Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

La Chambre s'est ajournée le
26 octobre 2017

Hansard -- Wed., Apr. 25, 2001

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HALIFAX, WEDNESDAY, APRIL 25, 2001

Fifty-eighth General Assembly

Second Session

2:00 P.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Murray Scott

DEPUTY SPEAKERS

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

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Before we begin the daily routine, the honourable Premier on an introduction.

The honourable Premier.

HON. JOHN HAMM (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, I would draw to the attention of the members and to the Speaker, some special guests in the Speaker's Gallery today. We have the 2001 World Championship women's curlers with us. (Standing Ovation)

Mr. Speaker, for the record, I would like to read the names of the team members: Colleen Jones, Skip; Kim Kelly, Third Stone; Mary-Anne Waye, Second Stone; Nancy Delahunt, Lead Stone; Laine Peters, Alternate; and Ken Bagnell, Coach. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: For all members, originally, before the team left Canada, I made a call to invite Colleen and her team here and her request at that time was whether or not they could bring their children with them. We are certainly pleased to have you here today and your families, as well. Congratulations on behalf of the House. (Applause)

We will begin the daily routine.

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PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Premier.

RESOLUTION NO. 647

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

Whereas Nova Scotia's World Champion curlers were honoured this afternoon in a reception in the House of Assembly; and

Whereas this month, Colleen Jones and her team mates Third, Kim Kelly; Second, Mary-Anne Waye; Lead, Nancy Delahunt; and Alternate, Laine Peters defeated Sweden to win the 2001 World Women's Curling Championship; and

Whereas this was the team's first world title and the 12th for Canada since the women's championship began in 1979, illustrating our country's strength in this sport;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House again congratulate these five extraordinary athletes who have made all Nova Scotians and, indeed, all Canadians proud and also thank their invaluable Coach, Mr. Ken Bagnell for his part in this victory.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

[Page 1657]

The honourable Minister of Education.

RESOLUTION NO. 648

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

Whereas Techsploration 2001 successfully completed this year's Techsploration Program, which offers young women opportunities to explore trades and technology-related occupations; and

Whereas 48 students from around the province came together for a stimulating and exciting concluding program in Port Hawkesbury on April 19th to 20th; and

Whereas the Techsploration Program is supported by numerous private and public sector partners, including the Department of Education and the Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women;

Therefore be it resolved that this House extend its congratulations to all involved in the organization of this year's successful Techsploration Program, and wish all the young women who participated in the program success in their future career choices.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Tourism and Culture.

RESOLUTION NO. 649

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

Whereas the South Shore Tourism Association is hosting its annual general meeting over the next two days; and

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Whereas the association is celebrating its 40th year of bringing operators together in order to build the South Shore as a prime tourism destination; and

Whereas the association represents the people who make the tourism industry in Nova Scotia what it is today, a $1 billion-plus industry that is a driving force behind our economy;

Therefore be it resolved that the House join me in congratulating the association on this significant milestone, and in wishing them continued success as they work to develop Nova Scotia's tourism sector.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Premier.

RESOLUTION NO. 650

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

Whereas Statistics Canada will conduct the Census of Population and the Census of Agriculture on Tuesday, May 15, 2001; and

Whereas census information is vital to support policy analysis and public debate by governments, businesses and institutions on a wide variety of social and economic issues; and

Whereas the Statistics Act of Canada protects the confidentiality of personal information provided on census questionnaires;

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[2:15 p.m.]

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House declare the week of May 13th to May 19th as Census Week in Nova Scotia, and call upon all residents to count themselves in by Tuesday, May 15, 2001.

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 on an introduction.

MR. MARK PARENT: It gives me great pleasure to welcome to the House and to introduce to you members of the executive PC Youth, Liz Bradshaw from Stellarton; Adam Church from Windsor; and Carl Dholandes from Halifax. I would ask them to stand and I hope you will give them a warm welcome to our House this afternoon. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: I certainly welcome these visitors to the Chamber today.

The honourable Minister of Education on an introduction.

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I would like to bring the attention of the House to some special guests in the east gallery, particularly special is Taylor Hull. She is a Grade 3 student at Beechville-Lakeside-Timberlea Elementary School. With her are her mother and teacher. This school has produced some really interesting works of art lately and a number of them are on display in the Department of Education. Luckily for me, I got first choice on which one I wanted in my office and I happened to pick one that Taylor had done and it was a self-portrait of her cat. Being a cat person myself, I really liked it. I thank them for coming here to visit us today and, if they would stand, the House could give them a warm welcome. (Applause)

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

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NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 651

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

Whereas healthy living and physical fitness are goals that all Nova Scotians should strive to attain; and

Whereas a simple and inexpensive regular pastime such as a daily walk will contribute immeasurably to physical health; and

Whereas Mr. Ken Spares of Lower Selma is setting an example for Nova Scotians in this area by having committed to walk the equivalent of the circumference of the entire globe by means of his daily walks and, indeed, he has almost completed his goal;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate Mr. Spares on his fine effort at walking the equivalent of the circumference of the globe and for being such a good example for all Nova Scotians who strive for fitness.

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. 652

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: 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 on April 7th, Colleen Jones and her team mates Kim Kelly, Mary-Anne Waye, Nancy Delahunt and Laine Peters, with Coach Ken Bagnell defeated Sweden to win the women's World Curling Championship; and

Whereas today Province House hosted the winning team to celebrate their outstanding victory; and

Whereas all Nova Scotians and all Canadians are indeed very proud of this curling team;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House welcome the Colleen Jones Team back home to Nova Scotia and wish them our very best for a successful future.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Preston.

RESOLUTION NO. 653

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

Whereas Johanne Galarneau of Goulds, Newfoundland, has served this House of Assembly faithfully over the past number of months as Legislative Page. I would also advise the House that today is her last day with us; and

Whereas Ms. Galarneau served, last year, as a student representative on Dalhousie University's Board of Governors; and

Whereas Ms. Galarneau, now in her final year of her science degree, will serve her fellow students as the Vice President for Student Advocacy on the Dalhousie University Student Union Executive;

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Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House of Assembly congratulate Johanne Galarneau for her dedication to student leadership and advocacy, and wish her well in her work on behalf of her university peers. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

RESOLUTION NO. 654

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

Whereas this year marks the 25th, or Silver, Anniversary, of the Institute for Early Childhood Education and Developmental Services, now quartered in the former NSCC Truro Campus; and

Whereas the institute now has over 4,000 graduates in the fields of early childhood, youth work, teaching assistants and special education across this country and abroad; and

Whereas the institute plans a daylong celebration of its accomplishments on June 22nd, with a fund-raising dinner and dance;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the Institute for Early Childhood Education on their 25th Anniversary and wish it continued success with its current and future programs.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

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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. 655

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

Whereas yesterday provincial NDP Leader Helen MacDonald stepped down as Leader; and

Whereas Helen has spent over 30 years fighting for Nova Scotians both as MLA and as a pillar of the NDP in our province; and

Whereas the decision to leave politics is no doubt very difficult;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize the dedication that Helen has shown to not only the NDP, but also to the people of this province. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Colchester North.

RESOLUTION NO. 656

MR. WILLIAM LANGILLE: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the member for the beautiful Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

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Whereas the Nova Forest Alliance has just completed its third year of operation, working towards a vision of achieving sustainable forest management through a co-operative partnership within the context of Nova Scotia's Acadian forest ecosystems; and

Whereas the Nova Forest Alliance is a 458,000 hectare project in central Nova Scotia, situated between Truro and Halifax; and

Whereas Phase III of the project is expected to begin, provided that funding assistance comes forward from the federal government;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this Legislature unanimously support the Nova Forest Alliance and its need for funding and research dollars from the federal government to continue.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

RESOLUTION NO. 657

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution - which I might add is exactly the same, word for word, as a resolution read by the new Premier in this House on October 20, 1998, changing only the words Frederick Street to Whitney Pier:

Whereas residents of Whitney Pier live in close proximity to the coke ovens and old landfill sites; and

Whereas the residents of Whitney Pier have made it clear to the Premier and to this government that they feel their health is at risk due to their proximity to the coke ovens site and the old landfill sites; and

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Whereas the Premier, his Minister of Health and his Minister of Environment continue to ignore the plight of Whitney Pier residents;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier fully disclose exactly what his government intends to do to help the residents of Whitney Pier, in terms of resolving this toxic nightmare and public health hazard.

Mr. Speaker, because it is word for word, a resolution that Premier read, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

RESOLUTION NO. 658

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

Whereas yesterday R&P Golf Venture Incorporated launched a new interactive CD-ROM; and

Whereas this interactive CD-ROM which was developed in Nova Scotia, will allow new and experienced golfers to perfect their golf etiquette; and

Whereas this CD-ROM is being marketed to not only the 4.5 million golfers in Canada and the 50 million golfers in the United States, but also to golfers throughout the world;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House congratulate R&P Golf Venture for launching its newest product and send the company our very best wishes for a successful future.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

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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. 659

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

Whereas there once was a doctor named Hamm

who when the call came said, "Here I am."

now he sits in power and on Nova Scotia does shower

his grace, his goodness and charm; and

Whereas there once was an MLA named MacDonell

who though a country boy said "what the . . ."

though bad for his health he shared of his wealth

whether he's keeping it or not he won't tell; and

Whereas there once was a teacher named Wayne

who was humble and certainly not vain

but he nevertheless agreed when his Party showed need

and he politely accepts now his fame;

Therefore be it resolved that this month,

in which verse is hailed north and south,

that we all agree to support poetry

and to use it if we can in this House.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

AN HON. MEMBER: Now you are going to hear a poet. (Laughter)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Dartmouth North has the floor.

[Page 1667]

RESOLUTION NO. 660

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

Whereas 2001 is the International Year of Volunteers; and

Whereas Nova Scotians have a long tradition of giving selflessly; and

Whereas Anne MacDonald of Stellarton has been selected as the town's Volunteer of the Year and will also receive the Francis (Bud) MacKay Award in Stellarton on April 25th and will travel to the provincial reception of volunteers in Halifax;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Legislature honour Anne MacDonald for her accomplishments and for receiving the Francis (Bud) MacKay Award.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

RESOLUTION NO. 661

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

Whereas this government promised the people of Nova Scotia that it would invest in frontline health care services by cutting administration; and

Whereas to date the Minister of Health has at his disposal an assistant deputy minister, an associate deputy minister, an executive assistant, a special assistant, and most recently a $100,000-a-year chief information officer; and

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Whereas as a result of this administration situation, all Nova Scotians have seen reduced services, longer wait times and fewer specialists;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Health apologize to the people of Nova Scotia for ignoring frontline health care workers while he builds his own administrative empire.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Bedford Basin.

RESOLUTION NO. 662

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 there once was a member, MacKinnon, who occasionally confessed to some sinnin'; and

Whereas he debated with robust endeavour, his remarks not so witty or clever; and

Whereas in his usual gusto, his tongue to his teeth, said "you must go";

Therefore be it resolved that while his teeth took a beating, he kept up his bleating, though a danger to fellow and foe.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No, one No.

The notice is tabled.

[Page 1669]

The honourable member will allow for an introduction before the next resolution, please.

The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I just want to take the time to introduce to the House, James Taylor, who is sitting in the government gallery. James is a Grade 11 student at Dartmouth High School, and he is my job shadow for the day. He has been doing a great job. I just want to welcome him, and if you would all welcome him to the House. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We certainly welcome the young gentleman to the House today.

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

RESOLUTION NO. 663

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

Whereas on Sunday, April 22, 2001, Canadian Space Agency astronaut Colonel Chris Hadfield from Milton, Ontario, soared into space aboard the shuttle Endeavor; and

Whereas the Canadian astronaut was charged with the responsibility of installing Canadarm2, a robotic arm, to the space station; and

Whereas Colonel Hadfield has a Nova Scotia connection through his eldest son, Kyle, who attends Acadia University;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House pay tribute to Chris Hadfield as the first Canadian to walk in space and congratulate him on this outstanding mission accomplished.

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 Cape Breton West.

RESOLUTION NO. 664

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

[2:30 p.m.]

Whereas Saturday, April 28th, is Injured Workers' Day; and

Whereas workplace safety should be a priority of not only every industry, but a priority for this government; and

Whereas on Saturday, at the J.K. Bell Union Centre in Bayers Lake, there will be a plaque unveiling to honour those who have been injured or who have died on the job;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House remember those workers who have died or who have been injured in a work-related accident and encourage all Nova Scotians to renew their commitment to maintaining safe workplaces.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 665

MR. FRANK CHIPMAN: 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 farming takes an enormous amount of dedication and hard work to overcome growing challenges; and

Whereas farmers in the Annapolis Valley recently came together to build a new grain and forage commodity centre in Lawrencetown, which provides a ready market for local grain producers, exports top quality timothy hay to New England and provides grain drying services; and

Whereas West Nova Agro Commodities helped to develop a business plan and set up a community investment fund to allow farmers and other members of the community to invest in the new centre after the Middleton grain centre was shut down;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House commend West Nova Agro Commodities for helping to renew optimism in agriculture in the Annapolis Valley by helping farmers to overcome the difficult challenges they face 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.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 666

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

Whereas the ability to read and write well is recognized as the most basic of essential educational skills in order to achieve an independent and prosperous life in today's interconnected world; and

Whereas for one reason or another, there are always people, young and old, who fail to acquire those skills during the normal course of their initial schooling; and

[Page 1672]

Whereas Tri-County Learning and Literacy Society has, for many years, successfully tutored people who lack the literacy skills of their peers with their dedicated staff of volunteers;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly recognize and commend Ms. Colleen Pridham, Director of TCLLS, and her volunteer tutors for providing a literacy service much needed and appreciated in the Tri-County area.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Queens.

RESOLUTION NO. 667

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

Whereas Nova Scotia teachers work diligently to prepare our children for the future while learning about their past; and

Whereas our heritage is important to all Nova Scotians and Canadians; and

Whereas Cathy Wentzell, a Grade 5 teacher at Dr. John C. Wickwire Academy in Liverpool recently organized the first annual Heritage Day fair for students in Grades 4, 5 and 6, resulting in the selection of several students who will proceed to a regional fair in Bridgewater and, possibly, a national fair to be held in Kamloops, British Columbia in July;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Mrs. Wentzell on her outstanding efforts, as well as the participants who have gained a greater understanding of their local and provincial heritage as a result.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 1673]

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 East.

RESOLUTION NO. 668

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

Whereas today we celebrate Administrative Professionals Day; and

Whereas administrative professionals, more commonly known as secretaries, perform a wide variety of tasks in assisting their administrators; and

Whereas if it were not for the tasks performed by the administrative professionals, the operations of government, industry and business would grind to a halt;

Therefore be it resolved that this House extends its sincere appreciation and gratitude to all the administrative professionals who make the engine of our society operate without interruption.

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 Economic Development.

[Page 1674]

RESOLUTION NO. 669

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

Whereas in January, the Premier launched Nova Scotia's Campaign for Fairness; and

Whereas more and more Nova Scotians are supporting the Premier's efforts in ensuring our province enjoys the full financial benefits from our offshore resources; and

Whereas the Municipality of Digby recently endorsed the Campaign for Fairness unanimously;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize and thank the Municipality of Digby, Warden Jim Thurber, and Council Members James MacAlpine, Helen Robinson, Linda Gregory and Roberta Journeay for their support of this worthwhile initiative.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Health.

RESOLUTION NO. 670

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

Whereas Bible Hill Junior High School teams recently swept the Northumberland Region Curling Championships; and

Whereas the boys team, including Skip Byrant Farmer, Third Daniel Green, Second Gerald Glinz, and Lead Nic Smith, posted a 2 to 1 record en route to capturing the boys title; and

[Page 1675]

Whereas the girls team of Skip Morgan Brown, Third Stephanie George, Second Jennifer Chase, and Lead Cara McInnis, completed the tournament with a perfect 3 and 0 record;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the players of the Bible Hill Junior High School boys and girls curling teams, as well as their Coach Nancie Dennis, for bringing home a pair of championship banners.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Pictou East.

RESOLUTION NO. 671

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

Whereas literacy skills lead to a path of lifelong learning; and

Whereas employees from the Department of Transportation and Public Works spearheaded the Workplace Education Program to promote basic literacy skills among their colleagues; and

Whereas Marilyn Robinson was recently given special recognition for launching the program and for continuing to promote an expanded role for it;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House extend our appreciation for her efforts in helping others return to a path of learning and the positive benefits that will result in the lives of the participants, as well as the department.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 1676]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations.

RESOLUTION NO. 672

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker - I want to thank the honourable member for Pictou East for giving me time to rearrange the wording in this resolution - I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas the Workplace Education Program was designed by employees of the Department of Transportation and Public Works to promote basic literacy skills among their fellow workers; and

Whereas nearly 100 people from around the province have benefited from the program since it was launched in 1998; and

Whereas Kevin Landry, of the Antigonish project, was recently given special recognition for his involvement in this project;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House commend Kevin Landry for his commitment in helping others reach positive achievements for themselves and the department.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

[Page 1677]

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I would ask for the concurrence of the House to revert to the order of business, Statements by Ministers.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Tourism and Culture.

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I would like to inform the House of investments the province is making in the health and leadership abilities of Nova Scotians. The Nova Scotia Sport and Recreation Commission is providing $70,000 in support to outdoor initiatives involving youth, women, and the Trans Canada Trail. It is another step in making the outdoor experiences of Nova Scotians and visitors to this province safe, enjoyable and protective of the environment.

Mr. Speaker, we are contributing $50,000 to the Nova Scotia Trails Federation to hire a coordinator for the Trans Canada Trail. This coordinator will provide expertise and support to community groups and municipalities as they plan and develop further sections of the trail. Communities right across the province have jumped enthusiastically onto the Trans Canada Trail. Thousands of volunteers are generously giving time, money and sweat to build this network of trails that is benefiting all Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, the remaining $25,000 will go towards investing in initiatives involving youth and women. The Youth Outdoor Leadership Mentoring Program will recruit and train mentors who will help young people develop the skills, attitudes and knowledge they need to lead others in outdoor activities.

Mr. Speaker, we are also investing in developing women's skills as outdoor leaders. This initiative will train women to lead groups in all sorts of outdoor situations from wilderness survival to tourist nature walks. It also complements Becoming an Outdoors Woman Program administered by the Department of Natural Resources.

These investments are being made under the Nova Scotia Outdoor Leadership Development Program, a commission initiative guided by a volunteer committee. About 35 of the province's best outdoor leaders are involved in delivering the NSOLD program. For 22 years the NSOLD Program has developed outdoor and leadership skills for thousands of Nova Scotians through weekend modules and five day leadership schools.

[Page 1678]

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

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I just want an opportunity to respond to the statement by the honourable minister. I appreciate receiving the statement in advance. I just would note that, it is very helpful to receive this information so that we have an opportunity to prepare.

I want to note to the House, Mr. Speaker, and indeed to all Nova Scotians, that this is a very positive announcement. The Trans Canada Trail and the Nova Scotia Outdoor Leadership Development Program are important to the province. Certainly in my own constituency, the salt marsh trail which actually travels from Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage and goes down, I think, to the Eastern Shore riding. It is used extensively, though, by individuals from my riding as an attribute to the whole community. So we see this as a very positive announcement which we very much welcome.

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

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I would like to express my gratitude to the minister for providing a copy of his statement prior. I appreciate that. Nova Scotians across this province have shown leadership in developing the Trans Canada Trail and attracting youth and women to recreational activities. It is only fitting that this government should support these efforts. The credit goes to those volunteers who give generously of their time and energy to make these opportunities possible.

I certainly welcome the minister's statement, I am just not sure we need a minister to stand up and congratulate himself every time he does something that he ought to be doing anyway. (Laughter) Each year, Mr. Speaker, the Sport and Recreation Commission extends financial support to valued community projects. My constituents, for instance, are more interested in knowing if the $70,000 is all the communities will get through the Sport and Recreation Commission this year.

Youth outdoor leadership is worth developing and women leaders are much needed in Nova Scotia. For over 20 years our Sport and Recreation Commission has supported projects like this. Our caucus knows that Nova Scotians and their communities deserve the credit for this announcement. We just think it is a little self-serving for the minister to turn this into a statement so he can grab the credit instead of honouring the volunteers in the community groups who deserve the credit the most.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Before we move on, the subject for this evening's late debate was submitted by the honourable member for Kings North:

Therefore be it resolved that while sticks and stones can break our bones, words can either hurt or heal us.

[Page 1679]

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

Order, please.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, upon entering Province House this afternoon, I learned that the U.S. Commerce Department intends to impose a duty on softwood lumber imported from Atlantic Canada, despite our region's previous exemption from the United States softwood lumber duties and restrictions. This is a direct threat to tens of thousands of jobs in our province and to the major industry in many communities.

The prospect of the United States duty is urgent and deserves immediate consideration of this House. Our voices must be loud, clear and united, Mr. Speaker. A debate in accordance with Rule 43 is the only way we can actually discuss the issue in the House today and I ask that I be granted to leave to move that the business of the House be set aside for the purpose of discussing it.

AN HON. MEMBER: At the end of regular hours.

MR. MACDONELL: At the end of the regular business hours, at the end of Question Period.

AN HON. MEMBER: No, no, at the end of the day.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. (Interruptions) Order, please. A request has been made under Rule 43 for an emergency debate by the honourable Leader of the Opposition. As he indicated, according to Rule 43(2) it says that, ". . . at least two hours prior to the opening of a sitting, a written statement of the matter proposed to be discussed . . .", and given to the Speaker, which it wasn't. However, it says, "If the urgent matter is not then known . . .", by the member, he, ". . . shall give his written statement to the Speaker as soon as . . .", possible. I just received the request in the last few minutes. What I would like to do, immediately after Question Period, I will review the request, take it under advisement and report immediately back to the House within a very short time, unless there is an agreement by all three Parties that will set the business of the House aside after the moment of adjournment and take part in the debate.

[2:45 p.m.]

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 1680]

The motion is carried.

Order, please. So at the moment of interruption, at 6:00 p.m., we will immediately proceed into the emergency debate, which has been submitted by the honourable Leader of the Opposition.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

NAT. RES. - SOFTWOOD LUMBER:

DUTY (ATL. CAN.) - MIN. COUNTERPARTS DISCUSS

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, my question will be for the Minister of Natural Resources. Today's news indicates that the U.S. Commerce Department intends to hit softwood lumber from Atlantic Canada with a duty. Details are scarce, but I am sure the minister appreciates the gravity of the situation. Will the minister indicate if he has conferred with his counterparts in other Atlantic Provinces about this matter?

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, the gravity of the situation certainly is very important to not only the wood and fibre producers in Nova Scotia, but the general economy. Ministers of Natural Resources, Ministers of Economic Development and the Premiers of each of the Maritime Provinces have been fully apprised and have been working with the Maritime Lumber Bureau on this issue and are jointly united, every province, in pushing forward for the industry here and the exemption.

MR. MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I would say that if they are doing anything at all, that would be appreciated by the industry. I understand that Diana Blenkhorn, President of the Maritime Lumber Bureau, is in Washington as we speak, conferring with the U.S. Commerce Department. Traditionally, softwood lumber from Atlantic Canada has enjoyed the benefits of no duties from the Americans. My question to the Minister of Natural Resources is, can the minister assure this House that he has made a case, forcefully, with the U.S. Commerce Department that no duties be imposed on our lumber?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, I certainly can assure the honourable member that not only each provincial department in the Maritime accord, but right to the Premier's level, have made representation to the U.S. Congress, Trade Department.

MR. MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I will direct my final question to the Premier. Just in recent days, we have seen the Summit of the Americas conclude with a free trade deal for which details are sorely lacking. The Premier indicated last week that Nova Scotia has been

[Page 1681]

kept informed of the deal by the Minister of International Trade, the Honourable Pierre Pettigrew. Now we see that 23,000 jobs in the forest industry in Nova Scotia are in peril. So we have to say, some deal. Will the Premier agree to go to Ottawa to press the case with the Minister of International Trade to ensure that Maritime softwood lumber continues duty free.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, all members of this House are very appreciative of the seriousness of the issue that the member opposite addresses by way of his question. We have been orchestrating our responses with the Maritime Lumber Bureau. We have the co-operation of the other three Atlantic Premiers and we will do everything in our power to make the case for an Atlantic Canadian exemption. If that requires trips to Ottawa, the trips will be made. If it requires trips to the U.S., the trips will be made. Whatever is required will be done but we must orchestrate the effort clearly with our colleagues in the other Atlantic Canadian provinces.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Victoria.

NAT. RES. - SOFTWOOD LUMBER (CAN.):

TARIFFS (U.S.) - MIN. (N.S.)/MIN. (CAN.) DISCUSS

MR. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, my question is also for the Minister of Natural Resources. Today the U.S. Commerce Department has begun an investigation into duties or tariffs against Canadian softwood lumber. All members of the House will know that the advantage we have over other provinces in securing export opportunity under NAFTA is that we are not regarded as subsidizing our industry because of the extent of private landholders. I would like to ask the minister today, what recent discussions has he had with his federal counterpart about fighting protectionist actions by our neighbours to the south?

HON. ERNEST FAGE: I thank the honourable member for his question and certainly the honourable member knows that the exemption for the softwood lumber industry here in Nova Scotia is absolutely paramount. We have been working in close connection with Diana Blenkhorn, who certainly has the confidence of this department and this government, as well as other governments in Atlantic Canada. She has been dealing with the U.S. Congress department directly. She, as well as our supporters, has achieved the U.S. coalition support in the lumber dispute. The current ruling today involved the Commerce Department.

MR. MACASKILL: I would like to go to the Premier with this second question. Three weeks ago I tabled a resolution in the House relative to what could happen, or that this news could come today. I will table that resolution. So, today the news did come. Let me ask the Premier why did he not follow up or why did he let Nova Scotians and the industry down by not following up on the signals that were out there very clearly that this news could come and, indeed, it came today; why did the Premier not follow up on the signals that were out there?

