Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

Les travaux de la Chambre ont repris le
21 septembre 2017

Hansard -- Fri., Apr. 27, 2001

[Page 1919]

HALIFAX, FRIDAY, APRIL 27, 2001

Fifty-eighth General Assembly

Second Session

9:00 A.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, I am going to give my rulings on several points of privilege that have been brought before the House over the past week.

SPEAKER'S RULING: Definition of Privilege

On April 10, 2001, the honourable member for Lunenburg West and the honourable member for Richmond each rose on separate points of privilege. Before dealing with each point, I should first outline how the authorities define what amounts to a question of privilege. The most recent textbook on procedure in the House of Commons of Canada, entitled House of Commons Procedure and Practice by Marleau and Montpetit defines parliamentary privilege as follows: "Parliamentary privilege is the sum of the peculiar rights enjoyed by each House collectively . . . and by members of each House individually, without which they could not discharge their functions, and which exceed those possessed by other bodies or individuals."

The Fifth Edition of Beauchesne's Parliamentary Rules and Forms describes the role of a Speaker when a question of privilege is raised as follows: Paragraph 84(1),

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"Once the claim of a breach of privilege has been made, it is the duty of the Speaker to decide if a prima facie case can be established."

In other words, it is the duty of the Speaker to determine whether or not, based on the material presented to the House by the member raising the point, that there is a case that should go on to the full House for final determination.

SPEAKER'S RULING: Disagreement on Interpretation of Statute

The honourable member for Lunenburg West, in raising his point of privilege stated that the point arose out of certain comments made by the Minister of Finance during Question Period. According to Hansard, the honourable said this in support of his question of privilege,

"Mr. Speaker, on a point of personal privilege, I, too, would like to stand in regard to the Minister of Finance's comments in regard to the discussion we had earlier in Question Period, where he indicated, as I recall, that the minimum fine would not be $250, where, in fact, in the Act, it points out that on Section 89(1), it goes on to point out, it provides summary convictions to the fine of not less than $250 and not more than $5,000. So I would like to inform the Minister of Finance, if I heard him correctly, that he was not properly briefed on that particular point."

In my opinion, this amounts to a disagreement between the honourable member and the Minister of Finance on what is the correct interpretation of a Statute. This does not in any way interfere with the ability of the honourable member to carry out his duties as a member of this House and, as a result, a prima facie case of privilege has not been made out.

SPEAKER'S RULING: Difference of Opinion Between Members

The honourable member for Richmond, in raising his point of privilege, said that his point arose out of certain comments made by the Minister of Transportation and Public Works during Question Period. According to Hansard, the honourable member said this in support of his question of privilege:

"Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of personal privilege. During my questioning of the Minister of Transportation and Public Works, the minister made some comments about who had written the question, the fact that we did not have the proper information and assuming or inferring that somehow we were misleading the House in the comments that I was making in my questions. I would like to table with the House immediately a memo from the minister, himself, dated May 24, 2000

[Page 1921]

regarding spending; also a memo from Emergency Health Services suggesting that invoices be broken down so that they do not need ministerial approval; also a memo from Patricia Ripley dated March 9, 2000 saying Cabinet is aware there have been instances where departments, agencies, boards, commissions and Crown Corporations have not followed earlier directives restricting spending, particularly on new furniture; and also a memo dated September 16, 1999 reducing non-essential spending from the Minister of Finance.

Mr. Speaker, I think this clearly shows that the line of questioning was appropriate. I feel that the minister misled this House by making the statements that he did make and I would ask that you have the minister retract those statements."

In my opinion, this matter discloses a difference of opinion between the honourable member and the minister on the accuracy of the background information on which the honourable member's questions were based and in no way does this disagreement impair the honourable member's ability to carry out his duties as a member of the House. Accordingly, I do not think a prima facie case of privilege has been made out.

SPEAKER'S RULING: Disagreement of Facts Between Members

On Friday, April 20, 2001, the honourable member for Lunenburg West rose on a point a privilege. In raising his point he said,

"On Wednesday, April 18th, I posed a question to the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries with regard to having staff attend the Federation of Agriculture's Council of Leaders meeting. The minister replied back in Hansard that when a request is made on a holiday for the first time to appear on a day, it is very difficult to have staff come forward. I checked with the Federation of Agriculture and, in fact, the Federation of Agriculture contacted senior departmental staff about the meeting on April 11th to have senior staff attend to answer specific questions that they had posed . . . A week's notice. I contend that the minister misled the House, misled me and misled Nova Scotians."

Upon reviewing Hansard of April 18th, I note that the honourable Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, in reply to the question, responded,

"The meeting was held on Monday, the holiday, and Tuesday and made it very difficult for staff to appear. The request by the federation's president was made on Monday afternoon to my executive assistant when no one was available to meet. That is the long and the short of it.

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If their request had been made last week, certainly staff could have been there, but it was very difficult to receive a request on Monday, the holiday, for staff to meet that same day."

In response to a point of privilege on April 20th, the Minister of Agriculture stated:

"I thank the Speaker for the opportunity to rise. Honourable member, when my staff was contacted and advised me of it, it was Monday afternoon and they requested somebody to come on a holiday. The previous week a contact was made with the department staff. The department staff advised that he had holiday plans to be out of the province and that if they would like someone else to attend - and that message is documented at the Federation of Agriculture - that they would return the call and somebody else would attend. No call was received from the President of the Federation of Agriculture that they would like somebody else to attend and the matter was left at that. It was the obligation of the President of the Federation of Agriculture to request that somebody would attend that meeting. That call was not made and did not occur and when I was recontacted, through a staff person at their home on a holiday, the request was made that somebody appear that afternoon. So the facts are indeed correct from our side of the equation."

In my opinion, this is a disagreement of facts between the members and does not interfere with the ability of the member to perform his duties as a member of this House, as a resolution prima facie case of privilege has not been made out.

SPEAKER'S RULING: Disagreement of Facts Between Members

On Wednesday, April 25, 2001 the honourable member for Richmond rose on a point of personal privilege. I quote from Hansard:

"During Question Period the Minister of Justice gave an answer to my question about the changes to the Elections Act and it is my firm belief that the minister misled this House in the answers which he provided in saying that he had consulted with the electoral commission prior to tabling the bill in this House. Hansard will clearly show that was his statement . . . Clearly, these changes were made without the consultation of the electoral commission. That is what I asked the minister today when he rose in his place and said that he had consulted with them prior to making those changes and tabling that bill. I believe that he misled the House."

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Upon reading Hansard and the question posed by the member for Richmond, "My question is, does the minister feel obligated to consult with the entire commission prior to making changes to the Elections Act in this province?"

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

In my opinion, this is a disagreement of the facts between two members and does not constitute a breach of privilege of a member by way of preventing him from carrying out his duties as a member of this Legislature.

SPEAKER'S RULING: Provision of Information by Ministers

And the last one, on Wednesday, April 25, 2001 the honourable member for Cape Breton West rose on a point of personal privilege:

"Mr. Speaker, on a point of personal privilege with regard to the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations. Several weeks ago we had representatives from his department appear before Public Accounts. They gave an undertaking to the committee that they would provide the recommendations that have been made to P & P with regard to the restructuring of government. To date, we have not received that. We contacted his department on several occasions through the Clerk's Office. They, again, gave an undertaking that that information would be provided by last Thursday or Friday at the very latest. Again, we contacted his department several times this week and we keep getting voice mails and promises. The minister, during budgetary deliberations, again gave indication that that information would be forthcoming. I ask that you direct the minister and/or his staff to provide that information. That is a violation of a commitment in the House and I would respectfully submit that the minister be forthwith with the information today."

Although I would encourage departments to provide information to members as indicated, it is not within the purview of the Speaker's Office to instruct the departments or ministers to comply with such a request. There is not a prima facie case of privilege.

[Page 1924]

SPEAKER'S RULING: Definition of Privilege

Just for the honourable member's information, several members have risen in the past week on a point of personal privilege and I would like to quote from Beauchesne's 6th Edition, as a previous Speaker had stated, "Privilege is what sets Hon. Members apart from other citizens giving them rights which the public does not possess . . . parliamentary privilege does not go much beyond the right of free speech in the House of Commons and the right of a Member to discharge his duties in the House as a Member of the House of Commons . . . A question of privilege ought rarely to come up in Parliament . . . A genuine question of privilege is a most serious matter and should be taken seriously by the House."

It further states along with other reasons, "A dispute arising between two Members, as to allegations of facts, does not fulfill the conditions of parliamentary privilege." Clearly these points raised by members fall within this definition and they are not points of privilege.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: On that point, Mr. Speaker, and I do respect your ruling as you know, we always do. I would draw to your attention yesterday's Hansard when the Minister of Environment and Labour clearly stated, when asked to accommodate the privileges of the individual members of this Legislature, "We respond to the chief medical officer's request, not to the requests by members of the Legislature . . ." Clearly, where are we to turn if Ministers of the Crown publicly announce that they don't respond to requests

of members of the Legislature? What are ordinary Nova Scotians to do if members of the Legislature can't even have Ministers of the Crown be held accountable?

[9:15 a.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: What is the honourable member for Cape Breton West rising on? (Interruptions)

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, in response to your clarification on what a point of privilege is.

MR. SPEAKER: With all due respect, I would suggest to the honourable member for Cape Breton West that members have ample opportunity in this House to question ministers, through various means. Obviously, the honourable member for Cape Breton West has certainly taken advantage of those opportunities. However, as the honourable member would know, in the Rules of this House a minister is not obligated to answer.

We will now begin the daily routine.

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PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHERS PAPERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Transportation and Public Works.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Minister of Justice, I beg leave to table the Annual Report of the Human Rights Commission for the fiscal year ending March 31, 1999.

MR. SPEAKER: The report is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Environment and Labour.

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table some responses to questions earlier put to me in Question Period.

MR. SPEAKER: The documents are tabled.

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Education.

RESOLUTION NO. 719

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

Whereas the financing requirements of our software and bio-tech companies is of major importance to the economy of this province; and

Whereas Techtable Capital Venture Gig, involving four of our technology companies, Kanayo Software, Solution Inc., CrossOff Inc. and ImmunoVaccine Technologies made presentations to our technology and financial communities on their investment opportunities in the Schooner Room, at Casino Nova Scotia, yesterday; and

Whereas this event holds the potential for greater employment opportunities in the high-tech sector;

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Therefore be it resolved that this House extend its congratulations and encouragement to all the companies that participated in this event.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Environment and Labour.

RESOLUTION NO. 720

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

Whereas the flags of Province House will be lowered tomorrow, April 28th, to recognize the National Day of Mourning for People Killed or Injured in the Workplace; and

Whereas workplace health and safety is the business of every Nova Scotian; employers, employees, families, industries and government; and

Whereas this government is committed to improving workplace safety rules, forming new partnerships and recognizing this day of remembrance;

Therefore be it resolved that we remember those workers who have been killed or injured in our workplace, and we now reaffirm our commitment to creating a safer, healthier Nova Scotia.

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.

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 721

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

Whereas Robin Isenor began RSI Danceworks over six years ago while still in high school; and

Whereas Robin Isenor teaches at RSI Danceworks at its present location in the E. H. Horne School in Enfield while attending university and while running the business side of the studio; and

Whereas Robin Isenor is the Youth Entrepreneur of the Month;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House congratulate Robin Isenor on being the Youth Entrepreneur of the Month, on her successful balancing of work and school, and wish her every success in the future.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party.

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RESOLUTION NO. 722

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

Whereas the Minister of Education has once again indicated her disregard for Nova Scotia students in need of financial assistance; and

Whereas the student debt rates are growing continuously, particularly among the lowest-income Nova Scotians; and

Whereas just yesterday we read that tuition rates were once again going up for Nova Scotia universities;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Education recognize the growing crisis in the accessibility of post-secondary education by freezing tuition rates and reintroducing the Loan Remission Program.

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 Sackville-Cobequid.

RESOLUTION NO. 723

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 community of Sackville and its residents have benefited, and continue to benefit, from the unselfish service of countless volunteers who give so generously of their time, skills, energy and resources; and

Whereas on May 2nd, in this the International Year of Volunteers, Lake District Recreation Association, itself a volunteer organization, will be sponsoring its 22nd Volunteer Recognition Dinner; and

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Whereas at this dinner, Sackville volunteer organizations will have the opportunity to honour one of their own as their Volunteer of the Year;

Therefore be it resolved that this House thank the Lake District Recreation Association for its service to the greater Sackville community and congratulate all who will receive much deserved awards.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

RESOLUTION NO. 724

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

Whereas at 7:00 a.m. on Wednesday, September 19, 1947, announcer Sid Davison leaned into the microphone and said, "Good Morning" to central Nova Scotia, putting 250-watt CKCL on the air for the first time; and

Whereas for more than 54 years CKCL has been a reliable source of news, music and entertainment, and a large part of the region's history; and

Whereas this morning CKCL signed off for the last time, to make room for the state-of-the-art, high-powered 99.5 FM station;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize the more than 54 years of service everyone at CKCL provided for the community and wish Telemedia Radio Atlantic all the best as they embark on a new FM station, 99.5, and I trust they will continue with the farm broadcast.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 1930]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

RESOLUTION NO. 725

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 strike by Halifax Regional Municipality school janitors is going into its second month next week; and

Whereas our children have been subjected to dirty floors, messy bathrooms, overflowing garbage containers, filthy cafeterias and foul odours; and

Whereas a local Halifax newspaper, The Young People's Press, pleads that "Politicians consider how they might end the standoff.";

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier directs the Ministers of Health and Education to personally visit the schools in the area so they may experience first-hand the unbearable, unhealthy conditions our children have to endure on a daily basis.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

[Page 1931]

RESOLUTION NO. 726

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

Whereas two Nova Scotia High School students have been awarded TD Canada Trust scholarships, each worth $50,000; and

Whereas Chrissy Conrad of West Porters Lake and Bridgewater resident Vikram Lehki were two of the 20 winners from across Canada; and

Whereas each winner receives full tuition at any Canadian university, $3,500 per year toward living expenses, and a guaranteed offer of summer employment at TD Canada Trust for up to four years;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Chrissy Conrad and Vikram Lehki on their tremendous work and their most impressive accomplishments.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Pictou East.

RESOLUTION NO. 727

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

Whereas our school-year days are full of fond memories of childhood friends and the times we have shared; and

Whereas the former Greenwood School in Pictou County, now a memory itself, was the place for making great friendships and memories for eight women who were classmates over 70 years ago; and

[Page 1932]

Whereas 20 years ago, Louise White, Viola Fraser and the Kehoe sisters found their old friends and meet now every year to share their girlhood memories;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House learn from Louise White, Viola Fraser and their classmates, that despite distances and different interests our school days and friends are most precious and are worth caring for.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

RESOLUTION NO. 728

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

Whereas Sylvester Corporon has spent the better the part of his life as a barber, providing quality service and friendly conversation to all who entered his shop; and

Whereas Mr. Corporon has spent the last 12 years in the same location at Quigleys Corner in Eastern Passage; and

Whereas on April 30, 2001, Sylvester Corporon will be hanging up his equipment and retiring from the barber business;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognizes the hard work and dedication to his craft that Sylvester Corporon has brought to years of work and wish him all the best in years to come.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 1933]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

RESOLUTION NO. 729

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 cardiology service programs at the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre are the best in Canada, serving about 500 patients per year; and

Whereas cardiology resident, Dr. Simon Jackson, has been awarded the first year grant of a three year, $150,000 commitment by Novartis Pharmaceutical Canada to cardiology programs; and

Whereas these enhanced cardiology programs will further help cardiac patients and their families through research and better understanding of their conditions, while retaining control of their own health;

Therefore be it resolved this House recognize and congratulate those involved at the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre cardiology programs, Dr. Simon Jackson and Novartis Pharmaceutical Canada.

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 1934]

The honourable Minister of Environment and Labour.

RESOLUTION NO. 730

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

Whereas Nova Scotia is celebrating both the International Year of Volunteers and Volunteer Week; and

Whereas this government recognizes the generosity of all Nova Scotians as 285,000 Nova Scotians give, on average, 173 hours of their time to helping others; the equivalent of $2 billion in unpaid service to our province; and

Whereas the Deputy Minister of Environment and Labour, Kevin MacNamara, received the award for Outstanding Volunteer Fundraiser for 2001 from the Canadian Society of Fundraising Executives last night for his work with both the Metro United Way and Wee Care Development Centre;

Therefore be it resolved that we congratulate Mr. MacNamara on his award for outstanding service and recognize him as a model for each one of us for community involvement.

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. 731

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

[Page 1935]

Whereas parents, students and staff from Breton Education Centre in New Waterford raised $5,000 in support of Safe Grad in a five kilometre walk-a-thon on Sunday, April 22nd; and

Whereas we are entering graduation season throughout Nova Scotia; and

Whereas Safe Grad is an important component to graduation celebrations;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House congratulate the participants, supporters, community-minded businesses, government agencies and all donors on their very successful fundraising effort through the Breton Education Centre's five kilometre walk-a-thon for Safe Grad.

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. 732

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

Whereas every year Attractions Canada awards the top 10 tourist destinations in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas this year 5 of the 10 winners come from Cape Breton; and

Whereas the winners include Highland Links Golf Course, Highland Village Museum, the Celtic College International Festival and the Vince Ryan Memorial Hockey Tournament;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the winners for demonstrating the quality and diversity of these Cape Breton attractions.

[Page 1936]

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. 733

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

Whereas a major plank in the campaign of the federal Liberals was the cancellation of the Progressive Conservative's EH-101 Helicopter Program, a program which would have seen the delivery of the replacements for the aging Sea King helicopter fleet; and

Whereas in 1994, the federal Liberals kept that promise at a cost of $0.5 billion and released its White Paper on National Defence, which promised its own replacement program by the end of the decade; and

Whereas the end of the decade came and went and the minister promised a new deadline of 2005, which he has admitted he will not meet;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House urge the federal Minister of Defence to finally come through with the long-awaited replacements, the personal safety of the crew of our Sea King fleet depends on it.

[9:30 a.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

[Page 1937]

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect. (Interruptions)

RESOLUTION NO. 734

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: I have to be patient, it is Friday morning, Mr. Speaker.

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

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

Whereas workplace accidents and deaths continue to exact a terrible toll on Nova Scotia families; and

Whereas tomorrow, Saturday, April 28th, is the National Day of Mourning, a day to commemorate workers injured on the job, killed, disabled or who suffer from occupational illnesses; and

Whereas April 28th is a day to renew the commitment to remember not only those who are gone but to fight for the safety of the living, to show our concern for occupational health and safety;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House remember those killed and injured in the workplace and vow, in their memory, to continue efforts to make the workplace healthy and safe.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

[Page 1938]

RESOLUTION NO. 735

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

Whereas the Department of Environment and Labour issued environmental permits to Halifax C&D Recycling Limited for the purpose of dumping garbage near Old Guysborough Road, Halifax County, without any public consultation; and

Whereas evidence indicates an increase in air, ground and water pollution near the headwaters of Porters Lake and at the Halifax International Airport because of this landfill activity; and

Whereas the health and safety of the Halifax Regional Municipality's residents are now at serious risk;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Environment and Labour order an immediate halt to the dumping and composting of garbage at this site and conduct water and soil quality tests in the area.

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 Queens.

RESOLUTION NO. 736

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

Whereas the Premier's Campaign for Fairness was launched in January; and

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

[Page 1939]

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

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize and thank the Municipality of Queens for its support of this worthwhile initiative.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

RESOLUTION NO. 737

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

Whereas Nova Scotian-born American Speed Association Rookie of the Year contender is Scott Fraser; and

Whereas Scott Fraser has won several championships including titles in the MASCAR, IPSC and the Maritime Modified Series; and

Whereas Scott Fraser appeared in Dartmouth on Thursday, April 19th, at Forbes Chev-Olds;

Therefore be it resolved that members of the Legislature join with Nova Scotians in wishing Scott Fraser all the best on his upcoming race at the Iowa 300.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 1940]

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. 738

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

Whereas tonight, Friday, April 27th, the Richmond County Recreation Department will host its annual Volunteer Recognition Night Banquet; and

Whereas 142 volunteers from organizations throughout Richmond County will be recognized for their efforts; and

Whereas volunteers play a major role in the economic and social development of Richmond County by giving freely of their time to make our community a better place to live;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House extend their congratulations to the 142 volunteers that will be recognized tonight and commend the Richmond County Recreation Department for their efforts to acknowledge the hard work of our volunteers through their yearly banquet.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Economic Development.

[Page 1941]

RESOLUTION NO. 739

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

Whereas the Grade 5/6 class and their teacher Paula Swift of Islands Consolidated School in Freeport, Long Island, Digby County, held a Heritage Fair on April 21, 2001; and

Whereas these activities are part of a national initiative of the CRB Foundation in co-operation with school boards and historical societies in which students from all over the country are competing locally; and

Whereas Bryan Powell of Freeport will be representing the Tri-County School Board on the provincial team of 15 that will be attending the national event that will be held this summer in Kamloops, B.C., and along with Bryan, Rianna Howard, Emma Welch, Carissa Crocker and Kelsey Leeman, will be displaying their projects at the Annapolis Heritage Fair in Berwick on May 12th;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate all those who participated in the Islands Consolidated School Heritage Fair and applaud the efforts of these very talented young people.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

RESOLUTION NO. 740

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

Whereas April 22nd to April 28th is Education Week in the Province of Nova Scotia; and

[Page 1942]

Whereas 26 educators were honoured based on the theme Critical Thinking: Opening Doors to the World; and

Whereas Pat Kidd of Harold T. Barrett Junior High School in Sackville is recognized as a superb educator noted for her ability to improve the quality of her students' lives by providing them with opportunities to think critically by posing controversial and provocative questions that force them to examine their own beliefs through analyzing and evaluating all perspectives;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Ms. Kidd on receiving this year's education citation and being commended for her dedication and commitment to helping equip students with the essential tools to enhance their learning ability.

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. 741

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

Whereas this morning on CBC Radio, the Education Minister was heard to say that tuition wasn't that high since most students do not get student loans; and

Whereas perhaps the silver spoon in the minister's mouth obstructed her view of the most recent student debt figures; and

Whereas statistics tell us that the average student debt load after an undergraduate degree is well above $25,000;

[Page 1943]

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Education remember that not all students come from wealthy South End Halifax families and get on with reducing the cost of post-secondary education for less affluent Nova Scotians.

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 South.

RESOLUTION NO. 742

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

Whereas Office Interiors, a major office furnishings and equipment provider in Atlantic Canada, has offered quality service for the past decade and currently employs 125 people in Atlantic Canada; and

Whereas in the metro area this firm has grown under the leadership of owner and CEO Jim Mills to encompass three businesses under one roof to include office furnishings, digital equipment and on-site custom manufactured furniture; and

Whereas to house this impressive expansion, Office Interiors has just opened in a larger location in Dartmouth;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Jim Mills and the management and staff of Office Interiors on their recent growth, their years of success and wish them continued prosperity.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 1944]

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

RESOLUTION NO. 743

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

Whereas our blue book Premier promised that health care would be his government's number one priority; and

Whereas yesterday three external experts, although lauding Cancer Care Nova Scotia for an excellent beginning, recommended that further development of cancer treatment guidelines be accelerated; and

Whereas therapy guidelines and standards of care for most cancers are lacking and the experts note that more money may be needed to bring us up to snuff;

Therefore be it resolved that this Minister of Health and the Premier honour their commitment to make health care their number one priority by responding quickly to the recommendations regarding Cancer Care Nova Scotia and allocating adequate resources to upgrade cancer treatment guidelines and standards of care.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes.

RESOLUTION NO. 744

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

[Page 1945]

Whereas vehicle compliance officers ensure that trucks meet safety standards; and

Whereas this government is considering privatizing and cutting the number of vehicle compliance officers from 32 to 12; and

Whereas just last week a national highway safety group said that cutting the number of compliance officers would compromise our excellent safety record;

Therefore be it resolved that the Government of Nova Scotia stop the move to cut and privatize the province's vehicle compliance officers.

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 Minister of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

RESOLUTION NO. 745

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

Whereas team sports play a critical role in the development of skills among youth of all ages; and

Whereas the opportunity to compete and travel to tournaments and conferences is both exciting and part of the enjoyment of the sport, and it is always nice to return with a victory; and

Whereas the Amherst Minor Basketball Association's Bantam B Rebels captured the 2001 Bedford Classic championship for the third year in a row;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize the Bantam B Rebels, and their coaches Rod Gilroy and Jack Bourgeois for their commitment and recent success.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 1946]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

RESOLUTION NO. 746

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

Whereas sports promote the virtues of teamwork and bear out the old adage that a sound body makes a sound mind; and

Whereas Cole Harbour District High School maintains excellent sports programs for its students, and in particular has a wrestling program second to none in the province; and

Whereas the Cavs, as they are known, excelled at wrestling this year, winning the Senior Boys and Seniors Girls Regionals, the Senior Boys Provincials and the metro championships at the Seniors Boys and Senior Girls levels;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulates the Cole Harbour District High School, its coaches and staff for a stellar year in wrestling, and extend its hearty praise to team members Bo Gray, T.J. Grant, Jeff McNeill, Greg Cornect, Ben Rau, Josh Blakeney, Jim Dube, Kevin MacDonald, Evan Edgett, Devan Lannigan, Paul Merchant, Rebecca Lewicki, Ashley Clark, Jenn Richard, Josh Hamilton, Kurt Bennett, Chrissy Gay and Laura MacDougall.

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 1947]

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Victoria.

RESOLUTION NO. 747

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

Whereas like Nova Scotia, Saskatchewan is facing a battle for the survival of its softwood against U.S. lumber tariffs; and

Whereas on April 24th, the Government of Saskatchewan hired legal counsel in Washington, D.C. to lobby on the province's behalf; and

Whereas our province's softwood lumber industry is battling against a very powerful adversary, the American Government;

Therefore be it resolved that the Government of Nova Scotia seriously consider hiring outside expertise to lobby on behalf of the our softwood lumber industry.

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 Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations.

RESOLUTION NO. 748

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

Whereas St. Andrew Junior High School student, Laura Proctor earned first place honours at the regional science fair for her project, Nova Scotia Youth's Future: Up in Smoke; and

[Page 1948]

Whereas in the course of her project, the 13 year old, Grade 7 student found that 60 per cent of teens who smoke have at least one parent who smokes and that 100 per cent of teens who smoke regret their habit; and

Whereas Laura and the second, third and fourth-place winners at the science fair will travel to Kingston, Ontario in May to compete in the national science fair;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Laura Proctor on her prizewinning science fair project and wish her success as she competes at the national science fair.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

RESOLUTION NO. 749

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

Whereas 2001 is the International Year of Volunteers; and

Whereas of our community volunteers can be found working for community fire departments; and

Whereas Eddie Cusack has been an active member of the Reserve Mines Volunteer Fire Department for 60 years, and this past weekend Reserve Mines Volunteer Fire Department celebrates their 67th year of operation;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Reserve Mines Volunteer Fire Department on 67 years of operation, and Eddie Cusack for his 60 years of volunteerism and commitment to his community of Reserve Mines.

[Page 1949]

[9:45 a.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

RESOLUTION NO. 750

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

Whereas each year colleges and universities throughout Nova Scotia acknowledge individuals making great contributions to our communities by granting honorary degrees; and

Whereas on Saturday, April 21, 2001, Ruth Goldbloom of Halifax was awarded an honorary degree from the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design at their spring convocation; and

Whereas Ruth Goldbloom is known throughout Canada as an active humanitarian, volunteer, and founder of the Pier 21 Society and Heritage Interpretation Centre;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House extend our congratulations to Ruth Goldbloom on her most recent honour and extend to her our best wishes in the times ahead.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 1950]

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Eastern Shore.

