Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

Les travaux de la Chambre ont repris le
21 septembre 2017

Hansard -- Mon., Apr. 30, 2001

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HALIFAX, MONDAY, APRIL 30, 2001

Fifty-eighth General Assembly

Second Session

2:00 P.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Murray Scott

DEPUTY SPEAKERS

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

MR. SPEAKER: Honourable members, let us begin the daily routine.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

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

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I do not have any papers to table but I would like to introduce a group of visiting students to the members of the Legislature. We have with us today in the east gallery, YMCA Cultural Youth Exchange Program students. They are visiting a high school in my area, Hants West Rural High School. They are accompanied by their leaders, Scott Stewart of Hazelton, British Columbia; Norm Larson of Hazelton; Sean Connolly of Hants West; and Mark Tye of Hants West.

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Mr. Speaker, I understand that while they are here they are going to be playing basketball, and you are in the heart of basketball country in downtown Brooklyn and Windsor, I can assure you. (Laughter) Without further ado, I would like the House to accord the visiting students the typical legislative welcome. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Yes, indeed. Welcome to the Cultural Youth Exchange Program students and welcome to all our guests in the gallery.

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health.

RESOLUTION NO. 765

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

Whereas the United Nations has designed 2001 to be the International Year of Volunteers; and

Whereas the Canadian Cancer Society, Nova Scotia Division, has over 6,000 volunteers; and

Whereas the division's volunteers make a significant and valuable contribution to communities across Nova Scotia every day by rasing funds for cancer research, educating Nova Scotians about healthy living and enhancing the quality of life of people living with cancer;

Therefore be it resolved that on this final day in April, Cancer Awareness Month, all members of this House join me in thanking the volunteers of the Canadian Cancer Society's Nova Scotia Division for their tremendous efforts this month and year-round for making a real difference to the lives of others.

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: Indeed congratulations are in order as I recognize the Leader of the Opposition. (Applause)

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 766

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, we will see how they feel about it in a week.

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

Whereas over the past 30 years Helen MacDonald has demonstrated her commitment to her community and province in every task she has undertaken through her pragmatic approach and personal warmth; and

Whereas during her tenure as Leader of the Nova Scotia New Democratic Party, Helen MacDonald criss-crossed the province to listen to the concerns of Nova Scotians and bring their concerns to the forefront; and

Whereas Helen MacDonald has given selflessly of her time and energy on behalf of all Nova Scotians;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House take this opportunity to show Helen MacDonald their appreciation of her determination to make life better for all Nova Scotians by extending best wishes to her as she embarks on the next chapter of her public life.

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. (Applause)

The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 767

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

Whereas provincial NDP Leader Helen MacDonald stepped down last week; and

Whereas on the weekend NDP supporters unanimously elected Darrell Dexter as interim Leader; and

Whereas Mr. Dexter has served the people of Dartmouth-Cole Harbour since 1998;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House of Assembly congratulate Mr. Dexter on his new post and wish him every success as interim Leader of the NDP.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Eastern Shore.

RESOLUTION NO. 768

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

Whereas in the early hours of last Thursday morning a bus carrying students and their chaperones were involved in a terrible accident; and

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Whereas to the horror of us all, four Oakhill Middle School students from Newton, Massachusetts died; and

Whereas students from Gaetz Brook Junior High School, who were waiting with anticipation for the arrival of these exchange students, were instead greeted with the tragic news;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House extend their condolences to the families and friends of those who lost their young lives and send their sympathies to the students of Gaetz Brook who must contend with this shock and grief.

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. 769

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

Whereas there is only one ambulance operating north of Cape Smokey; and

Whereas a representative of Eastern Medical Care said that the problem is due to staffing shortages; and

Whereas there are local people willing to take ambulance training, but the training is not readily available;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Health do his utmost to increase the number of ambulance attendants working in rural communities in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

RESOLUTION NO. 770

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 fourth annual Bucks for Books campaign wrapped up last month by raising $4,440; and

Whereas this event is organized by the Halifax Education Foundation, a charity that raises money for public schools; and

Whereas the foundation and participating students will distribute the funds to 75 metro area schools to buy library books and materials;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House congratulate the Halifax Education Foundation, Campaign Chairwoman Carolyn MacFarlane, and the students for their endeavours to provide much-needed resources to the public school system.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Annapolis.

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RESOLUTION NO. 771

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

Whereas the Central Annapolis Valley Chamber of Commerce has awarded its first Business Person of the Year Award; and

Whereas Glenn Langille, owner/operator of the Middleton Save Easy, is the first to receive this award; and

Whereas Glenn was chosen for his involvement in the community, supporting many projects and teams, personally and financially;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House congratulate Glenn Langille on his Business Person of the Year Award, and commend the Central Annapolis Valley Chamber of Commerce for establishing this award to recognize the outstanding efforts of business people in the community at large.

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 South.

[2:15 p.m.]

RESOLUTION NO. 772

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

Whereas Doug Clarke has been a valuable employee of the Sydney Curling Club for over 30 years; and

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Whereas Mr. Clarke enjoys the respect of all the members of the Sydney club; and

Whereas Mr. Clarke has developed a reputation as an excellent ice-maker who has presided over many curling competitions both local and provincial;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate Doug Clarke on his many achievements and wish him all the best in his retirement.

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. 773

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Deputy Speaker, I must say you look very nice in that hat as well.

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

Whereas members of racially visible minorities sometimes face challenges dealing with the justice system; and

Whereas Cpl. Tony Upshaw is a member of the Aboriginal and Diversity Policing Services with the RCMP in Halifax; and

Whereas Cpl. Tony Upshaw and four other African-Nova Scotian RCMP officers who all grew up in Truro were recognized on the weekend by the Community Enhancement Association for their positive influence on the community;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House congratulate Cpl. Tony Upshaw, Cpl. Tom Jones, Cst. Peter Marshall and Cst. Richard Collins on the work they have done as RCMP officers in their communities.

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Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton North.

RESOLUTION NO. 774

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

Whereas the first annual Leah Dugas Memorial Basketball Tournament was recently held in memory of a 10 year old student who died last November after a courageous battle with cancer; and

Whereas nine elementary schools from industrial Cape Breton participated in this successful tournament and this year's host and winner was the team from Leah's own school, Florence Elementary; and

Whereas throughout this tournament a total of $1,500 was raised to begin a scholarship for an elementary student;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the players and families for their participation and commend organizer, Walter Keeping, for his efforts to make this fun event and scholarship a living memorial to Leah Dugas and her heart-warming legacy of inspiration.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

RESOLUTION NO. 775

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

Whereas our Dr. Premier has ordered a $50 a day prescription for seniors who, in his opinion, overstay their welcome at our hospitals; and

Whereas this harsh medicine is deemed appropriate by Tories because obviously they believe that seniors are responsible for our deficit and debt problems; and

Whereas a second opinion indicates that it was the Finance Minister who squandered $70 million in debt service cost this year that would have paid for a long-term care strategy;

Therefore be it resolved that in light of this government's gross fiscal mismanagement, the Premier stop punishing our seniors and start managing responsibly.

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 Centre.

RESOLUTION NO. 776

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

Whereas two weeks ago Nova Scotia's chief medical officer advised there was no acute health risk to the residents of Whitney Pier from arsenic and other cancer-causing chemicals; and

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Whereas last week a U.S. scientist hired to review the findings of the study that found unacceptable levels of toxic chemicals in Whitney Pier and who is trying to determine the acute risk they pose, advised that he wouldn't let his children play in the Whitney Pier area; and

Whereas no one has warned the residents of the acute risks of exposure to these toxins and no study has yet been done to determine the effects of chronic long-term, lower-level exposure to these toxins;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier and his government start to give first priority to health and safety of children and other vulnerable residents in the Whitney Pier area who are left without information or warnings about the high levels of toxic materials.

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 Halifax Bedford Basin.

RESOLUTION NO. 777

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

Whereas Duc d'Anville School in Clayton Park, has launched a Beautification Project as a Millennium Committee initiative; and

Whereas this project will, over the next few years, create naturalized gardens around the school property, beginning with a waterfall and an outdoor amphitheatre next to the newly-installed flagpole; and

Whereas this project was made possible by the hard work of the PTA Committee Co-chairs, Mary Hart-Baker and Margo Storey; with the support of local sponsors, Toyota East management and staff; Linda VanVulpen, landscape architect; Rhea Mahar, Trees Canada; and an enthusiastic school community;

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Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Legislature commend the community spirit and hard work of Toyota East, Linda VanVulpen, Rhea Mahar and all the members of the school community of Duc d'Anville for undertaking this beautification project which will benefit not only the school but the whole community.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

RESOLUTION NO. 778

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

Whereas the Minister of Education has dismissed claims that cutbacks in the budget for the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board will affect teaching positions in that board; and

Whereas 53 teaching positions will be lost as a result of the department's funding allocation to this board; and

Whereas 30 of those 53 teaching positions are identified as permanent teachers in the school system;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Education give a detailed report on the 2000-01 allocation for the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board showing why teaching positions must be lost.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

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I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

RESOLUTION NO. 779

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

Whereas clean air, a basic desire of all Nova Scotians, is a function of non-polluting energy sources such as the promising fuel cell technology; and

Whereas such non-polluting Canadian technology needs federal and provincial incentives in order to compete with well-established, conventional polluting energy sources; and

Whereas the federal government promised in its last budget to support Canadian research and development of technology;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly voice its support of incentives for the research, development and application of non-polluting technology in order that Nova Scotians will be able to reap the benefit of made-in-Canada solutions for clean energy.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Kings North.

RESOLUTION NO. 780

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

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Whereas Bill Estabrooks has been asked to be the speaker at the Convocation Exercises for Sir John A. Macdonald High School; and

Whereas this honour is extra special due to the fact that this invitation to speak was the decision of the Grade 12 students themselves; and

Whereas it is gratifying to see young people holding political leaders in such respect;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate Bill Estabrooks on this honour and wish him the very best in his return to the school where he began his teaching career.

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. 781

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

Whereas the Emergency Department at the Northside General Hospital has been closed for the rest of the week, from 8:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m.; and

Whereas this same hospital was the one the Health Minister and the Premier visited during the March by-election; and

Whereas it was promised then that no changes would occur at the hospital and everything would be just fine;

Therefore be it resolved that the government follow through on an election promise and solve the problem at the Northside General immediately.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

RESOLUTION NO. 782

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

Whereas the Pictou Shipyard should soon be operational once more; and

Whereas the workers had . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. It is very difficult to hear the honourable member that is trying to recite his resolution.

Order, please.

MR. EPSTEIN: Thank you. Whereas the Pictou Shipyard should soon be operational once more; and

Whereas the workers had to negotiate a new contract under difficult circumstances; and

Whereas the union membership stood tall and did not accept the first offer that crossed the table;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the Pictou Shipyard workers and their union, Local 4702 of the United Steel Workers of America, for negotiating the best contract possible.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

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The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Preston.

RESOLUTION NO. 783

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

Whereas with the official opening of the Well-Women's Clinic today, the women of East Preston and area have new health services in their own backyard; and

Whereas this initiative, the inspiration of Joyce Ross, is the product of a working partnership between the IWK Health Centre and the community of East Preston; and

Whereas with space donated by the East Preston Day Care Centre, equipment and nurses supplied by the IWK and volunteers providing front-end management, women now have improved access to information and assessment of their health concerns;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House commend the community of East Preston, the IWK and East Preston Day Care for coming together to provide such an important health service and congratulate the women of East Preston on this significant link to better health and wellness.

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 East.

RESOLUTION NO. 784

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

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Whereas the Government of Nova Scotia paid an extra $70 million in interest payment on the debt this year because the Finance Minister is incapable of controlling the debt; and

Whereas the government has received an additional $512 million in revenue since coming to office, and will receive an additional $636 million in federal transfers, but still has to charge seniors $50 a day for a hospital bed; and

Whereas in addition the province has taken $3.8 million from charity during its time in office because the Premier said he could not afford a new program;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier and his Cabinet is guilty of gross mismanagement of the public purse, and it is now time for the Nova Scotia Government to look seriously at spending smarter and better rather than claiming poverty when important issues arise.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 785

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

Whereas Rails to Trails organizations across this province are showing exceptional initiative in meeting the recreational needs of Nova Scotians; and

Whereas the growing communities of Beechville-Lakeside-Timberlea have volunteers willing to serve on the Beechville-Lakeside-Timberlea Rails to Trails; and

Whereas Catherine Klefenz, Wayne Rogers, Crystal Rafuse and Terry Henley were elected to the executive at the AGM of the Beechville-Lakeside-Timberlea Rails to Trails;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate and thank all involved with this organization.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries.

RESOLUTION NO. 786

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

Whereas dedication and commitment are characteristics critical to success in any field; and

Whereas youth who wish to achieve higher levels in academics, athletics, or the community, require a tremendous amount of focus and desire; and

Whereas four figure skaters from the Amherst Skating Club recently reached their own personal levels of success this year in the provincial championships;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize gold medalists Anne Crocker and Monique Hallee, and bronze medalists Alyson Hurley and Nicholas Smith for their hard work and commitment to training and practice, which ultimately led to their accomplishments at the 2001 provincial championships held in New Glasgow.

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 The Lakes.

RESOLUTION NO. 787

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

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Whereas the 24th Annual Public Speaking Contest begins today at Memorial High School in Sydney Mines; and

Whereas students from elementary, junior high and high schools from all over Cape Breton Island will compete at the contest; and

Whereas public speaking is a valuable skill which will help these students for many years to come;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House of Assembly congratulate the competitors and organizers of this years public-speaking contest.

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 Hants East.

[2:30 p.m.]

RESOLUTION NO. 788

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

Whereas the fine arts add a dimension to a community that is recognized and appreciated worldwide; and

Whereas local talent in the fine arts, if developed and encouraged, can lead to a long, productive and financially rewarding career; and

Whereas Ms. Alexandra Ashley of Lantz received a scholarship from the Nova Scotia Talent Trust to attend the National School of Dance in Toronto last summer;

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Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Assembly congratulate Ms. Alexandra Ashley on winning a scholarship to attend the National School of Dance and wish her great success in her future dancing.

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. 789

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

Whereas on Saturday evening, at the Trenton Steel Town Park Monument, the New Glasgow and District Labour Council held their annual service to commemorate the annual Day of Mourning for those workers injured or killed; and

Whereas President Peggy Cash and Vice-President Gwen Savage of the Labour Council took part in Saturday evening's ceremony, along with approximately 35 others; and

Whereas tragedy in the workplace is something we must, at all times, work to prevent, while thinking of ways to make all workplaces safer;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this Legislative Assembly commend organizations such as the New Glasgow and District Labour Council, who strive for workplace safety on a year-round basis.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 2067]

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

RESOLUTION NO. 790

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

Whereas the Aeolian Singers of Dartmouth celebrated their 25th Anniversary of singing on Saturday, April 28th in a performance at Alderney Landing Theatre; and

Whereas this 35 member women's choir was established by Clare Wall in 1976, as a Dartmouth Continuing Education Department Program; and

Whereas Ms. Wall and Director Jacqueline Chambers led 200 current and former Aeolians in works by Mendelssohn, Mozart, Schubert, as well as several works by local composers Donna Rhodenizer-Taylor and Emily Kiderstead;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House congratulate the Aeolian Singers for the joy of song they bring to music lovers and wish them continued success as they continue with concerts throughout the province.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

[Page 2068]

RESOLUTION NO. 791

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

Whereas on Sunday, April 29th, the Ladies Auxiliary of East Preston hosted a celebration to honour women 80 years old and plus; and

Whereas these women have laboured long and hard in various groups, organizations and societies to enhance the social and spiritual growth of the residents; and

Whereas 20 women were presented with awards and honoured by the East Preston church family for their dedication and commitment;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House congratulate these 20 women for being honoured for their endeavours and commend the Ladies Auxiliary of East Preston for this well-deserving initiative to recognize the contributions made by the elder women.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

RESOLUTION NO. 792

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

Whereas the students and staff of Cobequid Educational Centre in Truro have been producing high-quality musicals for many years; and

Whereas this year marks the 30th year of Cobequid Educational Centre's musical theatre; and

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Whereas this year, CEC staged the musical, Jesus Christ Superstar, which is a challenging undertaking for any theatre group, professional or amateur;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House congratulate the students, staff and members of Truro's arts community on a successful run of musicals.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

RESOLUTION NO. 793

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

Whereas River John is a community known for its supportive community activism; and

Whereas River John residents worked together with the Pictou-Antigonish Regional Library, the River John Community Access Program Site Committee, and Human Resources Development Canada to build a new building to house the library and innovation centre; and

Whereas the new library has a computer training area, a boardroom and a community office to assist many users;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House congratulate the Friends of the River John Library on the completion of the new library and innovation centre.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 2070]

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 794

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

Whereas on Friday, April 27th, in Halifax, 25 Nova Scotians received Lifesaving Society awards; and

Whereas the Lifesaving Society is a charitable, non-profit organization dedicated to reducing drowning and water-related accidents; and

Whereas one of the individuals receiving a lifesaving rescue commendation was nine year old Steven Bowles for his heroic act of rescuing his brother Morgan from drowning in the ocean in an August 1999 accident at Bayport wharf;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Steven Bowles for his bravery, and also extend congratulations to all recipients of the Lifesaving Society 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.

Honourable members, earlier today the honourable member for Kings North moved a resolution whereby he requested waiver. It was turned down and I have been requested to revisit that resolution and I will read it. Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly

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congratulate Bill Estabrooks on this honour and wish him the very best in his return to the school where he began his teaching career.

There has been a request for waiver.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

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

PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

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

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

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to join debate on the Financial Measures (2001) Bill. At this point, we have had a fair amount of time to look at the Financial Measures (2001) Bill. I want to say that it is just not a financial measures bill, in fact this bill is a bill that also measures the performance of the government. It is a measure of how they have treated the people who have relied on them. It is a measure of their commitment to seniors. It is a measure of their commitment to youth. It is a measure of their commitment to the working families of this province. It is a measure of their working commitment to nurses and to front-line health care works, as well as those people who are patients in our hospitals and those who receive the services under the health delivery system.

[Page 2072]

Mr. Speaker, it is a measure of the way in which they value the farmers and those who live in our rural communities. It is a measure of whether or not they respect those who teach in our education system and those who provide the service to our students. I have to say, sadly, as a measure, it is not a measure of success. In fact, it is a measure of the depth of the failure of this government. That is why it is up to us to stand up and to speak on behalf of those who do not have a voice in this Legislature. It is up to us to speak out on behalf of seniors and youth. It is up to us to speak out on behalf of front-line health care workers. It is up to us to speak out on behalf of working families across this province who are being affected by the ill-conceived and misguided principles on which this government seems to operate.

Mr. Speaker, it is not financial measures that this is about, these are punitive measures and the government has to know that this legislation is punitive to those who relied on them to keep their word. And they have failed. They have failed throughout the course of this government from the day they walked through the doors. They have failed to deliver to the people of Nova Scotia what they promised to people over the course of their election campaign.

Yes, Mr. Speaker, they have failed seniors and children. They have failed working people, they have failed those who are unemployed, they have failed nurses and they have failed patients. If you look across the spectrum, this government, in every avenue of its delivery of its budget and of its financial measures, has failed to meet the commitments. I want to go through some of those for you because I think it is important that we recognize what the depth of some of these failures are.

I am going to begin with that examination in health care because I think, as was pointed out earlier on today, already we see the existence of the closing of emergency services in the Northside General Hospital in Cape Breton, something that this government said would not happen. They make statements when they are convenient to be made, but they do not follow through where it is important to keep those commitments which is in the House of Assembly, in their budget estimates, in the Financial Measures (2001) Bill that they bring forward to this House. Instead, this is a constant measure of the failure of this government to act appropriately when it has the opportunity to do what is right.

Just to take a few brief examples, let's look at health care funding as an example of whether or not this is a measure of success for the government. Over the past two years, the average health care funding has been an increase of 1.5 per cent - far below the rate of inflation. What that means is that our health care institutions, the district health authorities are unable to keep pace with just the cost accelerators that exist within their systems. It means that things like diagnostic equipment is becoming antiquated and is in need of replacement. This government promised to review the imposition of their $500 ambulance fee. Have we heard a word from the Minister of Health on that since that was introduced?

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Absolutely nothing. In fact, it is notable by its absence in the budget documents that have come forward.

Think about whether the Financial Measures (2001) Bill is a commitment to strengthening our health care system when at the same time it is introduced to support a budget in which the Minister of Health says that he is considering the setting up of private clinics in our province. Erosion of the confidence that people have in a publicly funded medical care system. Not only for MRI, but for the contracting out of laboratory services. The thin edge of the wedge in the erosion of a system that the people of this country as well as this province have come to rely on.

That is why we are here. We are here to defend the Medicare system, we are here to defend those who rely on a publicly funded system. It is up to us as members of this caucus to say clearly to the people of the province that what the government has done is undertaken a series of financial measures that are aimed at undermining the very Medicare system that most people in their communities and in their homes rely on. Who in this province hasn't been touched in one way or another by the provision of medical services through a publicly funded system.

I want to take a look at how this rolls out in human terms, how the financial measures of the government affect the lives of ordinary Nova Scotians. Can you imagine taking away from cancer patients at the Point Pleasant Lodge or from those with eating disorders, who rely on that institution for the daily meal allowance. Can you imagine? It seems almost untenable, it seems unthinkable that the minister could take an action like that, yet that is exactly the kind of measure that this legislation is supporting. It is hard to believe.

[2:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, we are not going to sit idly by and allow this government to run over the rights of people in our health care system; we are not going to allow them to take out, on front-line health care workers, to take out on patients in our system their inability to be able to balance the budget of the province, to seek ever-deeper cuts to funding, whether it is in health care or education or any of the other aspects of government to which they have been entrusted. We are not going to stand for that because the New Democratic Party of this province has a long, proud history of defending the interests of working families, of defending Nova Scotians from one end of the province to another. (Applause)

We are the ones who are standing up on behalf of seniors, of those who are in rural communities, who depend on these services. It is those of us on this side of the House who intend to hold this government accountable for its broken promises, for the commitments they have made that they have failed to live up to.

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Mr. Speaker, does this bill guarantee access to quality health care for all Nova Scotians? As I have pointed out, the Point Pleasant Lodge and the fiasco around the daily meal allowance, which was created as a result of the Minister of Health's actions, is only one small part of the way in which this government is undermining the confidence that Nova Scotians have in our system.

Mr. Speaker, just look at an issue that we have raised in this House, and that is cochlear implants. Nova Scotians must go to Ontario for cochlear implants. There are long waiting lists here and in Ontario. The promise of the minister was that he was going to look into this, that this was an important issue and this was something that was going to be addressed by the government. Has there been a commitment on that issue yet? No. There has been nothing, only silence.

Unbelievably, the government introduces a bill like this one, and at the same time it is receiving $300,000 in new funding from the federal government to go into funding new programming for those who suffer from hepatitis C. This is an opportunity for the government, with new money, to do good things for the people of that community, to ensure that they get the level of service that they deserve. In fact, it gives the government an opportunity, at little or no cost to it, to live up to one of the commitments that they made during the time they were campaigning across the province.

Did they live up to that commitment? Does the Financial Measures (2001) Bill contain measures which will support these people? No, it does not, not at all. The government fails to understand that these are the very people who brought them to power. These are the very people who supported the initiatives that they laid out in their platform, and that they now run away from.

Mr. Speaker, we have seen, over the course of this session of the House, as we have over the last, the numerous complaints that have come forward about the way in which the health care system is not meeting the needs of either the people who go to those institutions or those who work there. I want you to think, not only about the cancellation of emergency services at the Northside General Hospital, but think about the examples we have seen come forward around cancelled surgeries, the difficulty that has been imposed on people, on families, around their wait times for these services. In many cases this is a traumatic experience for the individual who is looking, waiting and expecting the surgery that is necessary for whatever their particular ailment may be. There is a lot that goes into that, there is an investment not only from the health care providers, but from the patients themselves.

Has the government done anything to deal with these wait times? Nothing, and nothing exists in this bill that is going to make the people of this province any better off next week, next month and, for that matter, even next year. There is no plan, there is nothing that has been articulated by this government that demonstrates their commitment on health care issues to the people of this province. It is a tragedy that the Financial Measures (2001) Bill

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fails to take into account the commitments that were made by the government, with respect to the people of this province, and the commitments they made over the course of an election campaign.

I want you to think about another aspect of the health care system. Think about the drugs that have been affected by the government's decisions. There is a $200 anaesthetic charge now, and a $200 facilities charge for oral surgery, the removal of wisdom teeth; this procedure is seen as necessary by many dentists for good oral health. Has the government responded to the concerns of those who have said the government's initiatives in this regard amount to an additional user fee on those who should be using this service and, if they use the service over the long-term, will cost the province less. Have they responded to that at all? No, Mr. Speaker, not at all.

What about heart and stroke patients who are unable to afford drugs? Have they responded to their concerns? No, they haven't; they have failed. One of the starkest demonstrations of this government's failure came the other night when we went to the Diabetes Association Dinner. They put on an annual event for members of the Legislature in order to try to educate them about the effects of diabetes. There were a number of heart-rending stories about people whose lives were affected by diabetes. One woman reported that after her son was diagnosed with diabetes, the cost of the drugs, the cost of the test strips, the costs associated with that disease bankrupted her family. Part of that whole scenario was to ask all of the members of the Legislature there to join in with the suggestion of some way to remedy that problem.

You know, there could have been initiatives in the Financial Measures (2001) Bill to deal with it, but there isn't. One of the sad and regrettable things is that not only does this legislation not address that, but during the course of that evening some members of that caucus, I believe did what has amounted to an attack on those people, questioning their statistics and, quite frankly, I thought in a very inappropriate manner, suggesting that somehow the information being presented to members of the Legislature was not fully factual.

I know as I sat there I thought to myself what we were supposed to be doing here is offering constructive suggestions in a way to help people who are adversely affected by diabetes. Did that come forward from the government caucus? No. Did that come forward in the form of anything in this legislation? No. They go, they hear, but they don't listen. They have failed on their commitment to the people of this province in that regard.

Perhaps you remember, Mr. Speaker, as I do that the Canadian Cancer Society has told us that they are no longer able to cover drug costs for low-income patients. Can you imagine what that is going to mean to those people and to their families? Has the government been able to respond? Has it, in fact, even introduced by way of legislation or through program spending in the budget estimates anything to address this? No, quite the opposite. The

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Minister of Health instead talks about something called self-managed care. Self-managed care, can you imagine? This is the height of Orwellian double-speak. What they are really saying to you - and you should know this, the people of the province should know this - is you are on your own. It is a shame what they are doing.

So the Financial Measures (2001) Bill doesn't address that. As a measure of performance, it's a measure of failure, the depth of the failure of this government. Self-managed care. I asked the minister to explain it, he doesn't seem to have an explanation. I remember asking him to explain the clinical services footprint, he couldn't understand that either. But do you know what he could understand? He could understand writing a cheque for almost $500,000 for health care consultants to come into this province but he can't afford enough money in his budget to see to it that there are enough nurses to provide the care for the people of this province.