[Page 1682]

THE PREMIER: Contrary to what the member implies, we have been in constant touch with all of the agencies that are working on this file. One of the initiatives we had undertaken, as Atlantic Canadian Premiers, was a letter to Ottawa which was then discouraged at that time by the Maritime Lumber Bureau because of the rapidity of what was happening and because of the changes and direction that were happening in Ottawa. You can rest assured that when the appropriate time to move and the appropriate action is delineated, it will be done.

MR. MACASKILL: Under my resolution of March 28th. I recommended to the Premier at that time that he should follow up on another Campaign for Fairness by going to the other Premiers. Even in western Canada they agreed that we were unfairly subsidized through low stumpage rates. (Interruption) Let me tell the Premier again, on the resolution of March 28th, I recommended to the Premier at that time that he should start another Campaign for Fairness because western Canada perceived the Atlantic regions to be subsidized through low stumpage rates.

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

MR. MACASKILL: Can I ask the Premier if he has done any follow-up with the Premiers of other provinces regarding the perceived unfairness?

THE PREMIER: While I don't for a minute discount the intentions of the member opposite, we are coordinating our efforts on this with the other provinces and with the Maritime Lumber Bureau and I believe that is the most sensible go forward.

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

HEALTH - SYDNEY TAR PONDS: POLLUTANTS (WHITNEY PIER) - RESIDENTS' HEALTH ENSURE

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, we already know this government's attitude towards Cape Breton when it comes to steelworkers or laying off school teachers. Last night the residents of Whitney Pier were told that levels of arsenic found in and around their homes in the Whitney Pier area are 60 times higher than the acceptable federal limit.

AN HON. MEMBER: How many?

MR. CORBETT: Yes, Mr. Speaker, that is 60 times higher than the acceptable federal limit - ba doop boomp. Once again, they were told further studies will take place. I want to ask this Premier, how many tests will it take for his government to act to ensure the health of the residents of Whitney Pier?

[Page 1683]

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

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, as the honourable member perhaps knows, there were tests done some time ago. An expert has now been engaged to determine exactly what those tests mean. The results of his review will be peer reviewed by an agency for toxic substances and disease registry and at that time, when they know exactly what the data means, then there can be a concrete action plan put in place.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, the people of Whitney Pier are tired of being used by executives of governments as guinea pigs. The Premier sits there and when he was in Opposition his story was a different one and I will read from the therefore section of his resolution that he wanted to put forward. "Therefore be it resolved that the Premier fully disclose exactly what his government intends to do in terms of resolving this toxic nightmare and public health hazard."

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. CORBETT: Now my question to the Premier is, why won't you stand here and answer to the people of Whitney Pier why you don't think they are worth the same immediate action?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, if the member opposite would listen to the answers instead of reading the questions, he would have understood that the Minister of Health just indicated exactly what we plan to do and that is have an independent analysis of the scientific evidence that has been brought forward by way of the testing.

MR. CORBETT: The gall of that doctor, to sit in this House while people's health is in jeopardy in Cape Breton. That is immoral, Mr. Premier. I want to tell the Premier that people's health is worth more than a balanced book, Mr. Premier, and you should know that as a medical doctor.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. CORBETT: Will you agree today to move these people at risk to safe housing until the latest round of testing is finished? Will you move them?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Health has indicated very clearly what the actions of the government will be. We have the information. We are arranging for an independent analysis as to whether or not there are any immediate health care risks to the people in the Whitney Pier area, the NOCO area. If there are, the government will act but we will make our decisions based on the best advice possible. We are not getting any today from the member opposite.

[Page 1684]

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

JUSTICE - FAMILY VIOLENCE:

LORI MAXWELL (TRURO) - REPORT TABLE

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Justice. It has been 14 months since the tragic murder of Lori Maxwell by her husband. By all accounts, there was a major failure of the Community Services and Justice systems in this much-publicized case. A final audit was expected by the end of March. However, as of today, this report has not been released. My question is, could the minister please advise the House and all Nova Scotians interested in the reduction of family violence when we might expect to see that report?

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, as the honourable member may be aware, we have commissioned Dean Dawn Russell of Dalhousie Law School to engage in a complete review of the circumstances around that tragic murder-suicide. We are awaiting the report from Dean Dawn Russell.

[3:00 p.m.]

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, that is not an answer to the question I was asking. I know that the minister has asked Dalhousie University Law Dean Dawn Russell to assess the policies. Indeed, he is quoted as saying, we would not have commissioned Dean Russell to do a report unless we were committed to becoming a leader in Canada in wiping out family violence.

My question is to the Minister of Justice again. How can you become leader in this country in wiping out family violence when the Minister of Community Services eliminates funding for the Family Violence Prevention Programs at the same time?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I am not sure if the question is in the purview of the Minister of Justice as opposed to the Minister of Community Services where the funds were actually taken from.

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I will try to answer the matter as it pertains to my responsibilities. Quite clearly, as I indicated in the earlier answer, we are committed to reviewing all the policies in the Department of Justice as they pertain to family violence to ensure that the tragic death of Ms. Maxwell is not repeated again. We are doing everything in our power to deal with that matter. Quite frankly, I know a number of people who have applauded the efforts of the government in this area because, quite bluntly, we are doing the right thing.

[Page 1685]

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, I know a lot of people who are tired of that government's empty, hollow promises as well. Let me go to the Minister of Community Services then and ask him a question. If the final audit report and the report from Dawn Russell recommends additional funding for Family Violence Prevention, will the minister commit to increasing the budget for those vital programs?

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member will remember that in that particular case, the Department of Community Services had a review done also and we released that last fall. I can't speculate on what the report from Dawn Russell will say, but we will take that report when it gets to Justice and when we get that report we will certainly take a serious look at it.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

ENVIRON. & LBR. - SYDNEY TAR PONDS:

POLLUTANTS (WHITNEY PIER) - RESIDENTS MEET

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, on April 7, 1999, the Leader of the Third Party, now the Premier, stood in this House and asked questions about Frederick Street in Whitney Pier. I want to put to this government who are now responsible for that issue the exact same questions in the same words, "DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of the Environment. The minister is quite aware of the concerns of the residents of . . ." Whitney Pier, ". . . concern about the conditions that exist in their neighbourhood. My question to the minister is, have you had one formal pre-arranged meeting with the residents of . . ." Whitney Pier?

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, again, this is a matter of great concern in the Sydney area. The people are anxious about a number of sites that have been left over from the steelmaking operation. It is nice to be able to get up here and talk a little bit about what happened in 1994 to explain the role of the Department of the Environment is that the health inspectors came over to the Department of the Environment but the chief medical officer still works with the Department of Environment and Labour on this and we try to work with him if something like this comes to our attention. Therefore that is why the Minister of Health has been dealing with so many of these questions.

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, it is embarrassing to have a minister have such a simple question posed and to have such a convoluted non-answer in response on an issue like this. What is it going to take for this government to pay attention. On April 7, 1999, the Leader of the Third Party, now the Premier, said, ". . . will the minister, who acknowledges that the people . . ." in Whitney Pier ". . . live next door to one of the worst toxic sites in North America, commit today to arranging a formal meeting with the residents . . . so that they can, in an organized way, provide the minister with their concerns and what it is they would like done on their behalf?" Will the minister make that commitment today?

[Page 1686]

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, once again the member is directing his attention to me, as the Minister of Environment and Labour. I am very flattered that he would think that there is so much responsibility in the department, but we are part of the team. When it comes to serious matters that require the expertise of doctors, then I think it is most appropriate that we put the people who are most knowledgeable in this area on the scene. Therefore, I think the medical health officer would be the right person.

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, I think it is a bit of an embarrassment. On May 19, 1999 - this is only two years ago, they forget so soon - the honourable member for Pictou East stood up and asked this question, and I am going to ask it again because it is worth asking. This one is going to the Premier, here is what the member for Pictou East asked on May 19, 1999. It is a good question, and it deserves a good answer. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The questions and answers are getting extremely long. I will allow the time on the first question, but not on the supplementaries or the answers. I would ask the honourable members to respect the rights of all the members of the House and shorten up the questions and answers, please.

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview, on your supplementary question.

MR. STEELE: This is the question asked by the honourable member for Pictou East, word for word, "Your government seems to have been donkey-dancing around this issue for over a year now. . . . When will the government provide much-needed leadership for the residents in this area and present an overall, comprehensive, complete plan?"

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, in the course of my travels, I have been on Frederick Street. I have seen the problem first-hand. What the government is planning to do is to enlist the very best advice possible, and when that advice is received, we will take the appropriate actions. On the other hand, we will not take action on the basis of hysteria, which is being brought to the House by the members opposite.

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

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

FUNDING (EXTRA) - TEACHERS RETAIN

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education. The Minister of Education indicated not long ago that she would not be micromanaging the additional amount of extra funding that school boards received in the last budget. The Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board is now facing the prospect of laying off 53 teachers. My question to the minister is, can the minister tell this House if any of that new money they are receiving could be used to keep some of those 53 teachers?

[Page 1687]

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, as I indicated yesterday, the department has helped out the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board in last year's budget, helping to close up its deficit, and it has also given them nearly $1 million in new funding. What the board chooses to spend that money on is up to the board. They can use it for teachers, they can use it for whatever they choose within the realm of their responsibility.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, in one breath the Minister of Education is saying she will not micromanage the school boards, and in an another her government is insisting that programs will not be lost in regions with declining enrolments. The minister's lack of a plan is obvious in her inconsistency. Will the minister tell the House which it is today, will she protect programs or will she blame the problem on someone else?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the statements I have made about not micromanaging school boards are true. I have not told them how to spend the money they have. There is new money there to spend. They can spend it where they choose. They have tough decisions to make and they make them in the best way possible and that is what I have said. That's my story. I'm sticking to it.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, that's a good one. As my colleague for Cape Breton The Lakes said yesterday, the minister has shown her lack of regard for the parents, the teachers and students in Cape Breton. I would like to ask the Minister of Education a simple yes or no question. Is she prepared to guarantee these layoffs will not mean that students in the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board will face reduced programs in the coming year?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the former minister is well aware that it is up to school boards to implement the provincial curriculum and it is up to the school board to run the schools in their area as they see fit.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

ENVIRON. & LBR. - SYDNEY TAR PONDS:

POLLUTANTS (WHITNEY PIER) - ACTION

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Environment and Labour has repeatedly tried to keep his department from becoming involved in the issues arising from the tar ponds clean-up. Last week, and again today, he is trying to duck repeated questions about toxic pollution in Whitney Pier. He cannot duck. He must not duck the latest report showing arsenic levels at 60 times acceptable levels. I want to ask the Minister of the Environment, what is it going to take for this government to take effective and decisive action to fix this toxic mess?

[Page 1688]

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I have explained, on a few occasions, the role of the Department of Environment and Labour and we will continue to fulfil that role in any way that we can to assist either the Department of Health or the Department of Transportation and Public Works.

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, this is Canada's toxic nightmare and one of the worst in North America. If the minister doesn't believe me, let me quote his own Leader. "It is one of the worst toxic sites in North America.". That is the Premier speaking. This must be the only province, the only place where the Minister of Environment and Labour says he is not responsible for an environmental nightmare. I want to ask the Minister of Environment and Labour, why is he seeing fit to distance himself from his responsibility in a time of environmental crisis?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, this is much too important a topic not to get answers so, therefore, I am going to refer it to the lead agency, the Department of Transportation and Public Works because we should not be playing politics with this. We should start getting some answers. So I refer him to the appropriate agency.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I think I advised the members opposite last week of the responsibilities of the various departments. The Department of Transportation and Public Works is responsible for the delineation of the creep of the toxic waste from the coke ovens. (Interruption) The actual team that is carrying out the work is the project management group and when they have finished their assessment, all Parties will be advised.

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, my final question is to the Premier. Does the Premier foresee his Minister of Environment and Labour having any role at all in dealing with this environmental nightmare?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, yes, there will be a multi-department approach taken to the solution of the tar ponds, Sydney Steel site, the coke ovens and the surrounding area. We will do that in concert with the federal government and the municipal government. I would remind the member opposite of the memorandum of understanding that was signed by the three levels of government to co-operate in finding an acceptable solution to the severe environmental problems in that area.

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

SERV. N.S. & MUN. REL. - COMPLIANCE OFFICERS:

RCMP - DETAILS

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister responsible for Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations. On March 29th, I asked the minister why there was a proposal for RCMP officers to take over the work of vehicle compliance officers

[Page 1689]

in this province, and he said it was the RCMP who initiated the process. I would like to table a copy of Hansard. Today the RCMP told us that the Deputy Minister of Justice made this proposal. My question is simple. Can the minister tell this House why he was pretending that a group other than his own government began this process to cut these workers, and what is the minister trying to hide?

[3:15 p.m.]

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, the fact of the matter is this, my department did receive from the RCMP a proposal with respect to the matter in question.

AN HON. MEMBER: Who initiated it?

MR. MACISAAC: Well, I am not aware of any discussions because I cannot be (Interruptions) Mr. Speaker, I could not be expected to be present when the discussions between a Deputy Minister of Justice and RCMP would have taken place. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. (Interruptions) Order, please. The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes on your first supplementary.

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, last week the National Safety Group of Canadians Responsible and Safe Highways - CRASH, as they are commonly known - wrote to the NSGEU saying that cutting vehicle compliance officers will threaten Nova Scotia's commitment to highway safety. The letter, and I will table the letter, says "We fear an increase of fatalities and serious injuries from collisions involving large trucks."

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. BOUDREAU: My question is to the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations. Does the minister share this group's concerns?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I share the concern - and I am sure it is the concern of all honourable members of the House - that the matter of vehicle compliance and the matter of all safety regulations in this province be handled in the most professional and most effective manner possible. That, sir, is the criteria which we will bring to the judgment on the proposal that is before us.

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, last week on Highway No. 102, a truck lost control because the dual wheel fell off; the whole assembly fell off. This caused the truck to veer across the lane into oncoming traffic. The truck hit a car. Luckily no one was hurt and luckily there was very little traffic in the oncoming lane. This government wants to cut the number of safety compliance officers . . .

[Page 1690]

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. BOUDREAU: . . . from 32 to 12. My question to the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations is this, in light of this accident and in light of the concerns from the safety group, will the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations reconsider the move to cut the number of officers?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, the question is a bit premature because we have made no decision with respect to that matter. I can say this, that I am sure that all Nova Scotians would feel very assured that the world's most respected police force would be looking after this matter if we make such a decision. (Interruptions)

AN. HON. MEMBER: Mr. Speaker, I enjoyed the duck noises much better.

MR. DAVID WILSON: If you have something to say in the back, stand up and say it.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please! The honourable member for Cape Breton East will bring himself to order or I will ask him to leave the Chamber.

The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

HEALTH - NURSES: VACATIONS - DETAILS

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, not even the Minister of Health would deny that Nova Scotian nurses are overworked and underpaid. Well, not only are they overworked, but I have just learned that many nurses, in both long-term care and acute-care facilities, have been told not to expect summer vacations this year. Nurses with more than 20 years of experience will be lucky to get a few days off in a row.

I want to ask the Minister of Health whether any of the high-paid bureaucrats that he has in his department are going to be denied summer vacations?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I do acknowledge that we can certainly use more nurses in the system and if there are people who are being asked to either limit or curtail their summer vacations, I sincerely regret that and hope that it will not occur. On the other hand, hopefully some of the things that are being worked out at the collective bargaining table about lifestyle issues and non-monetary issues will perhaps help alleviate some of his concerns.

MR. DEXTER: I believe it is simply that the Minister of Health doesn't get it. The nursing situation in this province has not stabilized. Nurses are leaving the province because they are overworked and they are under-compensated. Every day more of our nurses are being lured away with offers of better pay and better benefits. So, I want to ask this question

[Page 1691]

to the minister. Nurses in this province can expect lower pay than elsewhere, fewer benefits, constant work stress and, now, no summer vacations. Tell me, Mr. Minister, why should they stay?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the honorable member has a short memory. I do believe about two and one-half weeks ago when we unveiled our nursing strategy, which was to alleviate some of the concerns that he is talking about, he stood up and said the government was on the right track, and we are.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the fact is that Nova Scotia has the third lowest rate of pay for licensed practical nurses in the country and the absolute lowest rate for registered nurses. I want to ask the Minister of Health this, what action has he taken to improve the working conditions so that nurses stay in Nova Scotia?

MR. MUIR: There are a number of things, obviously one which we think was very good and was endorsed by, I can say, the professional associations, the RNANS as well as the NSGEU, the nursing component of that and the Nurses' Union of Nova Scotia in addition to the Health Critics of both Opposition Parties, was our nurses strategy. One of the things we did last year to deal with nurses' issues, as we promised, was to put in place a nurse policy adviser. That position and the person who is occupying it has established a very good working relationship with the professionals in the nursing field.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Victoria.

HEALTH - EHS: RESPONSE TIMES - MIN. DECREASE

MR. KENNETH MACASKILL: My question today is for the minister responsible for EHS. Almost a month ago a constituent in my riding waited an hour or more for an ambulance. The resident had a serious condition which could have turned life-threatening. I am not alone in my concerns and I know many rural residents are worried that when there is an emergency the ambulance may not arrive in time. One of the reasons may be because the paramedics are not familiar with local geography. My question to the minister responsible for EHS is, what is the minster doing to decrease wait times province wide?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, as the honourable member knows, the ground ambulance system in this province is probably second to none in the country and I very much regret if there was an instance where one of his constituents had to wait a little bit longer than usual. However, because it is performance-based, I am sure that he would find, indeed, that the average response time in that jurisdiction does meet performance standards. Of course, there are penalties in place if they don't.

[Page 1692]

He has asked the question, what are we doing to improve response times? We have very good response times, but as the honourable members will remember, hopefully, before too long, the 911 service can be improved. One of the things that will be improved is the digitized mapping service which will provide a computerized, sort of a GPS service, inside each of those vehicles.

MR. MACASKILL: I agree with the minister because we do have an excellent ambulance service because we put it in place. (Applause) (Interruptions)

I wish he would wait for the question, I will give him a question. After the incident I called ambulance dispatch. I wanted to know the exact times and details of the call from the dispatch log. I asked for information on the matter from a supervisor. The supervisor promised that he would send me a copy of the report within a few days. That was over three weeks ago and I am still waiting. My question to the minister is, can the minister tell me when I will be receiving the copy of that report?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, if the honourable member would care to give me the details of his inquiry, I would ask staff to look at it to try and speed up the response.

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, I will give the name of the dispatcher to the minister, so he will know who to call. A large church building on the Cabot Trail should not be hard to find, but apparently the paramedics had some difficulty finding the building. My question to the minister is, what assurance can he give the residents of Victoria County that when there is an emergency the ambulance will arrive on time?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I would think that the honourable member would find that the response times in his constituency are very good. The way the system works is that there are certain performance standards built around response times, and the contractor is required to meet that standard. If they don't meet the standard, it is investigated, explanations are sought and remedial action is taken, as well as penalties imposed. I would like to think that every call would be answered on the average, but an average is, by nature, some above, some below.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

EDUC. - UNIVERSITIES: CAPITAL FUNDING - REMOVAL EXPLAIN

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, university presidents have said that over $300 million is needed here in Nova Scotia to fix the problems of deferred maintenance in universities. Managers of physical plants say that $29 million is needed annually to keep universities in operating condition. Yet this government's budget has allocated not one cent to the universities to address building renewal and application. I want to ask the Minister of Education, why did her government pull the plug on capital funding to universities?

[Page 1693]

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, this question was answered several times during estimates, but I am quite happy to answer it again. We had an outstanding commitment to St. F.X. University for capital money, which we have fulfilled. The remaining portion of what would have been capital money was put into the universities operating grant. We have asked the universities for a plan that we can work with to help address their problem.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, there is ample evidence that universities require, annually, about $25 million per year to address their ongoing maintenance costs. Yet this government doesn't need a plan to see that, it is already there. It has been well-documented in numerous reports that the government has. So I want to ask the minister what she says to the universities whose buildings are falling down around them, places like libraries that really require investment to keep those services available to students?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I have discussed this with the university presidents several times. They are very well aware, as is the member opposite, that we have a $300 million problem of deferred maintenance in universities, that we have a similar-sized problem or bigger in our public schools, and that our roads are also falling apart. The issue is the money. Our government is dealing with that, year after year, in a very orderly fashion.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I would like to say to the minister that we all understand that there isn't money to do everything at once, but to do nothing whatsoever is the problem that I think needs to be addressed here. So my question to the minister is, when will she start listening to what experts and evidence are telling this minister that must be done in our university community?

[3:30 p.m.]

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, we are dealing with capital spending in priority areas. We are dealing with the public school system as best we can. We are dealing with transportation and roads as best we can. We will help the universities, but they have other sources of funding unavailable to us in those other areas. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

HEALTH - MEDICAL SPECIALISTS: RETENTION - MIN. ACTION

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health. Last week, we learned that two specialists from New Glasgow are currently in the process of negotiating a contract to work in Prince Edward Island. We are losing our only pediatric cardiologist from the IWK here. This, combined with a loss of a liver specialist and others, all this is pointing to a very disturbing trend. My question to the minister is simply this, what specific actions is the minister taking to retain medical specialists in Nova Scotia?

[Page 1694]

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, one of the things that we have done is we recently released a clinical services planning document, which talks about best practices and benchmarks. Unfortunately, given the situation in Nova Scotia, not all jurisdictions can have all services. Part of that has to do with, as the honourable member well understands, critical mass. The case, unfortunately, of the physicians who are considering leaving the Aberdeen Hospital in the New Glasgow area and servicing that population has to do because they are sole practitioners and the issue is trying to recruit others so that that service can be sustainable and the physicians can have a reasonable lifestyle.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the minister referring to his $0.5 million study done by Healthcor from Ontario to tell Nova Scotians what they need. The minister's own Web site indicates that Nova Scotia is in immediate need of 33 types of specialists across the province. I would like to table that list here today that documents that. Coupled with the difficulty of retraining specialists, there is the issue that the minister can't recruit the specialists either. In fact, the pediatrician who is considering leaving New Glasgow has been waiting since 1999 to be relieved of her caseload.

My question to the minister is, given the intense, national competition of recruiting specialists, could the minister please outline today what programs he and his government have developed to recruit specialists in Nova Scotia?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, one of the things that we have done is that we lead the country in alternative payment of physicians, particularly specialists. Of course, a good many of them are included here in the metro area. As the honourable member well knows, it was his government, he was a member of that government that cut back on the medical enrolment here in Nova Scotia and, also, the nursing seats. So to stand up and talk about - what we are trying to do is to repair something that they broke. (Interruptions)

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I asked that minister to identify a program that he and his government introduced and he went directly to one that our government had introduced and now they are tearing that apart. I don't want to get into that debate, but could the minister, today, please comment that he will stop spending money on high paid administration and instead focus his attention on recruiting and retaining specialists for Nova Scotians? Will he make the commitment here today?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, we are quite successful in recruiting specialists. Obviously as the honourable member has indicated, there is an international shortage of certain positions, certain specialities, but we have done very well. If the honourable member will remember, I think we have just had two chairs designated for specialists here in Halifax which should help attract other specialists. We are doing very well, not as well as I would like to say but I would like also to refresh his memory, if he would . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

[Page 1695]

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

AGRIC. & FISH. - FARMERS: USER FEES - MIN. INACTION

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I will be directing my question through you to the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries. GPI Atlantic released a new report which details the dire straits facing many Nova Scotia farm families. They are going deeper into debt and many are having trouble making payments on their debt. On top of this is the fact that this government is intent on increasing user fees for services to farmers. Farmers in this province are facing a crisis. My question to the minister is, why haven't you done a single thing as minister to make life easier for these farmers?

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for his question because it provides an opportunity to point out some of the achievements this government has been able to afford to the agriculture industry. Certainly when we look at the historic deal that gave Nova Scotia its market share on income support and disaster relief programs that I signed July 1st that doubled this province's commitment and doubled the federal commitment to the farming community, when we look at the recent announcement by the federal government and our ability to match our 40 per cent on a $500 million program nationally . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable Leader of the Opposition on your first supplementary.

AN HON. MEMBER: . . . the Speaker told you to sit down.

MR. MACDONNELL: Mr. Speaker, I want to table the GPI report so the minister can be aware of what it says. The role of the government is to ensure that farmers don't meet with disaster, not put something in place when they hit bottom but to try to keep them going so they don't have to contend with disaster. Yesterday in a media interview the minister boasted that last year Nova Scotia agriculture had its best year ever. Well, it clearly has no clue what is really going on. This report uses objective and quantifiable indicators of farm economic viability to reach its conclusions and recommendations. This study and its report set a new benchmark for research on the crisis facing Nova Scotia farmers. My question for the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries is, will he end his ongoing attack on farmers and immediately implement the recommendations of the Farm Viability Report?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the honourable member for his question because it allows the opportunity to point out that certainly there have been some hard times in the agricultural industry and certainly some farmers are suffering out there as we speak and certainly there are going to be hard times in the future. The signing of a new deal with the federal government allows for income support, does get the farmers over the hard times.

[Page 1696]

It is preparing for those hard times and putting policies in place that will help the farming community when prices or a disaster occurs. Those are the very policies we are doing.

MR. MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I am glad to hear the minister say that preparing for the hard times is the thing that he thinks is most important because one of the findings of this report is that marketing boards are one of the best ways to stabilize farm incomes. The poultry and dairy sectors are identified as having the brightest outlook while apples, hogs, vegetables and beef are most at risk. Will this minister, in consultation with farmers, commit to bringing in new marketing boards for agriculture sectors, which are at risk?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, the issue of bringing in supply-managed commodity controls is one that the industries propose when they are ready. Those particular industries have not come forward with any of those types of suggestions at this point.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

HEALTH - NURSES: RECRUITMENT - INFO.

