ought to be called. In fact, and I think that this is what the members opposite would gain from six months to consider this legislation, they would understand that what they are doing is putting in place a piece of legislation that, essentially, increases the taxes. It should be called the tax on everything Act.

This is a government, Mr. Speaker, that got elected by telling people that what they were going to do was decrease the amount of taxation burden on the people of this province. Yet, what they have done in every single session since the inception of this government is to raise taxes. Not only to raise taxes, and this is what I think they could gain by taking six months to consider it, is the fact that the taxes that they have been raising are taxes on the sick, taxes on the elderly, taxes on those people who are least in a position to be able to afford it. That is an unfortunate reality of this government.

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

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

[Page 1562]

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to welcome to the House today, 28 Grade 6 students for Burton Ettinger Elementary School in hard-working Halifax Fairview. They are here today with their teacher, David Conley, and student teacher, Robinah Ssebazza. I would ask them to rise and receive the welcome of the House.

[2:00 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: We certainly welcome our young guests to the gallery today. I thank the honourable member for yielding the floor.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I also extend my welcome. I believe that Mr. Conley was once a pretty decent basketball player at the University of Kings College, as I remember back when I was still attending that university.

AN HON. MEMBER: I thought you were trim and slim then.

MR. DEXTER: Yes, yes.

AN HON. MEMBER: He is not that old.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, what the students will know or will gather from this is that what we are discussing here today is the Financial Measures (2001) Bill. It is the bill that puts in place many of the financial measures that support the budget of the government, and in particular what we are discussing is an amendment that has been made to the Financial Measures (2001) Bill that is designed to put off consideration of the bill for six months, in order to give the government - well, there are many reasons why we would do it but one of them is time to consider the ramifications of the bill that it has introduced. I want to educate the members opposite with a little bit about what I think the benefits are that can be accrued to the government by putting this off for a further six months and voting with us in favour of the amendment.

One of the very first things that this bill does is it begins with a download of the cost of assessments to municipalities. That is one of the very first things that this bill does. Where is this going to show up? Well, where this is going to show up is in the property tax rates of the municipal taxpayers right across the province and because of its population base, it may well have the most dramatic effect in the Halifax Regional Municipality.

One of the things that is interesting about this is, and I understand that the regional municipality has already budgeted some $4.5 million in this year's budget to deal with the downloading of these costs onto the municipal taxpayer, but they don't know for sure that that is the amount that is going to be downloaded to them, because this government, despite the fact that it is bringing in this legislation - and I want you to remember, Mr. Speaker, that this legislation is effective April 1st, so it is effective for the part of the year that has already

[Page 1563]

gone by - to date the government hasn't told the municipality what its actual cost is going to be, it hasn't told the municipality whether it is going to be based on a straight assessment.

If you put it in this context, if you looked across the province, the total cost of that download to municipalities will be somewhere in the order of $12 million and, because the Halifax Regional Municipality has half of the assessment in the province, it will be almost $6 million to the Halifax Regional Municipality, and $1.5 million hasn't even been budgeted. The municipality doesn't know whether it is going to be on a straight assessment basis or if it is going to be on a blend of straight assessment and the number of dwellings that are actually in the municipality. We understand that they have been led to believe that only $4.5 million - I guess I shouldn't say only, that is a substantial amount of money - will be downloaded onto the backs of the municipal taxpayers of the Halifax Regional Municipality.

Now, in addition to not telling them how that assessment is going to take place, how much the costs are actually going to be, they have also not been told whether or not they are going to have any input into the assessment process. They haven't been told whether or not there is going to be a board that is going to oversee assessment and whether or not the municipality is going to have a representative on that to oversee the assessment rules. They have not been told what their input into the assessment process is going to be, yet this decision is going to be retroactive to April 1st. This is patently unfair.

One of the advantages to the government of this six months' hoist is to allow them the opportunity to work out the details of this, provide an appropriate accounting to the Halifax Regional Municipality and to the other municipalities across the province and do some consultation with those municipalities on what will be fair - not only to the individual municipalities, but to all the property taxpayers right across the province. We have to consider this measure in the context of the other announcements that the government has been making, like municipal equalization, which is another - as they know - vigorously contested matter in this province on which opinion is sharply divided.

All of the measures in the Financial Measures (2001) Bill have to be cast in the context of not just what is actually in the bill, but as my colleague, the member for Halifax Fairview pointed out last night or the night before last, was it is not just what is in the bill, it is also what is not in the bill. I know Mr. Speaker, you pointed out that if you went too far off that, you could discuss many things that aren't in the bill, but these things specifically deal with alternatives to the provisions that exist in the Financial Measures (2001) Bill.

When I went to school, oftentimes we were told to look at problems and were told to contrast and compare. That is what we do with legislation. We look at what is there, we compare it with other legislation, we contrast it with what ought to be there, or what we consider should be there. So, that is part of what the government would be able to do if they took six months to consider fully all of the ramifications of the Financial Measures (2001) Bill.

[Page 1564]

I want to give you another example. There are lots of elementary schools in my district. Many of the volunteers who work at the elementary schools go through a process under the Child Abuse Register where they have searches done and principals who are in those schools do this because they are responsible to all the parents of all the children in those schools to make to ensure that all the children are safe in every facet of their education, including when they are being overseen by volunteers in extracurricular activities.

We really know how to build good schools, we know what makes good schools. We know that professional development for teachers makes for a good school situation. We know that extracurricular activities make for good schools. That is not a secret. There has been lots of research done on it, but how are we to bring in the volunteers to provide the extracurricular activities if it starts to cost them more and more money just to attend. This is what the Financial Measures (2001) Bill does.

I don't know how you deal with them in your district, but I will give you an example of what I used to do with these because oftentimes we would get calls from people who wanted these Child Abuse Register forms signed so they could undergo the search and be able to participate, because they are participating not only with other children, but, of course, with their own children. What I would do, I would go to the local school and I would tell everybody that I was going to be there on Tuesday night and I would set up a table and all the parents who wanted to have their Child Abuse Register forms signed, would all show up at the school that night and literally, I would have a lineup and I would go through and I would sign them for all of the parent volunteers.

This was a great process, because over and above everything else, it gave me as a representative of those people an opportunity to have contact with them, to talk to them about what was on their minds and to provide a service for them. The reason why they are doing this is so that they can participate fully in the activities of their children.

It is hard to believe that the object of this government is to put in place a fee that will require these parent volunteers to pay for a Child Abuse Register search. It is just another obstacle that is being placed in the way of volunteerism and specifically with respect to those people in the community who do not have the financial means and many times not even the financial means to support their children in all the activities that they would like to have them take part in but it puts a barrier between them and their children being able to participate in their schools.

This week we have seen the volunteers honoured. We have read resolutions in this House. We have talked at length about the value of volunteerism and yet here is a government putting an obstacle before the volunteers that they say are so valued. This is a practical, and I would say, imprudent problem that exists in this legislation. If the government took the time, took the six months to hold the proper consultations, whether they just took a random sample across the province or if they went from community to

[Page 1565]

community, I am sure they would find that there would be solid advice from the volunteer community that these fees do nothing but hinder the ability of people to participate in volunteer organizations in the province.

I want to say, Mr. Speaker, it is not just the schools, the Boys and Girls Clubs also use the Child Abuse Register searches. I believe that brownies and cubs and many church-based organizations use the Child Abuse Register searches in order to do what they think is appropriate and prudent, which is to ensure that the children who are being entrusted to the care of volunteers are kept safe. So, it is hard to understand from a government that says it puts a value on volunteerism why it is that they would conduct themselves in this manner.

I noticed, Mr. Speaker, and this is another thing that perhaps if the government had six months they would be able to bring back to the forefront of their mind but in the government's Strong Leadership . . . . a clear curse (Laughter), sorry, a clear course, they said that one of the things they were going to do was to "Meet with representatives of the volunteer community to identify ways government can encourage and support volunteers throughout the province;" Well, if that is the object then perhaps the government could take the time to explain to volunteer groups across this province how charging a fee that is going to get in the way of volunteerism is supporting and encouraging volunteers across the province. I am at a loss to understand it but perhaps there is a good reason and perhaps given enough time, the government may be able to explain it. So that is one of the values that I point out with respect to having six months to make that consideration.

Mr. Speaker, I guess what is most disappointing, and I am sure it is not just disappointing to me as an Opposition member in this House but surely it is disappointing to the people right across the province, is the revelation that this budget and this Financial Measures (2001) Bill alone will bring in $115-some million in new taxes from the people of the province into government coffers. Surely, people have to be a little bit insulted by the idea that you can call them user fees and therefore somehow they are magically not new taxation measures. As has been said before, a tax is a tax is a tax.

The question I ask, Mr. Speaker, and I think a question that is asked by people right across the province is who is this a tax on? Well, this is a tax on those people who are least able to pay. As an example, just to illustrate that point. Taking away the daily food allowance at Point Pleasant Lodge. Can you imagine? These are people who come from around the province who are receiving cancer care. These are people who have had kidney transplants and who are being made to walk - even if they do get the food voucher - from Point Pleasant Lodge to the hospital cafeteria. These are people, if you can imagine this, who are attending the eating disorder clinic, who are being denied by this government, the food allowance.

[Page 1566]

[2:15 p.m.]

It is hard to understand how that could happen. Yet, when I asked the Minister of Health - and I questioned provisions like the ones in this bill and when I say to the minister - support this amendment so that you can have the time to consider the impact on the people who you are affecting; I say to him, you can't take away the daily food allowance. Do you know what his reply was, Mr. Speaker? He said to me, have they ever had in-service food service at Point Pleasant Lodge? Well, Mr. Speaker, does he not know? He took away the food allowance and he never bothered to go to Point Pleasant Lodge, never bothered to find out what kind of a facility was there and never bothered to see whether or not they had a dining room or a cafeteria. I must say, when he made that response, I was just taken aback by it. I thought perhaps they had closed the dining room.

Mr. Speaker, perhaps, in six months, the Minister of Health might have the opportunity to find the Point Pleasant Lodge dining room, maybe have a chance to speak to some of the people who are in that lodge. He might have an opportunity to consult with officials and doctors at the Eating Disorder Clinic. He might get to talk about the impact on their patient load. He might have an opportunity to talk to some of the patients who come from around the province who depend on that lodge and who depend on the food service there. Just imagine, there is an opportunity, I believe, which should not be lost on the minister. He needs to take that opportunity to do that, and I would say he should do that at the first available opportunity.

It doesn't stop there, Mr. Speaker, the ramifications of the Financial Measures (2001) Bill and the need for that six month period in order to examine it doesn't stop with the Point Pleasant Lodge. Have a look at seniors. Last year, this government increased the co-pay. This year, they are putting in place a $50 per day charge for seniors who need nursing home care but stay in the hospital because there is nowhere else to go; $50 a day. It is convenient and, yet, what is so insulting to the seniors community is, at the same time they are reaching into the pockets of the sick and the elderly to take $50 a day, they are spending $476,000 to HealthCor in order to come up with a clinical services footprint that the Minister of Health said would be done in-house. Is there any wonder that people are upset about it?

I think if they took the six months to go around the province they would find out just how enraged the seniors community is about the kind of treatment they have been getting at the hands of this government. It comes right back to something as simple as the promises that were made by this government around things like seniors fishing licences. I can remember the member for the beautiful Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley saying to the members of this House that penalizing seniors for being able to dangle a worm is wrong. Well, you know something, Mr. Speaker, it is not often I agree with the member opposite but I do agree with him on that. It was wrong then and it is wrong now.

[Page 1567]

They feel just betrayed, and appropriately betrayed, by this government. It is just not fair and that is why they need the six months to change their mind. They can pay out $180,000 to Mr. Ward as Deputy Minister. They can create all kinds of positions in the Department of Health, administrative deputy ministers and who knows what all. This was a government that was dedicated to less bureaucracy, have made a career out of building a bureaucratic empire over in the Department of Health and consolidating power on Hollis Street and taking away the ability of communities to make decisions. Mr. Speaker, wrong, wrong, wrong. This is a government that has built a Health bureaucracy out across the province, and they have done it in a way that guarantees more confusion and more cost. This is also something that can be learned by the government - by all governments - and by the backbenchers.

Mr. Speaker, I was struck by the comments of the member for Kings West earlier in this session. He seldom speaks in this House, and when I heard his voice it was a relatively new experience so I paid attention; I listened carefully. The member managed to find his feet, and when his light came on he donned his most sanctimonious robes and he wagged his finger at the members across the floor and he said that he wouldn't tell teachers to bring students here, that he was appalled by the level of debate. He accused the members opposite of fear-mongering. Well, I too am appalled from time to time in this House, and I don't think I was ever more appalled than by listening to the words of the member for Kings West. If there was anything that was appalling, it was that member's lecture.

He lectured us. This is a member of a government that has fabricated a budget that is entirely based on hyperbole and histrionics; this is a government that has developed a Financial Measures (2001) Bill that will punish the seniors of this province, that will raise practically every tax that is known to the province, and places an unfair burden on those who can least afford it.

This is a regrettable time for us, yet the member for Kings West stands there and groans hypocritically - I should say in his hypocritically pious tone of voice - that the level of debate in this House has deteriorated. Well, I ask you, Mr. Speaker, where was that member when the debate was going on? How long did he speak on the paramedics' legislation or the Health Authorities Act; how long did that member speak on practically any piece of legislation? Where was he? Where is he on this piece of legislation? Where is he in speaking on the hoist amendment? Do we hear his voice now? No. Well, perhaps if he had six months to consider the ramifications of this, he would get on his feet and join the debate.

Will he do it? I say no, of course he won't. What he does instead is put on his blinders and plows the same ground as his Leader; he stays in his traces and he plods blindly along, marching to he knows not where. That's what that member will do and that's what the other members of the backbenchers will do, because they don't have the fortitude to support the six months' hoist and to take these decisions out to the people of the province and consult with them like they promised they would do.

[Page 1568]

Mr. Speaker, will they elevate the level of debate? Will they get on their feet and speak to this legislation? Will they take it upon themselves if they think the level has deteriorated so much, to put some new spark in it? I say not. They won't do that because they know they would be stuck with the unenviable task of trying to defend the indefensible: having downloaded to seniors increasing amounts in the Pharmacare system; and having put in place user fees that will affect them should they become ill and have to go into long-term care if there is no bed for them to go to.

Mr. Speaker, I don't want to single out just the member for Kings West, because I think there are many members out there who would benefit from having six months, but I can't help but thinking, in my own mind, what would have happened if the former member for Kings West was here. I bet he would be on his feet, he would be contributing. I would bet that the former member for Kings West would be saying that it is perfectly right to support the hoist and to put the Financial Measures (2001) Bill out on the road for six months so that he could hear from his constituents instead of just accepting something that heaps misery on those who can least afford it. That is what I believe the former member for Kings West would do, much like the former member for Kings North. I can't image that member sitting idly by while this kind of legislation - I can hear him now, those rascals on the other side, he would say, those rascals on the other side, they have not considered the impact of the legislation that they proposed on the people of this province.

Can you imagine, Mr. Speaker, $12 million alone this government is going to grab out of the pockets of the people of this province from their failure to follow Ottawa's decision to increase the basic personal tax credit; $12 million on that with the stroke of a pen. That is what they are going to take out of the pockets of everyone in the province. Another $12 million on the HST windfall from high fuel prices. In case they are interested, the way that breaks down is there are $14 million in revenue minus $2 million in fuel tax rebate so they net out $12 million.

I have said this before but it bears repeating. If they go to the seniors of this province, many of them, certainly the ones who live in my district will tell you, if you care to knock on their door, that they are doing everything they can to stay in their home and they want to stay in their own homes as long as they can. They value their independence. They don't want to fall onto the government housing. They want to be independent and they want to live in their own homes and they will tell you that. Then they will ask you, Mr. Speaker, why is it, instead of having a government that is doing something for me, I have a government that is always doing something to me? Why is it every time I turn around, costs of things like home heating fuel, are increasing and the government refuses to remove the HST, refuses to regulate the industry, refuses to do anything that would assist me in staying in my home. There is a question that the government could answer if they voted in favour of the six months' hoist to allow themselves the opportunity to go throughout the province.

[Page 1569]

They talk about tax relief in I guess the fourth or fifth year of their mandate, depending on how you count it. They have been re-juggling that over the last little while, Mr. Speaker. What was their first budget year? No, the first budget actually belonged to the Liberals and not to them and they just had to bring it in because their hands were tied and they had no choice and every other excuse under the sun. So it is difficult to see which year we are actually in but at some point in time, the government opposite promises the people of this province some kind of tax relief. You know, it is going to be a pittance in comparison to what they have actually taken. The people of the province aren't going to be better off. This is the comparison that is going to have to be drawn. They are going to have to take the taxes at the beginning of the Conservative Government and take the taxes at the end and see whether or not they are any better off. The reality is, they are going to be worse off. They are going to be paying more tax because that is what this government is. It is a tax and spend government. Hard to believe, I suppose, but it is true.

The problem is that the place where they are spending it is on administration in the Department of Health. These outrageous administrative costs that they are putting in place that don't benefit the ordinary person when they go to the hospital. There aren't more doctors or more nurses or better front-line health care. Quite the opposite but they have a lot more bureaucrats, Mr. Speaker, a lot more management positions. People who are actually out on the front lines, well, they are playing hard ball with them. I think they are in conciliation with the nurses. They don't want to negotiate with the other sectors in the hospital. No, they will be threatened with all kinds of things before a wage settlement is finally reached, I am sure, because that is the focus of this government and their budget and their legislation. I say that that is regrettable.

[2:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I think it is fundamentally true that this province doesn't deserve to have a government inflicted upon it like this; a government that disregards the wishes of the people of the province. A government that disregards the very platform they got elected on. You can go through this document and what you will find is page after page after page of broken promises and, yet, the Premier has the temerity to stand in front of the news media and say, well, it is not a balanced budget but is a budget that has balance in it. If there were ever shades of Big Brother and double-speak and the old maxim that if you are going to tell a fib, tell a big one because you are more likely to get away with it than if you tell a small one.

Mr. Speaker, the reality of this government has been tax increase after tax increase after tax increase. Imagine this, if you can. The government says they can't uncouple from the HST, there is an agreement with the federal government to harmonize the sales taxes and they can't get out of it. It took them no time at all to decouple from the income tax system, no time at all. Why? Well, I will tell you, because that is going to mean an additional $5

[Page 1570]

million flowing in to the province's Treasury simply by refusing to keep up with the federal tax reductions.

Mr. Speaker, they have refused to pass on the tax saving. How they can do that and at the same time say they are going to give the people of Nova Scotia a tax break in years to come is beyond me. They have an opportunity to do it now, but they refuse. They will get an additional $30 million as a result of bracket creep. I am not going to go into a detailed examination of the whole question of bracket creep but you know what it is. As your income level moves up, you move into a different tax bracket and you pay more tax, and that means more money is going into the provincial coffers even though your actual spending power has not increased; $30 million, that is an additional tax on the people of the province.

Now, $35 million in other user fees, some of which I have already mentioned. What is so distressing about that, and as I was saying earlier, is if the government took the six months that were allowed under the hoist to be able to examine this they would find out that what the Auditor General has had to say about user fees is not just a condemnation of this government's inability to control spending, it is a condemnation of their ability to understand even the value of the services they provide and how much it costs to provide them.

Mr. Speaker, they could take this time to actually read through the Auditor General's report and go out and see whether or not there is, in fact, a firm foundation for the user fees that they are charging. Well, I believe the Auditor General said there seemed to be little or no foundation or connection between the user fee that was being charged and the service itself, and that they couldn't find any documentation to support the user fees that were being charged. That, I think, in and of itself is an indictment.

The one that they could find some rationale for was the fees that were being charged for the ground ambulance service. In fact, the Minister of Health took great pride in telling the House and pointing out during Question Period that these fees were on a firm foundation as if somehow because there was a solid rationale for charging the user fee, that made it okay. Well, the increases in charges in the ground ambulance fees disproportionately affect people in rural Nova Scotia and I don't believe that the government should take any solace in the fact that they have managed to successfully and completely shift that burden over to its citizens and not take responsibility for it. I don't think that is something they should necessarily be proud of, but apparently, they are.

The Financial Measures (2001) Bill goes through many parts of the budget, supports many parts of the budget over and above just the user fees, over and above just the downloading of assessments to the municipalities. Again, it is important to note for all Nova Scotians that the function of the Financial Measures (2001) Bill is really to implement the budget of the province and to do so in a way that supports the debate on Supply really. What we see is the estimates of the various departments and what the Financial Measures (2001)

[Page 1571]

Bill does is allows for the changes that are necessary in order to support the programming that you see listed in both the detailed estimates and the estimates on Supply.

With that, I think most of what I had wanted to cover has been covered and I am not sure at this point if the government is in a position to be able to make a decision because I think that undoubtedly what is going to have to happen is they are going to have to have these provisions explained yet further to them. For obvious reasons, whether you happen to be a senior in this province or whether you happen to be unfortunate enough to have to rely on some of the services that the government has cut, including I might add - one of the parts of this that we really haven't discussed in any kind of detail is the effect of the budget and by extension, the Financial Measures (2001) Bill on services just like the education system in this province.

I think what we are seeing in the example of the layoffs in the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board are an example of some of the ramifications of what this government is undertaking. I understand that over all there will be 53 positions eliminated - 30 of those are actual teachers that won't be able to be dealt with through attrition. This is part of the impact.

I wanted to mention just one further thing that I think if the government took the opportunity, took the six months to consider, they might consider and that is the whole question of what they have been doing with the hepatitis C compensation and funding from the federal government. I think this is a particularly regrettable episode in this government's budgetary plan and the consideration of their estimates that there is no evidence to support that this government is actually using the money that it is getting from the federal government to support new programming for those who are suffers of hepatitis C. The Atlantic Hepatitis C Coalition and HEPCAN and many other groups involved with health care in this province have said that there are specific types of treatments, specific types of tests that ought to be provided through that funding.

The genome typing and the viral load testing, these are, as I understand it, processes that many sufferers of hepatitis C do not have access to, and yet, as I understand it, the evidence is, from professionals in the field, that undertaking these tests would actually, in the long run, save the government money. Yet, what is happening is that money that is coming from the federal government is part of a program which I believe was termed something like compassion not cash or some turn of phrase like that.

What is happening with that compassion in dollar terms is that money is coming from the federal government and it is being taken by the provincial government to underwrite programs that are already being offered. The sufferers of hepatitis C in this province are going to be no better off as a result of the funding from the federal government than they were prior to that funding being forthcoming. In fact, this is in, I think, a very bizarre way

[Page 1572]

the provincial government profiting off those people who can least afford it, those people who are devastated by this illness, many of whom have little ability to speak for themselves.

Mr. Speaker, let me tell you, one thing about the Hepatitis C Coalition and HEPCAN and those, they have some very able speakers, very able individuals who speak regularly on their behalf and who defend their interests. Thank goodness, because that is the only way you can keep that issue on the front burner. When you have a government that introduces a piece of legislation, like the Financial Measures (2001) Bill, which clearly is designed just to increase the revenues to government and not to increase the service level that is being provided to people in the province.

Mr. Speaker, one of the good things about putting off the Financial Measures (2001) Bill for six months would be that by the time the bill came back for consideration by this House, one of the things that we would know for sure is the effect of the Department of Health's budget and its budget restrictions on the various district health authorities around the province. As it is now, the Minister of Health very conveniently dodges any question. He does it in two ways, first of all he says, that is the responsibility of the district health authority, which is the first dodge; and the second dodge is always, well, we haven't received a detailed plan back from the district health authority and their deadline isn't until the end of May.

Quite likely, with this government, they will want to be out of here before that time, and the ability to actually examine those plans here in a forum where the minister has to answer questions and where they can be put through a detailed examination, that opportunity will evaporate. Imagine if this was put off for six months, if the government had to come back and justify its budget in light of the known plans of the district health authorities, or the known effects on the various school boards. Can you imagine what would happen with the Financial Measures (2001) Bill?

Mr. Speaker, they have already had to amend it once. They would be amending it, I can assure you, left, right and centre by the time they got it back to the House.

[2:45 p.m.]