Nurses who work extended hours, who are finding themselves under increasing levels of stress, Mr. Speaker, find out now that they are not even going to be entitled to a vacation over the summer, that the best that they can expect is three or four days if they are lucky. Can you imagine? The Minister of Health writes a cheque for almost $500,000 for a consulting firm out of Ontario but doesn't have the foresight to understand that if he invests money in appropriate retention and recruitment of nurses that the people of this province will be far better off.

That's why we are here, Mr. Speaker. We are here to defend those health care workers who are working every day to provide the appropriate service for the people of this province. That's what we are going to continue to do. We are going to continue to hold that government accountable for the things that they do and for the things that they don't do in legislation like the Financial Measures (2001) Bill and for every other piece of legislation that they bring before this House.

Mr. Speaker, what was particularly regrettable about the $500,000 that was spent on consulting was that it flew in the face of the commitment that the Minister of Health made with respect to the clinical services footprint. What he said was that this was going to be done out of existing resources, that it wasn't going to be a cost to the people of the province, that they were doing an internal review that would end up producing a document on which the clinical services of the province could be fairly distributed. We listened to that very closely, because in our role, not only defenders of the nurses and the doctors who work in the health care system and of the administrative staff who work in the hospital and the cafeteria staff and the janitorial staff, in our defence of them, it is important that we fully understand the approach that government is going to take to those institutions and to the health care delivery system. So we listened carefully to his explanation.

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Instead what has been produced, Mr. Speaker? Produced, Part I of a clinical services footprint that dealt with a limited section of the health care delivery system which they won't tell us how it is going to affect rural communities in this province. They don't tell us what services are going to be done away with, but I know and the Minister of Health knows that those budgets are rolling in. I know that he has already received the budget from the Capital Health District. He has received it and he has received the business plan from the Capital Health District. He now knows, he is in a position to tell the House how the financial measures contained in this bill and in the budget are going to affect the people of this province. Why doesn't he come forward and tell us what effect it is going to have on the health care delivery system just in the capital district let alone the other district health authorities across the province.

[3:00 p.m.]

This is a government, Mr. Speaker, who that upon its election said that it was going to save money through doing away with the unnecessary administration in the health care delivery system. Has it done that? Even remotely done it? Instead, what the Minister of Health has done is he has created a bureaucracy at a level of which we haven't seen before. He has consolidated power out of the main streets of the towns of this province and he has brought it back into downtown Halifax, and from his offices in downtown Halifax he is going to dictate to the people of the province what service they are going to receive in their community regardless of whether or not the community thinks that that service level is appropriate.

That is what the Minister of Health is going to do. He has made it perfectly clear that regardless of the rhetoric of the government over the course of the election campaign they are not going to respond to the needs of rural communities. I want to tell you, Mr. Speaker, that is why we are here. We are here to speak out on behalf of rural communities right across this province and to tell this government in no uncertain terms, that they have an obligation to live up to, when it comes to the delivery of health care, whether it is in Cape Breton or Yarmouth or Tatamagouche, the commitments that they made to those people.

Mr. Speaker, it is not often that we have an opportunity to see these things laid out in a stark contrast as we have with the Financial Measures (2001) Bill, because this bill does a number of things that draw that parallel so severely. It is the imposition of user fees, the continued attack that this avaricious government has had on the pocketbooks of the people of this province. It is hard to believe that a government that got elected, in part by telling people that they were going to reduce taxes, have done more to put a financial burden on the backs of the people of the province than we can remember; $120 million in new fees and taxes and that is just the tip of the iceberg, you can be assured. That is going to be year after year. That is why we are here. We are here to point out to the government opposite that we are going to defend working families, we are not going to allow them to get away with

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creating the kind of financial hardship that they are trying to create on young families, on working families right across this province.

Just the failure alone of this government to properly deal with the new tobacco tax I think is a good example of the way in which they failed the people of the province. We said, Mr. Speaker, if they are going to bring in these kinds of increased user fees, that that money should be used to go into smoking cessation programs, they should be used to promote good, preventive health care in the province. Have they done that? No, not at all. Instead, it has just become a windfall, a tax grab, right out of the pockets of the people of the province.

Mr. Speaker, I want you to think about what is commonly known as bracket creep. These themes, they seem like small matters. They are phrases, they are just parts of the snippets of what we hear in our day-to-day life as we go through the newspapers. They have a real effect on the lives of the people of this province; $30 million in additional tax revenue will go into the pockets of this government from working families in this province. It is shocking and it is, again, a measure of the failure of the government to address the real concerns of the people of the province.

They were quick, Mr. Speaker, to decouple from the federal tax system when it meant that they were going to receive less in the way of tax revenue. They were quick to uncouple that. When you bring forward suggestions like uncoupling from the HST legislation so that you can provide a break to seniors by taking the HST off the home heating oil - oh, no - that is far too complicated. That would take far too long. No, they won't do that. They are not going to help out working families by taking the HST off of necessary items for everyday life. No, they are going to continue to gather up that revenue.

Mr. Speaker, I know that you, among many of us in this Legislature, have been very concerned about roads throughout Nova Scotia and whether you live in an urban centre, as my riding is, or whether you live in rural Nova Scotia, we look at the state of the highways. I remember when this government made the commitment that all of the motor vehicle taxes would be invested in the highway system of this province. Have they kept that commitment? Has that commitment been kept? No, it hasn't. It is part of the failure of this government. It is part of their inability to keep the commitments they made. That is why we are here. We are here to stand up on behalf of those people in rural communities. We are here to defend the interests of those people because they have needs that must be met. They had commitments made to them and, now, they have been taken away from them. The government has no idea where it is going.

I want to refer, just briefly, Mr. Speaker, and I know that, in a short time, my colleague for Dartmouth North will have an opportunity to speak about the people that he represents in this bill and the effect that it has on their lives. I want to touch, just for a second, on community services. It is those individuals in our society who are most often disenfranchised by this process. It is those who feel that they don't have a voice that speaks

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for them. Well, you know, as a result of the legislation brought forward by this government, these people are going to be expected to find meaningful employment. That is something we would like for every member of this society. We would like every member of this society to have meaningful employment.

Mr. Speaker, with no education or with no training program put in place and the budget that the government brings forward for this initiative is $1.5 million, 36,000 adults on welfare. I wonder if the minister has done the math, $41 per adult to try and find training. That is the kind of failure that this government has on its record and it is going to travel with them. They may think that they can slide out of the Legislature and that nobody will notice and that because these people don't have an opportunity to speak up themselves, that they can just walk out of here and they can sweep it under the rug and they don't have to be accountable. Well, I have news for them. That is why we are here. We are here to defend the interests of those who are on community services, who need the help that this government is failing to give to them. That is why we are here.

I want you to look, Mr. Speaker, at the removal of the children's personal allowance. They call it removing the clawback. But the bottom line is, and the minister knows this, that it is less for kids. Children will get less, $16 less per month for a 10 year old, as an example, and a 15 year old, $38 less per month. The children of the province and those who are charged within their care will be worse off as a result of this government. Well, I say again, that is why we are here. We provide the bulwark against the invasive government that is doing everything in its power to punish those people. It is not representing them, it is failing to meet their commitments to them. That is what we are here to do. We intend to continue with that. We intend to speak up on behalf of the agricultural community and to point out to them that the gutting of the Production Technology Branch of the Department of Agriculture, the cut of some $7 million and what followed in the wake of that is nothing more than a failure of this government to meet its commitments to the agricultural community. That is what it is.

It is clear that this government doesn't have any vision except for the bottom line. They talk about it as if the people of the province are going to be better off. Well, they are not going to be better off. People aren't statistics, they aren't numbers on a neatly arranged accountant's ledger. That is not what people are. The people need to have the government live up to the commitments that they made. They need to receive the services they require.

What we saw in the agricultural sector was that after this announcement was made, there was such an uproar in the agricultural community that they banded together and came up with a proposal for the minister that later became the Agricultural Development Institute, or ADI. The problem with ADI, however, is that although it will deliver services that were formerly delivered by the Department of Agriculture, its budget will only be some $2.2 million annually. That will be a cut in funding of at least $3.2 million. The minister knows, this government knows that the demand for and the need for these services remain and that

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they can't be delivered with such a budget. They know that and if they don't know it, that is why we are here. We are here to stand up on behalf of rural Nova Scotians, on behalf of farmers, on behalf of those in communities who absolutely rely on these services. We are going to continue to tell the government they have made a mistake and we are going to continue to hold them accountable.

The Minister of Agriculture has admitted that ADI will have the power to impose user fees, further user fees. It will have no choice but to do so if they intend to deliver the services that they need to deliver adequately. The effect is this: what the government has done is downloaded the cost of these services onto the backs of farmers. They have done this at a time when the agricultural industry is in difficulty and the profit margins on those farms are razor thin. These are family farms. These are people who are trying to make a living, who are trying to support their families, trying to support a way of life. Something that in many cases has been passed on for generations.

Yet, this government is bent on attacking them. This government is bent on punishing them for reasons that I am sure the members of the farm community don't even understand. They certainly are disappointed with the performance of the government and they have good reason to be. Thankfully, the members of this caucus are here to stand up to this government and point out again the error with which they prosecute this unfair and misguided attempt at government. It is just an attempt because true government understands, consults, listens and responds. This government does none of that and this bill is just an example of how they fail. It is a measure, true enough, but it is a measure of failure for this government.

[3:15 p.m.]

Surely it is not without some notice that one of the beneficiaries, I guess it is fair to

say, of this attack on the agricultural community of this misguided policy is the minister's former EA. Now, Bev Connell . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: What's he doing now?

MR. DEXTER: . . . is the guy who recommended that the Production Technology Branch at Agriculture be gutted.

AN HON. MEMBER: Where did he end up?

MR. DEXTER: Now, it is odd that people should ask, where did he end up, Mr. Speaker, because I can tell you where he ended up. He ends up as the number-two guy at ADI, which was created to provide services that were formerly provided by the government.

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As far as I can see, this is as far as the government's job creation plan goes. This is as far as it goes, Mr. Speaker, creating jobs for the friends of the government and leaving those in rural communities who need services, who need help, who need assistance, on their own. Maybe the Minister of Agriculture is taking a tip from the Minister of Health. Maybe this is his own kind of self-managed care. You're on your own. That is what this government says to the farming community.

It has been a record, Mr. Speaker, that is not very enviable. The Financial Measures (2001) Bill, in each clause, as you go through it and as you get a complete picture of what the Financial Measures (2001) Bill is designed to do, it becomes clear that this indeed is not a very pretty picture, that it is a sad and weak attempt on behalf of the government to try to put in place a plan that relies only on excuses, broken promises, failed commitments.

When you think about the opportunities that exist for the government to do something constructive, and you think about the things that they could have done, they could have kept their commitments. They could have invested in the people of this province, whether it is agriculture or in health. Mr. Speaker, there is no excuse for some of the things that we see now in education. For an example, there is just no excuse for the failure to keep pace with inflation. The Cape Breton board is only the best example; 53 positions that are going to be cut. I understand that as a result of attrition that that is down to about 30 less teachers, 30 less people who will be there to help the young people of this province get an education so that they can succeed, something that this government says they are committed to.

Are they committed to it or is it just words? Is it just a convenient slogan for a campaign? Is that all it is? Is that all that politics is about? Is that why people are feeling cynical and skeptical whenever they hear someone in our position stand up to speak about the important issues of the day? Is it just whatever it takes to get elected? Say whatever you can, find yourself a convenient slogan and perhaps a convenient scapegoat and you have the makings of a successful election campaign, is that all it is about?

If that is all it is about, Mr. Speaker, for the government, then I want them to know that the members of this caucus, the members of the New Democratic Party, we are here and we are here to say that you are not going to get away with it, and we are going to ensure that you meet your commitments to the people of Nova Scotia. We are not going to allow the Financial Measures (2001) Bill to simply waft through this Legislature, to simply be accepted as a fait accompli, because that is not what we are here to do. We are here to defend the interests of the people of this province and we intend to continue to do that.

Can you imagine, Mr. Speaker - I spoke just a second ago about the effect on education - you have teachers who are spending about $300 a year just to provide photocopy paper. They do it and they do it willingly because it is part of their commitment to their students, it is part of their commitment to the children, it is part of their commitment to the parents

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of those children, it is part of their commitment to the profession that they have chosen to pursue.

How does the government justify its actions in this regard? How does the Minister of Education walk out onto the steps and see the custodial staff of the schools of the Halifax Regional Municipality and justify the underfunding of the school boards to this province? It is difficult to imagine. We don't know, quite frankly, because one of the unfortunate parts of this Legislature is that although we are here to articulate what it is that the people of the province expect out of the government, the government members don't stand to express the concerns of their constituents or to explain why it is that they have undertaken these policy initiatives, why it was that you do this when you could have done the other, when you could have been constructive, when you could have put in place programming that would be of benefit to the people of the province, and instead you are bent on punishing them for electing you to do the job that they asked you to do.

Mr. Speaker, I have to say, it is a genuine shame - I heard someone say it is a genuine shame - because this government came to office full of its youthful exuberance, they felt like they were coming in on a cloud of absolute promise. How quickly that dissipated, and was replaced instead by a black cloud of cynicism, by an absolute disregard for the things that they promised to do, which is exemplified by things like this budget and the Financial Measures (2001) Bill. They completely forgot everything that was contained in their blue book. You remember it, I am sure the member for Dartmouth North recalls, they called it a clear course, I think some people called it a clear curse.

AN HON. MEMBER: You did, Darrell.

MR. DEXTER: It may even have been me who called it a clear curse, Mr. Speaker. I have to say it was an unfortunate predictor of the things to come, because rather than a clear course what we have seen is chaos that has been created through the government's restructuring of departments, just as an example; elimination of positions; people transferred to positions they weren't hired for; the agricultural community reeling under the loss of the Production Technology Branch of the Department of Agriculture.

Is this government repentant? Is this government on its feet, explaining to the people of the province why they are undertaking this policy?

AN HON. MEMBER: That is why we are here.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, they are not, and that is why we are here. We are here to tell people, in all the sectors, whether it is those who are affected by the policies of this government in the Department of Fisheries or the Department of Agriculture, or whether it is people who have been affected through the Human Resources initiatives undertaken by this government, or through Community Services, or through health care, or through

[Page 2083]

Education. It is not good enough. It is not good enough to introduce a piece of legislation, like the Financial Measures (2001) Bill, which fails on so many counts to produce, for the people of the province, an appropriate balance of services they need and the financial management they are looking for. It just fails.

Mr. Speaker, I began my address on the Financial Measures (2001) Bill by saying that these were performance measures, these were measures that were designed to look at whether or not the seniors of this province are better off? Do you think they are? I know that you often spoke about fishing licences and they were going to get rid of that. There wasn't going to be any charge for seniors to go fishing. That is a small thing. But, of course, they didn't. They left in place certain environmental charges. They never mentioned it, they left that out of their platform. It is just another tax on seniors.

The point that I want to make is that it is a breach of a commitment that they made. It is a breach of a commitment to a community. Then they go one step further (Interruption) I don't even compare the two, to tell you the truth, Mr. Speaker. With respect to seniors, the first thing that happens is they increase the co-pay for Pharmacare, despite the fact that we table in this House proof that that is going to have a negative effect on that community, probably a deleterious effect on the health of that population. The evidence is that it increases the mortality rate. It is absolutely shameful. The next year, what they do is they produce a $50 a day charge for those people who need long-term care beds. Even if there are none to go to, because they haven't invested any money in the creation of long-term care beds for these people to go to, even if there is no place for them to go, they still end up paying the $50 a day charge so the Minister of Health can pay his deputy minister $180,000, charging $50 a night to seniors. The comparison, I am sure, is as offensive to the people of this province as it is to me.

Mr. Speaker, that is why we are here. We are here to defend seniors. We are here to defend seniors and to tell the truth about what this government is doing about the way that they are harming this population, the way that they are taking money out of the pockets of those seniors. It is absolutely regrettable. We are not going to allow it to go unchallenged because that is our obligation to the people of the province.

Mr. Speaker, I want to say that I am glad to be able to have this opportunity to point out to the government the errors that are contained in the Financial Measures (2001) Bill and to, again, ask for their reconsideration. I know that, in all likelihood, over the next day or day and one half, this legislation will come to a final vote. But maybe, through our efforts and through the efforts of this caucus, we can help the government understand why these policies are misguided, why they are harmful to the people of this province. I want to thank you for the opportunity to address the Financial Measures (2001) Bill. (Applause)

[Page 2084]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Victoria.

MR. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, with your indulgence, I want to take some time of the House this afternoon to speak on Bill No. 30, An Act Respecting Certain Financial Measures, which provides for legislative changes associated with the budget. There are certain amendments to the legislation that are of concern to our Liberal caucus and I want to touch on those this afternoon, as well as other concerns that affect my constituency and all Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, we look at the amendments to the Assessment Act, which is one we have concerns about and Clause 4, the charge for a search under the Child Abuse Register for employment purposes. Another one that we have great reservations about, is Clause 31 which replaces Section 89 of the Revenue Act with a graduated fine structure. "Clause 19 repeals the . . . Municipal Grants Act that requires the Province to pay a capital grant to . . ." municipalities; the 2000-01 user fees, which is $25 million user fees from last year's budget, the 2001-02 user fees, which is $3 million in new user fees, about $3.00 from every Nova Scotian. The list goes on and on.

[3:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, we believe it is time for the Nova Scotia Government to look seriously at spending smarter and better, rather than spending more. This bill represents a failure of the government to properly manage the finances of the province. It is an admission by the government that it has failed to rein in spending. What does it have to do next but raise taxes; raise taxes in every way they can, under whichever name they come up with each day that they sit in the House. Now, most of the bill relates to user fees, which the Auditor General has pointed out are mostly taxes. The reality is that this government is also raising income taxes.

We have talked about bracket creep before, and I want to touch on it again today. Thanks to the Canadian Taxpayers Federation, we are finding out what this really means for Nova Scotian families. Now we have called on the government to end bracket creep, which will cause the government to forgo revenues in the amount of $12 million, this year alone.

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal caucus is calling on the Government of Nova Scotia to immediately implement full indexation to the tax system, and relieve the growing burden on Nova Scotians. Full indexation would amount to a tax freeze and the fundamental reform of the provincial tax system. Indexing tax credits and tax brackets to inflation would provide fairness, transparency and accountability to the tax system in Nova Scotia. Now, I want to repeat, we want a tax freeze, we are now asking for it, and hope we will get a tax cut. Until this government freezes taxes, there can be no tax reform.

[Page 2085]

Mr. Speaker, after the 2000 federal budget, all provinces decoupled and set their own tax rates. This provided the government with an opportunity to freeze taxes by implementing full indexation of tax credits and tax brackets to inflation, but, unlike the federal government, the Nova Scotia Government chose not to freeze taxes; $12 million in new income taxes in 2001, creating an increased burden to all Nova Scotians during the Hamm mandate.

Mr. Speaker, if inflation stays at about 2.5 per cent over the next three years, Nova Scotians could pay approximately $30 million more in provincial income tax, in addition to the extra $12 million collected in 2001. Think about $42 million in hidden tax increases, and John Hamm said he would not raise taxes. Can the provincial government afford to fully index tax brackets? Yes, of course it can. While spending pressures in Health and Education

continue, the government has and will receive unprecedented revenue. Mr. Speaker, $512 million in unexpected revenue since the fall of 1999 and $636 million in additional transfers from Ottawa through until 2006 by APEC. If the government can't balance a budget and pay for programs out of $1.148 billion in extra money, there is something wrong with the government. It doesn't deserve to govern.

Now some will ask, isn't bracket creep just an issue that affects wealthy families? Not so, Mr. Speaker. In fact, the burden of bracket creep on low-income families is most harmful. The Caledon Institute in Ottawa issued a report in June 1998 outlining the effects of partial indexation on low-income families. For example, from 1986 to 1998, more than 1 million Canadians and 30,000 Nova Scotians were added to the tax rolls as a result of a partial indexation of rates and credits; a further 1.9 million Canadian taxpayers and 57,000 Nova Scotians went from the low bracket to the middle bracket; 600,000 Canadians and 18,000 Nova Scotians went from the middle bracket to the top bracket.

Prior to Paul Martin's budget in 2000, the province could do little about bracket creep, now it can change the system but the Tories refused. How many more Nova Scotian families will see their small income gains go down the tubes because of this government and how many poor families will remain poor because the income tax collector hits them year in and year out, with each minor inflation-based raise? Mr. Speaker, I think it is a shame on this government and it is a shame on the Premier and a shame on those who support the Premier.

I want to go back to the revenue side for a moment. I will repeat, from 1995 to 2005, this government will receive at least $1.1 billion in extra revenue; $1.1 billion or about what we spend on secondary and post-secondary education each year, but still this government has to tack on user fees and worse still, it still runs huge deficits. It spent $70 million more on debt service charges last year because they added $1 billion to the debt. Let's set the record straight once and for all. I want the Premier and other Tories to check these numbers, $1.3 billion added to the net debt in 2000-01, not 1999-2000. The entire figure is attributed to this government and this government only. The Premier and his ministers say, no, that's a Liberal debt from 1999 to 2000, but it is not, it's the Premier's and it's theirs. It's a shame that they

[Page 2086]

don't admit it is theirs and it's a big boy. Once again the Premier says, no, it was the Liberals' but, Mr. Speaker, and to the Premier, it's theirs.

Mr. Speaker, again the Premier brings up what was added to the debt in 1999 and says well, that's Liberal, but new accounting procedures added Sysco and Nova Scotia Resources Limited's liabilities that should have been booked in the past, they are now part of those debts that the Premier and the ministers claim are Liberals'. Let's face facts, Sysco's debt and liabilities have been building for 30 years under the control of all governments. So which Premier do we lay the blame on? Was it Premier Smith, Premier Stanfield or maybe Premier Regan, Premier Buchanan, Cameron, Bacon, Savage, MacLellan? Let's be honest, 30 years is a lot of debt and the people of Nova Scotia will pay for a long, long time.

Nova Scotia Resources Limited is a different story. NSRL was Tory made and the bulk of the debt was drawn up by Tory Governments. The only value that Nova Scotia Resources Limited has today is because Premier MacLellan purchased 8.4 per cent of the Sable project and the right of first refusal. The right of first refusal didn't cost the taxpayers a dime and Nova Scotia will be able to recoup the losses incurred by Premier Cameron and Premier Buchanan.

I want to briefly turn to tobacco fines. This government and the Minister of Justice say that the fines as they are cannot be enforced. That is not true. People have been convicted under the old fines and they have paid, or tried to pay, the fines. The question that we ask is, who got to this government? We do not know yet, but over time we will find out. It is not fair to say, and we won't go so far as to say, that this government is in bed with organized crime - and I don't believe that just yet, Mr. Speaker - but tobacco smuggling is a mainstay of organized crime and any reduction of fines placed into their hands. By lowering fines, the government is abetting organized crime. Next to tobacco smuggling, organized crime is involved with drugs, prostitution and other such crimes.

During the last election, the Tories said they would get tough on crime. We have heard that over and over again. We were all told that it was mostly federal and they knew that, but still they wanted to get tough on crime. Well, they got tough. The one area that they do have control over is tobacco and what did they do? They lowered the fines. In the end, what we have is a government, by its own action, supporting organized crime. Sometimes you wonder if they don't have a membership in the Hell's Angels club out in Fairview.

Tobacco smuggling is a serious organized criminal activity that has to be stopped and yet this government lets it go. The Minister of Justice should bow his head in shame and apologize to everyone touched by organized criminal activities in our province.

The minister said he would get prostitutes off the streets, he said he would be tough on prostitution. Maybe the minister is fighting prostitution by lowering tobacco fines. Think of it, if organized crime gets more money for tobacco, they may be less inclined to turn

[Page 2087]

young girls out into the street. Well, we all know this is not going to happen. Organized crime will use tobacco smuggling money to expand and reach into our homes through the Internet and into our communities through drugs and prostitution.

[3:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, let's not forget about home invasions. The Justice Minister said he would get tough on home invasions. Well, all he did was issue a video telling seniors to lock their doors. That was something they knew already. What is the relation between tobacco smuggling and home invasion? Again, it is organized crime. Organized crime uses the proceeds from tobacco smuggling to extend their reach and expand their organizations. People who beat up seniors for money, valuables and credit cards have to move the merchandise somewhere. That is where organized crime comes in.

Mr. Speaker, the other sad fact is that many home invasions occur so people can fund their drug habit and other habits they may have. Again, by supporting tobacco smuggling this government is supporting all other organized crime activities, like the trafficking of heroin, cocaine, crack, ecstasy and Dilaudid. We believe that this minister could do something about smuggling fines before Nova Scotians get hurt. Who is the minister catering to? This issue is the ultimate disgrace of this government and the Justice Minister.

Mr. Speaker, budgets are a series of choices. The governments exist to make choices and sometimes tough choices for people. That is why they were elected. This government chose not only to continue to run the deficit, but the continued growth of the net debt is astounding. In just the last 12 months the debt has risen by $1.3 billion. Last year, the Tories spent $70 million in interest for the extra debt they racked up. Take the $70 million the Tories wasted on interest because of poor management, if that money were available for other uses we wouldn't see teacher layoffs in our district school boards today and we probably wouldn't see hospital emergency rooms closed because of doctor and nurse shortages like we see in North Sydney today. This government was elected, partially, to control the cost of the debt, so they said, but they have failed. Not only has it increased dramatically every year since they took office, it is projected to grow every year that they are in office. The debt is a real problem, and if the Finance Minister does not take it seriously this province will be swallowed up in debt.

Mr. Speaker, another issue is the promised tax cut they have been dangling in front of Nova Scotians until the fourth year of their mandate. The reality is that by the time things like bracket creep, the money they withheld from the last federal tax cut and new user fees introduced by this government are considered, we will long have spent and we will long have paid for the 10 per cent that we are supposed to get back. At best, we are going to get our own money back from those extra taxes. No matter how many ways you want to slice it or cut it, Nova Scotia will not be getting what they thought they were but, instead, they will be getting their own money back, maybe.

[Page 2088]

Mr. Speaker, the issues we have touched on today are important because our caucus is looking straight ahead and we are focused ahead, not just on the seats across the aisle, but on reform in government after the next election. This government says it is continuing both to enhance tourism in the province and to improving roads across our province. We all thought, maybe, that would happen and that it might be on their list of promises to Nova Scotians during the campaign of 1999. That made many of us happy in the rural areas of the province because roads are an issue that many MLAs in the rural areas fight and talk about day after day. I am sure 60 per cent to 70 per cent of the calls coming in to my office are about the state of our roads.

Mr. Speaker, many of the highways in our province attract people to Nova Scotia, and one of the roads in my riding, the Cabot Trail, has been long since been a major attraction to people coming to Cape Breton. A lot of people come to Cape Breton just to drive around the Cabot Trail, 185 miles, which winds through the riding of Victoria, but sadly the roads are in very poor condition. We felt a little relief and a bit of comfort when we realized we were having a Tourism Minister from Cape Breton. We thought this minister will get some asphalt. What we see is roads deteriorating year after year, and still this government talks of enhancing tourism and improving roads. Last year we had half a kilometre of paving in my riding, on the Cabot Trail.