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, again my question is to the Minister of Health. We have all heard the minister's recent announcement of Nova Scotia's nursing strategy. One of the components is an allotment of money for recruiting nurses to Nova Scotia. My question to the minister is, could the minister please indicate how this money will be spent to recruit nurses to Nova Scotia?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, there are two or three items - actually all of the items - in the nursing strategy, we think will help recruit nurses to Nova Scotia, the money that is identified for recruitment. First of all, one of the things that we have done is put in a nurse policy adviser, and among her responsibilities is for specific recruitment initiatives. Of course, job fairs and our Web site disseminate our information on the benefits of coming to work and live in Nova Scotia. Also, our correspondence and trying to get to the young registered nurses or the coming graduates, both registered and licensed practical nurses . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I will thank the honourable minister for quite an extensive list, but this minister has committed $300,000 to recruit nurses. This is the same minister who spent $0.5 million for the study done out of province by Healthcor.; the same minister who spent over $100,000 for a chief information officer; and the same minister who has had more assistants surrounding him, despite the government's promise to reduce administration in that government. My question to the minister is, could the minister please explain why hiring more administrators is more pressing than recruiting nurses to Nova Scotia?

[Page 1697]

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, included in the recruiting thing, of course, was the relocation allowance, which we think is good. I can inform the honourable member that the amount being spent by my department for administration, I believe, is less than the amount that he spent during the time that he was Minister of Health.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I guess that is the point of my question, and why I rise today. Today we learned that Prince Edward Island, Canada's smallest province, has committed an additional $2.2 million this fiscal year to recruit nurses - I would like to table that information - as opposed to the $300,000. This puts Prince Edward Island in a very significant advantage over Nova Scotia. My question to the minister is, when will the minister treat the job of recruiting nurses with the same respect he has when paying his administrative staff?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I would not say that $5 million is a particularly small amount. We have just committed that towards the recruitment of nurses. Included in that, a very interesting thing, was support to student nurses, including a co-operative learning experience, which means that third year RNs and LPNs, who go and work in a particular facility, whether it is a long-term care facility or an acute-care facility, will get paid and have the opportunity to see if they like it there . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

COMMUN. SERV.: RECOVERY HOUSE (ANTIGONISH) - FUNDING

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, for 31 years the Recovery House in Antigonish has treated people in northern Nova Scotia for addictions, such as drug and alcohol abuse. We learned today that the centre has closed its doors temporarily, because of this government's funding cuts. Recovery House offers front-line health services that this Premier said would benefit under his government. Instead, while they pay $99,000 for a computer technician in the Department of Health, they cut the funding to Recovery House last year. I want to ask the Premier, at what point following the 1999 election, did he abandon eyeball-to-eyeball health care in favour of big cheques for top bureaucrats?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is aware that we are increasing the amount of money for health care funding in the province. The minister has articulated that very clearly during his budget debate with members of the Opposition Parties. I would remind the member opposite that there is a $17 million allocation for the funding of the various drug detox organizations throughout the province. It is a very serious problem in our province and one that will receive increasing attention in budgets to come.

[Page 1698]

[3:45 p.m.]

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I don't think the Premier heard the question. This is simply an unacceptable situation. Recovery House serves people in Cumberland, Colchester, Richmond, Inverness, Guysborough and Antigonish Counties. So I want to ask, instead, the Minister of Health to explain how residents in these communities requiring addiction services will receive treatment when Recovery House is shut down?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member knows, obviously, very little about the services provided through addiction services in Nova Scotia. We have eight major treatment facilities here in the province, as well as 33 major satellite offices. To imply that there are not services other than Recovery House, or pick one other, is simply not accurate.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I am sure the Premier is aware that Recovery House has served patients from Inverness to Cumberland Counties admirably over the past 31 years. So I want to ask the Premier, will the Premier simply admit today that this government's cuts have gone too far in this case and restore funding to a level that will allow Recovery House to open today, immediately?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I am very familiar with the activities of Recovery House. In a previous life, I had an opportunity to see what went on there. I have visited Recovery House and we will be looking at ways in which we can assure the people at that end of the province that that service, or a comparable service, will be available.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

JUSTICE: N.S. ELECTION COMM. - CONSULTATION

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Justice. The current Nova Scotia Election Commission, established under Statute, consists of a Chief Electoral Officer, a chairperson and two persons appointed by each of the Leaders of a recognized Party, as defined by the House of Assembly Act. This all-Party approach to election rules has worked to the benefit of democracy in Nova Scotia. My question is, does the minister feel obligated to consult with the entire commission prior to making changes to the Elections Act in this province?

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, indeed, we have done that. In fact, I had a meeting with the Election Commission only a few days ago to discuss with them matters of the Act. The Act was drafted based largely on their recommendations. In point of fact, we have made some additional changes based on their recommendations. So we have consulted with them.

[Page 1699]

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, the fact is, the minister tabled the bill in this House, made changes to the initial report, then went back and said to the commission, I am going to meet with you on that. Nova Scotians will not be fooled by Tory tricks with election laws in this province. To make it even worse, prior to tabling the bill, the Tory caucus was fully briefed on the changes by the Chief Electoral Officer, yet the same courtesy was not extended to either the NDP caucus or the Liberal caucus. Why did the minister feel the need to circumvent the all-Party approach to election changes in this province?

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I am very proud of the bill that we have introduced. In fact, after meeting with the Election Commission, I received their endorsement. They liked the bill that the government has introduced in the House. It is a good bill. What is the problem? (Applause)

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, this is just another example of Tory arrogance that we are seeing within this government. We have dedicated Nova Scotians who have put their names forward to serve on commissions and to serve on boards, only to see themselves be insulted by these ministers by going around. The bill may be good, but the policy to bring it here, Mr. Minister, absolutely stinks, as far as the commission is concerned and they have shared that with you. The Minister of Justice has taken a banana-republic approach to electoral changes in this province. What steps is this minister going to take to ensure that the Tory caucus does not dictate the electoral laws of the Province of Nova Scotia?

MR. BAKER: To take a phrase from my colleagues across the way, I am shocked and appalled. Mr. Speaker, we have a good bill. I have consulted with the Election Commission. The bill is based on their recommendation and the difference between ourselves and that lot is we are actually going to bring the election changes forward, unlike them, because they never did what they talked about.

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

PETROLEUM DIRECTORATE - OFFSHORE DEV.:

PROV. SHARE - GUARANTEE

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, the Premier had some pearls of wisdom and some insightful observations into the obvious when he resided on this side of the House. At that time the now Premier recognized that Nova Scotians were not receiving their fair share of either contracts or jobs in the offshore as Phase 1 was being developed. The Premier, of course, knows that the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board can monitor and they can make recommendations but they cannot enforce Nova Scotian content. So my question to the Premier is, what, if anything, have you done since you became Premier to ensure, to guarantee in future developments that Nova Scotia will have to receive its fair share?

[Page 1700]

THE PREMIER: I thank the member opposite for what is a very, very good question. Yes, I was very critical of some of the benefits that we received during the construction phase of Tier 1. With that in mind, I have spent a lot of time in concert with the Minister responsible for the Petroleum Directorate to, first of all, notify participants in our offshore activities that a higher standard will be expected. I have had many conversations with board members, the chair of the board - now, I am talking about the Petroleum Board - and clearly we will be looking for a different standard.

As well, we will be having some discussions with the federal minister on the issue because, as you know, there is a joint management involvement in the operation of the Petroleum Board itself. So, I thank the member opposite for the question and we will be . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, the Premier says that we are going to be looking for a higher standard. As the Premier, of course, knows that Tier 2, the second phase, is expected soon on the Sable project and we also expect that the PanCanadian field will be moving towards development in the not too distant future. The Premier offered some nice-sounding intentions, fine words, but he offered no guarantees. The Premier, of course, knows that Nova Scotia appoints 50 per cent of the members to that board.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. HOLM: So I want to ask the Premier not what you are looking for, I want you to tell us, what are you prepared to guarantee Nova Scotians, both workers and businesses, with regard to future development in the offshore?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite gave me an opportunity in responding to his first question to indicate what we have done. He now gives me an opportunity, by asking me a supplementary, to report that already our approach is starting to work because, in fact, the early engineering work and the management of SOEP 1, Phase 2, has been awarded to a Nova Scotia company. This is a first, a very first for the development of the offshore. So it is working. (Applause)

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

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to hear that and I am looking forward to there being many more similar announcements. But nothing in what the Premier has said has provided any assurances, any guarantees that any particular degree or level of that work or contract is coming to Nova Scotians. I want to ask the Premier, quite directly, are you prepared to guarantee a set level, not that somebody has agreed to do something on a short term or on this, that or the other contract, but are you prepared to put it in, maybe the licence

[Page 1701]

agreements, that they have to provide, or face penalties, a certain level of Nova Scotia content, both jobs and contracts.

THE PREMIER: The member opposite is very familiar with the framework which we inherited relative to our ability to influence the benefits of various projects. What I can say to the member opposite is that I shared his concern for what I saw happening when I was on the other side of the House of Assembly, and crossing the floor has not reduced my desire to see Nova Scotians get more as the industry progresses here in offshore Nova Scotia. The member opposite can be assured that the government will pursue the issue as aggressively as we did in Opposition.

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

ENVIRON. & LBR.: SAFE DRINKING WATER POLICY - STATUS

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, the government - through you to the Minister of Environment and Labour - announced the development of a drinking water strategy. My question to the minister is, what is the status of that policy and when will Nova Scotians have an opportunity to review it?

HON. DAVID MORSE: I wonder if the member opposite is referring to the waste water strategy in which we had released a discussion paper and we are going around . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: We don't drink waste water.

MR. MORSE: . . . the province. Or, alternatively, we will be releasing another discussion paper on a comprehensive water strategy to deal with this most crucial issue that is precious, not only to Nova Scotians, but right around the world.

AN HON. MEMBER: What did he say?

ANOTHER HON. MEMBER: That is the Premier's best trump that just spoke.

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

AN HON. MEMBER: You would have a good hand at 45s, with that as your best trump.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I am almost embarrassed to ask him a question because I don't want him to embarrass himself any more.

[Page 1702]

In addition to the public drinking water - and I did ask about drinking water strategy, just in case he didn't understand - systems the minister opposite indicated that he would be receiving periodic listings of all those supplying water to the public and all those under boil water orders. Would the minister please provide a list of those public drinking water providers that are there and how many of those, and also provide the list of those that are currently under boil order?

MR. MORSE: What the member opposite refers to is the steps taken by this government last year to require people that have their own private sources of water that serve the public, that is 25 or more people that would make use of that private well, and yes he is right, there is a process for registering them and they have to quarterly submit drinking water samples and there are lists that come to my attention on a regular basis.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, this minister is hopeless. It is like talking to the wall, honest to heavens. My question . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I suggest to the honourable member for Cape Breton West that comments like that are unparliamentary and out of order and I ask him to retract that and put the supplementary question please.

MR. MACKINNON: Before I consider asking this minister a question again, I will ask the wall. When will the minster table in this House . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Hello wall.

MR. MACKINNON: If I could get the minister's attention? When will this minister table in this House a water strategy for the Province of Nova Scotia - he is listening - including a strategy to measure and protect our province's groundwater reserves?

MR. MORSE: I want to thank the member opposite for his concern about groundwater strategy and that is a concern of this department and we are proceeding forward this year with developing a complete water strategy. We have allocated $850,000 to this and we look forward to the completion.

[4:00 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

EDUC. - JANITORIAL STRIKE:

EDUC. ACT (SECT. 68) - MIN. COMPLIANCE

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question through you to the Minister of Education. Under Section 68 of the Education Act, the Minister of

[Page 1703]

Education has the authority and, in fact, the responsibility to take action when, " . . . the health, safety or educational welfare of the students of a school are endangered . . ." I think she would agree, as most other members would agree, that the circumstances surrounding the dispute, the withdrawal of the janitors at the Halifax Regional Municipality schools are creating some serious problems with respect to cleanliness. I want to ask the minster, what steps is she taking to comply with Section 68 of the Education Act?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, Section 68 is obviously there for very extreme situations. At the present time, and all the way through the strike, the safety and the health of the schools have been monitored and as yet an unsafe or unhealthy situation has not been discovered.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Well, I don't know what an extreme situation that she is discussing would be. What evidence does she have to have in order to describe the situation out there right now as extreme? I am going to table a letter from a young constituent of mine, a Grade 10 student at J.L. Ilsley High School, a young woman who has environmental allergies and asthma induced by allergens; in other words, induced by the dust from dirty schools. She is having her education interfered . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: . . . with because of the lack of clean schools. I want to ask the Minister of Education will she intervene on behalf of Ashley Roberts to ensure that that school that she attends and all other schools in the HRM are cleaned forthwith?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I would like to respond on two points. The first is that I am sorry for the child who has asthma or any child who has asthma, but the lead public health officer has said he has heard some of these complaints too, but that the conditions of a few students are not enough for him to say a whole school must be closed. That is the advice that I am going on.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, the minister is correct, the Capital Region's public health officer has made what I consider an absolutely outlandish statement that says we are not going to shut a school down because one kid is sick. My question to the minister is, what does Ashley Roberts do, what does this Grade 10 student do in terms of receiving a proper education and what do other students do who are sick as a result of unclean schools? Where do you draw the line? What are you going to do about . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I think that this student can talk with the principal, with teachers, with the board to try to arrange alternative education at the time. But other people who are not students do have asthma caused by dust and the environment. If the public health

[Page 1704]

officer says this is not extreme enough to shut down a school, then that is the advice that we are going to have to take.

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

SERV. N.S. & MUN. REL. - CAN.-N.S. INFRASTRUCTURE PROG.:

COMMUN. PROJECTS - STATUS

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations. As all members of this House know, the federal government has announced a Canada-Nova Scotia Infrastructure Program. This is a cost-sharing agreement with the province to complete much-needed community projects. My question to the minister is, will the minister please indicate whether individual projects are ready to go, will projects begin this year, if they are ready to go, and when?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the honourable member for the question. The lists are being compiled currently based on the applications that have been received from municipal units. We are at the stage where we are bringing those forward to the federal government for their consideration, that is the consideration of the management committee. When that process has been completed, the projects will be recommended to the respective ministers.

I just want to point out that one of the requirements of the Government of Canada is that the projects be approved by the federal minister involved and there is a limit where they have to go to the Treasury Board Minister in Ottawa, as well. I am hopeful that there will be projects underway this year.

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, there is some indication that some project priorities have been rejected by this minster. Will the minister, today, confirm or deny that his government has rejected proposals for cost-sharing certain projects?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I can tell the honourable member this. What we have done is recommended projects. We have not reached the stage where we have necessarily rejected anything. We have recommended projects and, for the most part, those projects have been recommended based on the priority list provided by the municipal units.

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, the purpose, of course, of these programs is to complete much-needed community projects. The municipal units are in the best position to identify these projects. There is some reason to believe the province is interfering with municipal priorities. Will this minister give this House his absolute assurance that the province will faithfully promote and seek to fund those priority projects identified by the municipalities, instead of playing politics with this infrastructure fund?

[Page 1705]

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I can assure the honourable member that the projects that will be advanced will be projects that meet the criteria of the Canada-Nova Scotia Infrastructure Program and we will, to the best of our ability, respect the priority list presented by the municipal units of this province.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

EDUC. - ANNA. VALLEY REG. SCH. BD.:

BUS SERVICE - COMPLAINTS INVESTIGATE

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education. The Department of Education, under this minister, signed a contract to allow DRL to introduce busing services into the Annapolis Valley Regional School Board. DRL cut drivers' wages, forcing many experienced drivers to leave their employment and parents in the Valley have raised concerns and made several formal complaints about the new bus services. I want to ask the Minister of Education, since her department signed off on the contract, what mechanisms are in place to investigate complaints about busing services in the Valley?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the complaints can be made to the school board or complaints can be made to the department. The school board recommended the contract. The contract looked sound to our lawyers, so we signed off on it.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, let me tell you, the current process has the school board forwarding complaints to the company involved and having the company look into the matter. I want to ask the Minister of Education if she thinks it is appropriate that a private company responsible for busing children should be allowed to investigate complaints about their own services?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I would say that is standard practice in any business, that complaints be investigated at the level to which they are intended. If a complaint cannot be resolved, then it goes to a higher level. This is how complaints are dealt with, that is fair to everyone.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, we are not talking about canned tuna, we are talking about children. I want to ask the Minister of Education to review this matter and to ensure that complaints related to busing services at the Valley school board are handled independently to ensure the safety of children?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, certainly we can review those practices but, as I said, those are standard ways of handling complaints and I can't see that any changes would be made.

[Page 1706]

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

ENVIRON. & LBR. - CBRM: ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT - APPLICATION STATUS

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Environment and Labour. Several weeks ago I tabled a multi-year plan for the cleanup of the Sydney tar ponds and coke ovens; referenced as the cleanup implementation schedule. In that includes a plan to shut down the regional landfill commencing in July of this year. Can the minister confirm if he has received application from the regional municipality to do an environmental assessment on that?

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I would advise the member that we have an inspector assigned full-time to the tar ponds and the coke ovens and, therefore, the adjacent landfill site, for the whole cleanup project. In addition to that, we have an engineer who is constantly called upon to render assistance should there be any concerns about meeting environmental regulatory compliance.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, the minister hasn't answered the question. This is a very serious issue. They are going to close the only regional landfill in the Regional Municipality of Cape Breton. My question to the minister is, has his department received an application or confirmation that it will be closed starting in July and an application for a new landfill site, if not some alternate proposal?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, my recollection is that there is an application that has been put forward by the municipality, the details of which I am not privy to here at this moment, but I would be happy to follow up on them.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, this is astounding. The minister has to sign that order, that application, that directive, and he saying he is not privy to it. This is absolutely astounding that a minister doesn't know what is going on in his department. My question to the minister is, will he provide a full detailed report to all members of this House as to what the closure plans are for this regional landfill commencing July 1st of this year?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is following up on something that is near and dear to his heart. He has asked for quite a bit of information over the past few weeks, a lot of which has been brought forward. I would be happy to once again endeavour to get the appropriate information to answer the member's question.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

[Page 1707]

ECON. DEV - HFX. SHIPYARDS: PROG. - ANNOUNCEMENT

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, to the Minister of Economic Development. In something of a positive announcement, for a change, the Department of Economic Development said yesterday that it is coming up with tens of millions of dollars in loan guarantees for the Irving-owned Halifax Shipyard: not that anyone thinks the Irvings need it. It was also reported that the minister stated that this move lessened the need for a national shipbuilding program. I wonder if the Minister of Economic Development will tell us, does this mean that the minister is set to announce a comprehensive and provincial program to support shipyards throughout Nova Scotia?

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for the question. I think he is a bit misinformed. What I indicated was this was a mechanism to bridge the industry in Nova Scotia through until such time as we do have a national policy. The Province of Nova Scotia does not have the financial wherewithal to carry the industry on its back single-handed. What I indicate was, this made a strategic investment sense from the province's perspective. It means that there will be jobs in Halifax, in the shipyard. It allows us to move forward until such time as the federal minister moves on his agenda.

[4:15 p.m.]

MR. EPSTEIN: If the minister wanted to do something for the shipyards throughout the province, what they could do is make sure that everyone has fair access to loan guarantees. At this point, there are idle shipyards and unemployed shipyard workers in a number of Nova Scotian communities. I wonder if the minister will commit today to extending the offer of loan guarantees to all shipyards as a means to rebuild this once thriving industry.

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

The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, on a point of personal privilege. During Question Period the Minister of Justice gave an answer to my question about the changes to the Elections Act and it is my firm belief that the minister misled this House in the answers which he provided in saying that he had consulted with the electoral commission prior to tabling the bill in this House. Hansard will clearly show that was his statement.

There were a number of changes made from what the electoral commission heads initially suggested, such as reducing the election period to 30 days. There was another suggestion that Cabinet appoint a chief returning officer on the suggestion of Janet Willwerth the chief electoral officer. That was changed so that Cabinet will appoint the chief returning

[Page 1708]

officers on their own, a political process. There were also changes made to the mail-in ballot process as to when that process could begin.

Clearly, these changes were made without the consultation of the electoral commission. That is what I asked the minister today when he rose in his place and said that he had consulted with them prior to making those changes and tabling that bill. I believe that he misled this House. I would ask you to investigate what he did. Review Hansard and if the minister did do this consultation he claims, that he table in this House the days that he did meet with this commission, the dates and when these changes were brought forward to the entire electoral commission in this province.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I rise to respond to the matter raised by the honourable member for Richmond. What I indicated in the House, quite clearly, was that the bill was based upon the recommendations of the electoral commission. I also indicated that I consulted with the electoral commission. I did not indicate that I consulted with the electoral commission prior to introducing the bill. I did not indicate that. (Interruptions)

No, Mr. Speaker. That is what I said, that is what is true. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond has risen on a personal point of privilege. I will certainly take it under advisement and report back to the House. As the members will appreciate it, I think I have several points of privilege that have been put before me and I think I will go back to my previous job of investigation because I will be working weekends. In all seriousness I will review Hansard and the comments by the member and report back to the House.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, on a point of personal privilege, with regard to the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations. Several weeks ago we had representatives from his department appear before Public Accounts. They gave an undertaking to the committee that they would provide the recommendations that have been made to P&P with regard to the restructuring of government. To date, we have not received that. We contacted his department on several occasions through the Clerk's Office. They, again, gave an undertaking that that information would be provided by last Thursday or Friday at the very latest. Again, we contacted his department several times this week and we keep getting voice mails and promises.

[Page 1709]

The minister, during budgetary deliberations, again gave indication that that information would be forthcoming. I ask that you direct the minster and/or his staff to provide that information. That is a violation of a commitment in the House and I would respectfully submit that the minister be forthwith with the information today.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton West rose on a point of privilege and I will certainly, again, take it under advisement. I am not so sure if I am in a position to order any minister to provide any information to the House but, as well, I will certainly take the honourable member's comments under consideration and report back to the House next week. Next Saturday. (Interruptions.)

OPPOSITION MEMBERS' BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Opposition House Leader.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, maybe you can report back next Wednesday during the Liberal Opposition Day. We had passed out a list of the time slots and I would ask that you adjust the times and add the four minutes on that have just been used up.

Mr. Speaker, would you please call the order of business, Private Members' Public Bills for Second Reading.

PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Opposition House Leader.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 35.

Bill No. 35 - Restoration of the Legal and Environmental Rights of the People of Sydney Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak to Bill No. 35 which is entitled An Act to Restore the Legal and Environmental Rights of the People of Sydney. I believe that this bill is a good idea. It is a simple idea and it will accomplish something. I certainly commend it to the attention of this government and, in particular, the Minister of Environment because of the issues surrounding the Sydney tar ponds and also to the Minister of Economic Development who has been responsible for the Sysco sale.

I am going to explain, as concisely as I can, why we believe this is a good idea that is worthy of the consideration of the government. In the last sitting of the House, this House passed Chapter 35 of the Acts of 2000, which is entitled the Sydney Steel Corporation Sale

[Page 1710]

Act. I am sure everybody remembers that this is the Act that enacted the sale of Sydney Steel to Duferco. I am sure everybody remembers and is aware that the deal has since fallen apart and was not completed. Nevertheless, despite the fact that the sale did not go through, this Statute, this Act is still on the books. It is still a law of the Province of Nova Scotia.

For the reasons that I will explain in the next few minutes, it is not a good idea, now that the deal has fallen apart, that this Act should remain on the law books of Nova Scotia. So the bill that I introduced in my capacity as Environment Critic for the New Democratic Party is very simple. It simply says that that Act, the Sydney Steel Corporation Sale Act, should be repealed. That is all it says. A simple idea and a good idea, Mr. Speaker.

The reason that we are proposing that is that the Sydney Steel Corporation Sale Act contains two provisions that we believe impair the legal and environmental rights of the people of Sydney. This is back in the news again. Certainly, back in the spring of 1999 it was in the news every single day because of the plight of the residents of the lower part of Frederick Street in Whitney Pier. The government took some steps that went someway, but only someway, to alleviating the concerns of the residents. Then the government changed and now it falls to this government to pick up that torch and to do the right thing for the health and well-being of the people of Whitney Pier, particularly those areas, the middle and upper part of Frederick Street and the neighbouring streets of Tupper Street and Laurier Street and parts of that portion of the Lingan Road.

Mr. Speaker, the first part of the Sydney Steel Corporation Sale Act that we are commending to the government to their attention, that it be repealed, is Section 3. This provision received a good deal of attention when the Act was being passed and it is very short so, if I might, I am just going to read it for the record, for those who don't have a copy of the Act in front of them. Section 3(1) says, "Where there is a conflict between this Act and any other Act, this Act prevails." That is fine, that is normal, that is standard. It is the next provision that is not at all standard, in fact, it is unprecedented. It says, "Notwithstanding any provision of the Environment Act, where there is a conflict between the Agreement . . .", that is the underlying sale agreement, ". . . and the Environment Act, the Agreement prevails."

Now that is highly unusual and I cannot stress that enough how unusual, unprecedented, perhaps even as one of my colleagues is suggesting, shocking. It is utterly unprecedented that a commercial sale agreement should be stated to supersede the law of the Province of Nova Scotia. When this bill was going through I asked the minister and his advisers if they could find any other precedent for this and I asked him anywhere in Canada, not just Nova Scotia, anywhere in Canada and the answer from the minister and the minister's own advisors was no. They suggested this and that but they weren't analogies, they weren't at all the same thing. There is no precedent for commercial agreements being stated to supersede the law of Nova Scotia. Of course it is particularly distressing knowing that we are dealing with the Environment Act. How could we have a Statute more important to the

[Page 1711]

state of our land, air and water than the Environment Act? Yet it is superseded by a simple sale agreement.