I suspect that the Minister of Health, probably like the member for Kings West and the member for Kings North and the other members on the backbenches, will probably not support the hoist amendment, will probably not see the wisdom of taking the opportunity to consult with Nova Scotians about the financial burden that they are going to place on them. I say, Mr. Speaker, that is a great shame. I know there is a great need over there for the members on the backbenchers to chart a course but I think they are taking the wrong approach to it, at least at this point in time. Perhaps they are going to set sail soon but I will tell you it is a voyage that is going to be an unhappy one for them, and I won't make any

[Page 1573]

references to ships of fools or anything like that because that would be unparliamentary, but surely . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: You are trying to catch up to Brian, are you?

MR. DEXTER: I think we had enough unparliamentary language here, Mr. Speaker, in the last little while.

It is just a pure and simple plea to the government to undertake an appropriate review of the financial measures that they are going to put in place that are going to have such an effect on the people of the province. They have the opportunity, they have the time and they have the resources. They had a red tape committee they sent hither and yon, they invested in it, and they brought back recommendations. Now, I don't know if any of those recommendations have been implemented, or whether they ever will be, but that is not the point. The point is that you have an opportunity to consult. That is what the hoist amendment does. It gives them an opportunity to take their financial plan, it gives them the opportunity to listen to the people of the province, to consult with them, to get the kind of input they need on the very basis of the so-called plan of action for government.

It is hard to see whether or not it really is a plan. My experience with this government, to date, has been that they are like amateur sailors on a heaving deck rolling back and forth from one side to the next and unable to steer any kind of a clear course, let alone the so-called clear course that was set out in the document that they produced. I remember it, everywhere you went you saw a billboard, John Hamm, the man with a plan. Well, we get to the government and those ads have resulted in the member for Pictou Centre becoming the Premier of the province. As a result of that, do we have a clear course? Do we have a plan for government?

AN HON. MEMBER: No. People are still out there looking for a leader . . .

MR. DEXTER: People are still looking, Mr. Speaker, and here is the opportunity if this government would take it, here is the opportunity for that government and for that caucus to take their ideas out to the people of the province and to benefit from the advice that they would get. Can you imagine - as I have said before - the advice that they would get from the seniors' community in this province? Can you imagine what they would be told about $50 a night for a people who need to be transferred into a long-term-care facility but have no place to go. Can you imagine what kind of advice that they would get about their continued persistence to charge seniors for fishing licences after they were promised that that would be alleviated? I remember the speeches made by the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley about how awful it was to charge these seniors a fee, and yet this government comes into office and they make a modification of it and they reduce a little bit, yet still it persists.

AN HON. MEMBER: Attacking seniors.

[Page 1574]

MR. DEXTER: They have consistently attacked seniors since they have come into government. They have increased, Mr. Speaker, the co-pay. They have upped the limits on the amount that you can be charged, the $50 fee is just the latest in a long string of things that have negatively affected the lifestyle of the seniors of this province.

This government just doesn't get it, but here would be an opportunity, Mr. Speaker, for this government and for the government caucus to take their plan right across the province and to get input from that community. As I mentioned earlier, and I want to mention again because it is important, they could, also, listen to all of the representatives of the various municipal units across this province and the impact that the download of the assessment costs are going to have, both in the Regional Municipality of Halifax and also to municipalities right across the province. We have yet to see the real spinoff effects of all of the user fee costs on the lives of the people of this province.

Mr. Speaker, I believe a member wants to make an introduction.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect on an introduction.

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, today, in our public gallery we have a very important Nova Scotian, although I know he would be humbled to even admit that. I would like to take this opportunity to introduce to the House one of the newest recipients of the Order of Canada that will be presented at the end of this month, a recent inductee to Nova Scotia Sports Hall of Fame for his long-standing contribution to skiing and youth in this province and, also, a recognized war hero from his native Denmark, Kell Antoft. Mr. Antoft, could you stand and be recognized by the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We welcome our visitor and congratulations.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I, too, have had the pleasure of knowing Kell Antoft for many years now. Welcome to our examination of the Financial Measures (2001) Bill and, specifically, the hoist amendment, which we are trying to convince the government of the necessity of taking six months to consider the financial measures that support their budget.

Mr. Speaker, there are only a few other things that I wanted to say about this and it has, most particularly, to do with the need for this government to show some leadership, not only in its grandiose design documents, but in its actual legislation. There is really nothing in the Financial Measures (2001) Bill that implements any kind of progressive programming for this province. What we have seen out of this government is increasing cuts to hospitals, the decisions are being off-loaded to the district health authorities, but the cuts are being made in the minister's office. That is where they originate and they are being handed, along with the blame, to the district health authorities. The nursing shortages, the doctor shortages, the waiting lists, all those occur because the minister has decided, and his Cabinet colleagues

[Page 1575]

have decided, that they are going to deliberately under-fund the health care system in this province.

I don't think it is funny when the minister stands here in Supply and says to the people of this province, well, I am considering private MRI clinics and maybe we will privatize the medical laboratory system. These are things that can be contracted out easily without actually destroying the fabric of medicare. Well, he is wrong about that and he is wrong about it for many reasons. He can't simply off-load these decision to the district health authorities and think the people of the province won't notice that that will result in one level of service for those who are wealthy and another level of service for those who are of more modest means.

He is wrong about that, Mr. Speaker, because when he privatizes the hospital services, whether it is the MRI and medical laboratory services, the result is that those organizations will be run on a for-profit basis and that the priority in those clinics will not be people but, instead, profits for their shareholders. That is a fundamental, philosophical difference between this Party and that government. That is why we insist and ask the government to consider the necessity for taking the entire six months to review this legislation.

I know I haven't used up my whole hour, Mr. Speaker, but with that I am going to take my place.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to speak on this 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."

Mr. Speaker, the choices facing our Party on this bill that supports the budget, which we have not been supportive of and which we want to have more time to evaluate and also to watch the impact on health care and education and community services and all of the other initiatives, and how that budget will impact on those services, because we don't think, particularly in health care, that they are going to work, that the budget is adequate, but also the impact of those budgets in those regional health authorities . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Just a little more quiet in the Chamber. I believe yesterday I asked that the door remain closed. Would one of the Pages please close that door and ensure that it is closed from now on? Thank you very much.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East has the floor.

[Page 1576]

DR. SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would suspect they are just gathering there to try to see how to address and make this Financial Measures (2001) Bill more palatable to Nova Scotians.

In looking at this six months' hoist, I know it is often portrayed as a delaying tactic, but it is certainly not delaying; it is not a filibuster. We are trying to consciously, as an effective Opposition, point out reasons why it is important that the amendment to this bill be supported. We had the option as a Party, Mr. Speaker, to support this bill; that would have been one of the options. We didn't support the budget, so we don't support the bill that is more or less an enabling legislation that allows parts of the budget to be recognized and legitimized in legislation. Our second alternative would be to hoist the bill, which is what this amendment, in fact, does. That would gain some hours of debate here - 20 hours of debate perhaps - in this Assembly, and it will give us the opportunity to highlight various initiatives.

We asked a lot of questions during estimates, Mr. Speaker; I know I personally did on Health, but I got very few answers. So we have been using our time and we will continue to do so, to meet with Nova Scotians, hear from community groups, bring initiatives forward from them and try to bring some reality into the whole issue of the budget. The budget that this government had the opportunity to balance, chose not to, and yet we have realized since then that with the increase of the debt - $1.3 billion that has been added this year - the $70 million in debt service costs alone, on top of about $900 million to debt service charges to that debt - so we see this going on and on and we realize now that the initiative (Interruption)

Mr. Speaker, someone has just asked me if there is a quorum present. Would you . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Shall we start the count, there has been a quorum called for. (Interruptions) There is a quorum present.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East has the floor.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I can see your concern about that door because it is like opening up a can of sardines there. (Laughter) Not like the old days when I used to hear about the bottles of rum being stored out there. That was in the old, old days. There must be something of interest there now, perhaps the Internet, I think.

[3:00 p.m.]

The other option, Mr. Speaker, would have been a reasoned amendment. This means that we would remove all words following, as follows, and substitute other words that would outline our specific objections and the principles and policies or provisions of the bill. That would not be the same, obviously, as hoisting this bill that we are debating now, where we will have more time to address and study the impact on the budget, both ways, because I feel

[Page 1577]

this will become more evident. We are just learning in the Cape Breton region, of the necessity of 53 teachers being let go due to budgetary restraints and I think that is just the start. The minister, herself, has indicated that. So I think it is very crucial that these matters, relative to financial decisions, be kept before the House where we are allowed to hold the government accountable, not only in Question Period, but in debates such as this.

The third option of reasoned amendments was not chosen by us at this juncture, Mr. Speaker, but that is an option that is before the Opposition. I think these matters that I am outlining here explain some of the strength of the British parliamentary system, what the choices are and why we do certain initiatives.

We could have, Mr. Speaker, referred the subject matter contained in Bill No. 30 to a committee. It is not too practical, given the nature of this bill. This is enabling legislation for the matters relative to the budget, but it would allow us, as the Opposition, to have referred it to a committee but we have decided - and we have gone this route on Bill No. 30 - that the best option is to have it hoisted for six months so Nova Scotians will have a chance to become aware.

The example I think of particularly is the issue of the $20 fee for the Child Abuse Register. Many of the agencies that we have spoken with have not had the opportunity to learn of this new fee, and you say, well $20 isn't much, but if you are hiring several summer workers who are going to be working with camps, especially going out into the community or having day camps, we want to know that our children are protected and parents want to know and have that right. Also, the obligation to discharge that non-profit organization that uses volunteers. I understand that volunteers will not be charged that, but the Boys and Girls Clubs will find out this summer that those summer students they are hiring, when they go to search for them, that there will be an added fee.

Mr. Speaker, some of the initiatives that we want to look at is to find out what is really going on in health care. We look at the $300 million that has gone into health care, after the government that criticized us for putting $200 million or $250 million a year in, borrow that money with a pay-back plan. This government has gone ahead and put in over $300 million recently, borrowing that money. That is adding on to the long-term debt. That is going on that service charge, that $900 million a year that is not available for Education, Community Services, Health, and Education, those types of initiatives. What this government didn't do, and is not going to be doing through this legislation either, but will have some small impact, is they did not make investments in strategic timing to help health care, and neither have they done that for education. The reality will become evident within the regional health boards.

[Page 1578]

I will speak a little bit more about why it is important that this bill be hoisted for six months, later relative to health and some other initiatives. I serve notice now that that is one area that I think the reality to realize the reality, the impact of the budgets that are within the regional health authorities, and also their budgets, the reality of their budgets, what that will have in turn on this budget, and what the actuals will actually be, and not just what is budgeted.

Mr. Speaker, certainly in my community of Dartmouth East the equalization issue has been of major importance . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would ask the honourable members to please take their private conversations outside of the Chamber. It is becoming very noisy and extremely difficult for me to even hear the speaker.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East has the floor.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, if the information they were sharing was substantive we all might learn, but I doubt if it is of any real consequence.

I know the issue of equalization was very divisive in our community. This is really a direct impact following the budget and other matters and other policies of this government that certainly would be a topic over the next six months. Certainly equalization would be a topic and it would be a topic for many different reasons. Nova Scotians want to be fair. They want to be fair with each other, but they also insist on being treated fairly. It was very interesting, the number of phone calls I received on this proposed municipal equalization issue. It came from, I would say the older residents of the area of Dartmouth East, communities that I know very well, the Woodlawn community, and you could almost go street by street, remembering those persons who lived in those homes, how they are now seniors on very limited incomes, and that is where my letters and phone calls essentially came from.

They did want to be fair, but they knew there was something wrong with the property tax issue. They caught on to that very quickly, that this was not fair. Their questions would be, well, someone who is affluent in their municipal unit of Cape Breton, that would mean that my taxes could well be going to pay for their tax relief? Often the person who called was obviously a senior, often a widow living alone, trying to maintain a home that had been paid off perhaps, but the taxes were gradually increasing each year.

They didn't mind if it was based on income, but the issue of property taxes was difficult. I am sure that if hearings were held over the next six months on any financial measures, that would be an issue with Nova Scotians. I think what this government has done is ill-advised, and I can only assume they are going to change it. I would assume that, I don't think any government would go ahead with that, but you never know. (Interruptions)

[Page 1579]

The member for Dartmouth North will have his time, if he hasn't already had it. I would prefer to say that he probably has had his time, but be that as it may. If so, we will have another amendment that he can probably speak to. We are talking about the future now, we are not looking at the past.

I think the other concern was that this particular issue unnecessarily pitted Nova Scotians against Nova Scotians. It pitted communities, and it was done through ads in the paper, on whatever side represented what, but it became very clear that this was a matter of divisiveness, this following the Sysco issue. That was not necessary, that is not needed in Nova Scotia at this time. Nova Scotia is just coming out - in my opinion - of a time of very dark ages that we have seen where Nova Scotia has worn a black eye from the type of government we had leading up to 1993. I don't want to get into that because I have already said we are not going to look at the past here, we are going to look at now and the future. We don't need that sort of divisiveness but we have seen that very much with Sysco, the issue of Sysco, some of it deliberately by politicians, but it was a lot of feeling that even Nova Scotians that did not necessarily understand the issue, they wanted it to be settled. I think that is fair to say.

Those are healing now, those have started to heal, the government has made that decision and I think - and all governments would have to deal with that issue particularly - but what has happened is that this has inflamed that divisiveness that was starting to heal so now we have pitted not only the Halifax region against Sydney and the industrial Cape Breton region, but in many ways I think this government has pitted the Cape Breton area against the mainland as well. It has pitted the metro community in the Halifax-Dartmouth area against rural Nova Scotia. So we have all of those things. It doesn't take too much sometimes to do that, but this is a significant issue, it is one of fairness and Nova Scotians at the end of the day will make their decisions and it will be based on what is right and fairness.

So, if there was an initiative in this budget and in this Financial Measures (2001) Bill that would be spelling out some help of assistance, particularly in the younger people, the young adults just getting through high school in the Cape Breton community, if there was some initiative there, but there is no plan there like there is no plan in education; there is no plan in health care and there is no plan for the Cape Breton community.

The infrastructure is being torn apart and we all know that. Let us be fair about it. You have the best gene pool probably, the people who have settled that island have come from a very rich heritage, not only from the British Isles, but from eastern Europe and Africa, directly from Africa and the Greek areas of the Aegean and it has been a terrific mix of people that has been there and a rich culture and a rich heritage. But there are times when they need help. Times have changed, probably the fact the governments were well intended to assist an area like Cape Breton and probably helped them too long in some ways that were counter-productive.

[Page 1580]

So the day has come and it was bound to come, it is just a question of which government was here at what time. I think all governments would have to deal with that. We don't see this in the budget, we don't see a plan of economic renewal for the Cape Breton community - particularly industrial Cape Breton - but the great potential for tourism in the whole Island. There is nowhere in the world that the arms of land that reach out around the only saltwater lakes of the world to that size. It is very unique. So you have a whole area that just needs some imagination and a government that can strategically invest in that community, invest in an area and invest in the people. The geography is there, the history is there, the culture is there and what we need is a plan for economic renewal and cultural development for Cape Breton Island.

AN HON. MEMBER: That is why they are going to add another Cabinet Minister from Cape Breton.

DR. SMITH: Yes, perhaps we will have another Cabinet Minister from Cape Breton. I see he was absent this morning though, that potential Cabinet minister. When this House was hot and heavy about the laying off of 53 school teachers in that community and we don't know where the voice was then.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I think the member knows full well that he is not supposed to reference anything along the nature of whether or not a member is in the House. The member for Dartmouth East has the floor.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, in all fairness I appreciate your fairness and I know we have considerable experience in your other job as caucus member of the Liberal caucus, and I don't want to question your judgment, but I didn't mention the person by name, nor did I mention the riding. I just mentioned the potential Cabinet Minister. Now, if that is so well identified, then so be it.

AN HON. MEMBER: Sensitive over there, they are sensitive.

DR. SMITH: Yes, they are kind of sensitive. Well, we might see some more signs on the highway who is going to be the next Cabinet minister, what?

[3:15 p.m.]

AN HON. MEMBER: Absolutely.

DR. SMITH: Maybe start at the causeway is what it would be. Mr. Speaker, in looking as to why we support this and brought forward this amendment to hoist for six months, I mentioned earlier the issue of the Child Abuse Register charge. We have contacted non-profit organizations that provide programming for children. They weren't aware that the government brought in legislation that when they hire employees or hire summer students

[Page 1581]

and, for that matter, that have to pay $20 each. That may not be a lot, but that could easily be $100 or $200 for some organizations, just even at the local level. This government had promised to be open and accountable. Given that the non-profit groups weren't aware, let's go out there and let them know about this and give them some time to prepare for this. It has been a long time since they have tried to establish budgets that were fair.

So the issue, also, that we look at within this legislation is the fine structure for smuggling. This, to me, was a very interesting one and one that I think needs to be heard more about, Mr. Speaker. Certainly, there are organizations across the province that are concerned about the availability of smuggling cigarettes, there is no question. Lowering the fines to us just sent the wrong message that this government doesn't care about this particular issue. I think we also should hear more about - as the attitude of the courts are being challenged. I know there has been some striking down, too - and you could argue - within the Charter of Rights and Freedom, relative to the amounts of the fines. If that is so, which I have no reason to disbelieve that it isn't, then let's make them reasonable. But to go from hundreds of thousands of dollars or tens of thousands or whatever the amounts were, and to drop down to a level of $250 for smuggling, which is really - you can think of many different crimes that would not be as potentially dangerous and health impacting and just criminal activities that would be much higher then that low level of $250.

That was quite noteworthy to us. We still can't follow the logic on that and we would like to hear more from people. Maybe there are people that came forward to this government, Mr. Speaker, that spoke on this particular issue of changing the fine structure for smuggling tobacco. We would like to hear more. We would like to hear who those groups were and give them a chance to explain publicly, over the next six months, as to what that would be. Did the government consult with the Cancer Society or the Medical Society or the Heart and Stroke Foundation on this particular matter? I think we would like to hear of those persons coming forward.

Perhaps this comprehensive strategy would alleviate some of the concerns that they would develop a strategy for this, concerns that these organizations and, perhaps, this comprehensive strategy will include initiatives that would counteract the reduction of the fine structure. So we have this comprehensive strategy for tobacco that this government still hasn't released that is now gathering dust after it was tabled here in the House by the Opposition, by our Party, but still no word from the government on that.

So, again, the lack of a comprehensive program in dealing with tobacco. By changing a bill here and half-way going to what the minister's own study has shown and from the tobacco control unit, this bill provides one-half that amount, $4.00 per carton that the bill provides for; the minister's own report says $8.00. We would like to hear about that. What does the Medical Society think about that? What does the Heart and Stroke Foundation think about that? What about the Cancer Society? Those types of initiatives.

[Page 1582]

That is why the options we had as an Opposition, we chose the initiative of bringing an amendment forward that would hoist this bill for six months, to allow these groups to come forward, and also for the government, perhaps, to let Nova Scotians know why they have adapted this attitude toward the courts. Well, the courts aren't going to do this. Well, if they won't impose a large amount, then they probably won't impose the medium amounts, so we will put the small amounts in. That whole range was very puzzling. I still haven't heard any reason why that would be.

As I said, this Bill No. 30, an Act Respecting Certain Financial Measures on certain matters certainly goes halfway. The comprehensive tobacco strategy that the minister wants to release in the fall, he has in his possession now, we know that, and that did recommend an $8.00 increase per carton. So the six months' delay will enable the government the opportunity to explain to all the partners in the comprehensive tobacco strategy why they chickened out on the increases in taxes.

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, relative to property tax. In this case, the six months' delay will enable the municipalities to be fully informed as to their costs and what type of value they will get for their dollar. These are important changes. There have been major changes in that area of information technology, the responsibility of assessments, and this relationship between this government and the municipal units seems to be a bit strained in many areas.

I spoke earlier of the equalization. We don't need that. We don't need the divisiveness that will come not only from rural Nova Scotia relative to metro, Dartmouth and Halifax, or between Halifax Regional Municipality and Cape Breton Regional Municipality, but also the divisiveness within the municipal units themselves. You have committees and they do as well as they can, and then the government steamrolls through something or other and intimidates them all.

You have groups like Halifax Regional Municipality saying, well, we don't agree with that, we are going to withdraw, we are not going to pay our monies, and we don't want to belong to the municipalities, the organization of the municipalities. That weakens that whole group. Is that a way to divide and conquer, to have less of an opposition, is that what this government wants? Would they rather have Halifax Regional Municipality not pulling together along with all the municipal units, 53 or 55, whatever we have?

Mr. Speaker, this is an area that I feel very strongly about, because I was only in Municipal Affairs and Housing for one year, perhaps, approximately one year. It was one of the most enjoyable experiences that I had. It was enjoyable because I had the opportunity to visit - there were 55 at that time - 53 of them. It was most enjoyable. I think, even years later now when I meet those people and they remember that, that I came and we had some good meetings. It was interesting to see how diversified, even though we are a small province of

[Page 1583]

less than 1 million people, we have a lot of government, there is no question about that, but it is important that that government has checks and balances on each other. These municipal units must be united and stand strong, whether they are in urban communities, small towns, large towns or very rural communities such as Port Mouton and those areas that I grew up and am familiar with, and still have great affection for.

Those are some of the initiatives. It is so important that wedges aren't driven between

Cape Breton and Halifax are the obvious areas that we speak of. But, it is very clear that it can easily be alienated between the rural communities and Halifax. You don't have to get very far away from this metropolitan area to realize that they are very sensitive of what goes on in the Halifax-Dartmouth community, so anything that seemed to be gained in those particular areas are automatically suspect to be to the detriment of the other smaller communities and often that is so. I think the strong government at the municipal level is so crucial in addressing matters of this particular bill and, also, the budget itself.

Mr. Speaker, the measures that I have mentioned, why we thought that this bill should be hoisted for a six month period, was the Child Abuse Register, when they hire employees, the fine structure that I have mentioned and also, particularly, the other one relative to municipal units that repeals the requirement of the provinces to provide a capital grant to municipalities. That, on the surface, I guess, asked the very question of the impact on that. This bill is necessary to pass in the budget, or should be, at least. We have those specific concerns on those particular issues.

On a broader base, Mr. Speaker, you would ask, who will be affected by this bill anyway, by the bill representing certain financial measures? The answer is, all Nova Scotians will be impacted and that is why it is important, even though it is enabling type legislation of an omnibus nature, it will impact on all Nova Scotians. What does it do? It provides for legislation associated with the budget and that is why we don't understand. We learn daily now of the impacts of the budget relative to teachers and schools, children and students, the health system and we haven't even heard hardly anything from the regional health authorities. That is always an ominous sign, they are either afraid that something bad is going to happen or something already bad has happened and they don't know how to deal with it. That will roll out over the next few months, all on assent by the Lieutenant Governor, and will take place, except for Clause 12, which is stipulated as April 11th.

It is important, Mr. Speaker. There are certain amendments to the legislation that are of major note. I mentioned earlier the amendment to the Assessment Act.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. If we are going to have one door of the Legislative Chamber open, we should have them all open. I don't think we should be listening to private conversations of individual members. I think it is inappropriate for all members of the House and I think it is unfair for my colleague who is

[Page 1584]

engaged in a very important debate. I would ask for a ruling by yourself. If you are going to allow one door of the Chamber to be open, we open them all, including the front door.

MR. SPEAKER: I don't find that, first of all, to be a point of order. The fact of the matter is, honourable member, my experience, at least, has been around here for the last seven, going on eight years, that, from time to time, the doors are open. The two front doors are not open during Legislative sittings, but the doors to the Clerk's office, so to speak, are open from time to time and, if it becomes a distraction, I will so judge from the Speaker's Chair. I would hope that if the honourable member does have concern with the door open and a request, we can certainly close the door, but I didn't find anything especially distracting. From time to time, there is more noise in the Chamber than there is in the office. So I will take responsibility for the door being open on that particular occasion. I see it is shut now. If it is of some concern to the honourable member, we will keep the door closed.

[3:30 p.m.]

The honourable member for Dartmouth East has the floor.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for improving conditions. Closing the door is sort of like this budget, trying to close the door after the horse has escaped; the budget has taken off, but there is a little tail behind called the financial measures. We have just been able to grab hold of that tail and attach an amendment to give us an opportunity, and Nova Scotians an opportunity - because it does impact on all Nova Scotia - to assess not only these amendments, but the impact of the budget itself.

AN HON. MEMBER: Pin the tail on the donkey.