I know the Minister of Transportation and Public Works is out in the lounge, presumably, but the issue that I will raise in this House every time I stand on my feet is the Church Bridge in Middle River, which was put out of commission in the last days of February by their own vehicle, a snowplow. Regrettably it wasn't from a private operator because, if it was that individual or that company would be responsible to replace that structure. Unfortunately, it was a snowplow belonging to the Department of Transportation and Public Works. The bridge is still out of commission, waiting and waiting. The residents of Middle River become more frustrated day after day, but still I will bring their concerns to the House at every opportunity I can. The bridge poses some very dangerous situations in the threat of fire, for emergency vehicles. The alternate route around, to the west side of Middle River, is through another old bridge which is also in terrible shape.

Mr. Speaker, one resident called me last week and said he was notified that his insurance went up 7 per cent because of the distance his house all of sudden became from the fire hall; it created a 7 per cent increase in his insurance. The agent told him if the bridge is fixed, we will take that off your insurance next year. Those are things that I can never remember in my lifetime, where a bridge falls down and a minister will stand in the House and say they don't need it. That had to be the statement of the year: they don't need it. I don't know why they put it there 100 years ago. Anyway, we will continue.

Mr. Speaker, I want to talk about another situation. This gentleman came back to Victoria to retire in a little area called Washabuck. He had been a school-teacher in Quebec for all his life, retired, and moved back to . . .

[Page 2089]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member is telling a story, and it is difficult to hear.

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, I will attempt to raise my voice, while it may be a little difficult. I hear so much of it, that I sort of want to be on the other side.

Mr. Speaker, I am talking about a retired school teacher who moved back to his home after teaching many years in Quebec. He applied for a driver's license. Although this man had the perfect driving record in Quebec - and he had commendations to prove that - on his medical application he mentioned that he had sleep apnea. Now I don't know how that should affect his driving. It certainly didn't affect his driver's license in Quebec. Whether they figured he would be driving here in his sleep or when he got up in the night he would go out. Anyway, it took this man eight months to get a driver's license, even though he proved that he had a great driving record. For eight months, this poor fellow had to use a taxi service or whatever means of transportation he could in order to survive. The reason I point this out is that in rural Nova Scotia, we seem to be lost in this terrible, tangled web of red tape. Not only that, the Middle River bridge and the list goes on and on of this government's inattention to rural Nova Scotia.

During my years as Minister of Natural Resources, it was certainly an encouragement and a bit of a ray of hope to see that the government was going to support the silviculture industry in our province. Mr. Speaker, that was good news because the forest industry in Nova Scotia employs up to 20,000 Nova Scotians. As you know, it is worth $1.4 billion to the economy. In 1997, the previous Liberal Government was proud to bring in the framework for a call towards sustainable forestry. This was done after years of consultation with all the stakeholders. I know the small sawmill operators agree they should pay their fair share to sustain our forests, but they feel the fee structure developed by the current Minister of Natural Resources is unfair, especially when the industry is facing its lowest prices in 10 years. I think if the minister was really concerned about those who make a living from our forests, he would suspend the fee charged to small operators and they can better determine the impact this would have on their business.

Mr. Speaker, the Progressive Conservative blue book - remember that famous blue book - promised $8 million for silviculture, but it did not say that this money would come from a huge tax on small sawmill operators. I had hoped that the Throne Speech would have included some plan to make sure the responsibility for the sustainable forestry fund is shared equally by woodlot owners, sawmillers and pulp companies.

Mr. Speaker, I am sure the people in my riding will, no doubt, take note of the new, clean drinking water plan mentioned in the Throne Speech. We have recently been informed that the Department of Environment office was closed in Baddeck. That means there is no such office service in the constituency of Victoria and all concerns of an environmental

[Page 2090]

nature will be addressed from an office in Sydney. More attacks on rural Nova Scotians and the residents of my riding.

[4:00 p.m.]

I am sure this might precipitate some difficulty in having water testing and septic tank monitoring done in my riding. As for sewage treatment, thankfully the federal infrastructure funding program will address some of the problems of sewage disposal in the village of Baddeck, something that the previous Liberal Government had committed to before their budget was voted down.

I want to talk about another gentleman. I get some delight in some of the calls that come to my office and some of the articles they will put in the paper about their life in rural Nova Scotia and in particular, the riding of Victoria. There was a gentleman from New Haven who claims he called, unsuccessfully, several offices, probably including mine, in search of a water cooler since his well was contaminated. He was very fortunate to have his concerns addressed, apparently. According to his letter to the editor in the Cape Breton Post, all it took was a call to the Premier's office and he had his water cooler. Can you imagine that? That is good news for anyone with water problems - all they have to do is call this number: 1-800-267-1993. You will get a water cooler just by making a call to the Premier's office. I am sure there are lots of residents who will be calling the Premier's office looking for a water cooler.

We believe it is time that Nova Scotians took this government on on higher user fees. It is something this government has been floating since they came to power - user fees. It is a new invention to the word, taxes. It is a government that is desperate to even suggest bumping up user fees and as I mentioned in the House before, the only user fees that I hear people asking for is a user fee for twinning Highway No. 101. They would be prepared to accept that as a user fee, but, no, the government is not interested in helping those people.

This Tory Government is trying to scare Nova Scotians into thinking user pay options are necessary in our health system and in other things relative to governing Nova Scotia. I think this Premier wants to see how far he can push Nova Scotians into believing our health care system is in worse shape than it actually is so that will give him an opportunity to create more opportunities for user fees. I don't think this government has any plan for health or anything else except the plan for user fees.

Let us talk about ambulance service and the increase in that over the last year. Instead of a flat rate, Nova Scotians who need an ambulance will have to pay now for each kilometre they use it for. This means that a senior citizen may think twice before calling an ambulance because they live too far away from a hospital.

[Page 2091]

Over the last few days, the scarcity of ambulance attendants in the Highlands of Cape Breton has been brought to my attention. If there is an area in this province where we need a good ambulance service and good paramedics, it is in the Highlands of Cape Breton. One ambulance operating from the foot of Smokey to Bay St. Lawrence or to Meat Cove. One ambulance and why? They have people who are willing to be trained but still this government has no plan to train people. That's a shame. The waits could be anywhere from an hour to two hours depending on the condition of the roads. Instead of the service getting better, it is getting worse. It was the Liberal Government that gave Nova Scotians a good ambulance service, and what has happened to it in the last two or three years? It has been going downhill and it continues to go downhill.

Mr. Speaker, when we were in government, we tried to explore what options were available for removing ambulance fees, not raising them. But this government is going in the opposite direction. It seems that this government wants to make health care costs so expensive that Nova Scotians can't afford to use them and user fees are an option of the last resort because this government has no plan. Believe it as you wish, user fees are a tax, pure and simple, and it could be another name for a two-tiered health care system. The idea, as we said before, is straight from Alberta.

Mr. Speaker, we believe, as we heard today about the closure of the emergency room in North Sydney, that health care in this province is deteriorating. It is deteriorating because this government has no plan and if they keep on implementing the user fees, you can expect the floodgates will continue to be open to user fees. If Nova Scotians are forced to pay higher user fees, the government will discover it has an easy way out of making hard decisions, and hard decisions are all about controlling costs. The Liberals had a plan to control costs in the Health Investment Fund. If the Tories want to control costs in health, they should look at giving the deputy minister a pay cut. He is the highest paid deputy minister in Nova Scotia's history. This is the man who suggested that Pharmacare co-pay could be raised to as high as $1,000.

Mr. Speaker, I think the time has come that we need to put a roadblock up to user fees. The federal government will not stand for it and I think this government is pushing the envelope too far on the Canada Health Act, and you can expect that the feds won't tolerate it for too, too long.

With these few remarks, Mr. Speaker, I will probably take my seat and let another speaker have the floor, but before I do, I think that the Tories have a carrot on a stick to form the new taxes that they have raised through user fees for a promise later. The growth of the budget takes more money from program delivery each and every year as it continues to grow. I will close by saying, Nova Scotians must ask themselves a question, how much longer can this province survive without a plan? This government has no plan, they are flying from day to day hoping that some piece of luck will happen and they will find a new source of revenue

[Page 2092]

from Ottawa or from more user fees. But the time is now when we need a government with a plan for the future of this province. Thank you.

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

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, as I take to my feet again in this House to point out to members opposite, to point out to you, the concerns that I hear about in the constituency that I represent, I want to make it very clear I know why I am in this House. I know why the NDP is in this House in the numbers that we have and the numbers that we are going to have in the future, because Nova Scotians know and the people of Timberlea-Prospect know that when they elected this particular MLA, they elected somebody who was going to stand up for them and have a say on their behalf.

Mr. Speaker, let's be very clear on that. Let's be very clear that, unlike members over there in those backbenches, unlike members on that side of the House, who are content to stay in their seats, I am going to do the work that I was elected to do, I am going to speak up, I am going to bring to this House's attention the concerns that members of my constituency, and people from throughout Nova Scotia have brought to my attention. They know Nova Scotians aren't going to be fooled - Nova Scotians know that they can count on this caucus, they can count on these MLAs, they can count on our Acting Leader to have his say, to have our say on their behalf.

So, again, I want to have the attention of government members opposite. I want to review some history. I don't want to revisit, I don't need revisionism in history, I want to review some history. I want to talk about some of the concerns that individual Nova Scotians have brought to my attention. I have to begin with an issue that I have brought up in this House, and I am going to bring it up again, because Nova Scotians have long memories. Nova Scotians have memories about certain promises that were made. I think, again, it has to be put on the record exactly what was said about a crucial issue to all Nova Scotians.

That issue was in the blue book on Page 42, under the title Transportation, that government made the promise that they would dedicate all taxes raised through motor vehicle licensing and fuel sales to highway construction and maintenance to provide a solid base for highway spending. There is no mention of, oh, based upon the fact that the federal government has to contribute so much; there is no mention of, based upon the fact that there has to be some kind of Liberal kissing cousin who is going to come forward with some money here. When that particular piece came out in the blue book, I must admit, and I ran into people on the doorstep, who said to me, you know, Bill, that is a good idea, and you have to admit it is a good idea.

It is a good idea; it is an idea based upon the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, who brought it up when he sat on this side, at that time as a member of the Third Party, when he conscientiously brought it up as the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit

[Page 2093]

Valley, when he was doing his job, speaking up for them. But what has happened in the meantime is obviously that member that I just mentioned has decided to sit in his place and not talk about the money that has been raised, when you look at the motive fuel taxes, when you look at the Registry of Motor Vehicles.

Mr. Speaker, I want to table this document, because that member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley should perhaps pay attention to this particular item. This is an item based upon how that government was elected. Nova Scotians are not going to allow this government to forget that. More importantly, this caucus, this NDP member for Timberlea-Prospect, it is very clear why I stand in this House on many occasions. I know I hear members opposite say, well, eventually he will get around to some of his students, eventually he will get around to some of the students who become nurses. I consider that as my responsibility. They elected me, and I have to speak up for them, because those people in Timberlea-Prospect and Nova Scotians know they can count on the NDP to stand in this place and to have our say on their behalf. That is what is going to happen again today.

[4:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I want to turn again, if I can, to another really relevant document in making government accountable, and I am on Page 5 of Strong Leadership . . . . a clear course, where it said, under the commitment, "A common sense government that will be open and straightforward." But you look further down, and in Strong Leadership . . . . a clear course it says it will, "Give MLAs greater freedom to represent the views of their constituents;" There it is. What happened along the way? Did this fall off the turnip cart? It seems to me that that is an idea of great credence. That is an idea that I stand, as I do today, again, in this House, and I am going to speak on items of concern that have been brought to this member of this Legislature by my constituents.

Whatever happened to allowing - if we look at it again, "Give MLAs greater freedom to represent the view of their constituents;" So I assume that none of those members over there, who seldom speak, have heard any complaints about roads. I assume that nobody over there has heard complaints about, well, maybe it is a long time to wait in a doctor's office, maybe some of the shortages, when we look at, perhaps - and there are members for the Annapolis Valley over there and I have heard Jim Gunn, the superintendent for that system, a Jim Gunn who I know well because of my prior career as an educator, Jim Gunn is speaking up. Jim Gunn is speaking up about the fact that he is going to be in a tough position as a superintendent of that school board. But, you know, I don't hear a member opposite, I don't hear anybody who is representing the Valley step up and say, we have heard from our constituents about this.

The people in the Valley, I want you to know, Mr. Speaker, who I hear from, some of them are students who I have run into over the past number of weeks, they expect me to stand in my place and speak up for them on their behalf and that is why I am here. Let's be

[Page 2094]

clear about that. So members opposite who get frustrated and concerned and upset with the fact that we constantly bring attention to matters in this House, that is because we are doing our job. We are doing our job because, in many cases, some of those members for the Annapolis Valley aren't doing their job. They aren't doing their job because they aren't speaking up on behalf of the concerns that have been brought to their attention by constituents. I will try to talk to the Premier about it, or I will talk to a particular Cabinet minister about it; they are not doing their job.

Tonight, Mr. Speaker, there is a very important meeting in one of the communities that I represent. That community is down in Whites Lake on the Prospect Road. Now if you have been following the media, as I know you do, and you have been reading the press, do you know that there are a number of key activists who live in the communities along the Prospect Road who are concerned about the safety on that road. The Minister of Tourism, and the Minister of Transportation and Public Works were invited to those meetings. To the credit of the Minister of Transportation and Public Works, he has replied. He has replied that because of his commitments here in the House he is unable to attend that meeting and he will send other people to be there.

I am sure that the Deputy House Leader, just as capably, on a Monday evening, could make sure that the productive hours that we have ahead of us here until the hour of dismissal at 10:00 p.m., I am very sure that that member for Eastern Shore could have taken that job on. The Minister of Transportation and Public Works, and the Minister of Tourism should have gone out of their way to do their job, their job to be accountable to the people who use the Prospect Road.

I want you to know, Mr. Speaker, I will be at that meeting tonight. I will bring the concerns of those people to this House because the people of Timberlea-Prospect elected me to do the job and I am going to continue to do that job. So, tomorrow, when the opportunity arises, whether it is in resolutions or questions or debate, I am going to bring those concerns forward so those members and those ministers are aware of the fact that the people who elected me are expecting me to continue to bring their concerns to this House. Not by a quiet letter to a Cabinet Minister, not by a nudge and a wink and is there any chance you might be able to take care of this or that particular road or particular issue, but by standing in your place, by doing the job that you were elected to do.

Have you noticed the people in this caucus, the people who are members of the NDP caucus, they stand in their place, they speak up, they have their say on behalf of their constituents and on behalf of Nova Scotians and that is because we know why we are here. We are here to represent the concerns of Nova Scotians, Nova Scotians who bring issues to our attention all the time, so I am going to bring forward some concerns that have been brought to my attention.

[Page 2095]

I want to bring the attention of the House to a senior citizen named Harry Beuree. Harry Beuree, recently the winner of the St. Margarets Bay Citizen of the Year has had some bad luck over the last couple of months. He himself has been in very poor health and unfortunately his son was in a very difficult accident in which his son is now wheelchair bound and it is his son that Harry Beuree is concerned about.

Young Willie Beuree is in a situation where he will have to be placed in a seniors home because there is no place available at this time in long-term care for a young man such as William Beuree. The concern about that is, what happens? Well, you write a letter to the Minister of Health, you make sure that you have your say with the various people in the hospitals, but eventually, what does that constituent do? That constituent contacts his MLA. The MLA speaks up. The MLA has his say on behalf of Harry Beuree, a senior who is in a very difficult spot with a young son - not a young son, actually he was a student of mine, so he is more than 19 - that William Beuree is in a bad situation because this government hasn't been proactive and looked at having available long-term care beds for that particular man. But I have to do that. There is nothing in the Financial Measures (2001) Bill about that. As the MLA for Timberlea-Prospect, Harry Beuree knows that he can bring to my attention and I will bring it to this House's attention, the concerns that particular constituent has.

I want to mention, for example, two outstanding young people that I was fortunate enough to teach. I can see members opposite going, oh, we are going to hear another story about students. Well, let's look at this. Who is our future in this province? Laura Boutilier is a first year student at Mount Saint Vincent University. Laura Boutilier is in debt. She is finishing off her first year, she is going to get herself an education, but along the way there doesn't seem to be much caring and support for some of these students at the university level. There doesn't seem to be that concern and I am in that situation too, with two daughters - the concern about tuition fees. The concern about the lack of assistance when it comes to education, whether it is post-secondary education or whether it is with our school system.

There is nothing in the Financial Measures (2001) Bill that is going to address that issue so that is why the members of this caucus are standing in their place making sure that they are having their say about the obvious failing of the Financial Measures (2001) Bill and the fact that it doesn't address an issue such as assistance for Laura Boutilier and her education.

Of course, I have to talk about some teachers. I want to specifically bring to the House's attention the fact that I had the privilege of working with some teachers - and I am sure the member for Hants East will do the same thing - but I know some teachers who have reached into their pocket for school supplies again this year. I am aware of the fact that at Brookside Junior High when it comes down to the fact that you don't have enough materials for your classes, you don't have enough paper for your final exams, there are teachers who are reaching into their pockets, who are coming to school with enough paper. Is that part of their job description? Is that part of what a teacher is trained to do? That you must, after all,

[Page 2096]

supply the very goods - and there are teachers in the past over there - have they in the past been put in that situation?

That concern has been brought to my attention and I challenge the teachers - those members of the teaching profession who are on that opposite side - why don't they stand in their place? Why don't they talk about the concerns of the school system? Instead of sitting there, making sure that they after all, can say, nudge, nudge, wink, wink, well, I will talk to the Minister of Education about that. These concerns have to be brought forth and discussed publicly.

I want to talk about an outstanding woman in the community of Timberlea. Her name is Sherry Larade. Sherry has two young children who have been mainstreamed. I think all members of the House know the mainstreaming philosophy, and the fact is that some of these young people do benefit from being in the regular classrooms with all of the attention that is necessary in grades of all levels. But when you mainstream students - and I want members to understand this, and I know there are members opposite there - into a classroom, there must be support workers there with you. As a classroom teacher, you do need the assistance of teachers' aides. You do need the assistance of other people who are going to, with their professional expertise, be able to help you as the classroom teacher.

That concern, and that lack of attention, when it comes to teachers' aides - now you can say, well, that is the school boards' business, or if it is a medical problem, that is the district health authorities' problem - that is a cop-out. That is downloading, that is not facing up to the music, that is not making the decisions that they were elected to make. That is not doing what we are doing on this side of the House.

We are speaking up for Nova Scotians; we are defending the rights of Nova Scotians, whether it is in the classrooms, with young people such as the Larade children being mainstreamed, or whether it is a concern about teachers having to reach into their own pockets, that is what we are doing as New Democrats. I want members of this House to know, that is what we will continue to do as New Democrats. We will stand; we will have our say; we will represent Nova Scotians and their concerns about this particular government.

I want to go back to a past student, and I have mentioned her before in this House. She is a nurse, her name is Melissa Cavicchi. Melissa Cavicchi and the frustrations and the stress that that young woman is put under. She is the young woman that I happened to mention the other day, when I mentioned Mrs. Cavicchi's poem, this hour has $22. Quite a poem, about the stress, about the concerns that she has as a professional health giver. I want the Minister of Health to know, it would benefit him immeasurably to have the opportunity to discuss that piece of poetry with Melissa Cavicchi. She has brought it to her MLA's attention, and as a member of this caucus, I shared that poem with our Health Critic and our Acting Leader. That member has been in contact with Mrs. Cavicchi, and in turn, of course, I as the MLA, again, have taken the responsibility to make sure that I speak up on behalf of this outstanding

[Page 2097]

young woman and her career, which she feels has been neglected by those members on the opposite side.

Mr. Speaker, there is truly a lack of vision here. There is a lack of vision. We could talk about the lack of vision by looking at a couple of particular instances. Let's look at them. On Saturday, hopefully you had the opportunity to make sure that you, somewhere in your travels, were in attendance at the Day of Mourning. The Day of Mourning is one of those days where workers across this province pause for a few moments and actually place wreaths in remembrance. On Saturday, at the J.K. Bell Building in the Bayers Lake Industrial Park, I was joined by our Acting Leader - and, to her credit, I was joined by the member for Halifax Bedford Basin - as we paid tribute to the injured workers and, of course, those unfortunate numbers of workers who had been killed in the workplace.

[4:30 p.m.]

Aside from the weather, that was, if you remember, as close to a November day as possible; in my comments I brought forward at that time, it reminded me of Remembrance Day. The message that you have to bring forth to the families that were there, to the fellow workers who were there, is that we will not forget, we will remember. The people who were there afterwards at the reception came up to me and they said to me, on a number of occasions, we know we can count on the NDP continually bringing forth the concern about the needs for all the regulations that should be tabled in this House immediately.

Occupational health and safety is an issue which cannot be continually put on the shelf to collect dust. There are regulations that are ready; there are regulations that should be brought forward. But, no, this government hasn't had the vision to do that. Instead, this minister is allowing it to collect dust and not bringing it forward. Occupational health and safety, and that lack of regulations is a threat to workers all across this province. That is a threat where people going to work in the morning sometimes might look at their young children and not know whether they are going to see them again that evening.

Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, as you are well aware, there have been a number of serious accidents just recently in metro, and the good member for Cape Breton Centre brought it to the attention of the Minister of Environment and Labour. The concern that happened in Amherst, who does this work? The member for Cape Breton Centre did the work for the member for Cumberland, who did not stand in his place and speak and ask and want to know details about what had happened on that work site. The people in Cumberland North, they know when it comes to an occupational health and safety concern, who can they count on to speak up? Who can they count on to have their say on their behalf? They can count on the member for Cape Breton Centre, the Labour Critic, for the New Democratic Party. That is why we are in this House because we are going to continue to stand up for injured workers.

[Page 2098]

Mr. Speaker, I hear from workers who deal with workers' compensation all the time, the frustration, the absolute anger that these people have with that system, the workers' compensation program, and the delays with the lawyers and the doctors. Someone gets hurt at work, through no fault of their own, and what do they have to go through? Months and months of paper delays, months and months of paper chases, as the bureaucracy at the WCB literally puts these people through the grinder. Who do they call? Who do these injured workers call out of frustration and out of anger? They call MLAs. They expect us to stand in our place and they expect us to speak up for them. I am, again, bringing concerns about WCB.

I look at Armand Lanteigne, who lives in West Dover, injured through no fault of his own, but he has to go through an appeal. He is one of these men who was injured so badly with the crane in Bedford, almost one and a half years ago. Now, what is he going to have to face? Social assistance. A man who worked hard his whole life, what does he get in return? He gets the frustration. He gets the concern of dealing with the WCB. Who does he turn to to assist him to go to the appeal? I am looking forward to going to that appeal on August 29th. It is in my book, August 29th, WCB appeal, with Armand Lanteigne.

Armand Lanteigne of West Dover asked his MLA. I know there are members over there opposite who have been asked to do the same thing, but I don't hear them. Nova Scotians know they can count on the NDP. They can count on us to stand and have our say. Armand Lanteigne knows however he voted in the last election makes no difference. That man knows, as an injured worker, he has to go through an appeal. Everybody gets an appeal. Everybody has to go through an appeal, it seems. Does the WCB just look at a case and say this is a justifiable case? No, you have to see our doctor. We don't count on your doctor, you have to go to our doctor. We don't want to hear from your lawyer. Don't get a lawyer, whatever you do, you will have to deal with our lawyers.

The concern comes down that when Nova Scotians across this province want to make sure that they are being heard in the people's House, do you know who they contact? They contact the NDP. They contact these members in this caucus right here. They contact the Education Critic, they contact the Labour Critic, the Health Critic and these people and other critics have brought to the floor of this House individual concerns, because, Mr. Speaker, we are doing our job. We are holding this government accountable. We are doing what we were elected to do, to speak up for Nova Scotians because many of those members over there aren't doing their job, they are not doing their job.

Now, I heard earlier the honourable member for Victoria talk about clean drinking water and we have heard about Garland, we have heard about Goodwood. You know, Goodwood is the home of New Era Farms and I want you to know that that is a concern for Nova Scotians all across this province, clean drinking water. Those concerns, whether they are from Garland or whether they are from Goodwood, who speaks up for them? The NDP does, the NDP speaks up for them.

[Page 2099]

When that young woman who owns Golda's Cafe wanted support, when that young woman who runs that business on the Prospect Road, out of frustration and out of concern, knew nowhere else to go, what did she say to me when she first called last summer? I knew I could count on the NDP for speaking up about this. Safe drinking water in Goodwood, safe drinking water in Garland, safe drinking water all across this province is a concern of Nova Scotians. Nova Scotians know when it comes to the environment and clean drinking water, they can call us and we will raise those issues. They have been raised in this House before by members of this caucus and I want members opposite to know, I want Cabinet Ministers to know, we will continue to bring those issues up.

In fact, I know there are members over there who in the past, and hopefully in the future, when they need an issue addressed and they are getting nowhere with the frontbench, you bring it to us, we will bring it up. We will deal with the issue for you, we will make sure the Cabinet Minister is put on the record publicly. Bring it on, Nova Scotians are doing it, you might as well do it too. We will bring the concerns forward, we will address the issues that are important to your constituents because we hear from many of them anyway. They are saying, what is the point of dealing with the government MLAs, they are not going to bring it up, they are not going to deal with the issue. They are going to make sure that they, after all, they will come to the NDP. They might even come to the honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect, you know.

I want you to know that I have heard from Nova Scotians on an issue and it is an issue that is near and dear to Nova Scotians from one end of the province to the other. That issue is, of course, non-resident ownership. I have boxes of contacts of people, I have files of people who have brought that concern to my attention. Initially, why did I bring that to this House? Because of the people of Terence Bay, because of the people of Blind Bay, because of the constituents in that area that wanted this issue addressed.

Somebody over there on the opposite side must be doing their job because what they are saying is call 876-2472, that is the MLA for Timberlea-Prospect, he will speak up about that issue. (Applause) I will share that list with members opposite. If they want to know from Antigonish, if they want to know from the Bras d'Or Lakes, if they want to know from someone on the South Shore from Lunenburg to Yarmouth, if they want to know who has been in contact, they know, we will contact the NDP because they will speak up for us, they will do our job, they will represent our views on non-resident ownership.

You know, that non-resident ownership that I have received all those calls from, at one time there was another government that sat over there and they used to laugh at us, they used to laugh at me and say, it is not a big issue, what are you talking about, it is not a big issue. It is only 1 per cent, I heard a member say one day. It wasn't even his department but he was an expert anyway; he speaks on everything now. That member stood and said, it is not a big issue, why do you keep bringing this up.

[Page 2100]

Now Voluntary Planning, to the credit of the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations, has appointed an excellent committee that is in the process of having their first meeting this evening, I believe they are having a meeting in Antigonish. Now, it would seem to me, if I was the MLA for Antigonish, I would be at the Voluntary Planning meeting tonight because I would know the Antigonish Fire Hall is the place for me to be. There is also another one tonight incidentally down in the Cornwallis Park, is that correct, in Clementsport. Now there would be another member who should be out there making sure that he or she is doing their job. I want it to be made very clear that when people want an issue raised in this House they know who to call - they call the NDP.