Despite the fact that the Duferco deal has fallen through, and that is a debate for another day, much has been said and written on that topic and I am not going to say anything more about that today; the fact is the deal is dead. But this provision, this unprecedented division is the law of Nova Scotia. The idea that we think is a good idea that we are commending to the government's attention - because the reality is that under the rules of this House this bill cannot pass without the support of the government - we are commending to the government's attention the idea that now that the deal is dead, this provision should not remain on the books of Nova Scotia because the agreement is still out there and it supersedes the Environment Act, that is what the law says.

It may be that the minister says when it is his turn to speak that well, the deal is dead and it is moot. If that is the minister's argument, what I would like to say is that is debatable. He may be right or he may not be right. There is no reason to leave this on the law books if there is the least question about whether it has any ongoing legal effect. It is my opinion, for what it is worth, that it does. It does have ongoing legal effect, this is on the books. If the minister believes that it doesn't, then there is no reason for him not to repeal it.

The second provision that we are commending to the attention of the government to repeal is Section 6. The first provision is a limit on the environmental rights of the people of Sydney, this is a limitation on their legal rights. Normally in circumstances like this a resident of Whitney Pier or any other person in the Sydney area that is affected by Sydney Steel, the tar ponds, the coke ovens, any of those properties that have been or were in the past under provincial ownership, those people would have six years to file a lawsuit. Six years under Nova Scotia law and in addition to that there is a provision of Nova Scotia law that says that any time can be extended in appropriate circumstance. Now in that Statute there is a long list of circumstances that the courts should weigh, but the fact is that that provision has effectively abolished limitation periods in Nova Scotia.

It is exceptionally rare for a court to find that a lawsuit cannot go ahead simply because of the Statute of Limitations. There is always an argument and a good one why the period should be extended. In this bill the government has seen fit to limit the time for someone to bring a lawsuit, to change it from six years to one.

[4:30 p.m.]

This is particularly difficult in cases like this because, of course, the biggest hurdle facing the residents of Whitney Pier, apart from the cost of a lawyer which is substantial, is gathering evidence. This is a complex situation. It is not sitting out there for them to gather up the way you would in a car accident if you had a broken leg. You know your leg is broken. That is all the evidence you need. This is a very complex, multi-year process that is going on

[Page 1712]

here. It is very difficult for the residents to gather evidence anyway, never mind within one year. So not only has the government seen fit to limit lawsuits from six years to one, they have also said that the provision allowing for an extension doesn't apply.

So it is one year, absolutely, flat, no questions asked or you are out of luck. Mr. Speaker, we argued at the time, we were not successful, that that is an unreasonable limitation on the legal rights of the people of Sydney. The government put in an exception that, frankly, in my opinion and others, though not the government's, didn't really deal with the issue, by creating a whole new kind of lawsuit, something that nobody had ever seen before. It has never been in Nova Scotia law before. So there were too many questions, there were many more questions raised by the government's amendment than were answered.

But now that the deal is dead, now that the Duferco deal is dead, there is no reason for this provision to stay on the books. Now there is more of an argument, in this case, that this one is moot because, according to a later provision of the Act, this section has not yet come into force. Actually, what it says is it comes into force on such day as the Governor in Council orders and declares by proclamation. It is my belief, although the minister can correct me if I am wrong, that such a proclamation has never been made.

I go back again, Mr. Speaker, to the point that if it is moot, then let's take it out. There is no reason to leave this kind of legal question on the law books of the Province of Nova Scotia about whether it does apply or doesn't, or whether anybody could possibly argue that it does. The only way to guarantee that this provision will not limit the legal rights of the people of Sydney is to repeal this Statute. So I say to the government, we need your help on this. We need your support. It is not about us. It is about the people of Whitney Pier.

This government, in the last sitting, passed two provisions that, in the wisdom of the government, in the context of a particular deal, limited their legal and environmental rights. Much was said at the time and these provisions were passed and that is the right of the government in a democratic society, that is the right of the government to pass those laws. But now that the deal is dead, Mr. Speaker, we urge the government to repeal these provisions. We urge the government to adopt our legislation or, if the government likes, some version of our legislation that accomplishes the same objective. That is why I am moving second reading of Bill No. 35. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Economic Development.

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, it gives me pleasure to rise today and take a few moments to speak to Bill No. 35, an Act to repeal the Sysco sale. I think it is a bit ironic that the Party that introduced this particular bill voted in support of the original bill when it was before the House. It is amazing how, when you sit in Opposition, you do have the luxury of being able to pick and choose the positions you take.

[Page 1713]

In fact, what the member opposite is attempting to do with this particular bill is to minimize the significance of the bill by focusing on one particular clause or one particular part of that piece of legislation. In fact, if I could say anything good about the bill, it would be the fact that it is a short bill.

What the Opposition are trying to do in this particular bill is, to some degree, fear monger, if you will, that this one particular clause will come back to haunt the people of that community. During the discussions around the original piece of legislation, we went to great lengths to assure the members opposite and the public at large that that was not the intent. What we were attempting to do, by introducing that bill, is ensure that there would be an orderly process around the hoped-for sale of the facility, the assets, to Duferco, but in the event that that did come to pass, there would also be a mechanism by which the government could undertake the decommissioning and liquidation of that particular site.

The other thing that the member opposite fails to really do to any adequate degree is talk about the overall intention of the existing piece of legislation. One of the very large pieces of that particular bill was to ensure that the workforce at Sysco would be taken care of. In fact, if we were to repeal the Sydney Steel Corporation, it would mean that those workers who are currently in receipt of the enhanced pension package would not be eligible to receive those payments, nor would those workers who are going to receive the severance package. You cannot repeal bits and pieces, and had the Party opposite introduced a bill that focused specifically on those clauses that caused them some level of concern, it may have been a more effective strategy than simply suggesting the best course of action would be repeal the Act in its totality.

I would remind the member opposite that the people who are to receive those enhanced pension payments are going to be doing that as of March 1st, and that by June every worker who was an employee of Sysco will have been dealt with fairly. Just to remind the member opposite of who in fact we accommodated in the original legislation, you have Local 1064, Local 6537, Local 6515, you have the International Union of Bricklayers, and the Allied Craftworkers, Local 2, and you have Local 1675 of CUPE. All of those people are going to be receiving benefits, because this government, while we were not obligated, when the Duferco deal failed to come to a positive conclusion to deal with those workers with the enhanced package in severance, we chose to do that because we recognized that the government had made a commitment to be fair. We had set aside funds to deal with the restructuring of the workforce. It seemed to be the appropriate and fair action to make sure that those monies went to support all of the people who were at Sysco.

The member opposite, also in his comments, raised the fear that individuals would be unable to sue the government if they were to discover that some sickness or illness had been caused by Sysco after one year. I can tell you that that is false and erroneous. That was never the intention. Section 6(3) specifically protects the rights of individuals to sue for any

[Page 1714]

adverse effects caused by Sysco. To read it any other way than in that manner would be false and, to some degree, misleading.

What the member opposite is trying to do in his words and comments around that particular aspect of the legislation is, to some degree, raise false fears and expectations. It is important the taxpayers are protected from claims by organizations and customers regarding Sysco's operations years from now. There are Sysco-produced rails in use in Canada and in other jurisdictions around the world. What we wanted to do is ensure that the taxpayers of Nova Scotia would be protected in the event that there was a failure at some point down the road. There is an obligation on the part of the company to ensure that their rails, in this instance, were going to perform adequately. Again, this section allows all claims . . .

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

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, the intention, as I said, was to ensure that people were adequately protected, whether it was the taxpayers for future yet unanticipated obligations around a failure of product or, in fact, people who had concerns that were not yet known around environmental-related issues.

We were very careful in the crafting of that Act and, in fact, at some time speaking to the very person who introduced this bill when he had a different function with the NDP caucus, we tried to allay those fears because at the time that the bill was before the House we remained optimistic and confident that Duferco would be coming forward with a positive conclusion to the negotiations of those deals.

This Act allowed the government to sell Sysco to Duferco according to an agreement reached between the two Parties, Mr. Speaker. The intention was to ensure that if, after 30 years, we were going to have a steel industry in the hands of a private operator that that could be accommodated. That was why the Act was introduced. It was unfortunate that at the same time that Act was being drafted we had to anticipate in light of the events that were happening around us with regard to the global steel market, we had to anticipate that there might not be a positive conclusion. If one simply read the news in The Globe and Mail yesterday around Algoma Steel, they would realize just how unstable the global steel market is. The Act that was being drafted and put before the House - and as I would remind the member opposite, voted for by that very Party - was in fact billed in such a manner that it dealt with the concerns and issues of the day and also anticipated that it might be necessary to move to decommission and liquidation.

I truly regret that the sale to Duferco did not come to a positive conclusion, but I defy anyone in this Legislature, or anyone in Nova Scotia, to say that the government of the day did not put forth its utmost effort to ensure that a private sector operator could be brought into play. We canvassed the globe on two occasions and because of the nature of the global

[Page 1715]

steel market and because of the difficulty faced by the company - Duferco certainly had the best proposal and presented for the government and for the people of Sydney, whether they be steelworkers or people in that community or taxpayers, generally, Duferco presented the best and really only opportunity to have a private sector operator who would keep that plant open and continuing to operate - when that deal fell through, it meant that the government had no option but to move to decommissioning and liquidation. The bill that the member opposite wants repealed is the very vehicle that would have brought new life to Sysco had we been able to consummate the deal with Duferco.

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite, as I said earlier on, has attempted here to create illusions around what the intent of the bill was and to try to focus in on but one or two clauses of a bill that were very comprehensive in scope and intent. We had people draft that legislation who were very aware of the difficulties associated with previous sales attempts of that operation. I believe that the intent of that bill was honoured and as I say, on the floor of the House through the discussions around that bill when it was before the House, the Opposition members had the opportunity to raise concerns and have those addressed, and in some instances, there were amendments introduced to that bill to accommodate those concerns. At the end of the day, the very Party that now says let's repeal that Act in its totality, are the ones who, as I say, supported the legislation.

Mr. Speaker, Section 6.3 specifically excludes the one-year claim period to actions launched by individuals relating to claims for adverse effects as defined under the Environmental Act. There was never any intention on the part of the government to try to circumvent the Environment Act; what we were trying to do is ensure that the Government of Nova Scotia, the taxpayers of Nova Scotia, were protected and, at the same time, we wanted to ensure that Duferco, when they became the operator, would be protected so that everyone had a clear understanding of the extent of the responsibility they had around the Environment Act.

Mr. Speaker, we have had a significant history of association with Sysco. There is no doubt that some of the potential environmental issues that might evolve would be tied the time when the Province of Nova Scotia was the owner of that particular facility and, at the same time, had Duferco been the successful purchaser and had they been operating that plant well into the future, there might have been a case that emerged some 10, 15, 20 years from now.

[4:45 p.m.]

So, what we were attempting to do in the legislation was to ensure that there was a mechanism in place that would apportion responsibility based on the timelines involved. It would have been unfair to do anything other than that. Everyone in the province is well aware of the issues of environmental concerns that exist around the Sydney Steel plant and,

[Page 1716]

potentially I suppose, around the lands that are associated with the Devco operation, although that is very definitely a federal responsibility.

I find it extremely ironic that the members opposite can - as I said earlier on - pick and choose the positions they take and, in actual fact, they can change those positions from day to day. The luxury that they enjoy is the fact that they are never really held accountable. What is good one day doesn't necessarily have to be good the next day. They can change with the wind, if you will. I would say to the member opposite, shame on him for trying to create the illusion that the Province of Nova Scotia or the government of the day was doing anything other than being responsible to the taxpayers and to the people of Nova Scotia and, ultimately, to the steelworkers whose lives were directly affected. Thank you.

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

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on this particular bill, a bill to restore the legal environmental rights of the people of Nova Scotia. I want to emphasize that title because it goes right to the heart and soul of the issues that are important to the people of industrial Cape Breton.

Much like the Minister of Economic Development, I was a little perplexed to see this bill introduced by the socialist Party. Why? Because they are the ones that supported it. They are the ones to support the Sydney Steel Corporation Sale Act. All the socialists over on the left side, (Interruption) well, Mr. Speaker, we will do that. In fact, let us go right to the heart of it. Let us go right to the vote. (Interruption) No, Mr. Speaker, actually, I voted for the workers, but the NDP, the socialist Party, voted against the workers when they voted for the Sydney Steel Corporation Act. They voted against the workers. They voted against the health and the well-being of the people in and around Sydney Steel when they voted for this. (Interruption)

Let us look at some of the quotes from these famous members. Okay, let us look at the interim Leader for the NDP. Well, I am not sure which Leader he is now, but he is there anyway. On Page 9660, Thursday, November 30, 2000, this is what the honourable member had to say:

"Mr. Speaker, this report that has actually put forward recommendations of how it thinks the Environment Act can be improved and how it thinks that the government can actually improve that Act by carrying out the mandate . . ."

AN HON. MEMBER: Who are you talking about?

MR. MACKINNON: We are talking about the honourable member who is your interim Leader. Which Leader is it? I am not sure.

[Page 1717]

AN HON. MEMBER: Leader of what?

MR. MACKINNON: Of the socialist Party. Let us look at what the honourable member for Halifax Atlantic had to say about the piece of legislation when it was brought before the House. He says, "I would call on all members of this House to fight tooth and nail against what this government is trying to do in Bill No. 70.".

Yes, he was against it until he was asked to vote. Yes, he sold out the environmental rights of the people in Whitney Pier. He sold out because of his socialist, yuppie attitude and that is the type of double-talk that we get from the honourable member for Halifax Atlantic. Yes, you wouldn't expect much more from a man that once aspired to be Leader of this Party. It is very disturbing. It is very disturbing to see these members stand in their place and hold the positions that they do. (Interruption)

We are going to do the roll call in a minute. Let us look at the honorable member for Cape Breton Centre on this particular piece of legislation, and he states the fairness of that, the rationale behind giving away the rights of the Environment Act, the rationale of the rights of the people to be able to sue to access damage; I would like to know. Again, all three have been publicly scorned from one end of this province to the other, yet he votes for it. He votes to compromise the health and safety of the residents in Whitney Pier; so much for consistency and good measure coming from that Party.

Mr. Speaker, we voted against the Sydney Steel Corporation Act right from day one, because we raised these concerns, and not only in the House. The premise for which the honourable member for Halifax Fairview introduces this is flawed. It is cheap theatrical politics and it doesn't go to the heart and soul of many of the environmental issues that are facing the people in and around Whitney Pier.

I tabled this multi-year cleanup plan that was prepared by the Canada and Nova Scotia Governments. Had the honourable members taken the time to read it perhaps they would have given a little more thought, as the Minister of Environment and Labour, who should have very easily entertained engaging himself in this debate instead of hiding behind backbenchers and the Minister of Economic Development. But that isn't surprising given his contribution to date.

Mr. Speaker, let's look at the actual vote. How was the vote? Bill No. 70, the bill that the socialists want to repeal, this is how they voted. The roll call on November 30, 2000, well, all the Progressive Conservative members voted for it. Let's fast-forward to the NDP caucus: Mr. Holm, Yea; Mr. MacDonell, Yea; Ms. Maureen MacDonald, Yea; Mr. Corbett, Yea; Mr. Pye, Yea; Mr. Epstein, Yea; Mr. Estabrooks, Yea; Mr. Robert Chisholm, Yea; Mr. Dexter, Yea.

[Page 1718]

Have you ever seen such hypocrisy in the House of Assembly as we are seeing here today, pretending they are on the side of the residents in Whitney Pier? I wonder what it has to do with the fact that my good colleague, the member for Cape Breton Nova, is not with us here today. Is that the cheap theatrical politics that they play, thinking that they may get an opportunity to go back to the polls? Well, they couldn't wait to hold onto their Leader; they sacrificed her at the altar. It is shameful. Unlike the socialists, we, in Cape Breton North honourably accepted defeat, not like the socialists who are trying to imply some nefarious conspiracy; that is shameful to bring contempt before this House.

Let's get back to the issue at hand. The environmental concerns of the people in and around the Pier - Frederick Street, Laurier Street, Muggah Street, and I can go on and on - that's the primary concern here today. Why is the Minister of Environment and Labour doing nothing? During Question Period, he didn't even know there was an application, or the lack of an application before his department, the fact that they may be shutting down the only regional landfill in industrial Cape Breton, in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, and no replacement plan. You know what, Mr. Speaker? He said he wasn't privy to that information. Well, well, well!

He doesn't mind interfering with Labour inspectors when they are going out to do their job on health and safety, the Minister of Labour and his staff, but yet he is saying he doesn't know anything about environmental permits, for which he, himself, has designed. What kind of a minister do we have in charge of our environmental laws in this province. I asked him about their drinking-water strategy, and he answers, well, is he talking about waste water, septic water? Well, not too many Nova Scotians want to drink waste water or septic water.

Had he even taken the time to listen to what the question was perhaps he would have given a thoughtful and appropriate response. Is it little wonder the people down on Frederick Street in Whitney Pier would have little faith in what this minister is doing? He couldn't even remember the fact that I tabled this multi-year plan in the House during Assembly Debates, a plan and a process which he himself should have had in his possession, he should have had it. Now what in the name of heavens are we doing allowing that member to occupy a minister's chair if he doesn't know what is going on in his department? We could save $100,000 by putting on the front line for environmental remediation in some project across Nova Scotia rather than waste it on that minister. It is a flagrant waste of taxpayers money, and he himself who sat on the Public Accounts Committee knows that we do value for dollar. What a disaster, what a disaster.

Let us look at what the socialists had to say, this is what the honourable member for Halifax Chebucto had to say on the bill, the bill which he is now trying to distance himself from. On November 7, 2000, Page 8286, "We have in short a bill that tells us virtually nothing, it tells us virtually nothing." Why would you vote for something that tells you nothing? Is that a mindless thought? Is that the substance of the top process that comes from the socialist party? How can the people in Whitney Pier, or Sydney for that matter, have any

[Page 1719]

confidence in that honourable member? The same member that says shut down the coal mines and let us employ all the coal miners by building windmills. That is the replacement. We could probably keep the windmills going from all the hot air that comes from over there, but we would have to have more of them around the province. Since we don't and we probably never will, then there will be no use for the windmills.

This process notwithstanding, the debate that we have here before us here today, is of critical value to the people in and around Sydney and in particular Whitney Pier, because my concern is that through the JAG process, through the fact that the government, both federal and provincial to some degree, are using the JAG process as a buffer zone to alleviate themselves of the true responsibility. And these honest, hardworking individuals, volunteers, can only take so much, they can only take so much. Yes it is important and it is good and we support the community level approach up. My colleague, the member for Richmond, when he was Minister of the Environment, he had no fears of going down and meeting with the people. They didn't necessarily agree or like what he had to say but at least he had the intestinal fortitude to go down and meet, not like the minister that we have today who is saying, oh we have a process. Well, what a spineless response from a Minister of the Crown. Yes, how dare he come up with that type of a response.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. I would suggest that the word spineless perhaps is unparliamentary and I would ask the member to retract that word.

MR. MACKINNON: You are absolutely correct, Mr. Speaker. I do withdraw that, it is more like a jellyfish because that is about the substance that we are getting. Flim-flam that is all we are getting from the Minister of Environment and Labour. It is very disappointing. I realize that my time has expired. I have 10 seconds to compliment the honourable member for Halifax Fairview for at least his feeble but somewhat gallant effort in other respects because (Interruptions)

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

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

[5:00 p.m.]

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, I want to stand up and say a few words about Bill No. 35. I heard the text of what the Minister of Economic Development and the minister in charge of Sysco had to say. If you hadn't been in this House listening to that minister try to rewrite history - Now this minister was the same person who told us, in good faith, you sign this deal, tomorrow they will start calling people back to work; you sign this deal, and we will have pensions for these workers.

AN HON. MEMBER: That is what he told the steelworkers.

[Page 1720]

MR. CORBETT: Yes. He told everybody that. What does he go and do? Does he go out and do a full-court press and try to consummate this deal? No. They hunker down across the way at One Government Place and carve out a communications deal that cost this province hundreds of thousands of dollars, because that minister had dropped the ball. The person this minister is praising, who no longer works for the government, Mr. Jim Spurr, sat in this House during the Public Accounts Committee and said, this government will do what no other government has done and sell Sydney Steel. Do you know what? That is a self-fulfilling prophesy, because Mr. Spurr, who had his heavy hand all over this, decided they were going to sell it piecemeal, I am sure. That is what is happening today.

That minister can stand in his place in this House and tell people that it was the international steel markets that did this deal in, but Nova Scotians know that it was the buffoonery of that government that did that deal in. They couldn't pull the trigger on the deal when it had to be done. So what do you do? You try to work in consultation with groups, to try to get that deal done in conjunction with the workers. The workers said to us quite clearly, would you support this bill, the Sysco sale bill, because it would mean our members getting a pension and hopefully getting some work.

What happened? We did what the workers wanted us to do, we supported them. When the dust settled, their government was the one that let them down, but tried to blame it on international steel markets. It wasn't the international steel markets, it was their own provincial government who said, sell Sysco, open hospital beds, and that wasn't there.

Mr. Speaker, I will be glad to take a question from the Minister of Health, if he wants to get up. Let's get back to Bill No. 35 because it is extremely important, because within the context of that sale the government wanted to severely limit liability when it came to environmental cleanup. There were many questions in this House today and in the last few weeks about the environmental problems in the Whitney Pier area, which takes up a great deal of the area where Sydney Steel and the coke ovens and ancillary operations have operated for many years.

But when we are trying to get answers about it, the Minister of Environment and Labour hides behind the fact that there is a JAG process going on. I say to that minister, if there was a house on Robie Street in Halifax that had chemicals seeping in the basement, isn't it the Department of Environment and Labour's responsibility to look into that? I think the answer would be yes. But, because the house happens to be situated on Laurier Street in the Whitney Pier area of Sydney, he denies any responsibility to that. He says, oh no, no, you talk to the Department of Transportation and Public Works, I don't want anything to do with that.

When you talk to the Premier, a medical doctor, about helping those people, because of the possible effects of their environment and health, he says, we will do a study. It is a very simple answer to do what the people of that area want. Move them out and do the study.

[Page 1721]

Don't leave them there as guinea pigs. If the people across the aisle here cared one iota about the health and safety of those people, they would move them out and then do the study. But, no. It is the attitude of this government, well, you know. If they get something, what the heck. We will deal with that down the road.

Mr. Speaker, if occupational health and safety laws, maybe not under this minister, but under a minister that is capable of running the department, if this was a workplace site, the workers could shut it down and have the operation closed, people evacuated from the site until such time as it was deemed safe to go back to work. But, no. This government wants to tell the residents to stay put and we are going to study again. The people of that area have had enough studies. In our lifetime, we have seen many studies.

I remember a former Tory Minister, Mr. Thornhill, coming to Sydney and telling us that he was going to erase the blight on the Sydney waterfront and in the Pier area because he was going to build a state-of-the-art incinerator and it was going to be all gone. That was it. That is Rollie's legacy and, certainly, the furnace is still there, but that is it. It was an ill-fated idea. It was bad from the get go. Then came the Savage years and that government was going to cover it over. There idea was just to get a bunch of slag and cover it over and that was going to help. But, yet, nobody was worried about the residents health and safety. Nobody cares. These people are left out there on a ledge, nobody cares.

Bill No. 35, as in many bills that come before this House, can be amended. What we are asking is why does that clause have to stay in that bill because that bill is on the books forever so why not go in, and we would accept some amendments, Mr. Speaker, to get that offending piece of wording out of there. Get the offending clauses out of there. All we are trying to accomplish here is to restore the community back to the people in a shape that any resident in this province should be able to enjoy. You should not have to worry that your child, if they are out in your backyard playing on the swing set or just on your back lawn, whether there are contaminants oozing up from under the soil. That is not much to ask for in this day and age. Yet, this government says, well, let the kids out there. We are going to do a study. We don't care what the long-term health affects are going to be. What we have to do is get this study underway. Yet, there is no move forward by this government.

Mr. Speaker, we saw in this House, in the last couple of weeks, the Minister of the Environment talk about a deal he had done down in Kings County about landfill and a settlement there, yet this minister doesn't want to involve himself in the worst environmental disaster in North America. He wants to stay away from it. Every time, as I said earlier, that someone in this House brings up pollution in the Whitney Pier area, he says, I don't deal with that. Give it to Transportation and Public Works. Well that is wrong because it is an environmental problem. JAG, who he is trying to hoist it back onto, JAG's responsibility is for the tar ponds clean-up, the coke ovens site and ancillary areas. They are not responsible for private homes. It is clearly still under the coverage and mandate of the Department of

[Page 1722]

Environment but, for some unknown reason, this minister believes that because it is in Whitney Pier, he doesn't have to deal with it.

Well, he is wrong. He has to deal with it. They, like everybody else who lives in this province, are residents here and he can't go cutting the pie up because he doesn't like Cape Breton. This government has shown its lack of respect for Cape Bretoners time in and time out. But why can't they just belly up and be honest here because whether it is in Cape Breton or in Yarmouth, we are at a very critical stage. We need, first and foremost, protection for people's health and safety. It is just the most basic right. Why won't the government do those things? Why does this government want to study this thing one other time? Why can't they just do the simple thing? Why don't they just do the simple thing and allow those people to move on?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The time for debate on Bill No. 35 has expired.

The honourable Opposition House Leader.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 37.

Bill No. 37 - User-fees Disclosure Act.

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

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to get up and speak about Bill No. 37 which is - the full title - An Act to Provide for the Full Disclosure of User Fees. This has been an issue that has been dogging Nova Scotians since this Tory Government was elected.