DR. SMITH: Someone said pin the tail on the donkey - on the donkeys - but far be it from me to go there.

The amendments to the Assessment Act, I think, are important; there are a lot of concerns. I know in the Halifax area there are lots of concerns about the increase in the assessment of particular residential properties, which is where I have heard it from, and there are matters here relative to that. So there are real concerns. We know the assessments in the Halifax Regional Municipality have increased dramatically, the tax rate has gone up slightly but the big realization, of course, that people are aware of in this area, is once the assessment goes up, the tax rate goes up a little bit, but the municipal government in the HRM does realize a considerable amount of money. So people are questioning the relative value of their assessments.

[Page 1585]

I think it is important that this particular process is open, that people understand, and they can bring their concerns before some body, over the next six months, that would ensure that this is a transparent system that is open and accountable. When people have their residence increase 25 per cent or 30 per cent, they want to know that this is fair. It isn't good enough for one level of the government to say, well, it isn't our responsibility, someone else is doing that. Well, I think the cost and the accountability and the effectiveness of that assessment system, under the Act, is extremely important.

This amendment enables for regulations to provide for cost recovery of assessment services, and establishes more regulations, making powers to provide for an alternative service delivery of assessment services. Municipal units must be part of this process in terms of granting that regulatory power and the costs, as we know, Mr. Speaker, are being borne by the municipal units for this service. Will they play a role? It isn't clear whether they will play a role in these terms of cost recovery. That is what we want to hear over the next six months. After all, it is people within those municipal units who will bear the costs.

Clause 4 is the Child Abuse Register and is for employment purposes. That is very commendable; no one is arguing that issue at all. It is expected to generate $75,000 in revenue, which isn't a large amount of money, and whether that increased fee to the Boys and Girls Club or other clubs or organizations that are on very limited budgets, whether they have to bear the brunt of extra costs, particularly this time of year when one's mind turns to summer students being hired and they would be new staff coming on, so there is going to be an influx of those particular students. I know in the Dartmouth community, hopefully there will be half a dozen or so this summer coming into the camping program, and the day program.

Mr. Speaker, that $75,000 looks pretty small when we see this is the government that has really pulled $3.8 million of the casino monies for charities and says, we didn't do that, the previous government could have changed all that. Be that as it may, it is this government that did it and the people of Nova Scotia know that. Then the whole value of a $20 search, what is the cost of that search? Is that a realistic one. The Auditor General's Report refers to that, what is this based on? We know that any time the user fees shows its head it is really questionable, because I think the Auditor General's Report has clearly identified that this government does not determine their user fees based on any realistic evaluation of the costs of that service. It is fundamentally wrong, the way to proceed in that initiative, as I understand it . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: The Auditor General said the same thing.

DR. SMITH: The Auditor General has said that very thing. The majority of what they call businesses who are doing a child abuse search are non-profit organizations. I mentioned earlier what we have seen this government do to those types of, I hate to call them charities, but that is what they are commonly referred to. These people are supported a great deal by

[Page 1586]

the community, by small fundraising initiatives and, usually, certainly in the case of the Boys and Girls Clubs, a very small fee for membership. All areas of the community benefits from that type of program, but certainly some of the best work is done in areas of low socio-economic areas. Any added burden, it is like health care, if you take it out of health care or don't put it in, it is going to impact on patient care somewhere down the road.

That is why we are concerned about the administration of the minister's department; just growing and growing. Be that as it is, whether to put in a high-tech system or to improve communications, it certainly looks like it is a breaking of a promise to front-line services, for more front-line services and to cut administration, when you see the opposite going. This is an area that the more it costs the Boys and Girls Clubs, the more cost it is going to be for those children they serve. I understand completely that the fee is waived for volunteers, and that is an obvious one that we all understand.

We certainly hope it is not a signal. I guess everything is a signal and, again, it is not necessarily the dollar value but it is the signal to those organizations, okay, here is another little hit. They just don't know what is going to be around the corner and what will come. So let's hear their concerns and let's see how well they are doing in these communities. I mentioned earlier, that $3.8 million that this government, since they have been in power, has really taken and should have been earmarked for the non-profit organizations.

Clause 31 replaces Section 89 of the Revenue Act with a graduated fine structure. I have had the opportunity, and I know that repetition is not to be done and I didn't want to go back over that, but it certainly appears that the service in this clause substantially cuts the fines that are levied on tobacco vendors or tobacco wholesalers, whoever they be, for offences so that the first fine is minimal in comparison to what it is now. It is not only that it is very minimal but it has been a dramatic change. Perhaps there is a reason for that and we would like to hear that because the bill is not clear as to why that would be done. To blame the courts for this is really not acceptable. I don't hear the courts crying out for a $250 fee for smuggling cigarettes.

I didn't want to get repetitive, but it is an attitude, again, well, it is not us, it is the courts, they don't understand, they are not doing their job, or, we will have to direct them more carefully because they can't make their own decisions on these matters. I don't think that is the way to go. I don't think this was necessary. If there are people who the government has heard from and they have good reason for doing this, I think it is really important that the people of Nova Scotia understand that.

Mr. Speaker, Clause 19 repeals the Municipal Grants Act. I did refer to that briefly, but I didn't get into it at any length. It simply says, "Section 20 of Chapter 302 of the Revised Statutes, 1989, the Municipal Grants Act, is repealed." Well, that is pretty short and sweet. Part VI, Clause 19. So it does repeal the Municipal Grants Act which requires the province to pay a capital grant to a municipality, and that has been repealed, so what does that mean?

[Page 1587]

Gone. Given the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations has given an extension of 90 days for the equalization plan, when does this clause come into effect? On the passage of the bill? If so, are these costs that the province is willing to swap to ensure that municipalities are able to co-operate as usual?

Are there costs that the province is willing to swap to ensure the municipalities are able to operate as per usual? Does the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities know what they are repealing, that they are repealing this clause and if so, what is it going to take? We know that the infrastructure has some impact there and there is talk that that amount will go into the infrastructure. But that is not what I understand the previous governments have done and I think deserves more to be said and more opportunity to speak over the next six months as to what impact that has with municipal units. Again, those units, those 53 around the province, they want to be fair and if you take a tour yourself and all of us have had some contact with our municipal units, but the more that you see them, you learn that they have strengths and weaknesses. Some are going through major areas of environmental challenges, there is much clean up to be done in certain areas. There are sewage and water and all of those initiatives - those grants have come to give relief, either of a temporary nature or ones of long term that would allow to build that infrastructure.

Just to say in a couple of lines in a bill that all of a sudden this grant is gone - what does that mean? Do the municipal units understand what that means? I would say looking on the surface, lo and behold, we know that the infrastructure program has been one-third federal, one-third municipal and one-third provincial and now you are going to say we have been giving you this all along and now we are just going to take this over here and we will set it aside and that is going to be our one-third and lo and behold, that municipal grant, capital grant has disappeared. I know when we were government, that really was not the way that business was done.

The whole issue as we look along onto this whole initiative is the area that somewhere along the way, out of all of this financial measures and the budget . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Would the honourable member permit an introduction, especially from a member in his own caucus? We would like to have your approbation for an introduction.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: I thank my colleague for yielding the floor because I know he was in full flight with some rather important detail. I would like to introduce to you, to all members of the House, two individuals from the New Waterford district, Mr. Dan Hughie McLellan who is a well-known resident, prominent businessman and also a member of the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board and also Andrea Pasher from the general

[Page 1588]

community as well. I would ask if all members would be kind enough to offer the warm approbation of the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you and yes indeed, welcome to our guests in the gallery - Mr. McLellan and Ms. Pasher. I hope you enjoy your stay in the Legislature and again we go back to the honourable member for Dartmouth East.

DR. SMITH: As we address the amendment to hoist for six months to give all Nova Scotians an opportunity to address the certain Financial Measures (2001) Bill, an opportunity that impacts on the budget. This whole idea that maybe Nova Scotians can better understand what is really happening as we roll out over the next year or so, what could have been a balanced this year, which will obviously be a balanced budget next year as we get closer to elections.

All of a sudden we find out, Mr. Speaker, that, really, with that 10 per cent tax decrease, Nova Scotians are being bought with their own money again. Now that is something that those of us who have been in this House since 1984 have been very aware of. We watched the Buchanan years when people were continuously bought with their own money. That is why when you walk in as government in 1993 . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: $1.8 billion, almost.

DR. SMITH: Yes, but during that time in 1993, I think it was around . . .

[3:45 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The Speaker is having difficulty making the correlation between 1993 and this six months' hoist. Perhaps the honourable member could explain further?

DR. SMITH: Thank you for the opportunity and thanks for clarifying and focusing me on the issue because what we are talking about here is Nova Scotians being bought with their own money. We are being told, even though we just can't do it right now, the federal government is bringing in their tax increase. We are going to decouple that a little bit from that right now because now instead of increasing, as the federal government has been doing, now they are going to decrease. We are going to unhook our train. We are going to go down parallel tracks here for a little while. But later, we are going to give you a 10 per cent tax decrease. That is one of the promises.

This government is saying, bear with us. We know we haven't kept all our promises from the blue book - but there are many of them that have not been kept, that is pretty obvious - but this one we are going to keep. We are going to balance the budget. We could have done it this year, don't want to get people too excited, we will do it next year. Then

[Page 1589]

there will be a 10 per cent decrease in taxes. But what they are not telling people and what our Finance Critic has revealed to this House and to all Nova Scotians is that, yes, what is happening is that net debt, the debt of the province that has been hanging like a millstone around the neck of Nova Scotians, will not be addressed until, now we learn, the year 2007. That is unbelievable. I don't think there is hardly any Nova Scotians that understood that that was going to be so, but that is so, Mr. Speaker. That is so and that is my concern.

Even though we were criticized by both Parties here in this House, our plan was to borrow for 15 years some money to put into the Health Investment Fund to stabilize the health care and to build an infrastructure and to stabilize the continuum of care - home care, long-term care, acute care, emergency care - to build on our emergency health system. But now what we are doing, we are back to the old ways again of just tacking it on that debt. So it is capital, but I know it is the capital that will impact largely on rolling that debt out. There will not be a decrease in the net debt of this province until the year 2007. That is unbelievable and I don't think Nova Scotians understand it.

This is why we want time, Mr. Speaker. We ask you and other members to support us in this initiative. We need time. I know you can't vote today, but you could in another time, perhaps, in another life. So we think that this is a fabrication and it is a charade that is going on here with this budget and with this Financial Measures (2001) Bill. The first reason is the bracket creep, and I don't want to get into that and go back through there, but the example of the person that is making $30,000 per year in 1999, whose income remains the same, in the year 2002, will be paying higher taxes. There is no question about it. That is simple and it is straightforward. It is understood. It is not right, but it is understood. How many ways the Premier and the Finance Minister try to gloss over it, Nova Scotians will be no better off in the year 2004 than they were in 1999.

Most Nova Scotians don't understand that, Mr. Speaker; we don't understand it because are times are better in Nova Scotia now and we are told they are and the great riches in the deep Panook and all the other initiatives offshore. Yet, why do we see this? Because the government lacks a plan for finance. It lacks a plan for health care and we are lacking a plan in education. All the rest is, get people off welfare and back to work and those types of initiatives, Mr. Speaker, and then everything will be fine. Obviously that is who the government likes to point to in a punitive nature - people who are sick, and frail, seniors and people who are unable to get gainful employment on a regular basis. Those are the people whom this government blames. Well, we can't balance the budget this year because we have other things to do. They are not doing it, it is a fabrication and a charade.

Every year, prior to last year, provincial income taxes went up every time the federal government raised the taxes, and taxes went up for two decades. What happened last year, the federal government reduced taxes but there was no corresponding reduction here in Nova Scotia, for Nova Scotians.

[Page 1590]

Our government, the previous government, under very difficult times, did reduce personal Nova Scotian income tax on July 1st in previous years. So why? After paying higher taxes for over two decades, the people of Nova Scotia deserve a break, Mr. Speaker. They notice that. You think you can slide past that, this government thinks they can do that but Nova Scotians will know. This six months to have that length of time to address the issues under this amendment they will become more acquainted as they understand. They know something is not quite right; they don't understand the details yet. I don't believe some of the government members do understand those details yet.

The user fees, Mr. Speaker, although we are not addressing a lot of them here, they certainly impact on revenues and how much is projected. In the year 2000-01, $29 million from last year's budget going forward and a 20 per cent to 33 per cent increase in seniors' Pharmacare co-pay; the 911 tax, actually up to 46 cents with MTT. People are asking the question; it would be nice to hear from people as to how their information would relay as to how that increase would go to enhancements within the system, but is it really necessary on an ongoing basis. We know, and Nova Scotians know, that when that fee goes up it is very unlikely to go down, even though more will be realized going into that system than just the enhancement of the system and it will not cost that much money.

AN HON. MEMBER: Do you remember the minister who said, oh, by the way, we might put this little addition to the health bill. Do you remember that?

DR. SMITH: Yes, a little bit there. So the yearly fees that we see, Mr. Speaker, the $5 million for hospital user fees, that is for rooms, fibreglass casts and TVs and those types of things - drivers' test handbooks, prescription drugs for welfare recipients, social assistance recipients, ferry increase, even down in Little Narrows and Digby Neck. The list goes on, Mr. Speaker.

This year, $300 million, in the year 2001-02, about $3.00 from every Nova Scotian essentially. That may not sound like a lot but it adds up. So those came in less than a month after the Auditor General criticized this government for not being able to justify user fees of any kind. They still soldiered right through, no apology and no more understanding that the validity and the usefulness but, more importantly, the fairness of those particular user fees. So we saw the fine that some people are referring to, the seniors come up to you now and say the fine for being sick and frail and being in need of an acute care hospital bed and being charged $50 a day. The Registry of Deeds and those types of initiatives.

The bottom line is there is no tax relief coming, Mr. Speaker, and there is nothing in this legislation. Hopefully, over the next six months, we will hear what a plan would look like, if that 10 per cent tax cut is merely a case of giving back what was unfairly taken over the last four years by this government while in office.

[Page 1591]

Mr. Speaker, we know that the net debt went up $1.3 billion since last April. One year alone, $1.3 billion on Nova Scotians on the long-term debt.

Let's look at health spending. Government took over, they have added $300 million to the Health budget but nothing constructive to show for it.

AN HON. MEMBER: And they are still doing a terrible job . . .

DR. SMITH: And still doing a terrible job the honourable member says. But if he doesn't mind, I have enough written down myself, but any help is appreciated.

Even if the budget stays the same this year as next - and it will not - the government will still be spending $300 million more than 1999, for a total of $600 million. The $600 million, does that sound familiar to anybody? Remember the Health Investment Fund that this government voted against, that would have stabilized health care in Nova Scotia? So there we are, Mr. Speaker, it isn't borrowed, there is no plan to pay it back, it is tacked on to the net debt and we are rolling along . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member's time has now been expended.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, I rise to speak on the amendment to the Financial Measures (2001) Bill, which states, ". . . that it be read a second time this day six months hence."; that is a six months' hoist on this bill.

Mr. Speaker, I want to go back to approximately 1999 when this government first became elected. The first budget that this government introduced was, in fact, a budget that was brought forward by the previous Liberal Government; very little change was made in that particular budget, simply because it was late when government brought the House to order. However, in the year 2000, this government introduced a budget which many Nova Scotians, in fact, deplored; a budget which the Opposition actually introduced the very same motion on the Financial Measures (2000) Act and the year 2000 for the fiscal budget of the year 2000-01, this very same motion was brought forward.

At that time the government decided in its wisdom that it would not only increase taxes, but it would increase user fees and it would grab and put its hands into the pockets of every single Nova Scotian alive. That meant every man, woman and child in the Province of Nova Scotia would at least be touched by this Progressive Conservative's budget. Every single Nova Scotian was touched by this Progressive Conservative budget. There were user fees from one end of this province to the other on everything that you could possibly imagine, not one single Nova Scotian escaped.

[Page 1592]

I think the turning point of this government was, in fact, when it decided that it would attack seniors, and this government did a job on attacking seniors. Mr. Speaker, I can tell you that most recently I have been speaking with a number of seniors in Dartmouth North; I have been speaking with seniors in Dartmouth South which, in fact, has a large contingency of seniors - seniors who live in Alderney Manor, seniors who live in Nantucket, seniors who live in Edgemere, seniors who live in Eastwood - and I have also been speaking with my colleague, the member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour who, in fact, has a large seniors' residence on Circassion Drive.

Every single one of those seniors are quite concerned with the way this government has addressed those seniors' issues; there isn't one single senior who has not been touched by this government's drive to balance a budget in the year 2004, so that it can go back to Nova Scotians and tell Nova Scotians that, across the board, you get a 10 per cent cut, no matter how wealthy or how poor you may be, that is a 10 per cent cut. For the people on the higher end of the scale, it will give them a tremendous amount of dollar return; for people on the lower end of the scale, it will be insignificant. There will be no measure with respect to programs and services.

Mr. Speaker, when I come back to seniors, the honourable member for the beautiful Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, in fact, when he was standing in the Opposition, told seniors that they have lived long enough and they had contributed long enough and that they would get a free fishing licence. When that honourable member moved to the government side, the government announced that that would be a $5.00 fee. Let me tell you, that $5.00 fee is significant to a lot of seniors. That $5.00 fee can mean the difference between that senior even getting out to do any fishing, or he ended up taking transit to go to a shopping mall. That is how significant that is, and there are many seniors who would love to take the opportunity to sport fish.

[4:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I also want to talk to you about the way this government has handled seniors with respect to health care. There are many seniors, because they have become aged and because over a period of time they develop this crippling, debilitating disease called arthritis, they have requested that this government consider funding Aricept and Excelon, which are two drugs that are supposed to at least address the particular issue with respect to arthritis and Alzheimer's disease as well, another very important issue to remember. The seniors felt cheated by this government by the fact that this government decided not to put that on the formulary so individuals could be entitled to those drugs that would help them out. These are seniors, again, who expected this government to do something, but did not do anything.

[Page 1593]

Again, we had seniors who suffer from osteoporosis, a debilitating disease that happens to aged people that affects their bones. Again, the seniors had requested of this government to bring in and to add more bone densitometers to the province. As a matter of fact, this government has turned bone densitometry down as well. It has decided that it will address that in its budget, and it will have to deal with that as it goes through what is now called the Capital District Health Board and the regional health boards. It is then the responsibility of the regional health boards to address those issues.

The member for Dartmouth South can tell you about those seniors' issues. He has been at each and every one of those seniors' homes down there, the housing units, the seniors' units. Each and every one of those seniors tell that member of that government exactly how they feel about the delivery of health care to seniors and the delivery of programs to seniors.

Mr. Speaker, I don't believe that there is a day that goes by in my constituency, and I would say in many other constituencies, where seniors don't come in and ask for some sort of assistance. Now this government has decided what it will do, it will charge seniors, because there is no place else to go, $50 a day for every day they stay in the hospital. They see absolutely nothing wrong with that.

Well, Mr. Speaker, governments lived and they died based on that premise. I just want to talk to you, basically, about seniors with respect to small options homes. That is one of the good reasons why we ought to support the hoist and why we ought to look at this six months from now. I was speaking with the Minister of Health during budget estimates with respect to small options homes for seniors. We know that the Kendrick report had completed the review that included seniors because they had just been transferred to the Department of Health, something new that your government has decided to do. Your government has decided to take seniors' issues out of the Department of Community Services, put them in the Department of Health and have a single-entry for seniors and to address seniors' issues.

The minister surely must be aware of the problems we are facing in small options homes, systems for persons with mental difficulties and persons under the age of 65, and so on. Those who are under the age of 65 have benefitted from small options homes, and those recommendations were put forward. Yet, there has been, unfortunately, no decision made with respect to small options homes for seniors. Seniors will not benefit from those small options homes.

If we allow this Financial Measures (2001) Bill to come back six months from now, we will be able to know what the minister thinks about including a review for seniors' small options homes, we will know what the minister thinks about the Department of Health planning on reviewing all those small options homes and the recommendations under the Kendrick report. We will also know how his department plans to address some of the very issues facing small options homes, such as the absence of enforceable standards, the inadequate supply and the poor review, and the reviewing standards and guidelines set out

[Page 1594]

for small options homes. Mr. Speaker, those are the kind of questions that the minister will have ample opportunity to bring forward if we move this six months hence.

There was also the question with respect to committing to licensing small options homes. I know when I served on the Standing Committee on Community Services back in 1999 after first getting elected and we had this visit in Truro - as a matter of fact, Mr. Speaker, you were one of the members present, as well as the honourable member for Truro-Bible Hill who is now the Minister of Health - and they spoke about seniors with respect to seniors' housing conditions, small options homes for seniors, homes that allow seniors up to eight to 10 homes. As a matter of fact there was one resident who offered what that resident considered excellent living accommodations for seniors in that area, in fact that was the only area available for seniors to live in. She felt that by licensing small options homes that there would be some restrictions and that they may not be able to meet all of the requirements and there was a concern with respect to that issue. Mr. Speaker, you and the Minister of Health were present and there were some assurances that, in fact, there would be guidelines which these facilities could adhere to.

Absolutely no question with respect to the direction the government was going to go and the assurances that they have given seniors particularly. Then there is the mental health issue. Mr. Speaker, I brought that issue up today with the Premier and the Premier referred it again to the Minister of Community Services with respect to small options homes for persons with mental disabilities. That letter was directed to the Premier, and the reason that letter was directed to the Premier and his government is because seniors felt very comfortable with the Tory Government. They felt extremely comfortable that the Tory Government would address many of the seniors' issues and the seniors knew full well that they had an input according to the blue book.

I just want to mention what the blue book had said with respect to seniors. The blue book states - and this is the Tory blue book, Strong Leadership . . . . a clear course - and let me say what it states in the initial preamble. "Our seniors are those members of our community who have contributed to making our Nova Scotian society the wonderful place it is and who now have the right to live their remaining years in comfort, security and with the best possible health and quality of life." Well, I would say to you, Mr. Speaker, that that government has not lived up to that commitment of the blue book. Seniors are very much aware that that government has not lived up to the commitment of the blue book.

I want to backtrack to the letter today addressed to the Premier. An 86 year old man and his wife sent a letter off to the Premier, quite concerned about where their mentally disabled child will be if they happen to die. The Minister of Community Services said this is going to unfold itself in 5 to 10 years. This is what he said. I believe, that the honourable member knows full well that the Kendrick report is now being reviewed by his department and the Kendrick report needs to be assessed and it will unfold itself over a 5 to 10 year period as we become familiar with the recommendations and unfold them. I would say to

[Page 1595]

you, Mr. Speaker, if that were your grandfather or your parent who was 86 years of age and was concerned about someone in his immediate family, I am sure that you would have concern the same as this member on this side of the floor has concerns about that very issue.

Six months from now we will know what that government is going to do if, in fact, the government is prepared to endorse this amendment to the Financial Measures (2001) Bill. My guess is that this government will do exactly the same thing that it has always done. Because it has had a majority it will sit here and it will listen to the members of the Opposition make its presentation with respect to the reason why the six months' hoist ought to be, but at the end of the day every single one of them will pony up and they will put their yea in support of the Financial Measures (2001) Bill no matter what kind of an impact it might have on those Nova Scotians particularly those single and senior Nova Scotians and those Nova Scotians with disabilities.

I will anticipate, and although there is no betting in this Legislative Chamber, one could make a sure bet that in fact that is going to be the end process. I don't even know if the members on the government side have actually had any calls, but I know that that letter is one letter that has been addressed to all MLAs because that letter stated that it has been addressed to all MLAs. Members on the government side know what their Party is doing to seniors in Nova Scotia and the seniors, I can tell you, will have long memories and they will be very much aware in the next provincial election, and that is not too far off. You know we talk about timing and time goes rather fast. My hunch is that this government might try to pull a John Buchanan.

MR. SPEAKER: Order please. Is the honourable member talking about the six months' hoist or John Buchanan? (Interruptions)

MR. PYE: John Buchanan as a six months' hoist might be a deterrent that may never happen again and that is the reason why I am making that reference. (Interruptions) I am telling you, Mr. Speaker, that there is the evidence that they might try to pull this election campaign at an earlier date and Nova Scotians have already gone through that and six months from now Nova Scotians will have the better opportunity to know if they should be there or not for sure once we have an opportunity to adjust this Financial Measures (2001) Bill.