Let's have a look at a concern that one particular member opposite has dealt with, sort of, and that is tourism. I am concerned about tourism, it is one of those estimates debates where we get like an hour at the end of estimates, it seems. You know, a separate department was created for tourism. Now that minister has a huge responsibility. If that minister isn't doing his job and speaking up on behalf of his constituents, it would seem to me that there should be much more attention. He should be using his influence to make sure that certain roads - now let's talk about the Cabot Trail in particular. The Cabot Trail, now that is a road of some significance to that minister, but is he doing his job speaking up about the fact that road needs major attention?

Let's look at some other roads. We can look at the Durham Road which, of course, is that famous road that we take when we are travelling to Prince Edward Island as, avoiding the bridge, you take the Northumberland Ferry. Are those members doing their job or, as the journalist from The Evening News of New Glasgow said when we finally issued a question and a resolution about attention to the Durham Road, they're just doing that to embarrass the members for Pictou County. Shame on that journalist, I was doing my job because I had been contacted by people who live on the Durham Road. I had never driven the Durham Road before, they said. Mr. Speaker, I have driven the Durham Road as many as 10 or 12 times. (Interruption) I thought the member for Pictou West wanted to - the member for Pictou West wanted to speak?

AN HON. MEMBER: Not likely.

MR. ESTABROOKS: I am sorry, Mr. Speaker, but you know why? Why did I have to bring up the Durham Road? I use the road, of course, on the way to the P.E.I. ferry. I had to do the job because I had been contacted by constituents who said, could you please do something? Could you bring to the attention of the Minister of Transportation the Durham Road? I have a message here and perhaps I should share it, but it is a personal message and the number, I think that is an Eastern Shore number, in fact. I think that is a Musquodoboit Harbour number. Give me a call back about roads, it says. Roads - and I will share that number with the member for Eastern Shore, but who did that person from Musquodoboit Harbour call? They called the NDP. They called the Transportation Critic for the NDP.

[Page 2101]

Mr. Speaker, it seems to me there is a lack of communication here. If that member for Eastern Shore is doing his job, he should be the one who is bringing this issue up. He should be the one who stands in his place and has his say. Yet instead, I have to respond and I will. I received the message. They called 876-2472, that happens to be the MLA for Timberlea-Prospect who is going to stand up about this issue and is going to address this issue in this House. There is nothing in the Financial Measures (2001) Bill about handling that particular problem for that particular gentleman.

Mr. Speaker, there are a couple of other issues that I wish to bring to your attention and those are matters of grave concern to Nova Scotians. I have heard the Minister of Health, and I listen to the Minister of Health, I try to listen to the Minister of Health, whether it is urban legends - whatever that was - whether it is something called self-managed care. Self-managed care, I mean, if we want doublespeak we've got it right there. We are talking about a health system that is in disarray. We are talking about a nurse shortage. We are talking about concerns that have been brought to the Minister of Health's front-line health workers and could they go to the Minister of Health, who talks about self-managed care? No, who do nurses go to? Who do health care workers go to? They go to the NDP, they call the Acting Leader of the NDP, because they know that in this House he will raise those issues and bring those concerns.

[4:45 p.m.]

Things will get done because the NDP is holding this government accountable. The NDP is doing their job. The Health Critic for the NDP is doing his job on behalf of Nova Scotians, not just on behalf of his constituents, but because Nova Scotians are coming to him. For example, issues with P3 schools that are represented in some cases by members opposite. They are not going to do it, so who do they call? They call the member who is going to address the issue, the NDP Education Critic, who brings those issues forward in this House. P3 schools, whether they are in Pictou or whether they are in Beechville, issues that the Education Critic will stand in her place and have her say during Question Period, each and every day, whether it is the Health Critic or the Education Critic.

And who do farmers call, somebody they can trust, somebody who knows that business. I listened to our Agriculture Critic, and it is a business. It is a business and it is not a business for the faint of heart. They call the member for Hants East because the member for Hants East will stand in his place and will bring issues forward to the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, as he has done many times. He is doing his job, he is holding this government accountable, he is holding that Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries accountable because he seems to be more intent on getting jobs for his EA than actually representing farmers in this province. That is the man, right there, they call the NDP Agriculture Critic.

[Page 2102]

There is no one who has a reputation that I respect more than the member for Dartmouth North. The member for Dartmouth North came to this House with a strong background in municipal government, where he served on the Dartmouth Council, where he served for many years; in fact, he also served on the school board. When we look at the issue of equalization, that nasty idea of equalization those members over there know is unfair, the representatives from that side of the House who served on municipal government know it is wrong. That proposal is not a good idea, that is an idea that has been trashed by Nova Scotians. That equalization idea, who did Nova Scotians call, who did they know was going to stand up and speak for them? They called the member for Dartmouth North, they called the NDP. They called the NDP because they know they can count on the member for Dartmouth North to stand in his place. They know that member for Dartmouth North will stand in his place and he will have his say on behalf of Nova Scotians.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. There is a little too much chatter. I know the member for Timberlea-Prospect is able to talk over it, but I think it is important that the chatter be kept to a minimum so every member can hear the member's speech.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I have a few other comments. I assured the members of this caucus that I would not speak at length today, for various reasons. But it concerns me that in the time that is allotted that I use it to the fullest of my energy because members opposite aren't doing their job, members opposite aren't using what was given to them, the mandate and the responsibility to stand and address these issues. Nova Scotians know and they are not going to be fooled, that the NDP is in this House, they know that the NDP is going to continue to bring issues to Cabinet Ministers, to government officials. Nova Scotians know they can count on the NDP. This government had the opportunity, but they have blown it. They are more intent on bringing forth user fees; they are more intent on charging seniors $50 to make sure that $50 a night/day is what they can get from that particular senior; user fees that will continue to grow; user fees that will affect young people, that will affect students, that will affect seniors. Those concerns are going to continuously be brought to the attention of this House.

Members opposite, of course, get frustrated when we speak at length on these issues. That is the problem. Those people don't want to hear the truth and it is out of embarrassment. Is it because of a concern that the Minister of Tourism, last year, cut the rock patrollers from Peggy's Cove? When that decision was made and when those university students made sure they confronted that minister, you know who they had contacted? They contacted their old teacher. They contacted their MLA because those young people knew they could count on the NDP to raise these issues. We can count on the NDP to stand up and to confront issues such as the rock patroller down on the Peggy's Cove rocks, such as the New Era Farms issue in Goodwood. Those are issues that local people in my constituency contact me about.

[Page 2103]

I know that there are people on that opposite side who are frustrated with the fact that they have to bring their concerns to us so that we can address them because, obviously, they are not doing their job. Either their hands are tied, the concern is there. If I was a backbencher on that side of the House, I would be frustrated too. I look at some of those members. I look at that member for Preston, the Wal-Mart greeter. I look at the member for Preston and he stands, but he doesn't stand in his place and his reputation, much like the member for Dartmouth North's reputation, but the member for Dartmouth North continues to speak up on equalization. He continues to speak up about these concerns with social assistance. Every day that member has his say on behalf of those Nova Scotians.

What does the member for Preston do? He greets people at the door as the Wal-Mart greeter. Does he say anything, Mr. Speaker? No. He doesn't have his say. So perhaps he could look back at the blue book. Perhaps he could look at Page 5 where it has a promise to give MLAs greater freedom to represent the views of their constituents. An excellent, indisputable, promise that was of real credibility. You could say to those people, when you are knocking on those doors in that summer campaign, it says in there, I will be able to speak up. I might not be a Cabinet Minister, although I heard, at a recent by-election, there were promises made. I am going to be a Cabinet Minister. You just get me elected, okay?

I don't know if the member for Preston ever used that, but I bet that the people who voted for the member for Preston are probably saying, are you still in there? We never hear you. We never see you. You are never speaking up on our behalf, concerns that were probably brought to the previous member for Preston. When Yvonne Atwell stood in this place, she spoke up and she spoke up passionately about issues in Preston. Why? Because she was a member of an NDP caucus that Nova Scotians could count on. Nova Scotians and the people of Preston could count on Yvonne Atwell. Now that isn't happening because of that particular member.

Mr. Speaker, this is a grave concern for all Nova Scotians. Nova Scotians are worried, they are frustrated, they are angry and they are concerned. The Financial Measures (2001) Bill does not address the issues that Nova Scotians want addressed. In many ways, this government has failed to deal with seniors, students, people with disabilities. It has failed to help out nurses. It has failed to deal with occupational health and safety regulations. It has really not helped anyone. People are frustrated and they are angry and they have long memories. They will remember, but they also know, as Nova Scotians can tell you, when I need an issue addressed, when I need a problem looked at and eventually solved, you call the NDP because that is why we are here, to defend Nova Scotians, to defend their rights and to defend their privileges. Thank you. (Applause)

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

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and speak on Bill No. 30. Bill No. 30 is a piece of legislation that will ensure that the different measures introduced in

[Page 2104]

the budget get the authorization that the government needs to implement them. This Tory Government, or they must believe that the budget that they tabled and we voted on last week had to be a very good budget because we, probably, on a number of fronts, the fact that we

didn't see too many groups protesting the budget at the Legislature this spring.

I am sure you remember those groups that did come down last year and I am sure that the government members remember as well. You have to ask yourself whether the fact that not too many groups came down, especially since the budget was tabled, to protest this budget, maybe you have to wonder if this was a good budget or not.

Also, you have to recognize that the only taxes increased in this budget, as the Premier said again last Tuesday during Question Period, are the tobacco taxes. He might believe this, but I am sure many Nova Scotians believe otherwise. Or again yet, the fact that the Minister of Education is giving a little more money to school boards in the province this year makes it a good budget. She might agree with this, but I am sure others will disagree.

This is an article that came out in the Daily News Tuesday, April 24th. We have the Minister of Education saying that boards are getting more money this year, but they are facing increased costs. I will be talking about this later on. The fact that not too many groups have come down to the Legislature to protest this budget might be because many Nova Scotians still don't understand the full impact that this budget will have on them.

You have to remember last year's budget when the Premier told us that we needed to ferret out the details in this budget. Maybe Nova Scotians need to again ferret out the details in this budget. I am sure if they do, and certainly the Opposition will try to help along the way, we will probably find a few hidden surprises.

Speaking of surprises, I can think of a few. We are talking about new user fees this year, let alone the user fees that were implemented last year and carried over in this current year. Bracket creep is another surprise that Nova Scotians will certainly recognize. Another one, the federal tax cut that this Tory Government decided to claw back. I will be talking about those surprises later on, but for now I want to first talk about the education cuts.

Last week, we heard from the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board what real impact this budget is having on the students within their jurisdiction. More teachers will be laid off by this school board - we are looking at 53 jobs that will be eliminated in this coming year. These 53 teachers' jobs will have a direct impact on the students of the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board.

[5:00 p.m.]

I want to go back to an article that appeared in the Chronicle-Herald on Tuesday, April 24th - that was last Tuesday - it says that programs in areas to be affected by the losses of the

[Page 2105]

53 teachers will be French, French immersion, speech therapy, education psychology, industrial arts, art, gym and African, Mi'kmaq.

The Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board is not the only school board we have heard from. Last Friday, we heard from the Annapolis Valley Regional School Board. On top of the 47 teachers' positions that were cut from last year's budget, 14 full-time teaching positions will be cut this year and this is with the Annapolis Valley Regional School Board. So, 47 last year, 14 again. As the superintendent of the Annapolis Valley Regional School Board Dr. Gunn indicated, these teacher cuts are necessary because of increased operating costs. I am sure the Minister of Education is aware that all school boards are faced with the same challenge of increased operating costs and at the same time, trying to balance their budgets.

Those are the only school boards that we have heard from until now, but I am sure we will be hearing soon from the Halifax Regional School Board, from the Southwest Regional School Board, the Strait Regional School Board, the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board and the CSAP, the Conseil scolaire acadien provincial. So again, we will better understand what kind of impact this budget will have on students in our province. That is not what we were told, by this Tory Government and by this Minister of Education, that this budget was going to do for education in the province. This government is hiding the facts. They are not telling the truth to Nova Scotians about the real impact this budget will have on Nova Scotians in the upcoming year.

This is the same Party that in the last election was telling Nova Scotians about being open, transparent and accountable. How soon do they forget? Let me remind the Minister of Education that her responsibility is to make sure that students in Nova Scotia have access to a good quality education. Let me remind this Tory Government, cuts to education will also make it harder to recruit doctors, nurses and other professionals in those areas around the province. The quality of local education in the local education system is one of the most important factors when families decide to move to other areas or stay in those communities or yet to look at the possibility of relocating to another area.

This Tory Party promised that they would provide extra funding to ensure that the areas of the province with declining enrolment would not be penalized with loss of teachers or loss of courses. Again, we have heard the Minister of Education in this House talking about that. Now, let alone all the stories that we heard in the past, we are now hearing different messages. I hope the Minister of Education will take her responsibilities very seriously and look at this situation very closely. Why? Because I think it is critical that the Minister of Education looks at this very closely, at these situations to ensure that all students in Nova Scotia do have access to a good, quality education regardless of where they live.

[Page 2106]

Again, we have only heard from two school boards at this point - from the Annapolis Valley Regional School Board and the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board. But I suspect in the days ahead we will probably be hearing from other school boards. I am sure those other five school boards are under the same type of pressure to increase operating costs at the same time to try to balance off or meet their budgets.

What kind of impact is this budget having on the students attending universities in Nova Scotia? We know that this government has cut $7.3 million that it gives to universities for capital funding. This is funding, this is money used to help universities with renovations, with repairs and with new construction. Also, we know that universities had requested $11 million more in provincial operating grants this year, but unfortunately, they did not even get half of what they had requested.

Mr. Speaker, you don't have to wonder any more if these cuts are going to be passed on or have an impact on our students attending universities in Nova Scotia. Just last Thursday we heard that tuition fees are going up again in Nova Scotia. Saint Mary's University, a 5.5 per cent hike; UCCB, University College of Cape Breton, a 5.9 per cent increase; Dalhousie University, a 4.25 per cent increase; Nova Scotia Agricultural College, in Bible Hill, in the Truro area, a 5.1 per cent increase; the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, a 5.2 per cent increase. We haven't heard from Acadia, St. F.X., Mount St. Vincent, the community colleges or from the Collège de l'Acadie, but, again, they are expected to increase their tuition fees as well. I am sure we will be hearing from them very soon.

Mr. Speaker, you have to stop for a minute and look at the trend that is developing in Nova Scotia. Last year tuition fees increased at Nova Scotia universities by an average of 7.5 per cent; 7.5 per cent student tuition fee increases. Last year, students in Nova Scotia paid among the highest tuition fees in all of Canada. You have to start wondering if some of our students here in Nova Scotia are wondering whether they should go to university or not go to university. I am sure many of our young people are actually looking at that very closely, should they, or should they, basically, decide to maybe do something else. Yet, and I mentioned this, tuition fees in Nova Scotia are one of the highest in all of Canada. So you have to wonder, if our young people are considering attending universities outside of the province, and you can certainly understand why, if they did consider attending universities outside of Nova Scotia, naturally, they are looking at saving some dollars.

Mr. Speaker, again, this budget is having a direct impact on our students and on many families throughout Nova Scotia. Even the Minister of Education said that university education is expensive and getting more expensive for our students. This government, last year, cut our Loan Remission Program for our students. You have to wonder if this Tory Government, through their program review exercise, recognized the importance of this Loan Remission Program for our students before they decided to cut this program. I hope that the government will do what is right and reinstate the Loan Remission Program to the level of funding that was in the program before the program was cut.

[Page 2107]

Mr. Speaker, there are rumours out there that the government is considering bringing back some type of Loan Remission Program, with a few million dollars. I don't think that is fair or, yet alone, right. The student debt rates are growing continuously. A lot of our students here in Nova Scotia who are graduating from universities are now faced with a $40,000 or more debt at the end of three, four, five years of university. This Tory Government needs to recognize the growing crisis in the accessibility of post-secondary education in Nova Scotia.

Again, Mr. Speaker, you have to ask yourself what direct impact would this budget have on students attending universities in Nova Scotia. We know that universities have been cut by their capital funding by $7.3 million. We know that universities have requested from the Minister of Education and from this Tory Government an additional $11 million in operating grants. This government is only providing less than half what was requested. Here again is a shortfall of what universities were asking for from this government so now, unfortunately, we can start understanding why tuition fees have to be increased in the province.

At the same time you have to recognize why this government decided last year to cut our Loan Remission Program that provided assistance to our students who were pursuing a post-secondary education. Maybe at some point the Minister of Education could certainly provide us with the reasons why that program was cut. Again, Mr. Speaker, our students who are pursuing a post-secondary education need assistance from this government and they are not getting it.

Mr. Speaker, I want to say a few words on some of the new user fees that this Tory Government is bringing forward with this budget. We have heard that the only tax increases in this bill will be tobacco taxes. Well, this Tory Government can try to fool Nova Scotians all they want, but the same Tory Government promised Nova Scotians that they would not increase taxes. When taxes are increased, Nova Scotians have to reach in their pockets for more money in order to pay for these new tax increases. Yet this Tory Government is now talking about bringing in all these new user fees on Nova Scotians that are going to cost them more money. If these new user fees are going to cost Nova Scotians more money, then the Tory Government can believe what they want, yet Nova Scotians are going to have to reach into their pockets for more money. They will not be fooled by this whole exercise and, yes, they will remember.

Here are just a few examples of these proposed new user fees. Seniors and patients - most of them are seniors - who are in hospitals waiting to be transferred to a nursing home will now be charged $50 a day. This government last year said that they were looking to address the shortage of long-term care beds in the province. Now they have decided to punish seniors for their own mismanagement. This Tory Government said that this new user fee will generate approximately $1 million in revenue. These individuals who will have to pay this extra $50 a day fee, these seniors have worked hard over the years in building and supporting

[Page 2108]

our province and now, in time of need they are being charged while they are in hospitals waiting for long-term care beds. It is not their fault that they are in hospitals waiting for a long-term care bed. This government said last year they recognized there was a problem. They recognized that we needed to address this and a year later we are still waiting. We are still waiting to see how this government is going to recognize (Interruption)

[5:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, we hear the Minister of Health talking about . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: He has all the answers.

MR. GAUDET: Yes, he has all the answers. He is the one who told us last year, he told Nova Scotians that there was a need for additional long-term care beds in the province. He put a group together and, of course, Mr. Speaker, he appointed some friends of his on this panel that will be reporting back to him and provide him with the answers that he needs in order to address the shortage of long-term care beds. But, no, the Minister of Health, along with his colleagues, decided a quick fix is to charge seniors a $50 fee per day while they are in the hospital waiting for a long-term care bed. That is a shame. That is shame charging seniors $50 per day while they are in the hospital waiting for a bed in a nursing home.

Mr. Speaker, this is a real bad decision by the Tory Government and I hope there is still some hope that maybe this government will reconsider this bad decision. I believe that this is certainly a sad day for seniors in Nova Scotia and I am sure they will remember this day. I hope seniors throughout the province who need to visit a doctor or go to the hospital will not delay their appointments and put their own health at risk because they don't want to have to pay this $50 per day while waiting for a long-term care bed in the hospital.

So I think it is critical, Mr. Speaker, that all of us do what we can to try to reassure our seniors throughout the province that they should not put their own health at risk. This is wrong, charging seniors $50 a day while they are waiting to be transferred to a nursing home, and I hope that this Tory Government will reconsider charging seniors and address the real problem, and that is the shortage of long-term care beds, as they said they would.

Mr. Speaker, another user fee charge will be a $20 fee to employers in order to search names on the Child Abuse Register. Many non-profit organizations that provide programming for children, such as Big Brothers, Big Sisters, YMCA and others, when they hire employees or hire summer students for that matter, they now will have to pay a $20 search fee. Some surprises; this government should be ashamed. This new user fee in order to search the Child Abuse Register, will generate somewhere around $75,000 in additional revenue.

[Page 2109]

Another user fee increase will be for registering a deed, Mr. Speaker. This fee will be increased by $30. Nova Scotians, instead of paying $40 to register their deed, will now have to pay $70. This Tory Government said that this new user fee increase will generate approximate $1.1 million in extra revenue. Another new tax that Nova Scotians will now have to face will be the inspection fees of $75 to $300 for large fuel storage tanks at service stations, for factories and on farms. Fees from $75 to $300 for inspection of large fuel storage tanks. Again, this new tax will generate an additional $200,000 for the government.

Mr. Speaker, another new fee that this government is introducing with this budget, is charging $100 to well drillers for a permit. This $100 will be charged for every well that these well drillers will be drilling. Again, this new fee will be passed on directly to any Nova Scotian, by the well drillers to their customers around the province. If you want to drill a new well - I am sure, Mr. Speaker, in your area as in mine, as in many others, especially over the summer months, many people are faced with a shortage of water and they have to turn to looking at drilling a new well - new surprise coming up for Nova Scotians this summer, a $100 fee for drilling a new well, in order to get a permit.

Mr. Speaker, with all these new taxes or new user fees, as some of my colleagues across the floor here on the government benches are calling those, this Tory Government is planning to collect somewhere around $3 million more in extra revenue this year alone, by those user fees. At the same time, you have to remember the user fees that were brought in last year, and those user fees are still in place in the current year. I can think of one especially, the co-pay for Pharmacare. When the Tories were sitting on this side of the House, they were against these co-pay fees for Pharmacare, but now that they are sitting on the government benches those co-pay fees have gone up for Pharmacare in this province.

Mr. Speaker, even the Auditor General of this province is saying that if this Tory Government cannot justify these new user fees, to show that they are used for cost recovery, then they will be considered as taxes. You have to wonder, these new user fees, whether they are for inspection permits, whether they are for permits to drill a well, whether they are a $50 per day fee for seniors who are waiting for long-term care beds in hospitals, or a $20 fee to search the Child Abuse Register in the province, you have to really wonder if these are user fees to justify cost recovery or if they are just new taxes disguised in order to raise additional revenue for the Tory Government. I am sure you didn't see any explanations given by this Tory Government to justify these new user fees. I don't think so, and I am sure many Nova Scotians haven't seen any explanations why this new user fees are being brought forward with this budget.

I want to come back to what the Premier said last Tuesday during Question Period, that the only tax increases in this budget will be tobacco taxes. Well, we have heard this is supposed to generate approximately $20 million of new revenue, $20 million in new money. I am sure many Nova Scotians are now wondering, with high tobacco prices, will it

[Page 2110]

encourage smuggling on one side, and will it affect tobacco sales in Nova Scotia on the other side? Hopefully and probably, it may encourage some smokers to quit smoking altogether.

Again, looking at the effects that increased taxes on tobacco will have on smuggling on one side and certainly tobacco sales on the other, I think with these types of concerns in the mix I am sure that Nova Scotians would really appreciate more details on these. I am sure that there are other concerns in the mix, as well. At the same time I am sure that everyone is wondering, where is this new $20 million in revenue going to go? Will there be any funding for health prevention programs? Is the money going to go in a Tory slush fund? I know that my honourable colleague for Cape Breton West has raised that concern on a number of occasions. Again, I am sure many Nova Scotians will have that very same concern as he certainly has.

Mr. Speaker, we talk about an additional $20 million. Just imagine if the Premier took just $1 million from this new revenue and cancelled the user fees for seniors or other patients who are now in hospitals waiting for long-term care beds. That is $1 million out of $20 million that this government is expected to bring in from these new tobacco tax increases. Again, the Tory Government should tell Nova Scotians where this $20 million will be spent.

Mr. Speaker, this government has expressed concerns about smuggling. So many Nova Scotians are wondering, how does lowering the fines discourage smuggling? For a first offence it used to be not less than $10,000 and not more than $50,000, but now we are looking at not less than $250 and not more than $5,000. The government says that the fines, as they were, cannot be enforced. Well, I don't think that is true. People have been convicted under the old fine system and have paid their fines. I have heard of a couple of cases where an individual involved for smuggling tobacco had to pay a $5,000 fine. I know yet another individual who was charged and convicted and had to pay a $10,000 fine. So, again, this government is saying that they have to lower the fines for smuggling tobacco in Nova Scotia because these fines cannot be enforced. I am just wondering why these two individuals who were charged, convicted and fined, one a $5,000 fine, the other individual a $10,000 fine, they are now saying that they cannot be enforced?

Again, maybe at some point in time the Minister of Justice or the Minister of Finance, or anyone on the government benches, will provide us with that type of information. Why fines for smuggling tobacco in Nova Scotia are now being lowered to $250 and no more than $5,000. You can certainly understand that the fines that were there before, no less than $10,000 and no more than $50,000 would certainly discourage anyone from smuggling tobacco in Nova Scotia and, if caught and convicted, they certainly knew in what ball park the fines were going to be. But now if the government basically moves with lowering the fines as they are now suggesting, to between $5,000 and $250, I am just wondering what kind of impact these fines will have on individuals that decide to smuggle tobacco in Nova Scotia.

[Page 2111]

[5:30 p.m.]

Again, Mr. Speaker, lowering the fines sends out the message that this government doesn't care. You have to wonder what happened here. Did someone get to the government? We don't know those details, but I can assure you, our caucus will continue looking for answers why this government decided to drop the fines. By lowering the fines, it will probably bring other concerns forward that this government will have to address. Again, it is still unclear why this government decided to drop the fines for smuggling tobacco in Nova Scotia at the very same time they decide to increase tobacco taxes in Nova Scotia. I am sure that, not just myself, I am sure there are many Nova Scotians who are puzzled as to what the real benefit of lowering these fines will actually do in trying to prevent individuals from smuggling tobacco in the province. We also have to wonder what real impact it will have on tobacco sales in the Province of Nova Scotia at the very same time that the tobacco taxes are being increased.

Mr. Speaker, also in this bill, we are talking about the Municipal Grants Act. The Municipal Grants Act is repealed. With all the discussions that we have had - especially in the short-term - over municipalities, we have heard that this government is now looking at downloading the assessment cost to municipal units. Here again, we have to check the Tory blue book on Page 21 for your information. The Tory Party promised to stop the downloading on to municipalities. Here they go again, this Tory Government says, municipalities will now be responsible for providing for cost recovery for assessment services. Well, maybe that is another broken promise.

Mr. Speaker, maybe you know, but I have spoken with different municipal councillors from around the province to find out if they have the money within their budget to pick up this cost recovery for assessment services. The answer that I was told by all of them, and I had an opportunity to speak to quite a few, they don't have that type of funding within their budget. So, again, they will be forced by this Tory Government to increase property taxes in order to get the money in order to pay for this assessment services.

Maybe this Tory Government will even reconsider this downloading on municipalities, as part of the new equalization proposal that is being worked on as we speak between the province and the 55 municipal units within the province. Again, it looks to me like the municipalities will bear the cost for assessment services and, once again, taxpayers throughout Nova Scotia will have to pay more in property taxes.

So we can talk about the only new tax increase in this budget will be tobacco taxes. Well, talk to many of these property owners in our municipal units around the province, I am sure when the tax bill comes in a lot of these individuals will probably disagree with our Premier, that the only new tax increase in this budget is tobacco taxes.