RESOLUTION NO. 751

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

Whereas Nova Scotia is an abundant source of some of the highest quality lobster found in the world today; and

Whereas lobster fishermen and women of Nova Scotia, through hard work and long hours, have always been important contributors to our province's economy; and

Whereas the lobster fishermen and women of the eastern coast of Nova Scotia, District Number 32, which encompasses the waters from Cole Harbour to Ecum Secum, began the lobster season on April 19, 2001;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House extend their best wishes to all those involved in the lobster harvesting industry for a most successful and bountiful lobster season.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 752

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

[Page 1951]

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

Whereas the residents of Leeward Avenue, Rising Sun Trail and Eagle Glen Road in the community of Highland Park have submitted these petitions for attention to their roads; and

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

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

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

RESOLUTION NO. 753

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

Whereas Environmental Planning at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, also known as NSCAD, held its 30th Anniversary celebration on April 14th; and

Whereas Environmental Planning has over 250 graduates from its well-respected program and a stellar cast of staff; and

Whereas Jill Grant, a moving force with Environmental Planning at NSCAD, received the 2000 Canadian Institute of Planners, or CIP Award for the Best Feature Article in Plan Canada and has recently been appointed by CIP as Chairman of the Editorial Board of Plan Canada;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Environmental Planning at NSCAD on its 30th Anniversary, and wish Jill Grant of Environmental Planning continued success in her endeavours.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 1952]

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

[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 Halifax Fairview. You have 32 minutes.

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Although I don't intend to take my full 32 minutes today, there were a few thoughts that I wanted to put on the record before I close this particular portion of the debate. As a preamble to my remarks last evening I talked about why it is that Opposition Parties feel forced to move motions like this.

AN HON. MEMBER: Refresh my memory. Why was that now?

MR. STEELE: Well, the reason, Mr. Speaker, of course being that the executive branch of our government really has taken over the Legislature. It has been a constant tension ever since the people forced King John to sign the Magna Carta under the oak tree at Runnymede, which was the end of the Divine Right of Kings, that was the pivotal point in our constitutional history where people said, the executive has to listen to the people. We still, today, many hundreds of years later, have this tension where our government is controlled by the executive, by which I mean the Cabinet and that is not a good thing, because the Cabinet looks upon this House as simply something to be managed. They want to get their business done as quickly and as painlessly as possible and the price they pay is they don't listen to this House, they don't listen to their own backbenchers, they don't listen

[Page 1953]

to this side of the House because the House of Assembly is something to be managed instead of listened to. It is a shame because I believe fundamentally that it does not lead to good government. Good government involves listening to the people, listening to the people on all sides of the House and it is unfortunate that hoist amendments have to be brought forward simply in an effort to get the government to listen.

Mr. Speaker, I closed last evening on the topic of municipal relations, which is one that is important to me. I read a quotation from the President of the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities who simply said in her own words the exact point that I had been trying to make several days ago when I spoke to the main bill, about how badly the service exchange had been handled by the government. Right now there is a process underway where the government has done what it should have done in the first place and listened to the UNSM, listening and consulting with the municipality, to come up with a service exchange plan that makes sense for everybody. It seems to me to only make good sense that the Financial Measures (2001) Bill shouldn't come on for a vote until that process is complete.

One of the other points made by the President of the UNSM in her letter of March 29th to the Premier is that there are some municipalities in urgent need of financial help. So it seems to me that if this Bill No. 30, the Financial Measures (2001) Act was delayed for six months, we would be able to incorporate the results of the consultation process that is going on right now because provincial-municipal relations have undoubtedly been damaged by the process the government followed and there is still an opportunity, if this hoist motion passes, to repair some of that damage.

A six months' hoist, a delay of six months, would also allow us to know what the province's real financial situation is. Thinking back to last year, there were two bodies who tried to predict the revenue stream of the government. On the one hand, there was the Department of Finance which has hundreds of employees, millions of dollars, elaborate computer systems and many professionals who are dedicated to the task of predicting the revenue flows of the government and they made their prediction. The other body was the NDP caucus office which was serving at the time 10 or 11 MLAs, a few staff members, a few researchers, including one particularly fine, hard-working director of research, his name has slipped my mind just at the moment, but these few researchers, of course, have to cover the entire government and certainly don't have anywhere close, not even close, a tiny fraction of the resources of the Department of Finance.

So those are the two bodies trying to predict the government's revenue for the year and guess which one of those made a more accurate prediction? It was the NDP caucus office. The NDP caucus office issued a paper, (Interruption) the name of that director of research has just slipped my mind at the moment, Mr. Speaker, but it was the NDP caucus office that made a more accurate prediction of the revenue flow because we simply applied some common sense and we took the politics out of it.

[Page 1954]

It seems to me that a six months' hoist will allow us to predict again this year, more accurately, exactly what the revenues of the government will be and it is in that context when we know what the revenue is, when we know what the equalization is going to be from the federal government, that we will be able to make good decisions about financial measures.

Mr. Speaker, a six months' hoist would also allow us to seek out new sources of revenue and I need look to no other authority than the federal Minister of Finance, who is saying to this government, you need to spend more time seeking out sources of revenue, particularly as it relates to Nova Scotia's rich natural resources. We are not getting the return that we should be getting on those resources and there ought to be a serious effort in investigation on how it is that we could increase our revenues from our resources. It seems to me that six months would allow us to do exactly that.

Six months, Mr. Speaker, would also allow this government to flush out the idea that is currently driving its entire policy agenda. It is a bit of a shame, but I think true, that the Health policy agenda, the Education policy agenda, and the Community Services policy agenda are being driven by the idea that, not this year but the year after, there will be a tax cut offered to the people of Nova Scotia. Because, in order for that tax cut to be offered, everything else needs to line up and nothing that will deflect that tax cut can be allowed to go forward. That is why I say that this tax cut idea is driving the entire policy agenda.

The problem, Mr. Speaker, is that the people of Nova Scotia know very little about the details of that tax cut and it seems to me that six months would allow this government to flush it out. What little we do know, we were able to get out of the Minister of Finance in the Subcommittee on Supply. What little we do know, according to the Minister of Finance, is that, well, first of all, the 10 per cent cut is 10 per cent of Nova Scotia taxes. It is not 10 per cent of the overall taxes, it is 10 per cent of Nova Scotia taxes only. The difficulty with that is that Nova Scotia's taxes are only, currently, 57.5 per cent of federal taxes. So it is 10 per cent of 57.5 per cent, which, if I do the math correctly and I think I have, amounts to a tax cut of actually only 3.6 per cent. A tax cut is a tax cut, but truth be told, what the government is promising not next year but the year after, is a 3.6 per cent tax cut.

The other thing that needs to be fleshed out, and six months seems a perfect time to do it, Mr. Speaker, is who is going to get that tax cut? According to the Minister of Finance, who revealed this piece of information for the first time in the Subcommittee on Supply - which is not broadcast on television, transcripts won't be ready for months, so it is not widely reported, but, nevertheless, he said it - is it is going to be an across-the-board cut. This 3.6 per cent cut is going to be across the board, which means that everybody gets the same cut, no matter how much they are earning. So what it is, is a regressive tax cut on top of a progressive taxation system. That is something that I think needs some discussion, some fleshing out, some debate about whether that is the right way to go, but that is what the Minister of Finance said is his intention to do. The other thing, of course, that we have to bear in mind about this tax cut that is driving the entire policy agenda, I just want to say,

[Page 1955]

again, how strange and unusual, how unfortunate it is that a tax cut should be driving, say, the health care agenda, or the education agenda, but it is.

The other thing is, Mr. Speaker, it is an unfortunate fact that not everybody even pays Nova Scotia tax. Those at the lowest end of the income scale - and I think I heard somebody in this House say the other day and I will take their word for it, it may have been the member for Dartmouth North, I don't quite remember - I believe the statistic was that 55 per cent of Nova Scotians earn $20,000 a year or less. So 55 per cent of taxpayers in Nova Scotia, that is an awful lot of people who are paying almost no tax . . .

[10:00 a.m.]

MR. JERRY PYE: That is from the Voluntary Planning Board.

MR. STEELE: The member for Dartmouth North is telling me, helpfully, that that figure comes from the Voluntary Planning Board. So 55 per cent of taxpayers in Nova Scotia are paying either no Nova Scotia tax or very little. So the 3.6 per cent cut is going to provide precisely nothing to tens of thousands or perhaps even hundreds of thousands of Nova Scotians, or if it does provide something it will be a few dollars.

It seems to me that six months, Mr. Speaker, is the perfect time for the government to go out and explain that to the people, that this tax cut that is driving the agenda now is something that most of their constituents won't actually get. You see the rich people in Nova Scotia will get quite a bit of money out of this because 3.6 per cent of a lot of money still is a lot of money but the math, as I understand it, is that 3.6 per cent of nothing is nothing.

AN HON. MEMBER: That is good math.

MR. STEELE: I think that math is good math, Mr. Speaker, and I think that this government needs to explain to the people of Nova Scotia exactly how this tax cut is going to work because most people who are paying for it now in cuts to social assistance, who are paying for it in school strikes and the deteriorating quality of education, the mother who had to wait with her daughter in her arms for eight hours in a hospital emergency room, they are already paying for this tax cut. I think they need to be told that when it actually is delivered to them that they are not going to actually get any money. I think six months is enough time for the government to put together a communications plan to explain to the public how it is that most of them are not actually going to get this tax cut. That is why I support the hoist.

Another topic, Mr. Speaker, that I think needs to be fleshed out, but I will only mention it before I move on, is the promise in the budget that Pharmacare premiums are going to go up. During the by-election campaign - which, for me, ended less than two months ago in Halifax Fairview - one common theme from the seniors in my constituency was they don't know how they are going to pay any further increase in Pharmacare but the budget papers

[Page 1956]

contain the promise that it will be going up. So many of those seniors who will get nothing, or pennies, from the 3.6 per cent tax cut are facing a Pharmacare increase.

I wonder if all the backbenchers on that side of the House realize that at the same time the seniors in their constituency are going to get nothing out the tax cut, they are going to be hit with an increase in the Pharmacare premium. I think that there needs to be more fleshing out of that idea, that there needs to be some communication from the government explaining to the seniors of Nova Scotia exactly how that is going to work, because I think they need to know.

Mr. Speaker, those are a few of the things that I think six months would allow us to do. I think there needs to be some more information out to the people. It seems to me that these are important ideas that need to be explored and that is why I, personally, speaking for myself, will be voting for the six months' hoist.

With those words, Mr. Speaker, I thank you and I thank the House for this opportunity.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. All members who are eligible to speak on the hoist amendment have spoken.

The honourable Government House Leader.

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

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Education.

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, it is with great sadness that I have to report to this House that the students from Massachusetts killed and injured in a highway accident near Sussex, New Brunswick, early today, were to participate in a music festival at Mount St. Vincent University this weekend. The American students were to be hosted by the students and staff of Gaetz Brook Junior High School during the weekend. It was a return visit because the American students hosted Gaetz Brook students last year. The Halifax Regional School Board has sent a crisis management team to Gaetz Brook Junior High School. I realize that the media have a job to do but I ask that they exercise sensitivity in their coverage of this tragedy as it impacts on our students and staff.

[Page 1957]

Our thoughts and prayers are with the students and their families this morning. I would ask that all members of this House observe a moment of silence for the students. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Please rise. We will observe a moment of silence.

[A minute of silence was observed.]

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you, please be seated.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, words can't possibly ease the anguish that results from the loss of a child, especially through a tragedy like this in automobile accidents on our highways. On behalf of the NDP caucus, I would like to extend our sincere condolences to the families and to the communities and all those who are affected by the loss of these children in this tragic accident.

I would like to take this opportunity to extend every hope for a full and speedy recovery for the others who are injured. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, it is terrible when a tragic accident happens, especially more difficult for everyone when such a tragic accident happens away from home. We are, of course, deeply saddened by the news of this tragedy and our deepest sympathy goes out to the families of those involved.

We also extend our wishes for a speedy recovery to those in hospitals and as a former educator I can only imagine what the thoughts of the teachers, students, parents and the chaperones are at this time.

As a parent of a high school student, we take for granted too many times that when we send our children off to school that they will be returning home safely at the end of the day but, unfortunately, too often this is not the case. I hope, Mr. Speaker, I never have to fully understand the grief of those parents and classmates that they are feeling. But on behalf of my Liberal caucus, I would certainly like to extend our sympathies along with the minister's. Thank you.

[Page 1958]

[PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING]

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

MR. SPEAKER: I would like to read the motion that is presently before the House. The motion was made by the honourable Leader of the Liberal Party:

"Mr. Speaker, I make the following motion: 'that BILL 30 be amended by deleting the following word 'that' and replace the same with the following:

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

Is the House ready for the question?

A recorded vote has been called for.

Ring the bells.

The bells will ring to the satisfaction of the Whips.

[10:09 a.m.]

[The Division bells were rung.]

MR. SPEAKER: Are the Whips satisfied?

[The Clerk calls the roll.]

[10:51 a.m.]

YEAS NAYS

Mr. Corbett Mr. Christie

Mr. Deveaux Mr. Russell

Ms. Maureen MacDonald Mr. Muir

Mr. MacDonell Miss Purves

Mr. Holm Mr. Fage

Mr. Downe Mr. Balser

Mr. Gaudet Mr. Parent

Dr. Smith Ms. McGrath

Mr. MacAskill Mr. Ronald Chisholm

Mr. Wilson Mr. Olive

[Page 1959]

Mr. Boudreau Mr. Morse

Mr. Samson Mr. MacIsaac

Mr. MacKinnon Mr. DeWolfe

Mr. Pye Mr. Taylor

Mr. Dexter Mr. Dooks

Mr. Estabrooks Mr. Langille

Mr. Steele Mr. Chataway

Mr. Clarke

Mr. Hendsbee

Mrs. Baillie

Mr. Carey

Mr. Morash

Mr. Chipman

Mr. Barnett

Mr. O'Donnell

Mr. Hurlburt

THE CLERK: For, 17. Against, 26

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is defeated.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move that the previous question be now put.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader has moved the previous question be put.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, as I begin to make a few brief comments on the second reading of the bill, I have to say that the Government House Leader is very predictable because one expected that the government would be bringing in closure at the earliest opportunity, which, as predictable as they always are, that, of course, was done.

Mr. Speaker, I also have to say that I hope that in the remaining time that exists on the debate of second reading of this bill that some more government members than participated in the thoughtful hoist motion that was just defeated, hopefully more members on the backbenches will be given permission by the government to stand in their place and speak on the bill on behalf of their constituents. Hope springs eternal. I see that some members on the government benches are leaning forward and said, oh, yes, can we have permission?

[Page 1960]

Mr. Speaker, we all know that in this House all members are treated equally, and all members have the right to take their place on the floor to express their own opinions and those of their constituents. The only thing that appears to be binding or constraining members on the government side is probably some kind of discipline, possibly from the Premier, I would suggest quite probably by the Premier, the Government House Leader and so on.

Remember, those people who are the power-brokers . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. There is too much noise in the Chamber.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid has the floor.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, as I continue, I am used to the noise on the government benches, but I was encouraged, despite the noise, that there were a few people opposite who at least seemed to be listening, and their ears almost picked up on the thought that they were permitted to speak. Some of those members on the government benches had a life before they came into this Chamber. They were municipal councillors, and some of them had good reputations as municipal councillors because they were known for speaking up on behalf of their constituents.

Mr. Speaker, it seems to be something that has been - I shouldn't use the word beaten out of them - driven out of them since they were elected to the government benches. It must be very hard for those members to sit on their hands and keep their lips zippered in this Chamber, as they are unable now or not permitted to stand up to speak for their constituents.

Mr. Speaker, I just want to say that we, on this side, would welcome the opportunity to hear them speak, and we look forward to the day when a revolt in the backbenches of the Tory benches will occur and they will tell the front benches, who they outnumber, that they demand the right to be able to speak in this House, just as Opposition members do, on behalf of their constituents.

Mr. Speaker, look, they are waving their hands in applause. They are over there, they are congratulating and encouraging me to go on because they want that permission. They want to be afforded their democratic right, which is apparently being denied them by the front benches, the power-brokers. I say to those members, trying to butter up to get in Cabinet isn't worth it, it is more important to stand up for your constituents.

Mr. Speaker, not only the residents in Sackville-Cobequid are concerned about health care in the Province of Nova Scotia. I would suggest to you that there are residents who live in Queens, in the Annapolis Valley, in Kentville, in Dartmouth, in Chester-St. Margaret's, in Colchester, who are also concerned about health care, and who are also enraged by the thought that the government is going to be charging those who are confined to hospital beds as long-term care beds because there aren't sufficient other places out there, because the

[Page 1961]

government has frozen the development of new long-term care beds. The government has decided to rip into the pockets and to charge a $50 user fee.

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

MR. HOLM: Certainly.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury, on an introduction.

MR. RONALD CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid for allowing me this opportunity. In the Speaker's Gallery, we have with us today Julia MacQuarrie from the Town of Port Hawkesbury. Julia is a former schoolteacher, I believe, and also a former Town Councillor for the Town of Port Hawkesbury. I would ask all members to give her a warm welcome. (Applause)

[11:00 a.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: I certainly extend a special welcome to our guests here today in the House.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

MR. HOLM: I too certainly add my words of welcome and having been a former teacher myself - been on leave of absence for quite a few years mind you - I say former now because I have resigned that position, I have to say that I am sure that our guest in the gallery hasn't seen as unruly a classroom probably as she sometimes has observed in this Chamber for many a year.

Now if I could continue on. Residents across this province had certain kinds of commitments made to them by the blue team during the last election. They were told by the Tories that the Tories had a plan to fix health care. They even had a price tag given to them. They were told that the major problems dealt with the higher administrative costs, those were going to be cut, more monies would be provided for front-line workers. And what do we see happening? We still see many residents in communities like that of the member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury, who need doctors in that area. In the Strait-Richmond area, there are areas where doctors are needed. In Cape Breton, in mainland Nova Scotia and I can tell you, in the community of Sackville there are residents who cannot find family doctors, which, of course, puts an increased strain on the emergency health care system as people who are unable to find a family doctor are often required to go to the emergency services.

[Page 1962]

The plan hasn't been there. They were also told that there were not going to be tax increases. It is interesting. When is a tax a tax or is it a user fee? Apparently the 911 service is not a tax, it is a user fee. Since it is called a user fee, that means the government can increase taxes through the HST that they collect. The government has increased the amount of user fees that they have been collecting in this province by tens of millions of dollars.

We know that 55 per cent of the population in Nova Scotia makes $20,000 or less. When you are charging those user fees, they don't turn around and ask you what is your income level, can you afford to pay those higher taxes, those higher user fees? No. Whether you are a millionaire, whether you are making hundreds of thousands of dollars a year or whether you are making an income that places you below the poverty line, you still have to pay those same, equal amounts of increased user fees. That is unfair because it does not take into consideration the ability to pay.

Education was another key plank of the Tories. The government, when it suits them, they can step in and act to address issues, like they did to divide the southern board because they made it an election promise, supposedly on the idea that it was going to improve the quality of education for the children in that area. But when the children in the HRM are suffering because the board is using, what has to be considered to be by reasonable people who look at it, unfair labour practices and an unwillingness to try to resolve the strike with the caretakers who are an important and vital part of the school system, keeping it clean, healthy and safe, the government sits on their hands. Oh, it is not our responsibility, they say. It is a board decision and what they do with their money is their decision, Mr. Speaker, according to this government.

This board, which contends that it is cash-strapped and has to force these workers into making massive cuts, concessions, they have money for a public relations exercise to buy big ads in the newspapers, to put their propaganda, put their spin out there to the general public, all in an attempt to break those workers and that is wrong.

There are children in our schools right now who are environmentally sensitive or who have asthma, and there are educators who have those problems as well, who are suffering. I suggest that the Minister of Education and the Minister of Labour get off their hindquarters and take an aggressive stand to force the board back to the table and to negotiate in an open, fair, constructive manner. Instead, the board walks away last night from negotiations. Pulled off from the table - according to the news reports this morning - all of the things that they had reached before the strike began, up until the present time, to put it back to square one. You call that fair negotiations, Mr. Speaker. I call that nothing more than intimidation and bullying. I would hope that the minister and the Minister of Environment and Labour will do their jobs.

[Page 1963]

Each and every one of the MLAs on the government benches has a responsibility to assist in that process, to demand that the ministers live up to their responsibilities. I suggest that you do that job. If you haven't got the courage to stand up in this place to say it, then make sure that you voice your concerns loudly and clearly at your caucus. The public will never know that you stood up for them, but if the ministers finally do something, you will feel better certainly, but also, Mr. Speaker, those members will get some credit as well, because the government would finally be given some credit for having a bit of spine, a bit of backbone, and the integrity to do what is right.

Another thing in this bill is this equalization of municipalities. Everybody in this House has said that we support equalization for municipalities, everybody has strongly and unequivocally supported that principle, and it exists now, except that now the provincial government pays it. This government is trying to download that responsibility to other municipalities.

I remind members, like the member for Eastern Shore who used to speak out so eloquently and forcefully for his constituents, or the member for Preston and the other members, the member for Dartmouth South, that there are constituents within your constituency who are on low- and fixed-incomes, as there are in mine. There are constituents who are seniors, who have had a low income but who are trying to maintain their own homes, something which the government says that they are encouraging them to do. They are also living in area where the property taxes have skyrocketed, as they have in most parts of HRM, more so even than they have in other parts of the province.

Those seniors and others, according to this government's initial plan, it would have them paying more in the way of property taxes, monies they can't afford as they try to pay the increased property tax that is there naturally, pay for the higher fuel costs and the gouging of the oil companies and the increased HST that this provincial government is collecting on all those taxes on that oil; higher costs for food. They are being expected by this government to pay more in the way of their property taxes to subsidize the taxes of some very affluent individuals in some less fortunate municipalities.

Bear in mind, Mr. Speaker, somebody who is trying to maintain their home in Lower Sackville and they have an income of $20,000 a year, if the government's scheme went through, their property taxes would go up to help subsidize somebody who is maybe making $250,000 a year in Pictou. That's wrong. That's not based on a person's ability to pay. Support equalization, no question but base it upon ability to pay and don't penalize those who are on low- and fixed- incomes simply because they happen to live in one of those few municipalities designated more prosperous.

The Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations will know that the property tax rebate grant to seniors has been frozen for years. It has been capped and it's capped at $400. That is $400 or up to 50 per cent of the taxes. I can tell the minister, the

[Page 1964]

government has been told this before but I will say it again, that property taxes in the community of Sackville have gone up and gone up considerably since that happened and since that was introduced. I would suggest that they have gone up faster than they have in many other parts of this province. So, what once was maybe a fair amount, that $400 to assist in the property tax and once might have paid half of the taxes now might pay 25 per cent. For those who are trying to maintain their homes and the government is trying to encourage them to maintain their homes in HRM in communities like Sackville, it doesn't begin to cut it in terms of the amounts. But in some other areas where the property taxes are much lower, that $400 may, in fact, be more than enough to cover 50 per cent.

I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, that the summer place that we have, where the taxes are much lower, if that property had qualified, would be more than enough to pay 50 per cent of the property tax. But in my home in Sackville, it wouldn't come close to paying 50 per cent. So there is an inequity built in and it is one that this government has to address, if you are serious, if you are genuine in your wish to assist people to stay in their own homes.

Government had a chance and, Mr. Speaker, let's not kid ourselves, people like the member for Eastern Shore who spoke so eloquently as a councillor, so forcefully, he was in the press all the time, he, I am sure, and I may be wrong and I hope I am not casting aspersions because if I am, I will withdraw what I am about to say, but I suspect that he is going to vote for this bill.

AN HON. MEMBER: Be careful.

MR. HOLM: I am being told to be careful by the member from across the floor, so maybe I am casting aspersions, maybe I am presuming something that I shouldn't and maybe between now and then he will decide that when the vote comes, maybe at 4:55 p.m. tonight, or 5:55 p.m. tonight, or on Monday, whenever, maybe he will come to his senses, and maybe he will speak. I hope I didn't cast an aspersion on him, Mr. Speaker. I note you didn't call me to order and ask me to withdraw it. That is a pretty serious accusation to make against a member of this House, a member of the government benches, that they are actually going to vote for this bill. That is a pretty serious condemnation of them.

[11:15 a.m.]

My experience has been, looking at this bunch across, like the last bunch who used to occupy those benches, most backbenchers are lemmings. They sort of follow along with what the front benches tell them to do. My guess is they will do likewise, but when they go back to their constituents, they may say I didn't really agree with that, but the Premier made me do it or the Minister of Finance made me do it.

[Page 1965]

The bill, Mr. Speaker, I am sure will pass. This bill is going to authorize more gouging, more user fees in an unfair way. It is another assault on seniors, on top of the increased Pharmacare payments and the other taxes that are being charged. It is not addressing the health care problems in the province. It is not addressing the home care issues, it is not addressing the education issues faced by the children in the classrooms from one end of this province to the other, nor is it going to make it easier. In fact, it is going to be harder for those who wish to go on in their post-secondary education, as the tuition fees in this province continue to skyrocket.

This is aimed at politics. The government wants to be able to try to pretend that they have been somehow controlling expenditures without increasing revenues. We know about tax bracket creep, we know about the de-indexing, and we know all of the other little silly games that the government tries to play to camouflage how they are actually taking more money out of the pockets of Nova Scotians. It is a shell game, Mr. Speaker, to try to be magicians. We had one other Minister of Finance we dubbed Merlin. Well now we have the attempting Merlin government, where they are trying to hide their little sneaky increases under the shells, and by the sleight of hand they are trying to trick Nova Scotians into not seeing it.

What I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, is this. I don't believe that most Nova Scotians can, in fact, identify where all the little snips that are being made, where all of the little assaults, where all of the money that is being taken out of their pockets is going. What they do know is they do recognize that as each of those individual costs hit them the amount of money that they have is shrinking in terms of purchasing power. They understand the real reason why this government doesn't want to do anything to protect them against home heat increases or increased costs in gasoline and diesel products. It is because the government is making an extra 8 per cent in HST on all of those increases. But, oh, the government isn't supposed to be noticing.

They also want to download and continue to download to the municipalities because then it is the municipalities who are the bad guys when it comes to taxes. The province says, oh, we didn't increase anything. You should speak to your municipal councillors, they are the ones who increased your taxes. Yes, but the bill was given to them by the Tories, like the Liberals before them passed the bills to the municipalities and the Liberals learned how to do that very efficiently from the Tories who were there before them. Liberatory - same old story.

Let's not kid ourselves. Nova Scotians are not going to be fooled by this. Nova Scotians want what this government promised: open, honest, transparent. If you are going to break your promises, have the intestinal fortitude to stand up and state exactly what you are going to do and why. If you are going to increase taxes, if you need more revenue, have the intestinal fortitude to stand up and say, we cannot keep our commitment to operate on the amount of money that had been there before, we must increase revenues, then have the

[Page 1966]

intestinal fortitude to say that we are going to consult with Nova Scotians and we are going to do it in a fair and equitable way.

If you aren't going to be concerned about seniors, if you are not going to be prepared to address the issues about property taxes and the tax relief system, if it is just malarkey that you are concerned and you are interested in people being able to stay in their own homes and live with dignity, have the intestinal fortitude to stand up and say it. Don't play silly games. Be upfront.