Mr. Speaker, I also wanted to say the Kendrick report is not final. I guess this is a good reason why we ought to have this six months' hoist, it is simply because there are a massive number of recommendations in the Kendrick report. The Minister of Community Services has a copy of the Kendrick report, I have a copy of the Kendrick report. I must say that I have not tabulated the number of recommendations but some of the recommendations are specific recommendations related to mental health components of community-based option systems; specific recommendations concerning interim standards; specific recommendations concerning intentional safeguards, specific recommendations concerning increased innovations in community-based systems; specific recommendations concerning

[Page 1596]

strengthening services and user fees and citizen influences; specific recommendations concerning improvements with individualized services; specific recommendations concerning modernization and political priorities.

The Minister of Community Services is very much aware of a significant number of recommendations in the Kendrick report. When the Minister of Community Services spoke about this report being a detailed report within its recommendations; it becomes a part of the budget and it becomes a part of the budget that is going to unfold over a period of 5 to 10 years. I had no idea and I don't know if any members of my caucus or many members of the Opposition had any idea that it would take approximately 5 to 10 years to unfold the recommendations in the Kendrick report. I would say that Mr. Kendrick, who is a well-respected individual, obviously didn't anticipate this to unfold over a 5 to 10 year period. It would have been my hope that the period of time would have been much shorter and, in particular, I am sure that the Minister of Community Services will note that those recommendations that do not have a price tag to them or a cost will be recommendations that his government under his direction will be able to implement rather quickly.

Mr. Speaker, another good reason why this bill ought to be hoisted for six months is because we spoke about transition homes and recovery homes. I spoke to the Minister of Health during budget estimates about the difficulty each and every year that transition homes and recovery homes find themselves in with respect to receiving funding from the minister's department. Most often what happens is the funding for the transition homes and the recovery homes comes through the Capital Health Region down through to the Nova Scotia Drug Dependency. Then it requires money from the Nova Scotia Drug Dependency budget to follow through to the transition homes and to the recovery homes.

[4:15 p.m.]

Now I will say that the honourable member for Dartmouth South, myself, and the honourable member for Dartmouth East and so on, we have worked very hard for one particular transition home for persons with addictions such as alcohol, drugs and gambling. We have worked very hard to make sure that there was budget money coming available, but this occurs on a three-month basis. Most recently, and I know the government has been aware and I know that our government on this side as a matter of fact put it through in Question Period, with respect to the recovery house in Antigonish, it is $60,000 short. It has to close its doors for three months unless this government would come up with the funding; it was going to lay off 9 of the 15 people. That recovery centre will never be able to recover or get back on its feet again if it has to close its doors for three months.

There are people in this province, whether we like it or not, because of the economic climate, certain areas have a greater potential of having become addicted through alcohol, drugs or gambling. That is a fact of life, Mr. Speaker, whether we like it or not, as a matter of fact and there is an increasing need for transition homes and recovery centres. I don't

[Page 1597]

know if, in fact, the executive director was able to extract any funding from the minister, because I haven't been in touch with the recovery house recently. But have they been able to extract any money from the minister to make sure that that recovery house doesn't close? It is a vital facility within a myriad of facilities throughout the province that does the kind of programming services cheaper than any government can possibly deliver.

That is a good reason for the hoist. Those are the kind of things you can measure; you can put them on a chart; you can bring them down; and you can measure them as to their viability, as to the bang for your buck. You can measure those kind of things. Those are the kind of things that happen with transition and recovery homes.

Mr. Speaker, I spoke to the Minister of Health with regard to the gaming foundation money. The honourable member for Cape Breton East was quite right when the honourable member spoke up and said that in fact that government actually took out of the pockets of the Cape Bretoners money that came from the Sydney Casino and actually was going to be dispensed to charities, took it out of the pockets of Cape Bretoners, shoved it into a general revenue fund and decided not to put that money back into the charitable organizations, where the money was so rightfully needed. It is actually, according to the member for Cape Breton East - and I don't question his judgment, because surely he has had the calculator out, surely he has done the tabulations based on the interest rate, and surely he has made sure that that investment was a secure investment - the investment return averaged out to be about $3.8 million; that is what he says today.

I do know that Alcohol and Gaming Authority falls under the umbrella of the Minister of Health. That Gaming Authority now is sitting on a bucket of money. I believe there is somewhere around $9 million that actually might be accumulated in that Gaming Authority money. That Gaming Authority money historically was set aside for educational programs, for intervention programs, but it was never set aside to help those individuals who were afflicted. There was no money set aside for those who were afflicted by the addiction of gambling.

The sad commentary of that is, this government which campaigned in 1998-99 on getting rid of video lottery terminals in this province, as a matter of fact, it was that government that first introduced them in the corner stores. Thanks to the Liberal Government they recognized that it was important to take them out of corner stores after our Party continuously insisted that they ought to be removed from corner stores. Now they are into drinking establishments, private drinking establishments and private clubs. The money is still rolling in. There are people who are being addicted by this gambling addiction all the time.

Six months from now, we will know where that Minister of Health is deciding to spend that money because that Minister of Health has said that there is going to be a change in how the money from the Gaming Authority is going to be spent. There has been some talk about redirecting some of that revenue back into actually helping those individuals who have

[Page 1598]

already received the addiction. We have to know six months hence just how much of that money is going to go back into those communities. We also want to know how much of that money is going to go back into charitable and non-profit organizations which the government has already taken from, as in Cape Breton.

The money is greatly needed there, there are many non-profit organizations who need those dollars to dispense those dollars into the community because the community is in need. I am saying to you, here is an opportunity as well to make sure that in fact that money is going to be spent on transition homes and recovery homes to rehabilitate individuals who have been afflicted with the gambling disease, who this government has said they will do something for. It is curable. It needs money, but it is something that is curable. Many people have overcome addictions. Many, many individuals who have been alcoholics have overcome the alcoholism, drug addicts have overcome their addiction and gambling addicts have overcome their addictions. The money is well spent, you will see the return and this government knows it will see the return. It is up to this government to cause the action that will cause someone's life tomorrow to be better than what it is today. That is what this kind of money will do.

Also, before I move off health, I want to say that this government did not increase Pharmacare this year but it wasn't because the government didn't want to do it. It was because the group of nine, who in fact advises the government, told the government to get its hands off it. It could no longer afford to sustain an increase in Pharmacare co-pay. There was no possible way that it could sustain not only an increase of Pharmacare co-pay, but also the premium rate as well. It is thanks to that group of nine individuals who influence the government on the direction it ought to go. So the government actually pulled back.

There is also the issue of tobacco and the tobacco tax. A lot of us in this Legislature are reformed smokers. Many of us have smoked at one time in our lives and we know it is not easy. We applaud the government for increasing the price of tobacco. We also know that the government is taking in approximately $20 million more, as a result of this increase in tobacco prices. We also know that the government chose to spend approximately $5 million of that $20 million on education. That is only a "maybe", Mr. Speaker, and that is a "maybe" from the honourable member for Halifax Atlantic who told me that is a "maybe" because we are not sure. Only if we hoist this Financial Measures (2001) Bill for six months, will we be sure that the government has some kind of idea what direction it is going to go.

Now the other $15 million, Mr. Speaker, is going to sit in the general revenue pot and be dispensed as the government thinks it is appropriate to spend it. What is $5 million going to do for the smokers of Nova Scotia? Why would this government not consider putting that money into greater palliative care units in hospitals, to help those people whose lives are shortened because of lung cancer, left in those hospitals, to make sure they have some comfort at least in their last days, afflicted with tobacco, instead of refusing to give them any medical help at all. After all, it was their dollars over the years that generated money into the

[Page 1599]

government's purse, never the amount that would cover the health care to address their health care issues, but nonetheless, it was money.

Here is an opportunity for the government to create a twofold platform; to devise an advertising scheme that will turn people off, particularly young people, from the use of tobacco; to provide an educational program in every single school across this province with respect to the use of tobacco and the negative aspects of smoking. The other is to create a platform whereby it will develop a policy that spends money on palliative care units throughout this province, Mr. Speaker. That is the kind of progressive movement that this $20 million can be used for.

I have the concern, as do many Nova Scotians, who will be paying this increased tax, that the government will use this as just another pocket of money, put it into their general revenue fund and then decide to spend it wherever it feels appropriate, namely into Tory ridings, maybe to enhance the opportunities for individuals to be re-elected. Who knows? That is the kind of cynicism out there - not that it is right, but that is the cynicism out there with respect to politics.

Mr. Speaker, I want to talk a bit about the reason for this six months' hoist with respect to Bill No. 62. We know that is the Employment Support and Income Assistance Act, that is the new Bill No. 62 that falls under the Department of Community Services. There are many components of that Bill No. 62 that we don't know the outcome of yet. The Minister of Community Services has said, yes, we have put in place mechanisms that will allow us to measure the outcome. We will measure people who are moving from welfare to work, are getting a quality education and they are meeting the demands in the marketplace with respect to jobs.

[4:30 p.m.]

The Minister of Community Services has said there will be a measurement of how much better off those individuals are today than they were before Bill No. 62 came into effect and the work-to-welfare transition takes place. The Minister of Community Services can give all those assurances, but allow me to tell you, Mr. Speaker, that when the Minister of Community Services says on one hand, the honourable member should be aware that we have increased the special needs fees, we have increased fees to children and we are going to take over the Pharmacare fees for those individuals for up to one year, who go back out into the workplace, what the minister didn't say is that he had decreased the shelter components, all except for those who are single individuals looking for shelter, and it went up to $235.

Six months hence we could have that Minister of Community Services walking out in this community and telling me where he can get a shelter for $235 a month. I don't care if it is a boarding room or what it is. The Minister of Community Services six months from

[Page 1600]

now will know that he has contributed to the increased number of homeless individuals and probably the increased growth in homeless shelters across this province. That's the potential of what might happen. Families that, in fact, have had decreases in their shelter components, will now have to either take out of their food allotment to offset that decrease, or apply for special needs - if they are able to get it - and shovel that money over to their special needs.

All this, Mr. Speaker, is a good reason why we ought to look at the Financial Measures (2001) Bill with the six months' hoist in place. Allow me to tell you, Mr. Speaker, many of those individuals will be finding it harder today, and after August 1st in particular when this is fully implemented; after August 1st they will know the consequences of their shelter component.

I have advised the Minister of Community Services, and the Minister of Community Services knows that particularly in the Halifax metropolitan area that, in fact, there are significant increases in rental rates; it is going up. The population is increasing in the metro area and there is a demand; the vacancy rate is somewhere around 5.9 per cent. Investment property owners are seeking the maximum return that they possibly can. They are doing renovations and repairs and fixing up their units, and some of the members of this Legislature can tell you that they have actually seen significant increases from last year. Some of them may have even moved from their present living conditions to new living conditions; they were forced out.

The same thing is going to happen, Mr. Speaker, to those individuals who, in fact, find themselves in social assistance. There will be no place for them to stay. The Minister of Community Services, in fact under whose umbrella falls the Department of Housing, he can help address this issue. He never advertises it, but there is what is called a modest housing program under his department, for people who earn $50,000 a year or less in income. The modest housing program could help a number of single mothers who are out there in the employment field, looking for an opportunity to one day have home ownership. That could come under the six months' hoist, if we look at that and look at developing a brochure in the community that, in fact, can address that very issue and bring that very issue forward.

There aren't enough non-profit and subsidized housing units in the province, particularly in the metro area - I shouldn't say in this province, because I understand in Cape Breton there might be a surplus of subsidized housing units - and that's understandable. If your population is going to migrate where the jobs are and because of the downturn in the economy in that area, then obviously you are going to get that kind of fluctuation. The surpluses in those homes can certainly help the people in that particular area; it is a matter of making sure that the renovations and repairs are done.

Let's get back to the metropolitan area. There is that very need that has to be addressed in this metro area. Costs are rising, they are escalating; individuals are finding it extremely difficult to get shelter as it is now. I get calls all the time from individuals who are looking

[Page 1601]

for a place to live. They are wondering if, even to the point where, you can actually support them getting that place, they want a reference. Sometimes that is extremely difficult. It is hard unless you know the person very well. You don't want to jeopardize that relationship that had built up in the community. It is extremely difficult for those individuals.

Mr. Speaker, another thing, six months hence, last fall there was supposed to be a review of the Residential Tenancies Act; last fall that was supposed to be reviewed. During the estimates of last year, I asked the minister if, in fact, there would be an introduction of the bill for the Residential Tenancies Act this spring, the minister said, yes, that likely there would be an introduction of the Residential Tenancies Act. It hasn't come forward. Six months hence we might have the opportunity to at least address that issue, of bringing the Residential Tenancies Act forward so that it is modernized, that it has kept pace with the times, and it is understanding the needs out there for those people who still choose to have rental incomes and want rental incomes.

Mr. Speaker, work to welfare also requires that single parents have daycare spaces. The minister and I have talked about that. We have met with individuals with respect to those people who are early childhood educators, who are involved in those education programs, who, in fact, the minister, I must say, in fairness to the Minister of Community Services on this ground, has an open-door policy, there is consultation going on, he is speaking with both the private sector daycare, and the not-for-profit daycare centres in this province, and he is trying to reach some kind of an agreement, possibly on a package that will be beneficial both to the private sector and to the not-for-profit sector. I mean a wage package and benefits to early childhood educators that can be monitored and reviewed by the minister.

The minister is doing that. He says he will also have a monitoring process in place to see how that works. I asked the minister how that transition will flow, there is not clarity yet to how that transition will flow but there is some talk and there is some movement. Six months from now the minister might meet with the Ministers of Community Services across this country and he might very well talk about a national child care program and national child care spaces. As a matter of fact, back in 1993, when the Liberals were elected to the federal Government of Canada, they were going to introduce a national daycare program. A national daycare program was going to be at the top of their agenda. It was going to be supported by each and every province across the country.

That didn't happen. The minister knows full well that if he moves 36,000 adults from the welfare rolls, 36,000 adults, they need the daycare spaces available. He also knows that there are only 2,480, well - excuse me, because the minister says there are now 2,500, and that was just six months ago - 2,500 daycare spaces available. In 1993, the need in Nova Scotia for daycare spaces was 5,000. We are now eight years into providing daycare for Nova Scotians and we are still 2,500 short. If you move people from welfare to work, you have to take that into consideration, that there is a need for child care spaces.

[Page 1602]

There also needs to be the opportunity to enhance the amount of funding that goes to those daycare spaces. After all, these daycare spaces are now portable, they are tied to the child and the daycare space now goes with the child to any licensed daycare facility. So if, in fact, it is only $400 a month as the minister has said we are moving to, and it costs $525 a month to put a person in daycare, then they are falling behind again. I would say to you, Mr. Speaker, if this government is interested in making sure that people move from welfare to work, he has to be very sensitive to those particular needs. He must be aware that there has to be a process in place that he is able to track and follow the performance of what his department is doing with respect to moving people from welfare to work. That is consistent with Bill No. 62, the Employment Support and Income Assistance Act and the regulations follow as well.

Six months from now, Mr. Speaker, we would be approximately three months into that because six months from the day the hoist was recommended by the Opposition, that was on April 23rd and November 23rd would be six months up. So we would be at least three months into the process and we would be able to evaluate some of the performances coming out of his department. There is a possibility to look at that.

Mr. Speaker, I want to speak a bit about education as well, but first of all, before I go to education, I should say that I want to step back to the Minister of Tourism and Culture and the Department of Community Services that are, hopefully, working cap in hand to provide a youth recreational program, a program for youth. We already know how many poor children there are in Nova Scotia. We know that the number of poor children in Nova Scotia represents 26 per cent of the child population. We also know that idle minds lead to destruction and that recreational programs are significant and they are very important. They are very important to drive individuals and make sure that they not only grow up with a healthy physique, but a healthy mind as well and that they are contributing to the communities. Every person who is actually actively involved in a sport is contributing to the community. In one way or another, they built up a comradeship. (Interruption) Yes, sports. It is those kinds of significant things.

We do know that many people who are on social assistance can never afford to be actively involved in any sport; when I say any sport, I mean the sport that is least likely to cost you any money, and that is soccer. Baseball is out of the realm, skating is out of the realm of people who are disadvantaged, hockey is out of the realm of people who are disadvantaged, lacrosse. There are many sports that disadvantaged children never get an opportunity to play. The point is this, hopefully the minister and his government will look at introducing a program to help those individuals, because I can tell you that the charitable and non-profit organizations are tapped to the hilt with respect to the requests in support for them.

[Page 1603]

Again, the disabled community, Mr. Speaker. Six months hence - this government gave the disabled community a $1.00 increase a month, from $714 to $715 a month; one dollar. That is the first time, I think, in about five years that they have actually had an increase and still the cost for those disabled individuals has skyrocketed and continues to grow. The disabled community has asked for programs. It has also put recommendations to this government with respect to funding wheelchairs, both the electronic wheelchairs and the hand operated wheelchairs. It has asked this government through recommendations to put those forward - six months from now we will know if the government is going to do that.

My guess is that, and I am in year three or four going on in this Legislative Assembly and both political parties have not addressed that issue of funding for disabled persons. Mobility-use of technical aids - a wheelchair is a technical aid - it causes a person to be mobile. It gives them the opportunity to move. It is much the same as a quad cane, an orthotics, a long leg brace or a prosthesis. All those kind of things are available. That is significantly important. It is important that the government does that.

[4:45 p.m.]

Now, I know my time is wrapping up and I didn't think that I would even get through 20 minutes but I know my time is coming close to 10 minutes and I know that there is approximately 10 minutes left and I want to speak about education.

The Minister of Education played a dastardly deed on the Department of Education last year by cutting its funding and then saying that it was going to contribute to the debt of those school boards and did contribute to the debts of those school boards but continued to cut the funding. This year the Minister of Education says, we put a $13 million increase in the Department of Education budget. That is totally insignificant. The Minister of Education knows full well those are insignificant dollars and that kind of money has significant impact, particularly on the Halifax Regional School Board.

The minister herself stated that the Halifax Regional School Board was the lowest funded regional school board in Nova Scotia. What she didn't tell you was it is the lowest funded school board in the entire country. It is the lowest funded school board in the entire country. As a result of that minister's decision, the community of Dartmouth North or the constituency of Dartmouth North paid a significant price because that Minister of Education has downloaded the pressure on the Halifax Regional School Board to cut its budget. So what it has done is effectively caused two school closures in Dartmouth North and the redirection of a student population to another school.

It has had a significant impact unlike any other community. Thanks to the member for Halifax Needham's resolution, I have had the opportunity to speak about the virtues of small schools, small community schools in economically poor areas where those areas need to have small schools with smaller student ratios to enable them to have the opportunity to better

[Page 1604]

their education. Significant studies right across the province, right across North America, both in Canada and the United States - unfortunately, I did not cite any studies in Canada that night, but I did cite significant studies in the United States which were backed by some very well established, reputable foundations who have extolled the virtues of small community schools.

Today there is a major disruption in that community and I hope that there is not another constituency or another community that has to go through that. I certainly hope that there isn't and I don't think that it is over. Sandra Everett who is a chairperson of the Halifax Regional School Board has to be apologetic and has to apologize on behalf of her government. She was introduced here the other night and I know that she was introduced here as a member of the executive of the Tory Party for Dartmouth North. She has to be apologetic for her government's inaction of addressing the kind of issues that should be addressed in education. I do know that my Party's critic has had the opportunity to challenge the Minister of Education on just exactly where those dollars are going through budget estimates. We have no clarity and the only way we will get clarity, Mr. Speaker, is if we hold up this Financial Measures (2001) Bill for a period of six months. Maybe on October 23rd we will have the opportunity to know exactly what kind of impact that funding will have on school boards across this province.

We already know that on Cape Breton Island there are, I think, 53 teachers who are getting the axe, they are gone. The minister says, well, now, they won't go, there are plenty of spaces available and there is ample opportunity for employment across this province. The honourable member for Richmond has asked the minister during Question Period, where? The minister has not said, but she has said there is ample opportunity.

Mr. Speaker, you simply can't run government on pure speculation. Government must have a basis, it must have a foundation, there must be some information that can be disseminated to Nova Scotians that says, yes, those spaces are available and no one will lose their job as a result of it. That has not been clear and it will not be clear.

The result of the janitor's strike, Mr. Speaker, this is the first time I have had an opportunity to speak on the janitor's strike and I am speaking on it through the hoist because it has an impact on the Education Budget. It is a result of the Education Budget that the janitor's strike is going on out there. It is because the money funded to the Halifax Regional School Board is not enough, so they expect those individuals to take the kind of cuts that government or nobody else would expect to cut, they expect them to take cuts in salary and in benefits and to turn around and be happy and go back to work.

Mr. Speaker, the cost of living has risen 2.9 per cent, recently. There have been significant increases in the cost of fuel, from which this government is raking in millions of dollars. There has been an increase in the cost of home heating fuel, as well as gasoline, I should have said. All of that is raking in millions of dollars for this government. Mr. Speaker,

[Page 1605]

those people out there on that picket line cannot afford to be there. Those costs are costs that are borne by them. Where are the Tory backbenchers? Where are the people who had the opportunity to speak for those individuals?

The Minister of Education has obviously put an effort into bringing these people to the table, bringing them back, hopefully, to settle a contract. Let's hope that is the case, Mr. Speaker. I certainly hope that is the case because I know that no matter what happens there are going to be some significant changes with respect to - if I go back to the students and school closures there are going to be some significant changes those students are going to have to adjust to as a result of the school closures in Dartmouth North. That minister and that government is responsible, and it should be known and it will be known, and every member of that community will know whose responsibility it is because of the lack of funding to the Halifax Regional School Board. I agree there also needs to be a total review with respect to how the money is being spent at the Halifax Regional School Board. Having said that, Mr. Speaker, the bottom line is that there is no money.

Mr. Speaker, I wanted to get into municipal downloading, municipal amalgamation but apparently I am not going to be able to get into that because I only have a couple of minutes left. What I do want to say is that we should never forget, nor should we allow any Nova Scotian to forget the kind of digging into their pockets that this Tory Government has done with respect to taxes and user fees, some $94 million in user fees alone. Every single Nova Scotian should be told that every single day because that impacts upon the incomes of 55 per cent of Nova Scotians who earn $20,000 a year or less. Every one of those Nova Scotians, 55 per cent of the population who earn that, are now paying those taxes in user fees; some $94 million that we are able to calculate now. We don't know the gist of those user fees and we don't know the thrust of those user fees or the impact those user fees have on every one of those families who earn less than $20,000 a year.

We don't know if this - this is all that we have been able to ferret out because, remember, in the 2000-01 budget, our Party had to ferret it out. As a matter of fact we came up with the ferret who went in and searched out all the hidden taxes that this government was bringing to Nova Scotians. We are still ferreting out the hidden taxes to Nova Scotians by this government. Every single Nova Scotian must know that this government is actually making sure that they get their 10 per cent tax cut by at least robbing their pockets today and taking the money out of their pockets today to pay for that 10 per cent tax cut in the year 2004. Mr. Speaker, that is unacceptable. Thank you.

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

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, if I may rise on a point of order before I begin.

Earlier today and yesterday, in my position as Deputy Speaker for the Liberal caucus, I sat in that Chair and specifically asked that the door on the government side of the House

[Page 1606]

be closed because of the distraction it was causing to decorum in the House. I suggest, Mr. Speaker, that in that position from that Chair, that that request has been continuously ignored by government members on that side of the House. I would ask if you would move to correct that immediately.

MR. SPEAKER: I appreciate the member for Cape Breton East and I know that as one of my fellow Deputy Speakers he has a very thorough knowledge of the rules. I want to take this under advisement. I appreciate where he is coming from and I am conscious of possible distractions and it is something that I will remain conscious of. I just need to take this under advisement. (Interruptions.)

The member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, I am not looking for other submissions with respect to this point of order. Separate point of order.

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, earlier on today I was requested by a member of the Liberal caucus to close the door and I thought I would point it out because I know you have had a very busy day. I should point it out and bring it to your attention that I suggested at that time my experience around this Legislature, going on now some eight years, has been that from time to time on both sides the doors are left open and I think it should be left to the discretion of the Speaker, whether or not he or she wants the door to remain open or closed. It shouldn't be left up to the whim of some desire of a member of caucus that is trying to play a little bit of payback.

MR. SPEAKER: Order. I said that I will take it under advisement. It was something that I was going to speak to the Speaker about before any decision is made.

