Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

Les travaux de la Chambre ont repris le
21 septembre 2017

Hansard -- Thur., Apr. 26, 2001

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HALIFAX, THURSDAY, APRIL 26, 2001

Fifty-eighth General Assembly

Second Session

12:00 P.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Murray Scott

DEPUTY SPEAKERS

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

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

Therefore be it resolved that the Hamm Government commit to putting in place an adequate number of health and safety inspectors to ensure workplace inspections occur on a timely basis so that prevention rather than enforcement becomes the main focus of our occupational health and safety system in Nova Scotia.

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

We will begin the daily routine.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury.

MR. RONALD CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition on behalf of the people of Giants Lake, Erinville, Salmon River Lake, Rogerton, Ogden and Roachvale. The operative clause reads, "We the undersigned are requesting the Department of Transportation and Public Works to repave the section of the road known as the South River Lake Road . . ." I have signed this petition on their behalf.

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MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, on a point of personal privilege. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Cape Breton West on a point of personal privilege.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, on February 23rd of this year, I put a freedom of information request in to the Department of Environment and Labour with regard to the Property Owners Society of Kings County, re the Meadowview property owners. To date I have not received a response to that other than the fact that the department has asked for a 30 day extension. That time factor has passed as well and today my office tried to again secure that information. Without any proper justification, that information is not forthcoming and it doesn't look like it will even be forthcoming this week.

I would ask, Mr. Speaker, if you would make a ruling and direct the Minister of Environment and Labour to live up to his legal obligation.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Cape Breton West has risen on a point of personal privilege. I will review Hansard and the facts and report back to the House at a future date. (Interruption)

Tomorrow may be personal privilege day. (Laughter)

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Community Services.

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, I undertook, during estimates last week, to provide some information to the honourable members on questions they had asked and I would like to table those now.

MR. SPEAKER: The documents are tabled.

The honourable Minister of Health.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table the Annual Report of the Nova Scotia Psychiatric Facilities Review Board for the year ended March 31, 2000.

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MR. SPEAKER: The report is tabled.

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health.

RESOLUTION NO. 685

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

Whereas Novartis Pharmaceuticals Canada Inc. recently committed $150,000 dollars towards a cardiology fellowship at the QEII Health Sciences Centre and the first recipient is Dr. Simon Jackson; and

Whereas this new fellowship will enhance the in-house expertise on advanced treatments and care for congestive heart failure and result in a more proactive approach to congestive heart failure management; and

Whereas this fellowship will enable cardiologists to increase their specialized knowledge and implement proven research trials, thereby expanding care for sufferers;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Dr. Simon Jackson on being chosen as the first recipient of the QEII Health Sciences Centre cardiology fellowship and thank Novartis Pharmaceuticals Canada Inc., for its support of this important initiative to enhance cardiac care in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Justice.

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RESOLUTION NO. 686

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

Whereas Reach Nova Scotia is a non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring quality legal and social representation for persons living with disabilities; and

Whereas Reach Nova Scotia is supported by over 200 volunteers, half of whom are lawyers, offering free legal referrals; and

Whereas the Canadian Bar Association's Law Day Committee and the Executive of the Canadian Bar Association, Nova Scotia Branch, have selected Reach Nova Scotia as the recipient of this year's Law Day Award for their efforts and remarkable success;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House commend Reach Nova Scotia for their commitment to justice for people living with disabilities and congratulate their members and volunteers on receiving this year's Law Day 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 Minister of Education.

RESOLUTION NO. 687

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

Whereas April 26th marks the anniversary of the day in 1918, when Nova Scotia gave women the right to vote in provincial elections and May 24th will mark the anniversary of the date Nova Scotia women received the right to vote in federal elections; and

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Whereas this year is the 83rd Anniversary of these important gains and the rights of 51 per cent of Nova Scotia's population; and

Whereas the right of all citizens to full participation in the political process is one of the hallmarks of a democratic society;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize these anniversaries of important milestones for Nova Scotia women and, further, that those of us in political life continue to encourage the women of our province to participate in political activities at all levels.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Natural Resources.

RESOLUTION NO. 688

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

Whereas this week is National Volunteer Week, and 2001 is the International Year of the Volunteer; and

[12:15 p.m.]

Whereas Phillip Finck, an employee with the Department of Natural Resources, is being recognized with the President's Award by the Association of Psychologists of Nova Scotia for his leadership and dedication as President of the Autism/PDD Society of Nova Scotia; and

Whereas Phillip volunteers in his capacity as President of the society and is committed to raising awareness regarding autism/PDD, educating parents and professionals regarding the needs of those with autism/PDD, and securing funds for services for children and families;

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Therefore be it resolved that members of this House congratulate Phillip Finck and the Autism/PDD Society of Nova Scotia on this recognition and the valuable work the society does in this province on behalf of children.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 689

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

Whereas volunteers are the unsung heros which giving meaning to the word community; and

Whereas Provincial Volunteer Recognition attempts to give these pillars of our society their just dues; and

Whereas Mr. Keith Miller, who has served and is serving in volunteer positions almost too numerous to mention, has added to his already impressive list by becoming East Hants representative volunteer for Provincial Volunteer Recognition;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Mr. Miller on being East Hants representative volunteer for Provincial Volunteer Recognition, and for his enormous and generous sense of civic duty.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

RESOLUTION NO. 690

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

Whereas New Germany High School held its official opening for the school's new renovations on Tuesday, April 24th; and

Whereas parents, teachers, students, the community, and the school advisory council worked very hard for many years to have the renovations made; and

Whereas former MLA Lila O'Connor was vigilant in her support for the renovations;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House congratulate the entire community who rallied so successfully to secure the renovations for New Germany High School.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Shelburne.

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RESOLUTION NO. 691

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

Whereas the Atlantic Writing Competition is one of Canada's oldest and most respected writing competitions in the country; and

Whereas many of their finalists have become well-known professional writers; and

Whereas Lianne Perry of Shelburne County recently won third prize in the Writing for Children category;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House congratulate Lianne for receiving this recognition and wish her all the best in her future projects.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

RESOLUTION NO. 692

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

Whereas the Senior's Property Tax Rebate has remained at a maximum of $400 for at least the last six years; and

Whereas seniors face rising property taxes each year, particularly in the Halifax Regional Municipality where assessment values are climbing rapidly; and

Whereas seniors are finding it difficult to make ends meet as they also must struggle with increases in the basic costs of necessities such as home heating oil and food;

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Therefore be it resolved that this government review and commit to increasing the Senior's Property Tax Rebate to a level that adequately reflects the increased burdens on seniors from rising assessment values and the cost of necessities.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

RESOLUTION NO. 693

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

Whereas the Army Cadet League of Canada is a civilian non-profit organization committed to support the Royal Canadian Army Cadets; and

Whereas for more than 30 years they have sponsored army cadets, advocated public interest for support, while promoting good citizenship and leadership in youth; and

Whereas Cal Lindsey of Dartmouth has been elected to serve as Executive Vice-President of the Army Cadet League of Canada at its 2001 Annual General Meeting;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize and congratulate Cal Lindsey on the occasion of his election, while recognizing his great contribution to his community and the for the youth of this country.

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.

Order, please. There is too much noise in the Chamber, it is very hard to hear the member on the floor.

The honourable member for Colchester North.

RESOLUTION NO. 694

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

Whereas Kathryn Smith, a native of Lower Economy, is soon to see the fruits of her talents with the release of her first novel; and

Whereas this Ottawa resident began writing at age eight, making more serious attempts in her early twenties; and

Whereas Kathryn will also be featured in an upcoming Christmas anthology, is participating in the launch of a young adult romance line of novels, and will release her second full-length novel in 2002;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House congratulate Kathryn Smith on living out her girlhood ambitions of writing and for remembering the seeds of her creativity and the strengths of her roots in Economy.

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.

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RESOLUTION NO. 695

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

Whereas the Halifax Regional School Board is considering conducting a public relations campaign in the newspapers to ensure it gets good press; and

Whereas the cost of this public relations campaign would amount to $20,000 annually; and

Whereas the Halifax Regional School Board complains of a shortfall in funding and is closing schools and refusing to bargain with its support workers;

Therefore be it resolved that this House suggest to the Halifax Regional School Board that it not waste its scarce resources on a public relations campaign designed to make it look good while a labour dispute festers away and school closures beckon.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

RESOLUTION NO. 696

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

Whereas on April 26, 1918, women in Nova Scotia won the right to vote; and

Whereas that day marks an important benchmark on the road to equality for women in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas since 1918, women have made significant contributions to public service at municipal, provincial and federal government levels;

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Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize the importance of this day 83 years ago and also work to further increase the representation of women to elected office at every level of government.

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 Chester-St. Margaret's.

RESOLUTION NO. 697

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

Whereas Bertha Doucette of the Kinette Club of Margaree will receive her Life Membership Award on April 28, 2001; and

Whereas this is one of the highest honours to bestow on a Kinette; and

Whereas the 100 per cent Canadian organization has a history of over 70 years of service, and is regarded as one of the world's most successful service organizations;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House acknowledge Bertha Doucette and the important contribution she has made to her community.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

RESOLUTION NO. 698

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

Whereas death in the workplace continues to be a tragic reality in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas Rickey Fred MacPhee died this past Tuesday in an industrial accident at the Maritime Paper Products plant in Burnside; and

Whereas Mr. MacPhee's family is the fifth family this year in Nova Scotia to suffer the terrible loss of a loved one at the workplace;

Therefore be it resolved that this House expresses its deepest sympathy and condolences to the family, friends, and co-workers of the late Rickey Fred MacPhee, and its fervent hope that no other Nova Scotian families have to suffer such a grievous loss.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Victoria.

RESOLUTION NO. 699

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

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Whereas the Bush Administration is backing the U.S. forest industry's lead to hit Canadian lumber with billions of dollars in duties;

Whereas few of the parties involved in the dispute want to see another agreement, including British Columbia; and

Whereas Atlantic Canada is a small player in this huge dispute with the most to lose;

Therefore be it resolved that our Premier make an all-out effort to do everything in his power, including an all-Party committee, to lobby Ottawa and the other provinces in Canada to resolve this dispute.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Pictou East.

RESOLUTION NO. 700

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

Whereas the Chignecto East Regional Science Fair, held at the Museum of Industry, is an annual event which features the scientific work and skills of junior and senior high school students; and

Whereas this year's entrants represented 10 different schools and 93 individual projects which demonstrated ingenuity, good research, math abilities and excellent organizational and presentation skills; and

Whereas 53 judges from various businesses evaluated the projects in three separate divisions, with the top four projects selected to compete nationally for the prize of a full scholarship to a school of their choice;

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Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate each student for their interest and participation and thank Chairperson, Muriel Palmer, who pulled it all together, and wish the winners well at the upcoming nationals.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 701

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

Whereas Mount Allison University in Sackville, New Brunswick, has a proud tradition of noteworthy accomplishments; and

Whereas this internationally recognized university has been fortunate in its illustrious past to be led by outstanding presidents; and

Whereas Wayne MacKay, a Mount Allison graduate of the Class of 1970 and a Dalhousie University Law Professor for 22 years, has been selected as the new President of Mount Allison University;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate Wayne MacKay on his selection to the prestigious position of President of Mount Allison University, the best small university in Canada.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 1788]

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. 702

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

Whereas Saint Francis Xavier University Sports Hall of Fame will honour seven inductees this Saturday; and

Whereas one of the seven inductees is Mr. Russell MacNeil of New Waterford; and

Whereas this former basketball and rugby star for St. F.X., who is humbled by this honour, also served in this House as MLA for Cape Breton Centre;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Mr. Russell MacNeil on this prestigious honour.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Justice.

RESOLUTION NO. 703

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

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Whereas the Minister of Education recently opened renovations to the New Germany Rural High School; and

Whereas the renovations occurred as a result of the determined action of the educators, parents and students; and

Whereas at the opening, students presented a play on the life of Alexander the Great, who had become the leader of the known world at a very young age;

Therefore be it resolved that the House of Assembly congratulate the entire New Germany community on the opening of the high school renovations and, in particular, thank the students of New Germany who are well on their way to becoming our future leaders.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

RESOLUTION NO. 704

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

Whereas it is estimated that in Canada one worker out of 16 suffers an injury at the workplace, which translates into one injury every nine seconds; and

Whereas workplace fatalities are far too common, with five already having occurred this year in Nova Scotia and 20 the previous year, while workplace inspections are not as frequent as they should be; and

Whereas the keys to preventing workplace injuries and fatalities are strong occupational health and safety legislation and regulations that are enforced vigorously;

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Therefore be it resolved that this government commit to putting in place an adequate number of health and safety inspectors to ensure workplace inspections occur on a timely basis so that prevention, rather than enforcement, becomes the main focus of occupational health and safety system.

[12:30 p.m.]

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 Lunenburg West.

RESOLUTION NO. 705

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

Whereas the South Shore Naval Association has recently released a book called Memories of Basic Training and Other Dips; and

Whereas the book featured stories gathered during the Cornwallis Memorial Reunion last May in Digby; and

Whereas the stories in the book are an important addition to Canadian military history;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize the efforts of the book's editor, Rev. Gregory Pritchard, and all of the storytellers for their contribution to naval history in Canada.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Community Services.

RESOLUTION NO. 706

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

Whereas David Kikuchi is a 21 year old Dalhousie student and a resident of Fall River; and

Whereas earlier this month, the Fall River gymnast placed first and brought home the medals for the rings, parallel bars and the high bars at the Jurassic Classic Gymnasts meet in Calgary, Alberta; and

Whereas Mr. Kikuchi will leave for England next month for training and competition in the nationals in Saint John, New Brunswick in May;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House extend their congratulations to David Kikuchi on his hard work and his dedication to his sport and wish him well and all the best in his future events.

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. 707

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

[Page 1792]

Whereas the Halifax International Airport is a vital leak in the transportation infrastructure and economy of Nova Scotia; and

Whereas the ongoing labour dispute at the Halifax International Airport, if it continues for a protracted period, has the potential to harm our economy; and

Whereas the province has representation on the board of the Halifax International Airport Authority and so can influence the resolution of this labour dispute;

Therefore be it resolved that this government commit to directing its representatives on the Halifax International Airport Authority to press for a fair contract offer to striking workers at the airport and for the parties to get back to the negotiating table immediately.

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 Cape Breton West.

RESOLUTION NO. 708

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

Whereas there are 14 volunteer fire departments in Cape Breton West and over 8,000 volunteer firefighters in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas volunteer firefighters risk life and limb to help their community; and

Whereas this year is the International Year of the Volunteer;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize the important contribution that volunteer firefighters make to communities throughout Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 1793]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

RESOLUTION NO. 709

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

Whereas the annual Canadian Student Leadership Conference brings together approximately 500 students and 200 teacher advisors from across the country for a week of international speakers, workshops, community services, social and cultural events; and

Whereas the goals of the conference are to provide a venue for student leaders and teacher advisors to network, develop leadership skills and better promote positive school climates; and

Whereas Sackville High School earned the honour to host the 2001 Leadership Conference this September;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Sackville High School on being selected to host this year's Canadian Student Leadership Conference and extend its best wishes and support to Sackville High School as it prepares for this conference.

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 1794]

The honourable Minister of Justice.

RESOLUTION NO. 710

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

Whereas the Gift Shoppe at the Fishermen's Memorial Hospital celebrated its 25th Anniversary in November 2000; and

Whereas the Gift Shoppe volunteers set a goal of raising $25,000 to commemorate this special anniversary; and

Whereas the volunteers have achieved their goal of raising $25,000 and have presented the funds to the South Shore District Health Authority;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulates the Fishermen's Memorial Hospital Gift Shoppe volunteers on attaining their anniversary goal and for the dedication of the volunteers throughout the years.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Richmond.

RESOLUTION NO. 711

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

Whereas Samantha Anderson, incoming President of Saint Mary's University Students Association, has been involved with the Nova Scotia Student Advocacy Coalition for the past year as Policy Chair; and

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Whereas on March 25, 2001, Samantha was elected Chair of the Nova Scotia Student Advocacy Coalition; and

Whereas she will be spending the next year as spokesperson for the organization;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Samantha Anderson on being elected Chair of the Nova Scotia Student Advocacy Coalition, and urge the government to listen to the concerns of the Student Advocacy Coalition whenever Samantha Anderson comes calling.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

RESOLUTION NO. 712

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

Whereas the Greenwood Military Aviation Museum has for many years preserved a good part of Nova Scotia's long and colourful military history; and

Whereas Attractions Canada has designated the Greenwood Military Aviation Museum as the best indoor site in Nova Scotia with an operational budget under $400,000; and

Whereas the Greenwood Military Aviation Museum is nominated for one of the national grand prizes to be awarded at the annual Attractions Canada awards gala on May 23, 2001 in Halifax;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the Greenwood Military Aviation Museum, its Curator Bryan Nelson, and all those who have helped to make it the best indoor site in Nova Scotia and wish them every success at the Attractions Canada awards gala on May 23, 2001.

[Page 1796]

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 West.

RESOLUTION NO. 713

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

Whereas the Reid family from Kingston was selected last week as the Sobeys Family Volunteer of the Year award winner at the 27th Provincial Volunteer Awards Ceremony and Luncheon in Halifax; and

Whereas parents David and Heather and children Ellen, Emily, and Ian were recognized for their outstanding contributions as volunteers; and

Whereas the Reid family has demonstrated time and again their dedication and consistent care for improvements to the community of Kingston and area;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize the significant volunteer contributions put forth by David, Heather, Ellen, Emily, and Ian, and congratulate them as Nova Scotia's Sobeys Family Volunteer of the Year.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

[Page 1797]

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 714

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

Whereas volunteer firefighters provide a valuable service to communities across this province; and

Whereas these women and men give of themselves and their time so freely; and

Whereas the position of chief is an extremely responsible one in the organization of these fire departments;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate and thank Barb Sawatski on her selection as the Fire Chief for the Prospect Road and Area Fire 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.

The honourable Minister of Community Services.

RESOLUTION NO. 715

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

Whereas on Friday, April 6th and Saturday, April 7th, a 24 hour fast for famine relief effort took place at Lockview High School in Fall River; and

Whereas this event was co-ordinated by World Vision Canada; and

[Page 1798]

Whereas 150 Lockview Grades 9 to 12 students were involved to raise money for awareness of the world's needy;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize the great efforts of those Lockview students as they bring the awareness of the world's needy to their local community.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: Question Period will begin at 12:39 p.m. and will end at 1:39 p.m.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

COMMUN. SERV.: INFO. SESSION - DETAILS

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, my question will be to the Minister of Community Services. Yesterday, senior staff from the Department of Community Services held an information session with the private sector. They were asking for help developing a new vision of delivering community services. Can the minister stand in this House and explain the purpose of that meeting yesterday?

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, the meeting was very simple. We had indicated when we brought forward a bill for the social assistance renewal and during our estimates that we would be looking at improving the resources in IT, providing more additional resources for staff, and that is what that meeting was about, to improve our IT system.

[Page 1799]

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Community Services has opened his door and invited the private sector in to see what is happening in his department. They might as well take over. More than 150 people showed up at that meeting, and they are very anxious to see what the minister is going to hand over. The information handed out yesterday says services being considered include core benefit areas, such as intake and case management. I want the minister to tell this House exactly what services he plans to privatize and what effect that is going to have on the services.

MR. CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, as I indicated to the honourable member, our goal in this is to provide a sustainable system that will provide the proper data, provide the system for people as they need it. We indicated at the time that we needed to work on and develop our IT resources, that is what we have been talking about and that is what the people who were here yesterday were looking at.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, 150 people would indicate there is a lot more than that. The private sector is lining up to profit from the minister's vision of a new Department of Community Services. His vision means profits are going to go to the private sector companies and not more support for the needy of Nova Scotia. I ask the minister again, why won't you tell Nova Scotians exactly how far you plan to go and what services you are going to hand over to the private companies?

MR. CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member is correct, there was quite a number of people. There is a fairly large interest, it seems, in the IT sector, looking at developing systems and providing assistance in the area of IT. If the honourable member would read the papers that were issued yesterday, he will know it was for IT services, it was to look at how we can improve the service delivery on our computer programs. That is all it was.

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

EDUC.: POST-SECONDARY - PLAN

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. Post-secondary education in this province is in a funding crisis, and students are bearing the brunt of this government's inaction. My question to the Premier is, what is his government's plan for post-secondary education?

HON. JOHN HAMM (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, it is in recognition of the value of post-secondary education that the government has, actually this year, increased its funding for the universities, it has increased its funding for the community colleges, and even today, it announced a $15 million trust to allow our research facilities right across this province to access innovation funding that is made available by the federal government. That $15 million

[Page 1800]

trust will actually result in perhaps $100 million of research being conducted here in Nova Scotia.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, the blue book of promises says that this government would establish an income tax relief program for graduating students, so they could pay down their student loan debt. Instead, this government axed the Loan Remission Program. Does the Premier have a plan to deal with tuition and student debt, and if so, what is it?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I welcome the question because it gives us an opportunity to indicate that we will be coming forward with an improved approach to student debt in this province. We would just ask the member opposite to be a little bit patient, and it will be forthcoming.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Education has said she is looking at the possibility of reinstatement of the Loan Remission Program. Today the Premier announced research funding to universities, but again students have been left behind. Now that we know students' costs will rise again in the fall, will the Premier now commit to the reintroduction of the Loan Remission Program?

[12:45 p.m.]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I acknowledge the interest of the member opposite in the educational opportunities available to Nova Scotians. I will simply repeat, if the member would be patient the government's intentions will become known in the not too distant future.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

COMMUN. SERV. - IT SERVICES:

PRIVATIZATION - CONSULTATION TIME FRAME

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Community Services. I will table information from yesterday's meeting between Community Services and the corporate sector. The corporate sector was consulted yesterday about the changes to the department. The corporate sector will be consulted again in May, and it will be involved in the final contract negotiations in October. My question to the Minister of Community Services is, when will people be consulted.

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member is quite correct, there was a meeting yesterday with all those people who were interested. What we had indicated to them as people who had further interest, was that they would have individual interviews with the departmental officials to see if they had the ability to provide the services in IT that we are requiring. People will be consulted. If people have interest in that system, they

[Page 1801]

certainly can go to the department, get the information and express their views. The member is referring to the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union being there yesterday. There was a number of people there at the meeting. When they asked if we were doing this to replace people, the answer was no, they were given it.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, all of that conversation and nothing was mentioned about the department's clients. I will table all 32 overheads from yesterday's meeting. Not one overhead mentions discussion with social service recipients. These slides reveal the department has asked corporations for strategies, concerns, advice and recommendations. Why isn't your government willing to ask the same from the people who will be most affected by this privatization?

MR. CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member's question is, when will they be consulted? What we indicated, when we announced the regulations, when we announced the new Act, we indicated at that time we had to train people, we had to provide resources. This is part of that process of providing the IT resources we indicated.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, this is Ontario all over again. Ontario in Nova Scotia. The international consulting giant, Andersen Consulting has profited very nicely from welfare reforms in places like Ontario. Andersen squeezed millions out of the welfare system in Ontario. I will table the information for the minister. Is the minister aware that the corporation has one goal - that is all corporations, I should say - to maximize profits? Is he aware that corporations like Andersen Consulting could care less about helping the poor people?

MR. CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, I am quite aware of the business of Arthur Andersen, is in and they are in the business of information flow and providing information technology support. That is why we asked those people, that is why we had an expression of interest. Our goal is to provide the best possible service to our clients.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

EDUC. - POST-SECONDARY: TUITION COSTS - ACTION

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, last year Nova Scotia's average university tuition was $4,408, about $1,000 higher than the national average. Now Nova Scotians are learning that we are going to have 4 per cent to 5 per cent increases for the next year, throughout the entire province. My question is, what is the Minister of Education going to do to reduce the costs of tuition throughout this province?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, all governments like to see tuition rise as little as possible. The tuition hike for next year was not unexpected, we would have liked it to be smaller. That being said, our universities are still very popular and very accessible.

[Page 1802]

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, if this Minister of Education sticks her head any further in the sand, she is going to hit oil or natural gas. It is an absolute disgrace what this Minister of Education is doing.

This is the same minister who has cut loan relief programs, she has cut funding to universities for infrastructure, she has allowed tuition to rise, and she says if you get a good job with a college education you can afford to pay the increase. Our economy in Nova Scotia will never grow if we continue to saddle our university students with debts between $30,000 and $50,000. Nova Scotians cannot afford these . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. SAMSON: . . . tuition increases. Will the minister give this House her assurance that community college tuitions, which she personally sets, will not rise this fall in Nova Scotia?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Education does not personally set community college tuitions. The tuitions are requested by the college, the minister and the Cabinet are required to approve them. They are not set by the government.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, the education system in this province is burning all around the minister and we can't get her to admit that there is a fire going on. It is an absolute disgrace to see this minister in action. Students, parents and educators demand action on tuition increases in this province. This government campaigned on promises it is clearly now breaking.

Since she won't address the tuition increase itself, will this minister today reinstate the Loan Remission Program so students throughout this province can go to the university of their choice in Nova Scotia?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I have given the answer on loan remissions many times in estimates and many times in this House. I would like, however, to inform the member opposite that a university president this afternoon congratulated this government on its commitment to education on the $15 million for research and the new priority on higher education.

MR. SPEAKER: The honorable member for Halifax Needham.

EDUC. - TUITION FEES/JOB PROSPECTS:

RELATIONSHIP - EXPLAIN

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education. It is that time of year again, you know, university students across the province are

[Page 1803]

being asked to dig a little deeper because this government refuses to give them adequate funding. I wonder what the Minister of Education has to say to all those students across the province who are now being asked to cough up $300 more for next year's tuition. Perhaps she will say it is not her fault, perhaps she will say they are very lucky that they are not having to pay more, or perhaps she will say it is just too bad. I want to ask this minister, why does she believe it is fair that students in Nova Scotia should be forced to pay the highest tuition fees in the country while having the lowest opportunities for job prospects?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, we have an excellent university system. That system is the jewel in the crown of education in Nova Scotia. It is a very valuable thing for students to have a university degree or even more than one university degree. The students know that, that is why our universities are so popular.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Well, thank heavens the people in the universities care so much about higher education because this minister doesn't. Somebody has to. Mr. Speaker, UCCB raised tuition by 6 per cent, St. Mary's 5.5 per cent, Dalhousie 4.25 per cent and that is on top of last year's increase of 7.5 per cent on average. I want to ask the minister, will she commit today, since she won't do anything about rising tuition fees, will she commit to reinstating the Loan Remission Program immediately and make it retroactive to the 2000-01 academic year?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, as the Premier said earlier in response to the same question, this government is working on a plan for student debt relief. It may or may not be anything like the Loan Remission Program.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: We are a little worried over here. As we speak, the advisory board on colleges and universities is meeting to discuss this government's plan for a loan designation policy on student loans. Instead of helping students, this minister is seeking to further limit access to higher education. My question for the minister is, will she commit to freezing tuition to the rate of inflation until her department has developed a funding arrangement that will stop the skyrocketing of tuition fees?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the answer to that question is no.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

FIN. - TAXES: INCREASES CEASE - INDEXATION EXPAND

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier. Last week in this House the Premier did not understand that the debt of the Province of Nova Scotia was going to grow each and every year until the year 2007, even with surpluses. On Tuesday of this week, the Premier did not realize that he is, in fact, raising income taxes through the back door by the purpose of partial indexation. In fact, the Province of Nova Scotia will

[Page 1804]

collect some $12 million additional revenue this year through income tax. Families making between $15,000 and $30,000 a year will pay $2 million more in income taxes this year than previous. My question to the Premier is, will the Premier stop the tax increases and instruct the Minister of Finance to fully index income tax brackets and income tax credits?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite can be assured that we will keep our commitment to have income tax reform in this province occur two years from now. What I would like to suggest to the member opposite, who continually is critical of the government's fiscal policy, is that perhaps he should speak to his colleagues because while he calls for more government restraint, those who sit in caucus with him are continually bringing ideas to the floor of the Legislature that require more government spending.

MR. DOWNE: It is clear, Mr. Speaker, that this Premier does not understand the ability to manage the affairs of state. Whether this Premier wants to deal with it or not, income taxes are on the rise in Nova Scotia. (Interruptions)

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

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I will now table information provided by the Canadian Taxpayers' Federation. Families earning between $40,000 and $50,000 a year will now pay an additional $3 million more in provincial income tax this year.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. DOWNE: My question to the Premier is, will the Premier finally admit to all Nova Scotians that he is raising provincial income taxes to all working Nova Scotians?

THE PREMIER: What I can say to the member opposite, because of the good fiscal planning of our Department of Finance and our minister, we can promise Nova Scotians a tax break two years from now, unlike when the Party of which that member was a very prominent part had a financial plan that would have precluded income tax cuts in this province for decades.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, this Premier is continually looking in the past and Nova Scotians are asking him why he can't look to the future. We are not asking for a tax reduction, we are not asking for an increase in taxes, we are merely asking the Premier for a tax freeze at the current levels. By now the Premier should admit to all Nova Scotians that he has gouged an additional $12 million . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

[Page 1805]

MR. DOWNE: . . . out of the pockets of Nova Scotians through income tax. This goes completely against . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. There is too much noise in the Chamber. Would the honourable member please put the supplementary question?

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, by now the Premier should admit that, in fact, he has raised $12 million this year through income tax; grabbing money out of the pockets of Nova Scotians, even though he personally pledged . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. I ask the honourable member to put the question or I am going to call for the next questioner. The honourable member for Lunenburg West has the floor.

MR. DOWNE: My question to the Premier is, why won't the Premier commit to freeze taxes at the current levels now?

[1:00 p.m.]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I can remind the member opposite that the Fiscal Management Task Force clearly articulated no tax cuts until we had a balanced budget. The New Democratic Party in their document, WHAT WE HEARD, indicated that the people of Nova Scotia told them that a number one priority of government must be to eliminate the deficit and we are doing exactly what the people have asked us to do.

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

ENVIRON. & LBR. - SYDNEY TAR PONDS:

POLLUTANTS (WHITNEY PIER) - RESIDENTS EVACUATION

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, JAG members voted unanimously on Wednesday night to ask for additional funding to relocate families living near the coke ovens site. They were asking the people living in the homes on Laurier, Hankard and Tupper Streets be evacuated. No further proof is necessary, Mr. Premier, they should be moved. This group put in place by all levels of government want people to be moved because the health risks are just too great. I want to ask the Premier, when will this evacuation begin, and how much money is your government going to spend to make sure the people of Whitney Pier are safe from this toxic disaster?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the government has arranged, many, many samples have been taken, surface soil, subsurface, groundwater. Those results have been analyzed by the health officer of the province. They are presently being analyzed by Dr. Lewis and following that there will be an analysis by the Agency of Toxic Substances in the United

[Page 1806]

States. We will make our decision based on scientific analysis. If there is any immediate danger to the health of the people in the NOCO, we will act appropriately. Until such time as the evidence is there, we will (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, when it is convenient they hide behind the JAG process, and when JAG exposes this government they hide behind studies. Arsenic levels in that are 60 times above the federal guidelines. No one is disputing that except your Minister of Environment and Labour, your Minister of Transportation and Public Works, and yourself, Mr. Premier. This is wrong. You and your ministers are risking the lives of the people in that area. What will it take for you, Mr. Premier, to move these families from this toxic pit that they live on?

THE PREMIER: The government takes this issue very seriously, that is why the samples were taken and that is why the analysis is going on. When we have the appropriate recommendations from those who are in a position to do an appropriate analysis of those samples, we will act appropriately.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, with the exception probably of this government, if this was a workplace they would shut it down. Yet they will leave these residents there needlessly because they want to hide behind some kind of study. Every day wasted by this government exposes these families of Whitney Pier to further health risks and he, as a doctor, knows this. Waiting one more day, Mr. Premier, is not acceptable. Will the Premier commit today to move families from Laurier, Hankard and Tupper Streets, as recommended by JAG?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I have great empathy for those living in that area. That is why we are proceeding rapidly to have the evidence that we have analyzed and a scientific opinion given as to whether to not there is a significant health risk. If there is a significant health risk, those people will be moved.

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

ENVIRON. & LBR. - WHITNEY PIER: PROPERTIES - PURCHASE

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, several years ago the Premier seemed pretty concerned about the residents of Frederick Street, and unfortunately he has not demonstrated that same level of concern for the residents on Laurier, Hankard or Tupper. My question to the Premier is, will the Premier buy the homes of those suffering from toxic waste on Laurier, Hankard and Tupper Streets like the previous government did through my colleagues, the Minister of the Environment, the Minister of Public Works and the Minister of Health did for the residents of Frederick Street?

[Page 1807]

THE PREMIER: I didn't hear the end of his question.

MR. SPEAKER: Would the honourable member for Cape Breton West just put the question again, please. The Premier did not hear it.

MR. MACKINNON: No problem. My question to the Premier is, will the Premier buy the homes of those suffering from the toxic waste on Tupper, Hankard and Laurier Streets, just as my colleagues through our government did for the residents on Frederick Street?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite can be assured, as I had responded to a previous questioner, we will do the appropriate thing. I think it is fair to point out that this process while it is taking some time is proceeding much more rapidly than the previous government proceeded when the problem was first identified on Frederick Street.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, if the Premier would be kind enough to take time to read the reports, he will find that it is the same evidence that is now before him as what was before the residents on Frederick Street, the same evidence. More so, and I will quote the Premier's own words when he was on this side of the House, on the very issue on Frederick Street. "Tory Leader John Hamm said he was pleased the government is finally treating this issue as a priority. 'Its a rather belated response to buy the homes but it is the right one.', he said on Friday. 'They are giving the people an option to move.'"

MR. SPEAKER: I would ask the honourable member to put the supplementary question, please.