Nova Scotians have to ask why it is that the Minister responsible for the Petroleum Directorate would be harsh on these big multinational companies that want to explore for our resources on land. I have said it before in this House, if a company wanted to explore for our oil and gas reserves on Nova Scotia, we sure gouged them - a touch of sarcasm in my voice. One thousand acres would cost them, let's see, the exploration rights, 11 cents times 10, that is $1.10, times 10, well, that is $110. A hundred acres would cost them $11. That means in order to get to the rights to explore on 100 acres of Nova Scotia land it would cost that company a whole $11, which would have been enough to buy the chief executives for that oil company a burger, a fry, a soft drink and they might even be able to get a donut thrown in. Harsh.

You can be sure that that $11 figure is a major thing that will be driving away those companies that regularly are putting out and spending millions of dollars at the drop of a hat. That $11 is a real hindrance to them. Had we charged a modest increase, had we charged $10 an acre, the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations might have been able to give an enhanced property tax rebate system to seniors. The $50 fee that the Minister of Health is going to be imposing could have been wiped out.

But we have to take care of them. Poor Sempra, which somehow can't seem, just can't seem to be able to promise it will live up to its commitments, honour the commitments it made to gas distribution in the province. Maybe if the minister hasn't already, he might like to go on and check out the most recent financial returns and reports from that company, because yesterday, I think it was, I was reading the news release from Sempra, talking about how their first quarter was so much better than projected and how the returns per share has gone up, I think it has gone up by about 50 per cent. Their income, therefore, has risen dramatically.

But, of course, government says, oh, we can't do anything, we can't force them to honour their commitments, commitments made to Nova Scotia and approved by this Tory Government on the poor terms, I might add, that were set down by the former Liberal Government. I am not judging this government by the conditions for granting a licence because they weren't very good as laid down by the Liberals. The Liberals deserve 50 per cent of the responsibility for the foul-up.

[Page 1967]

I am getting some calls from members of the Liberal benches that I should focus a little bit more on them and I would be happy to talk about the giveaway of the pipeline, I would be happy to talk about the first 50 per cent that we gave away on the PanCanadian field and we could have had 100 per cent of that for nothing. The Liberals gave away half, Tories gave a half, we got nothing. PanCanadian has a field that is worth a lot of money.

We could talk about a bunch of things, but I won't focus on the Liberals now because the Liberals keep saying anytime something is brought up, don't focus on the past, look to the future. They don't want to be reminded about what they were doing just a couple of years ago.

I take a look at the government benches and I say to you in all sincerity there are better examples that you can look to for guidance than what the former government did. Use your imagination. Be creative. Try to actually increase revenue in the Province of Nova Scotia in a fair way. There are ways you can do it. You can crank up the fee that is being charged for coal so that poor Mr. Chisholm in Pioneer has to pay a little bit more than 25 cents a ton. More than 25 cents a ton; something that they turn around and sell for $55 a ton? Gee whiz, I think that we could increase that a little bit and put money into the coffers of Nova Scotia so that you don't keep going after the middle- and low-income earners.

Opportunities were missed in this budget and in this bill. Members of the government backbenches, please, scratch the surface a little bit and think back less than two years ago about what you and your team were promising and the commitment that you made to your constituents to stand up and to speak out for them; and do it. And, if they do, Mr. Speaker, I suggest to all members of this House, this province will be better off for it. If you don't, then the difficulties that we have and the injustices that exist in the system will only continue to grow.

Nova Scotia can and should have a tremendous future. We have location, resource, the people who are skilled, capable, hard-working, energetic and entrepreneurs in this province. If the government would stop fouling up in the oil and gas industry and demand more for Nova Scotia businesses and Nova Scotia residents, we will benefit in terms of both jobs and economic spin-offs.

We have some of the best ports on the East Coast, in fact, in the world. We have the opportunity and despite whatever foul-ups the government continues to do, we are going to move ahead regardless - or despite - what this government has been doing and what the former government did. We will move ahead. But the speed with which we move ahead and the degree of success that we have will be greatly reduced unless this government gets some spine, some backbone reinforcement and actually starts to stand up for Nova Scotians. When I say for Nova Scotians, I don't mean only for those few privileged Nova Scotians that this government seems to be most interested in listening to. You represent and you were voted for by people in all walks of life and economic and social strata in the Province of Nova

[Page 1968]

Scotia. Please, members on the government benches, remember that and start to act accordingly. Thank you.

[11:30 a.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, when you listen to what the member for Sackville-Cobequid just had to say, it is of absolutely no surprise as to why that Party has always been in Opposition in this province and why that Party will never form government in this province. Really, it is ironic, and one would think a member who has been in here for 18 years and has been in Opposition, you would think that one morning he would wake up, look in the mirror and say, maybe I am not with the right Party or maybe our approach just isn't working. It hasn't worked for 18 years.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would ask the member to focus on Bill No. 30. That is what the debate is about. I would hope that he would be focusing on Bill No. 30.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, I was just responding a bit to the latitude that was given to the previous speaker on speaking about the past. I just thought that I would try to give members and Nova Scotians a bit of a better appreciation, a good understanding of the substance of where that is coming from and the source and a better understanding of a bit of the bias of that source. It is a Party that I think should be named the St. Jude party, the saint of hopeless causes. I think that accurately reflects their Party.

Regardless of that, Mr. Speaker, we have said, right from day one when we came back into this House, that we were going to keep this government accountable, not allow the government off the hook by continually blaming their lot on others and by making sure that this government led this province and did exactly what they told Nova Scotians they were going to do. Six hundred and seventeen days is how long this government has now been in power here in this province. It is no longer a time to be reflecting on the past or to be casting aspirations on the past because of the fact that their own front benches have a number of members who are part of previous regimes that have their own dark history, to say the least. They are certainly not pure when it comes to casting aspersions on previous administrations.

Mr. Speaker, as I said yesterday, Bill No. 30 is a bill which is going to cause a great deal of hardship for the people in my constituency. I raised a number of concerns yesterday and I want to raise some more concerns today. What we have said all along on the budget and on Bill No. 30 is that with the windfall of money that came from Ottawa, the windfall of money that came from a booming economy, this government had an opportunity to be able to balance the budget this year by doing strategic spending and better management of their spending. Our position has been that they have not done that managed spending and that is why, this year, they, once again, are throwing $91 million on our debt.

[Page 1969]

I spoke a bit yesterday about the issue of student loans and student debt. I have to tell you, Mr. Speaker, listening to the radio this morning to hear the Minister of Education say, well, there are many students in this province who are getting through education without loans so it is not as bad as what the Opposition says. I want to tell you that there are many students throughout this province that if it wasn't for the Student Loan Program, would have never been able to get a university education. I would go so far as to say that, more than likely, I would be one of those and I can list off an awful lot of people and, I am sure, you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, would probably be another one who would not have had that opportunity.

To hear a minister of the Crown say, well, there is enough getting through the system without assistance so it isn't that bad. It was an absolutely disgraceful statement and it was a whole new low to hear the Minister of Education shrug her shoulders and stick her head in the sand again by saying, well, there is enough who will get through the system without having to get student loans, so the tuition can't be as bad as what the Opposition would have us believe.

It was interesting yesterday, Mr. Speaker, during Question Period, do you remember the Minister of Education saying, well, one of the university presidents was saying how great our government was towards education. I am curious if she watched the news last night to see when they were speaking to students and students' representatives to see if they were giving any praise to this minister. I believe the word disgrace was the common word used to describe the minister and to describe this government.

A government that would turn around and cut the Loan Remission Program, a $10 million program that alleviated debt on the students of this province and then to come in this year, watch tuition increase again and say, well, I wasn't surprised, it is not a big surprise, I kind of expected it. It is a little higher than I thought but shucks, what are you going to do? That's the leadership we get from this minister: shrugs her shoulders, turns a blind eye, sticks her head in the sand, doesn't want to have anything to do with it. That's an absolute disgrace, Mr. Speaker.

I know in speaking with some of the members here in this House, a number of them were speaking about their own children or their sons-in-law or their daughters-in-law and mentioning how they were burdened with debt. I believe one member of this House told me that he knew of a loved one who graduated with a debt of $55,000. Would you believe that was a member of the government Party who said that. But that's not the highest I have heard, I have heard higher than that. Mr. Deputy Speaker, you know yourself, you graduated from law school, when you graduate from law school, you don't make $100,000 your first year; my God, you are lucky enough if you make $100,000 in your first 10 or 15 years. So you owe $55,000, what job are you going to get that is going to allow you to buy a car - you don't need a car - allow you to buy a home, allow you to buy a stereo, a TV, appliances, owing $55,000? That's a mortgage, that's not a student loan, that's a mortgage. People can buy

[Page 1970]

homes in this province for less than that, yet that is what students are graduating with in this province.

But for the minister, as long as the rich kids are getting through and not having to get student loans and are making it all right, as far as she is concerned everything is hunky-dory in this province and for you poor kids out there who can't go to school because it is too high and the student loans aren't covering the cost of tuition, that's just fine. So for the poor kids and the rural kids throughout the province, we want you to remain without an education, we will allow tuition costs to rise.

The question is, Mr. Speaker, will she be putting more money into the student aid program because of tuition increases? One would think if this minister was responsible in any way when she knew tuition was going to increase, she would have stood in this House and announced immediately that more funding would go into the student assistance program to offset the increase in tuition, to make sure that students will get adequate student loans to cover this increase. Yet, not a word, not surprisingly, not a word from this minister. Not a word at all. As I said, shrugs her shoulders, aw shucks, knew it was coming, too bad, we are not going to do anything about it.

It is a really sad statement, Mr. Speaker. The reality is that many, many people in this province, many of the youngest, brightest minds in this province are now making the unfortunate decision not to go to post-secondary education. When you are 19 years old and someone tells you, well, come to university, come to Dal and take a four year program, and by the time you reach 23 years old, you will owe $40,000. Well, well, well, 19 years old and someone is going to tell you that in four years you are going to owe $30,000 or $40,000, imagine. Then when asked well, tuition is going up, the minister said if you get a job. So let's ask, what are they doing, what is this government doing for economic development in this province?

Well, the poor embattled Minister of Economic Development, we all sympathize with him. This government has cut him right off at the knees, they have slashed his budget in half. He now has Nova Scotia Business Inc. that is going to be responsible for economic development. We sympathize with that minister because, unfortunately, his colleagues, the Government House Leader, the Minister of Health, the Minister of Community Services, and the rest of his friends have cut him off at the knees. It almost reminds me of that Monty Python movie where the soldier was continually getting chopped off, one limb at a time. That is almost how we see the poor embattled Minister of Economic Development. First they chopped one leg off, then they chopped off another. Only time will tell how much more chopping will be done to that minister.

Through Bill No. 30 and through their budget there is absolutely no plan for economic development in this province; no plan, not even a mention of it; no new strategies, no specific target groups for innovation or for rural community economic development. In

[Page 1971]

Richmond County we can't even get an RDA out of this minister. They have been pleading. There are RDAs in every county all around us, but surprisingly Richmond that has one of the industrial parks with the greatest potential for development, but sorry folks, no RDA. The minister has had it on his table now for over a year and still hasn't even come out with a concrete decision.

This is a government which says, go out, there will be a good job, don't worry about your student loan, university education gets you a better job. It is unfortunate because before the joke was that university students were graduating with degrees and working at McDonald's, and it is a little different now because now they are getting university degrees and working at call centres. The pay is a little bit higher, but still woefully inadequate to cover the expenses they have.

If the government wants to see how much of a problem this is, I would challenge them to compare. Let's say here in metro - Mr. Deputy Speaker, you are very familiar with metro - I would like them to compare new home construction in metro versus apartment construction, to see which one is higher. I would dare say, without having the concrete numbers in front of me, that there are many more apartment buildings being constructed than there are new homes being constructed. Why? Because students graduating and our youth in this province can't afford to buy homes, so they are going into apartments. The money is not being spread out as it should be spread out.

The economy is not growing as it should be growing, and what does this government do? See no evil, hear no evil. That is the motto of this government; that is the way they have operated; that is the way they continue to go forward, not doing anything for students, just turning a blind eye, refusing to assist students in this province. It is ironic because the minister, I believe in her comments, referred to how many students from outside of Nova Scotia were coming to our institutions. Well, if she checked, she would see that those provinces have a debt relief program, those provinces have an adequate student assistance program, and those provinces actually care about their students.

It is almost coming to the point - Mr. Deputy Speaker, you remember yourself, having been in university not so long ago - that here in Nova Scotia, under this Tory Government, we will have more students from outside of this province attending our universities than we will have from Nova Scotia. That is the Tory legacy here. For the minister, as long there are students, I don't care where they come from, they are still in university; the numbers are still up; pay no attention to where they are coming from.

Now, as part of their Campaign for Fairness, one of the items we have never heard this Tory Minister of Education say is the fact that the current funding formula from the federal government for university education is based on the students you have in your province going to university, from your province. What happens here in Nova Scotia - we have more universities per capita than any other province, I believe we have six, it is either six, seven,

[Page 1972]

or possibly eight universities that offer post-secondary education - is that students who come, let's say from Ontario because I know we have a lot of students who come here from Ontario, and it is great to see that they support this province, I know they enjoy our communities here and our universities, but the funding from the federal government for those students goes to Ontario, it doesn't come to Nova Scotia.

For the most part, the majority of our students stay here in this province, they don't go to other provinces; it is a smaller minority that go to other provinces. So all the students from Quebec, Ontario, British Columbia, Alberta, who are in the Province of Nova Scotia, the funding for those students, although they are studying here, is going back to their home provinces, not to this province. The result has been that it has put a tremendous strain on the taxpayer here and a tremendous strain on funding education properly.

[11:45 a.m.]

So, this government that was elected - you remember during the campaign - we are going to have an inter-governmental affairs department that is going to have some teeth and it is going to be effective and we are going to be able to wrestle Ottawa, not like what the Liberals did. Well, 617 days; the Campaign for Fairness is a flop; the equalization program is a flop; softwood lumber - great success on that one, that one has gone under. And on this issue for federal funding for education for university students, I don't even think the minister is aware this is an issue because she has never even raised it. So, once again, we see exactly how much this government is concentrating on the needs of Nova Scotians. It is a government that is governing through public relations. Whatever they can do to try to get through, aim at the majority, hope to have the majority behind you and pay no attention to what the dissidents might have to say because our system is based on majority rule, therefore, do not govern for Nova Scotians, govern with what is going to get you re-elected.

As I mentioned before, the Minister of Health is here. I can't emphasize enough how much stress the situation at the Strait-Richmond Hospital is causing for the entire area. Companies have now started to write to the minister, indicating their concern for the health and safety of their workers and the fact that it has now been, I believe, 120 days that there has not been a physician to cover the emergency room during the daytime.

It is going to be interesting because these Tories are coming down to the Strait area on Monday, they are coming to visit their good friend Billy Joe, coming to announce Billy Joe's new courthouse facility. The mayor has already indicated what he expected, it will be interesting to see what he gets in return. But it will also be interesting to see what sort of reception there is for the Minister of Justice, the Minister of Tourism and the MLA for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury when the residents of that area who have been trying to get this government to listen to them about their health care concerns in Strait-Richmond, I am just curious to see if they are prepared for what will be awaiting them when they arrive in Port Hawkesbury. Something tells me what they think will be their good news

[Page 1973]

announcement, will see the Tories scurrying out of Port Hawkesbury and out of the Strait area as quick as they can to run back up here to Halifax and hide. The people of the Strait area will hold them accountable for what they have done and for the fact that they have completely abandoned them.

Not once in this House has the MLA for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury stood in his place and talked about the physician shortage in his home area. Not once. Not once has he done that. (Interruption) Well, the member for Preston says he is invisible. Those who read the Howe Room in the Chronicle-Herald will know that is the same MLA who defeated his colleague for Kings West in receiving this year's award as the most invisible MLA in Province House. Makes you wonder why there is no doctor in Strait-Richmond because the government MLA for that area has been voted the Most Invisible MLA in this House. Seems to be a direct correlation between the two and there seems to be no dispute on that nomination either. I believe a review of Hansard will show that it is a proper nomination.

That is unfortunate. I know the MLA for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury did a lot of hard work as the Warden of St. Mary's when he was there and he tried to defend his people, but for some reason, once he has arrived up here, it seems like Matt Minglewood's song, Someday I'm Gonna Drive In A Cadillac, that seems to be his mode of operating and it doesn't appear to be doing very much to address the concerns of the people in his area.

We have never heard that member speak once about economic development or the need for a new twinned highway to complete the New Glasgow to Cape Breton Causeway. Not once. He and the member for Eastern Shore went up to Ottawa to try to get money for Highway No. 7 down the Eastern Shore, completely forgetting about the needs of the Strait area. I know that the Mayor of Port Hawkesbury will remind him of that when he sees him on Monday. I know once the mayor sees the final plans that this Tory Government is going to build a much smaller reduced facility than what was initially anticipated by the mayor, that he will not be pleased with them. It will be interesting to see who shows up for their announcement on Monday, and while the Tories are trying to gloat, we will see exactly what reception they receive from the people of the Strait area.

I said in this House a few times that the Minister of Health, when it comes to the issues of Strait-Richmond, that he sticks his thumb in his mouth and sucks on it and wishes all the world would go away. He has been a good teacher because the Minister of Tourism and Culture has pretty much adopted the same approach. Every time they ask him he says, well, I am confident things are going to go well. In the local papers, as I said yesterday, they asked him, what about the two doctors in Inverness? He said that we are going to use the same approach we use at the Strait-Richmond Hospital. God help the good people of Inverness if that is the approach they are taking, if they have the same success up in Inverness as they have been having up in the Strait, what a plan; a clear course. Remember that? I can tell you, in Richmond County, it is an awful bumpy course. It has an awful lot of twists in it and there is an awful lot of fog coming from this government. Nova Scotians are still wondering

[Page 1974]

exactly when this government is going to start to live up to its commitments, not only commitments they have said verbally, they have it down on paper as saying this was their plan, we have thought this plan out well and this is what we are going to do to lead Nova Scotians into the future.

Mr. Speaker, Bill No. 30, once again, is another shot at the people of Richmond County. As I told you yesterday, a $20 charge on the Child Abuse Register. Think about it. That must be the most ill-conceived, foolish, void-of-any-logic user fee that this government has brought forward yet. A disincentive to organizations and groups out there to make sure that those who will be working amongst children are not on that Child Abuse Register. We all know that organizations, especially the non-profit ones or even daycares - daycares are not making a fortune in this province. They are getting by and that is it. Now we are going to tell them, in the summer, when you have all these volunteers who come in - we all know that this happens. Every year it is a routine - they bring me the forms and I sign the forms for them to approve their application for the Child Abuse Register to make sure that they are all qualified to be working amongst children.

I enjoy doing that and I am pleased to do that. I am honoured to do that on their behalf. Now to know that that stack of applications, each one is going to cost $20. So what are they going to say to the volunteers? Look, you know what, we can't really afford to do the background check on you. One would hope that is what is going to happen, that they won't be able to accept that volunteer. I will tell you now what my real fear is is that they are going to accept that volunteer. They are going to accept that gentleman who just moved into the community. They are going to allow them to come in and work at the daycare and volunteer with the Boy Scouts without checking the Child Abuse Register.

Mr. Speaker, I will serve notice on this government now, if there ever comes a time where any child in this province is put into a dangerous situation because of the fact that this government's $20 surcharge on that Child Abuse Register was a disincentive and the necessary background check was not done, this government better be prepared to handle what is going to come. Because if they think they have seen fury from the Opposition now, they haven't seen anything yet. That is the road this government is going down.

I will give you another example, Mr. Speaker, you know yourself, you are very familiar with Justice issues. A month ago, an inmate from the Halifax Correctional Centre walked out the front door. Okay, so an inmate has escaped. They have to make a decision. Is this a danger to the community? What sort of advisory should we give? The Department of Justice, the get-tough Tories say, he is not a hazard to the community. After some research we find out that this gentlemen was serving time and one of his previous convictions was for spousal assault. He had kicked his common-law wife 30 times with a steel-toed boot over an argument about drugs, 30 times with a steel toed boot, yet the Minister of Justice felt this gentleman was of low risk to the community and that this gentleman was allowed to just

[Page 1975]

walk out of the Halifax Correctional Centre. It gets better. Guess where they found the inmate in question? A month later, where do they find him, they find him in Newfoundland.

So the get-tough Tories. Unless he swam across, he must have flown across or he took the ferry. So an escaped inmate was able to walk through security, either at the airport or even on the ferry service, it appears they didn't even have any watch out there. He goes over to Newfoundland. What happens when he gets to Newfoundland? He is arrested there, I believe it was on a theft charge. While he is being arrested, he utters death threats to the RCMP or the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary. So they charged him, they have him in jail now for uttering death threats.

This same individual that this Minister of Justice and this government said was of low risk to the community. Newfoundland does their check and they say, he has 70 or 80 convictions against him. This government said he was of low risk. It gets even better than that, believe it or not. What does the Justice Department here say? They see an inmate walk out of their prison, leave the province, their get-tough Justice Minister, this is not going to be tolerated, and what do they say to Newfoundland, keep him, we don't want him.

What does that say? Well, if you are an inmate here in Nova Scotia and you decide you would like to travel to another province, if you don't like it here in this province, simply walk out of prison and make your way to another province, no fear that they will ever drag you back here to Nova Scotia and demand that you serve time for walking out of our institutions. If you are an inmate in Halifax and you would like to visit Saskatchewan or maybe another province here in Atlantic Canada, and you fear, well, if I go, will they bring me back? No, no, you can walk out of jail here, we don't care, hey. The Tories are saving money. It is probably one of their cost-saving measures in Bill No. 30. Keep the gates open at jails and hope that they walk out, and hopefully they will go to another province and they will pick up the bill.

AN HON. MEMBER: They probably even gave him bus fare . . .

MR. SAMSON: I think if this keeps up Newfoundland might put trade sanctions against us and say, stop sending us your convicts. It is costing too much for the Newfoundland taxpayers. A get-tough Minister of Justice.

Mr. Speaker, when I tell you, when I stand up here and say the minister is ridiculous, I really mean it. It is a laughing joke, throughout the Justice community here in this province. I know that the MLA for Colchester North, a former law enforcer himself, to see his Minister of Justice watch an inmate walk out the door of the Halifax Correctional Centre and not even demand that that inmate be brought back and made to answer for breaking our laws here in this province, and that is their get-tough stance on justice. What a joke.

[Page 1976]

Then to tell this community that this gentleman was of low risk, a low risk to the community. My God, what do you have to do for the Minister of Justice to consider you to be a high risk or a medium risk? Incredible. Incredible. So, through Bill No. 30, really, that is why we moved the hoist, we had hoped with six months, in six months they could have moved the inmate back from Newfoundland and showed that they are really serious about justice issues and making him account . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: He was hiding in the snowbanks.

MR. SAMSON: . . . for having escaped. My colleague said he was hiding in a snowbank in Newfoundland, he could have stayed there for a while with the snow they have in Newfoundland, unfortunately.

But it really brings a sense that this government has become absolutely ridiculous and an absolute disgrace when it comes to justice. When I stand here and I say that this Minister of Justice and this government are the modern day version of the Keystone Kops, I am dead serious, they really are. All I am wanting to see, one day, is to walk into Province House and see the Minister of Justice with a uniform on, driving a little buggy, much too small for his stature, and to be beeping along the way, to say the Keystone Kops are back in town in Nova Scotia and they are running the show. That is what we will see.

If he is to appoint a deputy, I would move now and I would make the motion that the member for Preston be appointed his first deputy, as part of the Keystone Kops, because if we are talking ridiculous, I can think of no better member to serve in the Minister of Justice's police force.

Bill No. 30, as I have said, is ill-advised, and it is something which is going to cause a great deal of harm to Nova Scotians. As I have said before, this government's decision to lower the fines on tobacco smuggling in this province, this get-tough Minister of Justice and government, they decide they are going to increase the tax on tobacco. Okay, so we all know

what happens when you increase the tax on tobacco. Naturally the incidence of smuggling and illegal activity go on the rise. You remember a few years ago, Mr. Speaker, when they first raised the tax on tobacco, all of sudden there was smuggling all over the place. The police didn't know what to do, where was it coming from. Now, they have learned. You increase the tax be prepared for increased smuggling.

[12:00 p.m.]

So what does this government say? We are going to get tough. Our first fine was $10,000. Oh, much too high, much too high. One judge in this province, said he thought it was too high. Did the Minister of Justice, himself a Q.C., say we are going to appeal that decision and we are going to make it clear to this judge that that fine is not too high? If you

[Page 1977]

are going to smuggle tobacco, you should know clearly that you are going to be hit with a heavy fine as a disincentive.

Then they went on further to state, the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations, that they haven't been giving the $10,000 fine. You heard that, Mr. Speaker. They are not giving that fine, it is lower, it all over the place, there is no standard. We will be presenting more information on that - I am not going to discuss it too much because there is lots of interesting stuff there that we are going to have some fun with - but really, when you think of what this government has done in caving in to this type of illegal activity, it goes completely against their whole theme of get tough on justice, on accountable government.

Then comes the issue, the big issue, of the increase itself on tobacco. What was it based on? I have said on the many times I have spoken here in this House, Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians just want to know, when you do something give us the research, the reason, the thought that went into why you have done something. That's all we ask as members when we are asked to support something, we ask the government to show us the data or the research or the reason why you are doing this. Why is this going to be a benefit to Nova Scotians?

So they say we are going to put a $4.00 increase on a carton of tobacco. Then we ask, why did you come to the $4.00 figure, where does that come from, did you just pick it out of the sky or was there anything that you based this on? Then we find out, because of the hard work of my good colleague for Dartmouth East, that the Minister of Health had a comprehensive tobacco strategy that was given to him. So the question was what did that suggest to the minister? Well, we all know, Mr. Speaker, that strategy told the minister, if we are going to address smoking and discourage people from smoking in this province, especially our young people, you should put an $8.00 tax on a carton of cigarettes.

The minister, has been on the record many times saying that lifestyle was a big problem here in Nova Scotia, people didn't exercise enough, didn't eat right, they smoked too much and we had to address that. Why would the minister who had a strategy in front of him, a reasoned, logical document which said charge $8.00 per carton then turn around, bend at the knees and say I am only going to increase it $4.00? In fact, the reason we have Bill No. 30 here today is because of this, because it wasn't in the original Financial Measures Act, they had to bring in a new piece of legislation because of this.

Nova Scotians are wondering what kind of government do we really have. They have the information, the data, and everything that says increase it $8.00 and you only increased it by $4.00. Okay, Nova Scotians are reasonable people, by far. They are going to say if you are going to charge $4.00 extra, naturally, and as a responsible Opposition we have to ask, what are you going to do with that revenue? Where is that revenue going to be spent in Nova Scotia?

[Page 1978]

Now, as I said yesterday, one using some reasoned thought, you would say if you are going to be raising that on tobacco to decrease smoking, naturally the revenue should go to anti-smoking programs to deal with our young people, seniors, I think all of us are troubled when we go to hospitals and in front of the lobby area, we see people in wheelchairs with tubes and everything out having a smoke. It is a disease, and for anyone who thinks it is not a disease, I don't smoke myself, but it is a disease that I would link to alcoholism, Mr Speaker, and that's the way I view it. I sympathize with people who smoke. I don't expect them to be able to turn around tomorrow and stop. Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way. But where is that money going to go? When you ask the Minister of Health he says he is not sure.