[Page 2112]

Mr. Speaker, in all the mix of these user fees or tax grabs and downloading to municipalities, this Tory Government is planning to give Nova Scotians a 10 per cent tax cut in 2003-04, if that 10 per cent tax cut ever comes our way. I can tell you, if it does, Nova Scotians will have long since paid for that 10 per cent tax cut. With things like these user fees that are being brought out this year, user fees that were implemented last year and carried over in this current fiscal year, bracket creep, the federal tax cut that the Tories clawed back - and I will go into details with these in a minute - maybe at the rate that the Tory Government is going at taking more money out of the pockets of Nova Scotians they may have to reconsider this 10 per cent tax cut and increase that 10 per cent cut to a rate much higher than what this Tory Government is going to provide them with.

So we are making them pay now and then later on they will get a tax cut. It makes a lot of sense to me and I am sure it makes a lot of sense to many Nova Scotians why they have to pay more money now in order to meet this 10 per cent tax cut that this Tory Government has said that they would be providing Nova Scotians with. So I just hope the rate that this Tory Party is going that the 10 per cent cut will be looked at again and maybe considered to increase that rather than just providing them with a little bit of their money back. So I hope this government will consider giving back Nova Scotians what they are taking from them in order to meet this tax cut.

Mr. Speaker, looking at the bracket creep in more detail - and I have to say thanks to the Canadian Taxpayers' Federation for finding out more what this really means for Nova Scotian families. The Canadian Taxpayers Federation are saying, "People are paying more income tax in Nova Scotia because unlike any other governments, the province has decided not to tie its tax brackets to the inflation rate. So that means as people get pay increases or pay raises to keep up with inflation they are being pushed into higher tax brackets."

Mr. Speaker, what this means is that someone making $45,000 a year is paying an extra $443 a year. So if inflation stays at about 2.5 per cent over the next three years, Nova Scotians could pay approximately $30 million more in provincial income tax in addition to the extra $12 million that has been collected in the year 2001. Again, we have to think about the $42 million of hidden tax increases when this Tory Government said they would not raise taxes. Again, you have to really ask yourself if tobacco tax increases will be the only tax increases that Nova Scotians will be faced with with this budget.

After bracket creep, we looked at the failure of the government to pass on the corresponding federal tax cut. Each and every year, prior to the last year, provincial income taxes went up. Every time that the federal government raised taxes, taxes went up for two decades. What happened last year? Last year, the federal Liberal Government reduced taxes, but there was no corresponding reduction provincially. I am sure people throughout this province are asking why. Well, after paying higher taxes for two decades, the taxpayer was going to get a break. What did our government do? They essentially raised provincial taxes so that the province would not take a hit. That is unfair.

[Page 2113]

So, add this change to bracket creep and every Nova Scotian is paying higher taxes. So no matter how many ways you slice or dice it, Nova Scotians will not receive any tax cuts. Now that we know about bracket creep and the lack of flow-through, there is also that famous question of user fees. Do you know what the Auditor General had to say about user fees? He has criticized this Tory Government for not being able to justify these new user fees. Mr. Speaker, could you tell me how much time I have left?

MR. SPEAKER: The member has until 5:54 p.m.

MR. GAUDET: Twelve minutes, thank you.

Mr. Speaker, as I have already stated, this Tory Government is looking at bringing in this year some more user fees. Let's not forget, as I said earlier, the user fees that were brought in last year. Nova Scotians are still going to have to pay for those this year as well. Everyone remembers the Seniors' Pharmacare co-pay that was increased last year from 20 per cent to 33 per cent, which the government estimates will bring in an additional $8.4 million again this year. This is the same Party that was not in support of premiums for Pharmacare, but yet once they changed seats, crossed the floor and sat in government, one of the first things they did, they increased premiums for Pharmacare. Seniors again will have to pay those increased Pharmacare co-pay costs this year once again.

Another one that Nova Scotians remember - they just have to look at their telephone bill. This is the 43 cents charge on the 911 service, it used to be called the 911 tax. That is still there. So, it is 43 cents plus 3 cents tax on 43 cents, so technically you are looking at a 46 cent tax on your telephone bill. Now, that tax is now included in the overall tax on your telephone bill, so it is no longer listed as the 911 tax. Every time that Nova Scotians receive their telephone bill, again they are reminded of a new tax that was introduced last year and that is being carried over in this current year. I don't want to go over the entire list, but I think you get the picture. Nova Scotians are paying more every time this Tory Government brings down a budget. If the tradition keeps on going, we certainly know what to expect next year.

[5:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, with the few minutes I have left to speak, I want to turn to the debt of the province. Many Nova Scotians understand that you need to live within your means, and if you don't you risk losing what you have worked for over the years. The Province of Nova Scotia is no different than us running our own households or our own businesses. They need to make some decisions, and sometimes some tough decisions, and make some tough choices along the way. But to further add to this debate over the finances of the province, again we need to go back to June 1999, during the election campaign, when this Tory Party said that the debt would never increase under a Tory Government.

[Page 2114]

Mr. Speaker, for instance we know that last year the Tories increased the net debt of our province by almost $1.3 billion. That $1.3 billion more is costing Nova Scotians $70 million more in interest this year. So that is on top of the $900 million that we already spend in servicing the debt of the province. Had the Tories not wasted that $1.3 billion, the $70 million we now have to pay in interest could have certainly been much better spent.

Mr. Speaker, to further complicate this whole budget issue, last year the province revenues were up, the economy had been good, generating additional tax dollars in revenue to the province and, on top of all of that, more money from Ottawa was received by the province. This Tory Government has had close to $0.5 billion in extra revenues since it came to office. There was no reason why this Tory Government could not have balanced the budget this year, and still make some good strategic investments in health and in education.

Even with all the extra money, the best they could do was to come up with a $91 million deficit. This Tory Government missed out on a great opportunity. They promised to control the growth of the debt, but they have failed. They failed. They have no plan. The debt is a real problem. If this Tory Government does not take it seriously soon, I am afraid what this debt will do to Nova Scotians. Again, this government is hoping on another good year, in this coming year. I hope they are right; I hope they are right for the sake of all Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, if this projection is realized, then this government will not be faced with making some difficult decision, but if this government has less revenue to work with in this coming year, then it will be very difficult for this Tory Government to achieve their fiscal goals. It is critical. This government has been in power for close to two years now, there is no plan for fiscal stability, we can only hope that more money is sent down from Ottawa, that the economy here in Nova Scotia keeps on generating additional revenues for the government to allow them to basically continue to run this province.

So there is no plan, Mr. Speaker, for fiscal stability. There is no plan for debt reduction. There is no plan for real, meaningful tax cuts and no plan for the future. The responsibility of governing is certainly very difficult and not to be taken lightly. There is a need, as we speak, for vision, for planning and for commitment. As I have indicated earlier, there is no plan for any of tax reduction, other than this famous 10 per cent tax cut that this government has talked about since the summer of 1999. They certainly have been raising this concern on a number of occasions. But I think it is critical that Nova Scotians understand that the 10 per cent tax cut that they will be receiving, and I hope that they will, will be money that has been, certainly, collected from Nova Scotians in different forms, whether we are looking at charging residents of Nova Scotia for doing their assessment costs, whether we are looking at implementing all types of new user fees that Nova Scotians will have to fork out, reach in their pocket for more money.

[Page 2115]

Again, anytime Nova Scotians have to put their hands in their pockets to reach for new money in order to give more money to their government, it is money that Nova Scotians have to pay to the province and those are new taxes. So when you pay new taxes, you pay the province, you pay the government more money. When you pay new user fees it is, again, money that Nova Scotians will have to pay to the government in order to meet whatever of the current time the government decides to implement these user fees.

Again, Mr. Speaker, I think it is critical that this government certainly takes the time, they still have a little bit of time left before we are back knocking on doors for the upcoming, whenever the next provincial election will be called. They still have some time to put a plan together to make sure that they show Nova Scotians in what direction they want to take this province towards in the next little while. So, in closing, I think it is critical that Nova Scotians must ask themselves one question - how much longer can this province survive without a plan? So with those few words, I will take my place and I hope I will have another opportunity in the future. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, it gives me pleasure to rise to speak on Bill No. 30, An Act Respecting Certain Financial Measures. This bill is commonly known as the Financial Measures (2001) Bill. Many Nova Scotians who may be out there watching Legislative Television, who might very well be reading the newspapers, do not fully understand what the Financial Measures (2001) Bill is all about. They know that it reflects budgetary items within this Legislative Assembly. It lets the government of the day set the financial agenda for the Province of Nova Scotia. They know that in general terms, but many of them have asked their MLAs to, in fact, enlighten them on what the Financial Measures (2001) Bill is and what it is all about.

Mr. Speaker, what I want to say is I received a message from a member of the constituency of Sackville-Beaver Bank, the honourable MLA, Mr. Barnet's constituency. He specifically implied that he wanted to be . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I think the member knows that it is not parliamentary to refer to a member by name in the House and I would caution you of that, please. The member for Dartmouth North has the floor.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, I do apologize for the honourable member, but it is for the constituency of Sackville-Beaver Bank. The individual wanted to make sure that his name was registered with respect to the concern that he had of not being able to get information from his local MLA or the MLA respecting that constituency. It is not a practice that I bring this sort of information to the Legislature, but he was quite adamant in his stand that he wanted to have this done. He is also a PC member of the constituency and his name is Mr. Howard Lewis. I am sure individuals know who Mr. Howard Lewis is. He says that he has

[Page 2116]

been asking for information about the Financial Measures (2001) Bill for some time. So who does he come to? He comes to the NDP, because he knows the message will get across the Legislature floor by a member of the New Democratic Party. He knows that the NDP will bring that message forward and he knows that every one of those Tory MLAs, backbenchers who are silent, even the Cabinet Ministers who are silent and not speaking on this Financial Measures (2001) Bill, cannot or will not or choose not to address this particular issue.

Mr. Speaker, I want to say to you that this is the exact same thing that transpired during municipal equalization plan. The issue of municipal equalization plan was in fact an issue that was brought forward by the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations. I can tell you that each and every one of us on this side of the Legislature floor has received hundreds and hundreds of calls. Who did they come to about addressing the equalization issue? They came to the NDP Critic of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations, the member for Halifax-Fairview. That is who they came to because they knew the issue would get addressed. Every single one of them who had in actual fact called . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable Minister of Health on a point of order.

HON. JAMES MUIR: I just wondered if he would be good enough to table, Mr. Speaker, the list of those hundreds and hundreds of calls that each member of that caucus has received.

MR. SPEAKER: This is a question. Would the member be willing to table those?

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, I will tell you that I (Interruptions.)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. PYE: I can't table the calls for (Interruption)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. No one has a microphone except me. Order, please. When I recognize the members, their microphones will go on. Thank you very much.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

MR. PYE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. First of all, I think it is only fair to table the first one that I brought here forward today, which in fact is a concern from the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank. It will be tabled and I would like to continue to have a copy of that, that will be tabled.

I cannot table the phone calls from each and every other member of my particular Party, but I can certainly provide each and every member with the number of calls that I have received out of my constituency office, providing that they are prepared to come to my

[Page 2117]

constituency office to review those calls. That is only appropriate because of the confidentiality that must continue to exist in constituency offices. Therefore, Mr. Speaker, that has to be appropriate but I certainly will bring it forward.

[6:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, municipal amalgamation was an extremely important issue. This government seems to have lost it somewhere along the way, but we do know that it is going to come up and that it is going to be addressed. What people don't realize is that the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations has placed a wedge between those municipalities who are perceived to have and those municipalities who are perceived to have not. I also want you to know that when municipal equalization becomes part of the government's agenda that I just want to go back into the blue book and I want to inform the government as to what it said during its election campaign of 1999, Strong Leadership . . . . a clear course. It says about local government:

"Through forced and ill-conceived amalgamations, the Liberal Government has robbed communities of their unique identities. They have not achieved the promised savings and efficiencies. Indeed, the experience of many has been an increase in property taxes with no increased compensating benefits or services.

By downloading responsibilities on municipalities, the Liberals have burdened this critical level of government with expenses it cannot possibly support. We must find new ways to rekindle community identity and spirit."

So what did the minister come out with? He came out with municipal equalization. Let me tell you, in the metropolitan area, contrary to popular belief that Halifax is extremely wealthy, for the last four and a half years, under the municipal amalgamation, brought in by the Third Party when it was in government, in fact cost the new Halifax Regional Municipality to drastically reduce its services and to cause user pay on much of the other services. Many of the citizens in this municipality now have to pay for such things as recreational facilities, such as ball fields, such as soccer fields, such as rink facility use, and so on, to a much higher expense than what they have ever had to pay before.

The cost of public transportation has gone up some 33 per cent, and that is a fact. The cost of not keeping up maintenance and repairs to road improvements, streets, sidewalks, curbs and gutters have actually taken a backstep for four and a half years. Programs that were designed to enhance communities within the Halifax Regional Municipality had to be placed on the back burner, so that they could never come forward in those four and a half years in order to balance the budget that was left by the Third Party Government.

[Page 2118]

Who did they come to to speak about this very issue? They came to us in the NDP; they came to me in my office, and to many other members of the NDP, because they knew that we were concerned about this issue and that we would bring this issue to the Legislature floor. I want to tell you that when and if municipal equalization ever comes to the fore, that it now becomes a line item on the books of those in a have-position, which the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations states there are some 14 municipalities in this province that are considered to be have-municipalities.

I have been speaking to citizens - when I happened to have been the Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations Critic - across this province and they told me that this was a program that they were not going to support, and many of them were Tory members. The reason why they are not going to support it is because now they have to be taxed for this particular charge, which is normally already in place by the provincial government through the individual income tax, and dispensed. We in this Party, the New Democratic Party, said that we are all in support of an equalization payment across this province that, in fact, will help out those have-not municipalities. We have constantly said that; we have constantly stated our position.

The New Democratic Party didn't back down. We took our position, and the position is supported by the majority of Nova Scotians, and that is the position that each and every one pays their fair share regardless of what municipality they live in, and it is paid through the personal income tax bracket and it will hit every Nova Scotian who earns $200,000 or more. Many, many Nova Scotians know that this is an unfair formula for setting a tax rate. They also know that someone who earns $300,000 in Pictou and who has a $200,000 home will pay less taxes than the person in the Halifax Regional Municipality. Many of those individuals are seniors, and many of those people are on fixed incomes.

They have come to us, the NDP, because they know that we will take that message to the Legislature. They have come to us and said, we don't believe that the government fully understands the kind of income we receive. Many of us are widows with the only income that we receive is the Old Age Security with an income supplement. That is because many of our husbands were employed when they couldn't afford to pay into a Canada Pension Plan so they don't even get the Canada Pension Plan. They have the Old Age Security with an income supplement and that is barely enough to exist on. They are a proud lot, they don't complain and they do without to make sure that nobody takes their property from them so that they can pass it on to their children and so on.

That is what municipal equalization will do. It will attack those individuals. It will attack the individuals who are less fortunate, who cannot be part of a recreational program because the money will then be put above the line and something is going to be cut. So, recreational services and programs have to be cut in order to do that.

[Page 2119]

The other thing that has happened is that this government has forced the downloading onto the municipalities by frightening the municipalities in such a way whereby the municipalities are now giving up plans and starting to respond, under the roles and responsibilities of the municipality, by what they might be prepared to assume. They are doing that simply because they are so frightened as to what the equalization costs will add and what kind of an impact that will have on the taxpayers of their municipality.

Well, I want them to know, that the NDP on this side of the floor will carry their message to this Legislative Assembly. I want them to know that the NDP has brought this consistently across the floor and I want them to know that they have Tory members who are now squirming - who now don't know whether they want to support the equalization plan or not. As a matter of fact, some members of that Tory Government have spoken against it, only because we were prepared as a Party - the NDP - to bring it before the Legislative Assembly. That is the kind of thing that we have been doing. We have been bringing these issues before this Legislature to have them addressed.

I can tell you that municipal equalization is against the full intent of this government's platform on which it campaigned in the 1999 election. It says Strong Leadership . . . . a clear course. Not one single Nova Scotian expected this Tory Government to download on a municipality who, in turn, would download onto the property tax owner and watch their dollar walk out of their municipality and into another municipality. Not one single Nova Scotian is aware of what formula is set in place to evaluate and make assessments with respect to how this is even going to work - if at all. My guess is that this government has gotten cold feet, that the president of the UNSM and the board of directors have told this government there must be a new way to deliver what the government's intent is.

The government is still out there searching because it has now made a comment and some people say that it made that comment purely to get a member elected in the Cape Breton North riding. I am not so naive to think that was the case. I think they had full intentions of doing this all along. I think that was a platform by which it came to this Legislative Assembly and that was a platform on which our Party - the NDP - picked up on very quickly. We were the ones who brought this before the Legislative Assembly. Our critic for Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations was the one who drafted a letter to the editor, the one who consistently questioned the minister over here with respect to the kind of issues and the kind of impact that this is going to have. He also offered the alternative advice that we believe ought to be addressed, but addressed in a fair and equitable way across this province.

We have said the only fair and equitable way across this province, and our Party has steadfastly said, Mr. Speaker, is through the individual personal income tax base by which it already receives the money to carry out the equalization program. This is one of the many things that this government has decided that it would certainly move against and it would

[Page 2120]

violate its election campaign by continuing to introduce these measures or introduce these tax grabs that Nova Scotians had not expected of the Tory Government.

Mr. Speaker, I just want to move on to another issue which is dear to our hearts and used to be dear to the Tories hearts, but the Conservative Government has failed them, and that is seniors. I want to read from the Tory blue book with respect to its commitment to seniors. It says "Our seniors are those members of our community who have contributed to making our Nova Scotian society the wonderful place it is and who now have a right to live their remaining years in comfort, security and with the best possible health and quality of life." It also says that it will, "Ensure that government services are user friendly and readily accessible to seniors." Well, what has the government done for seniors since it has been elected? I will tell you what the government has done to seniors. It increased the Seniors' Pharmacare fees. It also increased the Seniors' Pharmacare co-pay by some 33 per cent. That is what it has done.

Mr. Speaker, this government has been consistently challenged by the NDP. We brought in issues of concern of seniors, such as Alzheimer's. This is not to say that Alzheimer's is simply an aged disease, but it does for the most part attack most people in their aging lives. We have talked to the Minister of Health about providing Aricept and Excelon, which are two drugs which are supposed to alleviate, or at least reduce the kind of pain that people who have Alzheimer's suffer from. We have talked about that. The minister said, well, this only affects 30 per cent of Nova Scotians. I think there was over 2,000 or some Nova Scotians, at that particular time, who were quoted as individuals suffering from Alzheimer's in Nova Scotia and if it is only 30 per cent, that is about 700 Nova Scotians who will benefit directly.

Mr. Speaker, that speaks volumes of what the Tory Government has failed to do. It has failed to listen to its constituents. They have failed to listen to its seniors and we, in the New Democratic Party, have decided to bring those issues forward. Who do they come to when they want that to be brought forward? The come to us in the NDP, and they come to us to bring those issues of concern forward to them. There are also seniors who suffer osteoporosis, who have this debilitating bone disease, that after you reach a certain age it has a serious impact on their mobility. We, in the NDP, have brought forward the notion of this province and the Minister of Health bringing forward bone densitometers. Bone densitometers we have asked this Minister of Health for. The Minister of Health, again, doesn't . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. If I may just ask for a little more quiet in the Chamber, please. Thank you.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

[Page 2121]

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, I just want to go back to the Minister of Health. I know that our critic, who is now the Leader of the NDP, Darrell Dexter, the member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour, has consistently, time and time again, berated the minister on the issues that have affected seniors. He has asked the minister to clearly bring forward the kind of platform that this government had espoused during the 1999 election campaign. Our critic and our Leader, the honourable Darrell Dexter, has brought forward the issues about the $50 a day fee for seniors who are forced to stay in hospitals, a cost that seniors never dreamed that one day this Tory Government would introduce.

[6:15 p.m.]

The issue of seniors' small options homes - and we just talked about and I know the honourable member, our Leader, Darrell Dexter, brought forward the delivery of home care service here last week, last Thursday I believe it was, during Question Period - I want to talk a bit about home care services, Mr. Speaker. I want to tell you this, that the Tory Government contracts out the delivery of home care services to four major providers. Our Party has questioned the minister with respect to the direction that he ought to go on this. Four home care providers are to deliver home care services in the metropolitan area. There is a lack of the number of home caregivers simply because the home care providers are unable to hire enough home caregivers to be sent out there. This is solely a responsibility of the government and the government must answer to that. If they are contracting services to home care providers, then it is up to this government to make sure that the home care providers have sufficient staff to address this issue.

I just want to harken back to a Dartmouth issue, Mr. Speaker, on home care services. I want to tell you what our Leader, the member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour, has said about the concern with the seniors' centre in Dartmouth South with respect to having to provide these kind of services simply because the services are not available. They are not in the position or in the field of expertise of providing home care services. Yet, they have to provide it simply because the four contracted home care providers are not providing that service.

I want to tell you about a 96 year old lady who was in the hospital and she was in there for five days. On the third day, her doctor had informed home care services that in fact she would be getting out on a Friday, which happened to be Good Friday, that's when it happened to be. Home care services weren't available for her even though she had been there and the home care provider had been warned two days in advance of her leaving the hospital. When she got home, there was a scramble to call home care services and find out why this individual wasn't getting home care services. The reason was because the government had contracted out services to service providers who couldn't deliver home care services. That's what happened.

[Page 2122]

I made a number of calls because, in fact, they had called the NDP because they knew that if they called the NDP, something will be done. That is what they will do; we will do something about it. So I made the call and tried to search this issue out and wondered just exactly how we were going to resolve it. I was then told that this individual would have to be put on a waiting list and that individual would have to be there for approximately three weeks because there was that that much of a backlog. Now, here is a 96 year old lady, and the people who are living in the home, one person was 72 years of age and the other person was 78. They couldn't take care of this individual.

MR. TIMOTHY OLIVE: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I was waiting for the honourable member for Dartmouth North to clarify some of the points that he was making regarding this phone call he received. I just wanted, on a point of order, to advise the member and you, Mr. Speaker, and all members of the House contrary to this latest enunciation by the NDP that they are there to answer the questions, that this particular family called him and

after a few days were unable to get any answers and called me and (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order please. I did not hear the last part of the member's - but, nonetheless it was leading to not being a point of order. Let us leave it at that please. The honourable member for Dartmouth South has the floor. Thank you.

MR. OLIVE: Mr. Speaker, I thank you for that, for the (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. It was not a point of order. The honourable member for Dartmouth South has the floor.

MR. PYE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. (Interruptions) First of all, I don't recall mentioning any particular constituency, however, it is obvious to the members that I didn't have to. It is obvious that it came to me and the issue was in fact brought forward. The point is this, I am very pleased to hear that the individual is, in fact, receiving that benefit because at the last moment that I heard anything about it, it was as a matter of fact taking approximately three weeks and there were no guarantees that this service would be done. You know, the facts are straight. The facts are straight that, in fact, the Minister of Health will tell you that those deliveries of services aren't available, those services aren't available, so that is the bottom line (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order please. Thank you. The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

MR. PYE: Anyway, I want to tell you thank you very much and I am very pleased to find out what constituency that member actually lived in. Thank you very much because it just so happens that I get a number of calls from that constituency. The reason why they call is because they know who I am and they know that if they call the NDP the job will get done and that is the bottom line.

[Page 2123]

I just want to (Interruptions) move on to this a bit farther as well. The first few nights that individual actually had to call a home care service from out of the Yellow Pages and I am sure that the honourable member will not deny that. That is a fact. So, I want you to know those are the kind of issues and concerns that come forward to our office because they are unable to touch base with the government in power and that is the unfortunate part of it all. (Interruptions)

Anyway, I just wanted to say that the year 2003 comes upon us very quickly. I know that there are a good many people on that side of the Legislature floor are going to be one term MLAs. That is a fact. I don't have to name one, there are probably about 20, 30 or 31 of them probably over there; probably about 31 of them. (Interruptions)

This government can't continue to make promises to a community that used to respect them and get away with it. There was also the honourable member for the beautiful Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley who turned around and said free fishing licences. When he was in the Opposition that member spoke about free fishing licences, consistently spoke about free fishing licences. When he got on the other side of the fence what happened? He said, well there has got to be a $5.00 stocking fee. Can you imagine? A $5.00 environmental stocking fee. Well, who brought that to the attention, it was the NDP who brought that to the attention. It was the NDP who made sure that, in fact, this Tory Government was not going to get away with failing Nova Scotians, even though every day we hear about how they fail Nova Scotians, every single day we are hearing about how they failed Nova Scotians.

We talked about education. The honourable member for Halifax Needham, who is the Education Critic, has simply challenged the minister about the kind of money she has placed in her budget, particularly with the Halifax Regional School Board. She says, we know that the Halifax Regional School Board is the lowest-funded school board in Nova Scotia. She admitted that. What she didn't admit is that it is the lowest-funded school board in Canada. That is what the minister didn't admit. As a result of being the lowest-funded school board, the school board is out there drafting budgets, as we speak, restructuring their budgets, closing schools, putting janitorial people out on the streets, and cutting teachers jobs. When those members came to this Legislative Assembly to have their concerns addressed, who brought the concerns forward? It was the NDP who brought the concerns forward. As a matter of fact, I went to every single one of those school closure meetings.

AN HON. MEMBER: Who got a standing ovation? Who got a standing ovation?

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, it was a tremendous amount of work at those school closure meetings. It was gut-wrenching; it was heartbreaking. As a matter of fact, the member for Halifax Needham, the Education Critic put forward a resolution, talking about the importance of small community schools and the value of small community schools, particularly in socially and economically challenged areas. We brought that resolution forward. We debated the importance of those small community schools.

[Page 2124]

Mr. Speaker, I want you to know that every time we went to those school closure meetings, people knew we were there. There were many of those school closure meetings when I didn't see representatives of the other political Parties speaking on behalf of those citizens. It was the NDP who was speaking on behalf of those citizens. I was there at every one of those meetings.

AN HON. MEMBER: That is why we are here, Jerry.

MR. PYE: And that is why we are here. That is why we are here. (Interruptions) We are here. (Interruptions) We are here to carry that (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, that is the reason why we have to make sure that this Financial Measures (2001) Bill is not supported. We in this Party will not be supporting that Financial Measures (2001) Bill, I can assure you, because it does not address the issues that Nova Scotians want to have addressed out there. That is the important thing, the issues that Nova Scotians want to have addressed are not being addressed under this Financial Measures (2001) Bill, Bill No. 30. I want to tell you, it is quite obvious that the member for Dartmouth South is worried already, and there are still two years left to go. That is quite evident, because he knows how these revolving seats work, and he knows that this seat will be turned around if there is anyone left on the Tory side after 2003, that they will be sitting on this side of the floor. That is a guarantee. (Interruptions)

I will certainly be making some tours through Dartmouth South, particularly after tonight. There are many seniors in that area, and they know exactly the kind of service they are getting from their MLA. Anyway, I certainly want to go back to education. I certainly want to know the kind of impact that this government's decision, with respect to not providing sufficient dollars to the Halifax Regional School Board. They have caused two school closures in Dartmouth North and they are going to do a population shift that is second to none. There has been no particular area that has been so affected by school closures as Dartmouth North. The citizens are now left to challenge the legal decision of the Halifax Regional School Board, by taking out of their own pocket to hire a lawyer to address the areas for which you are already paying taxes, and that is education.