MR. MACKINNON: My question to the Premier is, why is he not giving the residents of Laurier, Hankard, Tupper and other related streets the same consideration as he wanted to give when he was on this side of the House to the residents of Frederick Street?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I think if the questioner would also look back at a letter I had written, I had asked the government of the day to proceed very quickly to evaluate scientific evidence that would allow us or anyone to come to the appropriate decision. That was my position then and it is still my position. We will make the appropriate move once we have had the appropriate people analyze the information that we have.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, the Premier is hiding behind bureaucratic red tape. These residents, their health and their well-being is in jeopardy and he is hiding behind red tape and studies. Why won't the Premier do the decent thing for humanitarian reasons if nothing else and buy these homes from the residents on these respective streets or do something to move them out of that very unhealthy environment that they are in right now?

[Page 1808]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, all I can say to the member opposite is that we will make our decisions based on the right information. If the member opposite wishes to hold himself up as an expert, let him present his credentials.

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

HEALTH - HOME CARE: HOSPITAL STAY - EFFECT

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I want to tell you about a senior who was receiving home care services, one to two hours a day, five days a week. This lady had serious health complications and had to be hospitalized. When she was able to leave hospital and return home, she discovered that she was no longer qualified for home care because she had been in hospital for more than five days. Furthermore, this lady had to reapply, had to be reassessed for home care, at which point she was added to the bottom of the list, as if she were a first-time applicant. So I want to ask the Minister of Health this. When did it become the policy of your department to disqualify seniors from receiving home care simply because they have been in hospital for more than five days?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, if the honourable member would care to provide details of the circumstance of which he speaks, I am prepared to have staff look into it.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the question was about the policy of the department. This woman has no family to assist her, she is home alone with no support besides friends and neighbours, she is in desperate need. Her situation is even worse because while in hospital she was put on a renal diet, which means she can no longer rely on Meals on Wheels, a non-profit seniors' group without the financial resources . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. DEXTER: . . . or mandate for the kind of assistance that this senior really needs has been trying to help the best they can.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. DEXTER: I want to ask the Minister of Health, why is the Department of Health downloading its responsibility for our seniors in need of support onto non-profit organizations that simply do not have the resources to do the job?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the Department of Health and its agency that it contracted with make every effort to support those in need in the province. One of the interesting things, and I guess it is sort of a backhanded compliment, it recognizes this happens to be the International Year of the Volunteers and unfortunately, when people are in need - or

[Page 1809]

fortunately when people are in need in Nova Scotia - then people come forward, and that is a good thing.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I can't believe the heartless way that this government continues to treat seniors in need. Every day the list of their inadequate and unfair responses to the needs of seniors grows longer. I want to ask the Minister of Health, will you finally admit that your department is not doing the job when it comes to responding to the real needs of seniors?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I would say that the needs of seniors are being responded to now better than they have been in the past number of years, like other areas of the health care system. We wish we had the resources to do more, and once we get this financial excess spending under control, then there will be more money available for health programs and highways and everything else.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

EDUC. - CURRICULUM (HIGH SCH.): DELIVERY - ASSURANCE

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, the Atlantic Provinces Education Foundation has developed standardized examinations for the high school students of the region. Results of the chemistry exams averaged 53 per cent in Nova Scotia. Now parents and learners are concerned about the physics exam. Some say the problem is the gap between the curriculum and the contents of the exam itself. My question to the Minister of Education is, what assurance can she give this House that the standard curriculum is being effectively delivered province-wide?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, there is an issue here. The honourable member has had a good idea; it must have entered his head in search of privacy. The issue with the physics exam is one that the department is looking into because it does appear that in some areas, in some schools, the curriculum is not being taught. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. The honourable member for Richmond, as well, did not hear what she had said because he asked the member beside him, which I didn't hear either.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Education seems to get upset when she is called to be accountable here in this House. Well, she can get upset all she wants and she can hurl whatever smart-aleck insults that she has, but we will continue to hold her accountable on behalf of the people of Nova Scotia. She has already shown that she is only concerned about rich kids being able to attend university here in this province, so it is not surprising to see her reaction.

[Page 1810]

Mr. Speaker, the Atlantic Provinces Education Foundation created the examinations for all Atlantic Provinces. If this examination is such a good measure of curriculum delivery, could the minister explain why only Nova Scotia is actually using these exams?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, yes I can, because part of the deal is that all provinces work together in developing this curriculum, and the physics exam was actually developed for the APEF module in Nova Scotia by Nova Scotia teachers. We implemented it here first.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, the fact is, whether she says Nova Scotians have created or are using it first, if only Nova Scotia is actually using this exam, there is nothing else for us to compare with other provincial jurisdictions. Some say that this places university-bound students in Nova Scotia at a disadvantage. As the minister well knows, we already support out-of-province university students with our own tax dollars. What assurances can the minister offer the students of Nova Scotia that this test regime adopted by her government does not place them at a disadvantage when applying for entrance into universities?

[1:15 p.m.]

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I have already said, there is an issue with the physics exam, particularly in some of the schools in the Halifax Regional School Board. The department is working with the school board to see what the issues are and how they can be fixed.

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

EDUC. - RIDGECLIFF MIDDLE SCHOOL (P-3) ATHLETIC FIELD:

OWNERS - CONTRACT HONOUR

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Education. The P3 Ridgecliff Middle School in Beechville has an athletic field, or that is what we should try to call it. At this time of the year it should be very busy, but for some time that athletic field hasn't been used. It isn't usable, in fact, because it wasn't properly made in the first place, and that shoddy work is keeping kids off their school field. The work on the field was so poorly done because private builders were cutting corners trying to save a few dollars. Well, these savings are costing the community of Beechville-Lakeside-Timberlea. I want to ask the minister, what is she doing to force the Armoyan owners of Ridgecliff to honour their contract with the community of Beechville-Lakeside-Timberlea, and has the department issued a notice of default?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I will get back to the honourable member on that. The answer to that question should be available very shortly, and I will get back to him on that.

[Page 1811]

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, when you look over the athletic field at Ridgecliff Middle School, what do you think you see? Do you see young people out there during their phys ed class, at this time of the year? No, you don't see that. You see an abandoned refrigerator that has been dumped there, and yet this school has a contract. That field is supposed to be completed to allow the phys ed curriculum to be taught in that school My question is to the minister, has she contacted the project mediator to settle this breach of contract and, if not, then what is she waiting for?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I apologize to the member opposite for not being personally aware of this particular problem. I don't have to tell him or any members opposite there are an awful lot of loose ends and problems with the P3 process. I will endeavour, however, to find out what is going on with that school and that field, and get back to him as soon as possible.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I accept the apology. Now I want some action, and the community wants that action. I ask you, if in the Halifax Regional School Board it is students first, why is this private operator allowed to flaunt its contractual obligations?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, yes, it is students first. I have said I will get back to him on that. Fortunately, we are no longer involved in the P3 process, although we are living up to past obligations.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

HEALTH - QE II: PARAMEDIC TRAIN. PROG. - INFO.

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health. Last year I had asked the minister a question about the status of the paramedic training program at the QE II. The last class graduated on March 7, 2001. Since that time, you have been silent on how individuals who want to train as paramedics in Nova Scotia can do so. My question to the minister is, when is the minister planning to release information as to where individuals interested in training as paramedics in Nova Scotia can apply?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, at the present time, the honourable member is correct that the program at the QE II has terminated. I believe it is over now. We are currently in negotiation with Nova Scotia Community College, and also Holland College on Prince Edward Island has expressed some interest in providing training for paramedics. There are sufficient paramedics in Nova Scotia right now. It is not a burden but it certainly is something that I appreciate the honourable member bringing to my attention again.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, there may be adequate numbers of Paramedic II's but certainly not I's and certainly not III's. Actually, I note with interest, as of April 9, 2001 - and I will table this information for the minister - that a Paramedic I can train either at Holland

[Page 1812]

College, Collège de l'Acadie in Meteghan or through St. John Ambulance, those three places. My question to the minister is - and I know he mentioned about community colleges but that is just being talked about - can he confirm that the program that was being so well run at the QE II is the identical program that students will receive at the new institutions now offering the program for Paramedic I?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, what I can guarantee the honourable member is that the people who will be trained in the new programs will meet the requirements demanded of them.

AN HON. MEMBER: The answer is no, Jamie.

MR. MUIR: No, the answer is yes, Don.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, we have a shortage of Paramedic III's in Nova Scotia. I would dispute the honourable minister's assertion that there are adequate paramedics in Nova Scotia as we speak. According to this minister's Web site, Paramedic III's training is being offered at the QE II but the program has been shut down. I think he should visit his own Web site. That leaves students the option of going to Holland College or out West. If we have learned anything, it is that students who go to train elsewhere form attachments and often remain there. My question to the minister is, will the minister commit here today that the program at the QE II for Paramedic III's training will continue so that Nova Scotians will be able to train, to gain experience and to stay here in Nova Scotia and practise as paramedics?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the best information I have is that there are sufficient trained paramedics in Nova Scotia to carry us through until the year 2002. We are currently in negotiation with several colleges, including the Nova Scotia Community College, to provide training for people who wish to pursue that important work and we will have training that will enable our needs in Nova Scotia to be met.

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

ENVIRON. & LBR. - OH&S: VIEW/AIR QUALITY REGS. -

INTRO. TIME FRAME

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, as members of this Assembly are no doubt aware, this week has been declared OH&S Week in Halifax. We were all too painfully reminded this week that working men and women in Nova Scotia continue to face many hazards in the workplace, yet we are still not where we should be, in this province, when it comes to occupational health and safety regulations. My question is to the Minister of Environment and Labour. Workers in Nova Scotia are still waiting for violence in the workplace regulations and air quality regulations. Will you tell this House today, Mr. Minister, when these regulations will be put in place?

[Page 1813]

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member opposite for bringing up these two important matters. As the member would be aware, they are presently being drafted and when it is done they will brought forward to Cabinet for consideration.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, these recommendations are over six years old now. We have seen this government, just like the previous government, start to move regulations forward, only to be stalled by lobbyists for the employers. The employer lobby has been trying to stall violence in the workplace and air quality regulations for some time now and they have met with considerable success.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. CORBETT: My question is, will he tell the House what he has done to ensure his Cabinet colleagues do not bow to the employer lobby pressure and put the kibosh to these regulations? Will he move these regulations forward?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I would like to assure the member opposite, and all Nova Scotians, that both of these topics are of considerable concern to me. That has been discussed with me on a number of occasions. I am waiting with anticipation for them and I look forward to receiving them.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, talk is cheap. North American Occupational Health and Safety Week is just around the corner. What better time, Mr. Minister, to bring these forward. I want to ask you Mr. Minister, will you commit to this House today to pass violence in the workplace and air quality regulations before the end of this year's North America OH&S Week? Will you do that?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for bringing forward a matter that is of a concern not only shared by this government, but all Nova Scotians. I look forward to seeing them in their final form and at that point in time, I will certainly be bringing them to my caucus colleagues and I look forward to them being passed within a reasonable time frame.

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

EXCO - LOBBYISTS: MEETINGS - REPORTING POLICY

MR. DAVID WILSON: My question is for the Premier. Right now, in order to find out if a Cabinet Minister meets with a lobbyist, you have to file a freedom of information request. My colleague, the member for Richmond, recently showed that freedom of information requests for the same information in your government are on a hit-or-miss situation. I believe the Premier's own office waited 30 days to ask for a 30 day extension for the same information the Department of Health provided almost immediately.

[Page 1814]

My question is, because of the concerns about accuracy and freedom of information results, can the Premier inform us if he is planning to introduce some measure of reporting meetings between lobbyists and Cabinet Ministers?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, as the Minister of Justice is the minister who tabled the lobbyists bill, I would ask him to answer that question.

MR. SPEAKER: Order please. I won't allow the minister to answer with regard to bills before the House, but may if it is a policy question with regard to what the member asked.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: I can tell you that this government is one of only two in this country to support lobbyists' registration policy and we are committed to openness and transparency in government and in point of fact, that is what our policy is all about.

MR. WILSON: Two recent freedom of information requests showed some conflicting results. We asked two ministers separately about meetings they have had with principals of ACM Associates. The Minister of Finance's documents showed several meetings and when we received information from the Minister of Tourism, his information showed an additional meeting that the Minister of Finance had not disclosed.

My question to the Premier is, in light of yet another example of the disdain in which this government treats freedom of information requests, would the Premier not admit that they are not an adequate form of letting Nova Scotians know who is meeting with their own Cabinet Ministers?

THE PREMIER: I refer that to the Minister of Justice.

MR. BAKER: That is what the policy of lobbyists' registration is all about. It will tell Nova Scotians what lobbyists' actions are planned as part of the lobbying effort. That is what this government is all about - it is about making the process transparent and I can assure the honourable member that this is a good policy for Nova Scotia.

MR. WILSON: I will get an answer out of that Premier yet today. Let us go back to him again. The Minister of Finance met three times with lobbyists yet only admitted to two meetings despite a freedom of information request. My question is, if the Premier will not introduce a measure to register what lobbyists are meeting with his Cabinet Ministers, will he at least make a government-wide edict to improve the handling of freedom of information requests as per the review officer's recommendations?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, if the member opposite is having trouble with freedom of information requests, we are prepared to respond. One of the difficulties is because of the very nature of the Act now, government ministers are not informed when specific freedom of information requests come into the department. So, if you for example, make a freedom

[Page 1815]

of information request of my office, I am not aware of it, so therefore I am not aware if it is not responded to appropriately.

MR. SPEAKER: The honorable member for Halifax Needham.

EDUC. - JANITORIAL STRIKE: MIN. - HALT

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: My question is to the Minister of Education. Five weeks is an awful long time to be on a picket line without any income. The minister knows full well that the men and women who are outside today, here at Province House, are there because of cuts she made in her Education budget, cuts that really hit the Halifax Regional School Board, the lowest funded board in the province. I want to ask the minister, just how long is the minister prepared to allow this disgraceful situation to continue? Will she not take some responsibility and act to bring this strike to an end?

[1:30 p.m.]

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite knows full well that the school board got more money last year and more money again this year. The school board has a bigger budget now than it did before, and it is having to deal with its pressures in the way the law says it has to. The custodial staff are employees of the school board, not of the department.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, it is truly a sad day when the Minister of Education will not take her share of the responsibility in this situation. The Halifax Regional School Board has embarked on a public relations campaign to try to improve the tarnished image they have with the public. They are using public dollars to do this. I want to ask the minister, do you agree with this use of public dollars?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the Halifax Regional School Board and other school boards and the department and everybody in here from time to time gets bad press, but whether or not I approve of this particular expenditure of money, that is not the point. The school board is entrusted with spending taxpayers' money, the money we give them in the best way possible, and that is what I expect them to do.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask my last question to the Minister of Environment and Labour. Mr. Minister, the inspectors have been going into the schools but only after giving advance notice that they are going to do so. Children's health is at stake here. I want to ask the minister whether or not you will guarantee this House that inspectors will no longer be providing notice before they go into schools so we can get a true and accurate picture of what is going on in the schools in HRM?

[Page 1816]

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member opposite for a chance to address this concern. We were requested to inspect 10 schools (Interruptions)

SOME HON. MEMBERS: All of them. All of them.

MR. MORSE: . . . by the local medical health officer. We actually inspected 11, contrary to the member for Cape Breton West's statements. None of the schools were given advance warning. We do understand that during one of the inspections there was an announcement that encouraged people to assist the inspectors. We do not give advance notice of the inspections.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

JUSTICE - ELECTIONS ACT:

CHANGES - ELECTION COMM'N. CONSULT

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, yesterday I asked the Minister of Justice why he had made changes to the Elections Act without consulting the commission. He said, at first, that he had consulted them, and then on a point of personal privilege he said he hadn't consulted them, but he did still hold that the changes were made based on the recommendation of the commission. We now know today that the changes made by the minister, arbitrarily, were not the recommendations made by the election commission. Will the minister tell Nova Scotians today why he personally intervened and made arbitrary changes to the Elections Act without referring it to the election commission before tabling it here in this House?

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to address the honourable member's question. What we have is a very, very good bill which people approve of, which will make election laws in Nova Scotia better. It is the result that I am defending.

MR. SAMSON: Tory days are here again in Nova Scotia. (Applause) They are so bold now (Interruptions) Well, they clap at their shame and disgrace and that's fine. Mr. Speaker, for a government and for a minister to tamper with the election laws of this province is unheard of, for even the Tories it is a new low. The initial bill (Interruption)

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

The honourable member for Richmond has the floor, question please.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, the initial bill proposed was sent out to members of the election commission for their review, then out of nowhere the Justice Minister instructed his staff to withdraw and to retrieve those bills from the election commission so he could make changes to it and . . .

[Page 1817]

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. SAMSON: . . . then table it in this House without consulting them. Why did you take those bills from the election commission and put in recommendations that had not been by the election commission?

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I, again, tell the honourable member that it is very, very simple. We have consulted with the election commission; we will introduce some changes as a result of those consultations. (Interruptions) The reality is when you have nothing to criticize in the bill, you criticize the process.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, the election laws of this province is one of the few things left that Nova Scotians have that they know that there is a fair process being followed in this province. To see a government and a minister to standing here in this House and in a most colonial fashion saying, I have made these changes, they are good changes and take it and stick it because I am not going to change it, that's an absolute disgrace. What is the minister hiding that he could not send this bill to the election commission before he tabled it here in this House?

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I am hiding nothing. The bill is there. The member can read it. It is a good bill.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

NAT. RES. - SOFTWOOD LUMBER: DUTY - PREMIER ACTION

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. We are aware from yesterday that what the Premier has done in regard to the Maritime Accord, his letters to the Prime Minister, actually a joint letter with the other Atlantic Premiers. We recently learned about the impending duty so I want to know, what has the Premier done in that regard?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I understand we are running out of time but yesterday I did write again to the Prime Minister of Canada; as well, we have been in constant contact with the Maritime Lumber Bureau and the other governments in Atlantic Canada to coordinate our efforts from this point forward. The issue is not unfolding as we had hoped; on the other hand, we have not relinquished our zeal to pursue it aggressively.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition, your first supplementary. You have five seconds.

MR. MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, the Premier of Saskatchewan has hired legal counsel in Washington . . .

[Page 1818]

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

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

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

PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 30, the Financial Measures (2001) Act.

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

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Victoria.

MR. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to continue on where I left off on Tuesday. I think at that point in time we were talking about the government's deficit or their inability to balance the books of the province, but rather putting everything onto the debt of the province.

Mr. Speaker, budgets of any province are just that, a series of choices, and governments should exist to make choices for people and that is why they were elected. That is why they were elected. That is why we were all elected to government at one point or another, but the LeBlanc budget chose to not only continue to run a deficit but he continued the growth of the net debt of this province, which is astounding. In just the last 12 months, the debt has risen by $1.3 billion and that is why we are talking today on the hoist that we are asking the government to consider. Last year this government spent almost $70 million on interest for the extra debt they racked up, that in addition in the more than $900 million we spent already on debt service costs.

Mr. Speaker, a lot of people glaze over when we talk about the deficits and government finances in general, but the effect is very real and very direct. That is why we want to put this Bill No. 30 out for the public to review it, digest it and probably make changes. That is why we ask for the hoist today. Take the $70 million that the Tories wasted on interest because of their poor management and that is what we are talking about, we are not talking about spending money, we are talking about the mismanagement of the taxpayers' money. The Premier is very quick to point to the ones on this side, when we were in government, about

[Page 1819]

running up deficits but we are talking today about mismanagement and that is why we have to pay such a staggering amount of interest on the province's debt.

Mr. Speaker, it was said a number of times that if that money were available for other uses we could hire hundreds of teachers, we could hire hundreds of nurses, and pave 20 to 30 kilometres of road each year. The Tories promised to control the debt of this province when they were seeking election, but they have failed. Not only has it increased dramatically every year since they took office, it is projected to grow every year that they will be in office. The debt is a real problem, and if the Finance Minister does not take it seriously this province will be swallowed up in debt.

Mr. Speaker, another issue is the promised tax cut being dangled in front of Nova Scotians into year four of their mandate. The reality is that by the time things like bracket creep, the money they withheld from the last federal tax cut, and the new user fees introduced by this government, when all these factors are considered, we will have long since paid for the 10 per cent we were supposed to get back in four years' time. At best we are going to just get our own money back from these extra taxes.

Mr. Speaker, the 10 per cent promised in four year's time will be paid by the taxpayers many times over. That is why we are asking for the hoist on Bill No. 30. Take their failure to flow through this recent tax cut given by the federal government. By withholding that money, the Tories have in effect raised the amount of money they collect from every single Nova Scotian. What that means is when they do offer the 10 per cent cut, it will already be an inflated amount.

Mr. Speaker, the third issue I want to mention in detail is planning. This government has been flush with opportunities and they have squandered them. The economy in North America is on a downturn, and in all likelihood the opportunities that exist this year for balancing the books and getting their fiscal house in order may not be present next year. If the government has less revenue, then it will be far harder to achieve those goals. We believe there is no plan for fiscal stability, no plan for debt reduction, no plan for real meaningful tax cuts and no plans for the future of this province. The responsibility of governing is awesome and not to be taken lightly. There is a need for vision, for planning and for commitment. This government has exhibited none of these traits.

[1:45 p.m.]

We asked for this hoist because the carrot of a tax cut is actually a stick in front, in the form of new taxes now and a promise later that the growth of the budget takes money from program delivery each and every year that it continues to grow. I think the government has blown the chance to balance a budget, a budget that could have been balanced.

[Page 1820]

The reason we want this hoist is, our message so far is clear through editorials, through the Chamber of Commerce across the province and through interviews and with the left wing think-tank, they all echo the Liberal message; they could have and they should have balanced the budget this year, but they didn't. They want to build a slush fund through what they call user fees, but that is taxes, plain and simple, not a user fee. It is a new word for tax grab.

Why do we take the position? We take this position for the benefit of all Nova Scotians. I think it builds credibility and is the only reasonable position to take. The Auditor General's Report plays into our position and gives it effective strength. We believe in what we are doing. We believe that this government should put this bill on hold for six months. I think it is a position that we should all support. There comes a time when Nova Scotians will no longer tolerate higher taxes or user fees.

Mr. Speaker, the Premier has been floating this user fee trial balloon for many months now and this is one trial balloon that has been as successful as the Hindenburg - it is going to come crashing down. The Premier must be desperate to even suggest bumping up user fees. It is strange when we talk about user fees, the only user fee a lot of Nova Scotians want is a new highway on Highway No. 101, with tolls. This government doesn't have the intestinal fortitude to proceed with that. This Tory Government is trying to scare Nova Scotians into thinking user-pay options are necessary in Nova Scotia's health care system.

The Premier is so worried about how unpopular this move would be that he waited until he was on familiar ground at the Progressive Conservative fundraiser to even suggest it. You have to be very suspicious of an announcement this important, made just a few weeks before the budget. The Premier is trying to test the ice, like the equalization bill. He wants to see how far he can push Nova Scotians into believing our health care system is in worse shape than it actually is. Again, that is why we are asking for a hoist of Bill No. 30.

I am sure the Premier, by this time, has finally realized that he cannot cure the health care system in this province with $45 million like he promised during his election campaign. The sad truth is that the Tories have no plan for health. They can't tell Nova Scotians what service they may be forced to pay for; where will the increases come from? One rumour is that Nova Scotians will pay more for ambulance service, and we know that. Instead of a flat rate, Nova Scotians who need an ambulance will have to pay per kilometre. This means that a senior citizen may think twice before calling an ambulance because they live too far away from a hospital.

Mr. Speaker, the previous Liberal Government was looking at ambulance fees, and we tried to explore what options were available for removing ambulance fees, not raising them but removing them. The Tories are going in the opposite direction. Again, that is why we are calling for a hoist on Bill No. 30. If they can't consult Nova Scotians about something as important as this, then the government should rethink their plans, if they have such a thing as plans. What consultation has this Tory Government done?

[Page 1821]

Mr. Speaker, the media has quoted major health care providers and they say they have not been consulted. The Tories want to make health care costs so expensive that Nova Scotians can't afford to use them. User fees are an option of last resort, and the Tories have no new ideas. This is a tax, pure and simple. User fees are no other form of money but a tax grab. User fees could be considered as another name for two-tiered health care. This idea is something straight from Alberta.

Mr. Speaker, I believe that this government is heading down a dangerous road, if they want to make health care pay for itself. It is quite possible that what Premier Hamm proposes violates the Canada Health Act. The Canada Health Act requires universal access, and Premier Hamm is introducing user fees as a way to control the demand for health services. This is not universal. This is Canada, and this very thing threatens the basic principles of Medicare. Once this government gets a taste of blood, there will be a feeding frenzy.

Mr. Speaker, you can expect, both this year and in years to come, the floodgates to open up on user fees. If Nova Scotians are forced to pay higher user fees, the government will discover it has an easy way out of hard decisions. That is why we want a hoist of Bill No. 30.

Mr. Speaker, the Liberals had a plan to control costs in the Health Investment Fund. If the Tories want to control costs in Health, they should look at giving the Deputy Minister of Health a pay cut, not a pay raise but a pay cut. He is the highest paid deputy minister in Nova Scotia's history. This is the man who suggested that Pharmacare co-pay could be raised as high as $1,000. Can you imagine? We need to put up a roadblock to user fees, and we need to put it up now. They are pushing the envelope too far on the Canada Health Act. You can expect, at any time, to be getting a message from the federal government relative to user fees.

Mr. Speaker, we believe that by calling for a hoist on Bill No. 30 that our caucus is looking straight ahead and we are focused forward, not just on the seats across the way but on reforming government after the next election. This government says it is committed both to enhancing tourism in our province - one of the many things they are talking about enhancing, enhancing health care, enhancing education, enhancing tourism - but not putting any money upfront, and poorly managing the money they have.

Mr. Speaker, there are many of us who live in rural ridings and who were happy to hear this news at first, that they are going to enhance tourism; maybe if they are enhancing tourism they will do some work on our famous Cabot Trail or other highways. One of the most important thing to lure tourists into areas of the province is good highways. I could talk about the Cabot Trail as one that indeed lures many tourists to Nova Scotia, but the condition of the roads leaves a lot of people to make one trip around the Cabot Trail and not come back.

[Page 1822]

Several times in this House I mentioned a bridge in my riding that fell into the river and the minister says it is not going to be replaced, at least not now. I know the minister says they don't have the money but I don't know why any government or any minister can feel that an important link in the transportation system of our province can be left in a state of disrepair, or not be replaced. I am sure it is the first time in Nova Scotia's history that such a message was sent out to people in rural Nova Scotia. Again, this is a matter of choices that government must make and where to spend money, and as we talked many times on this side of the House, another indication of the poor services that rural Nova Scotia receives from this government.

Mr. Speaker, it is all about finances. It is all about money. That is why we want to talk to the government about hoisting this bill for six months. Not only does this bridge pose a great handicap, but also it poses a very dangerous threat in the case of fire or emergency equipment that must be transported through an alternate route.

In my riding we also talk about the high level of unemployment, probably one of the highest in the province, again, we talked about the lack of government consideration. In enhancing tourism, improving roads, it is all part of employment and all part of bringing people into our riding. If we talk about bringing people in and greeting them with flat tires, broken struts and things like that, that affects our economy, it affects our livelihood and it affects our people. If this government was sincere in their commitment to rural areas, I am sure the Cabot Trail would be a priority. That is why we ask for a hoist on this bill. Again, we talk about spending money and spending some money in rural Nova Scotia.

Living in rural areas of the province has great advantages and many of us who live there do consider it a gift and wouldn't trade it for any lifestyle. Still, Mr. Speaker, it has its drawbacks. If you choose to live in rural Nova Scotia you need to have access to good roads and several other dependable methods of transportation. We find that in our part of Nova Scotia, the roads are poor, our bridges are in disrepair and the many other things that we depend on so greatly, need the attention of this government.

To talk about the infrastructure in rural Nova Scotia or in any part of Nova Scotia, it takes money and it takes a lot of money. I think when we talk about money we expect rural Nova Scotia should be treated the same as other parts of the province.

[2:00 p.m.]

A few years ago I recall a lady in my riding who was a young mother with a couple of children from the northern part of Cape Breton, who found it a great struggle to raise her children on the money she was getting through social services. She was attempting to take training with the hopes of becoming a personal care worker. She chose that because there were positions available right in the place where she lived. She, at that point in time, ran into the trouble that many young people, particularly young mothers, are living with today - she

[Page 1823]

ran into the problem of first finding suitable training and then of being able to afford to take the training and look after her children at the same time.

I recall talking to the Minister of Community Services at the time, of the previous government, and we were able to help this lady, probably not by following the guidelines set down by the Department of Community Services but by going a little further, to go to the extreme to help this lady out so that she would be able to find the job and get her licence in LPN. She did, Mr. Speaker, and this lady is working and happy today, and is no drain on the community services system in our province. That is what we talk about as we stand here today and talk about hoisting Bill No. 30 for six months.

We face many difficulties in rural Nova Scotia. We spoke yesterday at great length in this House about the problem with the softwood lumber industry, which could be devastating to this province if such a thing were to happen, if the subsidy were levelled against our lumber industry. These are all things that this government, problems and issues that they must take very seriously. Again, to do this, to offset any opportunities that would be affected by subsidies is going to take money and it is going to take a lot of money. Even without the subsidies, there are many small-sawmill operators in the province who feel they are not getting a fair share and that the government is not doing all it can to sustain our forests and to make them sustainable. Mr. Speaker, small-sawmill operators and all small businesses were the backbone of this country for hundreds of years.

Mr. Speaker, these are some of the things that we talked about and these are some of the areas where we must focus our attention for the next number of years. We talked in the House on many occasions about clean drinking water, another area of great concern to many small villages across the province. In my riding, it is becoming an issue every year, every fall. We hear of different villages and areas of the province that are affected with THM, which is caused by foliage falling in the water system when it comes in contact with the treatment they use in the water.

So, Mr. Speaker, this province is facing many challenges over the next number of years. Drinking water is one that we are going to be hearing a lot on for the next number of years. That is why we want to hoist this bill for six months, so that all Nova Scotians will have a chance to review the bill, look at it, because there are many other places where this government is surely going to try to put on a user fee. I will just speak for a moment on drinking water; even today to get any tests done on your water, there is a user fee. There is a user fee on everything we do.

Mr. Speaker, we have just heard from the Nova Scotia Teachers Union a few days ago, they fear that this budget is mostly smoke and mirrors. They sense a great loss of a number of positions in the teaching profession. Teachers are one of our most important resources. What do teachers do? They teach our children and they teach our children with the facilities that are available to them to the best of their ability but still every day we learn that these

[Page 1824]

facilities have been cut. The Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board has seen a significant cut, laying off over 50 teachers. These positions will be sorely missed. There are many other areas in the teaching profession, and care of schools and janitorial services, all of which will be severely affected by this Bill No. 30.

So, Mr. Speaker, that's why we ask that this bill be hoisted for six months so that all Nova Scotians will have an opportunity to review it, talk about it, digest it and then come back and let the government know and let all Nova Scotians have some input into this important piece of legislation. Thank you.

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

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of privilege. Earlier today during Question Period the Minister of Environment and Labour indicated that his department had been asked to do 10 inspections out of 140 schools when, in fact, the minister had been asked on several occasions by this member to inspect all schools in the Halifax Regional School Board. That is documented both here in House and again it is an issue that I raised privately with the minister. So I would ask that you direct the honourable minister that he would acknowledge this misrepresentation in the House and perhaps if he is not going to do his duty at least live up to the fact that he was asked to inspect all 145-plus schools and not just the 10.

MR. SPEAKER: Does the honourable Minister of Environment and Labour want to respond?

HON. DAVID MORSE: Yes, Mr. Speaker, just for clarification. We respond to the chief medical officer's request, not to requests by members of the Legislature during Question Period.

MR. MACKINNON: I can't believe what . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Cape Breton West will bring himself to order.

MR. MACKINNON: Oh, this is not . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order!

MR. MACKINNON: I will leave before . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Well, then the honourable member for Cape Breton West can leave the Chamber.

[Page 1825]

MR. MACKINNON: I will leave.

MR. SPEAKER: According to Beauchesne on Parliamentary Rules and Forms, Section 31(1), "A dispute arising between two Members, as to the allegations of facts, does not fulfill the conditions of parliamentary privilege." So your request is denied.

The honourable member for Victoria are you finished with debate on the hoist? You are.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I am going to take the advice of my eye surgeon and make sure that today I don't follow the example of the previous member and for one reason or another allow my blood pressure to get overworked here.

During the next few moments, Mr. Speaker, I would like to bring to the House the importance of this particular hoist motion. For people in the gallery, they should be informed that the member for Victoria, myself and other members are currently reviewing the need to take this piece of legislation, Bill No. 30 and give it a hoist, that is for six months, where we will delay any decision on this particular piece of legislation, and that we will, as legislators and particularly Cabinet Ministers opposite and backbenchers, have an opportunity to consult and listen to Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, I want you know that that is one of the grave concerns that I hear all the time, when people in the riding of Timberlea-Prospect ask me, is anybody down there listening? They are speaking to the fact that in this building, this historic Chamber here on Hollis and Granville Streets, is anybody actually listening? There was a man, on July 27, 1999, in his victory speech, at that time the new Premier of Nova Scotia, John Hamm, said, "I extend an invitation to all Nova Scotians Committed to balanced, reasonable government to work with me to realize these expectations . . . and to build the trust, I know is necessary, between a government and the people it serves." Noble words, fine intentions, excellent speech, Mr. Premier, for that one day.

The concern I have, of course, is the opportunity to consult and to listen to Nova Scotians and to make sure that people across this province have their say. That could happen if this six months' hoist went through, because between now and, I believe it is, October 23rd - which my friend, the member for Halifax Chebucto, has told us is a Tuesday - there would be ample opportunity for members opposite, for members of the Third Party and, of course, for members of the New Democratic Party to get out there and listen to Nova Scotians about their concerns, about their frustrations, about their fears.