How can the Minister of Health expect the Opposition Parties - I know his House Leader tries to say that we are delaying the House - as responsible elected officials, to say yes we are going to support this bill and support this increase without you ever telling us where the money is going to go. They have data. They have intelligent people who work in the Civil Service. They can probably make a fairly accurate prediction as to how much revenue this $4.00 increase will bring. You know yourself, Mr. Deputy Speaker, having spoken on the issue, this is going to raise millions of dollars. We are not talking $100 or $1,000, we are talking in the millions of dollars, a very significant source of revenue. So where will it be spent? We all know where it is going to be spent, Mr. Speaker. It is going to go into general revenue. The Minister of Health may be fortunate to get a little bit for an anti-smoking strategy. Maybe he will end up spending that to pay for the expensive information officer, he just hired.

Remember during the election campaign? You remember this, Mr. Speaker. The Tories said, too much administrative fat. It was interesting because I remember when we were in government listening to your Party. The NDP were always telling us, you are cutting too much of the Civil Service. You have cut too much. It is bleeding. It is dying. These guys, the Conservatives, Third Party at that time, said, they haven't cut enough. We are going to cut more. They got elected on that. The health care system could be saved in this province, $46 million in cutting administrative fat.

How has the Minister of Health done? Well, he now has got the most expensive deputy minister in the Civil Service of Nova Scotia. He has an associate deputy minister. He has an executive assistant. He has a special assistant from Priorities and Planning and now he has an information officer, $99,000. It would be good if someone actually sat down and just figured out what that total amount of money was, just for those five people I have listed. I would really love to see that and present it to Nova Scotians and say, this Minister of Health, this is what he is costing you. Is our health care system any better, Mr. Speaker? There are no new beds, no new long-term care beds, none, no new hospital beds, no new specialists. In fact, the specialists are leaving this province in record numbers. It has never before been seen that so many specialists would be leaving this province.

[Page 1979]

This government has absolutely no plan. They get extremely upset when we ask them questions. The Minister of Health and the Minister of Education are very touchy when they are asked questions. They get very snippy when they are forced to be held accountable to the people of Nova Scotia, but it is not going to change, Mr. Speaker. Our Party has served notice, from the day after the election, that we would hold this government accountable and we have done so. Anyone in this province who reads the newspapers or listens to the radio knows that our caucus has been very effective at getting out the concerns of Nova Scotians. My colleague, the member for Dartmouth East has been in the paper about one dozen times revealing to Nova Scotians the dirty tricks these Tories have played, how they have tried to fool Nova Scotians. He has discovered user fees; the information technology officer, $99,000; yesterday, the paramedics program. There is a whole lot more. I can't even list them all, there is that many.

My colleague, the member for Cape Breton East, has raised concerns with the Minister of Community Services over an individual in my riding. She was told she could not get any assistance because she had to cash her Registered Education Savings Plan that she had put aside for her two young children. It was only once our caucus caught them that they relented and said, no, my God, the Tories wouldn't do that. Mr. Speaker, we will always be on watch to see what they are going to do.

My colleague, the member for Cape Breton The Lakes asked the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations, on behalf of the vehicle compliance officers throughout this province, and not only on their behalf, I would go so far as to say that that question was on behalf of the entire trucking industry and all motorists in this province who want to make sure that our trucking industry is a safe industry and that our highways are safe. These men and women who work for vehicle compliance are there to make sure that our safety laws are being adhered to.

We all remember the stories from the Province of Ontario, tires falling off trucks, trucks breaking in two because they weren't properly inspected. It was my colleague, the member for Cape Breton The Lakes, who asked the minister and the minister replied, it is the RCMP who came to me and said they want to put a proposal forward. You remember that? It is in Hansard. That is what the minister said. Because of the research of my colleague for Cape Breton The Lakes, he phoned the RCMP and said, did you put a proposal in? Instead they found out, ironically, it was the Deputy Minister of Justice who had asked them to come and put a proposal in.

When my colleague stood here on behalf of those vehicle compliance officers and on behalf of Nova Scotians, and asked the minister to clarify that, no, the minister said, I don't know who called, I don't know what is behind it, somebody put this proposal in my department, I don't know where it came from, it might have fallen from the sky, I don't know the specifics, I don't want to get bogged down in the specifics. Open and accountable government. They were prepared to blame the RCMP, they were prepared to go to these

[Page 1980]

vehicle compliance officers and say, if you lose your job, blame the RCMP, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. When a government lays blame for its own incompetence on the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, they have reached a new low in the history of this province.

You would think, if they had any integrity at all, they would have stood in their place and the minister would have said I want to stand here and apologize because I led this House to believe that it was the RCMP that were coming forward wanting to put a proposal to take these jobs away from those compliance officers. The honourable thing would have been to say, I misled this House, I had the wrong information, I did not know when I said what I said, I want to apologize to the RCMP. No, no way, that wasn't going to happen, that is not the Tory way, it is not the Tory way. Even if you cast aspersions and you are proven to be wrong, it is not the Tory way to say that you were sorry. It just doesn't happen.

The House Leader has shown them that he has built a political career on never saying he is sorry, so why should they change that path now. If he had the integrity, he would go and say he is sorry to the people on Highway No. 101. He would say, you know, I really thought when I was in Opposition, the Third Party that we could twin Highway No. 101 with or without federal money. I was wrong, I am sorry we are not going to be able to do it, we have to find an alternative plan, it is not going to happen.

That is not going to happen, each time he is asked here in the House, what are you doing for Highway No. 101, he keeps telling members if you drive along there you are going to see we have done some brush cutting and we have mowed the lawn and we have shredded some of the pulp that is out there. Really. That is why in our caucus we call him the minister responsible for landscaping in the Province of Nova Scotia. Because there is no more talk of paving, his RIMP - the rural integrated management program - that is not about pavement, it is about gravel. It is about trying to patch the neglect of the Tory Government for the roads of this province.

The MLA for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury and the MLA for Inverness were approached by the highway workers, the maintenance workers in Port Hawkesbury. This government, this Minister of Transportation wanted to take those mechanics out of Port Hawkesbury, move them to Antigonish. Therefore, if a plow breaks down in Grand River, up in Port Hood, or throughout Richmond County, they have to take it to Antigonish to have it serviced.

Those workers pleaded with the two government members. I wrote on their behalf, I sent out a press release on their behalf, I spoke with them regularly. What have they gotten from the two government members? Nothing. They have been moved to Antigonish, they couldn't even get the delay they asked for. They asked, can you delay until after April 1st and give us a bit more time to reason with this minister and reason with this government. No way. The minister brought down the hammer and again, the people of the Strait area - you

[Page 1981]

meet them on the street and what do they say, they say wow. It didn't benefit us to vote Tory and to vote on the government side. Aren't we just a better lot for having done so?

As I said yesterday, and as I will say until the next election, I am confident that both Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury, Inverness and I will even go so far as to say, Antigonish, will return to the Liberal fold in the next election. While the minister for Antigonish is not a one-term member, I can say that both Inverness and Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury will be one-term wonders and the Strait area will once again return to the fold and return to a Party that has represented them strongly. I remember my colleagues, Charlie MacDonald, Ray White, Hyland Fraser, Bill Gillis - before my time - all strong voices for the Strait area.

I know that the member for Timberlea-Prospect didn't always like some of the heckling, but I can tell you, they at least made noise, unlike what we hear now from the members who have replaced them. They at least stood up and spoke on behalf of their constituents. I know the NDP didn't always like what they heard from them, but that is fine because a lot of the stuff that Charlie predicted actually has come to pass and has actually happened. Charlie was very wise in his predictions way back then. He predicted Chisholm would be gone and he predicted the next Leader wouldn't survive much longer, and my God, he was right on both counts. I should go see him, to see his predictions for the NDP again.

[12:15 p.m.]

Regardless of that, Mr. Speaker, the fact is this government, as we have said from day one, has no plan at all, and we are seeing that each and every day in this House. As I said before, the $50 fee that they have proposed for hospital beds is going to have a devastating effect for the people of my constituency. From one end of the constituency to the other, people have said, have these Tories absolutely lost their minds?

Well, let's explain first. Who is this user fee, what is this tax aimed at? It is aimed at seniors, no doubt about it. Who is going to get dinged with $50? It is not going to be the 20 year old, it is not going to be the 30 year old, it is not going to be the 40 year old; more than likely it is going to be the 50-plus, 65-plus, they are going to be the ones, people on fixed incomes, people on disability pensions, people on retirement pensions, people who have to live on $700 and $800 a month, who all of a sudden get sick and they don't have a family member who can take care of them. In fact, not unwilling to take care of them, some of them, with the medical care they require, may not be required to be in hospital, but you just can't bring them home and provide them with the care they need.

This government is going to say, we are going to charge you $50, to you and to your family, each and every day they stay in the hospital after a doctor has decided to discharge them. I would go so far as to say there will be a push by the Department of Health and that minister to tell doctors throughout this province, push the process, speed up the process, free up those beds, start charging that $50 as quickly as you can, don't wait. That is what the

[Page 1982]

message will be. He is going to say, I need a bit more money, I need a bit more, get that $50 out of that old person, that senior who is in there, as I told you.

Why is this going to hurt Richmond County more than other areas? As I said yesterday, because of the fact that we have a Richmond Villa in St. Peter's, a long-term care facility, a wonderful staff, they provide wonderful care for the residents in there, unfortunately there has been a mould problem detected at that facility, there are fire marshal concerns, and since last fall the fire marshal has not permitted the Municipality of Richmond, which runs the villa, to allow any new entrants. Anyone who should unfortunately pass away or be transferred to another facility and a bed becomes open, they can't fill them.

The last time I checked, there were 16 beds that were open, and the fire marshal would not allow them to put anyone in. What are you supposed to do? I will give you an example. My grandfather is 94 years old. Should he get ill, should he have to be hospitalized and spend a period of time in the hospital, and then a doctor says he no longer needs hospital care but he needs 24 hour nursing care, where is he going to go? The villa has no beds, well, they have beds, they are not allowed to use them because of the fire marshal. Port Hawkesbury is full, all the nearest ones are full. Are we going to bring him down to Yarmouth, at 94 years of age?

Is that what is going to happen? Is this government going to start charging our family $50 a day for each day he needs to stay at that hospital? Imagine. A man, 94 years of life, who has contributed to the economy of this province, now being told, we are going to ding you $50 a day because you are staying in a hospital bed for too long. That is going to happen to people throughout my riding, throughout my whole constituency, throughout the Strait area.

That is completely unacceptable. I will continue to fight this government on this. I know that my residents will continue to demand of me that we fight them on this issue. As I have said, I am looking forward to the Minister of Justice and his Tory colleagues coming to Port Hawkesbury on Monday for their big announcement. Something tells me there are going to be people raining on their parade on Monday. Something tells me that at the last minute they might decide to cancel, they might decide to run away, when they see what is waiting for them on Monday when they come down to Port Hawkesbury.

In fact, I think the wrath of Billy Joe MacLean, when he is going to see what sort of facility they want to build for him compared to what he demanded and what he was promised by this government, that might be enough for them to want to make sure they have their hard hats on and that they can run away as quickly as they can.

Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians and the people of Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury, Inverness and Antigonish did not hire people to run away, they did not hire members who would run away as far as possible. The poor MLA for Antigonish, when he went home he

[Page 1983]

would be greeted each week with this great big sign, it was about 14 x 20 feet and it would say: MLA Angus MacIsaac, resign. Imagine. What point have you reached as an elected member when they start putting signs up, billboards on the side of the road - and not a small billboard. This was one of the billboards, on a controlled access highway, that have to be 500 feet away from the highway, 500 feet away, yet in great big letters you could see it: MLA Angus MacIsaac, resign.

Remember the MLA for Annapolis last year during the budget for Education? They put out an ad in the paper asking him to pick up the phone and return their phone calls and return their letters. Imagine. Open and accountable when people have to take an ad out in a local paper saying: Mr. MLA, please answer your phone or return phone calls.

AN HON. MEMBER: What did David Morse tell his constituents?

MR. SAMSON: Those who called the MLA for Kings South, they didn't take an ad out there because - it is unfortunate, I wish I could have picked up the phone because I am sure the message might have gone something like: Stop bothering me, don't call and - possibly even - shut up. Imagine. That's the representation by people who got elected.

AN HON. MEMBER: That's why he moved out of his riding.

ANOTHER HON. MEMBER: Then he got rewarded.

MR. SAMSON: Now the Premier has rewarded him, the Premier has recognized him as being the best trump from his backbench, and appointed him Minister of Environment and Labour.

AN HON. MEMBER: Now he has shut up, he hasn't said a thing since. (Laughter)

ANOTHER HON. MEMBER: He gets the backbenchers to answer his questions.

MR. SAMSON: Now, the few times he spoke in Opposition he was just ranting and raving, eyes bulging out of his head. You couldn't make him stop. Now that he's minister, we can't make him speak. (Laughter) I have been a minister myself and I remember taking the oath and everything. I don't remember getting zapped or anything by doing that, that suddenly took away the power of speech or the power of intelligence . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: He drank some of that toxic sludge.

MR. SAMSON: . . . but somehow that minister, unseen, has completely refused to take any responsibility, and the government wonders, the backbench wonders why the Opposition isn't letting them go home. Mr. Speaker, I can tell you now, between Bill No. 30 and the other legislation that's here - the government restructuring which has been a disaster; and

[Page 1984]

many of the other bills, like the changes to the Elections Act that were brought in with arbitrary changes by the Minister of Justice, never vetted with the Opposition or the election commission; the lobbyist registration bill with which this government only goes so far, and then runs away when they had an opportunity to make it a real bill with real teeth - I can assure the backbenchers, you aren't going anywhere anytime fast.

Mr. Speaker, we are prepared to stay as long as we have to, we are prepared to keep this government's feet to the fire; anyone on the government side who has aspirations of getting out of this House quickly is seriously misled and has wrong information, because we are prepared to fight. Our caucus may only be nine members, but I know if my colleague, the member for Cape Breton Nova - who can't be here with us - were here, he would lead the fight, he would lead the charge on behalf of the residents in his riding.

The member for Cape Breton Centre referred to missing him the other day; I can assure you that that goes very much for myself also, because the MLA for Cape Breton Nova has always been a good leader, especially when it comes to debate here in this House, and to watch him and to listen to him, has truly been a learning experience. If he were here, I know he would tell us, he would encourage us, to continue to fight and to continue to represent Nova Scotians. That gentleman's electoral success for 30 years has not been by running away, has not been by his constituents taking ads out, asking him to pick up the phone, nor has it ever been by telling his constituents to shut up. That brought him 30 years of success here in this House; I would go so far as to say it will bring him many more years.

Mr. Deputy Speaker, it is because of the speeches that you have given, as member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley about user fees, about the impact of user fees. You remember when we formed the RRFB, this member was who was the biggest critic of the RRFB, which has proven to be one of the most successful programs in the world. Nova Scotia is a leader in recycling and waste diversion here in this province, because of our efforts. But this was the member that said, illegal dumping of tires, dumping of car batteries, dumping of everything because we are putting a user fee on it, yet he is the member who sits quietly and watches his government put a $20 charge on a Child Abuse Register.

I have to tell you that is the thing that saddens me most, that that member there, because I know that member has been a strong promoter of children and the safety of children. I see his license plate which says, if he had known how great grandchildren would be, he wouldn't have had kids of his own, he would have gone straight for the grandkids. I know he is sincere in that. I have no doubt that he is a wonderful grandfather and those children are lucky to have a caring grandfather like he is, but to think that he would sit there and quietly be part of a government which has put a tax in place which may someday place his grandchildren at risk, I cannot believe that he would sit there in silence and allow it.

[Page 1985]

Again, how much money are we talking about? About $60,000 to $70,000, imagine; it doesn't even cover the salary of the new information officer in the Department of Health. To see that that member would sit there and not say a word. I remember that is the same member who ridiculed us and who just criticized us for even charging $1.00 to seniors for fishing licences. Remember that? The petitions and the petitions and the petitions. It should be free. The seniors of this province have contributed all of their lives, they are retired now, licences should be free. When he gets in government and stands up, the licences will be $10 cheaper. Where did the free go? What happens from when he was here to his transformation over there? Maybe when he got sworn in, he got zapped also. Maybe the Premier had set up some sort of zapping that could make him forget about that and then they programmed him to say, $10 cheaper was a success.

AN HON. MEMBER: Don't forget that's a member of two Parties.

MR. SAMSON: That was a letdown for both his supporters from the Tory side and his supporters from the Reform side, who I am sure are both disappointed that that member was not able to convince the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries and the Minister of Finance to provide fishing licences to seniors for free. For he, himself, it has been a disappointing time being in government, it has been a sad time.

When one considers the amount of time that that member has put in here in this House, the debates, the representation and to think that the Premier would feel that the member for Kings South was his best trump, really, that must be terribly, terribly disappointing for that member. For that member is one of the longest-serving members in that caucus. To think that he was bypassed, not considered to be the best trump. I know if he was the Minister of Environment and Labour, he would never pass off a question. I think he might take questions from the Premier. If someone asked the Premier, I wouldn't be surprised to see him jump up in his place and say, I will (Interruption) Well, that's it. He used to assist the Minister of Tourism, we remember that. He was very good. He passed the puck over to him and got him to shoot.

I have to tell you we are in for a long session. I look forward to standing many times in my place to speak on these bills. I look forward to speaking both official languages to express the concerns of the people I represent, the concerns of the people throughout this entire province at the end of the day. There is not much we can do as an Opposition. You have been here in third place, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and you know that there is not that much you can do. You have a majority government here . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: He will be back.

MR. SAMSON: Yes, you will soon be returning. But you know yourself what it is like. If there is one thing an Opposition can do, it is use its parliamentary abilities to hold up this government and to represent the people of Nova Scotia and to make them be accountable to

[Page 1986]

the people and to make them make the changes that Nova Scotians have demanded from them. Now, they have a choice, they can either be reasonable and make changes or get ready to be in here for an awful long time because we are not going anywhere any time fast. We are prepared to use all of our privileges here in this House regardless of what that might be. You are well versed on those privileges and at the end of the day this Liberal caucus, as I said before, we may be kind of small, but we are mighty. The people of Nova Scotia have recognized that in the last polls putting us at 40 per cent support right here in metro and an average of 40 per cent throughout this province . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. That member has used up his time.

[12:30 p.m.]

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Before I launch into my debate here today, I want to say something that I heard the member for Richmond say in his speech and that was about you and your grandchildren. Maybe he just misspoke, Mr. [Deputy] Speaker, but I am sure you love your children very dearly and it is just an expression of joy of having grandchildren afterward. I don't think you didn't enjoy your children but that you enjoy your grandchildren that much more. I just think it was in the heat of debate, I don't think it was an aspersion on you and your love for your children.

Mr. Speaker, let's get rid of the niceties. We are standing here and speaking of Bill No. 30 and, we have, in the last few days, debated a hoist motion on this very bill. I think a hoist motion that was much needed because I truly believe what we had said in this House regarding the ability for a government to take six months to contemplate their actions. This is a government with more than two years left in their mandate.

We are not saying that you have to run headlong. This government says that they want to put the books in order and that there will be, in the last year of their mandate, a tax rebate, Mr. Speaker, but at what point do we really get a tax rebate? I think for it truly to be a tax rebate, we would have to take $35 million off the top in user fees. There has been much debate in this House about user fees. This government, from time to time, will stand in their place, particularly the Minister of Finance and the Premier and chide us for saying that a user fee is not a tax. Well, as I said in this very House, it is a tax.

If it is the Child Abuse Register, if it is renewing your automobile license, if it is a fishing licence, if it is a user fee and it is a fee imposed by the state on its people to access a working situation or a recreational situation or some other form of service that is overseen by the state, it is a tax, Mr. Speaker. Do we need Robin Hood in this very House to explain to us what Prince John, over there, is doing to us? It is a tax. They are doing another form of taxation when they talk about municipal equalization. That is another form of a hidden tax,

[Page 1987]

where they are asking one side of the province to pay for another side of the province. Let's be fair. That is a form of taxation. So we have to see it for what it is. It is a tax.

Mr. Speaker, there are many things as opposed to just direct taxation that cause me problems in Bill No. 30. As bills are, there is as much of the devil left out as the devil that is in it. There is really no talk, and I can only speak from my own perspective, about economic renewal for industrial Cape Breton. I have often debated that in this House with the Minister of Economic Development and his answer to me, quite often - I will talk slow and let him get his earpiece in. His earpiece is in now and I am sure the echo won't bother him. I want to say this. He often says, well you know Cape Breton isn't the only depressed area and I agree with that but I can only, from my perspective - I am not a Minister of the Crown - I am sent here to represent the people of my area, so I have to speak from that perspective. Although, I do have to say, I believe I have a better perspective on the economic development capabilities of this province than the minister does. I humbly submit that.

Let me talk about industrial Cape Breton. We have had our more than fair share of bad luck. In the area you are from, Mr. Deputy Speaker, if farming hits a problem - it may be flooding, many things with farming, it may be flooding one year, a drought the next, then the cyclical problem with pricing. In this province, in the Annapolis Valley - and I have talked to members from the Tory caucus about this - you go in and you see a bag of Valley apples - yes, as you have on your desk, Mr. Deputy Speaker - and they are $2.69. You know at the farm gate they were probably getting less than 20 cents for that very amount of apples and all the work.

What happens there?

I go back and I talk about farming, or fishing in other areas, certain things like that - the Minister of Economic Development's own area is world-famous for its scallops. These things are, again, cyclical. There are certain things, whether it is habitat or overfishing, those things from time to time will come back.

Mr. Speaker, when government intrudes into an industry, into an area and eliminates that industry, coal and steel in particular, it has a devastating effect. Yet, in no substantive way has this government involved itself in real economic renewal. We have heard now for about the last year and a half every time we talked about the economic circumstances that face industrial Cape Breton, we hear about the one initiative this government was involved with in a large way, the EDS call centre.

Well, while we do applaud their involvement, this was not driven solely by this government, it was driven by the federal government in response . . .

MR. DAVID WILSON: The federal Liberal Government.

[Page 1988]

MR. CORBETT: The federal Liberal Government, the member for Cape Breton East says. In response to what the federal Liberal Government did to the mining industry. It is a balancing act. The same as what this government has done to the steelmaking industry. So it is balancing. It is not something that anybody should go running to and say, look, we have created in the vicinity of 700 jobs in that office, and we take responsibility and our work is done here.

I don't want to move off the EDS call centre, because I think this is a very important point to make when talking about economic development. I want to share this with the members of the House who may not be aware of this comment. Last week the people from the Industrial Cape Breton Board of Trade were in Halifax meeting with the Metro Halifax Chamber of Commerce. They have a committee of both groups together, and what they are trying to find is common ground. These businesses are working together to find common ground, to see how they can share and grow business. One of the participants in that meeting was the area manager for EDS in industrial Cape Breton. He calls to tell me, at that meeting they had just done employee evaluations on the EDS call centre in Cape Breton. He said the employee evaluations were so high that now this international company uses that call centre to judge every other group that works for them.

Mr. Speaker, that may not sound like much to some people's ears, but I think in the context of economic development it says a lot. When things happen in Cape Breton in an industrial way, in industrial relations sometimes they are quick to give us a black eye, quick to spread the bad news. But here they have an international company that has been situated for a year or so, and this is the type of message they are getting from that workforce. That you are better than our employees, your abilities - not better than, that is not a good way to put it - but your commitment to your work, your worth ethic and your ability to understand your work is of superior quality, and this company wants to share that with their employees in Europe, throughout the United States, and throughout the rest of Canada.

Mr. Speaker, I say to you that that says a lot about industrial Cape Breton. Yet this government now says, that is it, they have done nothing more than that one investment. We have a group of workers who are willing and certainly able to shine, but this government doesn't want to give them the wherewithal. What they did, what this government has done in view of economic development is they have revived the old industrial estates model of economic development that has proven it didn't work.

The concept of business as the only people who can move economic development forward has been proven wrong. Mr. Speaker, it is all the stakeholders, and workers are part of that stakeholder system, whether this government wants to admit it or not. EDS has reinvested in Cape Breton, in the Strait area, and they will tell you, not so much because of the largesse of governments but because of the capabilities of the workers, but yet this government doesn't want to acknowledge that. They are going to go and hide behind a group

[Page 1989]

of business people who, in real terms, do not have a lot of contact with one of the most severely underemployed areas of this province, which is industrial Cape Breton.

They have one member from the Industrial Cape Breton Board of Trade, Mr. Alastair MacLeod, a fine gentleman. I have heard that he is supportive of the Tory Government, I don't know that. I have had occasion to work on committees with Mr. MacLeod and found him a bright, articulate, energetic and hardworking Nova Scotian. With that said, with one lone voice, we just can't see having him having a whole lot to say, whether it is consensus or whether it is actually votes.

We can't say that this government, through its budget, is doing anything substantive about Cape Breton. We have talked about investment. We have seen in the Budget Speech from the Minister of Finance, that minister said very little other than a line or two about economic development of any sort in Cape Breton. Maybe people across the way will say that there was Tesma, it is one of their success stories. It has been one of, again, partnerships between the parent company, Magna and the federal government. It is not something that this government is out doing on its own to try to help this economy grow, and that is what all budgets are about.

Mr. Speaker, budgets aren't just about balancing the books. I am not going to argue, that is an important component of your budget is balancing the books and reconciling the numbers, obviously. There is no real doubt about that, that goes without saying. There are other things that should go without saying - besides balancing its books have an overriding responsibility to its citizens and that ability is not just one of a financial responsibility, but it is about responsibility for their health, their education, their economic well-being.

[12:45 p.m.]

Just this last week we have talked in this House about teacher lay-offs in industrial Cape Breton and it is becoming - it is almost ground zero, if you will. If we are not providing a proper education for our young children, if schools in Cape Breton have a lesser curriculum than other parts of this province, then they are going to suffer. If we have fewer music and arts teachers, that is going to affect the overall education and the overall prospects of those children.

I have heard the Minister of Education in this House telling us about the special situation Cape Breton finds itself in and indeed it is special, but we are not looking for favourable treatment, we are looking for fair treatment. Cape Bretoners didn't ask to have the coal mines close, Cape Bretoners didn't ask to have the steel plant close - this was done by federal and provincial governments. It is fine for some people in government to say that the time of those industries has passed. Are the days of a coal mining industry with 20,000 people - is that here? No and don't ever think that is the message we are sending.

[Page 1990]

There are employment opportunities in that industry. When I talk about coal, I talk about development of the Donkin coal reserves. I would suspect that if this government was supportive of the miners' co-op that are in partnership with Donkin Resources Limited to open that mine and to employ local people, that would employ in the vicinity of 200-250 people. You have people with their dollars, not just their sweat equity, but actual dollars invested in a company that they want to see succeed. There are markets for that coal, both in the thermal generation of electricity and in metallurgical coal, which there is a world shortage of - metallurgical coal - not to get too bogged down in the technicalities and stray a bit from the bill. When we talk about that we are talking about a layer of that coal, a seam 12 feet high and if you do the middle cut of that coal, say 8 feet and leave 2 feet on either side, it is high quality, low sulphur, good metallurgical coal which they need in the steelmaking markets in other parts of the world.

If this government would stop and think about that and say maybe that is an investment we should make. We have seen investment in shipyards here and by and large, I support that. I am somewhat disconcerted about being a banker for a wealthy company like the Irvings, but it is one of those things - it is a balancing act that governments are often asked to do. You have to balance that against a philosophical basis and a reality basis sometimes.

The problem with this government is it did that but didn't take the big step of saying yes, we will be supportive of shipyard workers here in Halifax, but furthermore we have to say that we are going to put our money where our mouth is. What we are going to do if the federal government will not get involved and do a comprehensive national shipbuilding policy, darn it, we are going to go it alone. We are going to, with the industry, sit down with the workers and the owners of the shipyards and design a shipbuilding policy, so that we are not looking at workers having to cut deals in Pictou to save that shipyard, but we will have a defined program of shipbuilding, so all of Nova Scotia is growing from that. But to just go and cut a deal with one company and then don't go any further, I think, does the province a disservice.