I recognize the member for Cape Breton East and, recognizing that I will be watching decorum of the House as well.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, may I, on a point of privilege, because some aspersions have just been cast my way by the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley. It is not a member of the Liberal caucus trying to make a point, or gain some sort of a thing. What is happening over there is that it is the government's job to keep a quorum in this House and they are using that room as an extension of their caucus room and extension of this Chamber. That is wrong. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order. I am not going to allow this to get into a circus. So, the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, one moment. I am going to say that I appreciate the member for Cape Breton East rising on his point of personal privilege. It is not a point of personal privilege, it is a dispute between two members. I will recognize the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley on a point of order.

[Page 1607]

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, on a point of personal privilege. The honourable member for Cape Breton East spoke earlier about casting aspersions. He discerned himself for the whole House as to why he wants the door closed. He is concerned about us keeping a quorum, he is not concerned about the din in the House. I think he made that very clear.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you. The member for Cape Breton East, are you prepared to debate the hoist motion? (Interruptions.)

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, it gives me a great deal of pleasure to stand here today and talk about the amendment, the amendment to hoist the Financial Measures (2001) Bill.

Perhaps previous to dealing with this, and I know we will get into that discussion later on, I think it is a fine example of what we are trying to do here today, to hoist this amendment to reconsider the Financial Measures (2001) Bill, and perhaps a lot of other things in this House should be reconsidered as well, but that is for another day and another time.

[5:00 p.m.]

You know, the reason why the Liberal caucus has put forward an amendment to hoist this bill - and as I am sure you are aware and I am sure that some members on the opposite are aware - it is a traditional way of opposing second reading of this bill. In other words, it is a time to rethink this particular bill in the form of this amendment, but maybe it is time to rethink this whole mess, and that mess being it is time to rethink exactly what this government is attempting to do here.

Maybe it is time to actually listen to people and maybe it is time that the government realized that not everybody voted for them. Not everybody voted for them which means that people have differing opinions and maybe those differing opinions should be listened to for once. We have differing opinions as members of the Liberal caucus, as members of the Official Opposition, and I am sure that a lot of Nova Scotians out there have differing opinions too. I am sure that a lot of them would have opinions that would be different from the government concerning the Financial Measures (2001) Bill and exactly what is proposed under the Financial Measures (2001) Bill.

Mr. Speaker, you know it is not unusual to consult with people before you make decisions, before you make very important decisions that affect their lives and the lives of their children and their families. What we are proposing is for a six month period to do exactly that, to consult with people and to listen. For example it would be a great chance, a perfect chance for the - what? - 18 backbenchers on the Tory side. Are there 18 backbenchers? If I look at the seating arrangements of the members of the Legislature, I see backbenchers from Yarmouth, Shelburne, Sackville-Beaver Bank, Annapolis, Queens, Kings West, Pictou West, Preston, Cape Breton North, Chester-St. Margaret's, Colchester North,

[Page 1608]

Eastern Shore, Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, Pictou East, Dartmouth South, Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury, Halifax Bedford Basin and Kings North.

Now, I would suggest that all of those members would be considered backbenchers, so it would be a good chance for them, because they don't get a chance to say a lot in the Legislature here because basically what they are is - and I don't mean this in a derogatory way - they are nothing but a bunch of trained seals. They have to listen to exactly what the Premier and the Cabinet is telling them and they have to say exactly what they are told to say on anything that the government proposes, whether it be the Financial Measures (2001) Bill or any other bill that they introduce.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, there is a little too much noise in the Chamber and I would hope that, given the fact that the honourable member for Cape Breton East began his speech talking about decorum, members would take light of that and listen closely to his speech.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, thank you for those remarks. Perhaps the noise is coming from that cabal that always gathers around the open door over there. Perhaps we can do something about that at a future date. (Interruptions).

Mr. Speaker as I was suggesting, those 18 backbenchers whom, as someone just shouted out, the government said would be open and transparent, perhaps it would be a good time that we are proposing a six months' hoist, that all of those backbenchers could get together, I don't know, maybe in a backroom somewhere and they could talk about the kind of amendments and the things that they would like to see in this Financial Measures (2001) Bill that I know that some of them already know are not in the Financial Measures (2001) Bill. They probably have a lot of good ideas that just are not being listened to at this point.

There are so many, and I know that I have a limited amount of time and I have just started. I could probably go on for two hours if I actually listed all of the changes that should be included in the Financial Measures (2001) Bill, which is why we are proposing this hoist amendment. If I took an example of what the government proposed was going to happen since it became the government, and let me pick an example - oh, I don't know - let me pick the blue book for example, all right? If I took that blue book, then all I would see is page after page of what has turned into broken promises.

How can anyone justify that, whether they be backbenchers or front benchers or Cabinet Ministers or the Premier himself, that you took a document and you said, here we are, we are running for government and we have a blue book that is going to promise you all of these great things, and what we are going to do once we become government is we will sit in the Legislature and we will systematically break every promise that we have made to Nova Scotians. The Financial Measures (2001) Bill is a good example of that.

[Page 1609]

Mr. Speaker, let me give you an example of broken promises. For instance, we raised this the other day, and I have raised it from time to time, and that is what happened in the case of taking profits from the Sydney Casino and taking those profits that were supposed to be distributed to various non-profit organizations. Since the time that that dastardly deed was done, we were ready to go, we were ready to hand out the money, the system was in place, the ads had been in the papers, and all of the charities were ready to say, well, finally, we might get some money to help out our non-profit organizations which are helping ordinary citizens of Nova Scotia.

No, what happened to the member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury, who is now part of the cabal over there, what happened here is that the Tory Government was elected and said, you are not getting the money, we are not going to pass it out.

MS. MARY ANN MCGRATH: Mr. Speaker, on a point of personal privilege. I will give, quite frankly, a lot of latitude to anybody in this House who is speaking and who is passionate about what they say, but I don't think anybody in this House deserves to be referred to as cattle. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: I must admit I am not sure if he said cackle or cattle. Maybe the honourable member for Cape Breton East can clarify what he said.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, perhaps if the member was paying attention . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, order. You will direct your comments to the Speaker, not to the other member. Will you clarify what word was used?

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, the word was c a b a l, cabal. Okay. I think it means some sort of an unruly group that will gather around and have basically no sense to it, a silly sort of word, I think. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Given that, I don't believe the term would be considered unparliamentary. I understand the honourable member for Halifax Bedford Basin's point but it is not a point of order.

The honourable member for Cape Breton East.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, now let me get back to the topic here that I was talking about, the Sydney Casino. Indeed the profits were earmarked for non-profit organizations. What happened, before we stopped having this conversation, we were talking about the money and it was approximately $1.3 million or $1.6 million that would have been distributed to non-profit organizations. As I was saying, they were ready to go, they were ready to get that money from the government. Lo and behold, this new government that came into power took that.

[Page 1610]

Since that has happened, since that has occurred, the total has gone up to approximately $3.8 million that possibly would have been given to charitable organizations in the Province of Nova Scotia, but it is $3.8 million that has now gone into general revenue. Into general revenue which means that that government can use it for whatever purpose they want to use it.

Mr. Speaker, let me tell you, one of the purposes they are not using it for is to help non-profit and charitable organizations in this province that help, every day, average Nova Scotians. That is what the money is not being used for now. That total will continue to build over the years, year after year that goes by that this government is in power, the profits that were supposed to be going to those organizations will build up and this government will get more money from it.

Mr. Speaker, I would suggest to you that that is not right, that is not what Nova Scotians wanted and, most of all, that is not fair to the non-profit organizations who were waiting for that money. It wasn't much. In some instances, it may have only been $2,000 or $3,000 per organization. But to a small, non-profit organization in this province, $2,000, $3,000 or $4,000 to go towards their cause makes the difference between whether or not those small charities actually exist, because they certainly aren't getting help in any other form from this government.

Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned, we stood by and we watched and we have listened. We have seen broken promise after broken promise. We have seen the Financial Measures (2001) Bill introduced. We had no other choice but to introduce an amendment to hoist that Financial Measures (2001) Bill because we think, for the next six months, that requires a second look. As a matter of fact, the second speaker on that was, I think, the member for Halifax Chebucto, who said, I think he said, anyway, that perhaps on October 23rd would be six months from now. He had checked his calendar. He had nothing on it and he would be free to debate it at that time, on October 23rd. I don't know. Perhaps the member for Halifax Chebucto doesn't have a very busy booking in advance, but members of the Legislative Assembly from Cape Breton, we are so busy that we are so booked in advance, we would probably have something on on that date. But I would suggest, after today, he may very well be busy. He may be Leader.

You don't know what is going to take place in the next six months. (Interruption) I was talking about the hoist because that was the six month date which the member was referring to and I am talking about I will be doing in six months and my calendar is full. But, Mr. Speaker, I would cancel anything on my agenda, indeed, to join the member for Halifax Chebucto in a debate with the rest of the crew here, anytime.

Mr. Speaker, we have seen some horrendous examples of what is going to happen if, indeed, the Financial Measures (2001) Bill goes through. We have heard the horror stories. We have heard them from social assistance recipients. We have heard them from people who

[Page 1611]

would get in a car accident, and I have had this happen in my constituency, can you believe it? In the year 2001, in Nova Scotia, that you would get in a car accident, that an ambulance would be dispatched to probably save your life and take you to a hospital and do you believe that, for doing that, you would be sent a bill for $500, $500 you would be charged to save your life and the Minister of Health says everything is fine.

Mr. Speaker, we have seen another example today of what is going on in this province. We have seen 53 teachers who are facing layoffs in the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board.

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

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I would like to introduce to you and through you, 13 representatives from the students that attended the Summit of the Americas in Quebec City. They are here voicing their concerns on an issue that they feel is important to themselves. I know all members of the Legislature may or may not agree with the respective positions, but I believe it is the custom and the tradition that we afford all our guests here equal representation and respect. I would ask that all members of the Legislature afford a warm welcome to our guests here in the gallery today, all who are residents of the capital City of Halifax.(Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Welcome to our guests.

The honourable member for Cape Breton East.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, I welcome our guests, as well. Welcome to the home of democracy where we can do wonderful things here like oppose a government as Opposition because we introduced a motion that would delay a bill for six months because we don't think the bill is the right thing. We don't think it is the right thing, you won't tell us how much it is going to cost for the Financial Measures (2001) Bill. We want to know some answers and because of that, we as Opposition members will stand on our feet sometimes for upwards of an hour each just so that we can try and drive home the point that you are not telling us what we want. You are not giving us the details and that has happened time after time in this Legislature since that government came to power. We have had no details of anything.

[5:15 p.m.]

We have been told, here is your bill, we are pushing it through, if you don't like it, too bad. That is the message that Nova Scotians are getting too. As I said earlier, not everybody voted for that government. They may be acting as though everybody voted for them, they may think that they run a dictatorship in this province, but they don't. Sometime you have to

[Page 1612]

listen to reason. That is what we are calling on you to do in this instance, to listen to reason and to listen to those differing opinions.

I mentioned that those 18 backbenchers that are over there that never stand on their feet and talk about anything worthwhile or as I refer to them as the silence of the Hamms and I am sure we will hear more silence from the Hamms in the days to come. I was talking before the introduction regarding the education cuts that have taken place in the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board. There are 53 teachers who are going to be without jobs. They are going to be without jobs because this province, this government, is not providing them the funding that is necessary to keep those jobs. They are talking about cutting programs, although again, we have not been able to get the details of what programs they are cutting, but we know that it is going to be things like music, French education and phys ed that are going to be cut. The Minister of Education won't say that, but we know that. We know that.

Let me give you an example and let me tell the Minister of Education and the Premier, you touch that music program in Glace Bay and you will kill the Glace Bay school band which is one of the most recognized bands in this country. That band has played in Ottawa, before Governors General, in New York and the accomplishments of those students is second to none. But if you take a program like a music program at an elementary school level and you cut it, you no longer have a band program in Glace Bay in the future. You won't have one.

I would suggest to anybody over there who would think it is easy and I am sure the members on the other side - I know they have families and they have children, they go to schools, they participate in programs such as a band program. Have you ever seen the look on an 8 year old when they walk home with their brand new instrument that they are learning to play, that they are so proud of? Mommy and Daddy, I am going to be part of the band. Would you rather hear them say, Mommy and Daddy the Minister of Education took my instrument away from me because the band program isn't funded any more? Does that make the backbenchers over there on the other side - all 18 of them - proud of the Financial Measures (2001) Bill; proud of their Minister of Education, proud of their Premier in this province? I certainly hope not.

In my responsibilities on this side of the House, one of them being that I am the Critic for Community Services and we have gone through exhaustive estimates in this House, one of them including the estimates on Community Services with the Minister of Community Services. We have told the Minister of Community Services that what is proposed, the regulations that are coming into effect August 1st, are not going to benefit people on social assistance in this province one iota. The bottom line to changes in social assistance in this province is going to mean that anybody on social assistance is going to get less money per month. That is the bottom line.

[Page 1613]

I have asked the Minister of Community Services and I have asked the members who were here when I was in estimates asking those questions, can you live on less than $800 a month in this day and age, because that is what we are saying to the recipients of social assistance. Sure you can. No, now we are saying you can live on less, never mind what you were getting, you are going to live on less.

I have had instances in the last few days of drugs no longer being offered to recipients of social assistance because they have been taken off what we call the provincial formulary, they are no longer offered. We also have a housing problem. The Financial Measures (2001) Bill does nothing to address the housing problem that we have in this province, and it is a severe housing problem. We are lucky so far, although I come from a region where I consider myself to be lucky that we don't have large numbers of people who are actually living on the streets. It does happen, it happens in certain instances.

I would suggest here in a larger area, such as the metro Halifax area, that it happens to a greater extent, that there are more people who are actually homeless, who are street people, who are out there just trying to live. I am sure that the members from the metro area, such as the member for Dartmouth North, could certainly give you case after case of that happening in this area.

The housing crisis that we are facing in Cape Breton and area is a little different, but it is still a crisis, it still needs help. What we are facing there is that people need affordable housing. What we have run into is that, again, because of this government, we have, for instance, and I am only talking about the area of Glace Bay and Cape Breton East at this current moment, some 29 single family units that are not occupied, some 20 units for senior citizens that are not occupied. They are not occupied because they need to be refurbished, which is a standard practice once they are vacated. They can't be refurbished or painted because this government has done nothing for the funding or the staffing of housing services, absolutely nothing.

What they did do is last year they cancelled the Winter Works Program. One of the major things that was used to do the refurbishing of those units was the Winter Works Program. Again, we get down to what can only be described as the downright nastiness of this government. It takes things like simple, basic food and shelter, the food they are taking from the mouths of social assistance recipients, because when they cut their cheque $50, $75 a month, it doesn't sound like a lot of money to us; $50 doesn't sound like a lot of money. But I can tell you, $50 to somebody on social assistance means the difference between whether or not they eat that month. That is the difference it makes, whether or not their child might get some extra supplies for school; whether or not their child would have a lunch to take to school; (Interruption) and whether or not they can co-pay on a drug. Exactly. There are a lot of instances I can use to show you exactly what that small amount of money would mean to a family who is on social assistance, Mr. Speaker.

[Page 1614]

That is the reason why we need to delay the Financial Measures (2001) Bill for six months, so that we can get the message across to this government that what they are doing is wrong and it has to be changed.

Mr. Speaker, there are a lot of other examples that I can give you. One is that, again, I was talking about the 53 teachers, and that worries me to no end. I know there are declining enrolments in the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board, I know that. I would suggest even that those declining enrolments may be because that government doesn't care about Cape Breton, that government doesn't care that there is no more economic activity, no more economic development in Cape Breton, that nothing is being done to employ people there. Because of that, Mr. Speaker, people are leaving the island. I know that, many other members in this House know that people are leaving the island and that numbers are going down. As representatives from Cape Breton, we are hoping that the situation will change.

But, Mr. Speaker, let me tell you, it will not change because of anything that government is doing. It has done absolutely nothing. The minister for economic non-development, as I call him, has done nothing - well, he did, I am sorry - he closed the steel plant. That was his greatest achievement since he got here, that he closed the steel plant.

Do you remember that nasty little election campaign that was run here in Halifax in 1999? Do you recall that? Do you remember that nasty little person who was running in the Halifax area who put out that nasty little campaign brochure - Halifax Citadel - do you remember that? That nasty little brochure had a picture on it with a big X through it that said, close the steel plant and keep more hospital beds open; close Sysco, open hospital beds. Well, they got one out of two right. They closed Sysco but they haven't opened any hospital beds, not in my area. I am sure there are none open in the area of Cape Breton The Lakes; I am sure there are none in Timberlea-Prospect or Dartmouth North, not that I know of anyway, none.

Well, I don't know if that was a broken promise or not because that was an ad campaign that was pulled pretty quickly. It was yanked, Mr. Speaker, because somebody said, oh, that might be a little too nasty even for Tories. So it was gone but the message was there. The message was to pit one area of this province against another. That is what they do; that is what they are great for. There is not a Tory over there right now who would stand up, doesn't have the guts to say it in here, Mr. Speaker, (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, order. The honourable member for Cape Breton East knows that the Speaker has ruled that in this House, "not having the guts", is unparliamentary and he is asked to retract that.

MR. WILSON: I retract that comment, Mr. Speaker. I apologize for that, but again, there is not a member over there who has the intestinal fortitude to stand up in this House and say that they didn't want Sysco closed. They will say it in the back rooms and they will say

[Page 1615]

it to their buddies, they will say it to all the old Tories who said, we have to get rid of Sysco, we have to do that. We have no other choice but to pit Cape Breton against the rest of Nova Scotia and close Sysco. All those members over there are nodding their heads, saying, you are right, that is exactly what we do; we don't do it in here but we do it in private, which is where all the plans are made anyway.

I talked about the backbenchers over there but it is the frontbenchers here who think they actually come up with such things as the Financial Measures (2001) Bill and all that and strategy for the government. But on the Liberal side of the House we know the difference. We know there are certain key people who are not in government, who are calling the shots for the Progressive Conservative Government of Nova Scotia. We know who they are and we know the big corporations who they take their marching orders from; we know that they are good friends with Sobeys and so on and we know that that is who they listen to.

I raised it one other day, two of the key lobbyists, the two Georges who are always lobbying on behalf of the provincial government. They are the ones who call the shots. These are just the guys who supposedly take credit, although there is no credit to be taken because there is nothing being done. Mr. Speaker, we have to move to amend this bill because there are certain things associated with it that just are not right. I have mentioned some of them, like ambulance fees and social services rates that are going to fall, profits that have been taken from the Sydney Casino and so on and so forth, the lack of economic development and Sysco and what happened there.

[5:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, you could say that this province actually is in a crisis because there is nothing being done, not a thing. There is no plan and that is the whole problem. (Interruptions) If you take a look at such things as Marine Atlantic, which is in the riding of the newly elected member for Cape Breton North, if you take a situation such as Marine Atlantic, what you will see there is that this government is doing absolutely nothing for Marine Atlantic workers.

AN HON. MEMBER: So where are the jobs, in Newfoundland?

MR. WILSON: They don't care.

AN HON. MEMBER: They don't have a clue.

MR. WILSON: They really don't care. Again, they are pitting one area of the province against another. We saw, just for a minute, if I may digress to get back to the social services issue, they pitted the working poor in this province against the poor. That is what they did. It is divide and conquer, which leads me to believe that, maybe, somewhere over there, there is actually one person who had a plan and that plan was to divide and conquer the various

[Page 1616]

groups in this province. I hope that, for the most part, it is not working. We see through it. We are not falling for it, it any way, shape or form. That is why we are here at this hour of this night and we will speak for as long as is necessary to try to get it across to this government that you are not doing the right thing in this particular case. As a matter of fact, you haven't done the right thing yet. But, in this particular case, we will keep hammering away at that.

Mr. Speaker, at one time, I think, to give you an example of what should be done during a six month delay, this government came up with this great thing called the red tape task force, which was, perhaps, one of the silliest things that has happened so far in this session, the red tape task force, or the boys of summer, as they were affectionately called, went across the province and visited a lot of areas and came back with all sorts of recommendations. It was a make-work project for backbench MLAs who had nothing better to do during the summer.

AN HON. MEMBER: They travelled about on the taxpayers' money.

MR. WILSON: That is right. My colleague is correct. They travelled about on the taxpayers' money. What they got out of it is they came up with these great ideas such as the Sunday shopping thing and all that and recommended to the government that they follow the direction that they gave. The government ignored it and didn't follow it and I dare say none of the other recommendations from the red tape task force will ever be listened to either. (Interruption)

That is the point I am trying to get across - and the member brings up an excellent point - if you took those recommendations, over the next six months during our delay in this bill, you might be able to find one anyway that you might be able to use. Again, if you take those six months to take a look at the Financial Measures (2001) Bill, then you may be able to rethink some of the mistakes you are about to make. That is the whole purpose and even to correct the mistake you have already made. There is absolutely nothing wrong with once you have made a mistake to say, I made a mistake, I am sorry, I am going to correct it. As a matter of fact, if the government did that in more instances, then I think Nova Scotians would probably react to that in a positive way. They would say, look, we have a government that said, we made a mistake and I am sorry, but we are going to fix it. But that is not the kind of government we have.

Mr. Speaker, the newly elected member for Cape Breton North has come to this Chamber and let me tell you, he is full of fire and brimstone. He came in here on the first day like a newly elected member that just, in my short two years here, I have never seen such fire and brimstone come from a member in all my life. The first reaction I had was, who wrote that for him? Because I know it didn't come from him directly. It came from the same place that he is getting his marching orders from now. That was the last fire and brimstone I saw from that member. It seems like he may have a defective fuse or something, I don't know.

[Page 1617]

The fire has burned out. What has happened is that he has now become part of the larger group of the 18 backbenchers or the silence of the Hamms over there, who was going to come to Halifax and say, here I am, I am going to take care of Cape Breton.

Mr. Speaker, well, here he is. Nothing has happened as yet. I am not saying (Interrupiton) Pardon me? Mr. Speaker, I am certainly not saying that. I stand here as a member from Cape Breton and the first time the member from that area does anything positive down there, I will be the first one to shake his hand. I will be the first one. I wish him all the luck. Do you know why I wish him all the luck, I wish him all the luck because he is caught in the midst of a group of people who absolutely want to do nothing for his home island. That is a tough situation to be in. That is a tough situation, to look at Cabinet Ministers who will say to him, we don't care about Cape Breton. That is a tough situation to be in.

AN HON. MEMBER: Ask the Minister of Tourism.

MR. WILSON: But do you know what? I will make him an offer, we are going to help you. We are going to help you because we are going to take - and this is the whole purpose of this six month amendment here today, to hoist this bill, this is the whole purpose - that government over there and we are going to hold its feet to the fire. We are going to say to that government, you are not getting away with it anymore; you are going to have to stay in this Legislature; you are going to have to justify to Nova Scotians exactly what you are doing; you are going to have tell them why; and you are going to have to give them the details on why you are doing it. That is what Nova Scotians have been telling us.

They have been telling us that our job as Opposition MLAs is to make sure that you don't get away with it, that you don't just walk into this Legislature and say, okay, here is a piece of legislation, now take a look at it, and if you don't like it that is too bad, because we have the majority. If I said it once during this speech so far, I have said it three or four times, not everybody in this province voted for that government.

You have to be able to accept differing opinions, and you have to be able to listen to people in order to be a responsible government, which is very important when you sit in this particular Chamber, which is the home of responsible government, if I am not mistaken, in this country, (Interruptions) and we intend to keep it that way, too. That is absolutely right, the member is correct. We are making sure, we will make sure that it stays that way.

Mr. Speaker, one of the things that was contained, again I go back to social services, and this will give you an example of what is happening in terms of the Financial Measures (2001) Bill, why we want to talk about it, why we want to delay it for six months. One of the things that was contained, or not contained is a better way of saying it, in the estimates of the Community Services Department was that transition homes and safe houses showed absolutely no increase in their funding; none, not a penny. Stood here and asked the minister

[Page 1618]

responsible whether or not there was going to be any funding coming, did not get an answer, but was told that they are negotiating with people from transition homes and safe houses across this province. When asked, the minister did admit that yes, of course, they are not asking for it to stay the same. They are not asking for a decrease, they are asking for what? They are asking for an increase.