[Page 1826]

So, for the next few moments I am going to bring some of those concerns to the House's attention, in fact, I am interested in getting some explanations. Some explanations that I think, if during the next six months we had the opportunity to consult with Nova Scotians, we could have explanations to some of these types of issues. For example, I want to use, I believe it is his, the good member for Dartmouth North's blue book. In the blue book it says, under Transportation that this government will, "Dedicate all taxes raised through motor vehicle licensing and fuel sales to highway construction and maintenance to provide a solid base for highway spending which may be increased depending on public need and available revenues." Right out of the blue book.

I know there are people all across this province, there are people in the gallery, there are people, publicly, who ask me, there are people on the Prospect Road who want to know what great black hole this promise was swallowed by. That is a solution which we would love to have available to address the pressing need. It is a plan, it is a need, obviously something that Nova Scotians would love to hear, and have the opportunity to have members opposite, particularly the Minister of Transportation and Public Works - I think the Minister of Transportation and Public Works would be a star at a public meeting in my community. He would be well received because he would have shown the courage if I could use that term - and I know he is a courageous man because of his experience - to show up at a public meeting over the next six months and have an opportunity to have residents ask what happened to that promise that was in the blue book, to dedicate all taxes raised through motor vehicle licensing and fuel sales to an obvious great solution to the problem with our roads.

Or let's look at this one, and this would be something that I note ministers opposite during the next six months would have a wonderful time to listen to Nova Scotians for. Let's talk about this topic which is so important, particularly when it comes to issues in Timberlea-Prospect, this comes from the same ". . . . a clear course," to restore public input into education by reviewing existing school board boundaries and by ensuring school board sizes are a reasonable size. Considering what some people have gone through during the past five, six weeks, considering the fact that as an educator I can tell you that big ain't better, and I don't apologize for the grammar, there is an opportunity to review the amalgamated school board which we currently - and I say we, as a father and a parent of a daughter in the school system which we have to contend with. Yet, I am sure the Minister of Education would be well received in any community in Timberlea-Prospect where we could talk about the size of the school board, the accountability of the school board which we currently have to put up with. We have to put up with a school board that is basically - or certainly the professional staff have distanced themselves from Nova Scotians and parents and we have a CEO who basically has a PR flack answer all the questions and doesn't deal with the issues. Big ain't better and there is a promise that is included that was to be reviewed - that would be a wonderful opportunity during the next six months when Nova Scotians could have a say to that particular minister on that issue. I bet I, we, could fill the gymnasium at Sir John A. Macdonald High School on that topic alone. We are going to talk about an accountable bureaucracy called the Halifax Regional School Board and I do know that there are people

[Page 1827]

in this gallery, or they were in this gallery earlier, they certainly would make their presence felt at that public meeting which we could hold over the next six months alone in the constituency of Timberlea-Prospect.

[2:15 p.m.]

If we continue with the blue book, there is another very well established policy here which says that this government will - there is always that operative word, will - "Establish a comprehensive, non-partisan, multi-year plan for maintenance and upgrading of secondary roads, based on . . ." - and here is the key word - ". . . need, rather than on partisan politics." The bad old days of pothole politics is ending. If you read that in the blue book during the election campaign, you would have said that is the sort of plan that the Department of Transportation should have had all along. But, the question that I am asked, the opportunity that Nova Scotians would have during the next six months, they would have the opportunity to ask the Minister of Transportation who could take one of the nights during the next six months and travel out across the province and lay out that non-partisan plan, lay out that plan based on needs and during the next six months that would be the time to do it.

But the one question that many Nova Scotians are asking and this is a question based upon the good work that we have done in this caucus, based upon John Hamm's - the Premier of this province - hidden fees and user fees; not taxes, we have been told, but user fees. I will assure the Premier of this province that the Atlantic Exhibition Park on the Prospect Road would be full at any night over the next six months if this Premier would come into the riding of Timberlea-Prospect and the topic would be advertised prominently on that board as you come down the Prospect Road. The Premier of this province on a certain night between now and October 23rd is going to talk about user fees. I can tell you we would fill Exhibition Park. We would fill Exhibition Park with people from throughout metro and we would fill it because of the many people from Timberlea-Prospect who would like to have their say on those issues. Those are four quick topics which I know that over the next six months could be introduced and that people in this province would love to have their say on.

There are people, some of whom I know personally, who would love to have the opportunity over the next six months to sit down and talk and listen to the legislators in these hallowed halls, some of them are Cabinet Ministers, but there are some other members on the government side and I am sure some of the members of the Liberal Party; we would be able to consult with Nova Scotians over the next six months. I would like to mention some of them right now.

As you well know, in a previous career I had the wonderful opportunity to be a school teacher. I have taught many young people and among them I would like to number a current nursing professional at the hospitals here in Halifax and her name is Melissa Cavicchi. Melissa Cavicchi has written a four page poem and I am not going to read it into the record because I couldn't do it service. The poem is called This Hour Has Twenty-Two Dollars, by

[Page 1828]

Melissa Cavicchi of Tantallon Woods. During that poem, she explains some of the frustrations of her job, some of the concerns that she has. I think it would be a wonderful opportunity, over the next six months, if the Minister of Health, on some, nice sunny afternoon, could go up to Tantallon Crescent in Tantallon Woods and sit down on the back deck with Melissa and Craig Cavicchi and listen to this young woman read this poem and have a discussion about some of the stress, some of the frustrations, that she has to put up with.

I will table this in a moment, Mr. Speaker, and I am going to quote two stanzas from this poem:

"Lifting and turning, my back is so sore

We can manage till seven, after that we need more.

Now three less to work with, must get on the horn

To find their replacements before it is morn."

"Sorry to wake you, can you come to work?

We're short staffed today and the floor is berserk!"

"I'm scheduled for nights, can you . . ." next place a call?

"But you're my last hope, and . . ." you are my last call.

That poem and the conclusion to it, and I will quote again before I ask the Page to table it and I hope the minister realizes that he would have the opportunity over the next six months to discuss this poem with this outstanding young nurse.

"So to work here you truly must think I'm a jerk

But the fact is my friend, I do love my work.

So when things go as planned or a patient goes sour,

Just remember the title of how much an hour!" This Hour Has Twenty-Two Dollars.

Now that would be a meaningful meeting for the Minister of Health to have with that young nurse, Melissa Cavicchi, and her young husband and family, over the next six months when they would have an opportunity, the Minister of Health would have an upfront opportunity to listen to someone involved in the health care system.

I think it would be a wonderful opportunity for the member who is currently the Minister of Environment and Labour, some night over the next six months, preferably within the next six hours, if that member, who conscientiously has said to me that he would, at the first opportunity, when the House adjourns, go down to Golda's Café, he will have an opportunity to listen to the people about New Era Farms in Goodwood and the fact that there is an ongoing concern with the recycling situation that we have to contend with in those communities. When you look at the composts and the difficulties, it would be a perfect opportunity for that member, and the Minister of Environment and Labour, to show his good

[Page 1829]

faith over the next six months, if he would agree to this hoist, to not wait until the House adjourns, but to get out into that community and talk about an important environmental issue More importantly, over the next six months that same minister, preferably again not waiting until October 23rd, would take the first opportunity to meet with people like Ron Harrie, or Jackie Gallivan, or Chris Morrone, people who have concerns about the cleanliness of our schools.

That minister, over the next six months, would have the opportunity to go out and talk to these custodians who are in this unfortunate labour dispute, but more importantly, as the person responsible for occupational health and safety - and he would have to cross the picket lines to do it - I would take him into some of the schools over the next six hours, not six months, over the next six days, not six months, to see firsthand in certain situations.

My good friend, the member for Halifax Atlantic, brought a situation to our attention yesterday at J.L. Ilsley High School. This is the perfect opportunity to make sure that over the next six months the Minister of Environment and Labour show his good faith, that he has demonstrated to me personally, take the opportunity to get out there and meet with some of the very people I have just mentioned, some of the students, and more particularly some of the custodians who have these concerns about their clean, safe schools because they have ownership of those issues. They want to go back to work and they want to make sure that the schools they are responsible for are as clean and as professionally kept as possible.

There are tourist operators who would love to meet with the Minister of Tourism and Culture. There are small inns across my constituency, I think particularly of the Pikes, the owners of the Anchors Gate in Bayside. What a wonderful opportunity over the next six months for the Minister of Tourism to drop in - and I would love to have him drop in - to the Anchors Gate and sit down in the kitchen of that wonderful bed and breakfast and listen to tourism operators, so the concerns that they have firsthand knowledge of could be brought to the attention of the minister.

I think it would be absolutely wonderful if there would be community activists such as Cynthia Pothier in Haliburton Hills, such as Eddie and Pauline Andrews, such as Linda Keddy, would have an opportunity to talk to the ministers about their concerns about paving, about recreation, about concerns that they want, the decision makers. That's the impression that Nova Scotians have, that members make decisions. They want to have the opportunity to talk to the decision-makers and to have the decision-makers listen to them.

I think, particularly, it would be a wonderful opportunity for some of the councillors, I think of Gary Meade, one of the councillors in my constituency, and a member of the Lions Club; I think of Reg Rankin, one of the councillors in my constituency from Timberlea; I think of a school board member, Mike Flemming. Those people would love to have the opportunity during the next six months at any time, I am sure, to be able to sit down with - take your minister of choice. I think probably the minister they would love to meet with,

[Page 1830]

probably the two councillors would love to have the opportunity to sit down with the member who has the responsibility for this silly equalization idea, which hopefully he is listening to as Nova Scotians decide that municipal relations have to be conducted in a much better way than the way that it has been proposed. Those councillors, those school board members, they would love to have that opportunity to talk to these ministers.

You know it is not just the Cabinet Ministers during the next six months that people in the constituency of Timberlea-Prospect would like to have the opportunity to meet with. There is a member opposite that I know is popular in his own constituency because he has told this House many times how, when he first ran, he won by, I forget how many votes, and the next time he ran he won by how many hundreds of votes and now, when he stands in his place or if I can say, Mr. Speaker, when he is allowed to stand in his place, that member tells us, as he represents the beautiful Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, that member, in the riding of Timberlea-Prospect, would fill the St. Margarets Arena, and I am not talking about being on the ice with this member, I am talking about him being the member that the people of Timberlea-Prospect remember when he sat over here in Opposition and had his say.

He had his say about issues that meant a great deal to him. I know there are people in the constituency of Timberlea-Prospect who, over the next six months, would love to have an opportunity to listen to and, of course, speak to that member about some of the concerns such as fishing licences for seniors, not at a reduced price but free, who would love to have that member talk about the priorities for jobs, the priorities for planning when it comes to pavement. That member could fill the St. Margarets Arena, whether there is ice on the surface or whether he is in a community meeting.

I can see it on the sign that that particular member's name and I am not allowed to use members' names in the House for people who are here but I do know that member with the initials B.T. from beautiful downtown Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley would fill the St. Margarets Arena at any time over the next six months because people want to hear from that member what he thinks this government is all about and then that member, as a dutiful member of that caucus, that government caucus could bring back the concerns from the people of Timberlea-Prospect.

I am sure there would be people who would come from Sackville-Beaver Bank, I am sure there would be people who would come from Chester-St. Margaret's because when you are a marquee item that that member was, they would come because they could say, we can take it to that member. As a member of the caucus, on some night over the six months, maybe even a Sunday afternoon, after we come off the ice with a friendly skate, we could advertise that that member would be present, and at that time, over the next six months, he could have an opportunity to learn first-hand from the people of Timberlea-Prospect about their concerns. After all, he has much more experience, he has much more influence or does he have influence, because he is a government member. He has been in this Legislature

[Page 1831]

longer than this current member, and I know that many of the people in the constituency of Timberlea-Prospect think very highly of that member.

[2:30 p.m.]

There is another member over on that side who, at any time over the next six months, it would be very important for the member for Halifax Bedford Basin to make an appearance in Timberlea-Prospect because we, and I say we because of the new boundaries that are obviously going to be drawn up with this new school and the fact that Sir John A. Macdonald High School is overcrowded with portables in back of it, I think that at some time over the next six months, we could have the member for Halifax Bedford Basin and myself, although if she wishes, she could certainly meet with parents by herself at a school of her choice.

They would like to know at any time over the next six months, what time, you name it? We could make sure that there would be an opportunity to discuss the new boundaries, which are going to affect the riding of Timberlea-Prospect, it is going to affect Sir John A. Macdonald High School. The House Leader could look at it this way, that is a wonderful opportunity to allow some of the backbench members to get out there first-hand and hear from Nova Scotians, not just in their ridings, and I know we all have demands in our ridings, but I am just saying that it would be a popular attraction, if I am allowed to say that, a popular item if that member for Halifax Bedford Basin took the opportunity at some time over the next six months to come out into the riding of Timberlea-Prospect and meet with parents about the issue of the overcrowded Sir John A. Macdonald High School and the new school, which is going to be built on the North Commons in Halifax.

There are other members I could refer to. The member for Queens, for example. I have heard the member for Queens speak passionately about the Coffin Island Lighthouse. I think at some time over the next six months it would be a wonderful opportunity for the member for Queens to go down to Sandy Cove, which, of course, is trying to restore their lighthouse and make sure that they are going to keep it in the community's hands. The member for Queens, at an appropriate time would be able to consult with Nova Scotians, he would be able to consult with people other than the Coffin Island Lighthouse Preservation Society, he could come to that part of my constituency and have an opportunity, at a time of his choosing over the next six months. There are lots of members opposite who could benefit from listening to Nova Scotians, and that is the advantage of delaying this decision for six months, delaying this decision so there would be an opportunity.

Mr. Speaker, you are well aware of the fact, in your years and prior to that, I am aware of the fact that you were in municipal government, that there was and is a member opposite who was a member - a number of members over there - of the municipal government of the HRM. One member in particular, who, the other evening stood in his place during late debate and spoke passionately about topics that mean a great deal to him. It was great to hear him speak. But I want to know that member for Eastern Shore would be welcome in the

[Page 1832]

community of Lower Prospect, Terence Bay. You name the night. There is an ongoing problem in the communities from the Peggys Cove Light, excuse the expression, to the Terence Bay Gut - that is what it is called locally - and that would be a wonderful opportunity for that member to consult with people from outside of his constituency about the issue of non-resident ownership.

I know that member is concerned about that. In return for that consultation he would be able to take that concern through to the minister responsible for Voluntary Planning. In return, I could say to that member, I have much more to learn, about the non-resident issue. Some night over the next six months, you name the place, we will go to the community hall of your choice, somewhere in Musquodoboit Harbour, perhaps we can bring along the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley. There could be ice there, we could have another attraction. The attraction could be a hockey game featuring a couple of MLAs, and there could be a meeting about non-resident ownership hosted by the member for Eastern Shore with the member for Timberlea-Prospect present.

That seems to me to be what we should be all about as Nova Scotians, to consult, to listen, to make sure, not just the Cabinet and then that member for Eastern Shore could take the concerns and I could take the concerns that I hear from people from Jeddore, Oyster Pond, the concerns that they have about non-resident ownership.

Those are some of the backbenchers and I know I have neglected a few - I am sure the member for Preston would be a big draw, maybe in the community of Beechville, although I can't guarantee that. I am sure that the member for Yarmouth who is an expert on tenders, I know, would be a popular attraction at a road meeting on the Prospect Road and he could give us his expertise. He could listen to the people present and then he could bring that issue back to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works.

I want, if I may, to invite certain Cabinet Ministers over there over the next six months to take the opportunity to go into certain parts of my constituency and consult with Nova Scotians an listen to Nova Scotians. Let us have a look. I would like to invite the Minister of Natural Resources. Now there is a minister who has a reputation in his home community, in the Town of Amherst for being a good listener. That Minister of Natural Resources should take the opportunity to travel with me down to a wonderful community called Blind Bay. Blind Bay is one of those wonderful places where there are people who have moved into that community and they have established some lovely homes with private views of the water and all kinds of wonderful things that they have fit in very nicely with the community. Some night over the next six months, I can assure you that on the back deck of anyone in Blind Bay there would be people who would love to have the opportunity to talk to the Minister of Natural Resources about some of the proposals.

[Page 1833]

Let us look at an underwater power cable that is going out to Clark's Island. Let us look at the fact that there is going to be a new wharf built that is suddenly allowed to have 10 cars parked there. They are talking about the development of another island that is owned by Blind Bay Ventures, a company out of Westbury, New York. I think the Minister of Natural Resources knows where I am going with this because they would love to have the opportunity to be able to express some of their reservations about another island that has slipped out of our control. That minister would learn something over the next six months. At a time of his choosing, the people in Blind Bay would love to have the opportunity to talk to that minister and listen to that minister, of course, as he consults with Nova Scotians, as we go through this six month time as this particular piece of legislation should be hoisted. It should be delayed, it should be out of here so that we can consult with Nova Scotians about some of the decisions that this government, unfortunately, is in such a big hurry to make.

I think particularly, the Minister of Tourism should be a popular - and I keep coming back to this - attraction in Peggy's Cove. As we well know, there is no more photographed lighthouse anywhere on the Eastern Seaboard from Florida to Labrador than the Peggy's Cove Light and I want members to know that again this year, because of the decision of that minister, there will be no rock patrollers at Peggy's Cove. There will be thousands upon thousands of people visiting there and they will be warned by a number of small, plywood signs. That minister could learn much by coming to a community meeting at one of the churches in Peggy's Cove and he would have an opportunity to learn first-hand and he would have probably some of the young rock patrollers, university students who have used this as a summer job. It would be vitally important if that minister could come to the community of Peggy's Cove to learn first-hand - at a time of his choice, over the next six months - where he could consult and listen to the concerns of residents of that area about those dangerous rocks at Peggy's Cove.

I want to invite the Minister of Economic Development. The Minister of Economic Development is looking for things to do these days. He has a lot of time on his hands over the next six months. Over the next six months, the Minister of Economic Development could go to Terence Bay where he could meet with the coastal co-operative group that is led very effectively by a past student of mine who held, at one time, this position, who was a previous member of the Liberal caucus before the people of Timberlea-Prospect decided to choose another MLA. I am sure that Bruce Holland would love to have the opportunity to meet with the Minister of Economic Development, to be able to sit and discuss the plans for that coastal co-operative and to look at the changes that they have proposed for that Terence Bay fish plant. That member, he would learn, at an appropriate time over the next six months, how important that particular project could be to the community of Terence Bay. I am pointing out certain Cabinet Ministers and I have talked to certain backbenchers, and I don't want to neglect anyone in particular.

[Page 1834]

The real important issue that would be of major concern over the next six days would be if the Education Minister could take it upon herself to come to the community of Beechville-Lakeside-Timberlea at any time over the next six months - but over the next six days preferably - and talk about the continuing problem of trying to get access to what we call a school field. Now, it is not much of a school field, because the students aren't allowed in the field. Now, could you think about that, Mr. Speaker? Think about teaching physical education this time of the year, with the terrible winter we have had this year. You get them out - the students that is - once in a while you get out and play a little three-on-three basketball. Perhaps if you are lucky you can do some cross-country skiing, but you can't go on the school field.

Why? Because the P3 developer, who is more concerned about cutting corners, who is more concerned about the bottom line, that P3 developer didn't build that field up to spec. He didn't sod it as the community wanted; it wasn't sodded, it was hydro-seeded. Now we, as a community, supposedly should have access to that field, yet it is impossible that that field will be ready. There are no posts on it, there are no nets on it.

Mr. Speaker, I bet you could tell me - and I know we can't bet in this House - I know you paid attention during Question Period today and you know what is on that school field. There is an abandoned refrigerator on that school field. That minister, at any time over the next six days, not six months - it would be a wonderful opportunity - and there are no picket lines to cross because it is a private school operation - for that minister to meet with people such as Derek Cann, who is the chairman of the school advisory council, to meet with people such as Stephen Alt, who is heavily involved in soccer.

We need every community field we can get our hands on over the next six months, because they will still be playing soccer in October, they will still be out there looking for a place to play, and the communities of Beechville-Lakeside-Timberlea, we - the kids, the young people in that community - cannot use that school field. That is a shame. Over the next six days I want that minister to take the opportunity to get hold of Derek Cann, to sit in Derek Cann's kitchen and listen to him.

If the six months' hoist was accepted - as many members over there are saying, he might have a point - it would be an important issue to get to listen to. The member for Eastern Shore knows that there would be an important night over the six months and the member for beautiful Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley knows it. I am not saying that we are charging any admission, heaven forbid - we will cover the rent one way or another at these community halls - but I do know that it would be a wonderful opportunity over the next six months for members there to consult with Nova Scotians.

In return for those visits, I will assure you, Mr. Speaker - and I hope you know I am a man of my word - I would visit communities in other parts of this province. I would love to be able to sit down with some of the young people in Stewiacke - not that I have all the

[Page 1835]

answers for sure - and I know that is a very, very important topic. I would love to have the opportunity to go to other parts of this province, and over the next six months I could have the opportunity to do that; I give you that commitment. The member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley knows that that would be a wonderful opportunity for not just him to learn more about particular items over the next six months, but I in turn could learn of other items, as could from the member for Eastern Shore.

[2:45 p.m.]

There are other Cabinet Ministers, of course, that I have neglected, and that is unfortunate. I haven't mentioned them all and I know that some of them are probably hurt because they think I am going to give them a night off over the next six months. The Minister of Community Services, I am sure there are people who work in the office where I work, in Lakeside, where my constituency office is, I am sure that if it was advertised in the local press that the Minister of Community Services would be available a certain night over the next six months to be able to talk about issues so that people who have concerns about personal cases, they would love to be able to speak directly to the Minister of Community Services and, in turn, that particular minister could have the opportunity to listen to Nova Scotians about his points of view and what he is going to listen to, the concerns, of course, of Nova Scotians.

The concern comes down to strategy, Mr. Speaker. This government's strategy is to take the voters of Nova Scotia for granted. Is it to take seniors for granted? Is it to take young people for granted? We can't have that because there is a growing frustration - I think you are aware of that - by people on the street today, by people in our classrooms, by seniors in senior citizens' homes who throw up their hands in dismay and say, what is the use? I have young people that consult me or they ask me to go to their graduations or to speak to their classes and, in return, they constantly come back, what are you doing in there, sir, as they still call me in the school system? You are wasting your time. No one is listening. They say that to me as a member of the Opposition. I think, over the next six months, it would be a wonderful opportunity for those members opposite to show that we are listening and we are going to do things that are right for Nova Scotians.

This divide and conquer mentality is not the way to go. This divide and conquer mentality, when it involves postcards or putting down one region, having the HRM going to - shall we say - war, with another part of the province. That is not the way. If that is the strategy of this government, no wonder Nova Scotians are frustrated. No wonder they are upset and some of them, as we have heard here over the last couple of demonstrations, are angry. I challenge those members opposite, because I know there are some excellent members over there who are well received in their constituencies. It is important that over the next six months that public relations from government members could be so much more improved if, over the next six months, some of those Cabinet Ministers that I mentioned, hopefully all of those backbenchers, would have an opportunity over the next six months to

[Page 1836]

be able to go to those destinations alone in Timberlea-Prospect and demonstrate to those people that this is a wonderful opportunity to be able to consult and to listen to Nova Scotians, to truly listen to them about a piece of legislation that they have concerns about. That is, after all, the advantage of delaying this legislation.

Who would be some of these people who have these concerns? One of them is custodians, Mr, Speaker, and scab legislation. I know that is a term that causes some concern when young children have to ask, why is Mr. Harrie, why is Mr. Morrone out there on the picket line? Then they see that badge which we, of course, are not allowed to wear, but I have one here in my pocket. I know I am not allowed props and if I read from it, I will have to table it, but is says, no scabs in our schools. Now there is a concern that Nova Scotians, the people I represent from Timberlea-Prospect, would love to have an opportunity to speak out about - no scabs in our schools.

I know the member for Eastern Shore has been contacted by custodians in his area. I think it would be a wonderful opportunity, at some time over the next six months, that we take the Minister of Labour and Environment and the minister for Eastern Shore, not the minister yet, right. You keep making those late debate speeches like that and you never now. That is the member that I remembered when he was a good member of the Halifax Regional Municipality Council. You take those two members opposite and we talk about scab legislation, at a place of their choice, over the next six months and I will assure you, we will fill a school gym. No, we won't go into a school gym because we would have to cross a picket line. We would fill a community hall, we would fill a church hall on that topic. Talk about the need for scab legislation. Now there is a government that should take up that challenge, and after listening to Nova Scotians at some time over the next six months, maybe with the consultation of the member for Eastern Shore and the member for Timberlea-Prospect, the Minister of Environment and Labour would say, yes, they have a point. I heard what they said that day when we were in St. Timothy's Anglican Church in Hatchett Lake or when we were in the daycare in Hacketts Cove.

There are other issues, too, that Nova Scotians want to make sure that they have their say on, not just a matter of scab legislation but the idea that we have a Premier who is campaigning across this country in a Campaign for Fairness. There would be nothing fairer, there would be nothing more transparent and open, if that Premier and any of his members would take the opportunity over the next six months to be able to come into certain parts of this province that aren't necessarily held by government members.

I understand we all have our commitments and we have to make sure that we speak out for our constituents but I am making the case here for a number of meetings and if you look at the 52 members who are present here, I am aware of the fact, of course, that we can't ask the Premier to give every night up between now and October 23rd which is the six months' hoist which was initially introduced April 23rd. Do you know that over that six month period, I am sure the Premier, I am sure the Minister of Economic Development, I am sure

[Page 1837]

the Minister of Natural Resources, the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, I am sure that they would give up a few hours on certain nights, they would give up the opportunity to be able to listen to Nova Scotians about the importance of having an opportunity to consult with them. It is over that six month period that that would happen.

You know, seniors in seniors' homes, and I have a number of seniors' homes, would love to have the opportunity, I visit those seniors' homes. Perhaps members opposite could say well, they only listen to you. Well, that is not the point. The point is, Mr. Speaker, if members opposite want to talk and listen, particularly listen, because as legislators, I don't think at times we do enough listening, if they would listen to some of the people in the seniors' homes in Timberlea-Prospect, that would be a wonderful opportunity for those seniors to say, guess who was here today. The member for Dartmouth South and the member for Timberlea-Prospect came and asked me what I thought about a particular bill that they have hoisted from the Legislature, that they have delayed for six months because they wanted to consult with me.

That senior citizen would think that was a wonderful idea, to consult, to listen and hope the member for Dartmouth South would do that because in return, I would give my commitment, as I gave earlier to the member for the beautiful Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, I would give the same commitment that over the next six months I would go into the constituency of Dartmouth South, at an appropriate spot and I would like to talk about an issue, maybe of school closure or an issue of concern, when it comes to seniors, with that member. That would be an important time for me, as the member for Timberlea-Prospect, to broaden my horizons, to look at other issues outside of my constituency.

Let's face it, as legislators, we all have to grow - and I am not talking about physically - Heaven forbid if I grow any more that way. I am talking about growing mentally. I am talking about expanding my horizons as a legislator so I can be aware of more of the other needs in this community. I know that there are members of our caucus who would accept this challenge. For every meeting that a member opposite over the next six months comes into our constituencies, in turn, we will match it and we will go to your particular constituency on a night of your choice at a location of your choice, where we would have an opportunity to listen to your constituents about their concerns.

Now whether you are a member of the Third Party or a member of the Tories or if you are a New Democrat, we all know we hear concerns and we should share those concerns. I think that Nova Scotians would be much more open minded if they looked and said, do you know that I had a government member here and I had an Opposition member here. Now I can't speak for the members of the Third Party. I don't know whether they would be willing to do this.

[Page 1838]

Perhaps. Actually, I have heard the member for Dartmouth North urge this before. Voluntary Planning has a great example, and I compliment Voluntary Planning for it. If you remember some of the locations for the Voluntary Planning meetings, they were all across this province. They are doing these meetings, incidentally, Mr. Speaker, by the middle of May. So you can imagine that if we had six months to do these meetings, what an opportunity it would be. I will tell you that this member for Dartmouth North, this member for Timberlea-Prospect, maybe the member for Eastern Shore, maybe the member for Halifax Bedford Basin, I think it is important over the next six months, if we have these meetings in various places, that we have to have a Cabinet Minister there. I think that is vital. That might take some organization and planning, but I am sure that the House Leader opposite would say, if I am going to have the St. Margarets Arena filled tonight and at the St. Margaret's Arena the topic is going to be, not debated, there is going to be a listening audience who wants to make sure they are going to hear from certain members, members of the New Democratic Party, members of the government, hopefully, members of the Third Party, there has to be a Cabinet Minister there.

Mr. Speaker, that would be a wonderful way to consult Nova Scotians. I think Voluntary Planning could put that together rather quickly. Voluntary Planning has the expertise and they could accept this challenge so you can say, well, this six months' hoist is going to delay some of the important decisions. These important decisions have to be correct decisions. They have to be correct decisions based upon input from Nova Scotians. They have to be based upon the fact that Nova Scotians, from one end of this province to the other, have to be consulted. I think it would be particularly important that members opposite take the opportunity to visit certain constituencies, such as the constituency of the member for Cape Breton East. I do know that the member for Cape Breton Centre would welcome ministers and would welcome backbenchers and would, of course - well, I would love to go back to New Waterford, that wonderful town and it's strong sports history, to have an opportunity, at some time over the next six months to listen to their concerns. The people of New Waterford - and they have a spokesman and an able one in this House, he stands up and speaks for them - want to know, are they listening; they ask that member for Cape Breton, New Waterford, are they listening? It is over the next six months that those members opposite could have a real opportunity to demonstrate to the people of New Waterford, to demonstrate to the people of Terence Bay, to demonstrate to the people down in Richmond that they are listening and that there would be an opportunity for them to consult with Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, I, as usual, didn't accept the advice of my doctor who said that the next time I am on my feet I shouldn't speak at length and I shouldn't allow my blood pressure to go over the top, because when you do have an eye transplant and you have a scrape job, that is what it is called, for various reasons - I think I have made my point. I think that I have pointed out the need to consult. I am going to follow my doctor's advice and make sure that the next time the member for beautiful Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley and I are on the ice,

[Page 1839]

he will realize, I now know why he can't pick up a puck on that side, because he can't see out of that eye.

Members opposite, I thank you for your time. I thank you for the geography lesson, but I will ask questions later. Thank you.

MR. [DEPUTY] SPEAKER: My comment is that the honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect is underestimating his ability on the ice.

The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, I am curious to have seen what we would have gotten from the member for Timberlea-Prospect had he not had the warning from the doctor, but, certainly, I want to commend him for, once again, raising the concerns of his constituents in Timberlea-Prospect and trying to get the attention of the government members in that regard. Certainly, it is unfortunate he had to cut short his remarks, but he brought us quite a long way into this important debate.

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure and an honour to rise and speak on the hoist amendment to Bill No. 30, a bill which has a serious impact on the constituents I represent in Richmond County. As you know, Mr. Speaker, I have raised some of the concerns of the good people of Richmond a couple of times on the floor of this House to try to get this government to make the necessary changes and to address the issues which concern the people of Richmond County the most.

[3:00 p.m.]

I have to tell you, Mr. Speaker, Bill No. 30 is going to have a very serious negative impact on the people I represent. I can tell you, although the budget has passed the House, because there was numerically no way for us to stop its passage, it is certainly not supported by the people I represent and they have made that quite clear to me. I can tell you that the Financial Measures (2001) Bill, the legislation which will allow many of the user fees and many of the taxing measures in the budget, is also not supported by the people of Richmond County.

Mr. Speaker, as I speak it saddens me, it really does because I have raised it a number of times here in this House and unfortunately it doesn't appear to be getting anywhere, but as I speak, the Strait-Richmond Hospital still does not have daytime coverage in the emergency room. I have spoken a number of times on the importance of the minister putting more resources and more effort in the area of physician recruitment for this province but clearly, the minister has not done that. In fact, he has claimed that having more resources in that would not have a positive effect. That is unfortunate because clearly the process that they are employing now is not working. The six months' hoist would give an opportunity for the

[Page 1840]

minister, hopefully his colleagues, the MLA for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury, and his colleague in Cabinet, the MLA for Inverness - the honourable Minister of Tourism and Culture- more time to try to emphasize to this minister, to this government, the essential importance of having coverage at this hospital.

Mr. Speaker, as I stand here today, while I have not done the official count, and it saddens me to have to do it, we are now approaching approximately 120 days that the people of the Strait area have gone without emergency coverage at that hospital.

Mr. Speaker, you are familiar with Richmond County, you know how important that institution is. We have Stora Forest Industries, which at the plant itself, employs almost 800 people; 800 people working in a pulp mill and their local hospital doesn't have a daytime emergency doctor. It is atrocious. Thank God that nothing has happened, seriously, that someone may have lost their life or may have suffered serious harm because of the fact that there is no physician at that institution.

We also have Statia Terminals, which you are familiar with, Mr. Speaker, a tank farm. It has several employees. They are holding there liquids of all sorts of forms - gas, petroleum products and everything. There is always potential when you are dealing with that for danger and a possible accident. We are very pleased with their safety record but still to think they have Statia Terminals there. On top of that, we have the Nova Scotia Power generating station, providing high intense heat and burning coal at that plant. Again, I believe there are over 70 employees who work at that facility, yet their local hospital doesn't have a doctor to cover them in the daytime for an emergency.

It is an absolute disgrace, it really is, Mr. Speaker, and I am not saying it is an easy task because I have spoken many times and you, having been here while we were in government, will recall we faced this situation back in 1998 but we dealt with it. To tell this House, when the minister says he can't get a doctor at a hospital? Really, one has to ask how much effort is going into it. It is with interest, I noted in the paper of Tuesday, April 24th, the headline in the local Reporter says, MLA Deflects Doctor Shortage Criticism. It says, "Efforts underway to replace departing Inverness physicians."