I think the people in the Shelburne area and people in Pictou and people in the marine slips over in Dartmouth, and any place else, there is a dry dock in Sydney that is under much disrepair because of the industry and the downfall. I believe the last time there was any kind of large shipbuilding there, they built a ship called the Blue Heron that was supposed to be the saviour of the Sydney tar ponds. This Blue Heron was supposed to sail around in the tar ponds with a large sucker on it, and it was supposed to suck up the waste and pump it into these furnaces that would burn the waste. It was a disaster, a colossal failure because the whole system was never designed properly, and it was just a waste of precious tax dollars. Nova Scotians are now left to sweep up after those messes.

If we had a comprehensive shipbuilding policy, maybe we would see that small yard in Sydney enliven. It is important because we also know that the saviour of the economy in parts of this province like Cape Breton aren't going to be saved, by and large, by these

[Page 1991]

announcements of 500 and 600 people jobs. These economies will be saved by local people wanting to invest in their local area. As you see that grow, you will see confidence. Success begets success, and you will see that.

Those people need the encouragement, not the intrusion, the encouragement of government. That is something that is lacking here, a commitment from government. When you get no more than a line in a Throne Speech or a Budget Speech, talking about an area that is facing an economic crisis, if that is all you get from this government, there is not much hope there. You have to wonder, what are we going to do? I know people want to talk, and it is fair to talk about some of the successes, like Silicon Island and so on. But are they spinning the type of jobs and at the rate we need them?

We are being told to be patient over stuff, but it is hard to be patient when every day you are losing your young people, the people you have invested in. I mentioned here the other day about people - I can think of within the last year - 10 young people from my constituency who were educated in this province as nurses and teachers who are gone out of this province and out of this country. That is a shame, because we as Nova Scotians invested in their education, and when it comes time for that investment to pay off, Nova Scotians turned their backs on these young people.

Now they are down in areas like North Carolina, Florida, Maine, Ontario, Saskatchewan, British Columbia and Alberta working, and they are not coming back. What have we lost? We have lost probably on average 18 to 20 years invested in their education, we are not going to get that money back that we invested, that these people would grow and be productive parts of the society of Nova Scotia. We have lost that money, never to regain it because these people aren't coming home. They are telling us, why should I come here, why should I work in hospitals for 40, 50 hours in a week with no benefits as the lowest paid RNs in this country? Why should I stay here and do that? I don't have to put up with it.

Mr. Speaker, I talked the other day about a relative of mine, she was leaving North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and she was coming home for a couple of weeks and then going down to Portland, Maine to work as an RN. When she was leaving Chapel Hill in North Carolina, the administrators at the health care complex where she worked said to her, look, if you will agree to stay another six weeks, we will give you $5.00 more an hour, plus a $2,500 signing bonus. That is hard money to turn down. Why would you want to come back here? That is equal to just a month's salary here, and they are going to give that as a bonus. So what inducements do you have?

What we have to get is real money in our health care system for these workers. Right now, I believe the RNs and AHO are gone off to conciliation, Mr. Speaker, and what is at the crux of those negotiations is salary. It is going to maybe appear, when it becomes public, as large wage demands, and it is not really large wage demands. What is going to come out of that is there has to be a reality of where nurses in Nova Scotia fit on the salary scale as it

[Page 1992]

relates to that industry nationwide. Just by the mere fact of where we are today, with a much more mobile workforce, you can't compare what an RN makes in Yarmouth to what an RN makes in St. Martha's in Antigonish. What you have to do is take the industry average across this country and adjust it to that market.

It is a national market; it is not a regional market anymore. It is not a market that pits Glace Bay against North Sydney or Sydney against New Waterford. It is a national market. So what we have to do is we have to say, okay, where is the mean level for salaries across the country. I don't know, and I am really afraid that the Department of Health doesn't understand that and isn't making that kind of contribution at the table, but that they are still in the nickel-and-dime mode. We need a real cash infusion for these people. We have to keep them here. If you want to continue to have the moniker of the employer who pays your nurses the least amount of money in this country, then stay the course. Stay the course and agree to what is in this budget, agree to what is in the Financial Measures (2001) Bill because that is what you agreed.

That is wrong, Mr. Speaker, and it is wrong for a lot of reasons. It is wrong because you are not going to have the workforce you need, primarily. You are going to, as I stated before, if you look at the overall reasons for education as an investment, you are going to lose that. So you look at that and you say, look, there has to be a better way to do this. I have an awful feeling that when these two groups get down to straight money talk at the table, the Department of Health will not be open and honest and say this is a fair, national wage and we have to take a one-year hit on it to bring them up and get us into the real workforce, or the real world if you will.

That is one side. I guess I want to go back now and speak a bit about this week's decision to lay off 53 teachers in the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board. Again, Mr. Speaker, there has been much talk about funding. New funding monies that were put forward in this budget are inadequate. The minister says that she disagrees and she, through her deputy, has told that district school board that the numbers and how they are purporting to roll out are inaccurate.

[1:00 p.m.]

The minister is talking in terms of a message from her deputy to us. I want to say that I talked to the board directly. I wasn't getting a message second-hand, I had board members talk to me, I had documentation from that board. That board clearly said to me, this is the $39 of new money. There were other boards that were getting as high as $133 in new money and yet the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional District School Board was getting $33 in new money and yet the minister will say that is not an accurate portrayal.

[Page 1993]

Maybe she should go directly to that board and explain to them because that is not the way the board has explained it to me. That is not how her deputy explained it to that board. That board is severely underfunded, it has nothing to do with what she has said in her answers to questions in this House that says they are being funded properly and that Cape Breton is a special case and it will be treated in an appropriate manner. One has to wonder what the minister's definition of special case and what appropriate manner is. Maybe in our naiveté over on this side, we thought special case meant it was kind of a hardship and that special would be treated appropriately, it would be given extra funding to see it over this hump. We were obviously being naive. What it seems to mean is that it is special because it is bothersome and that these people will actually stand up and fight and we are going to treat them the way we want to treat them.

I can only report back to what board members have told me. They were less than enamoured with the deputy and the way he treated them. One member of the board had used the term, we were like dirt under his feet. There has to be a fairness, there has to be a level here. These people have been, like ourselves, elected by the people of this province and they have been asked and they have taken on a responsibility. That is something that is lacking with the Deputy Minister of Education. He was appointed. Nobody in this province marked a ballot for him. That is what I think he is missing here when he goes in and tells boards this is the way it goes. I think what he has to do is he has to go in and - you know, I appreciate that he is the messenger for the minister, but he should be giving the minister's message, not his message. He is a conduit for the minister so I think what we have been asking the minister is, minister you go meet that board to make sure that message is accurate. I don't think the minister is as mean-spirited as that message is. It would help if that minister would sit down and help and that is why we look at this Bill No. 30 and say these financial measures are not enough. They don't do it for us. We have a crisis in our education system.

We saw just this week about education. We saw children protest from the new P3 school in Whitney Pier, not wanting to lose their teacher - I believe it was Mrs. Crawford. When you hear quotes from children saying, I like Mrs. Crawford because she doesn't holler at me - or, I like Mrs. Crawford because she rocks. These are kids that, while maybe youthful enthusiasm takes over, they are caring children. It is reflective of a caring teacher. But, yet, their beloved teacher, Mrs. Crawford will not be there come next September.

Is it because those kids don't want to learn? Is it because steelmakers don't want to make steel? Is it because coal miners don't want to mine coal? Is it because cashiers at a grocery store don't want to work? No, it is because of government's lack of support in a serious economic way in that area that has hurt them.

In talking about the new school in Whitney Pier, Mr. Speaker, I would hate to not stand in my place and talk about the disaster of what over a century of steelmaking has done to that area. We stood in here, just yesterday, and asked questions of the Premier, and indeed the day before, about the JAG process and particularly the effects on people of Laurier, Hankard and

[Page 1994]

Tupper Streets. These people have toxic waste in their yards and in their houses. In questioning the Premier on these very topics, the Premier says we are studying them. As I have also said, if this was a unionized work site, if it was any work site, if there were known carcinogens and toxins in a work site, they would shut the work site down and get the people out of there, and that is exactly what this government should do.

We are not saying you move them on and they don't come back forever and a day, but while you are doing the testing get them out of there. The first and overriding concern should be the people's health, Mr. Speaker. We are not talking about somebody who has had a cold and the cough has hung on for an extra couple of weeks. What we are talking about here is what is accepted by all 52 members of this House and beyond as the worst toxic hazardous site in North America. These people, through no fault of their own, are meant to stay there because this government will not be proactive and say, look, that is it, we are moving you out of there. We are getting you a reasonable place to live. We will put you up somewhere and that is it. If you are wrong and the tests prove there is no short-term or long-term effect, and that is important to say, no long-term effect either, because the Premier is playing word games when we ask him about short-term effects. Because he is a former family physician, he knows what is going on here. He knows what may happen to the health of these people, but he doesn't want to talk about that.

I said to him the other day, quite clearly, in this House, that I thought his answers around that were immoral. It was immoral from the perspective that he was a family physician and, certainly, immoral as the Leader of this province for him to say stay in the toxic sludge. You know what? In two months time, if we can't prove it is wrong, we will move you out. That is wrong, Mr. Speaker. That is why there should be real monies in the budget and shown in this Financial Measures (2001) Bill, and we all know what it is, it is a road map for spending for the government, that there is a commitment to these people.

It is extremely important to say that the idea of the JAG process is that they carry the ball on this, Mr. Speaker. It is a Joint Action Group, which is a tripartite group and it is volunteer driven and community driven. What was interesting when these questions broke around this, and the erstwhile Minister of Environment and Labour was like a deer in headlights, he couldn't give or wouldn't give answers, he kept handing off. I asked at one point, what makes Laurier Street any different than, we will say Prince Street in Truro? If there is a household in Truro with toxins in the basement, does it then become TPW's responsibility? No, Mr. Speaker, it is clearly the Department of Environment and Labour and the minister, sitting in that very chair, it is his responsibility, through his department, to get those people out of there. For some reason, he sits there with his wide eyes glazed over, saying, well, I will give that to the Department of Transportation and Public Works.

AN HON. MEMBER: Maybe he consumed one of those toxic solutions.

[Page 1995]

MR. CORBETT: I don't know what he consumes, Mr. Speaker, but it isn't common sense. He has to take responsibility. He has to understand that this JAG process is to deal with the cleanup, right? JAG, in itself, has said unanimously, not by a bare majority, not by some, not by a 10 to 1 vote, but, unanimously, that those people should be moved . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please, honourable members. It is pretty difficult to hear the gentleman who has the floor.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

MR. CORBETT: Thank you, again, Mr. Speaker.

AN HON. MEMBER: Close that door so they won't be gathering over there.

MR. CORBETT: I will take them in their seats or in the doorway, Mr. Speaker. It doesn't matter to me.

You know this group unanimously said that those people should be moved. The government hid behind the JAG process. Well, the JAG process is working. They have said this and the government ignored it. Dan Fraser, from time to time I disagree with the Chairman, volunteering is not an easy job, and I don't agree 100 per cent with what Mr. Fraser does. But I will tell you something, I know Mr. Fraser personally, he and I are members of the same church and we see each other quite often on Sundays. I find him to be a man of integrity. Again, it is fair to say that philosophically we may disagree on things, but his integrity is beyond reproach. I know people who would support me back home would disagree with my position on that but I would defend his integrity, and I think in those cases it is not fair when you bring stuff like that into it.

We can talk about the slowness of that project and whatever, but it has nothing to do with the integrity of the chairman. I want to say, the chairman and the complete JAG committee unanimously have said those people on those three streets - Hankard, Laurier and Tupper - should be moved until the testing is done. Mr. Speaker, this government says no, we are going to do our own testing and we are going to let you sit there and - pardon the pun but - let them stew. Let them stew in their place. Where is the morality in that? Where is the compassion in that? Where is the new Nova Scotia in that? Where is the government that worries about its people, the health of seniors who are living there, the young children. I don't say this by way of fearmongering or anything, it is just a reality of what they are saying, and they are saying to young children, you can't play in your back yard.

Mr. Deputy Speaker, if for reasons you lived there, again, we will go back to your grandchildren, where I started, you, I know, as a humanist, would not want to have - I don't know if it is sons or daughters - their children playing in that area. I am sure you, as a caring

[Page 1996]

individual, would probably go and get in your diesel truck and go down and say, look, come up and stay at grandad's house because I feel safer with you there.

That is not an unreasonable request, is it, Mr. Deputy Speaker? You are a person of compassion and that is what this government lacks when they don't do that for these people, is compassion. I can't say it enough, we are not talking about giving people a blank cheque and saying go and build a new home in South End Halifax and just fill in the cheque when you are finished. No, no, what we are saying is, look, we will get you to an area that's safe and comfortable and the children can finish out their year of school until the testing is finished, because nobody on that side has stood up and said, testing is going to be two days, two weeks, two months, two years. We don't know how long this testing is going to be, and it is driven by that government. So they should do that; it is the compassionate thing to do.

[1:15 p.m.]

I can stand here and chide government departments about where they spent their money for coffee and donuts or what rich corporations government has given money to. Sometimes it makes my arguments seem petty and frivolous and full of snide comments, Mr. Speaker, so I don't want to do that, because I am extremely serious about this. I don't want to do those things. What I want to do is ask the government, implore the government, that that is their role; their role is not just to balance the books. Without saying it too long, it is an important component of governing, but you have a responsibility to your citizens and that responsibility is to provide them with a clean, healthy and safe environment.

It is no different than if we took all the police officers off the road and had no speeding limits and said, let them go, may the best person win. At the end of the day, if there are all kind of fatalities on our highway, well, what the heck; what we are doing is getting rid of all these police officers to save money. Well, Nova Scotians wouldn't appreciate that and they wouldn't like it. That's why I am saying about in the way of the Financial Measures (2001) Bill there has to be a financial understanding of the human cost there.

These people are never going to sell their homes, no matter what happens here. It is like that group last year, one of the councillors from CBRM wanted to give certain people in and around the Muggah Creek areas and the tar ponds areas, put them in a tax exempt zone for municipal taxes. I have to agree, it has some merit, because in real market value these houses have no value. Other than paying for their services, these homes have no real market value. You aren't going to sell a house on Hankard Street, excuse me, unless you want to go to a place where you are going to glow in the dark, to be flippant. Nobody is going to buy that. If you want out of there, you are out of there. You might as well buy a flat of plywood and cover up the windows and doors because no one is going to buy. I look across, would you buy a house on Hankard Street? You aren't.

[Page 1997]

It makes immense sense, Mr. Speaker, that the government should be involved in helping these people. If a local councillor would go that far and make that statement on behalf of those people - obviously I talk in terms of financial measures because that's what Bill No. 30 is about, but in some ways I hope, as I said in previous speeches, that philosophically that's what people will say when they think of the Progressive Conservative Party, as a Party that is pro-business. That's a fair comment, that's not meant to be derogatory. If it fits, fine; if not, well then we will debate that some other time.

Mr. Speaker, I speak on that because most people today, when a young person starts out today and they build a home and they get a job, it is all about moving forward and building equity in your home. Some people would say, look, whether I have 2 kids, 10 kids, no kids, my house is going to be my equity and I may be leveraging that, at some point, to build a nest egg. These people, through no fault of their own, do not have that option, because the real estate is of absolutely no real value.

Mr. Speaker, we as a caring province should understand that. I don't think we have to - and I am repeating myself, I know, but I want to make sure people know this - I don't think we should go in and say, where do you want to go, money is no object. You now live in a two bedroom home on a 50 x 50 lot, we are going to give you a place with all kinds of acreage, a four bedroom house and whatever. No, we are talking about, if they have to be moved permanently, we are looking at a fair market value and to move on. These are people who are caused a real problem that is not of their doing. It is part of both levels of government moving out of heavy industry and causing this problem.

Mr. Speaker, I want to talk about something else, in a short way, about economic development of the area. (Interruptions) As hard-hearted as the federal government was about the closing of Devco, the minister, Mr. Goodale, at the time, asked me a question directly, what about tourism in your area, Mr. Corbett? I said to the minister, in my riding, we do have some things.

Mr. Deputy Speaker, I know you talk in glowing terms about your riding and usually open it with the beautiful. Sometimes, it is probably that our own eyes are not as wide open to our local area as yours are. We are often seen as being industrial Cape Breton. Within my riding is a place called Dominion Beach and referred to locally as the sandbar. It is a huge - I think it is the largest, probably - beachfront recreation area in industrial Cape Breton. It is in Dominion. It has been taken over by the province. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, this area has been renewed somewhat, but in the last few years what has happened is the government's refusal to put any money into the Natural Resources budget to keep it up to standard. It had an extremely fine boardwalk and some other really great attractions, but the boardwalk, in large sections, is unusable because of the erosion of sand and the movement of the ice flows in winter, that would come up and actually disrupt and physically move some of the walkway.

[Page 1998]

Here is an area, in conjunction with Tourism and Natural Resources, if they would get involved, it could be used, from the mere fact that part of that area flows into the Lingan Bay and there is a real interesting ecosystem there. It has many different forms of bird watching, and it is really an interesting area. There are many piping plovers there. I am not adverse to that.

Mr. Speaker, what happens is many of the local biology teachers, especially the ones who teach the more advanced biology courses will take their students on field trips to this area, from all over industrial Cape Breton, because of the significant balance of the ecosystem there. That has a fairly large tourist potential. What we hear more and more about in this province is ecotourism. It is natural, it is there. We are not looking at a huge infusion of cash. We are not looking at a multimillion dollar project there. But it would mean a lot to that area, just to bring those people in there. If you want to look at it from the Tourism and the other cultural side that also has sport and recreation in it, you take it that that beach is used year-round for people as a recreational service, whether in the summer months for swimming in evenings and early mornings by joggers and walkers, Mr. Speaker, I invite any of the members to go down and tour the area and see the potential beauty.

I don't like people saying that all parts of Cape Breton are anything - when you are on that beach and you look over to the left you see the behemoth that is the Lingan generating station, what that did was destroy what was probably one of the finest beaches of my childhood, Laffins Cove. The cove was owned by the family of a former member who represented this seat, who represented your Party, Mr. Speaker, the former member Mike Laffin who was a member of the Executive Council for some time. That area was named after his family. They owned it for years.

You look over there and that destroyed that. There should be a bit of balance here, Mr. Speaker. Maybe we can really look at something where industry and the ecology can work together. That is an area that I think this government should be involved in, that this government, if it really wanted to get its economic books in order, that would be a way; you would get people working. I go back to my position that this doesn't have to be investment of - when we look at job creation in industrial Cape Breton of - thousands of jobs or hundreds of jobs at a time. We may win this war on job creation by 5, 10, 15, 20 jobs at a time.

I think it is important that I say that because, you actually put that in the context of recognizing a delicately balanced ecosystem for ecotourism, against the blight of North America, and the coke ovens and the tar ponds, Mr. Speaker. What you do by that very idea of supporting the Lingan beach project is start that renewal.

This government has talked about the new economy. That's part of the new economy, Mr. Speaker. Part of that economy is giving people hope, whether it is the small successes and the medium-size successes of Silicon Island, whether it is the larger success of the

[Page 1999]

workforce. Those are the ones who are to be congratulated at EDS. I know government agencies, both federally and provinciall, might hurt their elbows trying to pat themselves on the back over that, but the reality is that is a success not because of anything other than workers; workers who know what to do, workers who want to work in an area they want to stay and live in.

I have been negative about the aspect of what the coke overns do but, by and large, Mr. Speaker, if we could clean up that toxic mess we would do well. We would start growing. The people want to stay there. When you talk to Cape Bretoners who have moved away, the first line is, I wish there was a job back home. They are everywhere. You know what, Mr. Deputy Speaker? They are moving closer to you. I notice people come up here and establish themselves from Cape Breton. One time they lived downtown, then they ventured as far as Dartmouth and then they went out a little farther. Now the are out well past Fall River, Mr. Deputy Speaker, and they will be coming to a community near you soon. I think that is extremely important.

I think that this Financial Measures (2001) Bill is wrong and it doesn't address those problems, Mr. Speaker. I think we have to look at a balance sheet that includes people and not just dollars. Yes, it is important that we do not spend money we don't have, and it is important that Nova Scotians see that we have money and we spend it wisely. When we talk to Nova Scotians, we also know that spending money wisely is investing in communities; investing in health care; investing in education; investing in people's working environment, their living environment. It is extremely important that that type of investment is done, that social community work is invested in by the government, not by private industry, but by government. That is a role of government to look after the welfare of everybody's needs in this province.

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

[1:30 p.m.]

The honourable member for Cape Breton East.

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, it is indeed an honour to again rise to talk about the Financial Measures (2001) Bill and the item that we have been debating for some time now in the Legislature. This is a government that has told people there are some tough decisions to be made. You have to understand that things are going to be tough for awhile because they will be better down the road. They will understand that, but we are going to keep a lean, mean machine working as a government. We are not going to make anything bigger in government, we are going to keep our Cabinet small, our costs down. We are not going to do anything you wouldn't do, that you are being asked to do, as citizens of Nova Scotia, to stay in line because this government has told everybody that they have a plan that

[Page 2000]

they want to stick with, and it is going to cause some pain over a number of years until things get better.

Mr. Speaker, I am about to prove right now that this is a government that talks out of both sides of its mouth. This is a government that has more than one face because while that message has been given to Nova Scotians, I can inform the House at this time that indeed this government - and I found this information out through a freedom of information request - continues to increase the numbers of political staff and their salaries in this government.

As a matter of fact, there are some $300,000 more in salaries at Priorities and Planning of this government. Since the Tories took office, Priorities and Planning has increased its staff by seven people and its budget by over $300,000. In light of the information on the cost of the new staff that we heard about at the Minister of Health's office earlier this week, the government certainly seems to have plenty of money for salaries, Mr. Speaker. Now, I think, we actually know why the government has introduced so many user fees. Those user fees are being used to pay for more salaries in government. This is a bigger government, a more expensive government, and it gets bigger and more expensive as the days go by.

Mr. Speaker, our freedom of information request showed a staffing increase at Priorities and Planning from 17 people in July 1999 to 24 people by March of this year, from 17 to 24 people. In July 1999, Priorities and Planning spent $898,700 on salaries. The new figures show the same department is now spending $1,228,600. This is the government that is planning on taking some $75,000 from groups who are attempting to search the Child Abuse Register to do background checks on potential staff. The $20 fee that they will charge to search the Child Abuse Register will gain them $75,000.

Mr. Speaker, is this not just one area where that money could have been better spent, the money that they are spending, this $300,000 more in salaries in Priorities and Planning? Could that not have been better spent to save that $75,000 that they are going to gouge from people by charging them $20 to check to see whether or not the safety of their children is okay?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I apologize to the honourable member. I was sidetracked for a moment. If he had a question for the Speaker, I would certainly be pleased to oblige.

MR. WILSON: No, Mr. Speaker, I was just using your name frequently because I am supposed to be addressing my remarks through you to the government. It was not a question.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you, honourable member.

[Page 2001]

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, according to the latest figures from the Supplement to the Public Accounts, fringe benefits for the Priorities and Planning Committee, the same department, amounted to $121,000. Now the Tories plan on returning Priorities and Planning to the name that it held under the Buchanan Administration, the Treasury Board.

Again, Mr. Speaker, to go from 17 people in July 1999 to 24 by March of this year and to add on $300,000 more in salaries - and there are some pretty high salaries at Priorities and Planning, too. They go from a high of $104,900 to a low of about $30,000. There are salaries there that are over $90,000, over $80,000, over $75,000. As a matter of fact, the deputy ministers - there are two - are each being paid $104,900 at Priorities and Planning and a staff which is basically doing nothing more than politics on behalf of this government but at the same time, and I find it hypocritical for members of this government to stand up and say we should be saving money or add on user fees when behind our backs - and we have to find our through freedom of information requests - they are spending money left and right. This is bordering on immoral.

AN HON. MEMBER: Shameful.

MR. WILSON: It is absolutely shameful that those members of that government would stand up in this House and tell Nova Scotians times are going to be tough for a little while and you have to cut back, you have to understand what we are doing in education, in health care and all of the other important issues that they have talked about in this House. You have to understand that you can't have more money for schools. You can't have more money for teachers. You have to lay off 53 teachers in Cape Breton. We can't pave roads, we can't do this, we can't do that because we don't have the money. They have the money. They seem to find the money when they need it. They found $300,000 more for Priorities and Planning without a problem, no problem at all to come up with that money because it is for them, that is why. It is for them to look good and they are going to need a lot more than $300,000, let me tell you, to make you guys start looking good. You better find some more money.

Mr. Speaker, this is simply a government that wants to get out of here. They want to get out of here quickly because the longer that we are in this House, the more information such as this, and I hate to use that term again but, you know, as the Premier said, we will ferret it out, bit by bit. The longer we stay in this House, the more information we find out, the more that we find out that university fees are going to go up, the more we find out about user fees, the more we find out that this government spends hundreds of thousands of dollars behind our backs and we have to use freedom of information requests to find out what they are spending on their Priorities and Planning Committee, but we will continue to do it, day after day, hour after hour.

The Government House Leader knows. He was quoted in the paper the other day as saying, well, they are just playing a political game over in the Opposition. They have to delay. We did it when we were in government and that is the name of the game. We are

[Page 2002]

doing it now but we are not playing a game. We are not laughing over here. We are taking this seriously. We are telling you what you are doing wrong, what we think you are doing wrong. We are here and we will be here as long as necessary to hold the feet of that government to the fire and to make them report to Nova Scotians exactly what they are doing. That is why our constituents sent us here in the first place. It is also why the constituents of backbench MLAs over there sent them here as well. There are 18 of them over there who right now should be a little bit shocked to learn that the Priorities and Planning Committee is spending $300,000 more and adding people on in a government that I am sure as backbenchers, you were told was going to be kept small, trim and lean. You should be very surprised at that as backbenchers. Perhaps the frontbenchers, the Cabinet Ministers, and perhaps the bureaucrats haven't been totally honest with the backbenchers in that caucus either. Perhaps they haven't been telling them exactly what is going on behind the scenes.

The people of this province have sent us here to speak on their behalf. That is why we are here. People want to be listened to. As I stand here as a rookie MLA still, I think a lot of us are still rookie MLAs, even after a couple of years or a couple of months, whatever the case may be, but as I stand here I can tell you one thing and we all know that, is that people want to be listened to; people want to be heard. If they have a problem, they would like you to pay attention to it.

You can play all the political games that you want, you can take all the different opinions and editorials from journalists - we have all been criticized one way or another by journalists in our day and some have said (Interruptions) I will ignore that Party because I want them to get their act together first before we comment on anything that they are doing. As I said, this is not the silly season, as some have been accused of in the press recently. I am not here playing games. I am not passing around silly little toys or anything else as the case may be that some people across the way are still - like the guards over there at the door are doing - I am not doing that. This is not silly, this is quite serious. We are here to make sure that the government tells Nova Scotians what is going on and we are going to do that.

As I said, we are going to do it no matter how long it takes. We will make sure eventually that the truth comes out. We are missing a lot of it lately. We have been told about one day there are teacher layoffs in Cape Breton, one day there are problems at a school in Elmsdale - they can't get the right equipment there or whatever. The next day, all of a sudden, magically, out of nowhere, the Minister of Education says, we are still negotiating, we might have a budget for that, we might not. Maybe the Minster of Education doesn't know what her budget is or maybe the Minister of Education, like some of the other ministers in that government, is just playing games with Nova Scotians.