But again, there is no commitment. There is absolutely no commitment whatsoever. At the same time, that the Minister of Community Services is saying, you are not getting any more money for transition homes or for safe houses, at the same time, what is happening here is that . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. While we welcome the visitors to our gallery today, I would ask them not to make any comments, either positive or negative, towards what is happening on the floor of the House, and to keep the noise down, please.

The honourable member for Cape Breton East has the floor.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, as I was saying, what is happening here in this case is that while transition homes and safe houses are not getting any increase, indeed what is happening is that what is being introduced in this province on a regular basis is user fees, user fees. For instance, the Auditor General has indicated that the government must justify user fees to show that they are used for a cost recovery. If not, then they are considered taxes. There is no difference between a user fee and a tax; there is none. A tax is a tax is a tax and a user fee is a tax.

AN HON. MEMBER: A Tory is a Tory is a Tory.

MR. WILSON: The same thing. There are $29 million in user fees from last year's budget. Let me give you some examples: senior's Pharmacare co-pay, an average $5.00 per prescription. That is about $8.4 million per year in total. The 911 tax, it is actually up to 46 cents from 43 cents with an MTT increase; there are yearly fees of about $5 million from hospital user fees which are preferred rooms; there are about $950,000 that will be from driver testing handbooks and another $700,000 that will come from prescription drugs for welfare recipients. Some more examples: $300,000 in ferry increases; $200,000 in insurance agents' licences; another $200,000 in environmental approvals; teachers certificates increased; teacher certificate renewal increased as well, which I suppose you won't have to worry about if you are a teacher in Cape Breton because you are not going to have a job anyway after today's announcement of some 53 jobs being cut and the government has just told you to move away. The examples that I cited represented about $3.00 from every Nova Scotian. That is $3.00 that has been taken out of the pockets of every Nova Scotian.

[Page 1619]

On average that is and the new user fees come just less than a month after the Auditor General, the Auditor General now, who is the person who is going to examine what this government does on a regular basis, the Auditor General criticized the government for not being able to justify user fees. $70, and that is up from $40 for the registry of deeds to pay for Registry 2000, costs about $1.5 million per year. The reason that I am citing these examples is because these are some of the instances in the Financial Measures (2001) Bill that are being proposed that we think if we took the next six months to explore them and take a look at them that perhaps the government would reconsider them. Perhaps they would even take some of them out of there altogether because they just simply don't make any sense whatsoever.

The one that is the most upsetting of all is that $50 that they are going to charge seniors in hospital. Seniors that are waiting for a long-term care bed. You know, it is estimated that that will raise about a million per year, a million dollars per year. They are saying that because you are in your current situation because you are a senior and because you are sick because you have to wait in a hospital bed in this province, in this great country that offers free Medicare - Medicare, one of the greatest things that ever came into this country - but they are saying that because of all those circumstance, well you poor unfortunate soul on top of all your misery we are charging you $50. Take $50 out of your pocket, you probably don't have it because you are probably not making that much to begin with, you are on a fixed income, and if not hopefully you have relatives to pay the $50 or friends to pay the $50, or I don't know what will happen next. If you don't have the $50 maybe they'll just take that person in a hospital bed and roll them down the hallway and let them go out onto the street and fend for themselves because that is what kind of government this is.

[5:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, it is upsetting to me and it is upsetting to a lot of the members in this House exactly some of the things that are being proposed. I gave you some examples, that was the one that stuck out the most to me, but there are others. They are going to, as I said, up the increase for the Registry of Deeds, they are going to take $1.00 from industry for every ton of sulphur dioxide that is released into the environment; $6,500 for industries to obtain an operating approval.

Boy, you talk about an incentive to set up industry in this province. We are not going to help you out, we are going to charge you. Give us some money, you want to set up in this province? This must have been developed by the minister for economic non-renewal or development, whatever he is called. He must have said, we don't have enough industries that aren't relocating so the ones that are even thinking about it I am going to discourage them too, because I am going to charge you. Don't come to this province because you won't make any money here. We don't even want you here and, just to make sure, here is how much you are charged before you even come inside the province. That is a plan. Oh, by the way when

[Page 1620]

we get here, wait until you see our user fee structure. We don't have any taxes but we have these things called user fees.

I am sure the minister would explain to anybody coming in, well, a user fee is not really a tax. Not really, it is just a user fee. Don't ask anybody in the province if it is a user fee because everybody else in the province except me - that being the minister - knows that it is a tax. (Interruptions) I am not sure if my colleague is using that word correctly or not, surreptitiously, that is a good word and it is a legal word, I am told, as well.

Mr. Speaker, I wanted to touch on an item as well, and that is the provincial debt. We have said . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I just want to remind the member, just in case he forgot, that we are speaking to the hoist amendment to the Financial Measures (2001) Bill. The honourable member for Cape Breton East, you can bring your comments back to the Financial Measures (2001) Bill, please, and the hoist amendment. The honourable member for Cape Breton East has the floor.

MR. WILSON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I appreciate that reminder. It probably has been some time since I mentioned the fact that we were looking to delay this for six months and, indeed, to hoist the bill or delay it until we get some, shall I say sober second thought on what is being proposed here. It is a chance for the (Interruption) Well that is a phrase that is used quite often to describe that sort of thinking, but we want the government to rethink its position and take a look at this. As I have said in the past, we want you to consult with other people in this province. We want you to hear from the people who are concerned about all of this and exactly what they think about this and, including the provincial debt, what they think about the debt, which is about to hit emergency proportions.

Mr. Speaker, we are kind of at a fiscal crossroads in this province. On the one side of the fork is kind of like a path to prosperity. We could become a have province. On the other side is a return to the days of governments such as in the Buchanan era that ran 25 per cent deficits and actually had no idea of how to balance a budget. We have to be very careful about where we are heading because it is not just for us, it is for our children that we have to be careful. I am serious, we have to think of our children. Some members may say, oh, think of the kids, think of the kids. I am not joking, I am thinking of my children, Mr. Speaker. I am thinking of my eight year old, who I want to live in a province that is second to none and I am thinking about my 13 year old who will soon go through high school and have to decide on a career and I am thinking of my 19 year old, in college, who is going to finish and hopefully, have a job in this province. That is what I am thinking about. I am not thinking about myself, I am thinking about the hundreds of thousands of other children out there who are thinking about the same thing. I am thinking about children who are on social assistance, thinking about children who don't have a decent home to live in, I am thinking

[Page 1621]

about children who can't get the prescription medicines they are entitled to, as an ordinary citizen of this province and of this country. Those are the people I am thinking about.

I don't want to see, because of any wrong decisions made by this government, I don't want their future to be jeopardized, which is why I am talking about delaying this for six months, to take a look at it. As I said, you can't honestly sit there and think you know everything there is to know about government, about the Financial Measures (2001) Bill, about social assistance or health or economic development. There is no way you can know everything about it; if you did, you would be the perfect person, you would be the perfect MLA, the perfect Cabinet Minister. There is no such creature that exists. (Interruptions) Really, I know. I honestly believe that some members on that side of the House think they are perfect MLAs or perfect Cabinet Ministers because if they didn't think that way, they would listen to reason sometimes. Some of them, you know they have blinders on. It is just full steam ahead, you will turn it down because it comes from members of the Opposition and if it comes from members of the Opposition it can't be right, it must be wrong because we are perfect and we are Tories and we are in government.

It doesn't work that way, it just doesn't happen. Perhaps what we should do, if we find any perfect Tories over there, we will put a user fee on him. That is what we will do. You know what? If we established a user fee on a perfect Tory, then you wouldn't have to worry about user fees because there is no such thing in existence as a perfect Tory but there are user fees in this province and they are taxes and they are hurting ordinary Nova Scotians. It is as simple as that, Mr. Speaker. The six month delay will enable a lot of people in this province to sit back, including the government, and say . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Choices . . .

MR. WILSON: . . . choices, we have a number of choices, here is what we are going to do. It is much the same as budgets; budgets are about making choices. You can make the wrong choice or the right choice but a government that exists to make choices for the people of the province in which they were elected would be the right government. It is why all of us are elected - we are supposed to make the right choices on behalf of the people who put us here in the first place.

Now the budget that was introduced by the Finance Minister, Mr. Speaker, chose to not only continue to run a deficit but to continue the growth of the net debt. If you think about it, it is absolutely astounding. In just the last 12 months the debt has risen by $1.3 billion. That is a figure that is incomparable to a lot of people. Last year the government spent almost $70 million on interest for the extra debt that they racked up alone. If we had six months to reconsider the Financial Measures (2001) Bill, we could think about how we would spend that $70 million and what would we do with it. What are some of the other things you could do with it, for instance? (Interruptions) Well, that's right, if we had $70 million perhaps the honourable member for Victoria could finally get a bridge for his people

[Page 1622]

up there. If I am not mistaken, it was the Church River - is that correct - is it the Church River Bridge?

The Minister of Transportation has said, well, you are not going to be getting it for awhile. I think, if I may summarize - he really didn't care that much about it to begin with - it was an accident that involved a Department of Transportation vehicle and the bridge is no more. The people in the area have to use that bridge. But the minister has said, no, they don't need it. I don't know whether or not the minister thinks that the people from the member's riding can walk on water, I am not sure. I know that the member is pretty close to it himself, but I don't know if any of the people in his riding that can do it, that's for sure.

It gives you another example of the arrogance that is there on that side of the House, the arrogance that exists in the fact that we don't care, we don't care what you are doing. We don't care what you are talking about. We don't care what you are proposing. We don't care what the amendments are. We don't care if you want to amend this for six months. We just don't care because we are the government. We have more members than you do and we are going to do whatever we want, come - I can't say that word - or high water. Do you know what I am saying?

No reference to the high water that might be under the member for Victoria's bridge, which is not being replaced. That is what they have said. With that kind of an arrogant attitude, it is being portrayed very correctly in the media, as well. That is a good word. It is arrogant. It is a condescending attitude that says to people, we don't care about what you say. We are not going to listen.

That is another good example, the municipalities, that current fiasco, the equalization fiasco that is occurring with the municipalities. The minister charged out of the gates and said, we have a proposal. Oh, no, wait a minute. It is not a proposal, it is just a discussion. After all the kerfuffle that was caused by the minister's proposal now turned whatever it is, discussion, and again pitted one area of the province against another, another example, member against member. Some of the backbench MLAs over there who have never had a chance to say anything on that and would still like to speak up, the silence of the Hamms, Mr. Speaker, as I have called them several times this evening. They don't get a chance to say anything, even about items that are going to directly affect their constituents.

I don't think it is because they don't care, they probably want to get up and speak to that matter, but they are being told by a government that is an arrogant, condescending government that says, no, you are not speaking on it; even though the Premier promised in that great blue book that there would be more open and accountable government and that members would get more free votes and so on and so forth. Right? It hasn't occurred.

[Page 1623]

Mr. Speaker, the Financial Measures (2001) Bill is a great example of what that government is all about, about a government that is arrogant and doesn't care about its people. That is why, again, we are here to propose that we hoist that bill for a six month period in order to give us time to reconsider and to change the mind of government as to what is taking place. I mentioned that $70 million figure earlier . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member's time has expired. We have reached the moment of interruption. The draw was won by the honourable member for Cape Breton South, who wishes to debate:

"Therefore be it resolved that rural Nova Scotia has been completely, utterly and unquestionably abandoned by the Government of Nova Scotia."

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Victoria.

GOV'T. (N.S.): RURAL N.S. - ABANDONMENT

MR. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to have the floor for a few minutes this evening to talk on this resolution. The resolution reads, "Therefore be it resolved that rural Nova Scotia has been completely, utterly and unquestionably abandoned by the Government of Nova Scotia."

Mr. Speaker, this resolution we have submitted is, indeed, strongly worded and there is a reason for that. We believe this government refuses to listen to the concerns of our backbone rural areas. There are few areas that are as rural as Victoria, not cities, not towns, but small communities and villages that are connected by a common rural tradition. There is a cultural background with a very rich heritage. Unfortunately it has become increasingly difficult to maintain families and jobs in rural communities because the government has abandoned the regions.

[6:00 p.m.]

My riding is not a resource-based riding for the most part. Even backbone industries like tourism are not supported by this government. We are disappointed that we have a Tourism Minister from our island who has done nothing to address the state of the Cabot Trail. The Cabot Trail is perhaps the best known and best promoted scenic drive in North America. Still, when tourists finally get there they are treated to a masterpiece of nature, but they are greeted with flat tires, broken struts and sore bottoms.

[Page 1624]

It is a clear demonstration that this government does not support our rural areas. Enhancing tourism and improving roads, my fervent wish is that they might begin with improvements to the Cabot Trail. Shamefully, last year only half a kilometre of road was paved in my riding on the Cabot Trail, or any other trail. If this government is committed to rural areas, it will make the Cabot Trail, in my opinion, one of their priorities.

Living in rural Nova Scotia has wonderful advantages and most of us who do consider it a gift wouldn't trade it for any other lifestyle. It does, however, have its drawbacks. If you choose to live in rural Nova Scotia, you need to have access to good, dependable methods of transportation. Unfortunately the roads are poor, our bridges are in disrepair and falling in the river. Even the Englishtown ferry is not up and running despite the government's promises that it would be working on April 16th.

Let's talk about the Church Bridge in Middle River for a moment. As the former speaker said, that bridge was put out of commission two months ago. As yet it has not been repaired and there are no talks of any action happening there soon. People living on the other side of the bridge have to travel 10 kilometres out of their way to attend churches or for access to the most basic amenities. This situation also poses a very dangerous threat in case of a fire, since firefighting equipment would have to be transported by an alternate route across another bridge that is over 100 years old.

Some time ago I spoke with the regional manager in the area, relative to the shape of the alternate route and the bridge there. That bridge is, as I said, over 100 years old, and the steel is old, rusted and rotten. There is erosion around the abutments and that structure is not safe. It is not safe for a fire truck which carries 5,000 gallons of water to get to the residents on the other side of the river, but still the minister says we don't need it. We don't need the bridge, we can go around or find another way to get to the other side of the river. That is fine for the minister to say that, but if the minister lived on that side of the river and he had to pay additional money for fire insurance or there was a threat that somebody would get sick and it might affect him, then he may become concerned. I understand a bridge in his riding, called the Mantua bridge, was not on the priority list for this government last year, but still it was in the minister's riding and they called a tender, even though it was third on the priority list for repairs or replacement.

The future of our rural hospitals is also in doubt. Despite 1,613 days in government, we still do not know the Tory plans for rural hospitals, despite the release of the clinical planning tool of the Health Minister, hospitals in Baddeck, Neils Harbour and Cheticamp, may still be on the chopping block. That would be wrong, and it is another example of how government is treating the future of our rural communities.

Mr. Speaker, these are but a few of our concerns that face all of rural Nova Scotia. The very fabric of Nova Scotia is under threat, and I hope this government does the right thing and enhances instead of attacks our rural heritage.

[Page 1625]

One of the most serious problems facing my riding at this point in time is the high unemployment rate. We are probably the highest in the province at the moment, and we have been attempting to find an area of employment for our area, which will provide a measure of employment security for our people as well as for our environment.

Mr. Speaker, we had thought we had found that in the proposed Bounty Bay mussel farm, of Prince Edward Island, who have applied for a mussel lease in St. Anne's Bay. They are also proposing to process the mussels in the area, which would provide even more employment opportunities. I know there are concerns with some of the residents in the area, but all indications about the impact on the environment of the area are positive. I am confident that a proper assessment will take place to everyone's satisfaction.

Mr. Speaker, I was also pleased to hear that this government is committed to educating our youth and improving the quality of life for our young families. Changes within the Department of Community Services will provide opportunities for people to make the transition from the welfare system to the workforce. We were led to believe that assistance will be provided for those people who want to attend community college, therefore, providing them with the tools to become employed with good paying jobs at home, and to get them off the welfare system.

Mr. Speaker, this brings to mind a young woman in my constituency who had four small children and had been trapped in the system for nearly 10 years. She overcame extreme odds to be accepted into the Bachelor of Science in Nursing Program at St. F. X. University in the fall of 2000. She was unable to move her young family to Antigonish, however, and she thought all was lost. Fortunately, that was when the previous Liberal Government had the foresight to address the nursing shortage problem by funding 25 nursing seats at the University College of Cape Breton.

This young woman was able to transfer to UCCB and has currently finished her second year of study, but the past months have been a constant struggle for her as she is trying to achieve a nursing degree, which is in itself a difficult task. She is also trying to raise her four young children, and if that is not enough, the Department of Community Services, which claims to be trying to move people easily from the welfare system to the workforce, removed her benefits.

Mr. Speaker, she was informed in December, as she was preparing to write her exams and worrying about providing Christmas for her children, that she would no longer be eligible for benefits under the Income Assistance Program, she would now be expected to borrow her living expenses through student assistance. This is unfortunate, and I believe that this or any government should be putting a greater effort forward to move people from social assistance and into the workforce.

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

[Page 1626]

The honourable member for Eastern Shore.

MR. WILLIAM DOOKS: Mr. Speaker, and members of the House, good evening. Before I address the resolution today, I couldn't help but notice the people in the gallery today exercising their right of demonstration. It was very refreshing for me, although maybe not agreeing totally with their concept and their view, but I did recognize there are many young men and women that I believe would probably be in the best time of their lives. I am sure they are feeling excited, they are passionate about their cause. They went to Ottawa and came back to the House here to once again exercise their right in democracy.

Mr. Speaker, democracy is one of the greatest things we could have other than life and good health. I can remember my uncle telling me at a very young age that the three greatest gifts we have, other than the family structure would be, clearly our life, our health and democracy. We have known many people before us have paid a very high price for us to have the ability or the opportunity to sit in this House here today. The country is a wonderful country, the province is a great province and for many years it has always contributed much to society.

Mr. Speaker, many things remain the same. Halifax was first founded in 1749 and there were many issues surrounding the province at that time, surrounding the very basic concept of democracy. Later on in 1758 when the first Assembly was formed, more confusion - or if we can say debate - that surrounded government in Nova Scotia. Then finally the development of responsible government in 1848.

Mr. Speaker, why I am talking about this today is simply the very reason why I am standing, it is to address the resolution that has come from the Liberal caucus. That caucus has a right to speak on behalf of the people they represent, the people of Nova Scotia. The resolution put forth today states very clearly that this government is not doing anything for the people of rural Nova Scotia.

The member for Victoria was speaking and very rightfully so. He brought up a good point and I don't know if he's aware or not, but I myself have lived in his constituency - or the constituency of Victoria - a number of years. My wife is from that area so I know it well. I know the Cabot Trail, I know Ingonish Ferry, I know Wreck Cove - I worked there for three years myself in the Bank of Nova Scotia. I know that the problems that the people (Interruption)

Thank you, Mr. Speaker, the member for Cape Breton West wishes to interrupt me when I am speaking and that is his right because we are standing here today and contributing to democracy. The thing I would like to clearly say is, a lot of issues that surround the constituency of Victoria are the same issues as representative of the Eastern Shore that I face.

We know clearly that there is definitely a problem with transportation. I wouldn't be able to stand here and not say that my area needs - they need roads.

[Page 1627]

Another issue that I face may be different than any other member here, being a very rural area, and that is the HRM. Earlier on, I think late last night, there was some reference about my position in regard to the HRM - and rightfully so. I did take a stand. I did go out and survey the people and ask them if they enjoyed being a part of the HRM or if they wished to remain a part of the HRM. The very problem I face there is that all of our statistics, everything that you talk about, the very rural area, the very rural part of the HRM being the Eastern Shore, are taken from the whole urban area. When we talk about unemployment on the Eastern Shore, they give us the statistics of the HRM which is probably 8 per cent or 11 per cent when, realistically, the unemployment for the Eastern Shore sometimes reaches the height of at least 30 per cent to 35 per cent. Probably somewhat the same as the members who represent Cape Breton.

We have so many things to offer in the beautiful constituency of the Eastern Shore, but I have to tell you clearly that we have to look at the issues. We have to build a strong foundation. We have to understand what are the issues that are causing the Eastern Shore to be somewhat slow in development? Mr. Speaker, I have done a lot of research and I have been in politics for a number of years now and I do believe I know the issues. As a matter of fact, I am certain. I am working with the Department of Economic Development, I am working with the Department of Transportation and Public Works. I am working with other ministers as well, the Department of Community Services, and we are formulating or building a foundation. I would like to say this to the members of the very rural areas, it is impossible to build a strong structure unless you have a strong foundation. If you have a strong foundation, then the structure will be stable. This government's initiative to put the fiscal house in order is the first step, it is the footers of the foundation, and I am pleased to say that we are moving aggressively towards fiscal responsibility. I don't think anyone could argue the point that that is not a good move. I think it is incumbent upon each and every representative of his or her riding to work with the departments and to have their plan and their initiative put on the minister's desk and this government's desk and say to the minister and departments, I think this is where we should go.

[6:15 p.m.]

It is important for each and every member to also work with different levels of government; even though I have opposing views to HRM, it is still very important for me to work with the councillors of my riding. I can remember clearly, Mr. Speaker, when I was municipal councillor for District 1, my colleague here, the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, was always in touch with my office. We had many public meetings, we addressed issues and concerns together, and together we made a team. I want to tell you, he was not always supportive of me, he challenged me often, I remember. I can remember saying, I wonder why someone in the same Party would be challenging me in public, is he not supportive? But that was his job. His job was to ferret out, if you will, the information from the municipal councillor so that he could properly understand the issue and properly represent his people.

[Page 1628]

Mr. Speaker, quite often we have colleagues here, colleagues sitting in the middle benches or private members in this House, and we often say, why is it that the Opposition throw back negative comments or why is that the Opposition is questioning, or questioning the government? Well, that is their right. It is on the premise of democracy and that is when, actually, gentlemen, across the way, we have an opportunity to defend our position in government. If you folks didn't ask the questions and we didn't have an opportunity to speak to them and to provide explanations, a lot of Nova Scotians would be at a loss of the very foundation that we are building for the economy. I think it is hard for the Opposition to challenge everything we do. I think they sort of focus on some issues that are important to them, and I recognize and appreciate their right.

I have to tell you that I am a lobbyist for highways in Nova Scotia and I am well aware that I have made a number of aggressive moves. As a matter of fact, I have also gone as far as travelling to Ottawa to lobby for the highway. Also, I know that someday Highway No. 107 - hopefully soon - will be extended from Musquodoboit Harbour to Canso. Now, I could stand here for hours and tell you why that would be important to the economy of the Eastern Shore. Infrastructure is important to every riding across Nova Scotia and I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, before this government completes its job, we will have fine highways and that is all we ask from the members of the Opposition, is to lobby the federal government to send us back the dollars that we deserve.

Mr. Speaker, I want to tell you, $137 million goes to the federal government and we receive a pittance back. I think instead of opposition, that all Parties should work together to collectively build a better Nova Scotia, a Nova Scotia that will have attributes for our younger children.

Mr. Speaker, when we have an opportunity to speak, the unfortunate thing is we never have enough time.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. On that note, the honourable member's time has expired.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, as I take to my feet tonight and respond on this important issue, I would like to point out to members present that if it was another kilometre in that direction towards St. Margarets Bay, officially it would actually be an outside member. Yet I know, because of the area that I represent, I represent a part of my riding that is very rural and has needs and requests that are reflected in the comment from the good member for Victoria. He talked about his bridge that is in so much trouble, and the ferry that has the needs, of course, that you bring to this House many times. I have heard the member for Eastern Shore finally speak passionately, and sorry for the sarcastic tinge there, but it was good to see you take your spot and I enjoyed hearing from you. That is the member

[Page 1629]

who I remember when on Tuesday night we used to watch - sorry for this one - the comedy channel called the HRM, who spoke so passionately many times in that role.

However, let's be very clear on the fact that there are people in this province, particularly in the rural areas, who are frustrated. They are frustrated because they believe they have been forgotten by that government. They have been forgotten because of the basic services, which they pay taxes for; they pay taxes and they expect a quality of service that is equal to other areas of this province.

I would like to highlight a few of those issues. For example, let's talk very clearly about the importance of tourism. I have said to the Minister of Tourism during estimates debate, I am interested in the exit poll and he has assured me he will send me a copy of the exit poll of a survey of why people come to this province. Let's be clear, people do not come to this province to go to the casino. People do not come to this province just to come to the capital region or to go to Citadel Hill. They come to this province because of our coastline, because of our wonderful scenery, because of the Cabot Trail, because of the Eastern Shore, but they come to this province particularly because of Peggy's Cove, the most photographed lighthouse obviously on the East Coast from Florida to Labrador.