As if things couldn't get worse for the MLA for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury and the MLA for Inverness, now they are losing two doctors in Inverness, another community which will be faced with a serious doctor shortage. Yet, the rookie Tory Minister of Tourism and Culture says, "I am very confident that the Health Minister is taking this issue very seriously." I would invite him to come down to Richmond County and to share that with my constituents or maybe even go to the Strait-Richmond Hospital and share that with the staff there, the board and the physician recruitment committee because they have an awfully hard time believing that.

[Page 1841]

He goes on to say that we are looking at the same process at the Strait-Richmond Hospital. I have met with the Chief of Staff, Dr. Ben Boucher, and it is clear that these things are going to take some time. Mr. Speaker, if they used the same process to recruit physicians to Inverness that they have used at the Strait-Richmond Hospital, then God help the people of Inverness as to how long it is going to take them to be able to get a replacement for those two physicians.

Mr. Speaker, it is extremely unfortunate, and one hopes that with the six months' hoist amendment that the Minister of Health won't have to focus so much on Bill No. 30, the Financial Measures (2001) Act, and he can actually focus on physician recruitment and make sure that residents throughout this province have the adequate medical services, which they deserve.

Mr. Speaker, one of the items that this government is proposing, which affects them greatly, in which I think the six months' hoist might help them with is the proposal to charge people $50 a day to stay in a hospital once a doctor decides they should be discharged. So, in keeping with the theme of the Strait-Richmond Hospital, I think it is perfect to explain why the residents of the Strait area and in Richmond County are outraged at this very suggestion, because, in fact, as the Health Minister is very much aware, the Richmond Villa, which is a long-term nursing care facility, is currently under a fire marshal's order not to allow any new admission to that villa until a number of changes are made. That order has been in effect since last fall: no new admissions to the villa. So even if someone passes away or they are transferred to another villa, when that bed becomes open they can't fill it. The municipality is not permitted to fill it.

So, Mr. Speaker, what do you tell the family members who have a loved one sitting at the Strait-Richmond Hospital who, needs medical attention, possibly not in a hospital setting, but needs 24-hour medical attention. When they say, well, okay, your loved one no longer needs hospital care, we are going to discharge them, that family is clearly going to say there is nowhere for them to go, the Richmond Villa is not admitting any new clients. So they have to stay in the hospital. Then, what is the government going to say? Well, $50 a day is what it is going to cost you until you can get them out of this hospital.

This whole concept is so void of any logic, of any compassion, of any caring for the families and for Nova Scotians who end up needing our medical facilities throughout this province. People are outraged at the mere suggestion. Mr. Speaker, you know yourself, people do not mind paying their taxes, they will pay their taxes, sometimes they will grumble about the amount of taxes they pay, but they believe that they should get the basic services as a result of the taxes they pay. Yet, this government is now saying they want to charge them $50 a day to keep them in hospitals when it is not the family's fault. In Richmond County, that is what is going to happen, because they will have nowhere to put them. It won't be by choice that they want to keep them in the hospital, they can't actually send them to the villa to put them in there.

[Page 1842]

Now, I have to say, Mr. Speaker, I am pleased that the Minister of Health is taking the issue at the Richmond Villa seriously. He has appointed a staff person, I believe Mr. Jim Baker is his name, to work with the local community to address the concerns and the need to build a new villa. But that process, and the minister must have known that this $50 fee was coming in, he must have known that it was being proposed. So when he heard that there was a problem at the villa, one would have thought he would have said to his staff that we have to address this immediately so that with this $50 fee coming in the good people of Richmond will not be adversely affected by it, that the Richmond Villa is up and running, that they are at maximum capacity and there are beds open for people who need them after they have been hospitalized but instead they dragged their feet.

We met, I believe it was in January and finally they decided they were going to appoint a staff person and we are going to get the ball rolling. I believe it was either in September or October of last year that the fire marshal put his order in to not allow any new admissions. You have to ask yourself, Mr. Speaker, if the minister knew this was coming, why did he drag his feet as long as he did, and why is he not moving at a faster pace to make sure that a new villa is built? Ironically, that is what the community is waiting to hear from the minister and he has been extremely careful in his words because he has yet to commit to building a new villa in Richmond County. We all know that the existing facility is not salvageable and is not going to be able to stay in the community for the long term, yet, the minister refuses to clearly state there will be a new villa built in Richmond County.

Mr. Speaker, the community has worked this his department, they have worked with Mr. Baker, they are going to continue to follow that process, but the clock is ticking and people want a commitment from this government that a new villa is going to built and that it is going to be built immediately. How can this government stand here and say that they are going to charge people $50 a day to stay in hospitals when they should be in long-term care facilities if they are not committing to building more long-term care facilities? If people are staying in hospitals for too long, it is because they have nowhere to go.

It is not rocket science for this government to have figured out that there is a shortage of long-term care beds in this province. That is a serious impediment to our health care system. This six months' hoist would allow this government more time to address that, possibly even to rejig their Financial Measures (2001) Bill. Today the Premier said, look, these Liberals, one day they are telling us we are spending too much, the next day they are telling us to spend more. We are not saying spend more, we are saying, better manage what you have and establish priorities of where spending should take place.

That is what our message has been, that is what I believe Nova Scotians have accepted, that this government had a choice, they could have better managed the books, they could have eliminated the yearly deficit this year had they wanted to by properly spending money in the proper areas. Instead, they chose not to do that, $91 million gets added to our debt once again. How ironic, and what a great message to send to the university students today, hearing

[Page 1843]

that their tuition is going up. This wonderful government of ours, who received $0.25 billion is still going to run a $91 million deficit this year.

What a wonderful future you have to look forward to, because after your student loan has killed you for 15 years after you graduate or 20 years after you graduate, you have the provincial debt to look after. Here is our contribution to you, instead of balancing the books this year, we are going to put another $91 million on your debt, but you are the future of our province and you are going to turn things around for us. Well, well, what an ironic message, to say the least.

Asked today what she would do to try to get tuition under control, to try to get this government to see that this province will never develop itself economically and be able to be prosperous unless we have an educated workforce, unless we allow our highly-talented children, from one end of this province to the next, to get post-secondary education and to be able to allow us to share new ideas to build up this economy and to build our province and to have a prosperous future - don't talk about economic development, tax cuts or anything else when you are completely closing your eyes and shutting your ears when it comes to the issue of tuition.

A student starting university this year, let's say for example wanting to go to law school, minimum it is going to be six years, three years undergrad, three years of law school. That student today is looking at a student loan of anywhere between $40,000 to $60,000, and that is being conservative, something I am not often. If you are looking at your economy, who are the people who spend, who are your spenders? It is not your retired people, they are not spending, they are spending a little bit, but they are being quite careful, they are on fixed incomes. What population or what age group are you looking for to spend money to grow our economy? Mr. Speaker, I would submit to you that it is that 18 to 35 years of age, that is the age group you are looking at. There are your movers and shakers. They are the people who want to buy a new car, they are the people who want to buy a house, they are the people who might want to buy a cottage or buy a trailer or go camping or go on vacation. You can't do that when you are working for $8.00 an hour at a call centre and you owe $40,000 in student loans. You don't buy a car, you don't buy a house, you don't go on vacation. You can hardly make ends meet.

Mr. Speaker, when I stand here and I say that I say it in all sincerity. I have said it many times before. I graduated from university owing $35,000, and at that I was lucky to have the support that I had from my parents. That was back in 1997, $35,000. Today's student who is walking out, who is starting off is looking at $40,000 to $60,000, possibly even $70,000. You don't buy a car when you owe $70,000, coming out of school. You don't buy a house. You don't go on vacation. You don't go travelling to see Peggy's Cove, as the honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect says so many Nova Scotians and tourists do. You don't have the money to do that. Yet if this government just stopped for a minute and said, what can we possibly do to remove that debt burden on those students so when they graduate they are

[Page 1844]

going to buy a car, they are going to build a house, they are going to go on vacation. They are going to buy TVs, they are going buy stereos, they are going to do all of that. There is your age group, yet instead the minister closes her eyes, shuts her ears, see no evil, hear no evil, I don't know if I would say talk no evil but really, it is a sad opportunity.

[3:15 p.m.]

I can tell you today, the Premier says, we have a plan for debt reduction that we are going to announce. Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotian students will not be fooled by that because the Minister of Education has already told us that that plan will only be half, if not less, of the previous Loan Remission Program which was put in place by the Liberal Government. So I am serving notice now, no one will be fooled if the minister and the Premier think they can trumpet this out and that it is going to be a wonderful thing and students are going to praise them, it is not going to happen.

Today, the Minister of Education stands up and says, a university president congratulated us today when being asked about the rising tuition costs. Rather than addressing the issue of tuition with students who are now wondering whether they should even go to university, whether they can afford it, she says that the $15 million research money, what a wonderful government and that is going to make everything better for students today.

Mr. Speaker, it clearly isn't. It is another example of how this minister does not want to deal with the issues today. She gets extremely testy when she is asked to address the issues of today and she would rather that we not ask her any questions. I can assure you there are many more questions coming. If she thinks that the issue of rising tuition is something which is not going to come back to haunt her because of her refusal to address it, I can assure her there will be no one in the student groups. She may have said a university president congratulated her, it was on a whole different issue, not on the issue of tuition or on student loans. We will see how many student groups line up to congratulate this minister.

Mr. Speaker, Bill No. 30, in all of its unfounded wisdom, is a bill which is clearly going to hurt Nova Scotians from one end of this province to the next. This government, which has been so big on dividing this province, one region against the next, I actually have to congratulate them because with Bill No. 30 they have found a way to stick it to every single Nova Scotian from one end of this province to the next, in one way or the other. So rather than dividing up and picking on certain groups or picking on certain areas, they have really hit a home run this time because they are sticking it to everyone. That is what Bill No. 30 is doing and that is why the six months' hoist will give them an opportunity to review this bill and to see exactly, let the backbenchers go back to their ridings and explain to them what is the wisdom?

[Page 1845]

What is the logic behind putting a $20 charge on the Child Abuse Register? What is the logic? My God. That register is there to try to make sure that employers and organizations do their best, that the people who they hire are not already on that Child Abuse Register, to protect our children. This government should be encouraging people to use this register as much as possible, to protect our children. Instead, we are going to charge you $20. You know what the result is when that happens, Mr. Speaker, you have spoken on user fees enough in your time. I remember how upset you were when the RRFB was formed. You said if you put a tax on tires and if you put a tax on pop cans, illegal dumps, that is where it is going. People aren't going to pay it, people aren't going to dispose of it, tipping fees. Nobody is going to the dumps anymore. You said that yourself, Mr. Speaker. You spoke quite eloquently. What do you think putting a $20 surcharge on the Child Abuse Register is going to have as an impact? People are going to say, hey, $20, we are hiring six kids this summer, that is $120. There must be some other areas where we can use that money, we don't really have that much funding.

Will this government, when they are approving their PEP grants, will they add an extra $20 onto grants to give these organizations so that they can use the Child Abuse Register? No, that is not going to happen. When you hear this government talking about our children, their investment in our children, their ideas for our children, how pathetic it all sounds when you see this kind of a charge.

How much revenue are they going to raise? Is this what is going to balance the books, is that what is going to bring our province out of the hole? What is it - $70,000 they are going to raise? That doesn't even cover the salary of the Minister of Health's new information technology officer. That won't even pay for her, what they plan to raise with that Child Abuse Register; yet, as I said, from one end of this province to the next, here is one of the examples of where they are going to stick it to Nova Scotians on the Child Abuse Register. What a wonderful government they are. How proud when the member for Kings North can go back and say I am proud to be part of a government that put a user fee of $20 on the Child Abuse Register. Vote for me, I am part of this government. What a disgraceful thing.

I look forward to the member for Cape Breton North to go back to his riding and tell them thank you for electing me as a strong voice in the Hamm Government. I pushed and our government, because of my strong voice, is putting a $20 fee on the Child Abuse Register. This government has reached a new low. If they keep going as low as they are going, like the Minister of Education, they too might hit oil or natural gas if they keep going as low as they are going.

Unprecedented. Unprecedented to see a government do these kinds of things. So, $20 for a Child Abuse Register, we can all question the wisdom behind it, how much money it is going to raise. Then they turned around and they said, we have a new fine structure for tobacco smuggling. We want you to pay $20 to search the Child Abuse Register, but for smuggling, our first-time offence was a $10,000 fine. So, in keeping with the Minister of

[Page 1846]

Justice's get-tough stance on justice and criminal issues, he brings in a new fine structure under the guise of the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations of a first offence of $250, then the offence goes up a little bit - how in God's name do they expect Nova Scotians - they are asking them to pay $20 for a Child Abuse Register yet the fines for tobacco smuggling are being decreased. What is the logic in that? I look forward to seeing members of this government go back to their ridings and explain to them just how much sense this government really makes in this province.

This government had introduced this bill initially and then brought it back because of the changes they wanted to make to the increase in tax on tobacco and cigarettes. How ironic the Minister of Health - how many times has he told us that lifestyle is an issue, that is why our health care is in such a state because people don't lead healthy lives. So, what did he do? He said, I am going to ask for a comprehensive tobacco strategy to tell me what I can do to try to curb smoking here in this province. So, what does it say? It tells the minister put an $8.00 increase on a carton of cigarettes. Eight dollars. What does the minister do? He goes back to his Cabinet, speaks with his colleagues, the Minister of Finance gets up and says it won't be $8.00 it will be $4.00 and that is it. When we talk about this government having both a balance of health and spine, obviously in that case, the Minster of Health must have had more heart than spine when it came to that. Caved in. And, for Nova Scotians hearing all his platitudes about health styles and lifestyles and everything, then to see the Minister of Health when he had a chance as the minister to try to put an end or try to put a curb into this, he caved in and it is only going to be $4.00 now.

So, then, naturally, what do Nova Scotians ask? Where is that $4.00 going? Where are you going to spend that $4.00? What are you going to do? You hear the minister talking about teens that are starting to smoke at an early age, have to stop kids from smoking, got to stop older people from smoking. Where is that $4.00 in revenue going? Naturally, using a bit of logic, one would think that it is going into anti-smoking campaigns. It is going into funding this government's efforts to stop children who smoke, stop adults who smoke, stop seniors who smoke. One would think, naturally that that is where that money is going to go. We are talking about something here that is going to raise in the millions of dollars. Yet, ironically, the minister says, I am not sure, the Minister of Finance hasn't told me yet if I am going to get any of that money or not. Well, well, how effective a Minister of Health we have here in this province when he announces a $4.00 tax increase on tobacco and then can't even tell Nova Scotians where that money is going to go because the Minister of Finance hasn't shared it with him yet.

Mr. Speaker, we know where it is going. I think you know where it is going. It is going into general revenue. It is going into these little funds where the Minister of Education can tell boards I have no money for you, but once you have begged and pleaded with my deputy enough, he is going to throw a few bucks to you, because we found this mysterious money around. That's what they are going to do. That's how this government operates. There's no money, there's no money, let people suffer, let people have stress and then when they come

[Page 1847]

begging and pleading enough to this Tory Government, then they have a nice little handout to give.

I do believe, Mr. Speaker, the Deputy Minister of Education went down to the Cape Breton board, met with that board, and walked in and said look, I haven't got a cent to give you, not one, so let's get things straight, I haven't got a cent. He allowed those board members to go four hours, begging and pleading and doing everything they could and then at the end tell them, well, you begged, you pleaded enough, I have $900,000 to give you. That's a disgraceful way to govern in this province and it is no surprise coming from that deputy, he has made a career in politics of acting in that same fashion.

Imagine, to go down there and say to them for four hours, no money, no money, say anything you want there is no money and then, at the end, oh, by the way, Ha! Ha! Ha! I have $900,000 for you. That's what they are going to do with every other board, Mr. Speaker. They are going to wait, they are going to make them beg and make them plead, they are going to make them do everything they can and then, mysteriously, the Minister of Education is going to find a few dollars for them. What a disgraceful way to govern here in this province, especially when you see how school board members - and even to be a member itself takes something special because of the criticism you are faced with and the rewards in return many of us would question, but we are fortunate to have the dedicated men and women throughout this province who serve in those positions - the way that they are treated by this minister and by this government is absolutely disgraceful.

Last year they had the protests in the streets coming here to Province House, hollering, throwing things at Province House, kids leaving their classrooms, teachers coming after classes to try to reason with this minister. What did she do? Once they begged, once they pleaded enough, oh, my numbers were all wrong, silly me, there aren't that many teachers retiring, whoops, I am going to give you back the money. So, once again when it comes to heart and spine, I am not going to say they have heart, but obviously the spine aspect seems to be a little bit missing in that regard.

This year, once again, they come in, get tough, they are going to give a bit of money to the boards, nothing close to what they took away last year and what they cut and now one by one the boards will be asked to come, asked to meet with his holiness, the Deputy Minister of Education, have to plead and beg for more money and then he, in his imperial way, will suddenly find money for them. What a way to run an education system.

Then we wonder, Mr. Speaker, why students don't vote, why students are apathetic when it comes to government and to our whole political system. They wonder why, where does this come from? Well, my God, if you want to see the reason, look in the mirror and you will see why this apathy exists out there with the way you are trying to run our education system here in this province. Absolutely disgraceful.

[Page 1848]

Six months would give them time to sit down and look at how they have done their budget and try to better manage the money and to spend it in more appropriate departments. It would give time to the Minister of Environment and Labour to review the licence fee credit program.

AN HON. MEMBER: There's no minister there.

MR. SAMSON: One of my colleagues says there's no minister there. He has forced us to question that on a number of occasions. I am starting to think that he is the Premier's best trump over there (Laughter) A few people have questioned whether that is the case or not, but it is unprecedented, Mr. Speaker, to see a Minister of the Crown refuse to accept responsibility for anything in his portfolio.

[3:30 p.m.]

I can think of a few hockey players who were very good and they weren't that good at scoring, but they were always high in the points because they were good on assists. That is the only thing this minister can hope, that history books will show him as being good on assists because he is really good at passing the puck over to someone else, never answering it himself. It is unprecedented. If it happened once, okay. It was a bad day. If it happened twice, that is stretching it. This has been ever since the man has been a minister, unforseen.

It is unfortunate that we didn't have more time to do his budget estimates because I know as a former Minister of the Environment, they have gutted that department from one end to the next. In good time, Mr. Speaker, we will ferret out everything they have cut. We are learning day by day and Nova Scotians will learn, especially the environmental groups around this province, the people who work on stream enhancement, riverbank enhancement, trying to fix our streams and waterways in this province, those who try to work with the Nova Scotia Youth Conservation Corps and to try to make our province a better place environmentally.

These people are wonderful people. It is really a tribute. When you want to see what it is to be a Nova Scotian, see what these organizations are doing. What little funding they got, what did this government do? They just kicked them as hard as they could and said now, you don't get any money from us anymore. That funding is gone. There is no money left available for them. It is incredible how this government will continue to throw user fees here and there and what little funding was available for these organizations, they have managed to eliminate. They won't even go forward and tell these organizations face to face what they have done. They hide it in their budget. It is up to the Opposition to be able to indicate to them exactly what this government is doing to them.

[Page 1849]

Six months would provide them with time to be able to review what they are doing. I can tell you right now, Mr. Speaker, the Opposition is going to do everything it can, and our caucus will certainly do everything it can. We might be small, but we are mighty. We are going to do everything we can to hold this government accountable on all of its legislation, on its budget and on the way it is treating Nova Scotians.

Another example, Mr. Speaker, the Premier talks about being open and accountable, the stress level that this government causes to Nova Scotians is incredible. I will give you an example. Last year it was the conservation officers with the Department of Natural Resources. The RCMP - once again, they blamed it on the RCMP - has come forward with a proposal. They waited and they waited while these hard-working men and women throughout this province, who have put their lives on the line, that is the best way to describe it, in their jobs. They are out in the woods trying to patrol people with high powered rifles and trying to stop deer-jacking and other illegal activities. They let them go for months not knowing if they were going to have a job. It took the Liberal caucus to continually hammer away at them until, finally, they admitted that they were not going to use the RCMP proposal.

Now what do they do? If that wasn't stressful enough and that wasn't enough of a bad idea, now the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations is going to see if the RCMP should do vehicle compliance in this province. Last year's budget, as you would remember, Mr. Speaker, they cut the vehicle compliance officers almost in half. This year, what few we have left to ensure safety in this province, now they are saying the RCMP want to do it. Here is to show you how open and accountable they are. When my colleague, the member for Cape Breton The Lakes, asked the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations where this idea came from, he stood in this House and said, the RCMP came forward and asked us if they could put in this proposal. For a government to take the word and the name and the honour of the RCMP and to mislead this House with false information, you can't get much lower than that. Because of the research of my colleague, the member for Cape Breton The Lakes, it was revealed that, in fact, it was the Deputy Minister of Justice who approached the RCMP and asked them if they would bring forward a proposal to do vehicle compliance in this province. It is shameful.

Now, those hard-working men and woman now have to go through the Tory routine of wait and see how long it is going to take before the Tories finally tell you, your job is safe. You go to work every day not knowing if it is an RCMP officer that is going to replace you. It is really shameful hauling the RCMP into this. It really is. We have a wonderful force here in this province and here in this country and to see a government that will use the RCMP as a scapegoat for its plots really is a new low, again, for this government to have hit.

Mr. Speaker, six months will give the Minister of Transportation and Public Works a chance to finally address the road situation here in this province. This is the same minister - I sometimes can't believe how he can drive back every night to his home riding knowing that he is the minister who said, during the campaign, I will twin Highway No. 101 with or

[Page 1850]

without government money. Everyone remembers that statement; without federal government money, with or without the feds, we are going to twin that highway. What does he say this year? His grand announcement after he was under pressure from the Opposition was, we have $5 million that we are going to put up and start the work. Then when he was asked, so you are spending $5 million this year? Whoa, I didn't say that. I will only spend as much as the federal government puts in. So if the federal government puts in $5.00, I will spend $5.00; if they put in $1 million, I will spend $1 million, but other than that, that money will not be spent. Nova Scotians are sick and tired of hearing this Tory Government talk about Highway No. 101 to see what they are doing.

I remember the Minister of Transportation and Public Works' colleagues, the former member for Kings North and the former member for Kings West, especially the member for Kings North. He would stand up in this House each time there was a fatality on that road - while we were in government - he would get up on a point of order and announce to the government that another fatality had occurred on Highway No. 101 because of their lack of addressing it.

We haven't stooped to that level, because that was disgraceful when that member did it, it really was. It was hitting a new low to hear him say that, to take that unfortunate case and turn it into a political thing, it really was. I can still see him, every day he would sit right here in the corner closest to the door, and every time there was a fatality he would look over at the Minister of Transportation and Public Works and say, Mr. Speaker, I just want to let the minister know that there has been another fatality, or a young child has been killed, or a senior has been killed; he did that. How many times did he do it? He would do it repeatedly, and while he was doing that he would have his colleague, the current Minister of Transportation and Public Works, sitting right next to him.

Now that that member is the Minister of Transportation and Public Works, what does he do? He plays games and he laughs. It is so sad and pathetic, Mr. Speaker, that our caucus has renamed him the minister responsible for landscaping, because that's all we hear from him when we talk about Highway No. 101. We don't hear about paving, we don't hear about pulverization, we don't hear about gravel; all we hear about is cutting trees, cutting the lawn and clearing the side of the road. So, naturally, that sounds more like someone responsible for landscaping in this province, than responsible for highways and public works. It is absolutely incredible.

I noted the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley during the campaign, how he spoke about roads. He said, it is our Party, when we are in government, who will take all revenue from fuel, oil, gas, vehicle registration, licence registration, all of that money will go towards road maintenance and new road construction in this province. What a promise.

[Page 1851]

If you look at the backbench, some of the members from the rural areas got elected on that one promise. They really did. That one ticket item got some of them elected; yet, my understanding the other day is, as we wrapped up estimates, this government indicated it has absolutely no intention of following through on that commitment. A six months' hoist of this bill will really give this government a chance to review what they have said and what they have done.

I remember, Mr. Speaker, last election I came up here during the campaign. I had some business to do up here in the campaign. I went to my apartment and as I opened the door here was this postcard on the floor of my apartment. I said, what could this be? Who is shoving postcards under the door of my apartment? Well, my, my, who was it from? Well, this lady who was running for the Tories in Halifax Citadel. Who was she, I didn't know, I had no idea. What did this postcard say. I turned it over and here it was, a picture of the Sydney Steel plant, a big x across it, and down below an empty hospital bed with a simple message: close Sysco, open beds.

I said, well, that is quite the interesting thing to say, and quite pompous for someone to say, living in downtown Halifax, to be encouraging her own residents to vote to close an industry in a certain part of this province and to open hospital beds. Well, she got one right, they did Sysco. She can just look over to her colleague next to her - the Minister of Education I am referring to if there is anyone watching or reading that might not know who I am referring to, I wouldn't want them to think it is the member for Halifax Bedford Basin or the member for Pictou West - I will clarify, the Minister of Education.

They have closed Sysco, they did that. Where are the hospital beds? I don't know where they are. They are not in Richmond County, they won't even send us a doctor down there, let alone hospital beds. We could have all the beds we want, we don't have a doctor; 120 days, no doctor. I haven't heard about any new beds at the QE II, the South Shore Hospital, the Yarmouth Hospital, hospitals in Cape Breton. I haven't seen any new beds.

Once again, say anything to get elected. That is the Tory way. Say whatever you have to, say whatever, it doesn't matter. Go for the gusto, say what you have to. It got her elected. It will be interesting to see what she puts on her postcard next election. I really look forward to seeing that postcard. It might even be nice if I am actually up here visiting in the city when she comes door to door with her postcards, rather than only being able to see them shoved underneath my door.

Mr. Speaker, that is what this government has done. We know, up in Antigonish, you remember that, red route/blue route. Do you remember that? What a battle. It divided that community right down the centre, as to where that highway should go. The Tory candidate said, it will be the blue route, I believe is what he said, it will be the blue route. Ironically it was blue. The one that would go right through Antigonish Town. He got elected on that. But whichever route he was talking about, it ends up this government decides to go with the other

[Page 1852]

route. They have their own members in Cabinet, yet one would think a strong voice in the Hamm Government, and the other route is chosen.

We haven't heard anything from them lately. I know a lot of people in Richmond County have been saying, well, they made an awful lot of racket about where the road would go, but we haven't heard a thing from them since about when they are going to build the bloody thing. There hasn't been a word from them yet. Hopefully, if they are actually going to start building that road, the funding formula will not be the same as what the Minister of Transportation and Public Works has proposed for Highway No. 101, which is where we will put up money but we won't spend it unless the feds come in, and we won't do anything.

Really, the six months would give them an opportunity and give the member for Antigonish, the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations to come back to the Strait area, who are looking to develop their economy, who are saying our transportation system is inadequate. Stora Forests Industries have spoken loud and clear to this government, Statia Terminals, Nova Scotia Power, they are saying we need a better road system or we are not going to be able to grow this area as we would like.

In that six months, that minister from Antigonish could come back and tell the people, here is when we are going to build that road, we are going to finish the highway, the twinning from New Glasgow, right up to the Canso Causeway. Not a word. He is under a lot of pressure, he is dealing with vehicle compliance and caving in to tobacco smuggling, and all those important issues, so I can see why he doesn't really have time right now to tell us when that road is going to be built or give us any indication.

Something tells me that the announcement for that road will come, I would say about a year and a half to two years from now, I think that will be around when there will be a big announcement on that road, another year and a half, two years. I think that is a close proximity. Vote Tory and we are going to build the road. That is what the message will be. I don't know if he will use a postcard, like the Minister of Education with her clever little postcard; maybe he will show, Vote Liberal and all trees, and then, Vote Tory, and the minister of landscaping will have actually cut down the trees. One can only wait to see if that is going to happen.

Mr. Speaker, the No. 4 Highway, going from St. Peters down to Sydney is woefully inadequate. I would go so far as to term that road a dangerous road. Would you believe - and I am sure you have travelled that road before - you go through a section just after Big Pond, you are up in the mountains and you are just zig-zagging, you can only go maybe 40 or 50. Next time you are on there, pay attention, because you know how the cliff falls, there is a guardrail there, well the guardrail is no longer there. Because of our snow this winter and because of pushing the snow, the guardrail fell down the bank. You know yourself that eighteen-wheelers use that road, heavy equipment uses that road and you know when you meet a car on those turns, you are just hoping that he or she is going to stay on their side of

[Page 1853]

the yellow line and not come on your side. It is touch and go. Now even the guardrail has disappeared.

[3:45 p.m.]

Again, if this government is serious about economic development, they have to take the six months and say to Nova Scotians, here is our plan for road construction. We are tired of hearing the minister talk about gravel and ditching. Those are important things, but that is not going to fix Highway No. 4. It is not going to fix the roads through the communities of Arichat or the Highway No. 4 that goes from the communities from Grande Anse to River Tillard, the community of River Bourgeois that waited and waited for this government to do something about that. It was unfortunate because our government had made a commitment to fixing that road and to start the work immediately and unfortunately, a certain incident on July 29, 1999 that put an abrupt end to those plans to address that for the people of River Bourgeois.

It is a quiet community, it is wonderful people down there, one of the most scenic communities you will ever find in Richmond County. They have the church. You kind of have the main road, then it goes down a dip. There are houses all along the side, down to the water, - home of Mike MacPhee, one of the greatest NHL players ever to come out of Nova Scotia, possibly even Canada - (Interruption) Yes, his father, Stan, wonderful man, wonderful family. One of the most beautiful places, the church is up on the hill, right up over the ocean, cemetery all around, lots of brooks in River Bourgeois, yes. They have waited and waited and this government has fallen silent on that.

They are now at the point where they are applying a fourth level of patching on the patches. Not only have they patched the patches, but now they have done it four times. It is unacceptable. If they expect rural Nova Scotia to be able to grow economically and contribute to the economy as they would want to, that six months would give them an opportunity to provide a comprehensive road strategy for this province and to do what they said they would do. They can't blame the Opposition and say well, this whole idea of using all the revenues from fuel taxes and licence registration, that is just the Opposition. No, no, Mr. Speaker, that is what is in this little book called the blue book.

The people in Richmond County are accustomed to seeing that blue book because I show it to them at every opportunity I get to show them what hypocrisy can be contained in such a small document. The amount of hypocrisy there is just incredible. It just goes to show this Party was willing to do and say anything it took to get elected.

The Minister of Health, as I said before, we have a doctor crisis and he stands up and he starts reading from a Maclean's article. How much more pathetic can you get than that? I told the minister, I said why don't you take your article and send it down to the Strait-Richmond Hospital and see if that can't help in the emergency room when someone comes

[Page 1854]

in as an emergency and show them your article and see if that can tell them what their prognosis is. Really. How much lower can you go?

Now, two doctors leaving Inverness and the Strait area is just a joke. We sent two voices to the John Hamm Government, a gentleman from Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury and the Minister of Tourism. And this is what is happening all around us and they are not doing anything? I think they all wish they had voted Liberal now. They almost did. The records will show that in those two ridings, the margin of victory is less than 500 votes. Put the two together, so it is very close. They didn't get a very strong mandate and I will tell you now, Mr. Speaker, and I can assure you that neither of those seats will be considered safe seats for the Tory Party going into the next election. In fact, the process is underway now to bring those seats back where they belong, into the Liberal Party of Nova Scotia.

What Bill No. 30 is doing is paving the way, not paving the roads, but it is literally paving the way to make sure that those two seats come back to the Liberal fold. Those residents said, we are going to flirt with the Tories, we are going to flirt and just test it out, but I will tell you now, you want to see roads, drive through Inverness. But I suggest you use a sport-utility vehicle and that your shocks are good. Incredible that that minister can be part of a government that has absolutely abandoned the people of Inverness and the roads that they have. Yes, we had a bad winter, but the roads were in hard shape. That minister said it is our government and our blue book. We will spend all of that revenue to fix the roads throughout Inverness.

What do we hear on the tenders? Little bridge here, little bridge there, surfacing here, surfacing there. The word pulverization, I don't think it exists in the Department of Transportation anymore. They are not tearing up any roads and rebuilding them, just a little surfacing on top is going to keep people happy for a couple of years, then once the frost hits it, that surfacing is gone. That is not meant for the long term. It is almost like patching. But at least he is getting some bridges fixed. My poor colleague here, the member for Victoria, can't even get a bridge to cross the river. Really. What point have we reached when a government says we are not going to replace infrastructure such as a bridge? Sticking it to rural Nova Scotia again.

Baddeck, Victoria County, the mountains, one of the most beautiful areas of this province, but I am sure Nova Scotians won't find it surprising, they are driving through Victoria, they are driving through Middle River and they come and say, oh look, they should put up a sign, the community should put it up, here was the site of the Church Bridge that the Tories said, no, not this year, we don't have enough money. In fact, I don't think the minister has made a commitment that they are ever going to put a new bridge there. He said, not this year, and I don't think he ever made a commitment that there will be a new bridge there.

[Page 1855]

Now the Tory policy is, when bridges collapse, we don't replace them. So, less infrastructure, less costs for us to maintain them; when bridges collapse, we will just ask people to drive around.

One can only hope that back in my community, Mr. Speaker, I can tell you that almost every bridge I can think of, if that bridge goes, there are going to be communities left out in the cold because there are no detours. One can only hope that the bridges in Richmond County, especially on Isle Madame, are going to be able to withstand the Tory neglect and not fall apart.

Mr. Speaker, six months would give this government a chance to review what they are doing to our justice system. You know yourself, Mr. Speaker, as a member of the Bar, this government - you saw the Minister of Justice during the campaign, we are going to get tough, those Liberals caved in to justice issues and we are going to get tough on home invasions, we are going to pursue the stiffest penalties that there are in the country. Then he gets into power, goes into his department, gives them the great big speech and they say, well, excuse me, Mr. Minister, we already have the stiffest penalties allowable by law here in Nova Scotia, compared to everyone else in the country. Oh, okay, but we have to address home invasions. How are we going to do it?