Let us go back to that moment. This is a government that, back in 1999, made a lot of promises, 260 to be exact. One of the ones that this Premier said, and I don't even know if it was in the blue book, but he said why he had to vote against the Liberal Government in June of 1999 and cause that election that eventually resulted in their election, was that he said, I do not want to be part or supporting or propping up a government that is going to increase revenue and taxes; that is not what Nova Scotians want and I won't take any part in that.

That is what he said. He made it clear that as the Leader of the Tory Party when they were in third place and they were propping up the Liberal minority government, that he would not stand for revenue increases, whether it be user fees or taxes and he said, we must not do that. He came out in the election and said, in fact, we are so nice, we are not only not going to support a government that wants tax and user fee increases, we are actually going to promise you a 10 per cent cut in the revenue that we are taking out of your pockets.

[Page 1723]

And the people of Nova Scotia - I particularly remember this, driving down Cole Harbour Road in my riding, the riding borders mine and Dartmouth-Cole Harbour - on my side of the road the candidate for the Tories in my riding had one of those neon signs that you put up and the sign said, you deserve a tax cut, vote PC. A lot of people probably said, my gosh, I do deserve a tax cut. I do deserve a tax cut. My goodness, that is a good idea, I had better vote Tory.

I wrote this in my article the other day in my local newspaper, I said, the problem is, people aren't getting a tax cut, they have been hoodwinked. The sad fact is that this government has already increased, through hidden user fees and tax increases, $118 million a year, annually an extra $118 million in revenue. Now people in Nova Scotia know very little about it. I predict by the time this government is ready to give back a tax cut, it is already going to be raising annually at least $130 million to $140 million a year, maybe even more in hidden taxes and user fees. (Interruption)

The Minister of Health said they are going to get a tax cut. No, they are not. They are going to have money that is coming out of their pocket and given to the Nova Scotia Government will be at the same level it was when this government got elected. I suggest there will still be even more to come after that and that is the problem, Mr. Speaker.

[5:15 p.m.]

The people of Nova Scotia told the Tories that we want an accountable, open government, we want a government that is going to tell us where the money is coming from. Now I will give credit where credit is due. The Minister of Finance has done the right thing with regard to expenses. He has begun to follow Generally Accepted Accounting Principles and has begun to put on the books clear and concise expenses as to where this government is spending its money. Good for him, but here is the problem, Mr. Speaker. He is not doing the same for revenue, as to where that money is coming from, how much they are collecting, and because of that Nova Scotians do not know the level of taxes that are being taken out of their pockets and given to this government. If we knew it was all going to health care and education, people would be happy.

I ask people in my riding, do you know that this government is taking an extra $120 million a year out of your pockets? They say to me, no, I don't. Then I ask, has that gone to education? No. Has that gone to health care? No. Does it mean you have paper in your schools? Does it mean the buildings that your children are going to are safe and healthy? No. Does it mean that you are going to have surgery when you need it? Does it mean that you are not going to have to wait for that MRI or those blood tests? Does it mean that you are going to be able to have elected surgery without it being cancelled at the last minute? No. They have taken over $120 million a year out of your pockets and your life is no better off, Mr. Speaker.

[Page 1724]

Nova Scotians need to have a government that is honest with them and tells them the truth about how much money they are collecting. That is what Bill No. 37 will do, Mr. Speaker, it will give the people of Nova Scotia the opportunity to see how much money is being taken out of their pockets.

The other problem with this, Mr. Speaker, is that it is kind of sad and I said this at the press conference when we introduced this. In some ways the people of Nova Scotia have already lost if they have to force their government to tell them how they are picking their pockets; they have already lost if they have to force a government through legislation to tell them how they are increasing their taxes, how they are jacking up user fees. Unfortunately and shamefully, that is the way it will be and the Province of Nova Scotia, this government, will not admit how they are raising money, how much extra revenue they are getting and where it is going. That is why we need Bill No. 37, because we need an opportunity to explain to Nova Scotians how much money this government is bringing in and where it is going.

The next question is, why is there not more money for our schools? Why do we have our children crammed with a crowbar into their classrooms? Why, for example, in places like Cape Breton, are we losing teachers? Why do we have buildings that are so sick that our children cannot go to school? Why do we have hospital beds closing, surgery that is cancelled? Why do we have places in Nova Scotia and people in Nova Scotia who can't get a family doctor even though this government continues to jack up taxes and jack up user fees? That is what Bill No. 37 would do, Mr. Speaker.

I want to give a couple of examples of the $120 million annually in new taxes that this government has increased on Nova Scotians. The $12 million, well, let me actually back up, $14 million in an HST windfall from increased gas and heating oil prices. Now take away the $2 million that they promised they are going to put into fuel rebates, which we all know isn't really how much they are probably putting in, but that works out to a $12 million net profit for this government from the actual fuel taxes. Now these are the fuel taxes that the government promised us were going to go into roads; these are the fuel taxes that if we counted every dime of fuel tax and motor vehicle registrations, license registrations, there would be over $250 million in money to spend on roads and this government is spending about $80 million or $90 million, I believe. All those roads that we could be paving.

I look at the member for Eastern Shore. There are plenty of roads in his area, not far from my own house, across in West Lawrencetown. Is that in the core area, West Lawrencetown? Part of it is. Chezzetcook. I will give you another example, I will go away from that. Think of the water quality in West Chezzetcook and East Chezzetcook. Places that have bad water, Glace Bay, Garland, all those places that have problems, and the government says we have no money to fix it, even though they have raised taxes $120 million a year on the people of Nova Scotia.

[Page 1725]

It is pretty difficult for people to believe that they are getting an honest and accountable government when they are not willing to explain to them why they are raising their taxes and that money is not going to ensure that our schools are there when we need them, that our hospitals are there when we need them, that we have water that we can drink. In Canada it seems, beyond any other country, a shock that in our province, in our country, people can't drink the water, and our government folds their arms and says, there is nothing we can do but please give me more money. Please, we want more taxes from you.

There are $20 million in tobacco tax increases. Let's be clear. Tobacco tax increases, if they have the effect of stopping people from smoking, are good. But let's ensure that that money is not going into general revenue; let's make sure that money is not going into PR firms to help explain the botched Sysco deal; let's make sure that extra money, tax dollars, is not going into coffee at the Department of Education; isn't going to outside consultants for the Department of Health; isn't going to the buddies of the government so that can say they are consultants and PR people. Let's make sure that money goes into smoking cessation programs and education. But it is not. Three-quarters of that $20 million is going into a general pot and the government will use it wastefully.

Let's talk about the $30 million in bracket creep. The fact that the federal government adjusted their tax program, that they re-indexed the rates in which income will be taxed and our government didn't do the same. We had a golden opportunity and we supported the fact that we were creating our own tax Act, our own tax system in Nova Scotia. It gave a great opportunity for us to have a tax system based on Nova Scotian values, Mr. Speaker. Instead, this government just uses it as a smash and grab of taxes and user fees on Nova Scotians, hidden.

What about the one that we brought up, which is the basic personal exemption decoupling which raised $12 million for this government, or the decoupling of the equivalent to spouse and spousal deduction which raised over $1 million; $5 million that the Premier himself has admitted, just from generally changing the tax system this government has brought in extra money. On top of all that, Mr. Speaker, $38 million in user fees over the last two years. On an annual basis, this government is bringing in $38 million in user fees more than they were before they got elected. This is just the tip of the iceberg, we would suggest. But, you know what? This government encouraged us to ferret them out. We ferret out what we can.

Bill No. 37 is about accountability. It is about honesty. This government should be doing it without legislation, but they are not. We need legislation in this province to guarantee that this government is actually going to be honest with Nova Scotians and tell them where and how they are collecting taxes, how much money they are getting from them and, then, from there, Nova Scotians can begin to judge whether this government is truly being honest with them, is truly telling them the truth as to where and how they are collecting that money. Until they do that, Mr. Speaker, this government will never have the trust of

[Page 1726]

Nova Scotians because Nova Scotians will always feel that little something which is the hand of the government in their pocket, digging even deeper for loose change, small bills, whatever you have, because they will keep taking it and taking it and taking it until they jack up their taxes to the point that they can finally claim they have done something. Mr. Speaker, that is not what we want and that is why we need Bill No. 37. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, by point of information, how much time do I have allotted, because of some adjustments.

MR. SPEAKER: The member has until 5:36 p.m.

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, that will only give me but a few minutes to address this very important topic. I had occasion to listen to the honourable member who just spoke, and he spoke eloquently, about user fees. The problem that the New Democratic Party has is that the New Democratic Party, in this province, has never come to grips with the fact that there is only one taxpayer, and that for all the services government provide, you have to find some way to finance those programs.

Mr. Speaker, day after day, the honourable members opposite provide this House with a litany of services that this government should provide; new services, extended services. There is no end to the number of services that the members opposite do not believe that government should provide to the people of Nova Scotia. Unfortunately they also spend all of this time in the House suggesting that government should constantly reduce its revenue sources. We shouldn't have user fees, we shouldn't have taxes. You cannot have it both ways; it is an unfortunate reality that you can't have it both ways.

In point of fact, one of the things that is interesting is that the euphemism of user fee is a bit of a misnomer.

MR. JERRY PYE: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I would just like to mention to the honourable member, and the honourable minister as well, that the honourable minister is quite correct in saying there is only one taxpayer, but why is he putting the hook to the one taxpayer, not only through taxes, but also through user fees as well?

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

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, that was not even a good attempt at a point of order. The Russian judge would even give him a one or two on that.

[Page 1727]

The reality is that the members opposite like to talk out of both sides of their mouths. They like to tell Nova Scotians that you can have unlimited services and that there is no cost to these services. Well, Nova Scotians know better. Nova Scotians are prepared to stand up for the principle that in certain circumstances user fees are necessary, user fees are in fact even appropriate. For example, an example of a user fee, Mr. Speaker, is certain industrial users pay fees to the Department of Environment for approvals and permits. Those are permits that are connected to the operation of their business. They are a necessary part of the regulatory process and it is appropriate that at least part of the cost of those user fees be borne by the people who most use the service. That is a user fee.

Another user fee is, for example, and one that our members would be very familiar with, would be the "user fee" when one files one's claim in Small Claims Court. I suppose technically it is a user fee but that fee - we have a Small Claims Court in this province, one of the best systems in this country in fact - is much cheaper to the litigants than if they were to pursue that matter in Supreme Court. So while there is a cost to the user of that system, that cost in fact is approximately what overall it costs to run the system. Overall it provides accessible justice to Nova Scotians, without a lawyer, in cases that most people would tend to get involved with. Small claims are by nature matters that people want to have resolved at limited cost and the cost of going to Small Claims Court is very modest.

Another example from my years of practising law, that I am familiar with, is that hospitals, that are not necessarily by any stretch of the imagination in the business of providing service for water tests, provide water tests to purchasers of property, at the time of closing or before closing. That is a user fee. It is a way that the health system finances the cost of health care in this province, but it is quite appropriate and I have never heard anybody feel that it was inappropriate for someone to pay a $10 or $12 lab fee to have their water tested at the time of closing. That is a reasonable thing that is charged.

Mr. Speaker, the reality is that we have got to have a range of fair ways to produce income to government. This government has been truly accountable. This bill is allegedly about accountability. This government has been truly accountable; it was the former government who was full of smoke and mirrors. For example, it wasn't this government who had a hundreds-of-millions-of-dollars deficit like the former government and called it a surplus. In fact, it was the former government who hid from the public the fact that there were huge deficits in health boards and education boards. They hid that from Nova Scotians. We are not hiding from Nova Scotians, we have an accounting system that truly discloses the financial circumstances of the province.

[5:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, that is what accountability and transparency is all about. The sources of revenue are shown in the Public Accounts of the province. You can see the total net revenue to the departments. There is no problem seeing that. In point of fact, to talk just briefly about

[Page 1728]

accountability in government, nobody in this government has said that we have a Health Investment Fund which is really a deficit, a $600 million deficit without any point to it.

In point of fact the argument has been made in the House, which I think is hilarious, that somehow while the government is still in deficit in this province, we should go out and borrow the money, and that will somehow make the deficit go away. Surprise, surprise. When you have deficit, the debt continues to mount. That is by definition what the problem with deficit financing is, and that is why this government is against deficit financing.

AN HON. MEMBER: Who made that suggestion?

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I am not sure, but I think it may have been the honourable member who introduced the Health Investment Fund. It is unfortunate that we don't havemore time to discuss this important issue, because I believe that this government has a firm record of accountability and disclosure. Our books in this province have reached new levels of openness and transparency. (Applause) The reality is that the people of Nova Scotia finally know what the financial state of the affairs of the Province of Nova Scotia are, after years of non-disclosure by the former administration.

Mr. Speaker, I believe my time is until 5:36 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member's time is until 5:32 p.m. No, sorry, I see notes here, honourable member, to the right, somebody has adjusted the time and you have until 5:36 p.m.

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, that is fine because it gives me a little more opportunity to reflect upon the history in this province of transparency in accounting. I remember sitting over there, as the Third Party, and you, as well, were sitting there, very near me at the time. We were saying that the true picture was not being given to Nova Scotians about the financial affairs of the province, that in fact Nova Scotians didn't have a surplus but that they had a huge deficit.

Mr. Speaker, when we use Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, a monumentally surprising concept, surprise, surprise, those surpluses were not even minor deficits, they were massive deficits.

AN HON. MEMBER: Horrendous.

MR. BAKER: Horrendous deficits. In point of fact, we were running horrendous deficits, adding to our mounting debt in this province, year after year while Nova Scotians were being misled into believing that they had surpluses. One wonders how, when they were running all these surpluses, our debt was continuing to mount. (Interruptions)

[Page 1729]

AN HON. MEMBER: They borrowed the money.

MR. BAKER: Yes, one of my colleagues points out that what they were doing was borrowing money to create surpluses. I think that has been shown to be equivalent to using your credit card to pay your mortgage. What happens when that happens is that you sink faster and faster into financial distress while appearing at the moment to be moving forward. That, in fact, was what the previous administrations' approach to these matters was.

Mr. Speaker, in point of fact, user fees are necessary, user fees are appropriate in certain circumstances, and they are a way of reflecting that some members of the public use a larger amount of certain types of government services than other members of the public. It is appropriate that those people bear a larger portion of the cost of those services. Nova Scotians, frankly, don't have a problem with that. That is only appropriate. The problem with the honourable members opposite, who brought the bill forward, was that they continued to sing the siren song, which is that services are not in any way connected to revenue.

In point of fact, Mr. Speaker, government can provide almost any service if they are prepared to tax enough from the public. In point of fact, government can't do that because what it does is it takes the money out of the hands of ordinary Nova Scotians, the hard-working people who earn the money. This government is committed to doing something that no government in Nova Scotia history has done, truly balancing the books of the Province of Nova Scotia. What we are going to do when we balance those books, is we are going to give Nova Scotians a real tax cut, not an illusionary tax cut. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I think they refer to him as the laughingstock, the Minister of Justice over there. I would like to now talk about Bill No. 37. I want to say, to begin with, that the intent of Bill No. 37, I think, is in the thrust of the legislation that is brought forward, is very good. What it is really asking is that what we do is bring forward, in a process, the hidden taxes or user fees that the Tory Government is proposing to bring forward. I think the intent behind it is fine. I think there is some credibility to it. Although the previous speaker seems to be saying that there is only one taxpayer, but he is almost like afraid to support the thrust of the bill because he is, maybe, hiding some taxes that he, himself, does not want to bring forward to Nova Scotians.

So, in my view, the thrust of the bill is fine. There is nothing wrong, in my view, with establishing user fees. There are a certain amount of user fees that are fair. I think the point that we have made here repeatedly in the House - and the previous speaker, obviously, did not pay attention - is that user fees are a part of the fact of life of government. But when user fees are used in a form of a tax grab then I think they have gone too far. As the Auditor

[Page 1730]

General stated to the members of the government of the day, once you charge beyond the true cost of that user fee then it becomes a tax. That is exactly what this government is doing in a number of different areas. That is why I think the thrust of this bill is to make sure that the government brings these initiatives forward and that we would have them in time that we could study them and debate them so that we know, in fact, they are not a tax. That is what this government is cowardly hiding away from. This government is afraid to bring forward that information and/or afraid to support the principle of what this bill is about.

The bill is not perfect. There are a number of areas that we think should be looked at and should be reconsidered. For example, I think the fact that this bill is talking about bringing in a year later, to go to be reviewed. Then, really, it is almost a year past the date. That reminds me a lot of how the Tories ran the Province of Nova Scotia for some 15 or 18 years of mismanagement, abuse, scandal and the list goes on. What this bill is talking about is that the bill requires a reporting once a year, one year after the fact. To me, one year after the fact is the wrong way to go. The bill should really be defined and changed so that, in fact, the details of the user fees should be done at the beginning of the year, not after they have already taxed Nova Scotians. It should be done at the beginning of the year so that we would truly be able to debate what the user fee is all about, truly be able to find out what the true cost of the proposed user fee is all about. It appears that this government is cowardly saying, no, they do not want to do that. They do not want to make that a reality.

I think if it is the NDP's proposal to come in a year later, to me is after the fact. The money has already been gouged out of the pockets of Nova Scotians, it has already had its negative impact on the economy and the fairness has been taken away. I think if they are proposing to bring in user fees then it should be done on a fair basis and not on an unfair basis, and certainly not a year after the fact that we would be able to analyze it. I think what should be done is analyze it beforehand.

Notwithstanding, I believe that this Conservative Government is masking taxation by the term user fee. I think when we take a look at some of the initiatives they brought forward, we have not ever seen, we have never really seen what the absolute cost is associated to that user fee and whether or not that user fee is legitimately a fair price or a fair fee. Granted, I don't think that the government should just go ahead and layer tiers and tiers and tiers of user fees, I think we have to be careful about that. I think this government over here, that is so hungry to take advantage of Nova Scotians, would do that, but I think what we need to do is make sure that user fees aren't used on just almost anything they deem. For example, if the Minister of Agriculture starts allowing ADI to start taxing farmers and user fees for farmers on a program that they dismantled, it would be wrong. I think the Department of Justice has an opportunity to be careful on how they impose user fees, so that it is not abuse to the public of Nova Scotia.

[Page 1731]

Legislation that allows fees to be set by the Governor in Council is another area of concern that we have. I might say, Mr. Speaker, in reading over some of the bills that have been brought forward here, this government - and I challenge them to correct me on this - in their legislation repeatedly through the regulatory system, has the ability to set fees at a time and point and at a rate they deem they want to, when they want to. In other words, they could simply, through an OIC, deem a user fee to be charged against Nova Scotians without consultation, without discussion or without acknowledgement or without disclosure.

As long as the legislation allows fees to be set by Governor in Council we, as legislators, have little opportunity to stop the government from revenue grabbing. I think there is a real interesting point that most of the bills that have been brought forward have that caveat built in and they allow themselves the right to do that. We should be holding them accountable for that. Shame on this government for trying to sneak through pieces of legislation that just allows them to use it as a revenue grab.

Government could also change fees any time they want. There is no legitimacy to it. It is just a matter, if all of a sudden the Minister of Health says that the 911 fee, the 46 cents, well, we want it to be $46 he could do it or whatever other fee that is out there that they want to go after, they could simply go and charge whatever rate they want, or they want to increase it. Maybe the Minister of Justice says, today's rate is $2.00, tomorrow it is going to be $3.00, next week it will be $4.00, next month it will be $7.00, whatever they want to do they can simply do it under what they are proposing. So I think we need to make sure that any legislation that is brought forward has some provisions and protection from this side of the House and, above all, for Nova Scotians.

I am certain the public, the people of Nova Scotia, do not know that the government has the power to do this and to do it right now. In a number of pieces of legislation, there is nothing to stop this government from increasing the user fees that have been stated. They can increase it as many times as they feel they are justified in doing so throughout the year.

Perhaps a more timely manner of reporting, and what we have been saying earlier, would be once a year. Once a year they would have to report prior to the beginning of establishing a rate and that allows all Nova Scotians to understand what this government is doing. So the government is not just simply developing a dependence on revenue generations by artificially inflating user fees. That is a real reality of this government. They could do that simply by saying, well, let's just go and pump it up another couple of cents or a couple of dollars or maybe $20 or $30. That is what this government is probably all about. So although the thrust of what this bill is all about - and we support the principle behind it - I think there are some provisions that should have been made and some amendments that should have been brought forward in the bill that we are talking about, Bill No. 37, that would be adding more credibility and more strength for the public of Nova Scotia and not just the Tories.

[Page 1732]

[5:45 p.m.]

Again, I will give you a couple of examples. I remember all too well when the Minister of Health stood in this House and talked about the need for a piece of legislation to deal with paramedics. I forget exactly what it was, but anyway, he said, oh, by the way, there is going to be a provision in there for me to charge a fee for 911 calls. I will probably never make it, I will probably never use it. I think the words that he said, he thought it was so insignificant, it wasn't important to even bring it to the House to disclose. His comments were, gosh, what's the big deal. It's just a provision to allow me, it was almost like a safety net for the Minister of Health, the way he was describing it.

Well, it wasn't even 12 months after that - I can't remember the month - but it was only a few months after that and bang-o, a 46 cent fee to Nova Scotians. That was at the same time this minister indicated to many Nova Scotians, including this member right here, that it is really immaterial, it is just a small provision that future governments down the road, if they want to, they can do it. They knew, that Tory bunch over there knew that they were going to take Nova Scotians and they were afraid to go and say it publicly.

Mr. Speaker, the issue of bracket creep is another prime example. This government that talks about transparency and accountability, they are not transparent, they are not accountable to Nova Scotians. They have misled Nova Scotians and they are continuing to tax Nova Scotians through bracket creep indexation, through all sorts of measures. They are now taking enough money out of the pockets of Nova Scotians so when they give this phony 10 per cent reduction, it is no more than giving back to Nova Scotians the money they have robbed out of the pockets of working Nova Scotians.

Shame on that government. That is what the Tory Government is all about, smoke and mirrors. We have seen it all the time. The Buchananites were in power and we are going to see it as long as the Tories are in power under Hamm. The only difference is, either Hamm doesn't know, or if he knows, he is a real good pretender.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I cannot believe that the honourable Minister of Justice who spoke with respect to Bill No. 37 just a little while ago can possibly have read the bill. He made one point and one point only in his bombastic denunciation and his point was that every government needs to charge some user fees. Well, that's interesting, it's a fair point and no one disputes it.

That has nothing to do with the bill. The bill doesn't say governments can't impose user fees if they go through the Legislature and follow the normal procedure. The bill says something entirely different. What the bill says, and it is right there in the title, it is an Act to Provide for the Full Disclosure of User Fees.

[Page 1733]

Now, we heard the minister talk about how governments can't reduce their revenues, we can't afford it and there is only one taxpayer and all kinds of things that just weren't germane. They had nothing to do with the point that the bill is all about. This bill calls for public disclosure of the user fees that are in place and that are brought in from year to year, as it may be, as part of some budget. That's what the bill calls for.

This is a very straightforward bill which takes the government at its word when it said that it believes in open and accountable government. That is certainly what they campaigned upon. It is certainly what it is that all of us say we believe in, but, of course, the test is always whether you follow through and do what you say.

I cannot understand how it is that the government members opposite are apparently gearing themselves up to vote against this bill. Why would that possibly be? Now, Nova Scotians at home may be very surprised to learn (Interruption) I am being asked if I will interrupt for an introduction, that is fine.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Thank you, I appreciate the member allowing me this quick introduction. In the Speaker's Gallery we are pleased to introduce to you a former Member of the Legislative Assembly, Mr. Bruce Holland, who represented the great riding of Timberlea-Prospect. I would ask, through you, Mr. Speaker, to the members of the House that we give a warm welcome to Bruce. It is good to see you here. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Welcome to our guest, Mr. Holland, a former colleague of mine on the old Halifax County Council. Welcome, Bruce, and welcome to all our guests in the Legislature.

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I had no problem interrupting what I had to say for that happy acknowledgement of a former member's presence in the gallery.

I was just about to say that Nova Scotians at home will probably be surprised to learn the extent of the documentation that we now get as part of the budget process. I want to just indicate to them how extensive that documentation already is just so they can understand how very easy it would be to add to the documentation what it is that Bill No. 37 calls for, that is a list of user fees.

I have beside me a stack of the documents that are presented to each member of the House every year when a budget is introduced. Let's look at what they are; first, something called Volume 1 of the Public Accounts, the financial statements. If you want to go through this document you will find that there is a huge amount of detail about the gross long-term

[Page 1734]

debt, the direct guarantees, unmatured debts, loans and investments, the expenses, consolidated statements, all the kinds of tables that a normal accountant would require of private businesses but applied, of course, in the government context. This isn't a particularly thick document, but it is informative, it has lots of detail and it is exactly the kind of thing that you would expect to be part of a budget. But you know what isn't in it? What isn't in it is a statement of user fees in the Province of Nova Scotia.

Now, there is a second volume to the Public Accounts, a whacking great, huge document that goes through each and every one of the Crown Agencies and government boards and commissions that get money from the government; so we get school boards in here, we get hospitals, we get things like the Fisheries and Aquaculture Loan Board, and all of these have details about their expenditures and if someone wants to find out in detail what goes on in any one of these entities, it is right here in this 530 page Volume 2 of the Public Accounts of the Province of Nova Scotia. But you know what isn't in here? Not one word that tells you about the user fees of the Province of Nova Scotia. It is not in there, but it could be.