[6:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, you know that kind of thing is being viewed by all Nova Scotians across this province. Those are the kind of issues that Nova Scotians are watching how this Tory Government responds to. Those are the kind of issues that are not addressed in this Financial Measures (2001) Bill and the minister has to recognize that if education is paramount, if we are going to move to a productive society and we are going to move forward, then the only way that we are going to do that is through a quality education.

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

[Page 2125]

MR. PYE: Yes, Mr. Speaker, of course.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to take the opportunity, if I can, to introduce to all members of the House a person who, for many years, has been a supporter of mine. He is my brother Rick. With him is his wife Charmaine. It is Rick's 40th birthday. I guess I can tell everybody that. He thought he would drop in and see us, I guess, on my first day on this job. I certainly appreciate his continued support and just ask the House to welcome them. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Welcome Rick and Charmaine. Welcome to the Nova Scotia Legislature. We certainly hope that you enjoy your time here this evening.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, I do know both of the guests here in the west gallery tonight and I also want to welcome them both to this Legislative Assembly. I have known both of them for a number of years. They are fine citizens.

Mr. Speaker, I just want to continue on with respect to the fact it was the NDP who went out there and searched and asked Nova Scotians what they felt were the priority items that the government ought to address. We commissioned a study in March that went between February 20th and March 1st. The poll was carried out by the NDP and it was done by Corporate Research and the margin of error is 3.9 per cent, 95 times out of 100. I want to tell you what that poll had said. The poll had said, 44 per cent of Nova Scotians think health care needs to be available when they need it, 21 per cent wanted a quality of education for their children, 14 per cent said attracting new and expanded industries to bring jobs to this province. A 10 per cent income tax cut was only dealt by 9 per cent of Nova Scotians and eliminating the deficit to reduce the debt burden on future generations was only approved by 9 per cent of Nova Scotians. So this particular government is on an agenda which is not supported by the majority of Nova Scotians. (Interruptions)

We, in the New Democratic Party, have polled those Nova Scotians. That is the reason we are . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Honourable members, there is far, far too much racket going on in the Chamber here and I would ask all honourable members to please try to bring themselves to a little more order. It is very difficult to hear the honourable member for Dartmouth North.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North has the floor.

[Page 2126]

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank you very much and I want to tell you that I guess it is quite apparent that the government side doesn't want to hear these numbers because it is not their agenda. They are driving an agenda that is not Nova Scotians' agenda. It is not driven by Nova Scotians and we have searched that out. Only one month ago, that information has come across. Nova Scotians are obviously very much aware of what they want as their priority and what they have set for their priority: quality health care, quality education. They are not concerned about a 10 per cent tax cut four years from now or two years from now. They know that they have paid the price for that 10 per cent tax increase.

If you really want to know how much of a price they have paid, they have paid $94 million so far, excuse me, I should say $114 million so far with the $20 million that has now changed this Financial Measures (2001) Bill from Bill No. 11 to Bill No. 30 because of the calculations of the tobacco that were not actually calculated in this bill; so now there is another $20 million, $5 million of which will go to advertising and $15 million of which will be put into the slush fund.

AN HON. MEMBER: Advertising?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I want to clarify what the honourable member just said. Did he just say the . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Is the honourable minister on a point of order or does he want to ask the honourable member a question?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. Last week he was speaking in support of the increase in tobacco taxes, now he is criticizing them. Which is it?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I can understand how that would be confusing, but it is not a point of order.

MR. PYE: If the honourable minister would have allowed me to finish, he would have known that I supported the increase in tobacco fees. He would have also known that I support that the revenue generated through the tobacco - the sum of $20 million - that it should be totally spent on tobacco-related issues and programs, such as a healthy educational program where brochures are delivered and a palliative care program where those people who are affected with lung diseases as a result of smoking will get those kinds of breathing apparatuses that are absolutely necessary to continue them on and let them have a peaceful enjoyment for at least the last few days of their lives.

[Page 2127]

That is the kind of thing, I don't want the additional $20 million, $15 million of it going into general revenue so that this government can continue to use it when they find it politically expedient to throw money somewhere. The total amount of money needs to be spent on areas from which it was generated and that is an extensive health and education program on the negative impact of tobacco smoking.

That is the reason why the NDP had to ferret out all these tax increases. They were sticking it to Nova Scotians and they were making every attempt to get away with it - $114 million annually - not today because these fees will not go away. They are here forever and a day. That $114 million will continue to be there. (Interruption) Did I hear somebody say, did you ever run a business?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Honourable members, there are far too many slings and errors - arrows, I'm sorry - being slung around this Legislature and I would ask all honourable members to please try to rein themselves in a little bit. The honourable member for Dartmouth North should try at least not to be distracted by the rabbit tracks.

MR. PYE: It is not for me to tell the Speaker his job, so I just simply wait until the Speaker calls the House to order so that I can continue on. It is great not to have to yell, Mr. Speaker; now that I can lower the tone of my voice, I can bring issues that the government is responsible for and won't address. In the blue book on Page 26, under Transportation, it says, "Dedicate all taxes raised through motor vehicle licensing and fuel sales to highway construction and maintenance to provide a solid base for highway spending which may be increased depending on public need and available revenues;"

AN HON. MEMBER: Jerry, isn't this supposed to be the year of the road?

MR. PYE: This is supposed to be the year of the road and the honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect, who is our Transportation Critic, Mr. Speaker, if you want me to table (Interruptions) Mr. Speaker, that is why we are here, to remind this Tory Government on how it failed Nova Scotians. (Interruptions) Mr. Speaker, this Tory Government has failed Nova Scotians. You know, it might be okay if you get a contract, then you don't fail Nova Scotians, you can live reasonably well; might be fine, you know.

Mr. Speaker, this blue book, I have cited some sections out of this blue book from time to time and I know you don't want me to table them, because the blue book has been tabled across this floor some 23 times, I do believe. Not that I am keeping count, but I think it was about some 23 times that this blue book has been tabled across the floor. (Interruption) I simply don't believe that many members have actually read this blue book. I don't believe that many members even believed that they were going to get elected, so they probably threw this blue book in some file folder and walked around the constituency. Now many Nova Scotians have a measurement chart. They have a measurement.

[Page 2128]

AN HON. MEMBER: It's called accountability, Jerry. You tell them, buddy. That's why we're here, to hold them accountable.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, I want you to know that our job as the New Democratic Party is here to make that government accountable. That is exactly what we do. Each and every day during Question Period, we make this government accountable. We know that the Third Party cannot do that, the Third Party has simply tried to lay the blame and now they are on the other side of this Legislative Chamber, the Third Party, and rightly so. The same occurrence will happen to the government in power at the present time.

I want to go back and remind this government what the agenda of Nova Scotians is. Nova Scotians see their agenda as quality health care and quality education. They certainly see those as the two priorities and they certainly want to make sure that we keep this government accountable on those issues.

AN HON. MEMBER: That's why we're here.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, that's why we're here. (Interruptions)

I just want to go to an issue on last Thursday which I brought before this government; an issue about the Department of Community Services contracting out or asking consulting firms to come forward and to offer their services, open the doors and let private consulting firms come in and look at what the Department of Community Services has to offer. I know the media went out there and talked to the minister. The minister said, no, this is only in the IT sector, this is the information technology. This is the software, you know, this is programmed. What the minister didn't tell the media is that this software is the property of those individual consultants and that they wanted these individual consultants to put up some $25 million and, over a four to six year period, they would get $20 million back.

That is $20 million that won't go to needy families. The bottom line is that comes out of taxpayers' pockets. That is a foot in the door and they have already identified the core programs and what is the driver of this. The driver of this is employment services and income assistance. That is the driver of this. They also said about the core programs, the core services which are Housing Services, Family and Children Services, Income Employment Support and Community Supports for Adults. Right now what is happening in those particular areas is that there are individual intake workers.

[6:45 p.m.]

You know, there doesn't need to be a software program delivered to Community Services and we in the NDP brought that up during Question Period because people had brought that to our attention to bring it forward and they knew that we would bring that forward. What happens right now is the Department of Community Services has programs

[Page 2129]

that touch the base of every single individual seeking social assistance or on social assistance. They have access to their Old Age income, their Canada Pension, income supplements, they have access to their bank accounts, they have access to the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency. What more is needed? They tap into every single thing that an individual who is in need has within their possession; the only governmental department other than a prison that is able to tap into the private affairs of individuals so deeply. This here is one foot in the door and it simply shows that that is exactly how the Ontario Government went about it.

As a matter of fact, the Ontario Government went about hiring Andersen Consulting and I just want to read this and I will also table it as well. Andersen Consulting has four approaches: cutting thousands of people off programs they are entitled to; slashing benefit levels; eliminating jobs for trained providers; and replacing them with low wage people with no training. That is part of the software program, is that if in fact they introduce a software program, when through attrition people go out the door they replace them with low wage and non-unionized workers. Accountability, when the public is in charge of social programs we have a say, there is accountability and with Andersen in charge there are only questions. What about the rights of appeal to arbitrary decisions or the rights to gain access to services? What about open reporting of expenditures, profits and practices? Andersen set itself up to decide who gets what and under what circumstances.

Mr. Speaker, what I want you to know is that there were 150 people there that day from different consulting firms looking over the Department of Community Services and wondering what software they are going to get. I mean, cutting up the cash and we here as the NDP are making this Minister of Community Services accountable before what happens in Ontario happens here in Nova Scotia. That is why we are here.

I just wanted to say that the Ontario Government deal with Andersen, the mother of all sweetheart deals, in 1997 the Ontario Ministry of Community and Social Services entered into an agreement with Andersen Consulting for the development and implementation of a new process for delivering social assistance in Ontario. This deal, according to the government's own auditor, allows Andersen Consultanting, the world's largest consulting firm, to pocket $13.1 million that it may not have earned, bill the taxpayers for wages that are almost six times the going rate and ultimately walk away with as much as $180 million, more than twice the amount it had originally asked for. That is what happens when you bring in consulting firms through the door, they are there forever and a day, they are going to have the property rights, the Department of Community Services will continue to pay for these property rights.

What I want to say is that the Andersen deal was slammed by the Auditor General and in a blistering report the government's own Auditor General slammed the deal with Andersen Consulting. The report states, we continue to question the achievements of Andersen Consulting. That was a 32 page slide presentation that the Department of Community

[Page 2130]

Services had with those private consulting firms out there, which we, the NDP, were alerted to and brought forward through Question Period. It was because we, the NDP, care that they brought it to us; it was because they knew who would bring it forward, it would be the NDP. That is exactly the reason why we are here, because people trust us and people want us to get ahead of the issue as soon as possible. They want us to be on top of the issues that are going to affect the lives of Nova Scotians.

The Minister of Community Services got off easy, but the Minister of Community Services knows full well that if a consulting firm is going to invest some $25 million into IT programming or software programming in the Department of Community Services, it knows full well that it wants a return, and it wants a return of some millions of dollars. The report, I do believe the Minister of Community Services can attest to this - I said between four and six years, it might be between six and eight years, I may have changed a number - but between six and eight years, the bottom line is this, the most important thing is that this company is going to walk away with some $20 million, $20 million that could go into the hands of needy Nova Scotians.

The New Democratic Party prides itself on speaking for all Nova Scotians and that is why we are here, because we speak for all Nova Scotians. We speak for Nova Scotians at the bottom end of the scale as well as the top end of the scale, the socio-economic scale. All Nova Scotians from all walks of life come to the New Democratic Party to make sure that we pass that message across this legislative floor, particularly when they can't get that information from their own MLAs who are elected to the government side of the House.

AN HON. MEMBER: What about the phone message.

MR. PYE: I already tabled it. Mr. Speaker, it was just like the telephone message that I tabled to the honourable member for Sackville-Beaver Bank. We have received numerous of those, that is only one. That implies, to me, that members on the government side are doing exactly as the government says, they are toeing the line, they didn't come here, as the blue book says, to speak their own mind, they came here to speak only when the Premier will allow them to speak. The Premier has their lips sealed at this particular time, and their lips will continue to be sealed until the government simply unzips them and allows them to have a say. That will only be if it is endorsed by the government.

Mr. Speaker, I was at a public function one evening when an honourable member implied that he had brought his speech and it was written by the government, because the government wanted to make sure that what he said, they could be accountable for. Those are the kinds of speeches that - you can't even go out there and speak to your citizens on your own unless the speech has been mulled over and read by the government Department of Communications. That is the important thing.

[Page 2131]

Mr. Speaker, I just want to say that the New Democratic Party has been accountable in this Legislature, and we have talked about the downloading onto hospitals, the nursing shortages, the doctor shortages . . .

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

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I can't speak for the existence of the socialist Party, only they can speak for themselves. It would certainly explain the recent news article in The Halifax Herald, Thursday, April 26, 2001, entitled, "Anatomy of a political mutiny". It does tie very effectively into this budgetary process, Bill No. 30. Then we have the picture of a very despondent Leader, Helen MacDonald, "Helen MacDonald was forced to resign as leader of the Nova Scotia NDP . . ."

Mr. Speaker, a number of pronouncements have been made by the socialists here this evening about why all Nova Scotians seem to be flocking to the NDP to get some answers and to get some results and some accountability on Bill No. 30 and all other matters. It is rather perplexing when they had to go through five Leaders to come to that conclusion. (Laughter) Also they had to have a mutiny, and it wasn't on the Bounty. Plus, it had to take a rather articulate lawyer from the Dartmouth area to put a cap on the cyanide six within their caucus. So the issue about Bill No. 30 and accountability and this omnipresence that the NDP have about Nova Scotia and being in such high demand, that is why I was so overwhelmed by the speeches and yet they are not even welcome in their own constituencies.

I will read, Mr. Speaker, this news article, Thursday, January 11, 2001, the Halifax Chronicle-Herald again. The title of this article is, Estabrooks left out of road discussions. New Democratic MLA Bill Estabrooks was feeling left out Wednesday. He wasn't invited to the meeting.

AN HON. MEMBER: Tell me it is not true.

MR. MACKINNON: Tell me it's not true that the issue of financial accountability on road expenditures and the need for road improvements and capital construction was so important that the residents found it necessary not to invite their own MLA. That's what I find so perplexing about all the pronouncements from the socialists here this evening.

Now, Mr. Speaker, they have been saying all through their speeches that is why the people are calling the NDP. Well, look at the acronym, the nothing doing Party. Yes, if you want to talk to a Party that is doing nothing, then call the NDP. That's really what they are saying on their guy's speeches. (Interruption) That's right, we don't know who their Leader is going to be next week. We don't know if they are going to be reading the stars, tea leaves

[Page 2132]

or if, in fact, there will be another mutiny, but we know for sure that effective today and only for today they have done a pretty good job of putting a cap on the cyanide six.

Now, let's look at Bill No. 30, Mr. Speaker, (Laughter) because we didn't seem to learn much from the presentations that were made by the socialists on the budgetary matters. We were quite concerned that the government indeed seems to have a changing position on its revenue estimates almost on a quarterly basis. If we were to look at the figures that were provided by the government for their revenue estimates, we would see what they projected in last year's budget for this year differed quite substantially when it came to federal transfer payments and, indeed, it differed quite substantially, the total revenue projections for the year in their August report from what it is today.

What we are seeing here is that the government has conveniently, in my view, changed the revenue estimates to suit their political needs in the budgetary process. They have deliberately and methodically missed an opportunity to balance the books this year to make it look like they are struggling to deal with the errors and omissions of the previous administration. So let's look at that fairly, Mr. Speaker. Now if we were to use the same accounting principles today, last year and the year before that, back to 1992-93, we would find that the operating deficit for the fiscal year of 1992-93 was over $1 billion, twice the estimated $500-plus million that the then Government of Donald Cameron brought in.

[7:00 p.m.]

Now, let's fast-forward to this year, Mr. Speaker, and let's go back to what the Premier said during Question Period last week when he said that after next year, when the budget is balanced, there will be no further growth in the debt. That is in Hansard. That is his answer during Question Period from questions from my colleague, the member for Lunenburg West. The reality is financial officials within his own department and indeed the Auditor General have stated that with the present plan, the debt itself will continue to grow this fiscal year and for the next four fiscal years thereafter. Even with a balanced budget, our debt will continue to grow at a rate in excess of $3.5 million a day. That is how much the debt will continue to grow even with a balanced budget. So what is happening is that the government has not gained control of the fiscal and monetary issues in this province. Despite what the Premier says, despite what the Minister of Finance says, the debt will continue to grow and it will escalate and it will continue to chop at our revenue sources.

Mr. Speaker, in the revenue projections for this year alone, the government conveniently estimated that there would be a reduction in federal transfer dollars. Well, the figures speak quite to the contrary. If we look at the Canada Health and Social Transfer revenues for the year 1999-2000, the total revenue between cash and tax transfers is $910 million; for 2000-01, $944 million; for this projected fiscal year, $948 million. That is an increase. That is not a decrease as per the Minister of Finance's estimates in his budget on Page A30 of the book. So the Minister of Finance is misleading the people of Nova Scotia

[Page 2133]

on his revenue projections. The figures speak for themselves. Why the Minister of Finance would make such a projection when, in fact, these are documented figures. That is why we are somewhat suspect about Bill No. 30, the Financial Measures (2001) Act.

Mr. Speaker, those revenue projections will continue to grow in the following fiscal year 2002-03, $958 million; 2003-04 fiscal year, $971 million; for a grand total of $4.731 billion of federal transfer dollars. So clearly the Minister of Finance has misled the House on his figures.

The government, when it was in Opposition, Mr. Speaker, also was so critical of the previous administration on the issue of VLTs and video gambling, the casino issue and so on and so forth but do you know, the darnedest thing, when you look at the figures in the budget, we will find that the Province of Nova Scotia has the highest revenue of any province in Canada as a percentage of its total budget revenue from gambling than all other nine provinces - the highest percentage of revenue than any other province. As a percentage of the total budget, not a per capita, Nova Scotia generates more revenue than any other province. In British Columbia, it is 2.76 per cent; in Alberta, 4.78 per cent; and we can go on and on. In New Brunswick it is 3.16 per cent; Nova Scotia, 5.34 per cent. The next closest to that is Manitoba at 5.29 per cent.

Mr. Speaker, the government seems to enjoy the benefits from gambling in Nova Scotia as much as the previous administration did. The previous administration was criticized quite heavily by the Conservative caucus and others and perhaps rightfully so, in some cases. Maybe, perhaps, for the same reasons they have been criticizing the government in British Columbia or the socialist government that existed in Ontario. That is not the point. The point is that the government has generated a considerable percentage of its budget as a single line item from a source to which it has committed itself to eliminating. Yet, the revenue sources continue to grow from gambling in this budget.

Mr. Speaker, the next question one would ask is, is that why perhaps, the Minister of Justice has gone soft on tobacco smuggling? Maybe that is why the minister has gone soft on fines and the litigation that should be taken with regard to tobacco smuggling. Maybe that is why the Minister of Health has gone soft on a recommendation that was made in his own department to increase the tobacco tax by $8.00 a carton, not $4.00 a carton. Perhaps, the figures speak for themselves. In the last two and one-half years, prior to this government coming to power, there were five times, possibly six times, as many fines at their maximum limit, than were issued under the present administration.

We all know that the court system is independent of the political system. It is supposed to be, so we believe it is such. But it is quite a coincidence that, under the previous administration and the previous activities, and I will table this information for the minister, it is quite startling that the fine structure for smuggling tobacco, the severe fines were considerably more in issuance than under the previous administration. That may be pure

[Page 2134]

coincidence. It is not for me to judge that process, but it is quite a coincidence, Mr. Speaker, that these fines were at the maximum limit several years ago.

Now because the government has sent out the message through its budgetary process that it is going soft on tobacco smuggling, this may very well be a signal for those who enjoy smuggling tobacco that, perhaps, it is okay to do this. Maybe because the fine structure is not as high as it was in the past then we can get away with it. Yes, there will be a proliferation and that, Mr. Speaker, coming from a Minister of Justice and a Minister of Health who have proclaimed this government's commitment to eliminating smoking and coming down heavily on tobacco smugglers. It is very disappointing. It is very disappointing and it's a total contradiction to what they committed themselves to. So you wonder why people would be hesitant to have faith in that particular process. I will table this for the minister. It comes from his own department, certainly for the approbation of all members of the committee.

From February 1997 through until, I would say, March 1999, there were over 26 prosecutions with fines to the maximum limit of $10,000. Now, from the time that the administration took over to the present date on this printout, there were only three. Yes, I will table this for all members, particularly for the backbenchers on the government side, because I would be quite confident, Mr. Speaker, that they would enjoy getting this information. If it is anything like the information they received with regard to the compliance officers, you know that there may be some inaccuracies coming from the Cabinet level.

Mr. Speaker, that is very disturbing information coming from the Department of Justice as late as April 26th of this year. That clearly demonstrates that the number of fines that have been issued since this government came to power, at the maximum limit, aren't at the same measure as they were before. Now that may be totally unattached to the presence of this administration. As a layperson, I am not in a position to make a better judgment, other than what I see before me. But the signals are not good coming from the Minister of Justice when he is soft on tobacco smuggling and the Minister of Health, who has proclaimed his war against smoking . . .

MR. WILLIAM LANGILLE: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Perhaps I could clarify some things for the honourable member. The Canada Excise tax is a separate charge from our provincial charge. Therefore, maybe the member doesn't have all the statistics and, also, maybe these people were charged under the Canada Excise tax, which is a separate charge. It is not a dual charge. It is laid separately. Maybe that will be a bit of a clarification for the honourable member.

MR. SPEAKER: That certainly is a point of clarification, but not a point of order.

MR. MACKINNON: I do appreciate the intervention from the member for Colchester North, because with his legal background in police services, I think it is important. He makes a very valuable contribution. But the fact remains, Mr. Speaker, if the honourable member

[Page 2135]

were to read these documents and the type of charges under the sections they were issued, clearly it would demonstrate that the government has gone soft on tobacco smuggling. The government, the Minister of Justice, has a legal obligation to deliver that message to all law enforcement officers, all law enforcement agencies and, indeed, to the people of Nova Scotia that tobacco smuggling will not be tolerated and the government will not continue to go soft as this minister is now.

[7:15 p.m.]

That is the disappointing part about it. Same as the Minister of Health who showed a lot of bravado on his proclamation against tobacco smoking only to bring in a bit of a whimper of a measure. Only half the tax that was recommended by his own departmental report. So there are considerable pressures within that government to go soft on tobacco smuggling and the war against tobacco.

I had the good fortune of meeting a senior citizen from the metro area last week. He just came to watch the proceedings. He raised the issue about tobacco smoking and his addiction to smoking. He couldn't understand why the Minister of Health couldn't provide him, as a senior citizen with the patch, but yet they are able to provide it to inmates at correctional centres free of charge. Now, if we are going to help one Nova Scotian, why not help them all? I feel that is a fairly legitimate concern. How many honest, hard-working Nova Scotians feel that if you are going to provide the patch to one group in society, then should it not be provided to the other group? And here is the strangest thing - when the Minister of Justice made that policy announcement, implemented that policy, we go back to the Minister of Health's budgetary process, he indicated that the Minister of Justice did not collaborate with him on that issue. That is public record. Why would the Minister of Justice take it upon himself to implement a policy on smoking and not even talk to the Minister of Health?

That is a tax issue. That is coming out of the Department of Justice, Correctional Services' budget. Should there not have been some type of collaboration as to the effects? Yet, the Minister of Justice will say he was getting complaints from correctional officers. There is such a loose knit, uncoordinated approach to this policy that it begs you to wonder what the rationale was for them trying to spin out the message to Nova Scotians that they were tough on tobacco smuggling, that they were against smoking, in particular. As the Premier stated on a number of occasions, he himself was so concerned about the number of young people smoking in Nova Scotia. He was so concerned that he was going to wage an all-out war against smoking on behalf of young people because the number of young people smoking was increasing in Nova Scotia. What has he done? What substantive action has the Minister of Finance, the Minister of Justice, the Minister of Health or the Premier brought before this House and before the people of Nova Scotia? Besides going soft on smuggling and not implementing the tax measures or the programs that they said they were going to bring in. Again, Bill No. 30 is a major disappointment.

[Page 2136]

Let us take a look at our transportation budget. During the budgetary process, the Minister of Transportation and Public Works indicated that there would be $57 million capital for road improvements. If my memory serves me correctly, $22 million for the 100-Series Highway and the other $35 million for secondary roads. Sounds fair. Now, each and every division in the province, every regional office had to, before the budget was brought down, bring their priority, their list of paving priorities and capital construction priorities to the minister, to the department, and yet the minister can't tell us what he is going to do with the $57 million. What was the value of the Minister of Transportation and Public Works asking all the MLAs of the Legislature to itemize their political priorities, their constituency priorities, the needs of their constituency?

Mr. Speaker, in this particular case, I collaborated with the experts in his department, and the priorities that were listed were consistent with the priorities that came from senior staff in his department. Now, the Minister of Transportation and Public Works refuses to act on those. What type of political chicanery is going on within that department? What is the value of going through a professional exercise, such as what his staff is doing, only to be cast aside? Are we going back to what the previous Conservative Administration used to do? They used to have a red file, a blue file and an orange file, there weren't too many of them, but they had red files and blue files. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, he received almost 10 kilometres, the beautiful Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley. Check the public record. I believe if we go through the figures, I think there was a rather fair distribution, particularly down through Pictou County on the 100-Series Highway, on the twinning of the highway down through there. They were all Conservative members. Was the work done? Yes, it was.

Let's look at Highway No. 101, let's look at what this government has done under the highway programs since it came to power. This is a freedom of information request we received - this was originally dated February - on policy and surface highway funding in Nova Scotia. This is the federal-provincial agreement. The darnedest thing, the three major highway agreements that were in existence when this government came to power have all expired and they haven't been able to negotiate or provide a renewed federal-provincial agreement.

Mr. Speaker, let's look at the Highway Improvement Program, referred to as the HIP program. That expired just as this government was coming to power. I recall, after that government came to power, they were over there, especially the member for Pictou East, if we checked Hansard, all the statements and the resolutions, what a wonderful job and how effective they were standing up to Ottawa and getting these agreements on the farm agreement. All these different agreements, and he was saying that because they were effective, they could stand up to the federal government because we were only lap dogs, because we weren't effective, because we didn't want to offend our cousins in Ottawa.

[Page 2137]

Mr. Speaker, this is clear evidence of what an ineffective government this is. This HIP program, which was valued at $103.5 million in federal funding expired, and this government hasn't been able to negotiate a new agreement. Why not? Where is the Minister of Transportation and Public Works on this issue? Let's look at the Strategic Highway Improvement Program, referred to as the SHIP program, a six year agreement that, again, expired just as this government was coming into power. This was valued at over $70 million in federal funding. Where is the new agreement? Where's the beef, Mr. Speaker? It is not coming from over there. We are getting lots of bull but we are not getting lots of beef. Two agreements down the tubes.