The minister, who is going to become the minister of K-Tel said, well let's make a home video and tell seniors how to lock their doors and lock their windows; it is their fault that they are having home invasions. Pay no attention to the fact that this raises a serious social issue with our youth because in many cases it is young offenders who are responsible for these home invasions. No, no, send the videos to the seniors on how to lock their doors. Once again, completely failing to address the issue at hand and to put steps in place to address this.

Mr. Speaker, when it came to tobacco smuggling, one case made this government cave in. They didn't even appeal it. One judge said he felt the fines were too high so this government said, we are going to cave in and lower the fines. On the other hand, they tell Nova Scotians, $20 for the Child Abuse Register; $50 a day to stay in a hospital bed is what they are going to charge families.

Mr. Speaker, this government is bringing suffering on the people in my constituency. The people of Richmond County who see their future as bright, with great potential for community economic development. Would you believe that the Minister of Economic Development will not even give Richmond County an RDA? There are RDAs in Antigonish, Guysborough, Pictou, Cape Breton County and there is one more. Everywhere we are surrounded by RDAs, but in Richmond County, no, you are the home of where the natural gas is coming ashore in usable form, you have Stora, you have the industrial park with the greatest potential for development, no, you don't need your own RDA. The Minister of Economic Development says, I am doing a fine job on your behalf.

[Page 1856]

Well, Mr. Speaker, if you wonder why some people in Richmond County are depressed when they think about this government, really, it is sad to see that they will not even give Richmond County the tools necessary to be able to develop themselves economically as they want to do. It is really shameful. As I said before, we have a doctor situation. We have roads throughout our riding - we have one of the most beautiful ridings in Nova Scotia, Richmond County - unfortunately, tourists who do come visit in June and get to speak to friends who are planning to come visit in August, I would submit to you, they are not going to show up in August after they tell them what type of roads they have to face in Richmond County.

Tourism is one of the greatest potentials that we have. One can only hope that this government will finally put together a plan. Our whole message this session, you have heard the message that this government has no plan, no plan for economic development, no plan for health care, no plan for education, no plan for road maintenance and transportation.

Mr. Speaker, we will continue to speak on this bill. We will continue to speak on other legislation and we will continue to hold this government accountable until they start representing the people of Nova Scotia as they should, and that they always keep Nova Scotians as their number one priority. That is our priority in the Opposition and we will use all of our legislative abilities. I look forward to speaking many times in this House. As long as the government has the spine to stay, in whatever official language it might be on those days, I look forward to speaking and doing everything I possibly can as an Opposition member on behalf of my constituents to keep this government accountable and to keep them accountable on behalf of Nova Scotians from one end of the province to the other.

M. le Président, c'était un plaisir de pouvoir parler aujourd'hui sur l'amendment d'élongir cette loi pour six mois, de ne pas permettre le passage jusqu'à tant que six mois vont passer. C'est que les six mois nous donner l'occasion de pouvoir adresser situations avec les médecins, les médecins qu'on n'a pas, à l'Hôpital à Strait-Richmond. Le problème avec nos chemins - à travers ma circonsription d'un bout à l'autre dans notre conté de Richmond, les chemins sont inacceptable. Ça va aussi donner le temps à ce departement de s'adresser la question d'education dans cette province. Comme que je l'ai dit aujourd'hui, l'école scolaire de Strait Regional maintenant, comme que leur budget se présent, cherche - est en train de placer au moins 30 positions qu'il va se faire couper. 30 positions - et vous savez vous même, M. le Président, le montant qu'on peut placer dans cette région de gens. On n'en peut plus, dans cette région, prendre autres coupures. On attend le Conseil Scolaire Acadien Provincial - un autre conseil scolaire contraint d'avoir des coupures de la department.

M. le Président, le gouvernement ne comprends pas que si qu'on ne mets pas les investissements dans notre education pour permettre nos enfants d'avoir l'education supérieur qu'ils ont le droit, cette province ne va jamais être capable d'accomplir le rêve, le rêve que nous avons tous, le rêve de nos parents, le rêve de nos grandparents, le rêve que nos enfants auront aussi, d'avoir la meilleure province possible ici à la Nouvelle Écosse et d'être

[Page 1857]

capable d'accomplir la destination qu'a été pour nous commes citoyens dans cette province. C'est pour ca qu'on tiens ce gouvernement conservateur coupable pour les mals qu'ils ont fait à cette province et on va faire certain qu'ils faisent les changes nécessaires pour adresser la situation si ... Merci, M. le Président. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, I would like to speak for a few minutes on the six months' hoist. It is interesting to be presented with this hoist motion with what is currently transpiring in and around the JAG process in industrial Cape Breton. The government has been telling us in the last few days, we want to study the problem. We want to leave the residents of Hankard and Laurier and Tupper Streets in those homes and we are going to study them. After the study is over, nobody in this House, you can review Hansard, at no time in this House did this government tell us that this was going to be a one week, a one day, a one hour, two month or six month study, how long this whole period will be. Yet, they believe, and the Premier, who is a family physician, believes that it is quite all right to leave people in a very serious condition which, some would argue, is hazardous to their health. The Premier seems to think that it is quite all right to have them studied, to let them stay in that house.

[4:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, what if we double back here a bit and say then it is extremely reasonable to keep this bill in this House for another six months and let us study it. It is not affecting anybody's health directly; nobody is going to get cancer from keeping this bill back. So where is this government's patience when it comes to this six months? Why is it that the people of industrial Cape Breton, in particular Whitney Pier, have to kind of be held hostage by this government over its want to save a dollar or two. It is more important to save a dollar than to save someone's health. Something I am quite apt to talk about in this House is the position industrial Cape Breton finds itself in. Indeed, some people say kind of tongue in cheek, and maybe rightfully so, the areas around Sydney, New Waterford, Glace Bay and North Sydney are not industrial Cape Breton anymore, but the Strait area is. Some of that is tongue in cheek, and you know what? They are quite right.

The line often said is now that coal and steel are no more, we are on to a new economy. Well, Mr. Speaker, we are not on to a new economy, and I challenge this government to wait six months to see where that economy is going, to see if it is any clearer then. For more than six months, for more than six years, for more than six decades, industrial Cape Breton has supplied the energy of this province to move it forward. It is our fathers, our grandfathers, and our brothers who have died in the mining industry to fuel the industry of Nova Scotia for many years. Yet, that is the old saying with this government, what have you done for me

[Page 1858]

lately? It is all right. That was then, this is now. Coal is dead, yet many of the power plants that are generating power in this very province are fired by coal. But you listen to this government across the way and they will tell you that industry is dead. It is gone. It doesn't exist anymore. Are there any reserves of coal left in Cape Breton? There are, literally, millions of tons of coal left in the reserves of Cape Breton.

Where is the government when they use terms like - and I think the Minister of Economic Development used the term - pull themselves up by their own bootstraps. I think that is a very unfortunate phrase to use, but I would say that phrase was used over six months ago and if we had had that time to be reflective, we would have found out how wrong that statement was. So six months is a very appropriate time.

I want to get back to the fact that this government is not supporting the people of Cape Breton. There was a very active group of former employees of the Cape Breton Development Corporation who had somewhat of an ambitious plan, along with another company, Donkin Resources Limited, wanted to set up a worker cooperative and open up the Donkin coal mining site, where Devco had bored two portals but never really developed.

Now, Mr. Speaker, it has been some time since that proposal has been put forward and yet this government has given it, at best, lip service and, at worst, ignored it altogether. So, for them to purport to tell you that coal mining is dead is erroneous. I think it was Mark Twain who said, the reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated, which I think certainly can apply to the coal industry.

Why did we see Devco some time ago get back into coal mining? If we remember the reason that company got back into coal mining, it was for the mere fact that we were facing an international energy crisis; prices were soaring, cartels were popping up and controlling the flow and the price of the very valuable resources, oil and gas. So at that time, with our many coal generating stations in Nova Scotia - and at that time, fortunately enough, we still owned the Nova Scotia Power Corporation but now it has been privatized by a Tory Government - they got into that and started producing coal.

What we did, while other areas of North America were suffering from a real energy deficiency and the energy they were forced to buy was priced extremely high, in comes Cape Breton, riding on, I would like to say a white horse but I would suspect since we had coal it would be a black horse, to the rescue of the energy needs of this province, Mr. Speaker; it came in and it was a shining example.

What did the workers at those coal mines do, Mr. Speaker? Did they come in and gouge the Halifax area which uses the vast majority of our electrical energy that is generated in this province? Did they come in and ask a huge price? Did they keep this province hostage, this area hostage to their energy needs? No, those workers said to the company, look, we will come to the aid of our fellow Nova Scotians; we need jobs and they need

[Page 1859]

energy, so we will negotiate around this to allow you to produce coal and sell it to the generating stations owned by Nova Scotia Power, as it was at that time. We will accept wages that are below the industry norm.

What we have here, Mr. Speaker, is two forms of subsidy coming by way of Cape Breton: one is we are selling thermal coal to the generating stations at a cost far lower than they could buy it on the spot market, far less than they could buy it from any of the coal producers in the United States or, indeed, at that time, in Third World countries. Then, what we have as part two of that is workers willing to say, look, we will accept below the industry norm so that we won't bankrupt anybody.

So we talk about a six months' hoist for this bill but what we are really looking at is people who gave their whole working lives to Nova Scotia to help Nova Scotia. So I think this government could probably spare a measly little six months out of their time to allow people who have been affected in Cape Breton to study this, and to say, in your Financial Measures (2001) Bill and in your own budget, very little was made of what role Cape Breton is going to play in the economic renewal of Nova Scotia.

There is another industry that I want to get to now. They usually go arm in arm, and that is obviously steelmaking. Here is where I really want to get into why six months is so appropriate. We stood in this House last fall and debated the infamous Sysco bill. Yes, I have to somewhat hang my head and say, look, I voted for that bill, but I will say this, the reason for supporting that bill was very simple when push came to shove, the workers needed it and the workers wanted us to vote for it. To build around that bill a bit more, we were told by the Minister responsible for the Sydney Steel Corporation that if you pass this bill - he said this, Mr. Speaker - we will be hiring tomorrow. We will hire steelworkers back tomorrow. If you pass this bill, we will be sending out pension cheques next week.

Mr. Speaker, as we know, neither one of those happened. Oh, if we only had six months to look at that bill, the difference six months would make. We were told by the consulting company, Ernst & Young, when asked, why did you select Duferco, and the people from Ernst & Young had said to us, well, it is quite simple - and this is the intriguing part of accepting Duferco - this company is going to make a product and sell it to itself, and then they will finish this at their mills down in Pennsylvania. The good side of this is that they are going to hedge against the fluctuation of steel on the international markets. What we are going to do is sell it constantly to ourselves at a mid-range price, so we are not pressured by the highs and lows of the international market.

Mr. Speaker, if we had only had six months to look at that deal now, and say that we were hoodwinked by government, because that is what happened there, make no never mind about that when they tell you that it was the international markets, because if you listened to their own headhunters, the people in their own departments, they were saying, no, this

[Page 1860]

company, for all intents and purposes, has barricaded itself against the fluctuation of world prices and can continue to operate.

Mr. Speaker, reasonable people seemed to think that that would be honest. What I would say about - I know there are certain things you can't say about members and so on, in this House - that deal is, I think it is the golfer, Chi Chi Rodriguez, who said, well, I don't lie but I remember big. I think sometimes that is how some of this is remembered, big, when you talk about what went on with the Sysco sale.

Mr. Speaker, less than six months ago, I had a phone conversation with the minister who told me, and this probably would have been late December - and I will tell you exactly where I was when I received the phone call, I was in Walmart at the Mayflower Mall, shopping with my daughter and she was buying her mother a Christmas present - the minister at that time says to us, don't worry, all we have to do is dot i's and cross the t's. Well, a few months later when one of the broadcast outlets doing an FOI on the sale, we find out back in early December about preceding that conversation by about two weeks that, what was the government doing. The government was huddling in the corner trying to roll out a communications strategy of who to blame when the deal goes in the proverbial toilet. So where did it go? If we had to have the six months available to us to look at that Sysco deal, certainly things would be different. Instead of looking at quite possibly the bulldozers coming into Sysco on June 1st, or thereabouts, we may be looking at people actually working in that industry.

[4:15 p.m.]

You know, I don't disagree when the minister says that the steel industry has hit hard times internationally, but it is like any industry whether you want to talk about farming or whatever, crops and price fluctuations, they are all cyclical and these too will return. Everybody knows that the price for ingots on the world market are not going to stay below the cost of scrap metal. It is as simple as that and, certainly, the U.S. didn't hesitate to put countervails on rails that were made at Sysco.

So certainly and you know, I mean, again you look at the government today and you look at the Bush Administration which is certainly becoming a protectionist government and you see what they have done, the hard time they have given us over our softwood and Prince Edward Island over their potatoes. So, you know, one can only assume that they are going to be moving very quickly to protect their steel companies in the United States against, really, what has become dumping from the Russian and Asian markets. It is not a long stretch and particularly from a government that historically has come, or a Party that has historically come from the business sector, they should realize that, that this market will bounce back.

[Page 1861]

If we had to have six months to look at that Sysco sale, I think things would be extremely different on that. I have got to put a few things on the record about Sysco too because it's, and I know it is probably not the first time I have done this, but I will tell you it is something that just gets my goat. When the government stands up here and says $3 billion have been poured into Sysco, $3 billion, and it is thrown out there, and I know why it is there, it is laid out there to make it look like all this money has landed in the laps of steelworkers. Well, we have brought in documentation to this House time and time again to show that there is, you know, if steelworkers were paid as handsomely as downtown Halifax law firms, it would be nice; that if they were paid as handsomely as downtown Halifax communication firms, that would be great. But, a lot of that money did not find its way into the pockets or into the grocery orders of steelworkers. That money was spent outside of this province, outside this country in large part.

I will go back and look at when they went and put in the electric arc furnace in Sysco. That was the brainchild of Premier Buchanan. Now, you know what is interesting about that is that Mr. Buchanan, it always used to be a joke when I worked in the media, because wherever John went for a press conference he always lived just around the corner at one time from where he was giving the press conference. But he always used to tell everybody about living just around the corner, at one time, from the place where he was giving a press conference. He always used to tell everybody about living just around the corner, in the Ashby area, he could smell the steel plant in the morning and how important all that was.

Well, Mr. Speaker, he had the idea of putting in an electric arc furnace. I have to say that I agreed with him at the time because there were very few steelmaking plants in North America that were still producing steel with what was called a BOF, a basic oxygen furnace. Most of them were turning to making steel using the electric arc method.

What happened here was that a very large amount of that money - Mr. Speaker, do you know what? One could say that this government literally took the door and closed it; they literally closed the door to the anteroom for the steelworkers. One could say that. Many people on the government side want to tell us about the $3 billion spent on Sysco, but let's look at how much money the Tippins company from Pennsylvania made off Sysco in construction of the electric arc furnace. There were hundreds of millions of dollars that went to that company. Do you know what was cruel about that? As we find out in this big plan that was going to save Sydney Steel, was because the government wouldn't give their own power corporation a fair amount of money.

There were not the proper lines going in to Sydney Steel, so that electric arc furnace could never work at full capacity. What that tells you is that electric arc furnace was doomed before it was ever turned on because the transmission lines were not large enough to allow it to work to full capacity, yet they were telling people that this was the capacity of this furnace, which in some ways is not inaccurate. The reality was that it could never reach capacity because the government, in its short-sightedness, didn't allow for transmission lines.

[Page 1862]

So that goes to a six months' hoist. We are talking about a government, a Party in particular, that showed its ability to be short-sighted.

We are not being mean-spirited here, Mr. Speaker. What we are saying is look, sit down, relax, we are not telling you to do any more than you are asking the people of Hankard Street, or Laurier Street, or Tupper Street to do. Relax, we are not asking you to sit over there in a puddle of ooze, quite possibly toxic. No, we are not asking that; we are asking them to give us six months to allow Nova Scotians to really see the effect of this budget this government has put forward.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Thank you.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre has the floor.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, I will come back in a while, because I really do want to talk more about what has been foisted upon the people of Whitney Pier. I know you are not supposed to talk about members who are not in the House but we know there is one member who is not in this House because of illness. A member alluded to the fact that we may be doing some grandstanding around this.

Now, Mr. Speaker, in all honesty, I wish he was here today, in more ways than one, because he certainly - while I have many political differences with that member - has not held that seat for 30 years without knowing the wishes of his constituents. I will say that in support. Certainly it was never ever a position of mine to get up and talk and try to usurp anything from that member because if he was here, he would be advocating on behalf of those people because he knows those people much better than I do.

I want to talk about something else, Mr. Speaker. I want to talk about what six months would do to the teachers who are in the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board. There are 50-some teachers who are going to lose their jobs. That is a travesty in a few ways, not the least of which that they shouldn't be. What we have here is a real problem that this government has said that they understand Cape Breton's special needs.

We do, indeed, have special needs. Again, it is revolving around things this government has direct responsibility for. This government has wilfully shutdown Sysco. So, obviously, you are going to have families moving away. This government has been complacent with the federal government's withdrawal from the coal industry. We are losing more people there. But by continuously underfunding that board and not being true to your word and saying that, look, what we are going to do is red circle you, as they would say, with the hopes of rejuvenating that economy, what they are really doing is moving forward to the depopulation of areas like Glace Bay, New Waterford, North Sydney, Sydney Mines and Sydney.

[Page 1863]

Mr. Speaker, people will not want to raise their children in areas where they do not have an adequate education system. Things like jobs, education and health, it's a circular package. First and foremost, there have to be jobs and with the jobs, you want quality of life. Part of that quality of life is a good education system and a good health care system. You have got to really be in awe of people in Cape Breton that continue to struggle everyday, that work in the education and the health care system. Because of cutbacks and direct pressures by lack of support from this government, it becomes harder and harder every day to work in those industries. The beauty of that is those workers don't look at it as an industry as much as a vocation. These people go to work and don't go there trudgingly saying, we are going to be understaffed in the medical unit today, or we are not going to have a proper substitute in industrial arts today. No, they go trying to do the best they can with what they have, while this government sits here and says, wait until we turn it around and then everything is going to be rosy.

It rings hollow when the Premier stands here and says, we are going to deliver with a tax cut when almost 40 per cent of your population isn't working, 40 per cent, Mr. Speaker, and you know that as well as I know that. It is almost, in reality, 40 per cent.

[4:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, when we as taxpayers invest in Education and in Health, we help our communities. Just standing here, I can think of at least 10 people under the age of 25 who have left my riding in the last year to take teaching positions outside of this province and nursing positions outside of this province and outside of this country. Besides the direct losses by not having them working in this province, look at the investment loss. Each one of those persons have had from P-12; 13 years of education provided by this province, by the taxpayers of this province. Then, quite reasonably, most of them have at least four years of post-secondary education, which is investment. But those investments are leaving us, they are not staying here.

Mr. Speaker, it is not the six months we are asking here, it is not the six months' hoist, these people are leaving this province never to return. They are going to go and raise families and pay taxes . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Buying a one-way ticket.

MR. CORBETT: It is a one-way ticket. A one-way ticket is absolutely right. That is what we have bought them. We have invested in their future, and when it came time to collect on that investment, they were gone. There is not one, to a person, of those people you talk to - did they leave Nova Scotia because they didn't like living in Nova Scotia, did they leave Nova Scotia because they didn't want to be close to their families? No. They left Nova Scotia because governments failed to give them an opportunity to apply their vocation.

[Page 1864]

Government made it impossible for nurses who were working 14, 15 straight shifts with no benefits, because they couldn't get hired on full-time.

Mr. Speaker, a family member of mine just returned last week from Chappel Hill, North Carolina, the home of the Tar heels, which I am sure you are quite well aware of. She worked down there on a four-month contract in a hospital. She is home for two weeks, then she is going to Portland, Maine. When she was leaving Chappel Hill, the organization she worked for, the hospital, said to her that if she would sign on for six more weeks they would pay her $5.00 more an hour for that time period, plus a $2,500 bonus.

That is real life, that is a real person. It is not some statistic that the Department of Health has made up and says that nurses aren't going. Well, I will tell you, nurses are going.

While down there they had an apartment, there was four of them in the apartment and they were all from Nova Scotia; three of them from my riding, one from the Minister of Tourism's riding. They are not coming back to this province. They are not coming back because they are tired of working for below-market value wages. That is important to put in here.

There has been much said in this House the last few days about the idea of Nova Scotia nurses being the lowest paid nurses in the country. When we are talking in terms of wages we are not just talking about giving them 5 per cent more, lump that on their wages and we are happy. No, what we have to do here in a very reasonable way, and maybe we could take six months to reflect on this, the same length as the hoist, is look at those wages and look at the totality of the Canadian-wide marketplace and come up with an average.

Mr. Speaker, it seems like now this province, when it comes to the bad things we are on the top end, and when it comes to good things we are on the bottom end; when it comes to wages we are on the bottom, when it comes to toxic sites, we are on the top. Yet this government still wants to hide behind this idea that all Nova Scotians want is this airy, fairy tax reduction. That is such a crock, because there is no real tax.

If you look at their tax increases - and you know what? They will probably see the full impact; it will probably take you six months to tally them up, the numbers are that huge. The service charges, which this government wants to pretend are not a tax, are user fees, are a tax. What it is saying is if you want to access - it is not like, all of a sudden, I'm not going to pay the user fee, but I'm going to drive my car anyway. Well, it is a tax for someone who wants to drive a motor vehicle; it is a service fee, it is a tax. So let's give us the time, comb through that budget and find out where those hidden taxes are, because that's what user fees are. This very Premier stands in this House and mocks the Opposition when we talk about user fees, as if they are nothing.

[Page 1865]

Mr. Speaker, another thing that would give us a great deal to study in six months is our roadways. What is really interesting about our roadways, let's give it six months to see what share the federal government is going to get for Highway No. 101. I think that's a reasonable predicament; let's see what's on there for Highway No. 101. Let's just hold the ball here and let the clock tick down for six months and see where we are going. No more promises, no more press conferences; we can let them cut a few shrubs. But let's go see in six months what substantive work has been done.

Mr. Speaker, again, when we ask about it, much light is made of the fact that well, obviously, that member doesn't know that you have to clear the way. Well, if they keep clearing the brush anymore, it won't be called the Annapolis Valley, it will be called the Annapolis desert, because there will be nothing left standing the way they want to cut; not one lick of tar there. So that's important.

So if this government was serious about paving projects, and much has been said about that roadway; Highway No. 101 is, by all accounts, the most dangerous highway in this province. It is one that obviously should not be used as a political pawn; it is just too important, because there are obviously two real big reasons here. One is safety. Without a doubt, in construction and whatever, safety is paramount. That road has to be twinned just from a mere safety perspective. We have to stop the carnage on that highway and the one substantive way to do that is to twin that highway.

Another real reason is economy. The economy of the Valley area - Kings County and so on - it is one of the fast growing areas in this province. Oddly enough, members from the other side may say, well, he is basically the typical whiny Cape Bretoner who doesn't think anybody should enjoy the growing economy in this province. I say that's wrong, because the only way this province is going to move ahead is if we are all strong; not little sections, not spots where some are weak and some are strong, or where we see them play one side against the other. If everybody is of equal strength, and I don't say equal weakness as this government likes to do - fill everybody up, don't bring anybody down - if we could get in there, Mr. Speaker, with a divided highway going in there, I am sure that economy would even take off much faster.

There is a limited area here, you know. You see how the economy has gone, how far the city has been built out towards Fall River, and so on; 15 years ago that was unheard of, now it's commonplace. Indeed, you talk to people today who commute regularly between here and Truro, which just a few years ago was unheard of. But that's the reality when you have a highway structure that is amenable to that. I think they could do the same thing for the Annapolis Valley area. So, there is two very strong and real reasons. One, and by far and away the most pressing need, is for highway safety, to twin that highway and the other one obviously, is for the economic development it would allow for that area.

[Page 1866]

Six months, there could be a lot of construction because you know we are in the very early stages of the highway construction season so we could get a very substantive part of that highway built and we could come back here in six months and say it is moving forward. Let us support this, let us go ahead with it, let us do it. It is important.

The economy is something that we can really measure over a six month period of time. I have locked horns with questions with the Minister of Labour in this House and I have to say in my three years in this House, which isn't extremely long by some standards, but long enough, but my years I can say substantively longer around the trade union movement that I have never come against either a minister or government with such disregard for the workers of this province. There are many things this government could do to help the workers of this province. We have - this Saturday is Injured Workers' Day - a day of mourning. It is a tragedy every year when you go to these memorials and you listen to our fallen brothers and sisters and walk away from it knowing that it was preventable. That is the shame.

I talked in this House today about violence in the workplace regulations and what we are being told is wait and see. When it comes to helping multinational corporations, rich corporations, this government is all smiles - ear to ear. Where are they when it comes to the main point of supporting ordinary Nova Scotians? It is such a disaster when you can't come and say, sure, we will support your industry and we will help your industry, which is fine, but what we are not going to do is to be vigilant and help the workers. Make sure the workers when they go in to a workplace that there is a couple of things happen.

First and foremost, that it is a safe workplace, that they are safe from harm. We have a Trade Union Act in this province that is over a quarter of a century old. There are many times in this House you will hear this government say things, you know it has been a while since that has been done; they don't do business that way anymore. This government was doing cartwheels over land registration. That wasn't a bad idea - time will tell if it is good. Maybe we should give that six months.

Why wouldn't this government say, it is about time we look at labour standards. Should labour standards - and we are not talking about the Trade Union Act here, we are talking about rights for workers by and large with minimum wage or thereabouts salaries. Why don't we look at supporting those people? (Applause) You seem to be the most favourite Speaker in the House, Mr. Speaker.

I want to talk about many people in this province that are not covered by the Trade Union Act, as bad as the Trade Union Act is in this province, the ones that have no real voice to speak for except some kind of whimper from the minister every once in a while. Why is it in this day and age is it still 48 hours before you are eligible for overtime in this province? If you went up and down Hollis Street here and asked people how long is the regulated work week, they would say 40 hours. That is what they would say in this province - 40 hours, but

[Page 1867]

no, not in this province. It is 48 and it can be higher as an employer if you apply for averaging. It has been my experience with that, that it is granted willy-nilly to employers when they ask for it, if they can give some reason.

[4:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, if you look at the labour standards legislation in this province, say if you working for a somewhat enlightened employer and he is paying you $9.00 an hour and you go into overtime hours. What happens, the way the Labour Standards Act goes, if you get into overtime penalties, all they are forced to pay you is time and one-half of minimum wage. So you would probably be making less on overtime than you would on straight salary. That has to be changed. These aren't split the atom type ideas. Yet, what is the minister doing? The minister has done absolutely nothing. The minister is afraid to meet with organized groups to talk about this.

What about things that are taken for granted in a lot of workplaces? If you work all your working life for an employer in a non-unionized atmosphere and that is governed by the Labour Standards Act of this province, they do not ever have to give you more than two weeks vacation a year, Mr. Speaker. So you work from age 20 to 65, 45 years. At no time does that employer have to give you more than two weeks a year. I look around this building and this room, people who have all worked, whatever business you happen to be in. We all know that those vacation credits are usually built up, whether it is you get three years after five and maybe four years after twenty. We will come up with some sort of idea that these people could go, that there would be protection.

We have introduced whistle-blowing legislation that didn't really want to go anywhere. Mr. Speaker, I would be willing to stay around for six more months to debate whistle-blowing legislation. These very people are people that are out there working for minimum wage and are covered just by labour standards, which are inadequate. If you are out there and you are working for that amount of money and in those conditions, if something untoward happens to you and you are employer, where are you going to go? You don't have the financial wherewithal to sustain a long battle with your former employer. There are too few inspectors to process your file in an appropriate manner and a timely manner that would allow you to see an ending and have some economic justice done for you. It is just not there.

The same people, where do they go if they have an OH&S problem, Mr. Speaker? Many employers in small groups like this don't even bother having their workers participate. This province has to start treating workers more than just chattel for employers because, for the lack of protection they have in this province, that is what they become. They are primarily low-wage people that are, I think, made to work in substandard conditions. If the government took the lead, says, yes. I can give Irving money for the shipyards, which, by and large, if it is put in here, they are acting as a banker for them, that is fine. They are creating employment here. I have a bit of problem that the whole thing isn't folded out to all shipyards. I am angry

[Page 1868]

because it is trying to say that we are not going to participate in a shipbuilding policy. So all they are doing is acting as a banker for a large corporation. Well, Mr. Speaker, why don't they extend that same courtesy to the people at the low economic end? This government has talked about things such as getting involved in retraining workers who receive community services money. The minister has said that where there is no work available, we are not going to force anybody.

Mr. Speaker, I have had some contact with that style previously because that is exactly what they did at the Workers' Compensation Board. They would tell injured workers, oh, we are going to retrain you, but we are going to be reasonable. We are not going to use the hammer to put you back to work if there is no work. You know what they were doing? They were taking coal miners, 57 or 58 or 59 years old and retraining them to be parking lot attendants in Cape Breton. Do you know what we found out? They trained over 20 miners to be parking lot attendants. Do you know how many parking lot attendants there are in industrial Cape Breton? Two. That would make for a good bidding process for those jobs.

Another highlight of this - and then they were trying to force these men back to work, I have to add, Mr. Speaker - another one that was a real gem was a dispatcher for long-haul trucking firms. Well there, there are absolutely zero of those in Cape Breton; it is done out of Truro and Halifax and Moncton. So there are no jobs for them, but they are retraining these people and then harassing them when they don't find work. They had miners in their late 50s sitting and listening to tapes of the ocean and asking them how they felt, and that it would make them feel better to get back to work.

AN HON. MEMBER: Terrible.

MR. CORBETT: Terrible, but that's it.

AN HON. MEMBER: Put the paint on the other side of the wall.

MR. CORBETT: That's right, put the paint on the other side of the wall.

How could we be sure that when the Minister of Social Services says we are not going to force anybody back to work, if there is no work we are not going to cut them off, this is the reality? This is what we have to measure it against. People in areas like industrial Cape Breton, where there is no employment, what are they going to do? I look at the Minister of Community Services and say, if you are not going to allow these people to go to university, if you are going to underpin them before they even start, Mr. Minister, what are these people going to do? That is the reality of the situation. There are no real jobs for them to go to at this point, Mr. Speaker, there is a real problem there.

[Page 1869]

Why aren't we trying to fix that need? Why are we not looking at the real problems here. I sincerely believe and I sincerely hope that the minister doesn't think that the vast majority of people on community services where I live, and certainly where you live, Mr. Speaker, because we share many of the same constituents in some way, that they are there because they don't want to work, Mr. Minister. These people are having a real rough time, and we are going to have some rougher times. What we saw was a race to the bottom when the federal government pulled out of Devco and we saw some of these people take what they assumed to be large settlements in their severance pay and invest it somewhat, but what they have found out is that it is the worst possible time to get into the market and they are losing tens of thousands of dollars every few months, every six months, if you will.

Mr. Speaker, through you to the Minister of Community Services, I have a real fear that in the next couple of years they are going to end up at your department and it is going to be a real problem. I think we have to be proactive about that. If we had six months to study those things, and I am extremely glad that I have the ear of the minister today because this is a real problem, it is one we have to work on because it is not a matter of just educating them and saying, okay go get a job. One would hope that this government is not playing a game with these people, that they are going to build their hopes and dash them, or worse than that, my biggest fear is that we are working on a plan to depopulate industrial Cape Breton.

Right now, whether that is a real plan or just my paranoia, it is happening. We see the declining enrolments and we see people leaving every day because of lack of employment. There is a real problem here. So I can't believe that this budget does anything good for people in the area where I live. There was very little mentioned about industrial Cape Breton. Since this budget has been announced what I have, in real terms, are discussions about when the decommissioning of Sysco will take place. We have seen a real movement in a negative aspect to education where we have 53 teachers being laid off. This is a real problem, these are all real negatives. What are we going to do? There has been nothing positive in that. Today, Mr. Speaker, my friend, the member for Halifax Needham, spoke about tuition increases, in particular the 6 per cent or so and how it affects UCCB. Oddly enough besides being an education facility, UCCB is one of the largest employers in the area and that is probably a sad commentary. Nonetheless, the 6 per cent increase is just a disaster for some families.

Another point of mine when it comes to education and its funding. Has anybody in the Department of Education talked to people about student loans and said, look you can't reasonably assess students entering university looking for a loan, particularly on their parents' T4s from the year before, because they are out of whack. A lot of these will be showing severance amounts and so on and it is not a real snapshot of their finances. These are real problems and I think whether it is six months, because six months would take us into the time when these students are going back to university and we could see what they are applying for and see what they are getting for loans.

[Page 1870]

In short, we have real problems facing us today in health care with our workers leaving the province and indeed leaving the country. We have educational opportunities lost with teachers being laid off and students and families leaving the area, tuition increases at various universities. We have problems with the lack of economic development. We have problems with no real substantial road construction. All of these things if we just looked and waited for six months to study those problems and have the government come back with a substantive plan and say, look, this budget doesn't work for Nova Scotians. Nova Scotians are more than about just a silly promise of a tax decrease. What they are about is helping other Nova Scotians to prosper and grow and this government is impeding that because they are not being truthful with the Nova Scotians I know. They are hiding it in services charges, they are raising taxes and they are not raising services. That is not what Nova Scotians want. They want a government that will treat them fairly. Thank you very much.

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

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, unfortunately I have to follow my friend, the member for Cape Breton Centre, which is never an easy task, but one that I hope to be able to, at least in some extent, live up to with regard to his speech. I think he has done a very good job in eloquently portraying the issues that this government continues to ignore, particularly in Cape Breton, whether it is Sysco, whether it is Devco, whether it is the miners that they are trying to retrain, particularly ones who are injured and are on workers' compensation. There are a lot of issues out there that he has been able to identify.