The problem comes down to that of motivation of tourism, of having people come here, as the Minister of Transportation and Public Works well knows, which is complicated by the poor roads. I understand the quandary that the Minister of Transportation and Public Works is in and the attention he has paid to a particular section of road that I have spoken about many times in this House and his attention to meeting with the people of that area is much appreciated.

When you look, for example the question that was brought forth earlier today during Question Period, when my friend, the member for Halifax Chebucto brought the issue forward on Nova Scotia's Association of Unique Country Inns and the fact that these innkeepers - and that is the way to see this province, Bed & Breakfasts and these wonderful inns; that is the way that people want to see what this province is all about. Yet, this government is not willing to look at a different fee structure, where currently small operators pay between $20 and $30 per room and they find that is not fair as compared to the larger hotels that pay less than $3.00 a room.

There is a basic concrete example of a piece of proactive legislation that could come forward that would be well received by people who live outside of the HRM. I know the people from Truro or New Glasgow aren't saying they come from a rural area because there is an urban mix there, but it is a real concern we understand that the people who live outside the big cities - Sydney and of course, Halifax - they have needs too that must not be forgotten.

[Page 1630]

I look particularly at the issue of schools. We have heard the issue from Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board that has been passionately put by my friend from New Waterford, by the members of the Liberal caucus and the concerns, but the issue comes down that we had better get ready - that is going to happen in other areas as well.

I would like to turn to one particular area of a wonderful attraction and that is the small rural community of Terence Bay. Terence Bay has a small school, but that school is vital to the community. Terence Bay has a group of volunteers, Willie Jollimore in particular, that is going out of his way to make sure that the fire department is active and ready to perform in that community again. Terence Bay is the home of the SS Atlantic Heritage Park. It also has - as the Economic Development Minister can tell - a coastal community co-operative that is beginning to breathe life back into that rural community.

That rural community cannot be forgotten. Yes, there are many people because of how close Terence Bay is located to metro, who drive on that horrendous road up over Porcupine Hill through to White's Lake and work in metro, but they live in rural Nova Scotia, their school, their SS Atlantic Heritage Park, their fire department. It is important that we continue to support those particular interests in that particular, wonderful community.

I would be remiss if I didn't stand in my place and mention the fact of two students that I had the pleasure to have in the school where I last taught, two young people who live outside of the core area, who live in rural Nova Scotia, Nicole Blackburn and Joey Hickling. Now both of those young people would like to have the opportunity to have assistance with transportation to get to and from their places of work because both of these wonderful young people have gone through the school system and because they have the challenge ahead of them to use the talents they have been given, they would like to have the opportunity and their parents would like to have the opportunity, as young adults, the opportunity to live at home and be able to work at some of the workshops here in Halifax. But that isn't happening; because of the fact of the tight-fisted approach to transportation, these two adult students do not have any way of being transported to and from their homes in rural Nova Scotia, where they would like to continue to live and then be able to work here in some of the adult workshops which are closer to downtown Halifax.

If you look at another issue, in the community of West Dover, the wharf in West Dover and the maintenance of that wharf, the slipway in Lower Prospect and the importance of having that maintained, these are issues that we, as legislators, must continue to speak up about and make sure that areas outside of the core areas - the CBRM is much like the HRM where there are a multitude of services located in the downtown or the city area - it is those outlying areas where it is very important that we continue to maintain the services in areas such as Dover, Terence Bay and Lower Prospect.

[Page 1631]

Mr. Speaker, there is an issue, of course, that I am going to bring to the attention of the House time after time. It is an issue in coastal communities. I know I was listening carefully but it did concern me that the member for Eastern Shore did not bring up this issue. In the middle of the importance of attention to rural issues, that member did not bring up the issue of non-resident ownership. I know that backbenchers on that side, I know that members on this side who represent coastal communities are concerned about the issue and they represent residents who are concerned about non-residents.

Now I know there are people in Ecum Secum, I know there are people in the Head of Jeddore, I know there are people in Terence Bay who have this concern. I urge members present, when the Voluntary Planning Committee makes its appropriate meeting in locations across this province - and, Mr. Speaker, I would be remiss again if I did not congratulate Voluntary Planning for allowing three extra meetings, in addition to the meetings they have held, that they are allowing three extra meetings. I want to point out those extra meetings came forward because members of this caucus spoke up about it - there is a meeting in Sheet Harbour and at that additional meeting I hope the member for Eastern Shore speaks up at that time.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member's time has expired. I would like to thank the honourable members for bringing this before the Legislature tonight and also for taking part in this debate.

[PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING]

Bill No. 30 - Financial Measures (2001) Act. [Debate resumed.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and speak this evening on Bill No. 30, in particular the motion put forward to hoist Bill No. 30, to give it proper consideration over a period of six months. I am happy to add my thoughts and comments to this debate which has been going on over the last few days. There have been some helpful comments made about what it is that this government may be doing, may be trying to do, and how it relates to what it was they promised they would do and, further, the different opinions that have been presented by members in this House about what they think this government should be doing.

[6:30 p.m.]

This budget, of course, is this Tory Government's third budget. It will take us through the mid-point of this government's mandate. If they were to follow the average span of a government that was followed by John Buchanan, then they could be even further than the mid-point because that would make it next summer that the election would be held. Stay

[Page 1632]

tuned on whether that becomes a reality or not, Mr. Speaker. I guess the point about the fact that this may well be the mid-point of this government's mandate is looking at this budget, of which Bill No. 30 is affixed to, it is important that we take a serious look at it so we can try to understand where this government is going, where they want to take the province.

We have heard all kinds of things over the past two years since this government was elected and we have been trying, here in the Opposition, to equate what they have been doing, what they promised in order to get elected back in 1999 and, needless to say, there have been a number of gaps and this government, still, at a point where they, as I said before, are mid-way through their mandate, don't have any direction in terms of where they are going, certainly not the clear direction that they told Nova Scotians they were presenting to them in order to get their votes back in the summer of 1999.

This government is not unlike the Liberals before them, since 1993 are premising everything that they do on the basis of the financial situation. It is understandable. The debt that was left over from the Buchanan days was nearly $6 billion, Mr. Speaker, and it is something that every government should have in their mind and should be paying significant attention to. So we don't fault them for doing that, but we do want to bring to their attention and remind them, from time to time, that when they ran for election in 1999, they, on the one hand, talked about dealing with the fiscal crisis facing the province, a crisis made worse by the Liberals through the period of 1996-97. But what they haven't done is match up what they said they were going to do which is, number one, take hold of the fiscal reins of the province and bring things under control. Number two, they were going to deal with a lot of the problems that Nova Scotians were concerned about: health care, education, roads, a plan for economic development, the future of Sysco, what they were going to do for children, lifelong learning and so on and so forth.

In 1999, this government said that they were going to take this province in a new direction, that they were going to solve a lot of these problems and they were going to do it by, at the same time, taking under control the fiscal problems facing the Province of Nova Scotia, and, needless to say, that plan was well received by the people of Nova Scotia; 40 per cent voted for this government's plan. So here we are halfway through the mandate and what are we getting in terms of vision, in terms of a clear course? Well, I don't think that we are getting that from this government. I have suggested that before. In terms of a vision, in terms of a government sort of in control of the issues that buffet it, they may be internal or they may be external to the province.

I think it was somewhat illustrative of the problems facing this government when last week, under questioning from the member for Halifax Chebucto to the Premier about whether or not he had a copy of the free trade agreement that was being discussed in Quebec that was alleged by the federal government, the Premier said we haven't received it. The federal government said publicly, the minister responsible said that the provincial, that the agreement was on their Web page. It was a secure Web page, only accessible by the

[Page 1633]

provinces and provinces were participating regularly in a dialogue back and forth as to what was going on. We learned from the Premier that he didn't know anything that was going on with respect to that international agreement that was under discussion in Quebec.

He admitted how important these discussions were because these international agreements affect the roles and responsibilities of provincial jurisdictions like his, like his government, like Nova Scotia, in areas like health care, like the environment, labour laws, and so on and so forth. So I guess my point is that there is something that everybody knows is happening, just this past weekend, in Quebec. The Premier is clearly aware of it, is concerned about it, but yet nobody is paying attention to exactly the details as to what is happening. I think that goes to a lack of vision, lack of a clear sense of being in control of the agenda both internally and externally. These issues and others that I will be discussing, we will be able to examine over a period of six months if we agree to vote in favour of this hoist motion.

When I talk with Nova Scotians from one end of the province to the other, from all walks of life, what I hear them say to me is that this government is taking a minimalist strategy; in other words, they are doing what they have to. They are reacting to events rather than directing events. Rather than leading, rather than having in mind what it is they want to do in health care and education and what it is that they want to do in terms of establishing priorities for repairing the secondary roads in the Province of Nova Scotia, they seem to be - this is what I am hearing from Nova Scotians increasingly - this government appears to be trying to keep their head down, hoping that the federal government continues to dump money in here through transfers, that provinces like Alberta and British Columbia and Ontario - although Ontario's economy is certainly on the skids right now - that those provinces will continue to do well and that they will dump money in here and that will help them pay off the deficit and begin to pay down the debt.

Events beyond their control from outside the general economy of this country will increase revenues to the point where they won't have to do very much if they keep quiet and stay down, if they try to maintain the status quo. The problems will be solved and in year three they will be able to provide the tax cut that they promised, and then go drop the writ, go to an election and say that we said we would give you your tax cut, we balanced the budget, now re-elect us.

The problem though is that they promised a great deal more to Nova Scotians in the 1999 election than simply balancing the budget and providing a tax cut. Nova Scotians were looking for this government not to bring forward a vision, but to carry out a vision, to follow through with what the then Leader of the Tories, and now Premier, was talking about, the weakness of the royalty regime that the Liberals had signed with the gas companies, that they were going to negotiate a better deal, so that we would get greater returns from the resource rents in the Province of Nova Scotia. They said they would. We wanted to believe them.

[Page 1634]

They said that they were going to ensure that all Nova Scotians were going to get access to natural gas. They said that lifelong learning was going to be a priority, and that they were going to ensure that in communities throughout this province children were going to have access to quality public education, and that they would not have to travel long distances. They said that they were going to repair the secondary roads.

Mr. Speaker, did you know that - I think it was year two, let me just check here, there it is - year two of the mandate of this Tory Government was going to be the year of the road. The year of the road. Year two they were going to start pumping big bucks into road construction and road repair. In fact, you may recall that what they specifically said was that they would designate all taxes, they would earmark all taxes from motor vehicle fees and from motive fuel taxes into paying for highway construction and maintenance. It is in the blue book.

Mr. Speaker, you and I know that it, therefore, must be true. That is what they promised, but I think we are into year two, and we have not seen any indication that the Minister of Transportation and Public Works is hoisting signs around the province saying, this is the year of the road. I know that he is putting up a lot of different signs, sending out a lot of different press releases, reannouncing the clear-cutting going on on Highway No. 101, but hasn't done much in terms of repairing that road or a lot of other roads throughout the province.

My point, again, is that these are the things the government said they were going to do in 1999, in their Tory blue book. These are the plans they had. They were going to drive things forward. They had a vision, and Nova Scotians, unfortunately, have found that this government is failing to follow through on that. They seem to be happy with keeping their head down, with trying to get through, hoping that the angels are on their side, and that revenues will continue to flow in, then they can balance the budget and give a tax cut.

I don't think that is good enough, I think this province deserves a lot more. I was interested, actually, as I stand here and talk about the six months' hoist for Bill No. 30, when I was reviewing statements by other members. I heard the member for Halifax Fairview refer to a book by a Tory strategist James Laschinger where he said, referring to the 1988 Tory campaign in Nova Scotia, the Buchanan campaign, where they called themselves the New Conservatives, and how that was a real funny in the Tory back rooms. The member for Preston has spent lots of time in the Tory back rooms, he probably heard that story. The point is that it was a question of perception and reality, and that what the campaign did in 1988 was present Nova Scotians with the view, with the image, with the illusion that they were New Conservatives and that they were going to do new things. In fact, they didn't.

Mr. Speaker, I think, having reviewed what it is this government has done over the past two years, that they did that again in 1999. They have done it successfully, and they will probably keep on doing it. I think Nova Scotians deserve better, frankly, but you know what

[Page 1635]

they say, if Nova Scotians keep voting for Parties that make promises and then break them, then, there you go.

[6:45 p.m.]

Anyway, let me move on and talk a little more about why it is that I think we should take six months. Why it is we should support this hoist motion and take some time to review this bill and the budget that it is affixed to. Mr. Speaker, one of the areas where vision and leadership is so important - or was such an issue in the 1999 campaign - was around the question of health care. You may recall that the then Liberal Government introduced a budget that had a $600 million Health Investment Fund affixed to it and try as we might, through hours and hours of debate, we couldn't find out why it is that the curve went this way instead of that way. The numbers said one thing but in fact the reality was another and the $600 million became more and more fanciful as the days went by.

Clearly it was an attempt I must tell you that it was a good attempt - by the Liberals to try to cast themselves as the protectors of health care in the Province of Nova Scotia, even though it was them that presided over some real problems over that previous seven years. They presented themselves as the protectors with the $600 million, even though of course they had no idea where that was going to come from or where it was going to go or what it was going to do. They cast themselves well, I think you'll agree, because there are still a few of them here, otherwise there wouldn't have been, I think. It was a good political ploy.

The point is that health became the key issue in that campaign where we talked a lot about the problems in health care in the province of Nova Scotia. We talked about the fact that there was a crisis in nursing throughout the province of Nova Scotia. There was a shortage of nurses, nurses were burned out, they were increasingly being used as casuals, there was a problem with respect to working conditions for nurses, they were leaving the province, there was very little effort it seemed - or money - being put into training for nurses so each of the Parties made a very clear pledge on what it was that they were going to do to ensure that the situation for nurses got better.

Here we are the third budget for this government, Mr. Speaker, and we are still trying to wrestle the problems with nursing in the province of Nova Scotia to the ground. It continues to be a terrible problem. The minister has recently announced some initiatives but the resources put in, the attention put in, we are still getting the same lines out of the minister that they are doing a great job and things are working really well. We are hearing from nurses themselves that they are getting recruited out of this province by the tens and dozens, by the hundreds, in fact and we are going to continue to have that problem.

Doctors continue to be a problem. The lack of doctors in rural Nova Scotia. The Tories said they had a recruitment strategy for rural Nova Scotia. Just the other day we were talking about doctors leaving the Strait-Richmond area. That was a problem that we were working

[Page 1636]

on five years ago, I think - was it 1998, 1998 - three years ago, where the community came together, wrestled the Liberal Government to the ground to get some attention to that issue and got the attention of their local MLA and certainly got our attention and we all worked together to try to get the problem resolved. A very effective committee, I remember meeting with them in a restaurant in Sydney, talking with the people involved in that committee and they were tireless, dedicated to that community. The problem was resolved in the short term and here we are again back in the year 2001, three short years later and the problem has arisen again. This government is following the same kind of strategy that was followed before, that they argued, we argued and other people have argued was inadequate. It wasn't doing what needed to be done in order to solve the problem.

In terms of providing medical services in rural communities throughout the province, I think what this government now sees which it maybe didn't when it was in Opposition and when it was running for power is that it is not just a question of putting doctors in there, but it is also a question of a multi-disciplined health team that needs to be available, accessible to the residents in any community throughout the Province of Nova Scotia. It is the most efficient use of health human resources, which is the point we should be trying to get at in this province and in this country in order to try to contain the escalating cost and in order to provide proper and appropriate health services to the people of this province.

Again, we just seem to be inching forward on these issues. We are just not making the kind of headway that we need to make in order to get control of the health care budget. In order to begin to deal with the outcomes conundrum that is facing us in health care. The minister has held the budget in the Department of Health spending where in other provinces and I say this because we have always said that it is not simply a matter of throwing more money at the problem. That is not the way to resolve the challenges in health care. You need to think about issues like education, prevention, greater attention to wellness, making sure that the services that are available that are appropriate to the circumstances and that we need to begin to look at some of the cost escalators in the system.

This government has done a bit of that, I would say, but I think to some extent, if not a large extent, they have established a false economy when dealing with the health care system. We know that there are huge capital maintenance needs in the province. We know that there are huge needs in terms of new equipment throughout the province. A great deal of money - millions and millions of dollars - is going to be needed to be spent and they are just putting it off right now.

That is my concern - not getting to the heart of the problem, not getting to the issue itself. I believe this - that they won't do it unless they are bold, unless they begin to put the details - I was going to give some credit to Ron Stewart, but in fact, I go back to some of the reports on the minister's shelf. And there are a lot of them - Royal Commission on Health Care, physicians' advisory committee - there are so many different titles. What is the one that the Liberals came out with? (Interruption) Blueprint, that is what it was. There are so many

[Page 1637]

reports out there which say the same thing - that if you are going to deal with issues of the appropriate delivery of health in the Province of Nova Scotia, you are going to deal with the issue of focusing more on prevention and wellness, then you need to turn the system on its head.

There were some attempts to do that in the early 1990's and the mid-1990's, but unfortunately that government got distracted. They were trying to do two things at once; on the one hand they were trying to reform health care, on the other hand cut the budget to health care and the two didn't go together. The result is that nothing worked. The budget in health, in 1996-97, I think, was going through the roof and the reform initiatives were simply going off the rails. People had lost confidence in the rhetoric even though they were willing to commit themselves to some of that strategy, they quickly lost their commitment to what it was this government was doing.

So even though they had big plans in their campaign in 1999, what have they done since? Well, they moved some of the chairs around on the deck, right? They changed. When the Liberals came in they set up regional health boards in order to try, I would say, to push the accountability for health care spending and health care reform out of the Department of Health, deflect a little bit of the attention and a little bit of the pressure. It wasn't a bad idea; the problem is they didn't take it to the communities, through community health boards.

What does this government do? Instead of going that final distance and setting decision-making up in the communities, what they did was get rid of regional health boards and set up district health boards. We are still looking for an idea from the Minister of Health, as to what that all cost, all that administrative shuffling that was going on (Interruption) $47,000 says the minister. While I always take that Minister of Health seriously in everything he says, I think on that one I would like to see the paper, I would like to see the reports that would support what it was they cost.

The point is that again a lot of time that was missed, that was wasted, a lot of energy that was wasted, a lot of people who had worked so hard on the regional health boards and on trying to keep voluntary community health boards going, were really badly treated and were pushed aside. I think that is only going to contribute in a negative way to the whole question of trying to get a handle on the health care system, Mr. Speaker. So a lot was promised but not a lot of direction was taken.

Long-term care, acute care beds, not one single long-term care bed. We have talked a bit about long-term care beds in this province because you know that one of the things this budget does, Mr. Speaker, which we can examine in more depth over a period of six months is that this government has imposed a user fee, or is about to impose a user fee on seniors who are in hospitals in acute care beds. If it is determined that it is time to discharge them into a long-term care bed in a home somewhere, in a long-term care facility somewhere, even

[Page 1638]

if there is no long-term care facility available, they are going to be charging seniors $50 a day.

Now why that is such a problem is that there continues to be huge waiting lists in the long-term care sector, Mr. Speaker, and that is a problem. The realities and the problems with long-term care in the Province of Nova Scotia are well-known. It has been well documented and, in fact, this Party when they were running for election, promised Nova Scotians, promised senior citizens that they would ensure that - I think it was 119, that figure sticks in my head for some reason - 119 additional long-term care beds would be created by this government. It has not been done. Instead of providing the spaces - I agree it is a good, efficient use of health care dollars to not have seniors taking up an acute care bed which are at a premium, to move them where they get an appropriate level of health care service. But if that service isn't available, why penalize them? It is not their fault.

[7:00 p.m.]

I don't mean to suggest that the minister or his staff are in any way mean-spirited, but it comes across that way, certainly, that seniors will be penalized because somehow they are lollygagging along with their feet up in a hospital bed. You know that is not true, Mr. Speaker. That is not what happens. Seniors would gladly get out of the hospital to go home or into a nursing home if they were able to do that. So that is a problem. They haven't come through with the promised long-term care beds that would certainly free up those beds.

Nursing. I talked a bit about before, but you know that Nova Scotia's registered nurses continue to be the lowest paid in Canada. Our licensed practical nurses are the third lowest paid in Canada. In 1998, with respect to graduating nursing students, 58 stayed in Nova Scotia - I am sure the Minister of Health has more current data - but 58 of those graduating nursing students stayed in Nova Scotia, 54 are still in nursing, 60 per cent of which only hold casual positions.

You understand, I am sure, Mr. Speaker, being from Springhill where they have a good facility there that they fought hard to keep. Is the emergency room still open in Springhill? Yes, thanks to the good work of the local MLA and some others.

With casual, if anybody doesn't understand what that means, depending on the collective agreement that is provided, you probably don't get benefits. You may get a percentage in lieu of benefits. You are on call all the time. You may find yourself working two and three shifts consecutively, depending on the workload at that particular facility. Casual nurses have told me and told us that it is a very difficult, very strenuous way to work and it creates burnout for a lot of people.

[Page 1639]

Some will say, and rightly so, that there needs to be a percentage of casual positions in many workplaces. But in health care, I think it is somewhere like 20 per cent in order to provide the kind of flexibility necessary for illness, for other things that get in the way of full-time people coming to work, that you have a casual list that you can call upon. But, Mr. Speaker, when it is at the level that it is today, all that is doing is deteriorating health care and making the nursing profession less attractive and we have to do better. We have to work harder and faster to make sure that those positions are more accessible.

Mr. Speaker, $500,000 was set aside for mental health services for youth, maintaining our status well below the national average and represents an increase of only $2.92 per child, for a per capita total of $32.92 per year per child. Mental health, for those members who don't realize it, is an epidemic in this province and across this country. If we don't start addressing the very real problem of mental health in our youth in this province, we are going to be in trouble, we are going to be in big trouble.

I remember travelling, over the past few years, throughout rural Nova Scotia where the resources did not exist to provide appropriate levels of mental health services. I remember being in Port Hawkesbury, where people in Inverness and Victoria Counties would talk about needing to get people to the Cape Breton Regional Healthcare Complex in order to get mental health services for youth, but there was a huge lineup, the mental health care practitioners that were there were overworked, were overburdened. When you think of the time it would take to get from Meat Cove or from any other community into the Cape Breton Healthcare Complex, it is a problem cited by the Cape Breton Healthcare Complex and it is something that desperately needs to be addressed and this government has so far - we are in mid-term now - failed to take this issue head on and that is a problem for the future of this province.

I have a note here that talks about smoking cessation programs, less than a million dollars. Nova Scotia, you know this, the highest smoking rate in the country; 30 per cent. Use among teens stands at 36 per cent, and climbing. This government recently raised taxes on smoking, which we say yea to because the costs of tobacco products, as you increase the costs the usage declines. That is clear in research and we support it. The problem is that you have to take the increased revenue and you have to turn it right around and put it into smoking cessation programs. Tobacco use is an addiction, it is a serious addiction, and for many Nova Scotians, for most people, it is an addiction they are not going to freely be able to rid themselves of and they need help. If we are going to deal with the determinants of health, if we are going to deal with real health issues in the Province of Nova Scotia, we have to start earmarking, targeting the resources.

So, on the one hand we say yea to the government for increasing taxes on tobacco products, but shame on you for not ensuring that that money goes into education and to proper cessation programs that we know work. It is not as if we don't know that these programs work because they do. We target them at young people from the ages of 11 to 13,

[Page 1640]

that is where the problem begins right there, that is where the addiction starts. We need to target it at that population and ensure that they do not become addicts, that they do not become part of the population that is filling the hospitals and, unfortunately, the cemeteries in the Province of Nova Scotia. So, I say to the Minister of Health, take that money, wrestle the Minister of Finance to the ground if you have to, but get that $20 million tucked into proper smoking cessation programs and do something good for the health of the people of the Province of Nova Scotia.

So, what has this government done? Well we have heard it. I am not going to spend any more time on health, other than my concern which is that we are going to be at the end of this mandate where this bunch is going to be going for re-election, they are going to pop their 10 per cent income tax in and say, look at us, we are putting $36.50 in your pockets, therefore, we want you to re-elect us. But they haven't done anything to deal with the real problems in health for the Province of Nova Scotia, for the people of Nova Scotia. They haven't done anything, and another year goes by, another term, another government that had the chance, that had the reins, that had the support of Nova Scotians and failed to have the leadership to fulfil it.