On top of that we have something called the Supplement to the Public Accounts. If we want to know the salary of any person who works for the Province of Nova Scotia, it is listed here in the Supplement to the Public Accounts. It is there, page after page, everyone's name, their salary, and on top of that there is the travel expenses, and on top of that if you want to know what some department happened to spend on taxis, it is there. It is a huge amount of detail, this information is obviously available to the Department of Finance. But you know what isn't in the Supplement to the Public Accounts? There isn't a statement about user fees in the Province of Nova Scotia.

If you want to know about Crown Corporations, there is another document, every one of the Crown Corporations has its business plans laid out here. Business plans set out the corporate overview, the mission, the strategic goals, the core business functions and the performance and priorities for the coming year along with the budget for each and every one of these entities. It is laid out in complete detail. If you want to know as a citizen or a member of this Legislature about the details of the business plans of every agency that the government is involved with and finances and controls, it is there. This information is obviously available to the Department of Finance and available to each and every agency. They have it in the computers, they have it in the records, they can generate it. But you know what isn't here? The information about user fees. It is not there.

Do you know what? There are more documents. I am sure people at home are astonished. There are more documents that we each get every year in this whacking great pile of detailed information, which is interesting and valuable, and we use it, and we go through it and it is called the estimates process. There is actually another volume called the Estimates, Province of Nova Scotia that comes out each year. This is where the budgets for each and every department are set out.

[Page 1735]

But do you know that they are set out in detail as to their proposed expenditures, but there is virtually nothing about their revenues. If you look at any given department and you wonder where they are getting money in, you will occasionally find a small item that says "Less: Recoveries" and there is a global number. Now, built into that somewhere there has to be all the user fees that are charged to the citizens of Nova Scotia. We have to ask ourselves, where is this information? Why is it not disclosed in a readily accessible form when it is quite obvious that the information is available?

Some of this information is occasionally made known to the public, known to the members of the Legislature by the government. Every once in a while, when something is so obvious that it cannot be hidden, they tell us about it. It is sometimes in the minister's Budget Address, when the Minister of Finance actually presents the budget, or sometimes in little extra documents called Budget Bulletins of the Province of Nova Scotia. Occasionally they will fess up to some things if they don't think they can really hide them.

Well, that is what Bill No. 37 is all about. Bill No. 37 says to use the sophisticated computers and detailed accounting information that is already available to the government and pull out of it in an easily, accessible, summary form, all of the user fees.

Why do we want to do this? What is the point? Clearly, we already have a huge amount of information. What is the point about user fees? Well, the other speakers, the first speaker, my colleague, the member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage, pointed out that this indeed is useful information and that it is part of the taxation system of the Province of Nova Scotia. I don't disagree with what the Minister of Justice said earlier when he said that some user fees are necessary for a government to charge, but he cannot jump from that statement to the conclusion that therefore all user fees are justifiable and fair and appropriate. That is the suggestion of the minister's statement; that is the only reason he could possibly have concentrated on the one and only point that he did make.

It is precisely because not all user fees are fair and not all user fees are appropriate that Nova Scotians ought to know what they are in detail, so they can make up their minds. Inherently, most user fees are probably going to be, for the average citizen, inequitable because they are regressive.

So I see my time has expired, Mr. Speaker. Thank you very much.

MR. SPEAKER: That concludes debate on Bill No. 37.

The honourable Government House Leader.

[Page 1736]

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, just to advise the House of the hours for tomorrow and the order of business. The House will sit from 12:00 p.m. until 8:00 p.m. The order of business, following Question Period, will be Public Bills for Second Reading and we will start with Bill No. 30 and, if time permits, we will go on to Bill No. 20.

Mr. Speaker, we have a mutual agreement among the three Parties for the emergency debate commencing with the New Democratic Party and then the PC and then the Liberal Party, and the rotation will be 40 minutes total for each Party. The Parties can split up the time as they see fit.

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 43

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

NAT. RES. - SOFTWOOD LUMBER:

AGREEMENT - EXEMPTION STATUS

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I want to take this opportunity at the beginning at this debate to simply say that we consider this debate to be of the utmost importance to the people of the province. There could not be a more solemn purpose for a debate that I know of than one that affects an industry which has been the backbone of this province, literally, for centuries.

In doing some of the research on this and just so I can set out a little bit of the background, the reality of our situation in the modern economy is that we engage in a lot of trade, and of course lumber products are no different from any other aspects of trade. We seek to sell our products into markets around the world. In fact, this is true of the lumber industry. They export their goods to six continents to, I believe in excess of 70 countries and to 49 of the 50 states of the United States, so trade in the lumber market in softwood, in particular, is a part of the economic fabric as well as the social fabric of this province. Many of the trade links that have been established, and that bring much more than just softwood lumber from this country to another country, have become gateways of trade for many, many other items over and above just the softwood lumber itself.

[6:00 p.m.]

Presently between ourselves and the United States there is a United States-Canada Softwood Lumber Agreement, which is also known as the SLA, and I was interested to look at this in terms of the way in which the Trade Compliance Centre in the United States looks at its agreements with our country. I wanted to refer, if I can and I will be happy to table this Exporter's Guide to U.S. Trade Agreements with the House after I have finished quoting

[Page 1737]

from it, but I wanted to just allow the members to know how it is that the Trade Compliance Centre looks at these agreements. It first sets out what the agreement is and what it does and this document says that the U.S.-Canada Softwood Lumber Agreement, also known as the SLA, is intended to ensure that there is no material injury or threat of material injury to U.S. lumber products from imports of softwood lumber from Canada. The Canadian Government has agreed to set a limit on duty free exports of softwood lumber to the United States, exports above that limit are subject to export fees which sharply increase their costs.

Now Mr. Speaker as you know, and all members who have had an opportunity to see your resolution on this matter and have had an opportunity to see the letter that was written on behalf of the four Premiers of the Atlantic Provinces to the Right Honourable Prime Minister, part of that softwood lumber agreement was something that was known as the Maritime Accord and what the Maritime Accord did was exempt softwood lumber from the Maritime Provinces from any kind of countervailing duty by the United States. I want to point out to you that if you think the United States does not take seriously the obligation that they have to protect their own markets, I would again refer to the Trade Compliance Centre's document and they are set up by and large to help U.S. industries who feel that they may be somehow negatively or deleteriously affected by the actions of Canadian producers and their export of our product into their country. They say, can the U.S. Government help me if I have a problem? The Web site reads, if you believe the Canadian Government is not complying with this agreement contact the Trade Compliance Centre hotline at the U.S. Department of Commerce. They, in fact, have in place a direct line to the Department of Commerce where those who feel that they are somehow being negatively affected by the import of Canadian lumber into the United States can reach their government and make their complaint.

Well, how does that take place? It takes place by having the initiating of anti-dumping and countervailing duty investigations take place. What happens is that interested individuals in the United States can apply and, or what is commonly know in legal terms, petition the department to conduct this initiation of anti-dumping and countervailing duty investigations. In this case, again from the Web site of the United States Government, there was a petition that was filed on behalf of the Coalition for Fair Lumber Imports Executive Committee along with a number of other co-petitioners including a number of private companies who feel that they are negatively affected by the import of Canadian lumber into their markets.

Mr. Speaker, one of the aspects of the relationship that the Maritimes has had with the United States is that we have always been exempted from the need to have those kinds of countervailing duties. There is a good reason for that, and I think I would like to start, if I can, by explaining a little bit of the difference between the different kinds of duties that exist in these trade arrangements. A duty, also called a tariff, has many different kinds of facets. You can have retaliatory duties, you can have protective duties, and you can have countervail. In fact, there is actually quite a long list. There is something known as preferential duty or preferential tariff.

[Page 1738]

Each of these has certain specific kinds of characteristics. Obviously, protective tariffs are something that is set up to give the domestic producers an advantage over imported products, no matter what market, no matter what kind of a product it happens to be. Retaliatory, we certainly know our relationship with Brazil happened as a result of some actions that Canada took that Brazil was not very pleased with in relation to Brazilian beef, I believe. Preferential tariffs are set up so that if I am importing from Canada and Brazil is importing to the United States, if they want to give us a break over Brazil they set the tariff rates differently, so the Brazilian product will be more expensive.

Those are the ways that those kinds of tariffs work. The one that is of interest in this particular case is really a countervailing duty. What countervail actually means is they are going to readjust the balance by using a duty. So what they say is that there is a subsidy that is being provided to Maritime producers, and that their duty is merely trying to set out to correct that imbalance that has been created as a result of a subsidy.

Mr. Speaker, the reason why, for many years, we have been exempted from such duties is because a large percentage of the products that came out of Nova Scotia, came out of the Maritimes, in fact, were on private woodlands. They weren't simply a matter of stumpage rates. As you know, if you cut on private property the owner has the cost of acquiring the property, of holding it for whatever period of time they will have to hold it after they harvest, and I suppose there are maintenance issues that go along with it. There is a cost associated with owning property and harvesting off it that may not exist, in fact, do not exist if you are simply cutting on Crown land and paying a straight stumpage rate.

Low stumpage rates are viewed by the United States as a subsidy. We have, for many years, been able to avoid that because of the reality of the situation in this province. Now, I can tell you that I think it is the responsibility, not only of us, here, in this Legislature to have this kind of debate in order to get the information out, but of the federal government to see to it at the earliest opportunity that this position can be rectified, that we can be restored to what I think is an appropriate balance between the Maritime Provinces and the United States.

I represent an urban riding, that's a fact, but the reality is I grew up in a rural riding, I grew up in Queens County as many people would know and spent a good number of my formative years with a wood hook and a power saw, and know very well what it is like to work in that industry. I worked at a sawmill in Greenfield and I can tell you that the people who work in that industry are hardworking members of our communities who rely on this industry to feed their families, who are literally and figuratively pillars of the communities because they produce the products that allow us to build the communities we live in. This is not something that I speak of simply in an esoteric fashion. I do understand very well what that industry contributes to our province.

[Page 1739]

In fact, when I was attending university, I had the opportunity to get a job through a government program called the Job Corps. I don't know if people will remember that, but that was an initiative that was carried out by the Liberal Government, well I won't even say the years because that would incriminate me but, let's just say, a significant number of years ago. What we did, Mr. Speaker, is we went in and we cut out the hardwood and we left the property so as to encourage the growth of softwood. I believe the hardwood was skidded out and eventually sold for firewood to try to recover some of the cost of the program that was put on at the time. I suppose, as practices have changed over time, that may not be something that they would do these days, but that was the practice those many years ago. So, in some sense, I not only earned my living over those months, but it was part of the money I used to go to university and so I received a huge benefit from it. I feel indebted to the industry, as I do, and I think people should, if they reflect back on what it is that shapes their growth and who they are as individuals.

I want to comment on and to use - I realize I am very quickly running out of time here, but I wanted to talk a little bit about - the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council's study. It was released just a short time ago, assessing the economic impact of Nova Scotia's forest industry on the province's economy. I think that this document, which you can find on the Nova Scotia, nsfpa.ns.ca Web site is an important one for people to know. The fact is that this industry is one of the fastest growing in the province. Primary forest and related manufacturing is an important industrial anchor, as these sectors employed about 13,000 people in 1998. Based on the current size of the forest sector, APEC estimates that beyond the 13,000 direct forest jobs, an additional 9,000 indirect jobs are sustained in the province because of forest activity; 22,000 jobs in this province connected directly to forest activity and that was in 1998. Imagine the impact that these countervailing duties will have on that industry and, therefore, on the entire province in all corners.

The study also points out that since 1992, an additional 4,300 jobs have been created in the forest products sector, while 600 were added to the primary forest operations in the province. This represents 15 per cent of all job growth in the province over that period of time. I see you are giving me the signal that I only have one minute left, but I want to end on the note that I began, Mr. Speaker. Often times, we don't have enough time to say all that we want to say in these debates. We, as members of this Legislature, have an obligation to the people of this province to state the case very clearly on their behalf. It is an obligation of the federal government to seek immediately to remedy this situation and to have those duties removed from softwood lumber in this province and in the Atlantic Provinces. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Natural Resources.

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, I, certainly, tonight want to rise in this debate and convey to the House and, certainly, to Nova Scotians the seriousness of the matter. Myself, as a young person growing up working on pulpwood crews and, as a mature person, part of my life was spent in the lumber industry as an operator with a lumbering crew and I

[Page 1740]

realize the dedication and hard work of the people who work in the industry and have been associated with mill owners for a number of years around this province.

[6:15 p.m.]

Certainly when you look at what is at stake here, it is very important that every member of this Legislature and the public realize the effect of the forest industry on this province. When you look at direct and indirect jobs in this province, we are talking in excess of 22,000 people who are directly or indirectly involved in the lumber industry. The lumber industry in this province is in excess of $1 billion worth of product that is produced in this province.

A little history on marketing, I think, is important. A number of years ago the pine nematode was certainly a problem and it required that green lumber - lumber that was not cured - could no longer enter Europe. For 200 years previous to that, Europe was our main export market. Along with the accord signed with the United States, after that period, the United States has become the major market for Nova Scotia lumber and, indeed, Maritime Canada's lumber. Currently close to 95 per cent of our softwood lumber output would find its way, in the last number of years, to the United States market. So we can all see how critical this market is to those 22,000 jobs.

The industry here in Maritime Canada has been an industry that has been strongly supported by the Province of Nova Scotia and, indeed, every other provincial government in Maritime Canada. The lumber industry itself has a fine organization known as the Maritime Lumber Bureau. The Maritime Lumber Bureau has represented the industry very well and very strongly over the last number of years.

When the Maritime issue first arose with the countervail duties imposed a number of years ago, in the early 1990's, by the U.S. Government, that organization and the support of provincial governments was critical in achieving what was known as the Maritime Accord, which is a reflection of the U.S. Government's compliance and agreement with Maritime producers, that unfair subsidization does not occur here in Nova Scotia or our sister provinces in Maritime Canada. So that particular accord has been in effect, once renewed, over the last 10 to 12 years.

What happened yesterday was the American Commerce Department decided to look at anti-dumping and countervail compliance or restrictions not only against all lumber producers in Canada, but Atlantic Canada as well. Certainly this government, from the Premier to the ministers involved - Natural Resources and Economic Development - have worked closely and have focused efforts not only with our federal counterparts and American counterparts, but through the Maritime Lumber Bureau.

[Page 1741]

I just want to note a couple of things. I think it is really important for us to understand that it is the U.S. Department of Commerce, on behalf of the U.S. lumber industry, that has cited unfair trade practices. The Maritime Accord was supported by the U.S. Coalition for Fair Lumber Imports; our exemption was supported. So it is regrettable that the Commerce Department included Nova Scotia and the Maritime Provinces in this investigation of countervail duties and anti-dumping duties.

It is interesting to note that the softwood lumber products - and this is the U.S. coalition speaking here on April 2nd at the hearings - that are subject to these petitions are produced in Canada, and that is the industry as a whole here in Canada.

As explained in Section 7 below, petitioners do not allege that softwood lumber production in the Atlantic Provinces benefits from countervail subsidies. This portion of the Canadian production should be treated as it was in the 1991-1992 agreements to this present day. That is a realization that the Atlantic industry, the Maritime industry does not pay unfair subsidies to the industry.

When you look at the Nova Scotia industry, not only does that prove conclusively that acknowledgment by the American industry that Crown land stumpage rates in this province are equivalent to the American stumpage rates, but it is a recognition that 75 per cent of woodland harvested in this province is in the hands of private individuals. The American industry clearly has no problem with our Maritime Accord or exemption to the action. Even against the U.S. industry the Commerce Department has seen fit to move forward with this action.

When you look at possible consequences, certainly it does endanger the viability of many rural communities across this province who depend on that forest industry as the backbone and the mainstay of those individual communities. There are many family-owned and operated lumber operations in this province who again employ 13,000 people in this province directly. I might note, Mr. Speaker, that over the last six years, this industry has contributed an additional 4,300 jobs to the economy in Nova Scotia which has represented 15 per cent of the new job growth in the last 10 years.

The industry is doing its part, we are onside as provincial governments and departments across the region and it is with a huge amount of concern that we see the Commerce Department going down this route. In a press release released earlier today, I think it is important to note how united the industry is with the support of their governments here in Atlantic Canada. The President and CEO of the Maritime Lumber Bureau, Diana Blenkhorn says of the action so far:

Since the beginning of Atlantic Canada's endeavour to maintain a secure and legitimate free trade market access for Maritime softwood lumber to the United States, we have worked as a united region and as a team. Throughout these efforts we appreciate the

[Page 1742]

extraordinary contributions and support of Atlantic Canada's Premiers, as well as provincial Ministers of Trade and Natural Resources. In our collective pursuit of our historic free market access we know we can count on provincial industry and government officials in the aggressive pursuit of an exclusion of the Maritimes from any countervailing duty. We have worked diligently with the Government of Canada on this issue as well and called them immediately to work toward excluding the Maritimes from any countervailing duty and anti- dumping penalties.

I think that is extremely important, what is said there. We as a region, we as a province and we as an industry are united in the goal we pursue. We have the American industry on our side. The issue that needs to be continued to be pushed forward is the support of the Canadian Government in ensuring the recognition of the Atlantic Provinces here and the Maritime industry through the Maritime Accord that we do not in any way practise unfair trade practices or subsidy involved in our lumber industry.

As we move forward over the next days and weeks it is going to be critically important to this industry that as a Legislature, and as a group of legislators, maintain that position and that support and work with our colleagues in Atlantic Canada, work with the industry through the Maritime Lumber Bureau to keep our efforts focused on the objective. That objective is that we do not pay unfair subsidies or be involved in actions that would cause unfair trade practices with our U.S. partners, why should we be embroiled, when they clearly acknowledge that in the U.S. industry, why should we be embroiled in countervail when the whole issue has already been decided on behalf of the industry here?

So, in summation, Mr. Speaker, the government is certainly onside with the industry. The people in the industry are worried and concerned. We have to make sure that we press forward forcefully with our Maritime allies in government and industry. We have to continue to address this particular issue with the federal government and do our best to enlist their support as well as keep the respect and confidence of the coalition for free and fair lumber imports in the United States, which is the industry in support of our actions as well.

When we look at what is at stake here with the amount of jobs, with the amount of communities that are at risk here, this has to be one of our highest priorities, that we all need to remain united in the effort to ensure that fair and free practices in the lumber industry and trade in the lumber industry is put in the forefront and that those people in this province and indeed the province as a whole, who depend so strongly on this industry for their futures, that we are able to help them satisfy their request and the obligation that they entrust us with, Mr. Speaker, in regard to this situation that is so unfortunate of the Maritime Provinces being involved in this countervail and anti-dumping duty.

With those remarks, Mr. Speaker, I will conclude my comments.

[Page 1743]

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

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on this resolution, that the U.S. Commerce Department intends to impose a duty on softwood lumber imported from Atlantic Canada. This lumber dispute has been ongoing for some time, has been worrying many Nova Scotians, especially in the forestry and logging industry throughout Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, the Canada-U.S. Softwood Lumber Agreement expired on March 31st of this year. This agreement allowed Canadian softwood lumber exporters to access the U.S. market. This was a five year agreement that allowed all four Atlantic Provinces exemption from duty. The forestry and logging industry in Nova Scotia provides approximately 23,000 jobs right here and that is according to the Maritime Lumber Bureau. Logging and the forestry industry generate somewhere around $52.6 million in wages and salaries. This was in 1999. I did not get the recent figures, they were not available, maybe some of my colleagues were able to find that information. I think it is fair to say that even today the industry certainly generates many millions of dollars to the economy here in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, the forestry and logging industry in Nova Scotia continues to have a big impact on our provincial economy for the reasons I have just stated. In my riding alone, and I am sure this is like many other rural ridings throughout our province, the lumber industry plays a vital role in our local economy. I know at home, from family-owned sawmill operations to family-owned logging companies, and, of course, you have to recognize the spin-offs of indirect jobs that this industry generates in many of our rural communities through Nova Scotia is certainly welcomed by all.

[6:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, were you aware that Canada exports about $10 billion worth a year of softwood lumber to the U.S. That is $10 billion. This is a big business for Canada and now the U.S. is looking at bringing countervailing duties or anti-dumping duties against Canada. These challenges between Canada and the U.S. over the exporting of softwood has been an ongoing issue for a long, long time. I am being told for hundreds and hundreds of years. So it is nothing new.

Mr. Speaker, Canada's provinces do not subsidize the lumber industry nor does Nova Scotia subsidize its lumber industry. I understand that Canada has been the subject of three previous countervailing duty challenges in the past. None of these challenges have been successful by the U.S. Certainly, I hope again that this recent U.S. challenge will again be proven not to be the case.

Again for the last 20 years, especially under the recently expired softwood lumber agreement with the U.S., our region was exempted from countervailing duties by virtue of all our heavy use are privately owned wood resources. I am sure, Mr. Speaker, if we went

[Page 1744]

around the province we would be quite surprised, how many properties, how many private woodlot owners are involved in the lumbering industry in this province. I know at home in Clare and throughout Digby County there are a lot of private woodlot owners. Certainly many individuals are involved on a part-time basis throughout any given year.

Again, nothing has changed in the structure or operation of our softwood lumber industry since the bilateral agreement expired on March 31st of this year. So for this reason, Mr. Speaker, we believe that Maritime lumber producers are being used as pawns or bargaining chips by the U.S. whose primary concern is competition from the western provinces or in this situation British Columbia in particular.

Mr. Speaker, we do not wish to isolate ourselves from the national interest nor undermine the efforts of our federal International Trade Minister. We do not want to divide and conquer, nor do we advocate isolating ourselves, but we are different. Our industry has unique characteristics. As Atlantic Canadians, we do not always feel our compatriots elsewhere throughout the country fully appreciate our uniqueness. It is not surprising then that we feel especially vulnerable to being overlooked in international or bilateral relations with our NAFTA partners and with the United States in particular.

Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotia has a lot at stake in this lumber dispute. If we lose, we have 23,000 jobs in the lumber and logging industries. So, this Tory Government would have one big crisis on their hands. Again, the Premier should have been working on this softwood lumber agreement. He should have been looking for support for our Nova Scotia industry with his provincial and territorial colleagues and certainly to work with the federal government to ensure that Nova Scotians continue to be free from any U.S. countervailing duties.

Mr. Speaker, for several weeks my colleague for Victoria has warned the Premier that without support from the West and certainly support from his colleagues throughout the country that our industry could be in danger. Well, here we are. Our industry could be in danger of being slapped with duties from the United States.

So again, Mr. Speaker, the absence of leadership here is not excusable. The future of our softwood lumber trade is not an east-west problem among provinces of Canada. This is a north and south trade dispute involving again $10 billion in lumber exports to the United States annually. As we understand this dispute, this investigation could take five, six, seven months. Who knows? In the end again this investigation is subject to NAFTA disputes.

I just want to turn a little over to the federal government. In anticipation of the expiry, just recently, of the softwood lumber agreement, the Government of Canada has taken a number of initiatives. For example, the government has initiated a WTO challenge of U.S. trade legislation respecting the treatment of export restraints in any future countervailing duty investigation and has held WTO consultations with the U.S. on the issuance of refunds of

[Page 1745]

duties. I will close with a statement that was released by the federal Minister for International Trade and Commerce in Canada yesterday on April 24th. It says that the decision by the U.S. Department of Commerce is quite disappointing and unjustified given the ample documentation that has been supplied by the Canadian governments and industry regarding the deficiencies of the petitions. Our legal team has reviewed the U.S. petitions and we believe that there is no evidence of any subsidy, dumping or injury to the U.S. industry.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, it gives me a great opportunity, although a sad opportunity to have to speak and have to hear about the U.S. Department of Commerce intending to impose countervailing duties on softwood lumber that is imported from Atlantic Canada. I want to say to you that this is Atlantic Canada that we are talking about. We are here in the Nova Scotia Legislative Assembly tonight debating about softwood lumber and the countervailing duties that will have an impact on the sales of lumber products to the United States. This is all of Atlantic Canada and I am not going to be critical of the provincial government because I know that on March 29, 2001, the provincial government sent a letter off to Prime Minister Chretien re the softwood lumber at the Atlantic Canada Premier's request of renewal of the Maritime Accord. I think that the four Atlantic Premiers have signed this letter and they have signed this letter with the intent of protecting Atlantic Canada from this countervailing duty. Approximately 70 per cent of Nova Scotia's woodlots are privately-owned woodlots and should not be subject to this particular countervailing duty.

I just want to go back to the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council, and look at just exactly the fact that renegotiations of the Canada-U.S. Softwood Lumber Agreement is about to expire this year. We know that, and we also know there needs to be an agreement on this and we ought to bring it together. However, I want to say that the four Atlantic Provinces where a majority of the land is privately owned, or treated as privately owned through long-term leases, are excluded from the agreement. The exclusion of this is codified in the exchange of the letters between Canada and the United States commonly referred to as the Maritime Accord. It charts the history of the legal aspects of the Atlantic Canada softwood lumber trade and Atlantic Canada products that have been excluded from all previous U.S. countervailing duties. The Atlantic producers are hoping to maintain this special status under a new scenario that is important. Under any new scenario this is an important issue for the region and the lumber producers where 97 per cent of the lumber is exported to the United States.

Mr. Speaker, 97 per cent of the lumber from Atlantic Canada is exported to the United States, and 97 per cent of that lumber is exported to historically known trading states on the Eastern Seaboard of the United States. I am referring to 1998 numbers and 1999 numbers. In the State of Maine, for example, $452 million worth of exports; again, in the State of Massachusetts, $357 million worth of exports; again, in the State of New York, $283 million worth of exports; in the State of Pennsylvania, $300 million worth of exports; and the State

[Page 1746]

of Virginia, $148 million worth of exports. That is along the Atlantic Seaboard. That is a tremendous amount of exporting of Nova Scotia's natural product, forestry, to the United States; 97 per cent of the softwood lumber that is manufactured here in Nova Scotia goes south of the border. Significant.