Like every member of this House I represent a certain area and I want to take an opportunity to talk about how the Financial Measures (2001) Bill will impact my area. In particular, I would like to take an opportunity to talk about how the next six months can be used as an opportunity for Nova Scotians, both from my riding, Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage and throughout the province to talk to this government about what this Financial Measures (2001) Bill means.

[5:00 p.m.]

Let me be clear, Mr. Speaker, this is the third time that I have had an opportunity to speak on this Financial Measures (2001) Bill, so I might be slightly redundant in some of my points, but I think they are vital and must be repeated. This Financial Measures (2001) Bill does nothing to tell Nova Scotians why their lives would be better off under this Tory Government.

How this Tory Government is beginning to turn the tables and beginning to turn the corner on why Nova Scotians are going to be better off come the next election, how they can ensure that the education system that Nova Scotians so desperately want will be in place, how this government will ensure that the health care system will be there when they need it, how they will ensure that spending will be under control and waste will be put to an end, and

[Page 1871]

how they will ensure that revenue and taxes won't be increased on Nova Scotians; this Financial Measures (2001) Bill does nothing to address the issues that Nova Scotians voted for when they voted Tory in 1999 and this Financial Measures (2001) Bill does nothing to explain to the people of Nova Scotia what this government is doing to make their lives better.

That's the problem with the Financial Measures (2001) Bill: it is more a problem of what isn't in it than what is in it. Let's remember, Mr. Speaker, this is the middle of this Tory Government's term. This is their third budget; there are probably two more if we count the 2003 budget which they plan some sort of false tax cut, but for now what we have is a government that in this budget should begin to show people that maybe the tough times are over, maybe we are beginning to let off the gas with regard to cuts we have been making, but here is the light at the end of the tunnel.

You can see that this government does have a plan, this government does have a vision that will result in the education system that Nova Scotians so desperately need, it will result in the health care system that Nova Scotians so desperately want; yet this budget and this Financial Measures (2001) Bill do none of that. That's why we need six months in order to talk about this as Nova Scotians, to consult Nova Scotians as to why this Financial Measures (2001) Bill is wrong; why it's wrong for today, why it's wrong for Nova Scotia.

Mr. friend, the member for Cape Breton Centre, talked a lot about the economic difficulties in Cape Breton that are still there and, in many cases, may still get worse. That's a great juxtaposition to what are the problems in my area. The economy is strong, I don't think anyone can deny that. People are working; the unemployment rate is relatively low, 6 per cent. I have said to some people in my few years of living here in Nova Scotia, since I was born in the 1960's, I don't remember a time (Interruption) yes, the 1960's, though I'm not the youngest member in this House.

AN HON. MEMBER: You aren't the youngest member? Who is the youngest member?

MR. DEVEAUX: I don't know, I'm not sure. It could be the Minister of Tourism and Culture, it could be the member for Richmond.

Mr. Speaker, I think what's important is that I don't remember another time in which there have been so many "Help Wanted" signs on the streets and in windows. Let's face it, a lot of these are entry-level jobs or service jobs - Tim Hortons, Sears, retail - but still, there is a lack of jobs; a lack of people to fill jobs in some sectors. The unemployment rate in metro is at 6 per cent or something like that, so this is something that is unheard of. Even in the next few years we are going to see more industrial development, we are going to see more opportunities for Nova Scotians - particularly in the metro area or within an hour's drive of Halifax - with more gas development, with more investment and construction in

[Page 1872]

getting ready for production of natural gas. That is good news for the people in my riding; that's good news for a good chunk of Nova Scotia, probably over one-half the population.

That's the problem, Mr. Speaker, we have a province that's divided. We have a province that in the metro, greater Halifax-Dartmouth area, the economy is strong and people are beginning to say, when are we going to get the payoff? When are we going to begin to see this economy turn into something that I know is going to be investment into my health care system, investment into my education system? This government has done nothing to tell the people as to how a good economy will turn into strong essential programs that this government must provide. The next months, the people in my area and in metro and in Hants County and in Lunenburg County and in Colchester County, would love an opportunity to talk about how they can ensure that a good economy will translate into good government services for them.

Mr. Speaker, on the other hand, Cape Breton, parts of northern Nova Scotia, maybe down around the French Shore of Nova Scotia, the Yarmouth area, maybe the economy isn't doing as well there. My friend, the member for Cape Breton Centre, talked about maybe this is a plan to depopulate Cape Breton, and he could very well be right. If I am living in Cape Breton, I may be thinking long and hard about coming to Halifax where there are good, decent jobs, or maybe moving further afield. There are people coming here who are asking for people to move away. Maybe that is what this government is really trying to do.

The problem is they are never going to be able to move everyone out of Cape Breton. They are never going to be able to move everyone out of Cumberland County or out of Yarmouth County. Services must still be provided, and this government is failing those people as well. They are failing to provide them, not only with the services that the people in metro or in those surrounding counties want, but also not providing them with the economic guidance and leadership that will ensure that they can take part in that economic boom that is starting and going in parts of the Halifax-Dartmouth area. They have as much right to be able to partake in that.

A great example is gas. We are told that natural gas and piping natural gas into everyone's homes and into businesses will give us a competitive advantage, yet in Nova Scotia, outside of metro - and anyone who lives directly on the pipeline, whether it be Amherst or Truro or Pictou or Antigonish or Port Hawkesbury - you are not going to get an opportunity. I think it is eight years before Sydney will see that gas.

AN HON. MEMBER: Longer.

MR. DEVEAUX: Longer I am being told by some people. That is a real problem. You want to talk about the economic disparity, the competitive disadvantage that will create in the Sydney area, well, it is huge. People will move their businesses to Port Hawkesbury or Antigonish or New Glasgow or Truro or Halifax or Amherst, all with good decent industrial

[Page 1873]

bases. One more factor of turning people away from Cape Breton and moving them somewhere else. This government is promoting it, they are not only not providing incentives for people to build an economy in Cape Breton or Yarmouth, but they are actually putting up roadblocks, putting up barriers up to prevent businesses from wanting to move to these areas.

Sadly, in the next 10 years, Nova Scotia is going to see a lot of investment in the oil and gas industry, in the high-tech industry, in the bio-research industry, and most of that will probably be in Halifax-Dartmouth, not in Cape Breton, not in Yarmouth, not in other parts of this province where the economy still needs help. This government has taken no leadership, has taken no position, and this Financial Measures (2001) Bill provides no vision as to how everyone in this province can benefit and can succeed and can ensure that Nova Scotians are all able to reap the benefits of some economic good times.

Mr. Speaker, let's be clear, in my area, it is not only a matter, it is a major issue, if they are trying to depopulate Cape Breton, whether it is overt or covert, clearly that is what is happening, but if I walk down the streets of my riding, I sometimes joke that my riding is made up of 25 per cent of the people who were born and raised there, 25 per cent are from Newfoundland and 50 per cent are from Cape Breton. I am sure the member for Timberlea-Prospect or the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank or the member for Eastern Shore could probably say the same thing, there are a lot of what we would call people from other parts of Atlantic Canada. Newfoundland and Cape Breton have had economic - literally - disasters for the last decade, 20, 30 years.

Now, we are starting to see these people moving into a major population centre that is close enough so that they can go home, whether it be a five hour drive to Sydney, a two and a half hour drive to Port Hawkesbury or whether it is an 18 hour drive to Newfoundland, with the ferry service. That is wrong. This government has done nothing to try to prevent that, and this Financial Measures (2001) Bill has done nothing to stem that tide, and it has only created economic refugees who are forced to move to the Halifax-Dartmouth area in hopes that they can cling to some part of their culture and know that they can go back on a regular basis.

That is wrong. That is not what Nova Scotia was ever about. That is not the quality of life that Nova Scotians want; that is not the quality of life that they thought they were voting for in 1999, when the Tories were elected. And that is the problem, Mr. Speaker. This government, again, with the Financial Measures (2001) Bill has lost an opportunity to explain to Nova Scotians how they will ensure that our economy, our services, our way of life will be maintained and improved, not only for us, but for our children and for our grandchildren.

[Page 1874]

This government has failed with this Financial Measures (2001) Bill and the next six months is a golden opportunity for us to talk about why we need a Financial Measures (2001) Bill that truly addresses the problems that Nova Scotians want so desperately to have resolved.

I want to talk about some of those specifically. I want to talk about revenue, the gouging of people, the pickpocketing of the people of Nova Scotia that this government is in the process of doing with tax increases and increased user fees. I want to talk about how they are downloading on Nova Scotians. How this is nothing more than a budget and a Financial Measures (2001) Bill that quite clearly just downloads. Passes the buck and tries to hide the fact that this government is increasing peoples' taxes, is taking more money out of their pockets while at the same time forcing them to have to pay for services that they expect the government, and their tax dollars, to cover.

Finally, I want to talk about some of the expenses that this government is supposed to be spending on - what they were voted in to do. They were voted in to resuscitate our health care system - I think they said for $40 million they would do it. They said that they would - and I remember this particularly in my area in our local newspaper during the election, an ad saying, we will reinvest in education. We need to talk about how municipalities are being impacted, whether it be the equalization plan all the way down to snow removal. We need to talk about the roads in this province and the fact that the people in rural Nova Scotia and Cape Breton are being sadly disappointed and left behind as their roads are deteriorating. And, finally, I want to talk a little bit about the waste that this government is actually spending the money on, when in fact, they are not spending all their new tax dollars on the services Nova Scotians want.

The number I have used in this House before is $120 million and it is one I will use again. At least until I can figure out exactly how much money this government is grabbing out of the pockets of Nova Scotians in new taxes and user fees. Every year. This is a government that I remember during the election campaign said, you deserve a tax cut. A government and a Premier who said, I will vote down this Liberal minority government in June 1999 because I will not be part of a government that raises taxes and revenues on Nova Scotians, so the Premier said. Lo and behold, they got elected. Maybe they weren't expecting to get elected, but they got elected and because of that we have a government that is now saying, oops, I guess we have to raise taxes, but let us try to keep it quiet; let us not tell Nova Scotians what we are doing. Let us start by decoupling our tax system from the federal system and as the federal government lowers taxes; as the federal government reindexes taxes - what they used to call bracket creep - when the federal government reindexes the rates at which people are taxed; when the federal government increases the basic personal exemption; when the federal government increases the equivalent to spouse, this government won't do it. They will treat it differently because they have decoupled the tax system.

[Page 1875]

That is bringing in an extra $46 million a year in new taxes that this government has tried to hoodwink Nova Scotians into believing they are not doing. Now, $46 million is a fair bit of money - that would pave a lot of roads on the Eastern Shore, in Cumberland North. Well, that money isn't going into that. A drop in the bucket - 194 metres per - and I will get into that a bit later - per riding that is going to be paved of new roads because of this Financial Measures (2001) Bill and budget when in fact, Nova Scotians are in desperate need of wanting those new tax dollars to be spent on the things that they desperately want which include the education, health care systems and roads.

That isn't being done. Let me tell you in a little detail. I talked about the bracket creep, the reindexing the federal government has done of the tax system - that amounts to between $28 million and $30 million of new tax dollars that this government is gaining by not reindexing our own tax system.

To put it in simpler terms, when you file your tax return and you have taxes - I think it is 10 per cent on your first $27,000 or $17,000 in provincial tax. As the inflation rate goes up, the system wasn't indexed, which meant that you would end up paying more tax. Now, the federal government has reindexed so that their percentage at $17,000 will continue to be indexed so the people won't be paying more tax as their cost of living goes up, it will keep pace with the cost of living goes up; it will keep pace with the cost of living.

[5:15 p.m.]

The Nova Scotia Government didn't re-index our tax system, that 10 per cent on the first $17,000, or another x percentage on the next $10,000 or $20,000. Well, Mr. Speaker, that means that this government is bringing in an extra $30 million right out of the pockets of Nova Scotians and particularly, out of the pockets of hard-working families in Nova Scotia.

Basic personal exemption. Everyone knows when they fill out their tax returns, that first, I think it is $7,000 - it is $8,000 federally now, it is less here - or $8,000 is taken right off the top just for basic expenses; food, living, $8,000 taken right off the top of your income. You don't have to pay taxes on that. The federal government upped theirs last fall to $8,000. Our provincial government decided they weren't going to follow suit and that has led to another $12 million in new taxes that Nova Scotians have to take out of their pockets and pay to this government. Another $1 million, Mr. Speaker, if you are one of those people, whether that be a single mom or a single dad who is able to claim the equivalent-to-spouse credit for a child and a dependent, or whether you are a mom and dad family or a mom and mom family who has the opportunity, with one income, to claim the other person as a dependent, this government is taking another $1 million out of your pockets by not matching the federal government's increases in the equivalent-to-spouse and spousal credit.

[Page 1876]

Just take the overall general tax system, the Premier has admitted that is $5 million on top of all that this government is taking out of the pockets of Nova Scotians. That adds up to $46 million they are taking from Nova Scotians at least, it would be as high as $48 million. Mr. Speaker, that's a problem, isn't it? That means that Nova Scotians are paying, on average, annually, $46 million more than they were before this Tory Government came in. It doesn't sound like a tax cut to me, it sounds like the complete opposite. It sounds like tax increases, tax hikes that this government never promised, in fact, said the complete opposite, said they would not impose.

Let's talk about the gas prices that have gone up. We all know that the gas fuel prices have gone up, whether you go to the pump and put gasoline in your vehicle, whether it is heating oil if you heat with oil, the prices have skyrocketed. The HST alone on the taxes you pay on that, Mr. Speaker, this government is bringing in an extra $14 million. This Financial Measures (2001) Bill does nothing to address that extra revenue, it tells us nothing about it. The people in Nova Scotia need six months to talk about how that will affect them, but this government doesn't want to do that. That is $14 million in new HST taxes based on the increased fuel prices.

Now they say they are giving $2 million away in fuel rebates. I don't think it is that high but I will give them credit and give them the number they want. So based on that, we have $12 million in new taxes that this government is bringing in from the fuel price increases.

Here is the dinger; $38 million in new user fees. Let's be clear, they can call it a user fee. The Minister of Justice got up here yesterday and was foaming at the mouth about the fact that user fees are things people need to pay for. I will call it what it is, it is a tax; a tax is a tax is a tax. It is one more way this government is finding to force Nova Scotians to pay for things and put money into the coffers of this government, whether it is a fee for farmers so they can pay a fee to get an application to get rebates. I don't know what that costs, but I am sure it doesn't cost what the government is making farmers pay. That is a tax.

How about a tax on the beds in hospitals, Mr. Speaker? They are making seniors pay $50 a day while they wait for long-term care beds, even though this government has not built a single new long-term care bed, though they promised they would. That is another tax. Whether it be drivers' manuals, whether it be farmers, there are so many new user fees that this government has imposed. It think it was $31 million in the first year they were in government, another $3 million or $4 million this year and then all others have all added up to $38 million in new taxes or user fees, depending on who you are talking to. That all adds up and again, that is money coming out of the pockets of Nova Scotians. In total, $120 million a year that this government is taking from Nova Scotians. That is a lot of money. That can do a lot of things, yet this government continues to tell Nova Scotians that they are not raising taxes, that they are not doing this to them. I think we need six months to go around this province and talk about exactly where this revenue is coming from.

[Page 1877]

Mr. Speaker, that is only the tip of the iceberg with regard to user fees. There are so many others. When we talk about downloading, we talk about downloading on individuals. Those are the user fees. That is the direct cost that people must pay. Let's talk about the indirect costs that people don't necessarily see when they go to a government office and pay for a fee. Let's talk about the cost of having to raise funds for their schools because this government isn't funding our schools appropriately, whether it is chocolate covered almonds or M&Ms, or many other bars of chocolate that have to be sold in the fall to help raise money, whether it is school auctions, whether it is school spring fairs. It used to be these PTAs raised this money for things that were extra, things that would be put in to make the school better, to ensure that the schools had an opportunity to have those extra little frills. Now that is going directly into services that this government should be paying for.

In my area, I think of a school that is putting that money in place, raising that money at the PTA to buy curtains for a school gym or to fix a roof or to fix drainage problems or to put flagpoles up. These are things that should be part of a regular school capital budget. Yet this government is not funding our schools properly, is not providing that money that is necessary and we have parent and teachers and community members shelling out money that otherwise could go to such frivolous things as food or gasoline or heat for their home.

Instead, they want to ensure that their schools are good, they're viable. They are willing to sacrifice for their children and their grandchildren and they pay. People are tired of it. People are sick and tired of seeing children outside of liquor stores looking for money for things that should have been paid through their local taxes for their schools. People are sick and tired of children, 6 years old, 7 years old, coming to their door and having to ask that money be provided for services that this government should be providing. That is a user fee on the people of Nova Scotia.

Let's talk about another user fee that I gave as an example before. I had an opportunity a couple of weeks ago just to go around the beautiful Musquodoboit Valley and the roads there were atrocious. I feel for the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley. He must get a ton of calls from the people of Elderbank or the people of Dean because the roads there were in bad shape, Mr. Speaker. Now it is a bad time of year. We just came through all the plowing of snow. We just came through all the winter heaving as the frost left. These roads, clearly, have not been paved in years. This government is not doing anything to solve that problem and I will get to that later.

Let's talk about the fees people have to pay in order to deal with alignments for their cars. Now someone might say that is stretching, but I don't think it is. If this government invested in their roads and ensured we had good quality roads, people wouldn't have to be going out and getting wheel alignments. I think it is just another form of private partnering with Goodyear and many other companies who ensure that you come in and get your tires balanced and aligned. (Interruption) Of course, that is a joke. I don't think they are private partnering with them but, clearly, there is a problem when people have to deal with those

[Page 1878]

kinds of roads. That is not even touching the tip of the iceberg, which is the fees and the hassles that emergency vehicles would have.

There was a problem in the member for Cape Breton Centre's riding, I think it was in Scotchtown, where the emergency vehicles couldn't use the roads because they were impassable they were in such bad shape. Yet this government does nothing about it. Mr. Speaker, that is a problem and that is why we need six months to talk about how this government is truly trying to address what Nova Scotians want to make their quality of life better.

Mr. Speaker, we see, every day, television ads, ads in newspapers for private insurance companies beginning to offer health insurance because our government is delisting certain drugs or is, basically, trying to take advantage of the fear of Nova Scotians that their health care system is falling apart. This government does nothing to address those fears, nothing to allay those fears and these people are going out and spending money on health insurance that, yes, may be necessary, may not be. It depends on the circumstances.

If this government maintained and ensured we had a health care system that was sustainable and viable for all Nova Scotians, we wouldn't have those kinds of fees having to be imposed on Nova Scotians who can't afford it. Many can't, that is unfortunate in itself and that is a different part of the debate. Many working middle-class families are going out and spending money on health insurance because they are afraid of what this government is going to do to the health care system. That is another fee that they are imposing on Nova Scotians.

This government never promised tax increases, it never promised that it would impose tax/user fees on Nova Scotians to the great extent that it has, $120 million a year. Nova Scotians voted for them in July 1999, at least roughly 40 per cent of them, on the basis that this government would - well, let's think about exactly what they said in a nutshell. We will fix the health care system for $40 million, we will give your children the education they deserve and need to fight and survive in a global economy, and we will give you a tax cut. It seems a little Pollyanna now, it seems a little hard to believe that people actually could think that that could all be done without any major changes in how our system is operated and how it works.

Mr. Speaker, that is what has happened. Nova Scotians bought it, fair enough. Now they have been hoodwinked: $120 million more in taxes every year, a health care system that is falling apart, an education system that is not providing the level of education that Nova Scotians want for their children and grandchildren.

Let's talk about some of the other areas where they have downloaded. It is particularly noted in this Financial Measures (2001) Bill and budget, you know when you hear the questions being asked of the Minister of Education, Minister of Health, the answers are

[Page 1879]

always the same. You can almost fill in the blank, it is not my problem, that is a problem of - fill in the blank - Halifax Regional School Board, Strait Regional School Board, Capital District Health Authority, District Health Authority 1, 2, 3, whatever. It is always the same answer, because this government has set up a system that allows them to take credit for the good news and to pass the buck with the bad news. Unfortunately with our province, most of it is bad news.

When cancer patients can't get a decent meal, the Minister of Health stands up and says, that is not my problem, talk to the Capital District Health Authority. When the striking janitors say that they are very concerned about the Halifax Regional School Board trying to deal with the cuts of this government on the backs of essential services like their work, the Minister of Education says don't blame me, it is the school board. How convenient.

It is a real problem, Mr. Speaker, when this government is not willing to own up to its own choices, its own decisions, but tries to blame it and to pass the buck onto others, it is not working. Nova Scotians know, Nova Scotians can see through the thin veil of puppet - shell organizations that are set up to make the tough decisions that this government is unwilling to take credit for. In some cases like the district health authority, the people are totally appointed by this government. Instead, maybe with the school boards there are elections, but they are given a global budget that is 83 per cent provided by this government. The rest is provided by municipalities and when this budget goes down like it did in the last couple of years, the people of Nova Scotia are forced, through their school boards, to make tough decisions.

Last year, I think it stood still or there were actually cuts to school boards. This year, in real dollars, there were more cuts. What do I mean by real dollars? If you looked at it, yes, there was an increase in spending, but it did not keep up with inflation. That means that all those things the school buys from outside, whether it is books, desks, gasoline or anything else the school board needs to operate, including teachers' salaries and so on, are going to be kept at the rate of inflation. They all went up in price, 2 per cent or 3 per cent, but the money provided by this government to meet those needs did not keep up with that pace, did not go up by 3 per cent. So this government hasn't kept up in real dollars with the costs that the school boards have to deal with. That means that school boards have to cut somewhere in order to meet the increased costs through inflation. That is a problem.

This government continues to download and pass the buck and claim that it is not their fault. When schools are sick and schools are unhealthy, it is not this government's fault. It doesn't matter that this government is putting almost no money into capital projects, putting no new money into ongoing maintenance of our schools, that is the school board's problem. They have a global budget, if they want to take some of that money from somewhere else, where? Don't make us make that choice, we will blame that on the school board.

[Page 1880]

[5:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, that is a real problem and that is what is wrong with what this government is doing, that is what is wrong with this Financial Measures (2001) Bill, it does nothing to turn around that sorry state of downloading on our school boards, and that is why we need six months in order to talk about why this is not the right way to deal with our education system.

Mr. Speaker, the same goes for our health care system. Long-term care beds, no, that is not my problem, blame someone else. Home care, well that is sort of private corporations; if they have trouble hiring people to meet up with demand, that is not our fault either. Cancer patients want a decent meal, well that is the Capital District Health Authority's problem. There is always someone else to blame. How convenient it is for this government to always have someone else to blame.

The people see through that, they know that this is just thinly veiled shells - I want to call it a shell corporation, that is not right, they may be incorporated - shell organizations that are set up to try to pass on the tough decisions so this government does not have to take blame for them.

Mr. Speaker, people of Nova Scotia see that. In the end, they don't elect the district health authorities, they know the school board members who are elected are dealing with a budget that comes from this government, and the only time that they have an opportunity to truly vote on whether or not this province is going in the right direction on health care, on education, with regard to roads, with regard to the economy, with regard to jobs, with regard to our welfare system, is when they vote in a provincial election. They voted in 1999, and they said, we aren't happy, we don't want the Liberals to be our government, we want to do things differently.

This government promised them a lot. They made promises that were grandiose and probably, maybe no one thought they were all going to be kept, but people believed their quality of life would improve, they believed there would be opportunities in the long run. You know, if your ship is heading for the rocks, they voted for a government that said, we will turn the ship, we will turn the ship away from the rocks and we will begin to move us in the right direction. Yet we are still headed for those rocks, and those rocks are even closer than they were two years ago. The people of Nova Scotia, when they next go to the polls will ask, are we still headed for the rocks? Maybe we will be on the rocks by then, and the people of Nova Scotia will judge this government accordingly.

They are not going to say, oh, I better vote Tory because it isn't them who prevented paper from getting into my schools, it isn't them who made my kid get asthma or made his asthma worse in the school system, it isn't them who sent my elderly grandmother or mother or father home after surgery with no real home care being provided, it isn't them who made

[Page 1881]

them pay $50 to be in a hospital bed. That was the district health authority. They are not going to say that.

They are not going to say it was the school board. They are going to say that was this government, that was the lack of vision that this government has been providing to Nova Scotians. That is what the Financial Measures (2001) Bill is supposed to be. It is an omnibus bill that spells out the vision of the government and why this government believes it is going in the right direction. We are supposed to vote on it and say we think you are, or you are not, going in the right direction.

We need six months for Nova Scotians to clearly understand that this government does not have the vision, does not have the leadership, isn't willing to own up to its choices and decisions that are affecting Nova Scotians on a daily basis, and it is destroying the quality of life that Nova Scotians have come to enjoy and expect from this province. That is wrong and that is why we need six months to deal with this legislation.

Mr. Speaker, municipalities are being downloaded upon as well. Equalization, there is another user fee. Your property taxes go up in metro or Bridgewater or Lunenburg or Kentville or Antigonish, or some of the other places, blame this government. Now they will try to pass the buck again and say it is the municipality that is doing it, more downloading, but in fact it is this government, through a wonky equalization system, that will ensure that your property taxes are going to go up. That is another cost that we are all going to have to pay. It is so wrong. Equalization is a good idea, we don't disagree with that, but based on property taxes it is wrong. Quite frankly, it is immoral.

It is forcing people in some municipalities that happen to be generally better off, yes the municipality is, but there are many people in those municipalities that earn very little and are struggling to pay the property taxes that they now have to pay, while there are many people in other municipalities that could maybe afford more in order to cover the costs. Basing it on a regressive tax system, i.e., the property tax system, is abhorrent and this government cannot allow that to happen. Yet, they continue to talk about it, they continue to dangle that carrot in front of the faces of people in Cape Breton or Yarmouth and many other municipalities saying; we are going to get you that money. Now, it is not a lot, but we will be able to hand that cheque over to you, snap the photo and put it in the local paper. See, you are getting some money from us. Aren't we good? Go back to the same problem. Good news stories, government will take credit for; bad news stories, blame someone else. That is really what it is about.

The people of Nova Scotia will see through that, they will be reminded of the increases in their property taxes. I can just image the next election going door to door and I will say, how are your property taxes? Did they go up, did they go down? I am sure that most people will tell me that they went up. I will say, blame the Tories. It is their fault and the people of Nova Scotia will hear that. They will hear it from me, they will probably hear it from the

[Page 1882]

Liberal candidate in my riding, they will hear it from many people who will be reminding them that this government has made the quality of life worse than it was when they were elected and that is what it comes down to.

I want to talk a bit about expenses that this government is supposed to be investing in, call them expenses, let's call them investments. As I said earlier, Nova Scotians voted in 1999 in the belief that the quality of life would be better. As the old saying in politics, and I remember the most recent time would have been Ronald Reagan who put it in 1980 during the election, are you better off today than you were four years ago? It is a simple question. It is one that people either ask directly or indirectly when they go to the polls. Am I better off today than I was four years ago? The answer is quite simple, yes or no. If it is yes, government stays in power, the incumbents win. If it is no, then people begin to say well maybe I should be thinking of someone else to vote for.

This government has to understand that that is the test they will have to meet. They will try to bribe people with a tax cut, they will try to argue that the tax cut is making your life better. Well the real irony of that - and I was trying to work it out the other day - if you took a 10 per cent tax cut on an average income of $30,000 and assuming that there is about a 10 per cent Nova Scotia provincial tax rate - it might be a little higher - it comes to about $3,000 in provincial tax you pay on that $30,000, 10 per cent of that is $300. Work that out over every paycheque and that works out to a little over $10 a paycheque. Are you going to notice that?

The average middle-class family won't even notice the tax cut, but they will notice when there are more kids coming to the door asking for them to buy candy. In a two week period you will probably go through that $10 to $12 in candy you have to buy so the kids can have computers at the school. You will probably spend that money four times over in the new gasoline taxes you will have to pay. You will probably spend that tax cut four times over with regard to the health insurance you will buy, or the hospital bed fees your parents will be paying or you might be paying, because this government hasn't provided the long-term care beds for you. You will pay that tax cut four times over in bottled water if you live in a community where the water is undrinkable and this government has done nothing for it.

You know, the whole basis of people coming together in a civilization is that we are better off together than we are separately, otherwise we would still be nomads. People came together into communities, into towns for 10,000 years, 12,000 years probably. Whether it was China or Mesopotamia or Egypt, maybe India, the first communities. Well, they came together because they believed that communally they could pool their resources, specialize, and the quality of life would be better. Ever since then people's quality of life has improved. The problem is that this government has missed that point and they believe that providing those services that Nova Scotians expect from the community, from the province, from this government are not important. Well, Nova Scotians think they are important and this Financial Measures (2001) Bill does not address the quality of life of Nova Scotians now or

[Page 1883]

in the future and that is why we need six months to talk about why this legislation is wrong for today.

I talked a little bit about quality of water and that is a really good point. Nova Scotians, Canadians pride themselves on having so much fresh water. I forget what the figure is. It is something like two-thirds or three-quarters of all the fresh water in the world is in Canada. If you have ever had a chance to fly over Canada, maybe with the exception of the Prairies, you see how much water there is, even in Nova Scotia. There is water everywhere, freshwater, lakes, rivers. It is amazing. Yet, in this province, we have people who can't have good, clean drinking water. Whether it is in Chezzetcook, whether it is Garland in the Annapolis Valley, whether it is Glace Bay or so many other communities, people have problems with their drinking water.

That goes to the heart of our quality of life. That goes to the heart of the fact that we are not able to provide the basic services that people come together to expect from communities. Some of them may be through a communal system, a municipal water system and some may be their wells. Those are problems that need to be addressed. Those are problems this government should be saying, look, I fixed that. You are better off today than you were four years ago. Your water is better off. Instead, we get nothing from this government. In fact, quite frankly, we get user fees in order to pay for the water test or a tax, HST on the bottled water you have to drink because your system isn't working. They are not making life better, they are making it worse. Nova Scotians will remember that and this Financial Measures (2001) Bill does nothing to address that as part of our quality of life.

There are so many other environmental issues we could talk about, the tar ponds. We could talk about so many other, the Halifax Harbour cleanup. These are things that are long- standing problems and this government can claim, we didn't start them. But that is not a badge of honour. This government has to talk about how they are making people's lives better and, in the tar ponds, they are doing the complete opposite and, ironically, opposite of what they said only a short time ago when they were in Opposition. I sat here, almost in this exact chair, and listened to that Leader of the Third Party, the Premier today, say, what are you doing for those people of Frederick Street? What are you doing for the people of Whitney Pier to ensure their lives are better off?

Yet, nothing is done today as we still, again, find more people are being exposed to massive levels of arsenic and this government sits on its hands and wants to study this thing to death because some bureaucrats don't want them to pay the money out that these people deserve. God knows the damage that has already been caused to these people's lives, physically, emotionally and this government fiddles while Whitney Pier burns and that is wrong. The quality of life of the people in Whitney Pier is worse today than it was when this government was elected and it will continue to get worse because this government is doing nothing for them.

[Page 1884]

Let's talk about roads. I am, actually, one of the fortunate ones, I think, because I hate to say that amalgamation has actually done something for my area, but HRM at least focuses on the roads and addresses the roads in my area. I don't have to worry about the Department of Transportation and Public Works having to deal with them; except for the Circumferential Highway, that piece of it that is in my area, all the roads are under HRM jurisdiction. That means that I don't have to go, cap in hand, asking the Minister of Transportation to deal with it. Not to say that the roads in my area are in great shape and I have heard from people who had very big concerns about some of the private lanes and how those roads are not being properly taken care of. I address those and I deal with my local city councillors in hopes that we can address them.

The problem is, if you look at the roads in rural Nova Scotia, they are a mess. (Interruption) The member for Timberlea-Prospect talks about Prospect Road. I think of the highway to Elderbank that I drove on recently or Highway No. 207 all the way down to Lawrencetown, Head of Chezzetcook, Porters Lake. There are so many roads across this province that need work desperately and this government, in this Financial Measures (2001) Bill, in this budget has promised to pave an extra 194 metres of road per riding. That might get someone's driveway done, but that is not really, truly going to address the problem. That creates an economic disadvantage to those communities. It creates problems and, yet, we are not doing anything about them.

The people of rural Nova Scotia came together in a community because they wanted their quality of life better, just like people have been doing for 12,000 years, Mr. Speaker. They voted for this Tory Government to continue to move us forward and build on our quality of life and yet nothing is being done. It is only getting worse.

[5:45 p.m.]

It has been a year since I have been up to Cumberland South but I have gone up there and seen some of the roads there as well. I can assure you, as you probably know much better than I, they are not in very good shape. There are a lot of rural mainland backbenchers and Cabinet Ministers across the way, and roads are the most obvious sign to people that a government is able to get the job done. I talked before, it is like making the trains run on time. I believe there used to be a comment made about an Italian Government; no matter what you thought of them, at least they made the trains run on time. Well, people can say that at least you make our roads safe and driveable, and you can't even do that.

The people of Nova Scotia will continue to have roads that deteriorate and because of that, their quality of life will deteriorate, their safety and health will deteriorate and this government is doing nothing to fix that. It is doing nothing to ensure in the four years they are the holders of the government, the four years when they have an opportunity to prove to people that they have improved their lives, this government has done nothing for them. One

[Page 1885]

hundred and ninety-four metres of new paving per riding? Come on, that is a farce. That will go nowhere in proving to people that you have improved their lives.

The people will remember that. In fact, it will become a joke and in the next election people will remind them. How is that road? When is the last time it was paved? Now maybe you can strategically find a few roads that will get you lots of votes, but 194 metres a year, I wish you luck because those would be highly populated and densely populated roads.