Mr. Speaker, I want to move on, if I may, to the issue of public education. This government has talked about its commitment to lifelong learning. They have recognized, as has everyone around the world, that if you want to develop economically, if you want to develop culturally, if you want to develop as a society, you need to ensure that the pieces of the puzzle are in place: to ensure people have access to lifelong learning; to ensure that MLAs, when they are sitting here at the benches can listen to a video on a particular topic, so that they can learn; so that children who are in high school can attend programs that will help them learn what the information technology economy is all about; so that they can learn how to work collaboratively, how to work together so that when they come out of high school and go into college or university or when they go straight into the workforce, they have learned how to learn, that they have learned how to access information, to work with each other as a team, to pull together the kind of solutions that are necessary in a fast-paced, fast-changing economy like we have here.

That is what lifelong learning is all about, that you are able to access, when you need it, information that is presented in a way that is understandable and that is digestible, information that you can then bring out and apply in an immediate sense to a particular problem, to a particular job, to a particular vocation.

Mr. Speaker, my concern with this government, whether you are talking about elementary school education, whether you are talking about preschool education, whether you are talking about access to community colleges or private training schools or universities, or whether you are talking about what goes on beyond that, that this government has failed to put their resources where it is necessary in order to ensure that lifelong learning is available to all Nova Scotians.

[Page 1641]

Let me give you an example. This government, in their last budget and again in this budget, has talked about trying to bring people who have left high school back in, people who have maybe dropped out for a year or two back, into the high schools. They have talked about community high schools, about setting up a high school in a community, making it more accessible. At the same time they are doing that, they are cutting funds to community-based literacy programs. In the community that I represent in Spryfield, there have been a number of literacy-based programs operating, in particular I can think of one out of the local church, St. Paul's United Church, out of the basement there, which takes, in many cases, single parents, single mothers who left school at say Grade 7 or Grade 8 or Grade 9, maybe 5 years ago, 10 years ago, maybe 2 years ago.

They have found themselves in a situation where they recognize that in order to provide for themselves and for their child or children, they needed to upgrade their education, they needed to get some education, they would need to get upgrading. They need to get their Grade 9, Grade 10, GED; they would need to get a primer on the Grade 10 math or the Grade 11 English in order to be able to take the GED, in order to be able to get Grade 10, let alone Grade 11 or Grade 12, to graduate high school. That is the level that we are talking about. Every year there would be 15, 20, 25 women and men, mostly women, who would take this program, who would be taking these courses, trying to get these courses done, who were trying to work their way through the system in order to be able to get more education, to be able to access education, to be able to contribute more to their family and to their communities, and to be able to get work so that they and their family could survive and prosper.

[7:15 p.m.]

So at the same time as this supposed emphasis on high school education, this government has been cutting funding to these programs. Now what is the sense in that? I don't remember the . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Workplace literacy.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Workplace literacy is another problem, Mr. Speaker, where the government has failed in the relationship with labour and business to come together to ensure that those programs are in the workplace, as they are in other jurisdictions. When you think about the jobs in today's economy and someone with a Grade 8 or a Grade 9, or the people who are receiving family benefits - who the minister says if they don't try to get a job then they are off - what if they don't have the education, why it is you are not making it easier for them to access that kind of education so they can participate in what is thrown around as such a familiar concept of lifelong learning? It simply does not make sense.

[Page 1642]

In my community again this year there has been a huge turmoil over the issue of school closings. We were put on notice in the early fall, I believe it was, by the school board that a review committee would be established to consider the fact that in Spryfield - this is the school board's data - there is a 66 per cent utilization rate of classroom space, and they said that is not good enough. We need to close schools, but we are not going to tell you what schools we are going to close.

This review committee came out, they canvassed the community, they did the work. They had a number of public meetings and it came down to B.C. Silver school and Rockingstone Heights, Mr. Speaker. So all the parents and all the members of the community who were convinced that those schools needed to stay as they were, that they were providing a good quality education, or the fact that there weren't 30 people in the classroom was a good thing because it provided a better student-to-teacher ratio and therefore a better level of education for their children, and they began to mobilize to try to defend their school.

You know what? They did such a good job and there was such an uproar created that the review committee recommended to the school board, and the school board accepted, that there would be no closures this year. Was that the end of it? No, it wasn't, because the next day the school board reversed its decision and decided to go ahead with the closure of these schools.

Now imagine, if you will, as a parent, your child - it doesn't matter what age - there is nothing in this world you care more about than the level of education and the type of education your child is able to receive, whether that is a child with special needs, whether that is a child from an economically privileged background or a background where the economic challenges are greater, everybody agrees that what is paramount is the quality of education that that child receives.

All of a sudden all these families and the education they receive and their children receive is under threat. So they mobilize, they pool their resources together. They come to public meetings and they speak out publicly, which is a fearful thing for many to do, and they are passionate and they are upset and they are angry. They are fighting for something that is as important to them as anything in their lives, and the school board says no, we aren't going to close any schools. Then they say yes, and then we go back through the process again. It is unbelievable, the emotional torment that these people were put through.

Mr. Speaker, the decision finally came down that they were going to close Elizabeth Sutherland School. You know what is somewhat ironic on that elementary school - P to 6 - is the year before, another school had been closed, a small school called Holly Drive School, which is just off the Herring Cove Road, before you get to the old county boundary. Again, it was an important school to that community of small schools, small classes, and a school that people loved and were dedicated to. When that was closed, most of those students ended up at B.C. Silver. So they ended up there for one year and now they are going to be moved

[Page 1643]

again. The consequences of underfunding school boards is what? It is school closings, it is the lack of special education resources.

It is an abominable situation, an outrageous situation that is going on right now in the Halifax Regional Municipality, where the school board has put the maintenance workers out on strike. Mr. Speaker, have they put them out because of money? They put them out because they want the right to move these people around, these women and men who work in the schools and are part of the school families throughout the Halifax Regional Municipality, they want to be able to move them around like pawns, at will, and pay them less with less benefits. They want to tell them where to go, when to go, and they want to take away their rights. Well, what do you think they are going to do, what do you think that women and men with pride, workers in this province and in this great municipality are going to do? They are going to stand up and fight back.

What bothers me so much is the school board makes a decision which affects the lowest paid workers in the school board, not the senior administrators; the lowest paid women and men in the school are the maintenance staff, the custodial staff, and they are out on strike, not making a penny, not making a cent. I drive by them and beep my horn and talk to them and say to myself, how in the name of heaven do you do it? But that is what is happening.

We have asked on a number of occasions for the Minister of Education and the Minister of Labour to intervene, because they won't bring in any legislation which will prevent a strike like this from going on, which will prevent the use of replacement workers which are keeping these schools open; they won't do that. We say, you are the ones who control the final dollars, you are the ones who should say to the school boards, this is not satisfactory, we want you to negotiate a settlement with these workers. That is what we want to see happen, Mr. Speaker.

For the school board, the Halifax Regional Municipality to be taking out its financial problems on the lowest paid workers in its employ is shameful. Not unlike what they did with school bus drivers, by taking away their benefits and rolling back their wages unilaterally; shocking behaviour, but a consequence, and one that this government has to recognize they have responsibility for. They may not pull the trigger, as they say, but by goodness they load the gun, and that is the issue. They do it in this case by failing to provide the money that is necessary for these schools to operate effectively.

Mr. Speaker, I have five minutes left?

MR. SPEAKER: Four minutes.

[Page 1644]

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to move on to post-secondary education, the serious problem with capital, the condition of their infrastructure, the student loan situation affecting students, the tuition continues to go up, the availability of loans, the loan remission program has been axed and is no longer available, again, making it increasingly difficult for young people in the Province of Nova Scotia to access post-secondary education. Increasingly this government is doing things like this, which are creating a greater rift between those with resources and those without resources.

The way this government has handled the economic circumstances facing Cape Breton is absolutely deplorable. The strategy of this municipal equalization plan is absolutely shameful. What it is is it is pitting the Halifax region against the rest of the province, and more specifically it is the Halifax region against Cape Breton. This government is asking property taxpayers of mine in Spryfield, that I represent, seniors on fixed income, people making $20,000 and less, they are asking them to take their property tax dollars and send it to Cape Breton.

As people have said to me, and let me tell you they have been at my door, the door of my office, and they have said, we want to contribute to the economic development of communities and of people across this province and in particular in Cape Breton. We do that through our income taxes, and that is the way it should be done; that is the way it is most fair. This government is trying to shift its responsibility for dealing with the economic crisis in Cape Breton on the property taxpayers of Halifax region. It is wrong, wrong. Absolutely wrong.

People in Halifax understand the need to deal with the reality of an economy, an economy that is continually deteriorating as a result of direct actions of the Minister of Economic Development, the Minister of Municipal Affairs, and other ministers on the government benches.

There have been a number of things this government has failed to do. Most of all, as my time wraps up, let me say that the worst thing of all is to show a lack of courage and a lack of vision, to take the mandate that Nova Scotians gave you to move forward to deal with health care, to come up with an Economic Development strategy for the province, to take on the big oil companies, and to work for life-long learning, Mr. Speaker.

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

The honourable member for Victoria.

MR. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, I want to take a few minutes in the House tonight to make some comments on the hoist amendment to Bill No. 30, the Financial Measures (2001) Bill. At the beginning of last week, at caucus, we felt that we had to provide or to put in place some amendments for Bill No. 30, the Financial Measures (2001) Bill. As

[Page 1645]

we did realize that there are no amendments permitted during second reading, and moreover as a money bill we cannot amend it at any time, therefore we have compiled the following four options for dealing with the bill.

Option one would be supporting the bill which would be quite self-explanatory and equally not recommended. That would mean we would be out of the House more quickly and I am sure the Tories would be happy with that, however, we would be seen as supporting the government on important legislation that we have already spoken out against on several occasions.

[7:30 p.m.]

There are many concerns that I am sure Nova Scotians would want us to talk about on Bill No. 30, so what did we come up with? Hoist the bill. Hoist the bill. That amendment that would remove the entire substance of the bill as follows, and you would then substitute, "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 effect is that this bill is pulled for six months according to Section 668 of Beauchesne. That would give us an extra 20 hours of debate and this would allow for something that some would consider filibustering, but by holding up the bill, taxpayers would learn more about the bill and the financial ramifications.

We may also find ourselves wasting the time of the House and the taxpayers' money and it would also extend the hours of debate on this bill thereby possibly limiting the time to discuss other bills before the House closes.

Option three. Reasoned amendments. This means that we would remove all words as follows and substitute other words that outline our specific objections to the principles, policies or provisions of the bill. We could do several of these on each of our individual objections to the bill, i.e. Child Abuse Register search fee, decreasing tobacco smuggling and the fines relative to smuggling and the increase in tobacco taxes being less than it should have been. This would allow us to hold up debate almost as long as we want, 20 hours on each amendment. It also allows for substantial discussion on individual topics contained in the bill.

The fourth option would be to refer this subject matter to a committee. This is not particularly practical given the nature of the bill. It is also not allowed to refer only certain pieces of the bill. It allows us to hold up debate on motions to refer the subject matter to committee. So what did we recommend? What did we decide at caucus? We have concluded that if it is the decision of caucus that we dwell or plant the flag on Bill No. 30 then the best option is to have it hoisted. And that is where we are this evening.

[Page 1646]

Barring that, the second choice would be reasoned amendments. However, there is a distinct possibility that we could suffer media backlash, either for delaying the House or distracting the House from other more important business contained in other bills.

We feel that this is the most important issue facing Nova Scotia and the Liberal caucus at this point in time. In keeping with our theme of why should Nova Scotians care, we should ask ourselves what we have accomplished by holding up this bill. We believe that many Nova Scotians are not aware of the many flaws that are in Bill No. 30.

Mr. Speaker, a six months' hoist is not a long time. The budget has passed. There is no hurry to move Bill No. 30, the Financial Measures (2001) Act, because this will affect, arguably, all Nova Scotians and it provides for legislative changes associated with the budget. There are certain amendments to legislation that are of note, some which we will get into as we research further into the legislation.

Mr. Speaker, look at the amendment to the Assessment Act. It enables regulations to provide for cost recovery of assessment services. Are the municipalities aware of these regulations? Have they been fully consulted? It also establishes regulation-making powers to provide for an alternative service delivery of assessment services. Those are two issues that we feel are important to our municipalities and that is why we ask for a six months' hoist. Municipalities should be part of the process in terms of granting the regulation power. Costs are being borne by the municipalities. Where will they play a role in terms of cost recovery? After all, they will bear the cost of this and in this.

Mr. Speaker, Clause 4 charges a fee for a search under the Child Abuse Register for employment purposes. They expect it to generate up to $75,000 in revenue. How do we know that the actual cost of doing the search is $20? The Auditor General doesn't know. This is fundamentally wrong. The majority of what they call businesses who are doing a child abuse search are non-profit organizations such as Big Brothers and the YMCA. This government has a history of punishing non-profit organizations, taking the profits from the Sydney Casino that were earmarked for non-profit organizations. But the Premier says that is not wrong because they weren't given the money, so they didn't take it back. You explain that one. They didn't get it, so they were not taking back. Implementing stricter accountability standards with more paper work and red tape. They are now charging them to do a search on an employee who will work with our most precious resource, our children.

Mr. Speaker, Clause 30 replaces Section 89 of the Revenue Act with a graduated fine structure. It would appear on the surface that this clause substantially cuts the fines that are levied on tobacco vendors or tobacco wholesalers for offences so that the first fine is minimal in comparison to what it is now. The government has expressed concern about smuggling, so how does relaxing the fine discourage smuggling. That is another dandy. Smuggling tobacco or smuggling cigarettes today, you could receive a higher fine for speeding. There is something wrong with that picture. For example, first offences are reduced from a fine of

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not less than $10,000 and not more than $50,000 to a fine of not less than $250 and not more than $5,000. Mr. Speaker, that is a considerable reduction.

Mr. Speaker, that is why we feel it is necessary to hoist this bill for six months, so that all Nova Scotians can explain to the government - if they will listen - the rationale behind Clause 30 and the fines relative to tobacco or cigarette smuggling.

Mr. Speaker, Clause 19 repeals the Municipal Grants Act, which requires the province to pay a capital grant to a municipality. Given that the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations has given an extension of 90 days for the equalization plan, when does this clause come into effect? Is it on the passage of the bill? There is another reason, and reason enough to ask for a hoist.

Mr. Speaker, if so, are there costs that the province is willing to swap to ensure that municipalities are able to operate as per usual? Is that in there? Or, does the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities know they are repealing this clause?

Mr. Speaker, the greatest deception perpetuated by this government is that it will give a 10 per cent tax cut in the year 2003-04. We all know this is a fabrication and a charade. Let me tell you why. One of the first reasons, and my colleague, the member for Lunenburg West, has talked about this on several occasions in this House, the first reason is the bracket creep. Let's think about it for a moment; someone making $30,000 per year in 1999, whose income remains the same in 2002, will be paying more tax. No matter how many ways the Premier or the Finance Minister try to gloss over it, Nova Scotians will be no better off in 2004 than they were in 1999.

After bracket creep we look at the failure of the government to pass on the corresponding federal tax cut. Each and every year, prior to last year's provincial income taxes, income taxes went up and every time the federal government raised taxes, taxes went up for two decades. What happened last year? The federal government reduced taxes but there was no corresponding reduction provincially. Why? I will tell you why and I will tell you why we want this hoist. After paying higher taxes for two decades, the taxpayer was going to get a break, but what did this government do? They essentially raised provincial taxes so the province would not take a hit. Mr. Speaker is that fair? No, that is unfair. That is changed to bracket creep and every Nova Scotian is paying higher taxes; no matter how many ways you slice or dice it, Nova Scotians will not receive any tax cuts.

Mr. Speaker, now that we know about bracket creep and the lack of flow-through, there is also the question of user fees. In the recent Auditor General's Report he has indicated that the government must justify user fees to show that they are used for cost recovery. If not, they will be considered taxes. Well, it doesn't matter what this government thinks, it is Nova Scotians who have the final say and they are not going to be hoodwinked by the simple and the cool word of user fees. A tax is a tax is a tax.

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[7:45 p.m.]

AN HON. MEMBER: That is right. They know it.

MR. MACASKILL: This will be considered tax.

Let's look at the 2000-01 user fees. Mr. Speaker, $29 million user fees from last year's budget. Where are they? I will tell you where some of them are. From 20 per cent to 33 per cent, senior Pharmacare co-pay. What does that average per person? It is $5.00 per prescription; over $8 million per year in total. Here is another one: 43 cents, 911 tax, actually up 46 cents with the MTT increase. This was to recover costs of 911 services.

Yearly fees, $5 million hospital user fees, preferred rooms, fibreglass casts, TVs and so on, which is going to bring $5 million in to the coffers of the province; $950,000, driver testing handbooks and driver tests. Mr. Speaker, what many Nova Scotians tell me who go for driving tests is that you pay a fee every time you go for a test. If you fail the first test you pay a fee to do the second test, very unfair; $700,000 in prescription drugs for welfare recipients.

Mr. Speaker, ferry fares. Where I have two ferries in my small riding - increased from $1.75 to $3.00 in Little Narrows, Digby Neck, Englishtown and so on; $200,000 insurance agents' licences; $200,000 environmental approvals. Teacher certificate fees introduced by Order In Council on February 15, 2001; $80 for a new teacher; $35 teacher certificate renewal.

Those are the reasons why we asked the government to consider a six months' hoist. 2001-2002 user fees. $3 million in new user fees, about $3.00 from every Nova Scotian and these new user fees come less than a month after the Auditor General criticized the Tories for not being able to justify user fees.

Fifty dollars, seniors in hospital waiting for long-term care beds, $1 million per year, and we believe there are beds available in long-term care homes, still the government expects people to stay in hospital beds; $70 Registry of Deeds, up from $40 to pay for Registry 2000. That brings in $1.1 million per year. One dollar from industry for every ton of sulphur dioxide released into the environment; $6,500 for industries to obtain operating approvals. That one is very broad and that is certainly an attraction for anyone wanting to come into the province to operate any industry.

Mr. Speaker, $75 to $300 for large fuel storage tanks at service stations, factories and farms and, again, $20 to search the Child Abuse Register. The list goes on: $416 per course at Nova Scotia Agricultural College up from $400; $100 for a well driller's permit. Well driller's permit, is that for drilling wells or is that for wells that are dug with a machine where a registered driller has to have a permit to provide an on-surface well? What is that going to

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cost new homeowners? Whether they have a well drilled, I would assume it is the same cost wherever they find water, because in order to have a well approved today it has to be inspected and it has to be done by a registered operator. Two dollars per wet ton to harvest marine plants, up from $1.00, a 100 per cent increase; $50 for propane fueling stations.

We want this hoist for many reasons because the bottom line is that there is no tax relief coming. Nova Scotians are not fully aware of that. If John Hamm or the Conservative Government gives a 10 per cent tax cut, it will be merely a case of giving back what he wrongfully took away from them over four years in office; and he will expect Nova Scotians to believe that they are getting a 10 per cent increase. This one is like the casino, only he is taking it from them first and then giving it back.

The sad thing is that when all this is said and done, Nova Scotians will be no better off financially. Now that the debt went up by $1.3 billion since last April, but as scary as that is, let us look at Health spending. Since this government took office they have added $300 million to the Health budget with nothing to show for it. Even if the budget stays the same next year, and we all know it will not, the government will still be spending $300 million more than in 1999, for a total of $600 million. Does that sound familiar? After two more years in office this government will have spent $900 million more on Health than this last government. To put this in perspective, our Health Investment Fund was only $600 million.

Mr. Speaker, my final thought is this, the provincial debt is about to hit emergency proportions, an economic slowdown for North America is rapidly deteriorating into a recession. The government will be hard pressed to scare up more windfalls from Ottawa. Even still, without a plan to pay down the debt, even with projected surpluses, this government will have the net direct debt rise each and every year of its mandate. In fact, the net direct debt will rise by another $400 million over the next four years. In 2000 we have a deficit of $11.219 billion; in 2001, $11.472 billion; in 2002, $11.648 billion; in 2003, $11.705 billion; in 2004, $11.754 billion; and in 2005, $11.768 billion.

Mr. Speaker, there is no real tax cut. Service will not have improved and, worst of all, debt servicing charges will be over $1.1 billion by the time this government is booted out of office. That is why the Liberal caucus is asking the government to hoist this legislation for six months. Let's talk for awhile about government mismanagement. This is a theme that will probably sound very familiar to most of you. Nova Scotia is at a fiscal crossroads: on the one side of the fork is the path to prosperity and life as a have province; and on the other side is a return to the days of the Buchanan era, and governments that ran 25 per cent deficits and had no idea of how to balance a budget.

Mr. Speaker, due to the lateness of the day, if you wish, I will adjourn debate.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Victoria has moved adjournment of debate. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

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The motion is carried.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, tomorrow is Opposition Day. I will turn things over to the Opposition House Leader.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Opposition House Leader.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, we are expecting tremendous co-operation from government members as we call some very progressive pieces of legislation tomorrow. We have three pieces that we would like to be able to deal with: Bill No. 35, Restoration of the Legal and Environmental Rights of the People of Sydney Act; Bill No. 37, User-fees Disclosure Act; and Bill No. 38, Provincial Sovereignty Act.

Mr. Speaker, with that I would move adjournment of the House. The House will meet tomorrow between the hours of 2:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Just a reminder to the honourable members about the reception tomorrow at 1:00 p.m., downstairs in the foyer, for the Colleen Jones curling team.

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 2:00 p.m. tomorrow.

[The House rose at 7:58 p.m.]

[Page 1651]

NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)

RESOLUTION NO. 641

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 Parrsboro Town Council has given its approval for a new helicopter landing pad to be used for emergency health services in the town; and

Whereas a representative of STARS Ambulance Service has toured the proposed site on Western Avenue in Parrsboro and deemed it okay for landing; and

Whereas Parrsboro Town Council, without hesitation, understood the need for such a landing pad and offered to co-operate 100 per cent with STARS in making such a landing pad possible;

Therefore be it resolved that all MLAs in this House of Assembly commend Parrsboro Town Council for having the necessary foresight and understanding toward having a landing pad for emergency health services made available in Parrsboro.

RESOLUTION NO. 642

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 school year is coming to a close and another group of Grade 12 students at Springhill High School will be graduating; and

Whereas these students of the class of 2001 have reached a milestone in their lives and will soon have important decisions to make; and

Whereas our youth are the heart of our communities and bring new hope for our future;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the Springhill High School graduating class of 2001 and wish each and every student all the best as they pursue and realize their dreams.

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RESOLUTION NO. 643

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 school year is coming to a close and another group of Grade 12 students at Advocate District High School will be graduating; and

Whereas these students of the class of 2001 have reached a milestone in their lives and will soon have important decisions to make; and

Whereas our youth are the heart of our communities and bring new hope for our future;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the Advocate District High School graduating class of 2001 and wish each and every student all the best as they pursue and realize their dreams.

RESOLUTION NO. 644

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 school year is coming to a close and another group of Grade 12 students at Parrsboro Regional High School will be graduating; and

Whereas these students of the class of 2001 have reached an important milestone in their lives and will soon have serious decisions to make; and

Whereas our youth are the heart of our communities and bring new hope for our future;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the Parrsboro Regional High School graduating class of 2001 and wish each and every student all the best as they pursue and realize their dreams.

[Page 1653]

RESOLUTION NO. 645

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 school year is coming to a close and another group of Grade 12 students at River Hebert District High School will be graduating; and

Whereas these students of the class of 2001 have reached a milestone in their lives and will soon have important decisions to make; and

Whereas our youth are the heart of our communities and breathe new hope for our future;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the River Hebert District High School graduating class of 2001 and wish each and every student all the best as they pursue and realize their dreams.

RESOLUTION NO. 646

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 school year is coming to a close and another group of Grade 12 students at Oxford Regional High School will be graduating; and

Whereas these students of the class of 2001 have reached a milestone in their lives and will soon have important decisions to make; and

Whereas our youth are the heart of our communities and bring new hope for our future;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the Oxford Regional High School graduating class of 2001 and wish each and every student all the best as they pursue and realize their dreams.