Maybe there is a political game being played over there that says, if this is what it is going to be, this is how hard it is going to be and we have to cut. But, maybe they actually know at the same time, it is not going to be that difficult, that there are budgets out there, that

[Page 2003]

there are slush funds out there, that there are funds that we can draw from to make us look good in the eyes of the people of Nova Scotia.

So far, we haven't looked that great. I know, and backbench members in the government know, that there have been some tough times for the Tory Government. I have had people come up to me in my riding and say, what is going on up there, Dave? What are they doing? Don't they know what they are doing? I have been a Tory all my life and I wouldn't vote for them. What are they doing? You know for someone to say, I have been a Tory all my life, but I wouldn't vote for them now - and I know the backbench MLAs have heard about this. The Cabinet Ministers have probably heard, but they don't pay attention to anything you say so they wouldn't listen, but the backbench MLAs have heard that. They are probably saying, you are right, what can I do to change this? What can I do to get through to the powers that be in my government and make them start to do things correctly.

Well, number one is listen to the people who are telling you that you are doing something wrong. Not everybody in your constituency voted for you. There are a lot of people in some constituencies who did not vote for you and they want to be heard as well.

Earlier in the week we found out that the Minister of Health's new chief information officer cost Nova Scotians $100,000. Now that alone, if I wanted to go back to the Child Abuse Register, which was $75,000, that is going to be for charging a $20 tax, a user fee on there, there is certainly more than enough to cover that. Today, we learn that his executive assistant, number one, courtesy of the Priorities and Planning Committee, comes with a price tag, as well, $75,000 - $75,000 to prop up the Minister of Health through the scrums during Question Period, $75,000 for the Minister of Health to help him answer questions. It is not money well spent because he is not doing a very good job in answering the questions; $75,000, again, is the figure that is the user fee for the Child Abuse Register in total.

[1:45 p.m.]

The Minister of Health has another EA back at the department, as well. It is come home week. The Minister of Health, along with the most expensive deputy minister ever and an associate deputy and an assistant deputy, it is good to see that he has his priorities in order, Mr. Speaker. Those are not the priorities of Nova Scotians who are being told, time and time again, by this government that it is going to be tough. You have to stay with us folks because we have to do some tough things. We have to cut back, but in the long run, it will be okay. In the long run, we will turn everything around for you. We will find the money to make things better and we will balance the budget and so on and so forth. In the meantime, what we are going to do is we are just going to pile things on at the Priorities and Planning, Secretariat, department, Treasury Board, Policy Board, whatever you are calling it these days.

[Page 2004]

We are going to pile in some more bureaucrats there who are serving us and only serving us. We are going to pay them major salaries to the tune of $300,000 more than what we were paying before. Nobody will ever hear about it because, certainly, no Cabinet Minister on that side of this House, no Tory backbench MLA on that side of the House is ever going to stand up in front of their constituents and say, oh, by the way, did you hear that we are spending $300,000 more at Priorities and Planning? Nobody is going to mention that. That is okay, because that is why we are here. We are here to get that information and we are here to tell people about it. We are here during this debate, again, to make sure that we hold their feet to the fire and make them accountable. The Financial Measures (2001) Bill is one example.

Mr. Speaker, through education and health and social services, highways, name the topic, water, the environment in Glace Bay, several times during this session, I have brought it up, in Question Period, I have brought it up to ministers, I have written to ministers. I have talked to anybody I could talk to about the situation with water in Glace Bay and surrounding area. I have asked several times for help. I have pleaded for help on behalf of the people of Glace Bay, on behalf of the people of Dominion, of behalf of the people of Reserve and outlying areas that are serviced by Glace Bay's water supply. To date, the only reply I have had is from the Premier thanking me for receipt of my correspondence. That is the only reply I have received - thank you for the receipt of your correspondence.

Nothing is being done. Nothing is changed. Not one penny has been put forward to say here is how we can do a little extra for the people of Glace Bay and surrounding area. They are still forced to buy their water. They don't have the luxury - and it is a luxury there right now - to sit down, you can't do it, it would be a luxury if you could do it, sit down and pour a glass of water out of the tap and have a drink of it. We can't do that right now in Glace Bay. I have seen absolutely no indication whatsoever from this government that things are going to change regarding the water situation in Glace Bay.

You want to take a look at a situation in the health care section of this government, and you see that what is going to happen is seniors are going to be charged $50 a day to stay in hospital beds. I never thought, in this country, in this province that I would see the day that people would be charged a user fee to get what is rightfully theirs, to get what they deserve. The ironic part is that we have an aging population in this province. Nowhere, I would suggest, is it more evident than in Cape Breton, the aging population.

We actually have programs that are done through various government agencies, one of them is done through the Cape Breton County Economic Development Authority, it is called Retirement Cape Breton. The purpose of that program is to attract retirees, who for the most part are senior citizens, to come back to Cape Breton. It has been fairly successful. They have attracted hundreds of retirees to come back to Cape Breton, whether or not they are natives of Cape Breton or whether or not they had just found out about it through advertising

[Page 2005]

campaigns and so on, they are coming back. They come back because it is a great place to live, it is a safe place to live, it is a beautiful place to live.

But I am wondering, if these retirees start to read literature that comes from this government, if perhaps they will start picking up on the fact, well, sure, come back and retire here, and, oh by the way, if you are a senior and you ever need medical help and you are stuck in a bed in a hospital, we are going to start charging you $50 a day. I would think that would not be an incentive. As a matter of fact, I think it would work in the opposite way, not attract people but actually stop them from coming here.

These are user fees, as the government calls them, they are taxes. They are taxes, there is no other way to describe them. We have gone over them several times, more than several times here, and we have seen them on everything. We have seen them on everything from telephone calls to the Child Abuse Register to hospital beds. There is no knowing where it will stop.

Mr. Speaker, part of the reason we are so concerned about this Financial Measures (2001) Bill is that there is nothing being planned in terms of economic development, in terms of economic development in this province, in terms of economic development in Cape Breton in particular. As my colleague, the member for Cape Breton Centre, mentioned earlier today, there are call centres that are being set up, there are expansions that are being set up, a car parts manufacturer in Cape Breton as well, and we are hoping for more. But the role that this government is playing in those projects is minuscule.

If it wasn't for the federal government, none of those projects would be going ahead. If it wasn't for the federal government in Ottawa, the Liberal Government in Ottawa, indeed, none of those projects would ever be thought of. What is happening is that this government has decided, well, the high areas of unemployment in this province, and it is not just Cape Breton, there are other areas, let's ignore them, ignore them altogether, let them take care of themselves or let the federal government take care of them, because we have to make all of these cuts and we have to do this and we have to do that and we have to tell people that it is going to be, as I mentioned, a rough time for a little while but we are going to turn things around.

Mr. Speaker, as the new information comes out, as I have talked about, and I gave you a great example today of just what kind of commitment this government is making to saving money, and saving money on the backs of teachers and nurses and doctors and everyone else in this province, but they are not doing it on their own. They have shown no indication whatsoever that they are willing to save money where they can save money, on such things as Priorities and Planning Committee, which has gone up. I gave you a great example there, of what could be done with that money in terms of the Child Abuse Register. There are many more examples in this province where the money could be used as well.

[Page 2006]

As I said, Mr. Speaker, this government continues to play a political game with the people of Nova Scotia. This government was the same government that said to the people in Cape Breton, we are going to close your wildlife park, because we aren't giving you any more money for your wildlife park. But all of a sudden, out of the blue, the other day the new member for Cape Breton North lands in Sydney with a cheque for the wildlife park. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. WILSON: That's okay, Mr. Speaker, they aren't fooling anyone, they aren't fooling me, they aren't fooling the people of Nova Scotia. People in Nova Scotia know how foolish and silly they are being about this. I will stand here and speak seriously about any of the issues, and that bunch of clowns can go to it, I don't care.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. That's not very parliamentary.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, that member flew down to Sydney with a cheque for $25,000 for the Cape Breton wildlife park. (Applause) That member flew down, so let's deduct the money it cost you to fly down and fly back home, because that came out of the taxpayers' pockets; let's deduct the amount of money it took you to rent the room at the Delta Hotel, because that came out of taxpayers' money; and let's deduct the actual amount that - the people of Cape Breton know - you flew down for nothing more than crass, political purposes to try to buy their votes, and they will know the difference about that too, let me tell you. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Honourable members, there is quite a racket in here; could you please try to bring yourselves to order.

The honourable member for Cape Breton East has the floor.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, as I said, the people of Nova Scotia, the people of Cape Breton are astute enough, they are smart enough to know the difference between when someone is trying to buy them off and when someone is serious about what they are doing. I am standing here today, in all seriousness, on behalf of my constituents and on behalf of the constituents of every backbench member on that side of the House, speaking on their behalf because you won't. You do not have the intestinal fortitude to stand up in this Legislature and say to your government ministers that what they are doing is wrong. You don't do it in this Legislature and you don't do it in your caucus; you are not talking on behalf of your people. I have no problem whatsoever standing here and doing it on your behalf and probably doing it better than you ever could. (Interruptions)

[Page 2007]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Honourable members, and especially to the honourable member who does have the floor, I do believe we are now straying quite far from second reading of Bill No. 30. I would ask the honourable member if he could try to be just a little more germane to the piece of legislation. Thank you.

MR. WILSON: I will, Mr. Speaker, thank you. We are frustrated with the Financial Measures (2001) Bill, just as I'm sure my colleagues over there are frustrated with how they cannot speak on behalf of their constituents.

Mr. Speaker, let me take an example. I was at the Community Services Committee meeting the other day where we heard an outline about the secure treatment facility in Truro. Now that secure treatment facility is not going to be built - the government first said it would be available and ready in September. We learned the other day that it will not be available in September, that it won't be ready until sometime in the new year, which is a delay. We also heard that at the time, when meetings were held in Truro, the parents of these children - and these are children who have some severe problems, problems that require professional help, they are the highest at-risk children in the country, indeed.

[2:00 p.m.]

We heard the other day that this facility that is being built is a 20 bed facility. To be fair about it, Mr. Speaker, it looks like it is a tremendous facility, one that is needed in this province to cope with the problem that we are having. We heard the other day that the government, the social services department, will be strictly responsible for an approximate $2 million operating budget for this facility. This facility will have two empty offices where the government is hoping that psychiatric/psychological treatment will be available to the residents of this facility. This facility has been built in an area that currently does not have a psychiatrist in that area.

We currently have a shortage of psychiatrists and psychologists throughout the Province of Nova Scotia. This is a facility that deals with children at risk, Mr. Speaker, and I am sure the problems that these children have do not occur on a 9 to 5 basis. The government has said, through the department of social services, that this psychiatric help that is needed will be available to them on somewhat of a contractual basis, on an on-call basis when needed. The minister of social services was quoted in one Question Period, when I asked him a question, as a matter of fact, as saying that it will be contracted out, as required. As I said, these problems do not occur on a 9 to 5 basis. If you are calling on psychiatrists from Halifax or wherever, it may take them a very long time, depending on when you call them, to get there.

My point, Mr. Speaker, is that we are left with another lack of planning on behalf of this government. They have no understanding, they have no planning of anything they do. This is another example, through the secure treatment facility, that they have gone ahead;

[Page 2008]

they are going to build a facility, bricks and mortar. It is a great facade, but what is required is professional treatment for these children. This government has not had the foresight to look ahead and try to locate a psychiatrist, a psychologist, whatever is needed to this centre so that that problem can be taken care of it. It is a total lack of planning and a lack, in general, of a long-term plan and a future for this province.

What kind of government would build that facility without first thinking about how it is going to be staffed? The have inadequate youth worker staffing. They have a couple of teachers on loan from the Department of Education, if the minister comes through with a promise. There is no commitment yet, but the Minister of Education promised that she would pay the salaries of two teachers to be at the secure treatment facility. There was no promise because the Minister of Education doesn't promise anything because she has no idea when she is going to change her mind. That is why she doesn't make promises. In this case, this is a promise I hope will come through on behalf of the people in Truro, on behalf of the people who are going to be working and the residents of the secure treatment facility, that a couple of teachers would be provided for that facility.

Again, the lack of planning shows that there is no commitment there either. They have staffing to the tune of about 35 full-time employees of that facility, youth workers, a nurse and so on and so forth that will be at that facility. What is needed, Mr. Speaker, for the children who are going to be treated at that facility is probably, I would say, at least a couple of full-time psychiatrists or psychologists.

AN HON. MEMBER: Certainly at least one.

MR. WILSON: At least one to be based at that facility. Mr. Speaker, it is further proof that there is no economic plan for this province and, as I mentioned, especially for Nova Scotia, the Tories are just playing political games and that is all they are doing, for no particular reason.

Mr. Speaker, young people in this province are left without a choice these days. Young people in my area are left with a choice because there is no work, but it is not much of a choice. They will hang around the community for a little while. They will try as hard as they can to find employment. They will take their resumés, they will do whatever they can to try to find employment in that area, because there are no jobs and they are forced to leave. We have all experienced it, we all have members of our families - some are immediate family members, some are distant relatives or whatever that have left home - from decade to decade, from century to century, it changes where they are going. Originally it was to the Boston States, then it was out West or Ontario; some now are moving to the metropolitan area of this province, in Halifax and Dartmouth and area, because that's where the work is located. That's where the work is and that's where they go.

[Page 2009]

They are trying to further themselves as well; they are going to universities and community colleges, more and more these days, because they have been told, get yourself an education. Don't go out there without furthering your education, we want to make sure you have a better chance of getting a job. But these young people get very discouraged and how they get particularly discouraged is when they have a Minister of Education who will stand up in their Legislature and say, I know tuition fees are going up - tuition fees are going up at the University College of Cape Breton by over 5 per cent - well, we still have a lot of people going to university; we still have people who can afford to pay to go to university; I don't know what she meant by that.

Are we eventually aiming for only the children of the rich and elite can attend university? What's happening is that whoever attends university will come out at the end of it, for the most part, stuck with a very large debt load: sometimes $40,000, sometimes $50,000; it all depends on what courses you are in in university; it all depends on how long you have been in university and how long it has taken you to complete your degree or course or whatever the case may be. But the minister comes across as being callous and uncaring and not worrying about the situation, and that is what's so frustrating, Mr. Speaker. I'm hoping that that isn't real; I'm hoping it is just an act because she is a Minister of the Crown standing here in the Legislature, trying to be strong on behalf of her government. I'm hoping somewhere inside of her she actually cares about university students and about our children who have grown into young men and women and who want to get out into the workforce and want to do something worthwhile on behalf of this province.

Mr. Speaker, I am also worried about such things as teacher layoffs. Declining enrolments lead, I know, to teacher layoffs, they lead to school closures and they lead to something that is near and dear to the hearts of members of their community. You can take a community school and you can close it - and we have seen it in Cape Breton and we have seen it recently here in Dartmouth North - but it is much more than just a building to its people, much more. Your children have gone there and their children are supposed to go there. When you close a school, it's not just the building that closes, you lose a part of that community.

Mr. Speaker, what has been said in the past is that every time a member of the Opposition stands up, the backbenchers will sneer over there in the back and holler at you and they will say, oh, you want more money, all you want is more money; you aren't being economically responsible. We are over here balancing the budget and we are doing this. It's not just asking for more money, what we have been saying from the very beginning of this session, and what we continue to say in debate here, and what we will continue to say in further debate, again, holding their feet to the fire, is that it's not more money, it's a matter of how you are planning and how you manage that money.

[Page 2010]

This is about poor management, that's what it's about; that government is about poor management. Either that, or that government just hasn't been telling us the truth a lot of the time, because I'm wondering how they magically always find the money, and where did it come from? How do you find the money, all of a sudden, to say there may not be teacher layoffs? How do you find the money, all of a sudden, to fix schools in Halifax? How do you find the money all of a sudden to give to wildlife parks that at one time you said we aren't giving you any more money because we don't have any more money? Where did you find the money? Where did it come from?

About 10 or 15 minutes ago, all that hilarious applause over there when I mentioned the wildlife park, from the backbenchers and from the member for Cape Breton North, well, I will ask them, where did you find the money? Where did you find the money? If you know where you found the money, then stand up in this Legislature today, I would be willing to donate some of my time, stand up and tell me, tell the people of Cape Breton where all of a sudden you found $25,000 for that wildlife park. Maybe the member for Dartmouth South knows. Maybe the member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury knows. The wildlife park is pretty close. Where did that money come from? I would like to know. Can anybody answer that question for me? Where did it come from? I would love to hear the answer.

MR. RONALD CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. Just for the honourable member for Cape Breton East, just for his information, I think it was probably 1994, 1995, 1996 when the previous Liberal Government was in power that they closed the Two Rivers Park. They also closed the park in Guysborough County, the Merritt Feltmate Game Farm as well as one down in the Valley. I commend the people down in Cape Breton West, in that area, who have come forward and worked very hard to get money to keep that park operating. I commend the government for their involvement in allowing for the $25,000 to be given to those people. That is all I would like to say. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: That wasn't a point of order.

The honourable member for Cape Breton East.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, that is further proof that nobody over there knows anything. That is all that is, further proof. It was that government that stopped giving money to the wildlife park. That government. It was the people in Cape Breton West who raised the money. It had nothing to do with anybody over there, that raised any money for that park. I know, because it is people from our constituencies and kids who donated pennies from school, and people who went out to the park and donated money to help them raise the money. You were the government that told them you had no more money for them, but all of a sudden you found $25,000.

[Page 2011]

Mr. Speaker, the question I asked, and I will ask it again, to any member over there, including the member for Cape Breton North, where did you get that $25,000? Where did you get that $25,000? You have no idea where it came from. All right? You have no idea where it came from, because you are a backbencher who is not clued in to what is going on in that government whatsoever.

I will ask one of the Cabinet Ministers, maybe they know. Do you know where that $25,000 came from? Does anybody know? Did it come from the Department of Education? The Minister of Education finds money out of the blue all the time. Did it come from the Finance Minister? Did it come from that famous coffee fund? Maybe the Minister of Education stopped giving out coffee and sandwiches, is that where the $25,000 came from? Maybe it came from the Finance Minister's slush fund. Maybe the Finance Minister said, listen, here, member for Cape Breton North, here is a cheque for $25,000, fly down to Cape Breton, rent a room at the Delta, and invite a bunch of the media in and some people from the wildlife park, so we can get some hay out of the fact that we are trying to do good down here.

AN HON. MEMBER: Pretend you are doing something.

MR. WILSON: Yes, pretend you are doing something. Don't give them anything. (Interruptions) Let me tell you, if that is the case, and I will be the first one to appreciate it when it is real, I will be the first one to appreciate it when it is sincere, when it is not just used to score political points, I will be the first one to appreciate it. Guaranteed. You show me the truth, you show me the reality of it, and I will be the first one to thank you. As I said, Cape Bretoners won't be bought off, they won't be bought off. We don't fall for that sort of stuff. We know what you are up to. We are on to you, we know your plan even though it is no plan whatsoever. None.

[2:15 p.m.]

Here is how diabolical this government can be. If this wasn't done in this one case - I hate to harp on one thing - in this one case if that government had any respect for protocol, if that government wasn't playing political games with the $25,000 for that wildlife park, then they at least would have extended an invitation to the MLA for the area to be there to thank them on their behalf. Whether that government likes it or not, the people of Cape Breton West elected that member to come to this House to represent them and that member has been very active with the wildlife park out there. You ask the people at the wildlife park out there what that member has done for them.

Instead, they send a member down here because he is the only one - sorry, Minister of Tourism and Culture - only two from Cape Breton and they want to make political hay out of all of this; that is what they want to do.

[Page 2012]

AN HON. MEMBER: Two and a half.

MR. WILSON: Two and a half, I am sorry. But the member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury already knows where the money came from. He stood up in the Legislature a few minutes ago and told us absolutely nothing. I still haven't heard where the money came from for the wildlife park, and you know what? I will stand here until I am blue in the face and none of you will tell me where that money came from because you can't. You have no idea where that money came from, none whatsoever.

As I said, you can joke around as much as you want, but we are here to be serious about this. We are here to seriously debate the issues in this Legislature. That is why our constituents sent us here in the first place and, when issues come up, no matter where they come up, whether they are in Cape Breton North or Kings or Guysborough or Dartmouth, we will be here to debate those issues on behalf of the constituents of those ridings over there for the silent 18 - the backbench, the silent 18 - who say nothing in this Legislature on behalf of their constituents.

The best thing that you can do, perhaps, for your political Party is to take out a few ads in the papers and let them know who you are. By now, some of your constituents have forgotten what you even look like. They have no idea. They haven't heard from you in the Legislature and they probably don't even know you are alive right now. So it would be a good idea to take out an ad in some of the papers with a little picture that says, hi, I am the MLA for so and so, I am still living and doing well in the Legislature, but I just can't speak on your behalf. Maybe at least they would have some respect for you at that time because right now they have no respect for you as a Member of the Legislative Assembly, whatsoever.

The fact that you are acting like you are acting and not speaking out on important issues in this Legislature is of grave concern to them. We have been hearing from them. The members over here, the members of the Official Opposition have been getting their phone calls asking, will you take this up in the Legislature on our behalf because our members aren't saying anything about it? That is why we are in a debate here on the Financial Measures (2001) Bill, that is why we are in a debate on a hoist amendment, that is why we will be in more debates until the cows come home if we have to, because we want to debate those issues and you don't want to debate those issues. As I said, you want to get out of here as quick as possible. The last thing (Interruptions) and if I hear some more cackling from the member for Preston, Mr. Speaker, we will see what we can do in that constituency as well, not hard.

Mr. Speaker, they want out of here because the less you are here, the less Question Periods you have. You know, Question Period is a very important time, not for Opposition MLAs, but for the people of Nova Scotia, because three times a week Cabinet Ministers have to stand in this House and answer questions and be accountable to the people of Nova Scotia. Now if the Government House Leader and the Premier and the Cabinet had their way, they

[Page 2013]

would be out of here tomorrow because they would not have to stand up and answer those questions in Question Period. But if we have our way, as long as we possibly can - and we are fewer in numbers and we know that - but we will stand here hour after hour debating these issues and trying to get you to give us the answers because that is why we are here. That is why people put us here.

Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned, there is education, there is health, there is social services. I could use another hour on social services alone, just to talk about the situation in this province. I have a caseload in my office by the hundreds, of people who are going to be affected by what is going to happen in social services in this province. People who, when you tell them that their cheque is being cut by $40, $50, $75 or $100 a month, seriously are going to look at whether or not they can eat for the next month. I don't find that the least bit humorous. I find it one of the most serious matters that we can talk about in this province; how we look after the people who cannot look after themselves. Never mind if we are Liberals or New Democrats or Progressive Conservatives, we are put on the face of this earth to look after the people that cannot help themselves, that is why we are here; we are not human beings.

The other night some MLAs in this House had the distinct pleasure of attending a dinner on behalf of the Canadian Diabetic Association. At that dinner we were told of the costs associated with medicines and supplies for diabetics and how much it cost for the strips used to test your blood and how much it cost for insulin that you may need many times on a daily basis, depending on your health. We were told that if you are on social assistance it is covered. We were told that if you have your own private plan, it is covered. But we were told about the large number of working poor in this province who have no coverage whatsoever.

We heard from a woman from Glace Bay at that dinner, Mr. Speaker, and her husband was there with her. We heard from Lisa MacAulay who told us of her child who was diabetic and how her husband had lost his job and how she didn't qualify for social assistance and how they, pretty well, lost everything. Thank goodness they are on their way up again. Her husband has found work and things are starting to build together again. She openly told us that night of the difficulties associated with trying to get some help, trying to contact government agencies and government departments and saying, can you help me in this aspect? Can you help me provide insulin and strips and so on for my child in order for him to live? She told us there was no help available because they were what is classified as the working poor in this province.

We have seen what the government has done for the working poor in this province, Mr. Speaker, because we have seen the government in action. What the government did for the working poor in this province was pit them against people who get social assistance. Remember, that is exactly what the Premier did at a speech in Halifax. He pitted one group against another, much the same as they pit one region against another in this province; Cape

[Page 2014]

Breton versus the mainland, or this section of the province, Yarmouth and that area versus Halifax, whatever the case may be, take the working poor and say, look, these people on social assistance get all of this for nothing and you can't get it. Of course, you know what that does, it causes a little rift to develop there. People start arguing back and forth with each other and this government gets off the hook once again. They are off the hook because they pitted one group against the other and they sit back and they say, look, we know it is going to be tough. We know it is going to be tough that you have to have $75 or $100 less on your social assistance cheque come August 1st.We don't know it is tough enough that we can spend $300,000 more in salaries at Priorities and Planning and we can pay deputy minister after deputy minister $104,000 and we can pay this person $90,000 and that person $80,000, and we can add on to the staff and make it grow from 17 to 24, while we are cutting program after program, and we are cutting in department after department, and we telling average Nova Scotians, everyday Nova Scotians that we can't afford anything more.

It has to be disheartening for the people in this province, and I am not just talking on behalf of one area. It doesn't come down to the fact that I was elected here on behalf of the people of Cape Breton East and that I come to this Legislature and just speak on their behalf. That is primarily what I am here for. We are all Nova Scotians. All of us are Nova Scotians, we have a province that we are very proud of, and a people and its traditions and its culture and heritage that we are very proud of.

One of the finest things about the culture and the heritage that you will find in the people in Cape Breton and in particular the people in Glace Bay and surrounding area is that we are fighters. We are fighters, we don't go away, we will get kicked and we will get down, but we will get back up again. We will get back up again, and we will get back up again. We will come and we will tell you exactly what we think is wrong. That is a tradition itself in Nova Scotia, that people in this province have no problem walking up to you and telling you what they think. They speak their mind.

People are telling us, and people are telling that government, because I know they have heard it time after time, listen, you are not doing a very good job right now, there are some mistakes you have made, there are some people hurting in this province because of decisions you have made. We think that there is more to a province than just balancing a budget book. There is a human face that you have to put on certain things. You don't balance a budget book and not think about the people who are on social assistance, the working poor in this province, and the people who are looking for work. You have to think about that human face, and put a value on that human face, which I suggest would be far more valuable than any budget book you will ever balance, far more valuable.

Mr. Speaker, what all of this has done is provide us with an opportunity to keep the government in this House for however long it takes, as I said, to make this government accountable, to make sure that we find out about things like child abuse registers, why the user fees are there, $20; to find out about things like why you are charging senior citizens

[Page 2015]

$50 a day to stay in hospital beds. We want answers for those things; we want to find out what this government is up to; we want this government to be open; we want this government to be accountable, as it promised in that blue book of broken promises. That was one of them. We are demanding that this government answer these questions, and we are demanding it on behalf of the people of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I know my time is very close to closing right now, and there will be more of us to follow. There are many more on this side of the House who want to talk about the issues. I am sure the silence will be just as deafening over there when my other colleagues stand up and speak their mind as well. As long as it takes, as long it takes, we will be here to make sure that this government comes up with the answers. We will try, we will attempt to do that, but in the end this government is accountable to only one group of people, and that is the group of people who go to the ballot box, whatever the time frame may be. They will answer, they will be held accountable once and for all when that occurs. The people in this province will remember some of the measures that are in this Financial Measures (2001) Bill that made them hurt so much while the government of the day spent on their own, behind their own backs. With that in mind, thank you very much.