Education, Mr. Speaker, I talked a bit about this but it is something that is very important in my riding. I have a riding that is fairly young, and I have said this before, like the member for Timberlea-Prospect or the member for Eastern Shore or Preston or Sackville-Beaver Bank or Halifax Atlantic, these are young ridings, these are ridings with a lot of young families, whether it is Lawrencetown or Lake Echo or Porters Lake or Eastern Passage or Cole Harbour or Upper Sackville or Hammonds Plains or Prospect or Timberlea, these communities on the outskirts of Halifax are exploding with population. I said earlier because this government has continued to encourage people to pack up and move from rural Nova Scotia and the federal government has encouraged Newfoundlanders to pack up and move, we have tons of people in our communities who come from other parts of the province, the majority I would suggest. Our education system is suffering because there is not enough money for them to have their children get the education that is necessary.

A most classic example came up recently - I don't think this is the first year - we had no paper in our schools. Those who are teachers who have worked in the education system can probably tell of other horror stories but that is the most pressing. I saw the newsletter for Colby Village Elementary School the other day. In that newsletter, they said a thank you - I forget the person's name now but he was a local individual who donated paper to the school. I didn't think I would ever see the day in Nova Scotia, in Canada, when we would have to have our schools going cap in hand to beg for paper so our children can learn. That is a shame.

Whether it be those cookie sales or those chocolate bar sales or auctions or donations of paper, people will say that their lives are not better off because their education system is worse than it was before. That is not even including the overcrowding in classrooms in our areas or our children being bused for hours, as we close schools and consolidate them, instead of trying to keep our communities together. Maybe the member for Shelburne will feel like standing up on this bill and telling us about the Lockeport High School. My recollection was that it was going to close. I don't remember hearing any more about the Lockeport High School, as to what is going to happen to it.

All over this great province, there are examples of schools being closed, consolidated; communities being told - take the hint - we closed your school, we closed your hospital, we are busing everyone out to do everything else, you might as well move as well. There are some nice, new shiny schools in Timberlea or in Eastern Passage, or in Upper Sackville; why

[Page 1886]

don't you move there? That's not what people voted for in 1999. They didn't vote for a version of the Beverly Hillbillies, where they pack up the whole family and move to the city.

They voted to stay in their communities and raise their children and retire and probably die in those communities and continue to live where their families have lived for 300 years, or in some cases, such as West Pubnico, for 400 years. That is a problem for this government because they promised them that their quality of life would improve; the schools would be safe, the schools would be healthy, the services would be there when they need it, the classes wouldn't be overcrowded, they wouldn't be closing schools and busing people away. The paper would be in the classroom, they wouldn't have to be gouged with fundraisers to pay for services this government should be paying for. People would judge them accordingly in the next election and maybe, just maybe, if we had six months to talk about this bill, this Financial Measures (2001) Bill, the government could see the day and realize that it is important for them to have a vision, to explain to Nova Scotians how their education system will improve.

We are at the halfway mark. People voted for what they believed was an improvement in their education system. This government hasn't achieved that yet and this Financial Measures (2001) Bill does not achieve that and the people of Nova Scotia are still waiting. Maybe a six month delay will get this government thinking long and hard about how it will ensure that what they promised is what they will give Nova Scotians.

That is what we are here for. We are in Opposition and it is our job to point out that you made these promises and you are not keeping them. That you would fix the education system, the health care system, that you would pave the roads and you have done nothing. They have done nothing for this. They said $40 million would fix the health care system - $46 million says the Finance Critic for the Liberal Party - and this is the irony. That is actually an interesting number - $46 million to fix the health care system and how much have they increased our taxes by decoupling our tax system? Forty-six million dollars alone. Now, that is numbers connecting. In theory, that tax increase could have paid to save our health care system, but guess what? People are still waiting - people are still waiting for those doctors in rural communities that they believed they were going to get. People are still waiting for surgery, people are still waiting in emergency rooms with large line-ups, if they still have an emergency room, if they still have hospital beds. A lot of that has been closed because this government has not done what it said it would do which was save our health care system.

The good doctor, the good country doctor said, trust me, I am a doctor. I know what I am doing. They clearly do not, they clearly have no idea what they intend to do to save our health care system. Footprints, consultants, you can do whatever you want, but people will still judge you on whether or not they, their children, their grandchildren, their parents and their grandparents have the services they need. This government hasn't provided those services and they will be judged accordingly.

[Page 1887]

Maybe people could accept that these are tough times. I hear people in this House say Tory times are tough times. Tough decisions to be made, we have to be tough. I think the Speech from the Throne - I have heard others say - we have a heart and a spine and we will use them both to make this province better.

But, here is the problem. People don't necessarily believe that because they see the waste that this government continues. They have raised their taxes and they are blowing that money out the door on things that Nova Scotians never voted for. People want paper in their schools; this government spends $37,000 a year on coffee in the Department of Education. People want doctors in the rural communities and in some cases, in the cities where there is a lack of doctors; this government spends $3 million on a PR firm to help explain away a botched Sysco deal - not once, but twice. People want roads paved so that they can get jobs, they can have businesses. People want gas provided to their communities; they get a $500,000 consultant coming in from Ontario or somewhere else to help with some sort of hospital plan when this government promised they weren't going to do that.

Those are just some of the examples. There are plenty more. This government continues to waste money on their friends and on consultants and on PR firms when the people of Nova Scotia expect so much more.

That is a problem - it is a problem for this government. It is not what people voted for when they voted Tory. It wasn't what they expected, they wanted their quality of life to improve and a PR firm doesn't make your drinking water safe. Health consultants don't pave roads. Free coffee at the Department of Education does not ensure that our children have safe and healthy schools. A new bathroom for the Minister of Community Services does not ensure that people are given the help to move from welfare to work.

This is a government that continues to download, to deny that they have made decisions, to pass the buck. Let's force the municipalities to impose higher property taxes; let's impose user fees; let's let the school boards do the cutting; let's let our district health authorities stop cancer patients from getting food. We will deny we had anything to do with it, and hope that we can avoid any problems until we go to the polls, and people will elect us because they think we are nice.

But the test is, will Nova Scotians believe their quality of life is improved? I talked earlier about the fact that people have been coming together in communities for 12,000 years. Well, six more months of debating this may not, in the end, make their lives better in the short term, but in the long term that six months can go a long way to making this government understand that as the holders of government, as holding in trust people's dreams, their aspirations, their desires for a better quality of life, this government must do something about it. They cannot fiddle while Whitney Pier burns with arsenic; they cannot whistle in the dark while Garland has a bad water system; and they cannot try and blindly impose increases in property taxes while trying to look like they are Santa Claus with that money.

[Page 1888]

That will not make people believe they have a better quality of life because of this government. This government is not doing what they said they would do, they are not doing what people voted for, and they will be judged accordingly. As I said before, this is the middle of this government's term, this is their third of probably five budgets. It does nothing to show people that there is a light at the end of the tunnel and that their lives can be better because of the Tories; it does nothing to explain to Nova Scotians what they will get from more Tories that will make their life better.

That is why this bill needs to be hoisted for six months; that is why this Financial Measures (2001) Bill does nothing to show the people of Nova Scotia that this government is leading, is providing them with a vision of Nova Scotia. Until they do that - until this government spells out that vision, explains to Nova Scotians why their quality of life will be better - people will still be upset; people will still be confused; people will still have that feeling, as I said yesterday, in their pockets, as they feel the government's collective hand pulling more money out, or in their other pocket as they pull the money out to pay for services that they never had to pay for before.

That is what this government has done; that is what people will remember. Maybe, just maybe, with a six months' hoist this government will be given an opportunity to listen to Nova Scotians, to hear what they are saying, to hear that the quality of life of Nova Scotians is not improving, in fact it is getting worse. Maybe, just maybe, with a six months' hoist this government will finally listen, will finally hear what Nova Scotians want, and maybe, just maybe, the quality of life will improve. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. We have reached the moment of interruption. The subject for this evening's late debate was submitted by the honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid, who wishes to debate the matter:

"Therefore be it resolved that the Hamm Government commit to putting in place an adequate number of health and safety inspectors to ensure workplace inspections occur on a timely basis so that prevention rather than enforcement becomes the main focus of our occupational health and safety system in Nova Scotia."

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

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

LBR. - HEALTH & SAFETY INSPECTORS: NUMBER - ADEQUACY

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, this says a lot about inspections, I guess. I want to read the "Therefore be it resolved" section of this. "Therefore be it resolved that the

[Page 1889]

Hamm Government commit to putting in place an adequate number of health and safety inspectors to ensure workplace inspections occur on a timely basis so that prevention rather than enforcement becomes the main focus of our occupational health and safety system in Nova Scotia."

Mr. Speaker, within this province, the Department of Environment and Labour always seems to be responding to crises rather than working proactively in building safer workplaces. In my few moments here today, I want to talk about two aspects of that. Because of restructuring of government, even these departments and these workers have been called upon to do other things. Primarily like we see now for the past five weeks since there has been a strike in the Halifax Regional School Board, there are inspectors going into those workplaces more so from the environmental perspective as opposed to workplace safety.

[6:00 p.m.]

Again, although they may be scabs in those buildings, you know the funny thing, if the government is going to support and allow employers to use scabs, then I guess the other side of it is that the government also has to make sure that the workplace is even safe for scabs. We could rectify that by bringing in anti-scab legislation, but this minister doesn't care enough for workers to give them that piece of critical defence in collective bargaining. He would rather see children and parents and workers suffer rather than come forward and bring in proper legislation that would respond to these types of situations.

There is a grievous problem going on in that strike and it is people that want to get back and do their job but this government, through its intransigence, will not, either through the Department of Labour or the Department of Education, get involved with this work stoppage. It is the children of this province who are suffering and we are approximately a month and one-half away from graduation time and that has a real impact on this strike.

There is another aspect, Mr. Speaker, I want to talk about, about workplace safety because this Saturday is the day a lot of us will set aside a certain amount of time and think and reflect on our brothers and sisters that have been killed in the workplace and have been injured, the National Day of Mourning, which is April 28th, to honour these people. We had a tragedy visit this province just this week at Maritime Paper in Dartmouth. When you see what has come out of that inspection first off, and this is not saying blame, it is that the inspectors have gone in and said, okay, first we have identified a few things.

They are not saying that there is any culpability, there, don't get me wrong, I am not saying it. They have come in and said, okay, these are things that have to be carried out as a precautionary measure, that this has to be done. We are not saying that this was what led to the fatality. But, Mr. Speaker, I am going to just take a suppose it was attitude. This comes back to the heart of the resolution because if we had enough inspectors that were carrying on these inspections proactively, if that had been the case, just maybe this fatality could have

[Page 1890]

been avoided. That is why it is so important that we have enough people out inspecting our workforces.

These are extremely important, I mean we have - what I see here - one OHS officer for that whole area of Burnside where there are many light industrial companies and so on. That is where a lot of our manufacturing is coming from today. There are fewer and fewer large employers, (Interruptions) 1,100 companies there, Mr. Speaker, and what we have here is just one inspector for that area, maybe two. No, it is basically one and that inspector has other areas.

This is not a resolution that is saying that these people aren't doing their jobs. This is clearly saying that they need more. Rather than the government saying that taxpayers are telling us we want cuts, I think if you asked taxpayers, would you agree with cutting budgets and cutting taxes if it meant that workers in the workplace are not protected? I think the answer would be a resounding no, that we all deserve to go to work and be able to earn a living in a safe way. Yet, this government, I am sure whoever gets up for the government will start using stats - oh we do have more OH&S officers and the line will be that we have beefed them up and the staff was up from 19 to 30 a year ago. Well, that is fine to say but the numbers are still inadequate. How do we do it?

I just stood in my place a week or so ago and talked about inspections at a steel fabrication plant in Amherst. What came out of that was interference from this government. There was a call placed, we got it as far up as the deputy minister and then all the while this government shouted no, no, no, we augmented that investigation. When clearly the evidence showed that it was a warning to Mr. Ross, the inspector, that you can't be too hard on this company. Yet, less than two weeks later we have a fatality in this province. So, what do we do? Do we say that there is no correlation? Do we say that is an unfair comparison? Well, it is not, it is a very fair comparison because OH&S is not something that is a one day a year process. It is a mentality that has to be pushed through the whole system. It has to be what they call individual responsibility and there has to be a buy in.

In this month alone there have been two people killed in this province. Two people, one in Truro and now another in the Burnside Industrial Park. We don't keep stats for people who have to work excessive hours and may be killed in traffic accidents because they are too tired driving home, or stats of people who because they can't get work in Cape Breton, are driving to Antigonish for work, driving back and forth because they are trying to save as much money as possible. These are all things that have to be taken into consideration when we talk about workplace safety.

I hope that nobody on the government side, when they get up to debate this bill, will use a stat that we have beefed up or increased the number because that is not good enough. We have five fatalities so far this year, 20 last year, we are in the new millennium, they tell us that there is a new paradigm, we have to be changing things. Well the days of the canary

[Page 1891]

in the mine are over. Please don't use our workers, and I guess another leading edge of this is don't treat our children, as we are, sending them to schools that are substandard because this government will not respect the rights of the trade union and give them anti-scab legislation so these people can sit down and bang out a fair collective agreement. A fair collective agreement so they can get back to work and clean those schools properly.

We have heard the medical officer for HRM area saying, well we can't close the school for one or two sick kids. Well, that coin has to be flipped over and say well, where are those one or two kids going to get their education? We as a province are responsible for all of those children's education. We can't pick and choose. This government has to take responsibility for what is going on there. They have to. They have to come in and say, look enough is enough. We are a prosperous province no matter what the frontbenches on the other side will say. We do have resources. There are certain things that go beyond cost cutting. Our children's educations for sure, health and indeed worker's health and safety. These things you can't buy and this government has to support that.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Queens.

MR. KERRY MORASH: Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to stand this evening and say a few words on this resolution. As some in this House may understand and be aware, this is a topic very near and dear to my heart and certainly for 15 or more years I was very involved in accident prevention at an industrial establishment and through the Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committee through the employer and through a union, which was very active and supportive of the safety program, I was very fortunate that I worked with a lot of very talented individuals and a lot of good work was done.

With regard to the inspectors, Mr. Speaker, I do have some information which might clarify where we stand today. There are 30 inspectors in the field today and that is compared to 18 in 1993 and 1994. I believe that that is a very good step in the right direction. In 1993 or 1994, or previous to that, I know our company certainly appreciated an inspector's visit and all the knowledge and talent they brought with them when they came in, and that ability they had to help settle disputes and do things in that nature.

In addition to the 30 inspectors we have today, Mr. Speaker, we also have specialists employed in the areas of chemical exposure and industrial hygiene, engineering, education and law development that support these officers in their endeavours in the field. I can say that, personally, I noticed in the last few years that I was working in the field, that these specialists in Halifax became more and more important as a lot of the issues that came up were more difficult to deal with at the job sites or at a meeting with two or three people.

So in 1993 and 1994, the budget for Occupational Health and Safety at the Safety Division was $3 million and funding a staff of approximately 40 people, at that time. So this fiscal year, the division's budget is in the order of $7 million and we have funded staff of 70

[Page 1892]

people. Those are 70 very dedicated individuals who are working hard to make sure that Nova Scotia is the safest possible place that it can be. This commitment to resources is noteworthy during a time when we have been looking at funding reductions across government. Just to make everyone aware of how important that actually is, we are increasing the funding there.

We have over 409,000 people who go to work in this province every day, Mr. Speaker. Data from the Workers' Compensation Board for 1999 shows a total of 35,000 registered claims and of these, 26,800 are minor injuries that required no lost time from work. That means we do have two lost-time claims per 100 employees, currently. I would just like to point out that that is two lost-time claims too many. The goal of everybody in this room and the goal of every Nova Scotian should be that we never have anyone injured at work, that when you go to work at the beginning of the day, you come home in the same condition to your family and you come home in a healthy state, and you can be productive at home and at work. As much as we would like to see the number drop, it is difficult to manage to get that to zero, but it is certainly the goal that everyone has to have and one of the issues would be, if people don't believe they can reach a zero accident state, they never will reach a zero accident state.

A point someone made to me one time was that when you get on an airplane you really want to feel that the mechanics who have been working on that plane prior to you sitting in your seat believe that every accident is preventable and that what they do can prevent anything from happening while that airplane is in the air. That really struck the point with me, Mr. Speaker, so I thought it was worthwhile to point that out.

The fundamental principle of the Occupational Health and Safety Act is one that recognizes inspectors can't be everywhere and it is no different then with any other inspection-type program that we have in the province or in the country or in North America. Inspectors can't be everywhere at all times and they certainly can't control everything that takes place in our province or at every workplace. Employers and employees, in their own workplaces must have responsibilities for their health and safety to the extent that they can control it. It is important to point out to the extent that they control. You can only expect people to be able to do things with regard to what they have direct control over themselves. What that means is that employers in our province have a responsibility to ensure that they provide a safe workplace for people to work in. It is their job to ensure there is training for those employees, that the place of work is made as safe as possible. It is also the employees' responsibility to work safely at those establishments, to make sure they use any safeguards available and use any personal protective equipment they have been trained to use.

[6:15 p.m.]

Now government needs to let the majority of workplaces do their business and manage their health and safety. It has become an intregral part of business, hopefully I would say in

[Page 1893]

the last 15 to 20 years, that safety is something to be managed and is not something that is put on the shelf or moved along with someone who would be at a lesser level than the executives within that company. It is a day-to-day management function; expenditures and risk evaluation is something that has to be made at the highest possible level in every business and every company. It has to be integrated, it has to be something that is not even considered, that it is just automatic that good safety practices will be incorporated into everything done within that facility. That would be the internal responsibility system that is in place in our province and certainly was welcomed when it was brought in with the last Occupational Health and Safety Act.

In those workplaces where health and safety laws are not being followed, that is where the inspectors are needed. We need to have people who will enforce the rules and regulations this province and this Legislature have approved. Our Occupational Health and Safety Act is an extremely good Act, I believe. It is one that is understandable; it is one that people can follow; it is one that employers and employees can work together to ensure they have a systematic approach to accident reduction and elimination.

One of the commitments to ensure the inspectors are used where needed is a targeting system. We have in place currently an accident-based experience rating, through the Workers' Compensation Board, which determines if you have a higher rate of accidents and injuries than is acceptable. That information, as I understand it, is forwarded to the Occupational Health and Safety Division and the inspectors and those people who have higher than acceptable levels have inspections done to ensure the workplace is made as safe as possible for the people who work there.

To that end, the government commitment was - the disadvantage, Mr. Speaker, would be that you can't depend on luck for good safety management and good safety. However, in some instances, you could have - and I really don't like using the word "luck", but there could be good luck that there were no injuries or accidents reported and therefore, it wouldn't trigger any type of an inspection. However, luck does not work when it comes to taking care of people in the workplace and that is only a short-term thing, so generally there will be a record and a trail that will continue.

If you consider the numbers across the country, they do vary significantly. It isn't just about the numbers. No jurisdiction has identified with certainty what the ratio of inspectors to workplaces or inspectors to employees, which one is absolutely incorrect or correct in what you should do with them. All jurisdictions can agree on is that inspectors are not the only answer, Mr. Speaker. You have to have other things in place - not a lot different from people who speed on the highway - you have to have enforcement and you have to have the deterrents but you also have to have the willingness of the driving public to realize they have to drive the speed limit to ensure the safety of themselves and other people.

Mr. Speaker, the issue here is not the number of inspectors we have . . .

[Page 1894]

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

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and participate in this late show debate because I believe occupational health and safety is an extremely important issue.

Just at the outset before I engage in the full details of my presentation, I would like to correct the honourable member for Queens on some figures that he did provide - unfortunately I believe, well intended, but somewhat in error. He suggested that there are 30 inspectors province-wide, but the reality is that is what was targeted and budgeted within our department, when in reality, we have 24 inspectors province-wide. He may want to re-examine those figures and certainly the source. He mentioned the significant increase in the budget within the Department of Labour and Environment, basically saying that it had doubled and the number of employees had doubled. Simply, what they have done is combine two departments, so it is very easy to double your numbers. The fact of the matter is, we haven't seen any substantive increase there.

The honourable member for Queens spoke about the increased awareness and the need for safety in the province, but the Workers' Compensation Board Annual Report that was provided several weeks ago for the year 2000, paints a rather dismal picture when it comes to safety. The number of preventable claims against the Workers' Compensation Board, on Page 34 of the report, it says, "The total number of time-loss claims in 2000 is 9,061. This represents an 11% increase from the 1999 . . ." To me, that appears to be somewhat reflective of the fact that the government is moving towards eliminating the safety laws of this province to meet its political obligations.

We saw what happened last fall when the Minster of Labour introduced the amendments to the Occupational Health and Safety Act which brought in the sunset clause. Very disturbing and very distressing and that seems to be demonstrated within this report.

Also, in that same report, it says the average duration of time-loss claims increased 3.5 per cent to 85.5 days from 82.6 days from the previous year. To me, again, that speaks volumes of the wrong-headedness of this particular government. It demonstrates quite clearly that the government is relaxing the occupational health and safety laws in this province at the expense of the workers in this province.

That is no more true than what we are seeing here within the Halifax Regional School Board. I was somewhat disturbed today to find out that through this elaborate plan for school closures that was announced by the Halifax Regional School Board, there are a number of vital missing components. These are: the facilities reports that have been provided to elected

[Page 1895]

members of the Halifax School Board. Many of these members haven't seen them, they have only been given an oral report on them; what is also missing are the JOSH reports - the Joint Occupational Health and Safety committee reports from these schools. Critically important to determining to whether these existing facilities can accommodate the increased population - student load - particularly for example, Caledonia Junior High School over in Dartmouth. I understand that the Minister of Labour and his department has not even done an assessment of that particular facility. Much the same as what was required over in Halifax West and it took months of protestations by my colleague, the Leader of the Liberal Party and then Education Critic who basically pounded and pounded at the government to bring it to its senses and make it realize that in fact, that was a vital component to determining that Halifax West should not be reopened.

Mr. Speaker, if we were to put, on top of the 150 students who are in Caledonia Junior High, another 100 students or so, I am advised that we will have another Halifax West in the making. So if we look at that we see some fundamental flaws in this entire process, all because the Minister of Education and the Minister of Environment and Labour and the Minister of Health are not working as a team; ergo the situation that brings us to the impasse with the custodians who are on strike at the Halifax Regional School Board.

Mr. Speaker, it is all about value for dollar. That is what it is all about. The fact that the Minister of Labour is more concentrated on political objectives than he is the safety laws of this province clearly demonstrates that the accident rates in the province go up, the number of claims with the Workers' Compensation Board, that is with the employers, their premiums are going to go up, and the amount of lost time continues to go up. He continues to be in some kind of a retreat or a hiatus or whatever, but he is not dealing with the pressing problems here today.

If he were to take a proactive leadership role on this and have his occupational health and safety officers review the JOSH reports of all 140-plus schools - at one point, we were advised 152 and, to be quite honest, I have two numbers; 140 or 152. I am not sure if that is before the downsizing or after, but we do know that we have at least 140 schools - it would be very simple. It wouldn't cost him five cents to have his officers get on the phone, call the JOSH committees, have them fax over the reports, do a detailed analysis within a couple of hours and they would find, by being proactive, they would ensure that our students would be in a safe, conducive learning environment. They would ensure that our schools are a safe facility to attend; our janitors, our custodians. By being proactive and doing these things we could actually save money.

Part of the problem is not with the custodians. It is not with the elected school board. It is the improper information that is being provided to make the proper analysis to bring this to a conclusion. (Applause)

[Page 1896]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. While we welcome our visitors to the gallery, we would ask that you not respond either positively or negatively to what is happening on the floor, please.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I realize my time is short, but I would like to quote what the honourable Minister of Environment and Labour stated earlier today when I questioned the minister and asked, again, to reiterate the point about having his inspectors review these JOSH reports and ensure that we have safe learning environments. This is what he said. "We respond to the chief medical officer's request, not to requests by members of the Legislature . . ."

Well, Mr. Speaker, if that is not contempt of the first degree, in nearly 250 years of democratic rule, I don't know what is. Perhaps that honourable member should have stayed with the Reform Party. That myopic, parochial, political, neo-right-wing view is doing very little for the occupational health and safety laws of this province. I find it very distressing. That's part of the reason these individuals are on the street. That's part of the reason parents are calling looking for help. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member's time has expired. I would like to thank the honourable members for taking part in the debate this evening. We will now revert to Bill No. 30, the hoist amendment.

[PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING]

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

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, it is sometimes very difficult to get up and speak following my colleague, the member for Cape Breton West. I don't have the vocabulary that he has, I am afraid, but at any rate, I have never seen many of those words in a dictionary. (Interruptions)

[6:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I would like to speak in support of the hoist amendment. I think it is a very good idea that was brought forward by the Leader of the Third Party. I had a chance to speak on Bill No. 11 before the hoist was introduced but I have had more time to think about many of the problems with Bill No. 11. Certainly here on the floor in the last few days, we have seen more and more information come forward every day, through Question Period and elsewhere, about what the real plans of the Hamm Government are with respect to health care and education, community services, transportation, agriculture, resources.

[Page 1897]

So I think that in light of the fact that new information is coming forward all the time on what the real agenda of the government is, on what the hidden impacts are of the budget passed last week, that it certainly makes sense to put off the passing of Bill No. 11 for a six month period to allow more reflection on the budget and to allow more opportunity for Nova Scotians to see precisely what it is that this government has spent so much time on and, indeed, probably a fair degree of public resources, attempting to hide.

Mr. Speaker, this time of the year is, in my previous career, where I would be doing grading at the university. If I had to give this government a grade for how effective it has been in terms of hiding what it is doing, I would say that this government would get an A-plus. They really have mastered, I think, the art of burying and hiding in their budget and in other ways, what their real agenda is. If I had to grade this government on the basis of keeping the promises they made to Nova Scotians and, in particular, the promise to have a more open, accountable and transparent government, then clearly they would be getting a grade of F.

I want to begin and look at some of the choices this government has made and the implications of those choices on Nova Scotians. I am going to start in the education system with the custodial and maintenance staff right here in the Halifax Regional School Board. I had an opportunity to talk to some of these workers, these men and women who came here today, to bring their case directly onto the steps of the Legislature, in the hope that somebody here, with the authority to be of assistance in this unacceptably long labour dispute, would act and address their very sincere and important concerns.

Mr. Speaker, one of the workers I spoke to today was a woman who explained to me that the Halifax Regional School Board has a policy that people doing custodial and cleaning work for the board are not allowed to take the recyclables; that to do this, to take the recyclables out of the school you ran the risk of being accused of stealing, essentially. She asked for permission to have some of these recyclables so she could buy supplies, so she could buy Ajax and Windex and she could buy cleaning supplies, because literally the school board was not providing her with the tools that were necessary for her to do her job. This was where she was getting that small bit of money, so that she could do a proper job. Well, I was absolutely floored when I heard this and I can't believe that we have in this province a school board that is nickel-and-diming its workers in this way.

This is a school board that is also nickel-and-diming its students and its staff. In today's newspaper, I think I saw a chart of the various provinces in Canada where teachers are paying for school supplies and teaching materials out of their own pockets. I think it showed in Nova Scotia that on average a teacher would spend probably close to $400 a year for materials in the school system. I know that in this Legislature there are many members of the teaching profession; in the Cabinet, on the backbench. In both caucuses there is probably a larger group of teachers and people from the teaching profession in this House than from any other profession. I am sure every single one of those members knows the

[Page 1898]

reality of declining resources in our school system and the impact that that would have on their classrooms and their ability to teach, and the impact on children's ability to learn and to get the kind of quality education that they require.

Mr. Speaker, I want to go back to the issue of the strike that is occurring here in the board and why I think it would be a good thing to put off the passing of Bill No. 30 for a six month period. My colleague, the member for Halifax Chebucto, had indicated earlier that that would give us until October 23rd to have an opportunity to reflect more on the choices that the government has made, to look at what other agendas are at play here, to ferret out the various measures that have been hidden in this budget and to see the real impact on the front lines in people's lives of the devious plans of this government.

Mr. Speaker, in very short order the custodial and maintenance staff may, in fact, be joined out there on those picket lines by other workers in the school system: secretaries, library technicians, educational program assistants. We know that these people are on strike, on the streets, for one reason and one reason only. They are on the streets because that Minister of Education reduced education funding last year to the board; the funding she is giving to the boards this year does not keep pace with inflation; and the obvious implications of that set of choices, and her approach to education in Nova Scotia, is that cuts will have to be made and they will have to be made someplace.

We have seen over and over and over again, managers who have to make cuts; they seem to be incapable of cutting themselves. They never look in their own ranks for the reductions in expenditures, they tend to look elsewhere. Unfortunately, and shamefully I think, in the Halifax Regional School Board they have gone fishing for the people who are the most vulnerable in the education system. They have gone looking at the already fairly limited benefits and opportunities that the people in the custodial and maintenance areas have. The tragedy of this particular situation is that here we have a group of workers who have offered to take no wage increases whatsoever over the next few years and that isn't good enough for this board and this employer. That has been soundly rejected and what is being sought from this group of workers are significant rollbacks, significant concessions in the conditions of their work which they have fought for and they have earned the right to over many, many years.

We are seeing this in this province, we are seeing this with Mike Harris in Ontario and it is shameful. It is absolutely shameful because if there is anything that should be clear to members of this House it is that this government did not campaign on a Mike Harris-kind of agenda, that was very well hidden that that was what Nova Scotians were going to get. I can say with some certainty, had the Hamm campaign in 1999 gone out and said, we promise Nova Scotians a Mike Harris-Ontario-type administration, then Nova Scotians would have roundly rejected that approach and they would have certainly beaten this government at the polls. They would not have accepted that kind of an agenda.

[Page 1899]

I think that if we hoisted the bill and if we took some time to speak with members, to have members of the Nova Scotian community call their members, particularly the members on the backbenches, and talk to them about the real impact that this budget is having on them in their lives as it filters down, the fact that they will not be supporting members in the next election when they offer themselves for re-election, you have to remember who it is that put you in your place in this Legislature, what it is that they sent you here to do. I am very doubtful that Nova Scotians sent this government here, these members here, to put custodial and maintenance staff out on the streets. They didn't send members here to see that the schools would deteriorate to the point that we have some children who have asthma unable to attend school.

I have to say it was quite shocking earlier today when the Minister of Environment and Labour was not prepared to commit to sending inspectors into these schools to do random tests without notifying the board first. I mean, we are in the fifth week of a labour dispute of services in schools that are really important to the health and safety of children and staff. We should have a very true picture of what percisely the conditions in schools are like and I have said this on more than one occasion in this House. If my sister is coming to visit and one of my old friends that I haven't seen for awhile, I will tell you right now, they call me up and they say we are going to drop in tomorrow afternoon, I get my vacuum out and I do a little running around with the Windex and the duster, and I make sure that my house looks up to snuff. That is exactly what occurs when you call up the school board and say, okay, you can expect us to be here, we are on our way.

[6:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, this doesn't give us a true representation of what is going on in the schools. It is not a lot to ask for. We all read in the national newspapers on the weekend that a similar strike in the Ontario school system has resulted in the authorities in that jurisdiction acting in the interests of the students, acting because the schools were not up to the health and safety standards that are required. I would bet that in that jurisdiction, no notice would have been given prior to inspectors going into those schools. In fact, they probably were doing a lot of random checks and making sure that they got a true picture of what was occurring in the schools.

Mr. Speaker, we need that situation to happen here. I think if we had six months, if we hoisted this bill for six months, and we spent more time reflecting on the choices that this government is making and the implications that they are having, when we look at the strike again in the Halifax Regional School Board we would be able to scrutinize a little more carefully the replacement workers who are going into the schools. I have raised a concern here before about whether or not these workers have been screened through the appropriate channels with respect to, for example the Child Abuse Register.

[Page 1900]

Indeed, I was told by an assistant to the minister that most of the workers, many of these replacement workers had not been screened through the Child Abuse Register. My office checked what the backlog at the registry was and we determined that there was a significant backlog and it would take a considerable period of time before many of these replacement workers were approved through that process. Now we hear that there is a very good possibility that schools are going to be opened up in the evenings and on the weekends for the spring fairs that are the vehicle for raising small bits of money by the PTAs and what have you in the schools.

Mr. Speaker, that rationale that I was given by the minister's assistant was that it didn't make any difference if the custodial workers, the replacement workers hadn't been screened, because they were never in the building when children were present, that they would go in after hours and on weekends. Well, that is going to change if the accounts that we are getting, that the board is considering opening up the school now in the evenings and on the weekends to allow for the kinds of events that occur at this point in the school year - then you can bet your bottom dollar that these replacement workers who haven't been screened in the regular way are going to be there, they are going to be in the schools, they are going to be present when children are present, and I would not want the responsibility if there was to be anybody who was an improper person in the schools with our kids.

Mr. Speaker, I think kids are worth some protection and some precaution and some preventive measures. For the minister to be so casual about the safety of children and the conditions in the schools, never mind the kind of callous disregard that is displayed for the workers themselves, these men and women who work very hard for not high salaries, but salaries that are on the bottom of the salary scale in the grand scale of the education system, who have now been without any income for five weeks, soon to be heading into the sixth week, is, I think, a disgrace.

I was glad for one member here, I was very glad to see members come here today, members of the custodial and maintenance staff, come to this House, sit in the Gallery and look at the governing members. More to the point, have members of the government have to see, have to look at the faces of the people who their actions have placed out on the picket line. I think that, if nothing else, will sort of bring the conscience of these government members who have no difficulty hiding what it is that they are up to and breaking their promises of open, accountable and transparent government. Perhaps having to be confronted by the real, living, breathing, life-blood personalities of the men and women who have taken their time to come here and ask the people who have power to assist them in what has been a too long labour dispute, is a very courageous thing on their part.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to talk about other aspects of the budget that will go into effect if we allow this bill to go forward without the due consideration that it could get if we hoisted it, beyond the custodial and maintenance staff strike. I would like to talk about the layoffs that are occurring in the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board. This week we

[Page 1901]

learned that in excess of 50 positions will be lost in that school board. Fifty positions is a lot of teaching positions, especially when you consider that there have already been a significant number of positions lost. Some of these positions are retirements, teachers who are retiring, about 30 of them, but 20 of these positions are new teachers.