That is the reason why this countervailing duty cannot and should not be allowed to exist. I know that the Premier of this Province of Nova Scotia, as well as the Premier of New Brunswick, the Premier of Newfoundland and the Premier of Prince Edward Island are certainly going to take this issue up with the Prime Minister and with the appropriate federal government departments, particularly the Department of Commerce, between the United States and Canada.

Mr. Speaker, one would wonder if this can happen under existing agreements between Canada and the United States. Just last week we went through the free trade agreement for the Americas. If in fact we went through the free trade agreement with the Americas and we have drafted accords, we would hope that in the year 2005, we have some sort of an agreement. We would hope that, historically, the United States Government's Department of Commerce would recognize the importance of dealing with Atlantic Canada, and the importance Atlantic Canada holds, not only the importance but the historical significance between Atlantic Canada and the Eastern Seaboard of the United States.

Mr. Speaker, there is a tremendous amount of money, approximately $1 billion that is generated in Atlantic Canada through forestry. We have heard of individuals who talked about how many people are currently employed within the forest industries, there are 13,000 direct forest jobs and another 9,000 indirect forest jobs. Now, in the beautiful Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley there probably is a sawmill - and Mac Timber, for example, I do believe, MacTara, for example - and it generates a great deal of employment in that community, not only in that community but in the surrounding communities where people come to be employed. It probably has been watching this issue very closely because of its trade ties with the United States.

There are some 100 sawmills across Atlantic Canada that will be watching this scenario unfold over the next few months. Hopefully, there can be some positive direction towards both the United States Government and the Canadian Government in addressing this particular issue. I just want to say that if we were to recognize what would happen if, in fact, this accord did not go through, and what would happen if the United States decided to continue to put on those countervailing duties - those countervailing duties caused the shutdown of 100 sawmills in Atlantic Canada - well, what impact would this have on these communities in Atlantic Canada? Who would support the now-unemployed individuals? We are talking about individuals who have a decent job; we are talking about the shutdown of sometimes a major industry in a small community.

[Page 1747]

[6:45 p.m.]

We have heard from the member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour, who indicated that when he was younger he actually worked in one of those sawmills down in Lunenburg County, and he has a full understanding of the importance of the natural resource of forestry that we, in Nova Scotia, value. We value all our natural resources, but we put a tremendous value on the forestry because it is a renewable resource, and it also creates about 22,000 jobs, both direct and indirect.

Mr. Speaker, when you look at the 22,000 jobs that it creates, directly and indirectly, then the spin-offs to other parts of the industry is even far more significant. Who picks up that slack if the countervailing duty is imposed upon Nova Scotian lumber or Atlantic Canadian lumber? One has to recognize that is extremely serious. When I look at the value of the forest-related activities in the Atlantic Provinces in 1998, it was over $1.3 billion. Again, when I say that the forestry sector in the Atlantic Provinces serves a more diverse market than any other major product, in 1999 forest products for the region . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member's 10 minutes has expired.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, I could have gone on for some time; however, if I can just simply finish, I would say that we recognize the importance of sending a message to the U.S. Department of Commerce with respect to not imposing countervailing duties on the softwood lumber of Nova Scotia.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Premier.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to engage in the debate relative to the crisis in our forestry industry that is upon us because of the intransigent nature of the Department of Commerce in the U.S. to recognize the fact that we in Atlantic Canada and in our lumber industry comply with all elements of free trade.

It is interesting that we should find ourselves in this kind of situation because, in reality, nothing has really changed here in Atlantic Canada. Back in 1996 it was readily recognized by interests in the United States that our industry closely paralleled what went on there in that roughly 75 per cent of our product comes from private woodlands and approximately 25 per cent from Crown-owned lands. There was, and continues to be, I believe, among U.S. lumber interests, a recognition that we simply do things fairly.

Now, having said all of that, and because of the recognition in the U.S., back in 1996 the Maritime Accord was formalized by an exchange of letters. That simply meant that government departments exchanged a letter that recognized the industry here was not breaking any rules, there were no subsidies and, in fact, free trade should go on unencumbered. As a result of that we did have some significant growth in the industry here

[Page 1748]

in Atlantic Canada. The growth was welcome news to the industry here. About 2.4 per cent of our gross provincial product actually comes from forestry; a very significant number of jobs, both direct and indirect, totalling something over 20,000, and $1 billion of our export, really, is in forests and forest-related products.

We do have a good industry here. I think you see a lot of big investments having been made to make our industry more competitive, and that is why I believe with the free trade environment we have done very well. Our sawmills are becoming increasingly efficient with the change in the way in which pulp is made; in other words, the use of chips rather than round pulpwood has meant that more and more of our fibre has, in fact, been utilized. Our industry has even found a way, by way of pellets, to sell bark as an energy source. So what we are seeing is an industry that has found a way to become more competitive and a way to compete very effectively in the global market.

The minister had indicated earlier that the reason why the European market has been denied us and, of course, the nematode played a great role in that. But we were fortunate in that the burgeoning American economy allowed us to take up and to substitute that market for the lost European market. It has been a little bit tougher later because of what has happened in the U.S.

We have to ask ourselves, why the challenge now? We do know that the agreement was over in March, but why didn't things simply go on the way they were, which is exactly what we want in Atlantic Canada. Well, what has happened is, because of the slowdown in the American economy, as we speak, there are some 200,000 fewer new housing starts in the U.S. That means there is lower demand. That means there is more pressure on the American supplier, as well, to be a profitable participant in what is a shrinking market. That is the explanation, I believe, for the very aggressive stance being taken by the coalition and others in the U.S. They are hurting.

On the other hand, I think the question that has to be answered by the Canadian Government is whether or not we are going to be aggressively pursuing free trade opportunities, or are we going to allow the U.S., as they are want to do on far too many occasions, to simply have free trade when it is in their best interest and to not follow the Free Trade Agreement when it satisfies them to do exactly that. As we all know, the subsidies to the U.S. farmer are jeopardizing agriculture in Canada. We do know that port development is subsidized in the U.S. far greater than it is here in Canada. We do know that shipbuilding is subsidized by way of the Jones Act in the U.S. far more than is the case in Canada, although we believe that there will be some appropriate address to that in the very near future, allowing our shipbuilding industry to again become a significant contributor to our economy.

[Page 1749]

So we have a problem that has been generated by the marketplace and an inability of the Free Trade Agreement to effectively protect those that have played by the rules. We have played by the rules in Atlantic Canada. We have every right, I believe, to expect protection from those same rules. I believe we have every right to expect the federal government in Ottawa to take up the cause of the Atlantic Canadian industry because we are not the problem, but we very well may become the victim.

The minister has made reference to a press release that came out from the Maritime Lumber Bureau earlier today indicating satisfaction with the co-operation they received from the four Atlantic Canadian Governments and all members will have an opportunity, because I think that information was tabled. I believe, actually, the member for Dartmouth North had the information in his hand when he delivered his address in this debate. But the other thing I will table are a series of letters that are relevant to the issue. There is one on February 7th, signed by the four Atlantic Premiers. There is one on March 29th, again, signed by the four Atlantic Premiers and there is a more recent one, April 13th, signed by the four Atlantic Premiers. I will, when I am finished, table those for the record of the House.

As a matter of fact, I have also sent a letter off today, as a result of more recent developments that occurred yesterday in the U.S., to the Prime Minister of Canada. I am not prepared to table that until I am absolutely sure it is in the Prime Minister's Office, and then I am prepared to make it public, which addresses the issue which prompted the debate to be brought to the attention of all members because of the announcement by the Department of Commerce yesterday, that despite the fact they seem to recognize we are not part of the problem, they still want to make us part of the challenge.

What has been the response at this point of the federal government? Obviously, while we can participate, and we might have an opportunity because what I hear the Department of Commerce saying, although I understand the documentation has yet to arrive in Canada, is that even though they are naming us in the countervail challenge, they are allowing a 15 day period for submissions. We will have a look at that and it well may be that we will be generating a submission on behalf of the Atlantic Canadian industry, directly to the Department of Commerce in the U.S. I will be more definitive on that once we have actually seen the documentation.

We have all seen the situation, in the very serious issue in Prince Edward Island - the potato dispute - in which a letter was perhaps interpreted erroneously - I think that is the proper word, although I sometimes think that was a bit of after-the-fact mischief. For those members that aren't aware, I understand that again today in Washington, they are saying that P.E.I. potatoes can go to the U.S. There has not been an immediate rejoicing in Prince Edward Island. I guess this time they want to see the evidence and be absolutely assured that they can start again shipping potatoes to the U.S. I think we can perhaps take a little bit of encouragement from the fact that that particular lobby appears to be working, leaving us some glimmer of hope that our lobby as well will be successful.

[Page 1750]

What will be happening over the next few days, we will be orchestrating as a government our efforts with those of the other three Atlantic Canadian Provinces and the Maritime Lumber Bureau. We will be effectively looking at what it is that was decided yesterday by the Department of Commerce, looking at what they will put in writing and we will be making the appropriate response.

It is very, very frustrating that to this point we have not perhaps been represented by Ottawa exactly the way that we had requested because clearly, we did not want to be lumped into a common approach. Ottawa originally felt that we would be able to handle this by negotiation. You recall for about 48 hours the position taken by Ottawa was that envoys would be appointed, the envoys would sit down and they would negotiate a settlement. That, unfortunately, for one reason or another, was not acceptable and then it was felt that obviously we would have to go and have some kind of an adjudication.

What I will be looking for is for Ottawa to separate our industry from the parts of the industry in Canada that have created the problem, or at least apparently have created the problem by giving the appearance of providing a subsidy. I don't want to get into the position of criticizing what other provinces have chosen to do in promoting their lumber industry. What I am more anxious to do is promoting what we have done as a lumber industry and promoting a resolution of the problem, based on the free trade agreement that we have because we have not contravened any of the clauses of that agreement.

The ramifications of this are huge and other speakers have indicated extremely well the importance of the industry to Nova Scotia. I have had an opportunity to meet with some sawmill owners as recently as Saturday past. I was talking to a very significant sawmill owner who indicated to me that 75 per cent of his production has been going to the U.S. and effectively if he can't ship to the U.S. he will be shut down. Most of these sawmill owners, and this one in particular, has made over the last five years some very significant investments in his business and obviously, is probably involved in some long-term repayment programs that will result in an absolute devastation of his business if there is any prolonged delay in resuming shipments to the U.S. So, it is very serious for the province, it is very serious for a number of participants in the industry. We will actively, as government, continue to put forward the position of our industry in Ottawa and in Washington. I want to congratulate the Leader of the Opposition for bringing forward the opportunity for us to revisit what we have done, examine where we are today and, as well, start the planning process of what we plan to do tomorrow. (Applause)

[7:00 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I want to say it is nice to stand in the House and be able to thank the Premier and thank the Leader of the Opposition and all members of

[Page 1751]

the House for their comments and to compliment them for the words they are giving in regard to their support of the concerns of the sawmill industry and the lumber industry in the Province of Nova Scotia and that of Atlantic Canada with this latest situation that has arisen from the United States of America, where we have the U.S. Commerce Department intending to impose duties on softwood lumber imported into the United States from Atlantic Canada and more specifically from the Province of Nova Scotia.

This will undoubtedly be, if it is going forward, a huge problem for the forest sector in the Province of Nova Scotia. It is not only an impact on the bigger companies, it will affect every sawmill in the Province of Nova Scotia and those individuals related to this industry. I note that the Premier, and I hope he stays a little while, when he talks about the federal government, so on and so forth, I don't know if this is the day to start playing politics about who has done the most or the least. Let it be very clear, this is a House that should be talking about whatever it takes for us, as all three Parties in this province, to work together with all other Parties to make sure that the message is loud and clear to the United States of America, we do not accept what they are saying in regard to Atlantic Canada and specifically the Province of Nova Scotia in regard to the countervail action against us.

I will say that the Premier has a chance to also lobby the counterparts in western Canada. One of the concerns we have always had, as a former minister, when we dealt with this issue is that western Canada was trying to rope Atlantic Canada together with a national policy. We have said repeatedly in Atlantic Canada, and to the federal government, we are not part of this problem, we are not going to be part of that particular solution. Let's be very clear, you western Premiers, you have a problem and we are not a part of that. We will fight as Canada, as strongly as we can, but we should not be forced to pay sanctions against Canada in a situation that puts us at a natural comparative disadvantage, because we have done our job right. Our industry is run in a proper way, and we have not brought forward subsidies to the industry that would cause countervail actions.

As many times as those Americans challenge Canada on issues, we have fought back. We have fought back in an all-Party committee or all members of the Legislature in the Province of Nova Scotia have been supportive of the industry in their battle. I remember when I was minister that I had members on the opposite side of the House who were supportive of the efforts we made. The industry has worked collectively. We have made a concerted effort, continually, to bring forward that Nova Scotia and Atlantic Canada should not be tied in to the bundle of the rest of Canada in regard to the American countervail.

One of the opportunities that the Premier has, and I am sure that the Premier will undoubtedly try to deal with this, is to make sure the Premier of British Columbia and western Canada understand that their particular situation is different than the situation in Nova Scotia, and that those Premiers should be making it very clear to the United States and to Canada and the Canadian Government that Nova Scotia is unique and should be treated differently because we have private sector - with 25 per cent of the land in the Province of

[Page 1752]

Nova Scotia is Crown land, and about half of that is in parks. The bulk of our lumber is coming from private woodlot owners. We are not subsidizing stumpage at the rate they are in western Canada. That battle is a battle that has gone on for quite some time. Our position in Nova Scotia is not unique. But let it be very clear that this province, if they impose the duties on this province, not only is this problem huge, it is unfair. It is grossly unfair and we should do whatever in our power we can to bring upon pressure within the United States and within the rest of Canada to fight the battle on behalf of Nova Scotia.

I will say that our federal minister, in press releases that have come out, made it very clear that the federal government are not happy with the latest decision in the United States of America. I would say, as a member of this Legislature, I would support the Premier in an all-Party committee approach to Ottawa to make it very clear that this province needs Ottawa to fight this battle as strongly as they possibly can fight. I would support the Premier if the Premier was willing to do something from an all-Party committee to make an effort to go to Ottawa, whatever it takes to impress upon our federal colleagues that the line in the sand that the Americans are drawing is wrong and unfair and that we should stand up for the rights of the individuals in rural Nova Scotia.

When we talk about the problem, and I don't want to be an alarmist here, I have to be careful about that, but, clearly, if their action in the United States goes forward and Nova Scotia is brought into that, it will mean that the individuals who are now competing in a very competitive market south of the border and had a natural comparative advantage by the fact of our currency, their efficiency, their productivity, their ability to manage the affairs in the Province of Nova Scotia. Now they will be at a disadvantage because of an unfair trade sanction against Canada and, specifically, against Nova Scotia. We should do all in our power to make it known to the United States that we will not sit idly by.

I appreciate what the Premier was saying that we are united in this, Mr. Premier, and I think you would agree that nobody owns this issue, all Parties, we all own it. All of us have a responsibility as legislators to know that. I remember being in meetings with Diana Blenkhorn and I remember being in meetings as President of the Maritime Lumber Bureau. I remember meeting with many of the lumber sector, the sawmillers, in the Province of Nova Scotia. Each and every one of them have spent many hours and lots of money fighting this battle. What we need to continue to do, and I know that the member, and I told the Minister of Natural Resources that I support the efforts that he has made. I have been told that the minister and the Premier have been very strong and working very hard and we want to continue that to go forward. I respect that and I compliment them for that, but make it very clear there is more that we all can do. Phone calls or whatever it is, we should be there as an organized team on behalf of Nova Scotia industry to fight the battle.

The 22,000 or 23,000 jobs in this industry, $52.6 million wages, over $1 billion in the economy of Nova Scotia, it is at risk and it is unfair. I remember all too well what it is like to deal with the Americans on these issues. Do you remember the Häagen-Dasz issue in ice

[Page 1753]

cream when the GATT issue was ruled in supply management. The Americans will do nothing. They will go as far as they can time and time again to fight against Canada. Even though they know we are right, they will go after us trying to beat us down. We should let the Americans know that we will not get tired of their unfair approach to this initiative. We will stand firm and strong with our industry to fight the battles that they bring forward.

Let's not be kidding ourselves. We are not the super power here, the Americans are the super power. There are laws within trade and those laws should be upheld. We are on the right side of this law issue. We are on the right side of the arguments. What we need to do is make sure that all Premiers and federal First Ministers in the federal government make this message clear within Canada and to the Americans that Atlantic Canada should be exempt by this unfair trade sanction that they are trying to impose upon this area. How am I doing on time? I think my 10 minutes is up.

MR. SPEAKER: Was the honourable member just going 10, because some had said 15 minutes. Okay, the honourable member's time has expired.

MR. DOWNE: Thank you very much.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I guess I wish I could say it is a pleasure to have to speak on the topic of debate this evening, but it is not. It is worrisome and I think exponentially so for those more closely involved in making a livelihood in the forest sector. I do want to say before I get too far into my presentation that I am glad that the Premier spoke this evening. There haven't been many topics or occasions on which the Premier has been able to get to his feet and speak in the last couple of years and so I was glad that he actually rose to speak in this debate and he did a fine job, I thought.

I think the Premier should know that we all count on him to take the argument to Ottawa and I would say in the most physical sense if the Premier can find the time to go, himself, to make the case, all the better. I would also echo the comments of the member for Lunenburg West that if they thought an all-Party committee would be of some benefit, then certainly I would be all in support of that as well.

Mr. Speaker, I want to talk a little bit more on the down home side of this agreement. I know that for Nova Scotians everywhere that most of us, we deal with going to work every day and the thoughts regarding our families and those working in the forest sector are no different. Although technology in mills has improved significantly so that I think the type of work that is done in mills has changed, the actual physical part may have been reduced a bit but certainly it is rigorous work none the same.

[Page 1754]

I would say my earliest experiences of doing anything much in the woods other than following behind my father was probably cutting fence posts and logs on the farm and at some point in trying to pay my way through university by working for local contractors cutting logs and pulpwood. I think for the most part men in the woods with saws today, that is a thing of the past, even at my young age. We can see that technology has pretty much taken over that part of the industry.

I think most Nova Scotians certainly would be aware of the fact that when the Europeans first came to North America it was the fish that actually brought them here after the initial discovery that fish were here. After the time of just exploring for a route to the East or whatever, once they realized the abundance of fish, that was probably the biggest reason for coming to North America. Later I would say it probably was the fur trade and thirdly, when we had settlements developing, then a forest industry developed.

I wish I had an opportunity to investigate a little more but I know that there is a record of what people think would be the first lumber that was exported to Europe, I think it went to France and I am going to say this name, I might be wrong and maybe at some point in the House I will get a chance to correct it, but the individual, it would be a common French name, I think, in Nova Scotia now, whether it was Chiasson or not but it was an individual, I am not sure if this person was involved in some form of exploration or the fur trade or what, but it is reported, documented probably in the logs of the ship, that they cut an oak tree, or a couple, and squared them into timbers and took those timbers back to France. There is an actual documented case of when the first boards or the first timbers ever left Nova Scotia and went to Europe. I think most of us would find it hard to believe that there was anything ever recorded that would indicate that, but certainly that has been identified.

[7:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I think I mentioned in the House before that from the doorstep at my house in Enfield, within a 40 kilometre radius of where I live I think I have 10 mills that I could think of, but something tells me there are 12: Elmsdale Lumber and Russell White Lumber would be within the confines of Hants East in my constituency; Ledwidge Lumber Company is just across the river in the honourable member's constituency - I try to claim that as mine since so many of my constituents work there - J.D. Irving or Sproule in Brookfield; there is Brookfield Lumber, and Marwood in Brookfield as well; there is Taylor Lumber over in Middle Musquodoboit; and then there is Hefler's in Sackville; and Barrett Lumber on the Beaver Bank Road. Those are the ones I can think of off the top of my head, and something tells me there are a couple that I am forgetting. So there is no way that I can avoid the impact of what lumbering has meant to my constituency, and the central region of the province is harvested quite significantly.

[Page 1755]

Mr. Speaker, you would be aware of the intersection in Elmsdale where the light exists. I have been told by a former employee of the Department of Natural Resources - I think for awhile he was a wood buyer for MacTara - that on any given day, if I was to stand at that intersection, I could count 100 trucks going through that intersection and they would be heading to a variety of destinations; of course, MacTara would be one. But you can see as it crosses Highway No. 2 and also heads up to Highway No. 102, that that is an intersection where a lot of logs or timber heading to various mills in the province would pass through. I took him at his word. I have never gone there to count, but I would say that the number of trucks that we meet on the road, any of us heading anywhere, would indicate that even though we recognize a downturn in the industry right now, there are still a lot of logs being moved in this province.

I am going to try my best, Mr. Speaker, not to regurgitate what other members have said, only because those of us who are here, I think, would probably like to hear something different. I want to say that I was surprised at the level, in looking through some of the documents I have, of export of forest products - and some of those leaving, of course, in round log form - that goes to the United States, it being our biggest trade partner.

I have to say I was quite amazed to find out that of the other countries where wood products go from the Atlantic Region. They include Indonesia, Argentina, Hong Kong, Switzerland and Egypt. Each of these countries imported more than $10 million in Atlantic forest products in 1999. Rapid growth in some of these areas has resulted in the United Kingdom taking $180 million worth; Japan $110 million; Germany $70 million; Brazil $64 million; as well as other European, South American and Asian countries.

I have to say, Mr. Speaker, I really thought that the major part - I guess it is the major part - of our export is to the United States, but if we consider those dollar figures that go to those other countries, that gives us some idea of the overall impact that the American market, which is the biggest buyer we would have on the Atlantic forest sector and in Nova Scotia making up around $1.3 billion to the Nova Scotia economy. I would say that it is amazing in a sense, considering the spin-off and what it means to the economy and in recent years, there has not been much of a change in the overall volumes that we have cut in the province; the fact that the value of the product has increased significantly to about a year and one-half ago when this downturn occurred.

There are a couple of different components to our relationship and I think the Premier certainly had touched on them. There is the Canada-U.S. softwood lumber agreement and the Maritime Accord which has been of most concern to us and the fact that the previous Maritime Accord had ended at the end of March and there hasn't been a new accord signed.

I have to say that this troubles me a lot because I know from recent experience of watching what has happened in the case of Prince Edward Island with the wart on the potatoes, it has be a real to-ing and fro-ing. Only days ago the federal minister indicated that

[Page 1756]

the problem had been resolved and that Prince Edward Island potatoes would be able to be shipped to the American market. Then the Americans were saying no, that is not the case at all and the Premier had mentioned that the word seems to be out again that the Americans are allowing the potatoes to roll and I would say that it will be an announcement without appeal until it more actively indicates that it is the real thing.

I guess the point I am trying to make, I am not purposely trying to diverge, I am trying to say that I have real concerns about the stoic nature by which Americans approach the trade agreements with Canada. I have real concerns that their protectionist attitude is called up very quickly and they waste no time if they think they can make an argument and can possibly have an effect and I have to say I don't blame anybody for looking out for their own interests. But I think that Canadians enter these agreements in good faith and I would say that we expect to be treated in good faith by our trading partners. The Nova Scotia market has been identified by the Americans in the past to be a different type of market from the rest of Canada, a different supply. The fact that 70 per cent of our softwood lumber is harvested on private woodlots is an indicator that it is very similar to theirs and that we don't have the level of subsidization with Crown stumpage rates which would be their argument.

So, I do want to say in closing, the impact of the duty that the Americans are talking about imposing will be significant on the Canadian market and it would be hoped that the Premier and any other of us in this House could embark on getting the message to all concerned that this is something that will not be tolerated by Nova Scotia and I hope our federal counterparts are echoing that message to the Americans as we speak. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Victoria.

MR. KENNETH MACASKILL: For a few minutes this evening it is a pleasure for me to make a few comments relative to the resolution that is before the House tonight. I want to thank the member of the Official Opposition in the House for bringing this debate forward tonight because it is a debate and is of concern and of great interest to me, Mr. Speaker. I was one of 14 children brought up through a small lumber industry in a rural part of Nova Scotia. Many of my siblings were born during the Great Depression, so some of us have seen more time at the sawmill than we did in school. Also, being a former Minister of Natural Resources, this subject is very near and dear to me.

Mr. Speaker, I am going to read from a document here put out by CBC called a backgrounder. Indeed it covers pretty well everything we are talking about here on the floor tonight. It says that it takes many two-by-fours of softwood lumber to build a house, that is why Canada is exporting $10 billion a year in lumber to the U.S. Of course today we find there is a looming trade war which threatens that great export. We believe that the Bush Administration is backing the U.S. forest industry bid to hit Canadian lumber with $1 billion of duties. They are petitioning the U.S. Department of Commerce to apply countervailing and anti-dumping duties against Canada now that the Canada-U.S. softwood lumber agreement

[Page 1757]

has expired. The softwood lumber market gave Canadian exporters guaranteed market access to the U.S. for five years. The agreement permitted 14.7 billion board feet per year of lumber to be exported to the U.S. without fees. It applied to $10 billion worth of lumber manufactured in British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec.

Mr. Speaker, the bickering between Canada and the U.S. over softwood lumber is like a case of sibling rivalry, it dates back hundreds of years. Now the North American Free Trade Agreement and the World Trade Organization act as Mum, mediating the dispute. Each time the dispute has erupted, the trade war bodies have sided with Canada. Trade Minister Pierre Pettigrew has expressed his frustration with the U.S. over its attempts to maintain or even increase duties on Canadian lumber exports. I find it annoying, he says, time and time again to reinvent the wheel, especially when we win every time.

Few of the parties involved in the dispute want to see another agreement, but so far they disagree about how to deal with the problems. The bilateral agreements signed in 1986 and 1996 that opposed export duties and then quotas did not work in Canada's favour. What most Canada foresters and governments do agree on is their goal, free trade in softwood lumber, but decades of political pressure, trade actions and temporary agreements prevented the U.S. from allowing free trade in softwood lumber to Americans.