Let's look at the third one, the Atlantic Freight Transition Program, the AFTP, a six year agreement, Mr. Speaker, that expired this year past, this fiscal year. That was valued at over $85 million in federal funding. That expired under this minister's watch. How can we expect the Minister of Transportation and Public Works to convince Nova Scotians, convince the people living in the Valley, convince those people who use Highway No. 101, that there will be an agreement forthcoming? The best that we can hope - and these are the department's own figures - is that with slightly more than $2 million left in that budget (Interruption)

Well, Mr. Speaker, the honourable member for Sackville-Beaver Bank says it was the former Minister of Transportation and Public Works in the Liberal Government who cancelled that. Well, how could they cancel it when the agreement just expired under a Tory watch? It would pay that honourable member for Sackville-Beaver Bank, as I have suggested on numerous occasions, to at least read the document before he speaks on it so that way he would at least be able to talk in an informed fashion. (Interruptions)

I will certainly table it because that is the only way those backbenchers are going to get information from the Cabinet, Mr. Speaker. Let's table this document so the honourable member can read on it and hopefully maybe at least participate in a late show debate on a future day.

So, this is a very (Interruption) The member for Sackville-Beaver Bank says, give him whatever else I have over here. Well, I can assure you, Mr. Speaker, whatever I have, as little as it may be, would certainly be a lot more than that member has because if he had it I am sure he would have used it. He has a single page with his name printed on it. That is about all we can expect from that honourable member. Never mind rabbit tracks because that is all we will get from that honourable member.

Mr. Speaker, looking at that particular program, the $2 million that is left in that particular agreement, the AFTP agreement, approximately $2 million and that is to be used for an overpass structure at Highway No. 101 providing that it meets the environmental assessment requirements. That is expected to be approved by the end of September 2000.

[Page 2138]

Perhaps we are justified in calling the Minister of Transportation and Public Works the minister of landscaping because that is about all that he will be able to do with $2 million.

AN HON. MEMBER: The minister of weed whackers.

MR. MACKINNON: Well, one honourable has referred to him as the minister of weed whackers but I don't want to go there, Mr. Speaker, because that has a double meaning. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, the honourable member for Dartmouth South would dearly love to enter into this debate (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member indicated earlier that he shouldn't follow rabbit tracks, he doesn't know where they may lead. So stick to Bill No. 30 as you have been doing once in a while. Thank you.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, the issue on Highway No. 101 is very disturbing. The minister has committed $5 million this year to that, subject to federal approval. Let's be realistic. He has $22 million for capital construction. Now, he has a number of options before him. He can put all $22 million on Highway No. 101 and exclude all other regions of the province or he can take $5 million out of that $22 million and get going. Let's start construction, stop the talk. But you know, there is a hidden component to this equation that the minister hasn't told us. There really is. I will certainly provide these documents for members of the committee. It is the province that is holding it up, according to the federal government. The province is holding it up and it is dragging its feet on the environmental assessment, on the process. That is what is happening.

[7:30 p.m.]

That is why the province has gone soft on this particular issue because they have not acted upon the numerous requests that were made by Ottawa to get this environmental assessment process completed, that process that falls within the purview of the Province of Nova Scotia. That is the problem. That is contrary to what the Minister of Transportation and Public Works said during the election, the day after the election construction would start. Then, during the budgetary process last week, he finally conceded that that really wasn't the case. So, in a roundabout way, he was either apologizing to his constituents and the people of the Valley or he was finally acknowledging that he misled them. So enough said on that.

Mr. Speaker, that is why, in Bill No. 30, we are suspect of what the government is intending to do. We see that the Minister of Finance has provided estimates showing a reduction of the Canada Health and Social Transfer when, in fact, that is not the case. We see that the Minister of Health is soft on tobacco taxes. The Minister of Health had the opportunity, to bring to the Minister of Finance that recommendation and he had the

[Page 2139]

opportunity as minister for the single largest budget in the Province of Nova Scotia, within the overall budget, to go for the $8.00 per carton and not the $4.00. He whimped out. That is what he did.

HON. JAMES MUIR: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I am astounded at the shortness of the memory of that individual. No, I am not really at all, but he has heard me on my feet in here, on a number of occasions, indicating that I had supported a much larger increase in the cigarette tax as the Minister of Health. I just wanted to tell you that I even phoned the honourable federal Minister of Health and encouraged him to put the heat on his federal Minister of Finance. I want to say to the honourable member, I just wish he would go back in time and remember.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member makes a good point.

MR. MACKINNON: That is true, Mr. Speaker. He probably did bring it to the Minister of Finance. But what he is trying to say, at the same time, is he is not very effective in advocating his fight against tobacco smoking in Nova Scotia. That is what he has just said and he is asking the federal government to, once again, bail him out, like the federal government has bailed them out on agriculture, on fisheries, on just about every issue going, transportation. What he is now saying, even though he is a minister responsible for the single, largest departmental line item in this province, over $1.6 billion, he doesn't . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: It's $1.8 million.

MR. MACKINNON: Oh, $1.8 million now. It has grown that much. So much for capping it at a $46 million . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: It has grown that much in 15 minutes.

MR. MACKINNON: It is amazing, Mr. Speaker. What he is saying is he doesn't have an effective voice. Because if he did have an effective voice, they would have listened to him. They would have said, that Minister of Finance is really fighting for the young people in Nova Scotia and he is right. He is on the right path. What he is saying is that by listening to the Minister of Finance and adopting into policy, into law, incorporating in their budget, his recommendations would, in fact, reduce health costs. In fact, what his government is saying is, no. We talk the talk but we don't walk the walk. That is what it is all about. That is why the Minister of Health had to hire more spin doctors in his department to make up for the shortcomings in his effectiveness in convincing his Cabinet colleagues on the necessity to be tough on tobacco smoking.

[Page 2140]

I applaud the Minister of Health, at least he made a gallant effort and he is standing there, albeit scratching his head, he is like Custer when he came over the hill, he didn't know what hit him until he got there, and that is what happened when he got to Cabinet I am sure. I empathize with him because I am sure his heart is in the right place.

Perhaps if he would talk and collaborate with the Minister of Justice who has adopted his own non-smoking policy within his department, maybe the two of them could get together, probably have a cup of coffee - I wouldn't suggest over a cup of coffee and a cigarette - or even maybe a Cappuccino and they would talk about this anti-smoking policy. Why is the Minister of Justice implementing his own no-smoking policy and the Minister of Health is not? That is really perplexing and then they say they don't talk to each other. They have got to get their act together sooner - at some point in time I know at the Cabinet table they have to communicate.

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

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, perhaps the honourable member would be open to a question about something he said about this period of time last Monday night. Could I quote from Hansard, would that be okay?

MR. SPEAKER: Did the honourable Minister of Health wish to ask the honourable member a question? He will take a question.

MR. MUIR: What he said was this, "They are underestimating the resilience of the minds of Nova Scotians. They do have a good memory and they don't forget easily. They didn't forget when we made mistakes, and certainly they won't forget as this government continues to make mistakes." "AN HON. MEMBER: What mistakes did you make?" The honourable member for Cape Breton West said, "Enough to put us on this side of the House." Mr. Speaker, I just wondered, would he care to specify some of those mistakes as a learning experience for us?

MR. MACKINNON: Yes, absolutely, but you know what, they were honest mistakes, honest mistakes that we would do again and again and again. Do you know why? Because we weren't going to hire spin doctors to tell them something that wasn't correct. We didn't tell them that we were going to correct health care for $46 million and then stick it to them with an additional $460 million plus on expenditures. What we said is what we did, not what that lot across did, tell the people of Nova Scotia one thing and do something else. So, they were honest mistakes in government. But do you know what? We are proud of the decisions that we made.

Now that lot across is adopting the health care investment plan that was put together under the stewardship of my colleague, the member for Dartmouth East, when he was Minister of Health. It is proving to be a darned good one except for the fact that they don't

[Page 2141]

know what they are doing with it and that is why they had to hire a deputy and a deputy deputy and probably another Deputy Deputy Dog and probably a couple more spin doctors. Who knows what in the name of heavens is going on over there. Sometimes you wonder if maybe they are practising witchcraft on how to spin out the story. I don't know what is going on but I have never seen a department that had so many communications officers . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I am not sure what Beauchesne says relative to witchcraft, but I would say that is pretty unparliamentary sounding.

MR. MACKINNON: The Minister of Education has a bit of an advantage, she has a literary background, I don't. (Interruptions) Well, we are not going to pay attention to certain little Chihuahuas that keep crackling from the back over there. (Laughter) They will be there and they will be crackling until the day of the writ and they will be just as effective as they were the day they came in, that is why we will just leave it at that.

The Minister of Health is quite correct. We made some decisions and we made mistakes and that is part and parcel of the reason why we are on this side of the House. There were a lot of other reasons too. The promises that were made by a Party during an election campaign, the so called blue book didn't prove to be very substantive. Not that I want the blue book, but I want to remind the honourable Minister of Health about some of the - I don't know if I can use the word - false promise but I can say, very misleading promises, broken promises. The Volunteer Benefits Act, what happened there? What happened to all the volunteer firefighters? What happened to that $500 tax credit that they asked for day in and day out - they even introduced a Private Member's Bill and insisted that we provide unanimous approval of the House on the spot, sight unseen. But where is it at now that they are on that side with a majority government?

AN HON. MEMBER: Who sponsored that bill?

MR. MACKINNON: The sponsor, I believe, was the then Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party. It could very well have been the honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley. Mr. Speaker, you were in that caucus at that time and you could correct me if I am wrong, one of those two members.

I believe it was the Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party and they knew it was a financial measure. They knew that only the Minister of Finance could introduce a financial measure, but they did it because it was good theatrics, it was good politics and they were trying to come down on the side of every volunteer in the Province of Nova Scotia. Now they are on that side. Let them put up, put the money where their mouth was. They had the golden opportunity and they blew it.

[Page 2142]

Volunteers, particularly volunteer firefighters, some 8,000 volunteer firefighters in this province are asking, why isn't the government living up to its commitment? I would like to go on record and make my pitch that the government include this tax measure, this benefit, this commitment to the volunteers of this province on Page 24 of the blue book, that it be included in the next budget. We will support it. We will support that measure because it complements the first step that we took in recognizing volunteer firefighters in this province on the fee-free-license which was subsequently adopted later that year and you give credit where credit is due.

What about the issue of the fuel tax? This government stated in its blue book that at the second year of its mandate, that all of this vehicle road tax, this excise tax would go towards road construction and capital road improvements. The Minister of Transportation and Public Works did some apologetic back-pedalling for the government during estimates and said, it is their intent, their hope to fulfill that commitment by the end of its term. Another broken promise by this government, in particular, rather disappointing considering he is a senior member.

He is Chairman of P&P Committee; he is the minister of everything in this particular government except for the minister who lives up to the commitments of the Progressive Conservatives' promise in the blue book. Again, another disappointment. This is the same member who came out on several occasions when he was on this side of the House, opposed to the provincial tax portion of the HST. He was adamantly opposed to a tax on a tax. What have they done since they have gotten on that side of the House? Well, they have continued to gouge the consumer and not put the money where they said they were going to put it to its most effective use. In fact, they have not given us the benefit of the federal tax break, from the last federal budget, no bracket creep in their budget; that is very disappointing.

[7:45 p.m.]

Here is what it translates into, Mr. Speaker. The Canadian Taxpayers' Federation did their own independent analysis of any Opposition Party here, and hopefully of the government. They came to the conclusion that because the bracket creep provision that was not allotted for in the budget, to protect every Nova Scotian, every taxpaying Nova Scotian, to protect them from that increased tax, for example, with an income of $45,000, they will pay an extra $443 into the provincial coffers. The government says that there is no tax increase. That's not true. It is misleading and it is most unfair; it is patently unfair to the people of Nova Scotia.

Again, for an example, a family with a combined income of $80,000 per year would pay an additional $852, just because of bracket creep; another broken promise by this government. Bill No. 30 does very little to address the direction that this government is going in. Mr. Speaker, we saw a tax of what this restructuring of government is going to be all about. (Interruptions)

[Page 2143]

Yes, we will have lots to say on Bill No. 20, Mr. Speaker, but in this particular case. I refer to the Halifax Chronicle-Herald, Saturday's edition, April 28th, the Minister of Transportation and Public Works, who is the Chairman of P&P said, "This department will save money. There are no two ways about it - absolutely guaranteed to save money," Well, Mr. Speaker, how in the name of heaven are you going to save money when you increase the budget by $900,000; $900,000 extra to senior bureaucrats and political spin doctors over across the way - referring to One Government Place - and the staff going from 17 to 25. How can that be a savings? Will the Minister of Transportation and Public Works, the Chairman of the Priorities and Planning Committee, provide members in Opposition the details that he and his colleagues committed themselves to provide.

Let's look at the representatives from Access Nova Scotia when they came before the Public Accounts Committee several weeks ago. That honourable representative indicated that she would provide a list of all the recommendations that were made to P&P by Access Nova Scotia on the restructuring of government. So far, they have only provided one, the closing of the Government Bookstore. Despite several requests and numerous commitments by the minister, by staff members, by the director within his department, they refused to provide the information. That is a vital piece of information. What is the government hiding? What is the minister responsible for P&P, what is the minister responsible for Access Nova Scotia hiding from the people of Nova Scotia, and indeed hiding from members of this Legislature? Mr. Speaker, if the minister feels that he is going to be able to ram through Bill No. 20 on a future day without providing some of that detail, I am afraid he may be a little disappointed.

Mr. Speaker, do you know - and I believe it is our legal right - every resolution that comes before this House, whether it be the member for Dartmouth North or South, or wherever, they introduce a resolution and we could call for a recorded vote and - I know some members who could almost take up to an hour to decide how they are going to vote on that resolution. You know, that could certainly be an opportunity for the minister responsible for P&P to rethink the wrongheadedness of his approach to this legislative process; this heavy-handed approach to think that the minority doesn't have any rights. A responsible Opposition has an obligation to ensure that all the facts, where applicable, are provided and then we'll let the people of Nova Scotia make their decision. If we are right they'll tell us and if we are wrong they'll tell us.

Let's go back and remind the government of what one of its ministers said in the House last week with regard to a question and seeking information from his department, the Minister of Environment and Labour. He says "We respond to the chief medical officer's request, not to requests by members of the Legislature . . ." Well, have you ever seen such contempt by a right-wing, neo-conservative reformist who now wants to be a Conservative? He would make Stockwell Day look like an NDPer, Mr. Speaker. That is what that honourable minister would do in my eyes, the honourable Minister of Environment and Labour would make Stockwell Day look like a socialist.

[Page 2144]

I don't want to unnerve the member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour on his first day on the job, but this is democracy and they were looking to make some breakthroughs in Alberta so that could be their opportunity. Suffice it to say, Mr. Speaker - I realize my time is short - there will be opportunity, during the Committee of the Whole House, to address some specific detail, but this is not fair to Opposition members, but as well, equally so, it is not fair to the government backbenchers. They were led to believe that on the compliance officers, that proposal was made by the RCMP to the government when in fact it was made by the government to the RCMP. That is the type of mischief that goes on.

Mr. Speaker, I thank you for the opportunity to speak on this particular second reading.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise this evening and speak for a few moments on Bill No. 30, the Financial Measures (2001) Bill, the bill that represents, in legislative form, the budget, the financial direction the government is taking the province over the next 12 months. I had, as you know, some time to speak on this matter the other evening where I talked a bit about, I guess I took as my point of departure the fact this is the mid-point in this government's mandate, that this is their third budget. The mid-point in their mandate and what, for me, is important is what it is this government has done or said it is going to do in this particular budget, in this particular bill, to give Nova Scotians an indication of whether there is any hope whatsoever that they are going to fulfill any of the promises they made in the 1999 campaign. Frankly, I continue to search to no avail this document and other commitments this government has made in recent weeks and months, and they have strayed so far from the commitments they made in order to get elected that I am sure when they take the opportunity to review it as individuals, they must blush to some significant degree.

Mr. Speaker, the problems and the challenges and the opportunities facing this great province are not insignificant. They are the kinds of challenges and the kinds of opportunities that require a courageous government. They require a government, I believe, that is clear about what needs to be done and has the courage of its convictions in order to carry forward with that particular vision. In 1999, when this Party was running for government, they told Nova Scotians they had a vision, that they knew the course which needed to be followed, that they were clear on this course, and that they had the points in their platform which would be followed in order to take the Province of Nova Scotia down that road.

It didn't matter what it was; it didn't matter whether it was roads themselves; it didn't matter whether it was health care, education; whether it was pertaining to gas royalties. Whatever it was this Party, the Tories, had the answers. They had the answers for Nova Scotians. Unfortunately, there is a huge gap between what was promised to Nova Scotians in 1999 and what this government has actually carried forward.

[Page 2145]

My colleagues and I have had the opportunity over the last number of weeks and months, in fact over the last two years, to bring to the attention of Nova Scotians the failings of this particular government, to remind Nova Scotians - as my colleague for Dartmouth North was a little bit earlier - what it was this government said it was going to do and what in fact it is doing right now, and why it is such a problem for the future of this province.

I wanted to participate in that type of debate, maybe to some extent because holding this government accountable, pointing out its failings, pointing out the fact that they have failed to come through in their commitments some would suggest is why we are here as an Opposition, and what it is that we are mandated to do as the Opposition to the government of the Province of Nova Scotia.

In the areas of offshore and onshore natural gas, the now-Premier, then-Leader of of the Third Party, the Progressive Conservatives, talked some great deal when in Opposition and when seeking office in the 1999 election, talked about the failings of the Liberal Government's energy policy, talked about the failings of their royalty deal on offshore natural gas that they had negotiated, and laid out in some considerable detail what it was that he would do, and his government would do, to fix that deal to make sure that the Province of Nova Scotia wasn't beholden to big oil, as some have suggested, to ensure that the people of this province, that the companies in this province, benefit to the maximum degree from those offshore resources.

[8:00 p.m.]

Let me say that the Premier, the Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party, has failed to do anything different than what the Liberals did when they were in government with respect to the royalty deal, with respect to any rules and regulations affecting the development of offshore and onshore gas and oil. They have done absolutely nothing in the area of ensuring an area that the member for Pictou East spent some considerable efforts on his feet talking about, which was ensuring that Nova Scotia companies and Nova Scotians got the maximum percentage of jobs and services spinoff from the development of offshore gas and oil. Nothing has been done.

When in Opposition, the member for Pictou East said that the Liberal Government of the day was simply being told by big oil, by the gas and oil companies, what to do and when to do it and they were beholden to them and were not responding in any way to stand up on behalf of Nova Scotians. Since he has been on the government side, since that Leader has been the Premier, he has led a government which has done absolutely nothing that has been any different, whatsoever, than what the Liberals did.

You have heard some discussion over the past number of weeks about the deal for the distribution of natural gas in the Province of Nova Scotia and how that deal was so badly handled by the former Premier of the Province of Nova Scotia, representing the Liberals, and

[Page 2146]

you know when the Tories got in power, they did absolutely nothing to ensure that that deal was any better, that the weaknesses were corrected and what have we seen since, we have seen a deal that has gone astray. It is going to be a decade at least, Mr. Speaker, before natural gas reaches any part of Nova Scotia other than the outskirts of Dartmouth. It is a shame what this government has done.

Do you know what? It is only now, at the midpoint in their mandate, that this government is putting in place the consultation necessary to come up with an energy policy, to come up with a policy for the Province of Nova Scotia that takes into consideration how we are going to use different sources of power, whether we are going to continue to depend on non-renewable resources or whether we are going to take a progressive step like many European countries are and explore the use of alternative energy sources, whether that be wind or other sources.

You know we talked, to some extent, prior to and during the last election, about using Sydney, to have Sydney, Cape Breton, serve as the energy capital of the Province of Nova Scotia. We would set up a centre there for the development of the science on and the manufacturing capabilities, for development of non-renewal resources, Mr. Speaker, for the exploration of strategies for alternative energy uses, how it is that we, as a government, could retrofit our public buildings throughout the province to make them more energy efficient. We could be doing those kinds of forward-looking, progressive strategies around the whole issue of the use of energy in the Province of Nova Scotia but here we are, the mid-term of this Tory Government, and we have seen absolutely no progress whatsoever from what it is that the previous government, under the Liberal direction, that they did.

We have seen little, if any, discussion about the impact of an aggressive development strategy for offshore and onshore natural gas and oil. We have seen no development of a strategy for the development of a liquids petrochemical industry in the Province of Nova Scotia, whether we are to proceed with the development of onshore and offshore natural gas strategy.

What is the impact going to be, for example, in the development of offshore natural gas and oil and bringing that natural gas and oil onshore, what is the impact going to be on the inshore, the mid-shore and the offshore fishery? Some of the very delicate areas of the fishery outside of Georges Bank, which we were able to ensure maintained its moratorium status from development, those questions have not been explored by this government, certainly not in any public way. Only now, halfway through their mandate, are they beginning to have public consultations and, to this date, there have been fairly quiet and not overly public discussions of those kinds of strategies.

In an area of public policy that was given such attention prior to the last election, in an area of public policy, in an area that is so important, or at least is discussed as being so important, to the future development of the economy of the Province of Nova Scotia, that is

[Page 2147]

the development of offshore and onshore natural gas and oil. Mr. Speaker, we have done very little, as a government, as a province, to ensure that the steps that we take down the road, whether it be establishing a proper and a positive royalty regime, frameworks for ensuring that Nova Scotians get the maximum percentage of goods and services and jobs from any facet of offshore natural gas and oil, or the development of alternative energy sources, we have gone nowhere down the road to beginning to set that policy framework and that is a lack of leadership.

That is why you have New Democrats in the House of Assembly, standing on their feet, talking about these issues with the government to hold them accountable. Mr. Speaker, that is why we are here, to ensure that these issues are being dealt with, to ensure that Nova Scotians understand that this could be done, that this is something that needs to be done desperately for the future of this province, that we have to stop this idea of just kind of keeping our head down and hoping that these multinational oil and gas companies are going to come in here and treat us well and that everything will be fine. If we are going to take control of our agenda, then we need to know what it is that we want and the only way to do that in a positive and progressive manner is to talk with Nova Scotians and get their ideas. So there is a very important issue that I believe has been badly handled by this government, an area where some leadership and some policy development work could very well be done.

We have talked about, and to some significant degree, health care and how this government had all the answers. This Party that is now in government had all the answers when it came to health care policy when they were in Opposition and when they were running for government. Whether it was ensuring there were more nurses, whether it was ensuring there were more doctors, making sure that the hospitals remain open, whether it is preventative care, this government, when they were in Opposition and when they were running for government, had all the answers. They had all the answers around the development of health care policy in the Province of Nova Scotia.

What have we seen from them, now that we are at the mid-point of their mandate? I have to tell you we haven't seen very much that makes us happy. Some things have made us laugh, but not things that have made us happy. Unfortunately, this government has continued a policy that was followed by the Liberals before them, which was basically to try to hang on to the escalators in health care, the drivers, whether that be physician costs, whether that be other acute care factors that are driving increasing costs, drug costs, just to keep an eye on them, try to hold them down, cut the number of beds. Try to make sure that if people get sick they have to wait for their beds, somehow that is going to slow down the costs, and we are going to try to figure out what it is that we do with this whole situation, even though we don't really know.

Mr. Speaker, we have been looking for this government to show some leadership in how it is that they are going to turn the acute care model around to more of a wellness model; how they are going to focus on preventative care, on public education, on community-based

[Page 2148]

health care, ensuring that health care is in the community, that the appropriate, most efficient, cost-effective health care is going to be available for Nova Scotians when they need it. That was what they promised in 1999, but have failed to deliver here in nearly the mid-stages of the year 2001. They have failed to deliver, and continue to have a crisis in nursing care, it is getting worse. We have a crisis in physicians in rural Nova Scotia, and it is continuing to get worse. We continue to have a crisis in terms of the infrastructure of the health care system throughout the province. Waiting lists for many services continue to be high, and this government is not in a position to begin to turn health care into the kind of system that most health care experts around the world are talking about, and that is a system based more on wellness.

Have they, for instance, been able to free up acute care beds that are being used as long-term care beds? Have they been able to free them up by opening new long-term care beds? No. They said they were going to create 119 long-term care beds, that was the need. They said that in the summer of 1999, when they were running for election, because it was a concern of Nova Scotians, and they knew that Nova Scotians wanted an answer. Well, they had the answer. The answer was to increase the number of beds. They haven't done it.

What they have done is even worse, and if I didn't know better, I think it was kind of mean-spirited, but I am going to tell you anyway. I don't know what the motivation was, but this is what they have done. Instead of creating beds that are desperately needed in long-term care, what this government has done is said to seniors, if you don't get out of those acute care beds, we are going to charge you $50 a day. That is what they have said they are going to do. Shameful. I don't understand it; I don't understand where they are coming from; I don't understand how it is that is going to help anybody. What it is doing is penalizing seniors, and it is a policy direction, it is a mean-spirited policy direction that does nothing to support and to develop the underpinnings of health care in the Province of Nova Scotia. Quite frankly, Nova Scotians expected better from this government.

Mr. Speaker, in the area of education, if I may, this government has, again, continued what it was the Liberals were trying to do, which is cut down the number of schools that existed in the province, cut down the number of teachers, cut down the money that was spent on special education per student to the point where we have one of the lowest - if not the lowest - per capita, or per student funding in education in this country. This government is showing no leadership to the people of Nova Scotia, to the parents, to the children about where they are going to move in education that is going to be different than the way it used to be and that is going to ensure that we meet the goals that we talk about.

[8:15 p.m.]

This government, like the government before it, talks about how we need to prepare our children to be able to compete in this province and the region and globally economically. We need to ensure that our children learn at a level where they are able to build their skills

[Page 2149]

and contribute to their communities in the way that they determine is most appropriate for them, the most productive, and that is the way we are going to build a strong and vibrant economy here in Nova Scotia and in this country. That is the only way we are going to do it, through education. Quite frankly, I haven't seen this government make the moves that are necessary, to show the leadership that is necessary in order to do that.

Are university tuitions coming down? Are we beginning to discuss things that other modern nations around the world are doing, which is to lower if not completely eliminate university and community college education tuition? Is this government talking about that? Are they involving themselves in those kinds of policy discussions around education? Not a bit. In fact, what they are doing is continuing to strangle universities and community colleges by limiting what funding they do give to the point where they have to continue to depend on students through tuitions to keep their facilities open and to keep delivering their programs.

You have to ask yourself, why would this government be going in that direction? Why are they making education inaccessible when everything in the literature, everything that they themselves say, talks about the need to ensure that people in our society have access to education, skills training, to whatever it is that they believe they need in order to be able to make a productive and appropriate contribution to their communities, whether that be their local community, their provincial community or their national community. That is where this government has failed the people of Nova Scotia. In that area of public policy, they have failed. They have failed and they are making it more inaccessible, so increasingly, the benefits will accrue to those who can most easily afford it than to the people who cannot. That is a shame and you have to ask yourself, how do you think that we are going to build an economy or - most importantly - a society for the future if we don't ensure that our people of all ages have access to education?