We have a desperate situation in some of the Cape Breton boards in that they have been having a very difficult time recruiting young teachers and retaining young teachers. This shameful education budget, which has left school boards like the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board short on the funding that they require, means more than just the loss of new recruits. It means the loss of teachers in areas that are very important for the quality of education, so there is some equality in the quality of education across Nova Scotia.

My understanding is that the teachers who are being laid off in that board are teachers who teach music, teachers who teach in the area of French and these are very important programs. They are programs that children in other parts of the province have access to, probably not enough access to. Who knows, as the school boards in other parts of the province do their number crunching on the impact of the budget that was passed and the budget that will be implemented if this bill goes forward without the reflection that it deserves if we had six months' hoist,

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

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Certainly.

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

MR. JAMES DEWOLFE: Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to introduce, and also say goodbye to, one of our Pages; an introduction for not only the members in the House but also our visitors in the gallery. Sebastian Togneri, standing down at the front of the room, joined us during the spring session of 2000, and he served us very well, I can tell you indeed. He will be serving his country again in his next job in Ottawa and he will be found in the East Block of Parliament Hill. Certainly, any of us who are visiting Ottawa, we will look you up. Thank you very much for the service you gave us. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you and certainly on behalf of the House, Sebastian, we wish you all the very best.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham has the floor.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I was talking about the impact of this budget and this bill which is, as my colleague, the member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage had said, an omnibus bill that accompanies the budget and gives the budget legality, I guess

[Page 1902]

you would say; it gives it its ability to be implemented. If we pass this amendment and we hoisted this bill for six months, I think we would have an opportunity to see what, in fact, is the real impact of the Department of Education budget on the various boards.

I was reading earlier today a news release - I don't think I have a copy of it here right now, I would be happy to try to find it and table it, I will paraphrase as much as I can - a report out of the Southwest Regional School Board, the board that has been split under the amendments to the Education Act last fall. That board is running a budget deficit of about $0.5 million. That board has looked at why they are in this situation.

The splitting of the board has saved them some money in some ways. They have less transportation now that the board is split. People don't have to travel such long distances as they go about their work and there is less use of cell phones as well. But those savings have been quite minimal and there have been large cost overruns in certain areas, including not surprisingly in snow removal and fuel costs. There are a number of other areas where - beyond the control of the board - they have had cost overruns. Of course, the amount of money they actually got from the minister, although the minister likes to portray herself as being a good fairy and that she has provided a lot of money to the boards, we all know that this isn't the case at all. School boards still are in situations where they have to look at where they are going to cut to be able to operate within the Department of Education and the Education Act requirement that they not have a budget deficit on an annual basis.

So I anticipate that in that board we will certainly be seeing cuts because it is unlikely that they are going to carry a $0.5 million deficit into their next fiscal year unless they take some fairly significant measures to try to deal with that. So I would say that certainly there are members of the backbench on the government side who represent many constituencies in that district, in that board, who will be hearing in the period of six months, if we hoisted this particular bill, they will have an opportunity to go out and hear from their constituents about the cuts that they can expect to occur in the Southwest Regional School Board as they attempt to deal with a very serious budget deficit. No doubt, in this process, the boards will be looking at everything. Again I say, we see administrators tend to look elsewhere.

They often don't cut within their own ranks. Some people will tell you that they have already, that 10 years of cutting in Nova Scotia has left very little administrative fat and that they have to now start going and looking at rolling back collective agreements and getting concessions, casualising work that used to be permanent work, taking full-time jobs and making them part-time jobs, taking away benefits that were often hard fought for and absolutely necessary.

[7:00 p.m.]

When I say benefits, Mr. Speaker, we are not talking about Cadillacs and cell phones for many of the front line staff in areas like custodial and maintenance work. We are talking

[Page 1903]

about a basic dental plan that probably, in some cases, isn't all that extensive. We are talking about some drug coverage. We are talking about group life insurance, that if anybody was injured or became disabled, that they would have some basic income for themselves and their families so they wouldn't be forced onto the social assistance rolls, and maybe a basic pension plan, although I know that even things like pension plans are few and far between, even in many of these unionized settings. So the idea that there are these big, rich benefit packages out there that anyway approximate what administrators have throughout the public sector or quasi-public sector, or even the private sector, just isn't so.

Mr. Speaker, if we hoisted this bill, there are a number of other areas in education where we would have an opportunity to get more information, to uncover, to dig, to expose what the government's plans really are. We have asked questions here on the floor of the Legislature. I have asked questions about the maintenance of schools. The minister talks about a plan that is being developed, a plan will be brought forward. Well maybe if we hoisted this bill for six months, we might have an opportunity for the minister to bring forward a plan before October 23rd. Just how are they going to deal with the deferred maintenance in the school system?

We have a serious problem as a result of Halifax West closing. We have those students sharing the J.L. Ilsley High School in Spryfield. We have the parents of both groups of students worried about where their kids are going to be educated next year and we could use a little time, Mr. Speaker, to see what the impact of this particular bill would be on facilitating a better approach for those kids to make sure that they are not losing out on hours and hours of education time each week, as is currently the case.

Mr. Speaker, we could use six months of reflection on the choices that this government has made to look at and to find out what this government is actually planning for students in this province who attend community colleges and universities. Yesterday, we learned that the universities in Nova Scotia are, once again, on their annual ritual of raising tuitions around the province.

Last year, on average, tuition increases were 7.5 per cent. Students in the Province of Nova Scotia pay the highest tuition in the country and they leave university with the highest debt load in the country. Their debt load, on average, is in the $25,000 to $30,000 range. That is a very difficult way to start out in life, if you are 23 or 24 years old, just getting into the workforce, many of the entry level jobs available to you are at minimum wage or just slightly above minimum wage, they are temporary or casual in nature. There was a Loan Remission Program that this government and this minister abolished as she went looking for savings of $10 million or $12 million. The implication of losing that Loan Remission Program has been devastating for students and their families.

[Page 1904]

I know that many members in this House have received letters from their constituents and from people in other constituencies who have documented the impact of the loss of the Loan Remission Program on their families, on their children. In the face of this situation, what has this Minister of Education done? This minister has embarked on this most incredible, really draconian approach, to designating institutions, to giving institutions a designation for the purposes of the student loan program and for saying to universities, we are going to start monitoring the students who leave your institutions of learning, we are going to start looking at the default rate of these students who are coming out of Acadia and St. Francis Xavier and Saint Mary's and all the other fine universities we have in this province, and if there are default rates above the targets we have set, then we will take away your accreditation.

Mr. Speaker, this will have a devastating impact on these institutions. It will mean that the only way they will be able to continue to offer courses in particular areas is if students themselves can pay the full cost of the course. Of course once we get into that kind of approach, what that will mean is that the only people who will be able to afford to go into those programs are students who have a lot of independent and personal wealth, and students who have relied on the student loan program as a vehicle to get them through the education system won't be able to get through.

Mr. Speaker, I can tell you how important the student aid program is. I would never have been able to go through university if it wasn't for student loans and student aid. I worked in the summers, my parents made contributions to my education, financial contributions, lots of sacrifices, as most people in Nova Scotia do to the best of their ability and the best of their means. Yet university education is extremely expensive, community college education is increasingly getting expensive, and it is not only the high cost of tuition.

Tuition is part of the problem, it is not the entire problem. Students generally have to live away from the family residence for many of the programs they attend. They need to secure shelter, they need to buy books. In today's educational climate you are pretty well required to have your own computer, although there are many computer labs in the universities. It can be very difficult to get access to the computer labs. These are the areas where the growing costs have meant that student indebtedness is a natural progression to see students carrying these big debts. To penalize the next group of students applying to a program, university or community college or, indeed, private trades program, based on the prior students who were enrolled and their default rate, seems entirely an unfair proposition; entirely unfair.

There are a lot of reasons why you have default rates in a particular program. It could have a lot to do with what is happening in the labour market at any given time. Labour markets aren't static; the way they are this year isn't necessarily the way they will be next year. There was a time in Nova Scotia when we had a surplus of teachers; we are rapidly entering a period where we are going to have a teaching shortage, especially in particular

[Page 1905]

areas like math and the sciences and French. So to designate a program and say this is the target for the default rates this year and this is how we will judge the incoming group of students next year.

For the Department of Education to predict in any real way what the labour market requirements are going to be when the information is not going to be available on time to be able to do that kind of thing, I think is really foolhardy, short-sighted, and will penalize the educational institutions, will penalize students and will result in the kinds of problems that we see right now with doctor shortages because governments thought that they could manage the supply of doctors to meet the demand in this society. Well, guess what, Mr. Speaker? They couldn't do that. They have made a dismal mess of the availability of GPs across this country, and in this province, as a result of getting involved in capping the number of doctors who could come out of a medical school.

Mr. Speaker, there are many reasons why we should hoist this bill and we should take some time to reflect on the choices that the government has made, the things that they have hidden around what they are really doing, and hold them accountable for their broken promise of more open and accountable government.

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Education says she will introduce, shortly, safe schools, a code of conduct for the schools, and she will allocate $100,000 to implement this code of conduct. I have been advised by people who are involved in developing the code of conduct and who are very much looking forward to having a code of conduct in the schools, that $100,000 doesn't come anywhere close to the kind of training and facilitation of putting this code of conduct in place. So all of this work that people have done is for naught, in some ways, if you aren't prepared to provide the resources to back it up.

Now, no doubt we will see this code of conduct introduced here in the next day or so, or in the next week or so, and if we hoisted this bill and we had some opportunity to look at the code of conduct, for example, the money that has been allocated and the early-stage implementation of the code of conduct, it may allow Nova Scotians to call up the Minister of Education and talk to her about either not moving forward with a code without adequate resources, or rethinking her commitment to the resources that she is suggesting she is prepared to put behind this.

[7:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, this is another area that I think we could certainly have a sober second look at if we were to hoist this bill for awhile. I think one of the areas that Nova Scotians, many Nova Scotians are pretty interested in seeing is where the Department of Community Services is going with respect to the legislation that the minister brought forward, the so-called employability bill that they brought forward back in the fall. This bill will take effect, I believe, on August 1st, and if we hoisted this bill for six months it would give us an

[Page 1906]

opportunity to have those new regulations and the new Act come into force and effect and maybe have the Minister of Community Services rethink the monies he had allocated and the measures that he is prepared to take under this Act.

Today my colleague, the honourable member for Dartmouth North, brought forward some very disturbing information about the Department of Community Services being opened up to the business community in terms of the provision of intake and case management services. These areas of practice, these areas of community service have traditionally been areas where services have been provided by members of the social work profession and social service workers. The minister tells us that it is all about IT, that really what is happening here is that they are looking to the business community to provide information technology.

Mr. Speaker, there is probably more to this story than we are being told in terms of the documentation that the honourable member for Dartmouth North tabled when he raised these issues. I think that having had an opportunity to just look briefly at the information he tabled, it would appear that what is being offered is an entire restructuring of the processes of delivering services, designing a service delivery model that will have quite an incredible impact not only on financial assistance but on child protection, on public housing, and on community supports to adults.

I think that the concern that certainly was expressed by the honourable member for Dartmouth North, and I think it is a concern that will be shared quite broadly in the social work community and in the client community, is that while it is fully possible that people whose business it is to manage, to implement information technology, that they be involved in the IT end of designing new systems, then it would be entirely improper for the Department of Community Services to adopt any kind of service delivery that is driven by a profit-oriented venture.

After all, public services in the Department of Social Services and public resources need to go to the most disadvantaged in that department. That is the role of that department. It seems ironic that a minister who hasn't been able to find very many resources for people who are the most disadvantaged in our society, is prepared to see resources go to the absolute better-off in the society. Companies like IBM are right up there, for sure. I think that this is something that if we hoisted this bill, and we had some opportunity to see more of the Minister of Community Services' real plans with respect to his approach yesterday, to the business community, this would give us an opportunity to see what this government is really up to. They seem to do a dance of the seven veils when it comes to very significant changes in the way public services are developed. I think that today's information should cause many people in this province to be very concerned about where this government is going.

[Page 1907]

Mr. Speaker, we know that in the budget there were numerous new fees, new user fees and hidden taxes, I think none more reprehensible than the fact that the Minister of Health saw his way clear to make people at Point Pleasant Lodge, who are there for health care reasons, often receiving cancer treatment, now have to pay for their meals or go without meals, and this idea - I know I heard the minister on more than one occasion say, well, people who really can't afford to buy their own meals, something will be done for these people - can be very humiliating for people. People are proud. People may very well feel that they would rather go without what it is that they need in terms of nutrition rather than going to a matron or a night manager or a supervisor and ask for meal tickets. I know that people do feel that way. They feel that way when they have to use a food bank.

Mr. Speaker, this government was a government that said they could fix health care with $44 million. We know that that has turned out not to be an accurate situation whatsoever, but the fact that more money has been needed in health care does not excuse this government putting a $50 per day user fee onto sick and vulnerable elderly people who are in an acute bed in a hospital and unable to leave that hospital and get into the long-term care sector, often because there are no long-term care beds available. These people are really being put in an untenable situation. Some of these people, because they have no money will be forced to leave that hospital bed. They will go home or they will go to a relative and they will be in situations where they require Level 1 or Level 2 care that isn't available. Here they will be in a home situation with a family member trying to provide care. I know that since the minister introduced this user fee, I have had many calls from seniors and members of their families in my constituency. This is a very serious concern among seniors and their families.

I think that if you look at this amendment in a reasonable way and you think should we put off passing this bill until we know the full picture, until we have time to do even more assessing this will allow us to do more analysis. I am sure we have only gotten a small part of all of the hidden measures that this government has planned. We don't know yet, Mr. Speaker, how the health care budget is going to play itself out in each of the district health boards. Like the school boards, they are in the process of crunching the numbers and attempting to determine what the impact will be. We don't know what kind of wage increases, nurses, the lowest paid nurses in the country, are going to be provided for in this budget.

We don't know many things. If we had six months, we would have an opportunity to get more information, to see more of where this government is really planning on taking the province. We would see more about the implications of many of the hidden measures that are here and Nova Scotians would have an opportunity to call their members and have a discussion with them about what they think this government is doing. They would have an opportunity to say whether they think this is the open and accountable government that this Party promised in the provincial election. I think people would see the lack of vision that this government has with respect to where it wants to take Nova Scotia, where it is taking the

[Page 1908]

education system, the community services and the health care system. I think these, certainly, are three areas that Nova Scotians are very concerned about.

Mr. Speaker, I don't represent a rural riding where there are roads, but my parents live in a rural riding where I believe, today, the honourable member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury brought in a resolution talking about a road in his riding. This is a road where I have a fair number of relatives living on. I know roads in rural Nova Scotia are desperately in need of repair and they are not getting repaired. People in Nova Scotia know that this government is not going to be providing the kind of road system that is required to allow those rural communities to compete in an economic environment that is still based very much on trade and getting your goods to market and transportation is a very big part of the economic, social and political life of rural Nova Scotia. Yet, we haven't seen the kind of active approach to addressing the problems in rural Nova Scotia with respect to the transportation system that one would have expected, if you listen to the rhetoric of government members. It has been quite a strong rhetoric.

Mr. Speaker, those are some of the comments I make as I support hoisting this particular bill for six months.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Halifax Needham for her insightful remarks. It is always a pleasure to listen to her and to what she has to say. I think she has an excellent analysis of what is really going on here.

[7:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise this evening to talk about Bill No. 30 and, in particular, the motion brought forward by the Leader of the Third Party, which is that Bill No. 30, the Financial Measures (2001) Bill be not now read a second time but that it be read a second time this day six months hence.

It is not always the case, Mr. Speaker, that the Parties on this side of the House are in agreement but I think this is a good motion; I think it is a good idea. I would like to talk for a few minutes tonight about why a six months' hoist is a good idea and what could be done in those six months. I would like to start with an overview because there is something I would like to get out of the way at the beginning. I would like to talk about the fact that business plans and budgets are yet to be set for hospital boards and district health boards and school boards and why I think this Legislature should be able to see that before they are expected to vote on the entire budget because after, this Bill No. 30 is part of the overall budget of the government. The estimates which have already been passed are really only a piece of the budget puzzle.

[Page 1909]

I would like to talk too, about the real financial situation facing the government, both in terms of revenue and equalization payments. I would like to make some suggestions to the government about seeking out new sources of revenue and how much could be done in the next six months. I would like to spend a little bit of time as well, Mr. Speaker, in the time available to me talking about this idea of the tax cut that the Tories put forward in their last campaign platform because, as I said the other day, I am quite pleased that my remarks of the other day are newly relevant in light of the hoist motion, that really this idea that a tax cut will be delivered, not next year but the year after, is driving the entire policy agenda of the government from top to bottom. I think it is worthwhile examining this idea because it really hasn't been very well fleshed out by the government. I think Nova Scotians certainly deserve, over the next six months, to know more details about that tax cut plan because it is driving this government's entire policy agenda, whether it is in health or education or transportation or community services, this desire to deliver a tax cut is driving the agenda. Nova Scotians need to know more about it than they do now and the six months will give them the opportunity to do that.

I would also like to talk a bit about labour relations, Mr. Speaker, and what we need to know and what needs to be done over the next six months. I think labour relations are in a difficult state in this province and I think this government doesn't take seriously enough the poor state of labour relations and what needs to be done to improve them. If we needed any more evidence of that, I must tell you how heart-wrenching and gut-wrenching this caretakers' strike in the Halifax Regional School Board is. I know for the caretakers who live and work in my constituency how wrenching it is to leave their jobs, to go without a pay cheque for as long as they have and still to have the school board and this government not take the necessary steps to make sure the negotiations are moving forward.

Although their employer is the Halifax Regional School Board, let's be very clear about one thing, the reason the school board is squeezing them is because this government is squeezing the school board. It seems to me that if we had six months to deal with those issues, we would be a lot further ahead and in a much better position as legislators to deal with the Financial Measures (2001) Bill. I will get back to that topic a little later.

I would also like to talk, too, about municipal relations. It is a particularly important idea to me, as the NDP's Municipal Relations Critic, among other things. I talked the other day about this bill and its impact on municipal relations and there is a very important debate going on right now that we need to see how it concludes before we can vote on the Financial Measures (2001) Bill, because there are a number of provisions dealing with provincial municipal relations.

Finally, I would like to talk about Pharmacare. It is a particular concern of mine because as the members know, the honourable member for Cape Breton North and I feel particularly close to the voters in our constituency right now because it was less than two months ago that we were elected; barely a month since we were sworn in. I can still see the

[Page 1910]

faces of my constituents and hear their voices, and I talked to literally thousands of them during the campaign. One of the issues that came through to me so clearly was the distress that our seniors are in and the financial pressures that they feel that they are under with their fixed incomes, or very close to fixed incomes and yet they are still expected to pay more and more.

This budget, of which the Financial Measures (2001) Bill is a part, talks about, in a part that didn't really get very much attention, the Pharmacare premiums starting next year are going to go up and continue to go up every year after that. I think that they deserve to know the government's plans in that regard before this Legislature is expected to complete the vote on the budget by passing the Financial Measures (2001) Bill. I think six months is a good period of time for this government to go out, talk to seniors and explain exactly what the future holds.

That is a broad overview of the topics that I want to touch on in the time that is available to me, not only tonight but tomorrow, as well. I would really like to start with a topic that needs to be explained. It needs to be explained for the record, it needs to be explained to the public, it needs to be explained to this government. That is why it is that Opposition Parties feel it necessary to move hoist motions in the first place. Now the word hoist is, of course, not one that is familiar to the public. It is a bit of the jargon associated with this Legislature, but really what it is, in plain language, is a motion to say that there are certain things that need to happen before a particular piece of legislation comes to a vote. There are different kinds of hoists, there is a three months' hoist or six months'.

The Leader of the Liberal Party, which is currently the Third Party in this House, chose a six months' hoist and that is fine, that is a choice that they made and it is certainly one that I concur with. I think that we need to talk about why is the time of the Legislature being used up in this way? It is a good question and there is a very good answer which I would like to lay out for the members on that side of the House and also for Hansard. Why is it that the business of government can't just take place as quickly as possible and sort of lickety-split, in, out, we are out of here? Why is it that the Opposition Parties feel the need to delay? Because, of course, when that Party was in Opposition they did it too. In fact, I was pleased to see the Government House Leader agree when reading his remarks quoted in the newspaper, that of course he did it too when he was the House Leader for what was then the Third Party. There is a good reason to do it and that is because our governments, this government is not alone, certainly the last government did it and frankly, other governments of all stripes in other provinces do it too. So, I am not claiming any particular virtue here for any Party, including our own.

Our governments have forgotten the value of real debate in their Legislatures. The triumph of the executive over the legislative branch of government is a modern development, certainly very evident in our federal government in Ottawa, but also evident in the government here in this House, that the executive does not, this is my belief - and I wouldn't

[Page 1911]

want to say anything that is unparliamentary so I will preface this by saying this is my belief - that this government and other governments do not take this House seriously. I mean that only to be a statement of fact, not a statement of disrespect for the House.

They see this House not as a Chamber in which there can be real debate, where the voices of Nova Scotians can be heard, and in the tumult of voices, in the discord of democracy, better ideas emerge, that if you truly listen to every side of the debate, you will hear ways to improve your own ideas. I believe that deeply, Mr. Speaker, it is one of my most fundamental political beliefs. If you listen to people, really listen, you will improve and sharpen your own ideas. Perhaps even dispose of your own ideas if it is pointed out to you that they perhaps don't work.

That, I am afraid, doesn't happen in this House and there was a very good example of that just yesterday. What I am talking about yesterday was the debate on Bill No. 35, which I thought was a perfect epitome of why Opposition Parties move this kind of hoist motion. There was a bill put before the House by myself, suggesting an improvement to a piece of legislation the government passed in the last sitting of the House, dealing with the legal and environmental rights of the people of Sydney. For anybody in this House or elsewhere who wants to see the reasons why I brought that bill forward, I think I set them out as succinctly as I could yesterday.

I listened to the Minister of Economic Development, the minister responsible for Sysco, and he pointed out that I had made an error, that I had made a mistake, and I accept that. I listened to what he had to say and I accept that I went about achieving what I wanted to achieve the wrong way and it could have been improved upon. What he said was that if we wanted to deal with two particular ideas in that Act, that the response was not to repeal the whole Act, which is what I had proposed, but to repeal simply those two provisions. There was a reason why I didn't do that, Mr. Speaker, I didn't want to be accused of picking and choosing what I liked or didn't like about the bill, especially in light of the fact that the Duferco deal was dead. The minister pointed out to me that things would have been repealed that should have stayed.

In a House that was open to real debate, that minister and that government would have considered the idea of perhaps bringing forward their own bill, or perhaps suggesting to me that I bring forward another bill, sharpening up that original idea that I had brought forward so that it achieved its objective without doing any collateral damage on any other good things that bill might have done. I accept that statement from the minister and it was a reasonable statement, but then the honourable member for Cape Breton West got up and gave a grotesquely partisan speech which was a complete caricature . . .

[Page 1912]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I am sure all members are very interested in what took place here yesterday in the House; we all sat through it as well as the honourable member did. I would ask him to bring his comments back to the hoist amendment of Bill No. 30, please. Thank you.

MR. STEELE: I was trying to explain why I thought this was relevant, Mr. Speaker. I thank you for reminding me to bring it around to the hoist. It was an example to me of how this House has become non-functional and what it is leading to is my discussion of why it is that Opposition Parties feel it necessary to bring forward hoist motions, which I think is an important piece of context for the debate that is going on.

Why is it that we do this? There was an idea that was put forward in not the best possible way. A comment was made by the minister, which I accept. Comments were made by the honourable member for Cape Breton West, but the idea died. Although I didn't go about it perfectly, within what I was trying to do was a kernel of a good idea which has now been lost, lost forever because I am not sure if the government is willing to listen to the kernel of what I was trying to achieve that day. I will leave that for another day, that was yesterday's debate. But my point and I was trying to illustrate it with that example, my point is simply that this House has ceased to be a Chamber of real debate where there is an exchange of ideas. What it is, is a government led by an executive on the front benches of that side which is simply determined to push through its legislative agenda as quickly as it possibly can.

The tools available to the Opposition then are very few because of the Rules of the House. The six months' hoist motion moved by the Leader of the Liberal Party is the Opposition crying out to be listened to, saying, everything that we say isn't wrong, everything that we say isn't bad, everything that we say isn't partisan. We do have some good ideas that we want to share if you are willing to listen to those good ideas, if the government is willing to listen.

Because of the Rules of the House which I should say were amended most recently under the Liberal Government to take away the last pieces of power the Opposition had, so that the only tool - the only substantial tool - left to the Opposition is delay. It is not debate, it is not good ideas because they generally fall on deaf ears - not always, but usually. The discussion about why that happens is an interesting debate for another day.

The only tool left to the Opposition is delay - the hoist motion, moved by the Leader of the Liberal Party - in the hope that the government is so eager to get its agenda passed that it will make some substantive amendments to legislation like the Financial Measures (2001) Bill, and delay in the hope that perhaps by being exposed to more Question Periods, more very careful scrutiny by the media who are here everyday watching, listening, in the hope that the public will connect with the government in a way that the Opposition can't. That is why the Opposition chooses delay because it is the only substantial tool available to us.

[Page 1913]

There are time limits. We can't delay forever. There was a time, I think at the federal level that I am aware of where there were no limits on the supply debate and that perhaps may have been true in this House as well. There are now limits - 40 hours of debate, 40 hours of supply debate on a $5 billion budget. It doesn't seem like very much, but that is what the rules say. That is what we are allowed. So delay becomes the only tool we have.

Delay manifests itself in a number of different ways. It manifests itself in bell ringing, for example, and most of us saw the missive from the member for Kings North published in one of the local daily newspapers complaining about the bell ringing in the last sitting of the House. It was an interesting piece. Of course, what the member for Kings North didn't say in that piece is that the particular context of the bell ringing was to get a fair contract for the paramedics of this province, to make sure that the government couldn't push through back-to-work legislation as a substitute for collective bargaining and providing the resources necessary - and the resources appropriate to the paramedics of this province.

There hasn't been any bell ringing in this session, at least no more than absolutely necessary to call the members to the House to vote, although that is one of the ways that the Opposition takes advantage of the one tool left available to it which is delay. The other is the hoist motion such as we have here. The Opposition moves that debate be delayed so that there can be meaningful discussion, but part of the sub-text is in order to utilize one of the few weapons available to the Opposition to enforce delay. It is a sad state of affairs, I think. I do think it is sad for democracy, when the executive has so taken over the work of the legislative branch of government that delay is the only way that the Opposition can get the government to listen. It is a shame when the Opposition is forced to ring bells in order to get the government to listen. I want to say again, to underline the fact, that when the governing Party was over on this side of the House, they did it too. So I think the members over there know very well what I am talking about.

Mr. Speaker, it is a shame when the executive by which I mean - to put it in more colloquial terms - the Cabinet, so controls the legislative process that the Opposition is forced to move motions like this, this so-called hoist motion or delay motion, simply in order to try to get the government to listen, to get them to slow down a little bit, and listen to what the elected representatives of the people of Nova Scotia have to say, not what their advisers have to say, not what the civil servants have to say, but what the elected members of the Legislature have to say.

Mr. Speaker, with that preamble about why the Opposition is doing what it is doing, I would now like to move on to the substantive subjects that I referred to earlier, about why it is that a six months delay is a good idea. As I said, it is not always that the Parties on this side of the House are able to agree, but in this case I think we do agree, a six months delay is a good idea. I mentioned a list of topics that I would like to cover in the time available to me this evening and again tomorrow. I would like to start with what I spent a particular

[Page 1914]

amount of time on last day when I was speaking on the bill, and that is the subject of municipal relations.

Mr. Speaker, I find my comments on that topic newly relevant in light of the hoist motion. I would remind the House, again, there are several provisions in the Financial Measures (2001) Bill dealing with provincial-municipal relations. Yet, it is not time, it is not the right time to pass these provisions. There is work that needs to be done. Now, the other day I said, in a way that certainly caught the attention of the members on the government side, and I will try to be less provocative this time, I am sure you will be pleased to hear, I didn't really mean to be provocative last time, it just came out that way, but I would like to cover the same topic because I want to explain what six months will allow us to do.

Mr. Speaker, last time, I was talking about municipal relations because I am the Municipal Relations Critic for the NDP, and the government had come out at the end of February with a service exchange plan. I attempted to lay out the facts as they had come out in debate on Supply, about what happened the day that was released and how it was leaked from the government or from the UNSM, the minister says it was leaked from the UNSM but it appears that it may have been leaked from the government. One of the members, the member for Cape Breton West stood up and said I was imputing motive. That is fine.

I am just going to try to stick to the facts as I know them. Very briefly, you will recall that on February 27th, the plan was released. There is plenty of room for dispute about why it happened and how it happened, but what I concluded was that one of the effects of the plan - I won't say this is what the government intended, because that would be imputing motive and that would be wrong - was to pit municipality against municipality. For some reason that I don't quite understand that comment and other comments like it upset the members on that side.

So, what I would like to do is very briefly quote from the Municipal Open Line, which is a publication of the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities. This is not myself speaking, this is not the member for Halifax Fairview speaking, this is not the NDP speaking in a provocative manner, this is the President of the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities, Anna Allen, Her Worship, the Mayor of Windsor, these are her words, in a letter that she sent to the Premier on this very topic. I am just going to read a very brief portion of that letter, certainly not the whole letter. This is in the words of Anna Allen, the President of the UNSM, essentially the point that I was trying to make the other day. It says:

Regardless of any consideration of the merits of the program, the UNSM has grave concerns about the manner in which this proposal was initially presented. It has short-circuited the Roles & Responsibilities Review. It has generated heated and sometimes acrimonious debate, which has had the potential to damage the UNSM as an organization and pitted

[Page 1915]

municipality against municipality. It is now time for leadership which will encourage rational, thoughtful discussion.

She goes on to say that there are real and substantial issues . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I am prepared to allow the member for Halifax Fairview a lot of latitude, but not to stand in the House and read a letter on behalf of the UNSM, so I would ask him to bring his comments back to the hoist amendment of Bill No. 30, please.

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, as a new member, I am never quite sure, of course, how much quotation is allowed and sorry if I may have approached the line there.

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

MR. STEELE: I certainly would, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Economic Development.

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct the members' attention to your gallery. As we said earlier on in the evening, it is Sebastian's last day with us and his father has come down from Ontario to make the trip back. So I would ask the members of the House to give him a warm welcome. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We certainly welcome our visitor this evening. Sebastian has been a great asset to the Legislature and we thank you. (Applause)

Would the honourable member for Halifax Fairview care to move adjournment of the debate?

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, I look forward to pursuing this thought next day and I would like to move adjournment of the debate.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is to adjourn the debate. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

The honourable Government House Leader.

[Page 1916]

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move the House do now rise to meet again tomorrow at the hour of 9:00 a.m. The order of business will be Public Bills for Second Reading, Bill No. 30 and we will sit until 5:00 p.m. or, if Bill No. 30 should pass through second reading before then, we will rise earlier.

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

The motion is carried.

We are adjourned until 9:00 a.m. tomorrow.

[The House rose at 7:58 p.m.]

[Page 1917]

NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)

RESOLUTION NO. 716

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 a group of Grade 6 students from River Hebert Elementary School, called the Creative Circle, wrote a play entitled Be Smart - Don't Start to commemorate National Non-Smoking Week; and

Whereas the play, based on information learned in class, was presented to other grades in the school and followed by an open discussion; and

Whereas the Creative Circle recently received the Coastal Community Network Proud Community Award for Youth for their play;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Creative Circle members Justina Morris, Kayla Brown, Robin Stone, Jennifer Welton, Samantha McIver, Stevie-Lynn Hurley, Stephanie Mawdsley and Tiffany McEachern on their award-winning play and wish them success in their future endeavours.

RESOLUTION NO. 717

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 several badminton players from Parrsboro and Advocate will compete at regional championships in Antigonish after successful play at district meets; and

Whereas from Parrsboro the mixed doubles teams of Krista Quinn and Daniel Uttaro, and Laura McCulley and Mike Quinn; girls doubles teams of Nikita Sequin and Terri-Lynn Brown, and Andrea Porter and Jenna Quinn; the boys doubles team of Terry Neves and Adam Thurlow; and singles players Vanessa Payne and Christine Peers qualified for the regional championships; and

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Whereas from Advocate District High School the girls doubles team of Melinda Ells and Sarah Reid; the boys doubles team of Justin Strong and Stephen Parker; and the girls doubles team of Joanna Reid and Carrie Nuttall; and singles player, Wade Cleveland, all advanced to the regional championships;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate all these badminton players on their district success and wish them further success as they compete in the regional championships.

RESOLUTION NO. 718

By: Mr. Richard Hurlburt (Yarmouth)

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

Whereas Sport Nova Scotia has recognized the contributions of Greg Warner and Claire Paris as sports heroes; and

Whereas Greg Warner has made an important contribution to sport and to his community through his dedicated work as a Yarmouth Area Minor Baseball Association coach and volunteer; and

Whereas Claire Paris has been involved in Special Olympics for many years, coached floor hockey and led a lob ball A team to six consecutive provincial championships;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Greg Warner and Claire Paris on their Sport Heroes Awards and acknowledge the importance of amateur sport and the particular contributions of these two citizens.