[2:30 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I would like to follow my honourable colleague in discussion of the Financial Measures (2001) Bill and I would say that I worry about the vision of the government when we look at the bill that is presented here and what it means to Nova Scotians. I guess if we could say it's the same-old, same-old in the legislation before us, the province is certainly not going to deter from its path of charging user fees to Nova Scotians. We can see that in the charging of a fee for the Child Abuse Register to get information from the Child Abuse Register, as well as for assessment services. I would say that the increased tax on tobacco, with no clear indication from the government as to what they want to do with the tax, there is nothing here to indicate that there will be any improvement in the smoking cessation programs or any increase in those programs, or anti-smoking campaigns, and actually not even an indication that the government was willing to remove the tax from those products that actually are used to help stop smoking.

Mr. Speaker, when it comes to increased taxation for cigarettes, I think statistics would show that it marginally helps to stop smoking, the information would indicate that certainly young people are the ones that it seems to have a marginal, positive effect, that they are certainly probably those with a limited addiction, because they are younger, and up to university age, increasing the cost of cigarettes for these people who have limited funds, would seem that it does have an effect in helping to reduce numbers. The ones that are the hardest hit, when it comes to applying an increase in costs for tobacco, are those who have

[Page 2016]

long-standing addictions and, in particular, those who are on a limited income or, what we would refer to, those who are the poor in the province. This type of action, trying to reduce smoking, doesn't work in that case; all it does is cause them to take dollars that really should go into buying food, in particular, that really goes into buying cigarettes. This, I would say, would not be a way for improving the health of this section of society that would be smoking.

It is interesting that the government based its increase in revenue, which is around $20 million, on the number of existing smokers, so it would seem that even the government recognizes there isn't going to be a significant drop in the number of smokers or they would have used a different number; they would have used a lower number for those presently smoking. It only tends to confirm for me that they don't really expect this will have any major effect on the number of smokers and this is really used as a tax grab by the government, just the same as so many user fees are. When we recognize user fees, when we say a tax is a tax is a tax - and that is how we have defined user fees - this one is a tax, for sure. The government at least, if you can say to their credit, was up front enough, at least, to call it a tax, but don't recognize it as a gouge for dollars that they are going to take from Nova Scotians and, in particular, those who can least afford it.

Mr. Speaker, what does this mean to Nova Scotians generally? Well, not a lot. I think Nova Scotians are so abused by the monetary policy of this government that I think they are numb from the effects of abuse that have occurred over the past couple of years. We can see that in practically every sector. When we talk about the Department of Health, for example, $50 for paying for a bed in the hospital simply because there is no investment in long-term care. We have seen it in the cutting of the nutritional budget for Point Pleasant Lodge and, actually, I quite often think that, in some cases, some of these fees don't apply to me. They haven't entered that circle that I travel in. Quite often, when we get a complaint about a particular thing that the government is doing, it is a complaint that I would not have heard if it wasn't that somebody else had brought it to me, but on the path on which I walk, I might not necessarily see it.

I was thinking about the cuts to the nutritional program at Point Pleasant Lodge, Mr. Speaker, and I got thinking about our former colleague, John Deveau, who had spent some time there last year and realized that if this cut had been applied then - when I went to see him, he was in quite bad health and another stress that he would have had to endure would have been figuring out about the cost of being fed at Point Pleasant Lodge. In his state of health at the time, that just would have been another burden that he didn't deserve.

Actually, driving into the city this morning, I was thinking about that. There was a case of someone I knew who had actually been to Point Pleasant Lodge, that I went to visit at Point Pleasant Lodge, and, thinking about his condition at the time that I saw him, that would have been an unfair burden to place on him, just as it is an unfair burden to place on anybody whose condition is severe and they are looking to the province to secure help. I would say that Nova Scotians have come to learn that this is not a government that you look to for help.

[Page 2017]

It is a government that has turned its back on Nova Scotians in so many ways and, in particular, to rural Nova Scotians.

We have seen the cuts to the Department of Agriculture and, actually, under the previous Liberal Government we saw the implementation of user fees in that department for services that were delivered by the department. We now see that it comes under the purview of the Department of Environment, the $250 charge for water withdrawal licences and a $200 administrative charge. We see, under Service Nova Scotia, the application of a $25 fee for the fuel tax rebate program. Although the Minister of Agriculture will say, this is not under my department, but it affects the very people that his department should be looking out for.

Considering the cuts to production technology, Mr. Speaker, the agricultural community has taken a big enough hit. The recent report by GPI that came out the other day, which indicated that if we are going to stabilize the agricultural sector - and the government may use this as an argument - but there is pressure from free trade agreements and GATT agreements and so on about the amount of subsidization to the agricultural community. That community is not saying subsidize us. What that community is saying is give us the mechanism that we can get our cost back and make a living. In other words, pay us for what we produce and we will not come with our hands out looking for help.

Mr. Speaker, there are obvious examples of what has been done that works and those sectors that actually are stable and strong and actually are growing in this province and those sectors are the supply-managed sectors which we would see in milk and poultry and the egg sector. This was one of the recommendatins by the GPI report, that marketing boards and co-operatives are two ways that you can stabilize price for producers, and that would reduce their need on help from the government. When I raised this - I have on a couple of occasions in Question Period - with the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, he said, well, this has to be initiated by those sectors. That is not entirely true, the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries has every responsibility, he has the right, he has the people, and if he had some vision he could actually go out to the commodities and say, listen, here is what I am thinking, if we try to stabilize price through a marketing board so that your income is in relation to your costs, would you be interested in that? I think they would actually be interested and say, let's have a look at this.

In every organization there will be those who will fight a change because they are at the end where they are probably receiving a good benefit because of their control on the present situation, but those in the majority generally are not. There will be some resistance, but I think the history of supply management indicates that this is worthwhile and it reduces the amount of support you can give to that particular sector. Under existing free trade agreements, this is something that we see, that the supply-managed sector is actually under attack from other countries, but it is one that under those agreements cannot be given a lot of support because they have stabilized their price in relation to their costs and, therefore, are not eligible.

[Page 2018]

The other commodities that are not under supply management - usually the only thing we can see that can support them has been the safety nets that the minister speaks of, and those safety nets are not what you need to stabilize an industry. Those are what you need in the downtime, but you can't base an industry and support of an industry on that. Actually, under the present agreements, it seems when these commodities apply for help it is so restrictive that there is actually no help available to them, the application is such that usually most people don't qualify. That has been detrimental in time of drought, or whatever, to help people; there would be very few farmers in this province that were actually helped in the past few years.

Mr. Speaker, where is the vision? Where is the vision in this Financial Measures (2001) Bill? How does this ensure stability of communities? How does this ensure that we can keep schools open, that we can have doctors in communities? There is nothing here that would do that. Actually, perhaps it doesn't have to be written in the bill, but the bill should indicate a vision of the government to ensure that certain policies and practices will be followed in these various sectors that would ensure the stability and viability of these communities. If you can do that, then you keep young families in those communities and, thereby you keep a school open and you keep a doctor present, because they would want to be there.

Certainly, trying to attract a young physician, we would hope, to a community that he thinks or she thinks that they can't educate their children in because there is no school, is not going to happen. They want the same things for their families as anybody else wants, and therefore, you have to put in place some policy that addresses the outward migration of people from communities, and allows them to stay and build a life. This bill should do that, but it doesn't. It only draws more from the tax base of the everyday consumer in Nova Scotia, and it doesn't enhance services to them.

[2:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I will table this at some point, because I am referring to this. I will table anything that I read from this bulletin from the Alternate Provincial Budget. It makes the claim that any deficit should be dealt with in a way that does not increase the social deficit; cuts to social expenditures hit families on low incomes the hardest; that it is a false economy to solve financial deficits at the expense of a growing social deficit; that the cuts have lifelong impacts on children.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I think that we all can rationalize what the cost-drivers are in society and in all the Departments of Health, Education, et cetera. But what the government doesn't seem to recognize is that one of the greatest cost-drivers in health is poverty. Poverty is one of the greatest cost-drivers to the education system, to the judicial system and to community services. If the government was to come up with a plan that looked at supporting children that would be a long-term plan to actually ensure that they are not only taken care

[Page 2019]

of in the most basic needs but that they are taken care of in terms of education as well, not only in terms that they get a good nutritional diet, that they have a secure and loving surroundings to grow up in and then also have a good quality education, then we would find that the impacts of that on our health care system would cause a reduction in costs to our health care system, to community services, to the education system, and then to the judicial system. What we have not done is actually tabulated what the cost of poverty is in all those areas. I would say that we would run up into the millions of dollars in costs in those four sectors.

Mr. Speaker, if we took those millions of dollars and applied them on the basis of trying to eradicate poverty, and there was even a resolution passed in the House of Commons I guess it is 21 years ago now . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: In 1984.

MR. MACDONELL: In 1984, my colleague says. Thank you. This was a resolution passed unanimously in the House of Commons, Mr. Speaker, that we would eradicate, eliminate child poverty by the year 2000. Well, it hasn't been eliminated and it has increased and the costs that go along with that poverty have increased. I see nothing in the Financial Measures (2001) Bill for this province that would indicate that the government really wants to grapple with eradication of poverty.

Mr. Speaker, quite often we stand in this House and when we talk about poverty we think poverty only exists in cities, but poverty exists everywhere. Poverty exists in a country like Canada that is recognized as being the best country in the world in which to live. If it is true that a government or a people are measured by how they take care of the least fortunate in their society, the most vulnerable in their society, then we are not being measured well by how we have taken care of those who are most at risk socially and financially in this province.

Now, Mr Speaker, the government has taken the view that eradicating the deficit is the most significant thing. Recent polls would indicate that it is not by Nova Scotians, but I think Nova Scotians recognize it as important certainly, trying to not increase the debt would be significant; that means we don't increase payments for servicing the debt. That would mean that those dollars could be available to go into programs that would help Nova Scotians. I would say that for a government to try to eradicate the deficit from the budget, that would be a smart thing to do. That would be in the best interests of Nova Scotians. It would allow for Nova Scotians to have those dollars go where they are most needed.

I think a year ago, or a couple of years ago, I can't remember which budget it was, the Premier said to the Opposition, ferret it out. If we want information, we have to ferret it out. I want to say it has been difficult even in the case of information that our caucus had tried to find around programs that have been cut by the government. We had to go to court to try

[Page 2020]

to get that information. It is one thing to say, ferret it out, it is something else to say we are going to stop you from ferreting it out. We have seen that in this province, by this government, Nova Scotians are going to have to pay - or are paying presently - somewhere over $100 million in increased user fees or taxes that should be returned to them, that they can't access and I would say that $100 million is a lot when you are not delivering any service. That is exactly what has come upon Nova Scotians since 1993, under the previous Liberal Government that there has been a cut steadily in the amount of service that has been delivered to Nova Scotians for their tax dollars. I am sure that if you were to ask any Nova Scotian on the street in their community anywhere in this province, and say, if you had a choice, would you prefer a tax cut or would you prefer to get good service for the tax dollars you are paying now? I think they would say, give me the services that I am already paying for that I am not getting.

I am not sure if the members opposite in the government - maybe the Finance Minister is aware, I would say most of the backbenchers are probably not - are aware about exactly what a 10 per cent tax cut would mean to Nova Scotians. Well, for a family with two children and earning an income of $30,000, that would mean a tax saving of something in the order of $200 a year. That is what a 10 per cent tax cut would mean to them. For a family with an income of $100,000, it would mean a tax saving of around $1,200 a year.

Those of us in the House now could say my income is at such a point between the $30,000 and $100,000 so you can extrapolate how much of a value in a tax cut that you are going to receive. I have to say to the members opposite that when somebody promises me a tax cut, I better be able to see it. There better be a pile of money that I can wheel in a wheelbarrow before I am going to be interested in a tax cut. I would also say that to tell Nova Scotians they are going to get a tax cut after $100 million has been pulled out of their pockets, then we know before they ever receive it that they are actually paying for their own tax cut. We are bribing Nova Scotians with their own money.

Not only are we doing that - bad enough that the government wants to do that to them and will try to convince them that it is something else - but they are also giving them poor service for their tax dollar. You are being bribed with your own money, but you are not getting doctors, nurses, you are losing teachers and we heard in the last couple of days, I heard this morning about teaching jobs that will be lost in the Annapolis system. We heard the other day about the teaching positions being lost in the Cape Breton system and I am sure if you asked those ones whose children are going to be in more crowded classrooms, getting less service, less attention to their children, that they will say, for the sake of $200, I would sooner see my children have enough teachers. I would sooner see them have somebody who had a little time to spend with them, classes that are not so large that teachers don't get to know their students.

[Page 2021]

Mr. Speaker, this is something that I can legitimately speak to and it is something you can speak to because you have mentioned here in the House, in taking a toy away from the honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes, that your wife was a teacher, so you would know. When I talk to people in my community, and if it is not a teacher you are talking to, you only have to talk to the spouse of a teacher to recognize that they are blatantly aware of what it is that teachers put up with every day and the stresses and the fact that it becomes more difficult for them to do their job well, simply because of a reduction in resources, the fact that numbers in classes are becoming larger.

To that point, I want to say that the second last year I taught, prior to the 1998 election, not the 1997-98 year, but 1996-97, that I taught 200 students. When it comes to trying to offer quality time when your classes are somewhere in the range of 37, 38 or 39 students, it becomes very difficult and my worry is for my colleagues who are still out there trying to carry the banner and do the job for teachers in this province, that there is nothing here in this bill or in the budget that helps them.

Mr. Speaker, we all know, I guess, we should know, people who work in the Civil Service. If we watch some bureaucrats going to work in the morning for this government and they had to go out and buy a stapler to take to work, or they had to buy paper to take to work, or they had to buy pencils to take to work, we would say, what is going on? There is definitely a problem in the way we run this province. That is what teachers do. Teachers spend their own money buying resource materials, buying supplies, et cetera, to run their classrooms. Nobody else that I know of that is basically in the public system does that. But teachers do it everyday and nobody ever says there should be a cash fund there in the office, that if you need to buy something, use it. It seems to be a ridiculous thing.

I can remember sending a student to the office to get chalk for my classroom who came back with one piece of chalk saying that is all you can get right now. I bought paper to run my exams off with. So no one else that I know who works for the Public Service would be doing that. Actually, if it gets to the point where nurses have to buy supplies to take care of patients, then I know we are in serious trouble.

Mr. Speaker, that same 10 per cent cut in personal income taxes would mean a cut in provincial revenues of more than $100 million but, also, we would lose $100 million if we were to make that 10 per cent tax cut, then the $100 million would mean $1,000 reduction in child welfare and residential services; $19 million public health services program; $38 million in acute care in the eastern region's reductions; $11 million for addiction services; $7 million for children's dental program; $20 million for all correctional services; and $2.7 million in Cancer Care Nova Scotia, to the tune of slightly over $101 million.

[Page 2022]

[3:00 p.m.]

Or we can have cuts in early intervention programs of $1 million; acute care in the northern region by $72 million; public housing subsidies cut by $4 million; rent supplement program $1 million; Nova Scotia Legal Aid $8 million; and the Museum of Natural History $12 million to a total of $99 million.

Mr. Speaker, if we don't cut those things, then we can say we can cut the big ticket items, 66 per cent of the long-term care program in health care, which would be about $100 million; or 60 per cent of the total operating grants to universities, which is just almost $100 million, $99,991,000; or 100 per cent of the Home Care Program, which is $91 million, almost $92 million.

Mr. Speaker, there are a variety of ways you can recognize the cut, however the government wants to do it, but that is what it means. It is interesting that the 10 per cent would equate to about $100 million. There is a way to tackle debt, and there are really only two options. One is, don't increase it, in other words, balance your books, don't add any more to the debt. The other way to tackle debt is to grow your economy. I don't know if members opposite will remember, but I know I have stated this before, in 1945 at the end of the Second World War, Canada's debt was greater than our gross domestic product. By 1970, Canada's debt was 40 per cent of our gross domestic product.

But what happened in that case, Mr. Speaker, was we didn't reduce the actual numbers of the debt. The debt was exactly the same in millions of dollars in 1970 as it was in 1945. The difference was the relation to the gross domestic product or the growth of the country's economy by 1970, so that the debt made up a smaller percentage of the gross domestic product. What we were approaching by that time was a situation whereby the country was actually getting to a point where the increase in its revenue or its gross domestic product was such that we actually could consider putting more dollars onto the debt, not just in servicing the debt but paying down the actual numbers.

Why didn't we? As with so many things, we didn't make the right move or the government of that time didn't make the right move, and what they did was enter into what we now refer to - or I guess even at the time referred to it - as deficit financing, and we started to run deficits. What we have done is started to add on to the debt again. When we were in a position of being within reach of being able to pay on our debt to actually reduce the debt and not just service it, we went the other way and overspent what our budgets would allow and kept adding that deficit to our debt.

Even in this province, one of the statements I hear usually at election time is by people who would say, you have got to get rid of the debt and we will make those cuts based on getting rid of the debt. That is what the Tories said. But even this government must recognize that they could not afford to get rid of this debt. What they would have to have is about a

[Page 2023]

$500 million surplus for 20 years. It would take a $500 million surplus, it is actually probably more than 20 years now because it is more than $10 billion, but a $500 million surplus every year for 20 years is unheard of, it has never happened. We have never had five cents in surplus.

Now, I am hoping that the government is right, that next year they will balance the books. As a matter of fact, I think they could have done it this year. (Interruption) I thank the Minister of Health for his nod. It is probably the only thing he has done to my health to improve it in the last two years. So, Mr. Speaker, if it is true that we could balance the books, and I think it is true, next year they will be balanced, we won't be adding to the debt and we should be trying to grow the economy and it will be the government's role to make those investments in infrastructure and technology to ensure that this economy does grow. I hope that they will do that strategically, in a way to ensure, first of all, that we won't run any more deficits. But to try to bribe Nova Scotians with their own money is unfair.

The other thing I hear, Mr. Speaker, when I am out and about, usually at election time, is that people think that the province should be run like a household. It doesn't apply. It is a good idea. It is easy to sell on the doorstep but it doesn't make sense in the real world. Because all of us know - or I think we would know - that there is a point in your life where you have the best years for generating revenue. When you are young, you can get a job, get an income but it is also in those very early years that you have the most expenses. You have a mortgage, you are raising a family, car payments, insurance, you name it. When you get to the later time in your life . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. There is too much noise in the Chamber.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition has the floor.

MR. MACDONELL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I can only assume that the honourable members, the noise we heard was them discussing the good quality of my speech.

Mr. Speaker, it doesn't follow to say that we can run the government or run the province like a household, because at some point for all of us we come to an age or a stage when our ability to generate revenue or to generate income slows down or actually it totally disappears and we have to live on what it is that we set aside in our younger years or our years of developing an income that would carry us when we can't develop one. The only exception to this may be the honourable Minister of Transportation, I am not sure, he seems to have surpassed everybody else in those years that you can keep working and generating an income. But in the case of the province, it doesn't have a lifetime. The province and the economy of the province continues and continues and continues. Other than total obliteration we would expect that it will continue for some time into the future and we would hope that will mean that we will put our money into things that are renewable, sustainable and will

[Page 2024]

keep Nova Scotians at the quality of life that they have come to enjoy and expect in this province.

The ability of the province to generate revenue is something for which it is always young, Mr. Speaker, and it runs into no old age that it runs into a time when it can't generate revenue. There are those revenue producers that we know will become exhausted. We know that the gas off the coast of the province is finite, that we have a time limit on how long we can extract it, what volume is actually there. We know that whether we say 20 years for the present Sable project or 50 years for all the possible gas that is in the offshore, that we will come to the end of the amount of gas or oil that is off Nova Scotia's coast, not to mention what is on the coast or is land-based resources.

We would expect that those revenue drivers that we have, that are still in place, that drive our economy and develop the gross domestic product that we have in the province, that that will shift. There was a time when there was no such thing as information technology or that sector and now it is very present and producing revenue or income for the province. So there will be those parts of the economy that will pass away in time and other ones will be generated.

The province itself, as a revenue generator, still has the possibility that it can go on for all time and we shouldn't assume that just as our ability as people becomes reduced and the fact that we can generate revenue, that doesn't apply to the province. We can assume that the ability for the province to take care of the needs of its people is something that will continue and continue. The thing that happens and has happened with previous governments, and not just with governments in this province, but with governments in all provinces, is that, first of all, there is the unexpected, the things that you can't really know are going to happen as far as global economies and how that will impact on your economy, spending dollars on infrastructures at a time when those may not be used or there is going to be a downturn in the economy.

Basically, Mr. Speaker, there are mistakes that governments make. The question of the impact is how severe those mistakes are and whether or not the people in the province will have to pay for those mistakes over a long period. Well, we are paying. We are paying for mistakes of previous governments that were blatantly not connected to anything happening in the economy. Also, we are paying for mistakes of predictions they made about the economy that did not come true and, therefore, caused a greater debt to the province based on that. It is in all Nova Scotians' interest that governments are prudent, that they are careful in how they prioritize what areas they want to make expenditures in and that they can develop a real value to Nova Scotians for those dollars. That is not something that we have seen. We haven't seen it from this government.

[Page 2025]

When I come to this House, I see my role to be a spokesman for my constituents. I see my role to say the things that I think the government should put their attention to that would be not only to the benefit of my constituents, but to the benefit of all Nova Scotians, but I think I should do this because this is what my constituents expect me to do. They can't be here and stand in this place and speak. They would hope that because they elected me, that I will come here and speak on their behalf.

Mr. Speaker, we can see in the Financial Measures (2001) Bill more about routine, more about rote, more about what it is that is similar to previous Financial Measures Acts and very little about what the government has by way of new vision for the province. We have seen nothing but downloading to the municipalities, to the school boards and although the government has talked about a new water strategy and, actually, I think all they are talking about is a study for a strategy, but whether we will actually ever see a strategy or actually ever see the implementation of a strategy, I think that I will have to be here a long time to ever see it.

[3:15 p.m.]

The whole question when it comes to vision has to do with accountability. During the budget estimates I spoke to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works who was responsible for Priorities and Planning. He talked about the restructuring Act and the creation of a Treasury Board. This Treasury Board would be that structure that would actually look at the departments on a more frequent basis - maybe monthly, every two months or every three months - and try to head off any problems in the department before you actually got to the budget process, so you could stop overspending in a department, that would be quite predictable, and try to intervene and see that doesn't happen before you ever get to the budget process.

That makes some sense, I think. They also talked about the Public Service Commission and having someone from government on that commission. I kind of wonder whether or not this is a mechanism whereby government actually has their hand on the controls when it comes to negotiating contracts for the Public Service.

I do have to question - although the government will try to spell it out as an improvement - it is something we have seen in previous governments under different names, but Nova Scotia Business Inc. that the Minister of Economic Development has talked about in this House, here is a mechanism for actually the dispensing or approval of taxpayers' dollars. In that dispensing of taxpayers' dollars, the government has appointed a number of individuals who appear, for the most part, perhaps not all, they come from the business community. I think the government's rationale in this is that we would have people who are really qualified people. People who have kind of gone through the process of adversity to be successful in business in the province. I would agree with members opposite that here is a resource that the government may want to tap into, that there are people here who have

[Page 2026]

something to offer in terms of expertise in the dispensing of dollars to business in the province and the growth of the economy, and I think that is a rationale that is hard to argue with.

What I think is easy to argue with is the fact that once this board is in place, then it picks its replacements. In other words, it doesn't come back to the Legislature to get approval for the people who will be on this board in the future, and they are dispensing taxpayers' dollars. That I would say, is a problem, that Nova Scotians will not have a say in who it is who will be on this board. I have to say quite honestly, I don't see the reason, I don't see the rationale in doing this and certainly if the members opposite think we would complain about who it is that they are putting on this board - and in some cases, we might - it won't stop a government with a majority from placing who they want there, but it allows the taxpayers to be aware of who is going there and what their connection might be to government. I think taxpayers deserve to know that.

One of the things that I don't see in this piece of legislation, in the Financial Measures (2001) Bill, is any action by the government. I see that the government still intends to generate user fees from this. They are going to take more dollars from taxpayers or municipalities or whoever, but I don't see anything on the revenue side. I don't see anything here that shows that the province is going to try to generate more revenue. I know that - I guess it is probably a couple of months ago now, over a month - that a report came out that would indicate that the province is not charging enough on the revenue side, and in particular it was around the Crown leases for stumpage. This is a whole area that I think the government has a responsibility to take a look at.

My colleague, the honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid, has raised on the floor of this House the fact that the province is getting 11 cents per acre when we look at the onshore exploration leases for oil and natural gas. But in other jurisdictions, in Alberta they charge $100 per acre. What that would mean to the economy of Nova Scotia, which I think in the range of $30 million would have been the difference.

Mr. Speaker, if the government feels that it can so easily take dollars out of the pockets of Nova Scotians, which it has been doing to the tune of $100 million, then why does it feel no responsibility to make sure that it takes those same dollars from businesses that want to come here and work here and extract our resources; the more credible argument is, why is it that we don't try to charge for our resources what those same businesses would have to pay in other jurisdictions? It is obvious that paying more in other jurisdictions has not been a deterrent to them. So why is it that this government feels that charging what is the going rate for extraction of a resource, or access to a resource, or exploration for a resource in Nova Scotia, must be done at bargain-basement prices and we are going to chase people away. It hasn't occurred anywhere else.

[Page 2027]

I would say that these resources belong to the people and we have every right, when we are cutting health care and we are taking money out of people's pockets for user fees, to get the most for our resources and Nova Scotians should have the benefit of those dollars for those resources when it comes to health care, education, agriculture or any other service that is provided in the province.

Mr. Speaker, probably one of the more glaring examples of our lack of intent to extract these resources is around the very major problem we see, in particular in rural Nova Scotia, around the depletion of the forests. The minister will argue that that isn't going to be the case, they will say we will have as much wood in 15 years as we do now. I will give the minister his credit and say maybe he's right, but I would say he's wrong. But I think the question has to be, what is his vision of Nova Scotia's forests in 15 years? Is it going to be nothing but pole groves of six or eight inch trees that we go in and grow them in plantations and cut them, and then replant? That's not a forest and I would say to the minister, he can't see the forest for the trees in this case, because forests are much more than that.

Actually there was a report done in 1984, Mr. Speaker - I can't think of the name of it - and what it said was that in 2040, we will have a level of cutting in Nova Scotia which is the present level we are cutting now. They were predicting that we would be at that level in 39 more years, and we are at that level in this province.

Twenty-two thousand jobs in the forest sector, I was told, is about the equivalent of five Sable projects and if the government had to wake up tomorrow and say they have to generate 22,000 jobs because jobs in the forest sector have been destroyed, they wouldn't be able to do it. Actually, there is nothing in the two years that this government has been in power that would indicate they have created any jobs. They have cut jobs just about everywhere they can, but they have not hired anybody, even though the Minister of Health will say they hired 100 nurses; well, they were the same 100 nurses that were doing casual work that may have become full-time, but as far as new bodies on the job, it hasn't happened.

Recently, actually today, I talked to a couple of people who were involved with the apple industry and farmers in this sector are losing big time, if the government doesn't soon take some initiative and actually approach these commodity groups and say, how can I help you? The recent GPI report indicated strategies. It was one of the most intensive surveys of the industry. It came up with reasonable and rational solutions to the agricultural situation in this province on the fact that farmers are going broke and new entrants are not going into the industry. I would say that it would be in the interest of all Nova Scotians and in the interest of the minister to take a look at this because if the government is intent on cutting dollars to this sector, there may be a way to do that, by securing income. If you can guarantee an income for farmers in whatever commodity group they are in, then you can reduce the amount of government help to them.