The Americans allege that the province unfairly subsidizes Canada's forest industry, charges Canada vehemently denies. More than half of the 100 U.S. Senators want Ottawa to voluntarily impose an export tax of at least 20 per cent, but Canada wants the U.S. to open its borders to lumber under the North American Free Trade Agreement. Canadian officials say the industry is run differently in each country. In the U.S. most lumber production lands are privately held, in Canada it is mostly public land.

Mr. Speaker, I want to go on to another sheet here. Regrettably, this challenge means the Government of Canada and the provinces must prove the U.S. agitations are unfounded, said Pettigrew. We will vigorously defend against these onerous U.S. allegations and we will again be proven right. So far the U.S. isn't buying into Canada's envoy plan. In the meantime, two main Canadian camps are forming on what should happen next.

[7:30 p.m.]

Let me come to the real problem, or one of the real problems. The British Columbia Lumber Trade Council believes that a trade war with the U.S. over softwood lumber would be costly and should be avoided. They go on to say it should be avoided and that we should accommodate America's demands. Now, that is what I talked about in that resolution three weeks ago. The argument here is of course with the United States, but it is broader; there is an argument in western Canada and eastern Canada, the Maritime Provinces. I believe that is where we have to begin the battle. First get an agreement within Canada that is favourable to the Maritime regions and not solely by the western provinces to their benefits.

[Page 1758]

Mr. Speaker, that is why I said to the Premier three weeks ago that this is where we should start on the battle over the softwood lumber dispute. This is a terrible blow to Atlantic Canada. We are talking about 24,000 lumber jobs in this province that could be affected by this if there is no agreement. Do you know that is the equivalent of 20 Sable offshore energy projects? It is a disturbing fact, the threat of U.S. countervail duties or trade actions against the Maritimes. It will have devastating effects on our province.

Mr. Speaker, the value of our Maritime softwood lumber industry is equivalent to the value of Nova Scotia's tourist industry or our annual fish exports and the Premier knows full well that we cannot afford to see any of these, any one of these industries lost. Our regional goals differ somewhat from the national interest because of the unique characteristics of our softwood lumber. The lumber industry in the Maritimes, which includes high concentrations of privately-owned, family-operated lumber operations and the relatively high concentration of softwood species in the plant communities that comprise our forests. At issue are the cutting of trees on Crown lands which the U.S. regards as too low and hence what they call unfair subsidization. Ironically the U.S. has moved increasing towards cutting in national forests and other conservation lands set aside by the U.S. federal government. We believe this, too, is a form of subsidization and we dispute the American view of our forest practice and the economy that goes with it.

Mr. Speaker, for at least 20 years, and especially under the recently expired softwood lumber agreement with the U.S., our region was exempted from countervailing duties by virtue of our heavy use of privately-owned wood resources. Nothing has changed in the structure or operation of our softwood lumber industry since the bilateral agreement expired. For this reason we believe the Maritime lumber producers are being used as pawns or bargaining chips by the U.S. whose primary concern is competition from the western provinces and British Columbia in particular.

Mr. Speaker, the new Ambassador to Canada, Paul Cellucci, was most recently the Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and I know that our Premier met with the Governor and his New England and Maritime counterparts as part of the annual New England Governors and Eastern Premiers Conference. In a nation that is not especially known for its understanding of foreign cultures and interests, Ambassador Cellucci is usually well informed about our region, and he is familiar with some of the ways in which we differ as a region from the rest of North America, just like New England, the Ambassador's home region, differs from the rest of North America. Given the personal and professional ties to the Ambassador, it is worthwhile for us to consider appointing an all-Party delegation to seek an information meeting with the Ambassador in order to impress upon him the lack of unfair subsidies in our forest industries.

Mr. Speaker, we do not wish to isolate ourselves from the national interests, nor undermine the efforts of our federal International Trade Minister. We do not want to divide and conquer, nor do we advocate isolating ourselves; but we are different. Our industry is

[Page 1759]

unique and has many unique characteristics. As Atlantic Canadians, we do not always feel our compatriots elsewhere in Canada fully appreciate our uniqueness. It is not surprising then that we feel especially vulnerable to being overlooked in international or bilateral regulations or relations with our North American Free Trade Agreement partners and with the United States, in particular.

Mr. Speaker, the one angle that was brought up briefly in the Campaign for Fairness, and we spoke about this before in the House, that this too should be part of a Campaign for Fairness among the Leaders of all the provinces of Canada and the Territories, to make sure that we have an agreement where one section of this country is not fighting with another part of the country, that the west is working with the east. I think through that, Mr. Premier and Mr. Speaker, that is where the battle should start, on a Campaign for Fairness.

Mr. Speaker, this is a very public campaign. This affects many Nova Scotians. The bottom line is a more prosperous economy because we get less in equalization. Equalization will indeed go up in Nova Scotia if we lose this industry or if we lose any industry. Leadership is about anticipating crisis, attempting to prevent it and being ready when the issue and the crisis hit. Leadership is not about creating an artificial crisis then going on a Canada-wide tour looking for support.

Mr. Speaker, the Premier should have been working on softwood lumber agreements, we should have been looking for support for lumber in the west, as I stated earlier. The equalization agreement is not up for negotiation in 2004. So why is the Premier wasting his time looking for endorsements from other provinces? We should be looking for agreements on this very important crisis, this very dangerous crisis that we are talking about tonight.

Mr. Speaker, softwood lumber is a different issue altogether, because some of us in this House felt that the handwriting was on the wall, that this agreement was going to expire and there probably would not be another agreement in place. I believe the Premier has an obligation to go on a real Campaign for Fairness to, as I said earlier, meet with the other Leaders and with the Government of Canada and put a very strong message forward of what exactly this means to this small Province of Nova Scotia.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member has about half a minute. I was trying to get his attention.

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to say a few words on this issue tonight.

[Page 1760]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Economic Development.

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, it gives me no great pleasure to rise this evening and speak to this particular issue, but it is gratifying to think that all members of this House can put aside their different political ideologies to discuss what is truly a tremendously significant issue for the lumber industry in Nova Scotia.

As I was sitting and listening to the other members speak, I couldn't help but think back to how many times voices have been raised in this historic Chamber around issues related to how Nova Scotia fares in its dealings with our neighbours to the south. In fact, as I was looking, my eyes were drawn to the designs over the top of the windows and my understanding is that at one point in history, a very famous member of this Legislature, John Uniacke, rose in a pique of anger to strike down the emblems atop the windows which reminded him of the American eagle. As was said by one of the previous speakers, this is an issue of Atlantic Canada, in fact, all of Canada in trying to get fair treatment in our trading relations with our neighbour to the south.

Make no mistake, Nova Scotia and Atlantic Canada must continue to be involved in trade with our neighbours. What we need to do is ensure that the arrangements by which that occurs is, in fact, fair to both parties. I can tell you that I, as minister, have been involved in a number of discussions with not only my provincial counterparts, but the federal minister about this very issue, the fact that Atlantic Canada has enjoyed a classification which allowed them exemption in terms of the trading relationship as it pertains to softwood lumber.

As recently as two months ago, we attended an International Trade Ministers' meeting in Ottawa around this very issue and what was for me a particularly gratifying occasion was the fact that every single Atlantic Canadian Minister spoke with one voice. We collectively agreed that our spokesperson would be the Minister responsible for Trade for the Province of New Brunswick. But make no mistake, before he rose to speak as our one voice on this particular issue, we discussed exactly what our position would be. I can tell you that the federal minister was, to some degree, taken aback by the very fact that regardless of political stripe, those four ministers could come forward and say, this is what we deserve and what we expect.

I could see that the other provinces, sometimes allow their particular concerns and views to reflect the positions taken around particular issues. In fact, while this is an issue of Atlantic Canada trying to have the exemption status extended for our trading relationship, the position taken by British Columbia was, without doubt, reflective of how they view their unique position. One of the things I think we have to learn as Canadians is that there are times and there are issues when we have to set aside particular partisan views for the greater good. As I said, in this instance, we did that.

[Page 1761]

I would also like to take a moment to tell you about the hard work and dedication of some of the people in the Department of Economic Development. As we speak, Greg Bent is in Fredericton, New Brunswick talking about this very issue with his counterparts. He has been directly involved, as have been people from the Department of Intergovernmental Affairs. The message has been taken and, obviously, when it appears that it is not going to come to a positive resolution, there may be a view that you should have done more, you could have done more and if you had only done this that we would have been further along.

One of the things that I have noticed in my short time here in the Legislature is that oftentimes, in spite of the best efforts of the elected membership, issues don't always move along as quickly as one would like or don't always result in a conclusion that is acceptable to all concerned. But I can tell you that the people who are tasked with ensuring that Nova Scotia's trade concerns are brought to the forefront are doing their job. I can tell you that the members of the Maritime Lumber Bureau Association have spoken very positively, not just of Nova Scotia's role, but of all the provincial governments' roles in Atlantic Canada, in terms of being involved with this and making sure that the messages and concerns are taken forward.

Last week, Greg Bent was in Washington when representation was made to our American counterparts around this issue. At that point in time, it looked at though we had sensitized the Americans as to our unique status and our concern, and at the same time, submissions were made to our federal counterparts, and they came to some level of appreciation. So, at that particular juncture, it looked as though we were going to have a positive resolution in terms of the extension of the exemption status that has made our industry here in Atlantic Canada grow.

Unfortunately, events turned against us and while I believe there will be an opportunity to move this forward to a positive conclusion, it is going to take all of us working together, all of us, not just our brethren in other provinces, but the federal minister and the staff there. Because sometimes I think, as a relatively small region of Canada, our issues are forgotten in the grand scheme.

I think again it is very important to take this time to speak as one voice here regardless of the particular Party you may represent, to make sure that the government in Washington is aware. To make sure that to the degree possible our cousins in the New England States are aware of what this means. Make no mistake, this is touching every community in Nova Scotia. I can tell you first hand this issue is having a direct impact on my immediate family. I have family members who work in the forest industry and they have expressed concern. In fact, they have said, not only are you a family member and a representative, you have a duty to carry our concerns. I met with the Irvings, personally, and talked about this very issue, so it is not a function of size in terms of what this means to you, it is a function of where you live and what the industry means to Nova Scotia.

[Page 1762]

Regardless of the person, regardless of their philosophy and regardless of where they live, I believe this is one of those issues where everyone can come together and try to accomplish something for the greater good of all.

I know that the American position is that we have an unfair advantage in terms of the trade relationship because of the fact that the wood comes from Crown lands to some degree but, in fact, in Atlantic Canada that is not the case. I know other members have spoken at length about that. They have indicated that we do have unique status and there is no question about that in my mind's eye. In fact, I think that argument had some merit with the people in Washington who are tasked with reviewing this. At one point, as I said earlier on, they clearly had come to an appreciation that Atlantic Canada is not a major contributor to this problem.

In fact, British Columbia came forward and they indicated that Nova Scotia's share of the export market had grown some 97 per cent, and because of that we were encroaching on what had been historically British Columbia's market. In actual fact, all of Atlantic Canada represents only 3 per cent of the softwood lumber market. Even if our industry were to grow apace and capture an additional 97 per cent of that market in the years to come, the actual total impact would be relatively small. So the arguments put forward by British Columbia to attempt to draw us into that larger net are not entirely fair or appropriate.

This is not about trying to drive wedges between British Columbia or the lands to the west or Quebec or Ontario. It is about trying to understand and appreciate that Atlantic Canada is dealing with some very significant problems. It harkens back to what we had talked about earlier on in this House about our historical relationships and how we have reached a point here in Atlantic Canada where we can turn the corner on economic development and we can become truly a region that puts back to Canada rather than draws down from some of the more wealthy provinces.

I can tell you that we have a lot to gain in having a positive conclusion to this, and I know the numbers have been talked about by previous members in terms of what it means to our local economy, contributing overall as much, if not more, than a number of Sable projects. That is not to pit one industry sector against another. It is simply to recognize that we have had a long and cherished history with a resource-driven economy. What has happened of late is that the forest industry has become far more technological in the way in which it harvests and develops wood product. We are looking at value added. So what we need to do is ensure that this market will continue to exist.

The other problem we have, and it was brought forward very clearly by Mr. Irving in his conversations, was that we have actually lost some of our local market because of the opportunity to export lumber, some of what would have been considered to be local market has been lost and would be lost to us in the event that we are no longer granted the exemption status and lose the American market. In fact in Kent Building Supplies my

[Page 1763]

understanding is that the wood sold there, the lumber sold there is actually brought in from Quebec. So it is not simply a matter of these companies redirecting their production to local markets. We have lost that and really everyone recognizes that the way to truly grow this economy is to continue to look to expand our export market and we have such a tremendous opportunity.

Again, the work of the Lumber Bureau in terms of raising this issue and fighting long and hard for not just their members but all of the mills in this province, all of the mills in Atlantic Canada, they are to be commended. Again it is easy to stand by and say if they had only done something more or something differently then the result would have been different. Oftentimes we are caught up in a much larger game in terms of a national agenda.

It is fine to say this is not about Ottawa and we shouldn't be attempting to lay blame or cast aspersions on the role that the federal government has played, but I believe that when the federal minister looks at the demographics of Canada and you have Atlantic Canada coming forward and saying grant us an exemption, and you have the Province of Quebec taking a particular part as imposition and you have British Columbia coming forward with their particular view of a situation, you have Ontario which has a very large and vibrant economy that while it relies on forest industry products and so on, it is not a large part of their economy. So what often happens is we become pawns in a much larger game. So it is critically important that when there are issues of common concern that we make the effort to ensure that the one voice speaks for all. I can tell you that I sat in meetings with the Premier where he raised this issue with his counterparts and brought forward the need to be proactive. Again, that has been done and I believe that the message is heard. If there is something good to come out that is beyond what happens around the exemption, it is the very fact that we are developing a common approach to problem solving.

Earlier this week I was in Newfoundland and, not to digress too far, the issue was what are we going to do with our offshore oil resource in terms of the issues that we have a shared resource to some degree with Newfoundland and Labrador. The new Premier there was saying what we have to do is focus on growing an Atlantic Canadian oil and gas industry. It is in fact large enough and the opportunities are great enough that we can share the wealth. If we can come together on a number of these common issues, we become a force to be reckoned with. A force that the federal government will have to sit up and take notice of and the same is true in Washington. I can tell you that at the Christmas season we were in Washington and at the Embassy and I asked the people there who are involved in trade just what kind of presence Nova Scotia had in terms of the Washington business community. They were very direct in saying that Nova Scotia is well recognized and respected for the way in which they bring forward trade-related issues.

[Page 1764]

So, again I appreciate the opportunity to rise tonight and talk about this very, very significant issue. I can tell you that as a member of the government we are working as hard as we can with our partners to ensure that this comes to a positive conclusion. Again, I commend the honourable members of the House for taking a common stand.

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

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, it is certainly an honour and a privilege for me to stand here in the House this evening and discuss this issue as this is a major issue in Cape Breton The Lakes as many of my residents do work within this industry, but I am not going to be selfish because it is obvious as a provincially elected representative it is important for me to recognize that this is a problem right across the Province of Nova Scotia. In fact, I spoke to the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley today and he has eight mills in his area, he has approximately 2,000 people work in those mills and there is probably another 1,000 to 1,200 employees driving trucks and that sort of thing. So, it would be very selfish for me to rise this evening and bring attention to just Cape Breton The Lakes.

I think what is important is that we recognize this as the industry that it is and it is a major industry. One in every 19 Nova Scotians is employed in this industry and that is a major industry. The impact that this will have on the Province of Nova Scotia is vital. I am concerned because history shows that this government is just, you know, laid back, we see it in every issue.

Last year when the floods hit Cape Breton, they waited and waited, then at the end they came across with this program that actually, in fact, Mr. Speaker, I am not aware of one individual who obtained any help through that program.

Mr. Speaker, the Premier made a commitment to the people in this province and he has to take some action now; now is when it is required. Nova Scotia's forest industry has a number of unique characteristics. I am sure I don't have to remind the Premier of this. Primarily, they are family-owned and-operated businesses as opposed to corporate operations.

Easy geographical access to the U.S., European and offshore markets provide us with a benefit; perhaps a little bit of a hand-above-the-rest sort of thing. Two-thirds of our productive forests are privately owned. That is a very important item to remember because, in western Canada, where this problem apparently is originating, most lumbering occurs on leased Crown land, which the U.S. regard as government subsidized, hence subject to the duties that they are complaining about. Maritime and Nova Scotian lumber was exempted under the previous softwood licensing agreement because so much is harvested from private, not public, unsubsidized land. So it is obvious.

[Page 1765]

Mr. Speaker, what concerns me is that approximately three weeks ago my colleague for Victoria put forth a resolution asking this government to keep an eye on this issue. It is a problem and we could see the problem being created with the stages that it went through. This government, for some reason or another, ignored that resolution, ignored the warning that this caucus and this member provided to this government. It didn't want to see it; it didn't want to hear it; it just pretended it didn't exist. We are today standing here in an emergency debate because we tried to forewarn the government. Being on the opposite side of the House the members over here are not always wrong. When they plead with the government, they do that because they are concerned about the issues that face Nova Scotians today and this is a major issue.

Mr. Speaker, the one angle the Premier brought up is the Campaign for Fairness. The Premier travelled pretty far and wide throughout the country seeking consensus on a Campaign for Fairness. This was a very public campaign. The bottom line is the more prosperous our economy becomes, the less equalization we are going to receive from Ottawa henceforth. This Premier, through his inaction, is guaranteeing we will be less prosperous. If we lose 24,000 jobs, we will need 20 Sable projects to replace those jobs.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member's time has been pretty well expended. I would advise the House that the time allocated for this very important and significant emergency debate has been used up.

The House stands adjourned.

[The House rose at 7:59 p.m.]

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NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)

RESOLUTION NO. 673

By: Mr. Richard Hurlburt (Yarmouth)

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

Whereas the Lions Club serves the needs of people in their community by sponsoring Boys and Girls Clubs, assisting with special transportation needs, sponsoring the VON, providing seeing-eye and hearing-ear dogs and by leading the fundraising efforts for the CNIB; and

Whereas in Nova Scotia there are 70 Lions Clubs made up of some 1,970 members, men and women, through whose efforts close to $1 million is raised and given back to our communities each year; and

Whereas this weekend, the Lions Clubs in Nova Scotia are holding their Annual District 41-N2 Convention in Yarmouth with 430 delegates registered to attend and special speaker, Past International President William Briggs travelling from Nebraska for the occasion;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House commend the Lions Club for its significant work in our communities and wish its members well as they meet for their annual convention.

RESOLUTION NO. 674

By: Hon. Rodney MacDonald (Tourism and Culture)

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

Whereas 2001 as the International Year of Volunteers provides Nova Scotia with opportunities to demonstrate world leadership in volunteering and recognize those who take the time to volunteer and help others; and

Whereas on April 19, 2001, the Provincial Volunteer Awards Ceremony was held at the Westin Hotel in Halifax to recognize, celebrate and thank the province's volunteers; and

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Whereas Natalie Parks was the recipient of the Youth Volunteer of the Year Award for her volunteer efforts at Halifax West High School and her involvement in community activities such as participating in the IWK Volunteer Program and working with seniors at the Fairview Villa;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House congratulate Natalie Parks and thank all of those young Nova Scotians who volunteer and help support their communities.

RESOLUTION NO. 675

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 Adventure in Citizenship Program, sponsored by Canadian Rotary Clubs, allows between 200 and 250 students to meet their peers from across Canada and discuss issues facing Canada; and

Whereas the Rotary Club of Springhill will sponsor Springhill High School student Philip Carter to attend the Adventure in Citizenship to be held in Ottawa between April 28th and May 1st; and

Whereas the program poses questions to participants concerning the ethical and moral dimensions of citizenship in a rapidly changing world;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Philip Carter on being chosen to represent the Springhill Rotary Club at the Adventure in Citizenship Program and recognize Rotary Canada for providing such an important program to our youth.

RESOLUTION NO. 676

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 on May 26th more than 160 beacons along Nova Scotia's coastline will be honoured during the province's third annual Lighthouse Day in recognition of the important role Nova Scotia's lighthouses play in marine safety and navigation; and

Whereas the Coastal Communities Network is organizing this year's event along with the Lighthouse Preservation Society; and

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Whereas activities this year include a school drawing/poetry contest, an amateur photo contest and everything from a lobster bake to treks to one of the many lights along the coast;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Jillian Brown, Dan Conlin, Isobel Munroe, Pam Harrison and everyone else involved in Lighthouse Day 2001, and wish them well as they educate Nova Scotians about this important part of our history.

RESOLUTION NO. 677

By: Hon. Murray Scott (The Speaker)

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

Whereas volunteers are the cornerstone of Nova Scotia's strong towns and villages because of their selfless dedication to others; and

Whereas Nancy Burton of Parrsboro is the town's Provincial Representative Volunteer for 2001; and

Whereas Ms. Burton has held numerous volunteer positions in the community but is best known for her unwavering support, kindness and generosity to other families in Parrsboro;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Nancy Burton upon her selection of Provincial Representative Volunteer for the Town of Parrsboro in 2001 and thank her for her commitment to others.

RESOLUTION NO. 678

By: Hon. Murray Scott (The Speaker)

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

Whereas volunteers of all ages enrich and strengthen our communities; and

Whereas Parrsboro Regional High School Grade 12 student Mary McPhee was recently named Parrsboro's Youth Volunteer; and

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Whereas Mary is a participant on the school yearbook, on student council, Parrsboro Youth Town Council, on the Safe Grad Committee and on the Parrsboro Shore Historical Society;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Mary McPhee upon being recognized as Parrsboro's Youth Volunteer and wish her well as she pursues a career in landscape architecture.

RESOLUTION NO. 679

By: Mr. James DeWolfe (Pictou East)

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

Whereas the Pictou County Special Olympics curling team was recently victorious at a tournament in Saint John, New Brunswick; and

Whereas the Pictou County team posted a perfect 3-0 win-loss record at this Maritime regional event and brought to five their number of consecutive victories after they had posted two wins in a Halifax tournament the week before; and

Whereas the team has completed its schedule for 2000-01 but is already looking forward to the fall and the beginning of the 2001-02 season;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs extend their congratulations to the Pictou County Special Olympics curling team for its recent victories, commend the Westville Curling Club for acting as host rink this year and thank Highland Community Residential Services for being their sponsor.

RESOLUTION NO. 680

By: Hon. Ronald Russell (Transportation and Public Works)

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

Whereas the Town of Hantsport is well known around the world for its wharf facilities which handle the loading of gypsum boats and is the home of Canadian Keyes Fibre and Minas Basin Pulp and Power; and

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Whereas the Town of Hantsport has seen a number of exciting opportunities brought its way over the years while also being able to maintain a quality, small-town environment; and

Whereas on this date in 1895 the Town of Hantsport incorporated as a town and today is 106 years old;

Therefore be it resolved that all MLAs in this Legislative Chamber extend their warmest greetings to Mayor Wayne Folker, town council and residents of Hantsport as they celebrate their day of origin in Nova Scotia history.

RESOLUTION NO. 681

By: Mr. James DeWolfe (Pictou East)

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

Whereas the Fraser Holmes Memorial Ladies Pipe Band has gone to the State of Virginia and will begin performing in an International Tattoo on Friday; and

Whereas this year marks the fifth consecutive International Tattoo in Virginia and the fourth consecutive appearance for the 22 member band from Pictou County; and

Whereas the Fraser Holmes Memorial Pipe Band will be representing Nova Scotia proudly during their stay south of the border and will perform five times between Friday and Sunday;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this Legislature acknowledge the tremendous cultural opportunities which exist for Nova Scotia as local musicians and artists perform on the world stage, and wish the Fraser Holmes Memorial Ladies Pipe Band the very best in their weekend performances.

RESOLUTION NO. 682

By: Mr. James DeWolfe (Pictou East)

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

Whereas women in the communities of Pictou County brought some needed warmth and comfort to kids in Labrador over the winter; and

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Whereas members of the Pictou County Knitters Club volunteered their time and talent to knit socks, mittens and hats to spare children from the harsh weather; and

Whereas the Dr. Caroline Carmichael Chapter of the IODE organized these efforts in conjunction with the Mitts for Kids program;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House thank the members of the Pictou County Knitters Club and the Dr. Caroline Carmichael Chapter of the IODE for their thoughtfulness and for bringing comfort to children in need in other communities as well as their own.

RESOLUTION NO. 683

By: Mr. James DeWolfe (Pictou East)

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

Whereas Muscular Dystrophy is a disease characterized by weakness and atrophy of muscle without involvement of the nervous system; and

Whereas a total of 32 children at the Children's Place Daycare Centre participated in the 12th Annual Hop-A-Thon for Muscular Dystrophy last Thursday; and

Whereas included among the children were students Hannah Greene, Madeline MacDonald and Cody Hass;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House thank the children at the Children's Place Daycare Centre for their kind consideration for those suffering from Muscular Dystrophy.

RESOLUTION NO. 684

By: Mr. James DeWolfe (Pictou East)

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

Whereas volunteers are the foundation of Nova Scotia's villages and towns because of their unselfish devotion to others; and

Whereas a volunteer appreciation dinner was held last Tuesday at Summer Street Industries for volunteers in the Pictou County District Health Authority; and

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Whereas among those enjoying the day were Aberdeen Hospital Auxiliary representative Anne Royles, palliative care volunteer Reta Heron, Aberdeen Hospital Foundation representative Lilith Sutherland, District Health Foundation representative William James Palmer, and central and east Pictou Community Health Board representative Karey Rushton;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House thank the volunteers in the Pictou County District Health Authority for all they do for others in their communities.