[Page 2028]

This seems to be an idea that seems so foreign but certainly the minister should recognize from being a dairy farmer that supply management works and this is an avenue that he can go. If he wants to say this is something that the commodity groups have to come up with, well, sure, he's right, I mean you have to have a buy-in from those groups but there is nothing to stop the minister from having his staff meet with any of them and say, listen, this is something that has worked in the past, do you see an advantage in doing this and help them along that road and I don't see it.

I do worry in my community and the members will say, well, when it comes to education I have had three schools built in my constituency in the three years that I have been here. I have to say that my involvement was mostly spent on two of those schools and the third one, actually, was approved only months after I became the MLA. It was an issue that we took before the government, to force them to stick to their commitment and they did do that. (Interruption)

I hear the honourable Minister of Health and the Minister of Agriculture saying how ungrateful I am for all they have done but I am not ungrateful. Actually, the constituents in my riding they are not ungrateful, they appreciate what the government has done. It is probably an easier argument to make in those areas that have rapid growth and there is a section in my constituency that has that. There are people moving in there and there will be more moving in now that we have those facilities. My concern is in the more rural part of my riding where numbers, I would say, are not decreasing but they are remaining stable but not growing at a significant rate and where the school board looked at closing schools a couple of years ago. These are things that I want the government to take some action on, to try to develop an initiatives that keep people in communities, to grow those communities and to attract people to those communities and in that way attract a doctor or two or three.

I have had discussion with the Minister of Health, he knows of the situations in those communities of Noel and Kennetcook and Upper Rawdon. I think the people there are concerned. They have been good about it. They have organized, they have done I think all that they can possibly do to make their case and are still making it. We are not out of the woods yet, there has been a little bit of interest by doctors who might be willing to go to those communities. I only hope that something will come through in the very near future so that some of their fears will be alleviated.

It is the more rural part of Nova Scotia that governments will argue that they can't make the expenditures and I would say that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, that these dollars are dollars of investment, they are not cost. I think they would appreciate the government spending their tax dollars . . .

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

The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes.

[Page 2029]

[3:30 p.m.]

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, of course, being an Opposition member, I am here today to speak about this gang's mismanagement. I think it is a theme that this government is probably getting a little used to. I think they are beginning to enjoy it because at least they are learning the truth about this Bill No. 30; at least someone is educating them on what is in this bill.

Being a former municipal politician - and I like to think I was good one - and I know there were other good municipal politicians in this room today, and I would suggest that is a result of their strong efforts on behalf of their residents in their districts in a municipal forum. However, that is what is kind of shocking and appalling, as the good Minister of Economic Development indicated. As I indicated here the other night in this House, I attended many functions when some of the members from over across the floor, through the UNSM and various committees or whatever, they were always the guys who were closest to the people and they were beating up on the provincial government right and left, they were doing this wrong and that wrong and they had all the answers.

Then they decided that when the writ was issued, they put their names forth for nomination and they were nominated by their constituencies and they put their name on the ballot as a candidate for the Progressive Conservative Party in Nova Scotia in 1999 and were elected. Throughout that process, Mr. Speaker, they knocked on every door and told Nova Scotians they had they answers, elect me. I will fight the good fight for each and every one of you, the same way I fought during my municipal days. I will do the same thing. I will go to Halifax and I will straighten them people up. I am going to bring my ideas and my energy and I am going to tell the Premier and the ministers that I am going to do this and do that. Well, that is why I am shocked, because I don't hear that rhetoric, all I hear, as my colleague, the member for Cape Breton East indicated, is silence. Silence of the Hamms, I believe is what he indicated.

Mr. Speaker, that is why it is important and I am glad to see that my former colleagues are here today because at least they are being provided information and correct information. All they have to do, and I can provide a copy of the good bill that they presented if they haven't got a copy or weren't provided one - I would suggest they did - in any event I think they should really sit down and read it because after reading this bill and considering what impact it would have on their constituents and the residents right across the board, I believe that they would vote against this bill.

Mr. Speaker, my opinion is based, of course, on the knowledge of those members' ability during municipal days. For me, I know, things haven't changed. I continue the fight that I always fought. However, maybe their priorities have changed. Maybe the course that they are on has crashed; it is a clear course, but it has crashed. That concerns me a little bit because my personal knowledge of these members, personally they are not bad gentlemen.

[Page 2030]

They are just involved with the wrong bunch, I would suggest, and the bunch, of course, is up on the front rows and the Opposition members get to see them each and every day. I haven't been through a Question Period yet in this House actually, when one of my colleagues, or even myself in a couple of instances, have asked questions and received nothing in reply and was even provided misinformation.

Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotia is at a fiscal crossroads, and this government better wake up and smell the roses and realize what is really taking place here. On one side of the fork is a path to prosperity in life as a have province. On the other side, of course, is a return to the days of the Buchanan era, and we are all aware of that, when governments ran 25 per cent deficits and had no idea how to balance any kind of a budget. I don't think they even knew what a budget meant.

This is the second budget that was tabled by Dr. Hamm, and the budget last month presented an opportunity for the province to send itself in the right direction. Budgets are about choices, and this government has made its choice, apparently. But are they going in the right direction? That is the question, and I speak to the residents in the province, all over the province. In fact, I received three phone calls today from areas other than my constituency. I don't want to single out any of the good members, either over to the right of me or across the floor but I will say this, those three calls did not come from Cape Breton Island. Just guess where those calls came from. They are calls from individuals who are concerned with this bill, Bill No. 30.

Mr. Speaker, the economy has been good in the Province of Nova Scotia for the past two years. Ask yourself why? It was choices and direction that this Party and the honourable gentlemen that are in my caucus, the choices they had and the direction they took provided good prosperity, economically, right across the board, from one end of the province to the other. Things were starting to come together. They were beginning to until, of course, Nova Scotians made the biggest mistake in this century or the last century, whatever century you want to talk about, and that was electing that gang over there.

Mr. Speaker, the government has had over $0.5 billion in revenue since it came into office. That government right there, that gang over there. There was no reason why the Finance Minister could not have balanced the budget and made large contributions to both health care and education in this province. The choice was his, and he chose not to.

Mr. Speaker, I just want to let you know a couple of items, regarding the mismanagement. Are we aware as Nova Scotians that this government within the next two years, if they continue on the pace they have been on since they were elected, will have spent $900 million in health care if they continue on the same trail. That is additional money, which is very important, because our plan said we could do it for $600 million. These people have already wasted or are on the verge of destroying not only health care but the foundation in which it is built upon in this province, if we are not careful.

[Page 2031]

Mr. Speaker, I don't want to stand here and be too critical, but earlier this week we found out that the Minister of Health's new chief information officer cost Nova Scotians $100,000. We now learn that his EA, of course, is number one of the EAs, he must be, with a nice tidy salary of $75,000. This gentleman obviously has hidden talents somewhere, he must; for the honourable minister to justify this type of salary for his EA, then he must have talents we aren't aware of, or that we haven't seen yet anyway. Perhaps they are hidden somewhere.

Maybe the good minister feels his EA is worth $75,000 a year; $75,000, as my good colleague, the member for Cape Breton East, indicated, is exactly the same amount of money that this government is going to gorge through the Child Abuse Register. The Minister of Health, by the way, Mr. Speaker, he also has another EA back at the department, along with the most expensive deputy minister on board, on board that ship over there that I would suggest is sinking - very slowly, I would say, because of a majority situation; they do have another two years before they go. But there are holes in the hull everywhere, you can see them.

They are nervous. I notice that talking to them, perhaps walking down the steps, they always ask you a little question that they don't know. Rumour has it - and this is a story just this week - when I asked the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations during estimates, he indicated that his department did not approach the RCMP regarding the compliance officers and that the RCMP approached his department and his government; that was the reply. I followed that up, of course, with a question in the House, and I did some research on the issue and I made some phone calls.

Mr. Speaker, it seems that the good Minister of Finance directed his deputy minister to write a letter, in writing, to the RCMP and requested that they contact the good Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations and begin the process of eliminating 20 compliance officer positions in this province. That's a kind of mockery . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I just want to remind the honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes that the bill for discussion is Bill No. 30, the Financial Measures (2001) Act. I wonder if he might maybe enlighten me as to the (Interruptions) I'm talking to the honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes, thank you.

The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes, if you could inform me and enlighten the House as to the alignment between what you are talking about and the bill.

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

[Page 2032]

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I believe it pertains directly to this bill because it is considered a money bill, and laying off compliance officers in the Province of Nova Scotia is a financial matter. It is budgeted within this bill, that's my belief, and I'm sticking to my story. (Laughter)

MR. SPEAKER: I'm sure you will; as long as the honourable member sticks to the Financial Measures (2001) Bill.

MR. BOUDREAU: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, I knew you would see it my way, sir. (Laughter)

Mr. Speaker, this is a mockery, and rumour has it - it is a rumour and I am presenting it as a rumour - that these honourable ministers never even provided proper information to their backbenchers at their daily caucus meetings. So, in a lot of ways, I feel kind of bad about my former colleagues because they are really being, maybe, used. Maybe I shouldn't say it as being used, but they are just being directed. Be followers, not leaders. Just stay back there and you guys follow and we will stand up here and provide the answers. We really don't know who is in charge over there is one of the things. Let's just examine what is in this bill. I know you don't want me to talk about layoffs and people losing their jobs and stuff like that. I can appreciate that; if I was a member over there, I wouldn't want to hear that either, but the reality of that is, and it is not just the 20 jobs, it is the creation of the unsafe road conditions. The safety and lives of Nova Scotians are at risk with this issue. It is vital to the safety of our highway system in this province.

[3:45 p.m.]

These compliance officers that I indicated are among the best in this country and why anyone would ever want to monkey with that system is just beyond belief. They bring in enough fines and revenue to pay their own way and why don't we just keep our roads safe? I know if they were going to lay off anybody, Mr. Speaker, I would suggest they lay off some police that use radar because it is impossible to speed on our highways. (Laugher) When you look at the amount of potholes that are coming in our highway system, you can't speed on our roads anyway. I travel from here to Cape Breton on a weekly basis and I can assure the good members over there that the Trans Canada Highway is not even fit to travel on, let alone the secondary roads.

Mr. Speaker, let's talk a little bit about the user fees. We must all remember the $29 million in user fees came from last year's budget, 20 per cent to 33 per cent of that was Seniors' Pharmacare co-pay, an average of $5.00 a prescription, an increase, $8.4 million per total. That is how we treat our seniors in the province. We are going to collect $8.4 million from them. The 911 tax, 43 cents of tax and then you pay HST on the tax. This government is creating things that have never been created before. I have never, anywhere in this country, heard of anybody paying a tax on a tax. So I don't know when this is going to stop. Maybe

[Page 2033]

when you go into a store and you buy a candy bar for $1.00, you will pay $1.15 for the bar and tax on top of $1.15 and then tax on that. Maybe that is what they have planned over there, who knows. But the 43 cents is a reality and it is not a fee, it is a tax. A tax is a tax is a tax.

The Premier, of course, and his fancy blue book and I think it doesn't matter whether they follow it or not anyway because there is nothing in it but a couple of commitments that they didn't fulfill yet. That is all that was in it. The good Premier indicated very clearly during the campaign, there will be no new taxes or tax increases in this province. Mr. Speaker, I can say a fee is a tax and every member of this Opposition over here can stand up and say a fee is a tax. When you take money out of the pockets of everyday, ordinary Nova Scotians then, in my opinion, it is a tax. What is more important here is that Nova Scotians are going to decide whether they are taxes or fees. These guys can hide and run for so long, but when the old writ is issued, Nova Scotians will judge that crowd over there. As my honourable Leader, the member for Clare has indicated, Nova Scotians will not be fooled. Nova Scotians are going to decide whether this Premier is full of fees - not fleas, I didn't say fleas - or tax increases. (Laughter) I would suggest they are going to agree with my opinion, that is what I would suggest. No, new taxes.

With the downloading they didn't have to increases taxes, all they did was download on the municipalities and force them to increase their taxes. Those municipal guys over there know what they did. This is where I believe they might have played a part, because somebody, when we look at the intelligence over there, came up with this scheme somehow. I am not really sure if it came from the front row there or not, because who knew municipalities better. To my knowledge the Premier has never really had any municipal experience, so he must have used somebody's experience.

Mr. Speaker, what they did is they downloaded a bunch of costs on the municipalities and they increased property taxes as a result. That is a tax increase. The good Premier over there is breaking commitments, daily, that he made to Nova Scotians. Yearly fees, $5 million hospital user fees. Imagine, that is just if you get sick, you are laying in the hospital - and this basically only happens on the mainland, I don't think you can even rent a television in Cape Breton because people just simply can't afford to rent them - but when your mother or your father, your little girl or your sister, whoever gets sick and has to go to the hospital to get fixed by the good doctor for a few days, you are going to pay. You are going to pay very dearly when you get sick. I would suggest Nova Scotians will be eating much more nutritiously, because they are afraid to get sick. (Laughter)

Maybe they can fix health care for $46 million. They already spent $300 million this year, but they didn't fix it yet. It isn't fixed, and the minister will get the picture someday. Maybe on election day. There are calls from the Truro area too. Imagine being 15 years old, all excited, going to get your driver's license for the first time (Interruptions)

[Page 2034]

AN HON. MEMBER: You have to be 16 to be licensed.

MR. BOUDREAU: You are 15 years and 8 months, we all go through that, oh boy, I can't wait until I am 16, because now I am going to get my driver's license and I am going to drive my dad's car, his new Oldsmobile or whatever, and right proud of that. Do you know what these guys have found? They found a way to ruin that. Those dreams, they even taxed them at the cost of $950,000 a year. Now, of course, when you walk in to Access Nova Scotia and you ask for a driver's handbook, well, guess what? You pay a fee to get the handbook.

Prescription drugs for social service recipients. Imagine. Has anybody ever known anybody rich on social services? I don't. People head to social services, and the people I talk to have a great deal of difficulty dealing with the pride. I have yet to meet an individual that boldly walked in and demanded things from social services.

People get stressed out; when they have no other recourse they go to social services. Guess what? This government is going to earn $700,000 from the poor people. Poor people. Pay the deficit, increase the debt. Remember, this way we will pretend we are doing something, but in the long term, they are cooked. That is the plan that government has. I never ever claimed to be a rocket scientist, but even I can figure this out. It is simply not hard when you sit down and read what is going on here. Any issue, the poor and the helpless, they attack that group of people in this province.

When senior citizens who are sick, unable to take care of themselves, land in the hospital and require nursing care, well guess what? This gang over here found a way to make them pay - $50 a day. Imagine. Laying in bed helpless and your health deteriorating and this gang comes along and starts passing fees. Here are fees. It is unreal. Insurance agents - I will bet they are real proud of this gang over here. Real proud of the fact that they found an opportunity to make money from that industry - they made money from that industry - $200,000 the insurance agents will pay this Minister of Finance as a result of this Bill No. 30.

Do you really believe that those backbenchers over there think that insurance agents are excited about this? Hey, guys and ladies, pinch yourselves. Wake up, you are not in a dream. I would suggest that if there are any insurance agents out there who voted Tory in the last election that they will be revisiting that decision come this election. We will just see. But, of course, it is obvious there are not enough insurance agents right across the board to have them defeated. That is why they hit the insurance agents. It is because of the numbers. They hit the poor, the helpless, and the underprivileged. That is who they go after. They go after anybody that they can. Even insurance agents that are making a living and work hard in this province and contribute a great deal to other economic activity in the community - whether it be a barber shop, grocery store, gas station, doesn't matter - they found a way to hit them with a fee before they can go out and make a living in this province.

[Page 2035]

Of course, the honourable Minister of Environment and Labour wouldn't dare take credit for the $200,000 in environmental income that his department - if he is an insurance agent, I believe that, that is why he is here because he wasn't any good at that either.

Teacher's certificate fees - they are increased. Renewals - they are increased. About this bill, the best way to explain it is that each and every Nova Scotian this year will pay $3.00 more. Think of that when you really look at approximately one million people, it works out - the impact of this - works out that each and every Nova Scotian pays $3.00. When you look at the $50 hospital stay for seniors; $70 now for the Registry of Deeds and that is up from $40. Why the increase? The way I thought this was, it all went into a book and then it went into the library, now they type it onto a computer and it costs us $40 more (Interruption) Pardon me, $30 more, Mr. Speaker, to put it on a computer. Imagine. Of course, the good Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations will tell you that this is a much more secure system, and it is. However, lawyers will be paid, there are additional costs that individuals will pay to either access or use this service. So, the $30 increase will raise $1.1 million per year.

[4:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, let's talk about equalization for just a moment. Equalization, now imagine, the good minister announced it and I know it has been referred to by the other Party that . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: The Official Opposition, say it.

MR. BOUDREAU: The other Party indicated (Interruptions) The hardship Party. Mr. Speaker, when I talk about equalization, it is nothing short of insanity. It is the only way to explain it, it really is. The minister announced this program on a Friday evening after 5:00 p.m. and the announcement that I saw and the announcement that I heard on the radio indicated to me and made it very clear to me that this was a done deal. It was a done deal and this government was going to take a portion of the property taxes from the residents in Halifax, provide it and dish it out to other areas of the province.

It may have been a good idea, Mr. Speaker, if they had targeted it in the right spots, in the right areas. Why didn't they just direct it toward the government buildings that Halifax enjoys. Again, they didn't do their homework; 50 per cent of residents living in Halifax earn less than $20,000 a year. Many of my constituents don't even make half of that. But I ask those former municipal leaders over there why they feel that a family with an income of $20,000 could afford in any way, shape or form subsidizing taxes in other areas of the province? It has me baffled, why anybody on $20,000 can afford to subsidize taxes in their areas.

[Page 2036]

What a fiasco that was, Mr. Speaker. The announcement went out on a Friday evening after 5:00 p.m., which is basically the first time that this government did it, it hasn't been done since. I haven't in recent memory - and I have been involved in politics since 1991 - heard of it in all of that time. So why was that done?

Now, the other Party over there indicated to the minister, I believe, during estimates that there was some hanky-panky going on because there was a by-election going on down in Cape Breton North. Now, I am not going to touch that, Mr. Speaker, because I really wouldn't want to indicate that that was a fact, because I don't any material. Maybe that was in the mind of the minister, however, I am not prepared to do that.

Mr. Speaker, I will tell you a few things that are funny. The UNSM was supposed to be onside and in support of this. The good candidate from Cape Breton North banged on doors and said, hey, we got you another $4.5 billion. Well, they didn't get the cheque yet, and, not only that, when we look at what they did to the CBRM in areas such as Sysco - remember Sysco? - there was a grant in lieu of taxes provided to the municipality by the Department of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations, $1 million per year. But guess what? I asked the honourable minister about that and he told me it was up to the board of directors, they provided that. To my knowledge the board doesn't even exist.

So they want the people in Halifax earning less than $20,000 per year to pay the $1 million that they took away from the CBRM. Now, Mr. Speaker, tell me if that makes sense to you, because it doesn't even make sense to the residents that I represent. We care about people in Cape Breton, we care about the people here and we know full well, given the state of the economy that these fellows are driving us into, that people, families earning less than $20,000 per year cannot afford to subsidize property taxes in other areas of the province. Honourable gentlemen, there are enough former municipal politicians over there to know that, for Heaven's sake. Speak up at your caucus meetings and tell these ministers what the reality is in everyday life in this province.

Mr. Speaker, I know some of them have come out publicly in the paper and expressed their opposition to this plan, and all of a sudden when they did that the plan wasn't a reality. Oh, we are just consulting now. I don't imagine the Mayor of Port Hawkesbury had anything to do with it. I don't imagine he came up here about 15 months ago and told everybody about this plan before it was even considered over there; in fact, I believe that honourable gentleman provided most of the information and material to that department and that's why they bungled it all up. They didn't check the information, they didn't realize that people in Halifax are struggling, just like people in other areas in this province, in rural Nova Scotia. Did we forget about that?

Mr. Speaker, all of a sudden they got quiet over there, because they didn't think of this before. They closed the steel plant down, now they want to make sure the impact is felt right across the province, apparently; they are going to tax low-income earners in the Halifax

[Page 2037]

Regional Municipality and provide it to CBRM, $1 million of it. If you think people shouldn't be upset about that, particularly the individuals who are paying this, then I don't blame them. The system that's in place there now is a far better choice and it is people that, through the income tax system - and they should be familiar with that by now - ensure that every individual in the Province of Nova Scotia that can afford, and that's the key word, to contribute to the poorer regions of this province regardless of where they live, that's what they have to come to their senses about.

Our Party believes very strongly in equalization, very strongly. But the formula - the good minister couldn't even present this properly, and I am aware of the ability of that staff in that particular department. He has some of the best staff in any of those departments over there; the most intelligent, hard-working individuals are within that department. I believe very strongly they have the ability, if provided the opportunity, to go out and do a proper consultation process with these municipalities, that they would bring back a formula that could and would work in this province. But not that gang, that sounds too easy. They would rather increase all the taxes to bring in new monies, call them fees and then - their priority, it appears to me, is that they are going to fool all of these residents. Well, they are not going to fool too many people and they are not fooling anybody.

Now the farmers. Imagine, now the farmers, they are into a toss with the farmers, over there. More fees added. Now they are reviewing all the farmers. Why would this government want to go out and tamper with the agricultural community in the province? Doesn't the good minster responsible for those duties in that department realize that economically it is very feasible to feed ourselves. It makes good business sense, gentlemen. Farming should be supported, not deported or imported from other provinces and other countries. We don't need imported vegetables or any type of item that is grown on our farms, whether they be apples or oranges or potatoes or anything. We don't need to import them from the United States, particularly when they don't want our wood. So why would we want to return that favour?

Another hit on rural Nova Scotia, direct hit; $100 for a well driller's permit. If you live in rural Nova Scotia and your well goes dry - and we are all aware that there are not too many rural areas where there are municipal drinking water services. What do these honourable members believe this is going to impact? It is not going to impact anybody in downtown Halifax or downtown Sydney in the CBRM, it is attacking and very negatively impacting on the housing market in this province. One hundred dollars doesn't sound like much but when you are scraping by from day to day, you are married and you want to build a house for your family or even if you have a house and your well goes dry, bang, this government is going to bang you over the head, and before you can call the well driller you ought to run down to the Access Nova Scotia office, that may be as far away as 100 miles or even further, and obtain a permit at a cost of $100.

[Page 2038]

It is a disgrace, is what it is. This government doesn't care, they are out of control and they think they are fooling everybody. Well, they are not going to fool too many. The bottom line is, there is no tax relief coming from this government.

At this time, I do now move that we adjourn debate on Bill No. 30.

[4:15 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Cape Breton East moved adjournment of the debate on Bill No. 30.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

A recorded vote has been called for.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I would like to know what term the bells are going to ring for? If the Opposition wants to play games, fair enough.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The bells will ring to the satisfaction of the Whips.

Ring the bells. Call in the members.

[4:15 p.m.]

[The Division bells were rung.]

MR. SPEAKER: Are the Whips satisfied?

There has been a motion to adjourn debate. A recorded vote was called for.

[The Clerk calls the roll.]

YEAS

Mr. Christie

Mr. Russell

Mr. Muir

[Page 2039]

Miss Purves

Mr. Fage

Mr. Balser

Mr. Parent

Ms. McGrath

Mr. Ronald Chisholm

Mr. Olive

Mr. MacIsaac

Mr. DeWolfe

Mr. Taylor

Mr. Dooks

Mr. Chataway

Mr. Hendsbee

Mrs. Baillie

Mr. Carey

Mr. Morash

Mr. Chipman

Mr. Barnet

Mr. O'Donnell

Mr. Gaudet

Dr. Smith

Mr. MacKinnon

Mr. Pye

THE CLERK: For, 26. Against, 0.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, on Monday we will continue debate on second reading of Bill No. 30. If we complete Bill No. 30, we will go on Bill No. 20 for second reading. The hours will be from 2:00 p.m. until 10:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER: The House is adjourned until 2:00 p.m. on Monday.

[The House rose at 5:03 p.m.]

[Page 2040]

NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)

RESOLUTION NO. 754

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

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

Whereas in Nova Scotia we mark Education Week by paying tribute to the teachers, parents, volunteers and school staff;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this Legislature acknowledge the dedication of the teachers, parents, volunteers and staff of Oxford Regional High School and all those who work in the education system for the wonderful job they do in preparing our young people for a prosperous future.

RESOLUTION NO. 755

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

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

Whereas in Nova Scotia we mark Education Week by paying tribute to the teachers, parents, volunteers and school staff;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this Legislature acknowledge the dedication of the teachers, parents, volunteers and staff of Oxford Elementary School and all those who work in the education system for the wonderful job they do in preparing our young people for a prosperous future.

[Page 2041]

RESOLUTION NO. 756

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

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

Whereas in Nova Scotia we mark Education Week by paying tribute to the teachers, parents, volunteers and school staff;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this Legislature acknowledge the dedication of the teachers, parents, volunteers and staff of Springhill Junior/Senior High School and all those who work in the education system for the wonderful job they do in preparing our young people for a prosperous future.

RESOLUTION NO. 757

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

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

Whereas in Nova Scotia we mark Education Week by paying tribute to the teachers, parents, volunteers and school staff;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this Legislature acknowledge the dedication of the teachers, parents, volunteers and staff of Junction Road Elementary School and all those who work in the education system for the wonderful job they do in preparing our young people for a prosperous future.

[Page 2042]

RESOLUTION NO. 758

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

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

Whereas in Nova Scotia we mark Education Week by paying tribute to the teachers, parents, volunteers and school staff;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this Legislature acknowledge the dedication of the teachers, parents, volunteers and staff of West End Memorial Elementary School and all those who work in the education system for the wonderful job they do in preparing our young people for a prosperous future.

RESOLUTION NO. 759

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

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

Whereas in Nova Scotia we mark Education Week by paying tribute to the teachers, parents, volunteers and school staff;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this Legislature acknowledge the dedication of the teachers, parents, volunteers and staff of River Hebert District High School and all those who work in the education system for the wonderful job they do in preparing our young people for a prosperous future.

[Page 2043]

RESOLUTION NO. 760

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

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

Whereas in Nova Scotia we mark Education Week by paying tribute to the teachers, parents, volunteers and school staff;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this Legislature acknowledge the dedication of the teachers, parents, volunteers and staff of River Hebert Elementary School and all those who work in the education system for the wonderful job they do in preparing our young people for a prosperous future.

RESOLUTION NO. 761

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

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

Whereas in Nova Scotia we mark Education Week by paying tribute to the teachers, parents, volunteers and school staff;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this Legislature acknowledge the dedication of the teachers, parents, volunteers and staff of Advocate District School and all those who work in the education system for the wonderful job they do in preparing our young people for a prosperous future.

[Page 2044]

RESOLUTION NO. 762

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

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

Whereas in Nova Scotia we mark Education Week by paying tribute to the teachers, parents, volunteers and school staff;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this Legislature acknowledge the dedication of the teachers, parents, volunteers and staff of Parrsboro Regional High School and all those who work in the education system for the wonderful job they do in preparing our young people for a prosperous future.

RESOLUTION NO. 763

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

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

Whereas in Nova Scotia we mark Education Week by paying tribute to the teachers, parents, volunteers and school staff;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this Legislature acknowledge the dedication of the teachers, parents, volunteers and staff of Parrsboro Elementary School and all those who work in the education system for the wonderful job they do in preparing our young people for a prosperous future.

[Page 2045]

RESOLUTION NO. 764

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

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

Whereas in Nova Scotia we mark Education Week by paying tribute to the teachers, parents, volunteers and school staff;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this Legislature acknowledge the dedication of the teachers, parents, volunteers and staff of Wentworth Elementary School and all those who work in the education system for the wonderful job they do in preparing our young people for a prosperous future.