I think about my community, the community that I represent in Spryfield, for the 10 years that I have been an MLA, we have fought with Tory, Liberal and then Tory Governments that have continued to cut funding for literacy, for upgrading in our community for people - for single mothers, for others who are living on welfare and are otherwise unable to access employment. They have continued to cut these programs that are being delivered by not-for-profit agencies, by churches. At the same time, they talk about helping people get off of welfare, helping people to access programs and services that will allow them to get employment, to work, to otherwise find employment and find activities that will allow them to contribute to their community in the most appropriate way possible for them.

That is something that I have had to continue to fight for, along with members of my constituency, on behalf of the St. Paul's United Church, on behalf of the Single Parent Centre, on behalf of many of the community groups that function out of the Captain William Spry Community Centre in Spryfield. People just shake their heads. Here we are at the midpoint in the mandate of this government. They talk about lifelong learning. They talk

[Page 2150]

about education as being an important ingredient in making a more whole, in allowing people to express themselves, to explore their potentiality. That is what it is all about, so they can be a constructive and positive influence on their families and in their communities, and yet this government continues to cut in those areas. It is deplorable, frankly, and Nova Scotians deserve better.

One reason why I am here, one reason I know my colleagues in the NDP caucus are here, Mr. Speaker, is to bring this to the attention of the government and show them the fact that there is a huge gap between the rhetoric of lifelong learning, the rhetoric of making education accessible to all and the reality that is happening in communities like Spryfield and communities throughout this province and they should be ashamed.

You just have to look, for example, at what is going on right now in the school board here in the Halifax region. This government should be concerned about ensuring that enough resources are provided to school boards so that the school boards are able to administer and provide the education and ensure the level of education that is necessary is provided in our communities, Mr. Speaker. Here you have a regional school board that is underfunded, they would suggest, or otherwise operating in a fashion that does a number of things that I just can't believe, and this government has allowed to take place. They have taken some of the lowest paid people in the school board, the bus drivers, and they have unilaterally lowered their wages and taken away benefits, some of the lowest paid workers in that school board. Why did they do that? They had to save money; because they would lose their provider of school bus services is what the argument was. There is one case.

What else did they do to save money? How much money did they save, I would like to know? What they have done is they presided over a strike of some other of the lowest paid in the school board, Mr. Speaker, the custodial staff, the maintenance workers, the secretaries, the student aides, the librarians, they are next. Let me assure you, they are next. Do you know why? Because this government and this school board think they are the easiest to pick on. But I tell you, it is just shocking to me that this government is able to sit by while this is happening in schools throughout this region. It doesn't matter where it is, whether it is here in Halifax or whether it is in Sydney or Yarmouth or in Pictou. It is just shocking.

I brought it up last week, there are constituents of mine, young people who are unable to attend school because the conditions of the cleanliness of the school is so deplorable that it affects their health and keeps them from going to school. If these people had the resources, that is probably a charter challenge, I would suggest to you. It is a direct result of the actions of this government, by not ensuring the funding or the conduct is such that this Halifax School Board is allowed to carry out these kinds of practices which prevent some of my constituents and other constituents in the Halifax Regional Municipality from attending school and that is inexcusable.

[Page 2151]

Now, is that leadership? Is that showing direction? Is that showing what a positive force education can be and how committed they are as a government to ensuring that all young people in the Province of Nova Scotia receive a quality education? I say no it is not. Our job as the Opposition in this House, as members, as we represent our communities, that is why we are here, to bring these issues forward, to represent our constituents, and to make sure that this government is held accountable.

I want to talk about a few other matters. What I am trying to do here is I am trying to wrap this all around this government's failed leadership. What I am trying to do is say that here we are at the midpoint of this government's mandate and in all these areas - and I am going to talk about a few more - this government has had the opportunity to move this province forward, to take the confidence that Nova Scotians gave them in the summer of 1999, to take their majority and move us forward into the future with a positive policy agenda and programs in these very important areas to provide a better future for all Nova Scotians. They have failed and I am going to point out a few more opportunities that this government has had that they have blown.

What has happened in this province since this government took office in the whole area of regulations for small options homes? What has this government done in terms of ensuring safe, reliable services are available through small options homes in our community? What have they done? They have done nothing. Have they had the information to work with? Sure, they have had the recommendations, they have had the Kendrick report for how long?

AN HON. MEMBER: Oh, it must be at least six months now.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Six months or so, and they had lots of information before that to move. They had all the answers, I believe, back when they were running for office in the summer of 1999 and they failed to act once again. Now, who is that hurting? It is hurting the people who require those services; it hurts the people who are delivering those services; and it is hurting the people who are trying to ensure that there is some kind of framework throughout the province to ensure that everyone is treated fairly. No one, no one that is currently operating within the particular framework of services in the small options homes is benefiting from this government's lack of action. It is shameful that we are at the mid-point of this mandate and this government has failed to act.

What have they done in the area of child care? Have they come forward with any kind of child care strategy? What about the commitment that was made by the nine provinces and the federal government in May 1999, before this government took office, but something that they have adopted since? What has happened with that commitment? It is time that this government worked with the other provinces and the federal government to forge a workable, collaborative framework, and implement here in this province early childhood programs that ensure the positive, constructive, progressive development of children in the Province of Nova Scotia. Have they moved forward with this kind of policy, have they moved forward

[Page 2152]

and fixed the resources to ensure the children are receiving better opportunities, more opportunities, a better chance in life since they have taken office? No, they have not. The lives of children living in poverty are worse today than they were when this government took office and surely that is a shame that this government has trouble living with.

Let us talk about an area that this government, when they were in Opposition, really felt comfortable with, an issue that they - well we all believed that they - had the answers to, and that was pavement and that was roads. This government, this Party when they were in Opposition, they were the champions of roads, they were the champions of potholes. They were going to bring back some sanity into the whole range of roads. They believed it was so important that they made it a huge component of their election strategy document and campaign pledges during the 1999 election. They committed that all taxes from motor vehicle fuels and motive fuel taxes would go into highway construction and maintenance and that would all happen in the second year of their mandate.

[8:30 p.m.]

The second year - we are now farther away from that. In fact, this was going to be constituted - according to the blue book - the year of the road; no longer - I remember during the campaign being in Yarmouth when the now Minister of Transportation, the then MLA or candidate running in Hants West made a policy commitment on behalf of the Tory Party. He said we are going to earmark all this money for road construction, particularly to Highway No. 101 but that meant in the area of $122 million was going to be earmarked. I remember because I came out of the campaign office of our local candidate and the media hit me there and said what are you going to do, Mr. Chisholm? I said, you're kidding, they didn't make that kind of commitment, did they? Sure enough they did. They made that commitment and I am sure that they knew then what they know now; that they had absolutely no intention of committing that kind of money to roads. That is the kind of cynical politics that this Party likes to play with the people of Nova Scotia. That is shameful.

Let's take the politics out of road construction and the fixing of potholes. Let's ensure that there are criteria. Do you know that back in 1994, I think it was, the then Liberal Minister of Transportation, Richie Mann, they had come up with a policy for ensuring that road construction and maintenance was awarded on the basis of non-political criteria. It was all laid out in terms of what was the worst and the priority list. You know that we never did, in the five years after that, get a copy of that policy, but it did set a framework and it did set the bar for the Tories when they were running for office. They said, the Liberals didn't do it, but we will. We'll take the politics out of pothole repair. We'll ensure that there is a non-political strategy with objective criteria for establishing the priority for road maintenance and road construction.

[Page 2153]

Where are we now? We are halfway through the mandate and we have not seen that. I think that is a bad thing. I think that is an unfortunate thing. I think that is an indicator of the cynical nature of the politics. The member for Cape Breton South is sitting over here and he says that we will never get a chance and that ha, ha, ha, right? What I am trying to say, Mr. Speaker, is that what we want to do is ensure that we take the politics out of something that is so important.

We need to make sure that there is a network of secondary roads throughout the Province of Nova Scotia that are safe, that are dependable and that are efficient to the use of the people of this province. To move people and to move goods and services from one end of this province to the other. That is what we should be shooting for, not to feather somebody's bed, not to make sure that some MLA has more paving than someone else and therefore they are a good MLA and see what benefits there are to being on the government side or not. That is the kind of cynical politics that we have to move out of in order to be a progressive and forward-looking province, I say to you, Mr. Speaker.

The whole question of economic development, the whole question of coming up with a strategy for all of Nova Scotia, not just Halifax, that ensures that in areas like Cape Breton, where the economy, the unemployment level, the official unemployment level is in the 20 per cent area, the real unemployment level in so many of those communities is in the 50 per cent area and higher. It is absolutely deplorable, the conditions in some communities. What is this government going to do about it?

What they have done since they have been in office is they have shut down Sydney Steel, they have ensured that there is not a buyer for Sydney Steel and they are going to shop away every piece of that facility to the lowest bidder. They have sat by and watched while the deal for the coal mines has fallen through. They have not done anything to help develop alternatives, like they talked about in the coal industry, in terms of technologies for proper remediation of some of the old coal mining sites, the old coal fields. This government has failed to move forward in that area. They have failed to come up with any plan, any strategy that was workable with the area.

There were some things and there have been some things done with government support in the area of media that this government has supported. There is a sound stage that has been set up in there; the Silicon Island technology centre has been established, and my concern is that without the support of this government, without any kind of strategy, the efforts that have gone before will fall by the wayside. I beseech this government, it is one reason why we are all here, to ensure that this government follows up on some of those policies, to ensure, for example, that the film tax credit does not fall by the wayside or does not fall by the competitors from other provinces, because it is an extraordinarily competitive part of the film business in jurisdictions across this country; to look at areas like new media, which is something that there are pockets of the development of new media in Cape Breton, and if we were to come up with the kind of tax credit they have in Quebec and in Ontario,

[Page 2154]

that is similar to the film tax credit, we might have something that we can build throughout the economy in Cape Breton, that would be something that people can look for.

It is a failure to act. This government, what have they done? What have they done in a constructive way with the environmental crisis at the tar ponds and the surrounding coke ovens site, the landfill site and the whole area of Muggah Creek? What has this government done to show any leadership, trying to make some strides, some positive constructive strides to make sure that once and for all governments of this province, governments of this land begin to deal with what is clearly one of the worst environmental disasters in this country and in this country's history?

Here we are at the midpoint of this government's mandate, and we have not only seen no action from this government, but we have a situation where people are living adjacent to the coke ovens sites, where there have been findings of arsenic levels in the soil that are 60 times higher than allowable limits, and this government is dithering about whether or not there is a safety hazard.

Now, I remember when there was a similar issue on Frederick Street, when the Liberals were in power and this government was the Third Party. They wanted the government of the day to move those people immediately, to get them out of the hazard, quit studying it; you have studied it enough to realize there is a problem, they are a hazard, don't take any more chances. But they have failed to act when they themselves are in the driver's seat, are in charge and that shows a real lack of leadership by this government.

In areas of Cape Breton, in areas of policy issues that have been before this government, there has been a real failure of the government to act, to move the agenda forward. No one is asking for miracles, but I think Nova Scotians and Cape Bretoners can fairly ask that this government move the agenda forward in a positive and constructive way so that when their mandate is over, they can say to people, things have gotten better for you while we were in office. They can't say that at this midpoint even though they promised they would during the election campaign and I, for one, don't call that leadership.

It is not just Cape Breton where there are those kinds of challenges. We have what many cite as a lot of economic activity here in the Halifax region, a boom of sorts, as a result of offshore oil and gas development and exploration. We certainly have the concentration of what public administration there is in the Province of Nova Scotia. But the concern that I have and the concern I think many Nova Scotians and many of my constituents have, is that this government is allowing things to happen in a haphazard way without understanding the economic forces and without trying to ensure that they facilitate the positive development of those forces.

[Page 2155]

I think, for example, of the Port of Halifax. The work that needs to be done to ensure the development of the port takes place in an expeditious fashion, happens quickly and happens soon, to ensure that the integration between the responsibilities of the Port Authority and the Province of Nova Scotia and the Halifax Regional Municipality are integrated so that if any barriers do exist, they are eliminated. Or, to ensure that if any regulatory frameworks need to be adjusted, they are done in a way that won't prevent development, or maybe will prevent unwanted development happening or happening in ways that is not beneficial to everyone in this region and in this province.

There are other regions in this province that require some strategy, that require this provincial government to pay attention to what is happening, that this government understand that the economic activity here in the Halifax region isn't going to necessarily reach Yarmouth, or Amherst, or Guysborough or other areas throughout the province. We need to understand how it is that the economies intersect throughout the province. We need to ensure that we understand what role this government can play to facilitate the development of communities throughout this province, that we just don't allow things to happen willy-nilly, because we have a responsibility. I believe this government has a responsibility to all citizens of this province to ensure that there is an equal level of service provided throughout the province, taking into consideration geography and distance from government, but ensures, Mr. Speaker, that policies of this government are policies that are fair to all Nova Scotians.

I talked a bit, the last time I spoke, about the role . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Whether it is just me or the hour of the night, I am not sure, but I hear a very strange whistling noise coming from the Chamber. I would appreciate whoever is responsible for the whistling noise to cut it out. Thank you.

[8:45 p.m.]

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate that. I was talking the other night about the role of this government as an employer and as a purveyor of services and purchaser of goods in the province that we ensure that we set a positive example in the province; that we ensure that the way we operate our workplaces, as a government, attracts young people from all parts of this province to work in public administration, whether it is here in Halifax or throughout the province; that we ensure women and men and people of colour and people with disabilities, and all Nova Scotians, have a fair opportunity to have access to government jobs, to have access to government services; that all companies, big and small, have an equal opportunity to sell their goods and services to this government in a way that is not tainted by politics and in a way that is positive; that we develop a progressive, professional public service for people who will ensure, as they do now, the best interests of the people of this province.

[Page 2156]

Mr. Speaker, I have spoken for some time now about what I think was this government's opportunity. What troubles me is the fact that, with Bill No. 30 and this budget, we are at a midpoint in this government's mandate and that, as the cycle goes, it will be increasingly difficult for this government to introduce new, innovative commitments that they made to the people of Nova Scotia and that will ensure that this province is a better place when their time is up. Because let's be clear, whatever government is elected in the Province of Nova Scotia, they are elected to run the province for a maximum period of five years, that they are, in effect, you could say, borrowing, that they are there as the privilege of the people of Nova Scotia and they may not be returned.

The responsibility, upon being elected, is to ensure that you have done your utmost, that you have fulfilled your commitments, that you have done everything in your power to make this province a better place, to move the agenda forward as we go down this road, to ensure that the Province of Nova Scotia is better able, every time, to take its proper role in the country and in the world and that all Nova Scotians have the opportunity to participate equally, to realize their dreams, to have the opportunity to have free access to education, to ensure that regardless of who they are, regardless of their abilities, regardless of their intelligence, regardless of their colour, regardless of their ability to function, that they are able to avail themselves of what everyone has available to them so that they can develop themselves to the best of their potential in order to make the kind of contribution that they are here to make, that is to their family, to their community, to their province, to their nation. That should be the right of all Nova Scotians and that should be the responsibility of any elected official. That should be why it is that we are here, to ensure that those are the circumstances that all Nova Scotians have the opportunity to face.

I see my time is running down, I wanted to mention just a couple of things that I had forgotten to raise earlier. One of them had to do with the current status of the government's municipality amalgamation strategy, and if I may, it kind of illustrates to me this government's approach to governing and the lack of leadership that exists. There is one municipality, or there are some municipalities that are doing fairly well due to various circumstances, their place in the economy of this province and other reasons. There are some municipalities that aren't, and this government, instead of taking the resources it gets from all Nova Scotians regardless, of what part of the province, and distributing them in a way that ensures there is some equity in the delivery of services and what people receive, has tried to impose a system on municipalities whereby, in a very regressive sense, the municipalities in some areas pay for the shortages in other areas. It is a strategy to divide and conquer, it pits one municipality against another, it is wrong-headed. I think, and I hope that this government reconsiders its strategy and at the same time recognizing that there are problems that need to be addressed in terms of the disparity of services available, but there has to be another way to do it.

[Page 2157]

As I close, Bill No. 30 and the budget that was passed earlier were a serious disappointment to me and to my constituents and I think to many Nova Scotians. This government has had the opportunity in a number of areas to show some leadership, to move the agenda forward, to fulfill commitments that they made in order to get Nova Scotia's confidence in 1999. They have failed to do that. Time is running out and I am afraid, given the political cycle, that now they are going to be looking to secure their fortunes for the next election and the 1999 platform, the long-term interests of Nova Scotians are going to take a back seat to the short-term re-election interests of this Party and this government and I think that is the kind of cynical short-sighted strategy that benefits no one, least of all Nova Scotians. I will not be supporting Bill No. 30.

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, on a point of information, if I may. During my speech regarding the Financial Measures (2001) Bill, the honourable member for Dartmouth South spoke up and somewhat impugned my character by implying that he had to do a job that I had not completed, that, in fact, he went to see some residents. I just went out and made a phone call to those residents about 25 minutes ago. I want you to know that the person was quite pleased at the performance that I had brought forward, his particular issue, during the Health budget estimates, during Question Period and during both debates of the Financial Measures (2001) Bill.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I thank the member for the information.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

DR. JAMES SMITH: I don't mind yielding the floor. generally, but does that fit into the new slogan for the NDP, you call and we will come? It seems to be a dispute between two members rather than a point of order. I am sure that you would agree.

I want to take this opportunity to speak relative to the closure motion on Bill No. 30, An Act Respecting Certain Financial Measures. Mr. Speaker, Bill No. 30 is necessary to pass relative to the budget and it is a bill that affects all Nova Scotians. It is broad based in its nature and it does provide for legislation that will render changes associated with the budget and certain amendments to the legislation that has been debated. I think one thing that has happened this year relative to the budget is that we have really held the government accountable for this whole issue of a 10 per cent tax decrease in the year or two ahead.

It has been exposed, Mr. Speaker, as obviously an election ploy that was brought forward and we have through debate here in this spring session of the Legislature, I think the Opposition, our Party, has brought forward very clearly the fact that the process that we are seeing rolling out before the Legislature relative to this budget and relative to this Financial Measures (2001) Bill, is that Nova Scotians are being set up to be bought. The 10 per cent so-called tax relief, they are paying for it now and they are paying for it in different ways. User fees, increase of user fees, tax generally on various items, some of which have come

[Page 2158]

in last year, others are coming in this particular bill, such things as the increased fee for searching the Child Abuse Register in order to give approval for someone to work with children in a position of trust.

It is a broad bill that we are debating, it does impact on the budget and that is why it is so important that we look at this budget. We have chosen to debate this bill within the British parliamentary system, through the rules that govern this House, where we can hold the government accountable. This is not a filibuster, this is bringing our concerns to the House of Assembly where we are holding the ministers accountable and yes, it is an attempt to get one or two more Question Periods. We know there are things coming down the pike, we have the nurses out there that are hurting bad and this government has done nothing to address them. We ask questions on simple matters, how many new nursing positions have been created? New nursing positions, not temporary nursing positions rolled over into permanent.

Those are the issues that are out there, so this government wants to get this House closed down and not to be accountable to Nova Scotians and to go and hide. Well this year when they tell them not to worry and to go and barbecue and tend the barbecue, not to worry, they are not going to be deceived again. This government is in the process of buying Nova Scotians with their own money and within the next year or two to be trying to roll out and at the rate they are going I wonder if they will be able to do that. Be that as it may, they are in the process once again of buying Nova Scotians with their own money. That is really one of the issues.

The reason why we want this House to be open and we want to have Question Periods - and make no bones about it, that is some of the motive here - to bring forward the budget to show the whole budgetary process for the deceit that it is, with the increased revenues coming in and increased spending in areas such as health care that are spread all over the parking lot without targeting the priority areas with a good health care strategy. Programs that are just trying to keep everybody happy and in the end we know those types of programs, when that happens you make no one happy.

I take no great joy in that at this particular time when so many things - a great deal of sacrifice has been made over the last decades by Nova Scotians. It has not been easy choices. We have moved from a position of being terribly administrated, terribly run, beds per capita way higher than anywhere else in Canada and there have been some changes and there have been bed cuts and there have been nursing changes, but we are into an area now that is competitive across this country. What we need is a comprehensive, integrated plan throughout acute care, long-term care, home care, home supports. So I want to come back to some of those issues later, Mr. Speaker.

[Page 2159]

[9:00 p.m.]

This is of major importance, these deliberations that we are addressing in matters relative to this legislation on certain financial matters. So it is time for the Nova Scotia Government to look seriously at spending smarter, rather than spending more. That has been the issue that we are going back to, we have seen that type of government before, Mr. Speaker. So if there are still advisors around and the model that they are following, we have seen all this before. I have seen this in Opposition from 1984 to 1993. There was lots of money being spent, but things like two hospitals in one Town of Glace Bay being allowed to run and they weren't able to make those tough decisions, Mr. Speaker.

So this bill does represent further failure to properly manage the finances of the province. In its admission, in no uncertain terms, this government has failed and it is unable to rein in its spending and so it has to raise the taxes. We see it bit by bit, by bit. You can call it what you will, whether it is a 911 user fee, chasing ambulances and giving unconscious patients $500 bills, those types of things. That is what we are seeing, and the gradual increase within Pharmacare costs, and not covering medications such as Alzheimer's medications and those types of initiatives that seniors need.

We see it in education now and this is why we want to keep this House open and hold these minister on these benches over there accountable to the people of Nova Scotia. That is what we are sent here to do, Mr. Speaker, and that is what we intend to do. This is education. We hear more from the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board and we hear from the Valley and there will be another one.

This government is getting nervous. They are getting twitchy and they want to get out of this House. They have a lot of good legislation and we don't hear anything talked about that. Where is the registered nurses legislation? When we met with the registered nurses, they said the government is on side. They are happy. They support us. We said, well if the government is supporting you and they are prepared, they have a majority government. Let them bring this forward and we will support them. Is that going to be brought forward now? It doesn't seem to be taking a priority and I think that is a real concern.

So, Mr. Speaker, most of the bill does relate. If you look at Bill No. 30, the refurbished bill, it does refer to user fees. In reality, it is really increasing income taxes as well. So that is where the bracket creep comes in. That is a word that maybe some of us haven't been that familiar with and haven't quite understood - I say "we" in the collective sense of Nova Scotians - so the groups like the Canadian Taxpayers' Federation and others have brought forward information that has documented exactly the impact on low-, middle-, and upper-income families,. So we have called upon this government to end this bracket creep. This is why we say that this government is in the process of buying Nova Scotians with their own money, and they continue this and this amounts of $12 million alone in one year. That would easily increase even exponentially as the time goes on over the next couple of years.

[Page 2160]

We are calling, as a Liberal caucus, Mr. Speaker, this government to immediately implement full indexation to the tax system and relieve the growing tax burden on Nova Scotians, because they are there, they are real, and full indexation would amount to a tax freeze and that is what we are calling for, and a fundamental reform of the provincial tax system. You cannot bring reform while you are still increasing those taxes. Indexing tax credits and tax brackets to inflation would provide fairness, transparency and accountability to the tax system. We want a tax freeze, we are not asking for a tax cut at this juncture. Until, as I mentioned earlier, this government freezes taxes and stops inching up taxes, there can be no tax reform.

It is a missed opportunity. It was interesting, today, I just took off the computer from the AIMS group, Brian Lee Crowley, that the latest Nova Scotian budget is according to AIMS not progress in fixing the province's still dawning fiscal problems. The government has gone on a spending spree, abandoning all efforts at keeping its costs under control. They are sometimes considered a bit right wing, but this is an area that our Finance Critic has addressed and holds them accountable. The spending is still going on; we are back to the old days. Give everybody a little bit, trying to keep them happy. If you find out one year you don't keep them happy with a little bit, then the next year you give them a little bit more. Then the spending keeps out of control. We have seen all that before. This is the legacy of the Tory Governments of this province.

This group feels that they are on a spending spree and they have abandoned all hope and all efforts at keeping its costs under control. They are counting on new revenues. They are believing their own press releases now and that new revenues are going to come out of the sky. It is something like the story about the earlier civilizations or countries that thought a 707 was going to fly over and all good things were going to come falling out of it, like pots and pans or maybe the odd car or two, or a bicycle or something like that. So this government, that is the type of financial strategy planning that they are doing, all of a sudden offshore, deep Panuke is going to come in and these things will be a windfall. Not hedging their bets for a downturn in the economy - and we hope it is not coming - there are some signs that even in the United States consumer confidence is still there and not seeing a downturn that had been projected.

But they are counting on new revenues so they can all of a sudden have this windfall, the 707 is going to fly over and all this money is going to come falling out and they will go around with baskets and pass it out to Nova Scotians in the form of tax relief. The problem, Mr. Crowley of the AIMS group says, with this strategy is that the rest of the world, including other Canadian provinces, have made much more progress than we have and are now in a virtual circle of tax reductions and increased competitiveness, so we are losing our competitivie edge and you can see that. We are losing it not only in our business, we are losing it in health care, we are losing it with our specialists and our nurses and our family doctors.

[Page 2161]

We talk about the Northside General Hospital and the shutting down of the emergency department. They have to call up doctors in the community. Can you imagine the stress that this puts on a nurse that has to triage those patients in those departments? And to call up and say, doctor, your patient has arrived, they are bleeding, can you come in right away? That doctor is a half hour or an hour behind in their practice and you know what the answer that nurse is going to get. That is what is happening. This is a hospital that was guaranteed that the services would not be cut, and someday I would like the newly elected member to get up and speak on this and how he feels about that and what he tells the people in his constituency. I certainly don't know what I would tell my constituents, like today, if this morning I was there, if they had come in and the Dartmouth General was operating under those circumstances and that is a shame.

My point is we are losing our competitive edge. The physicians and nurses and physiotherapists and occupational therapists, they are out there and it is a global competition now. You talk about globalization, it is here and it has been here for a long time when it comes to physicians. We are losing our competitive edge. As AIMS says, not only in the financial management of the province and the way we do business, but we are losing it in education and in health care, and that goes right down to early intervention programs for children and all of those things that flow out of a well-managed strategy, both in the financial area and in the health care area and the education systems.

We are losing our competitiveness. As we inch towards balanced budgets, the taxation gap between Nova Scotia and, say, Ontario and Alberta, is widening with every passing year. Then they say to find out more, go, which I have done. It says the title, No Province is an Island in a Competitive Climate. We are in a very competitive market, both within our own country and globally. The article goes on to say, and this is dated Wednesday, April 11th, The Chronicle-Herald, I guess that was at that time, that the provincial government has simply thrown in the towel on spending control, and as a result we swim in more red ink than we need to, and will do so for much longer than necessary.

Remember the decks were going to be cleared, no more increase in the net debt, and now we find out it is going to run out to 2007, before that is going to be dealt with. It is $70 million this year, increased debt services, the amount of the debt, the $1.3 billion that has been added to the debt, and that $70 million increase. Look at what that would do to an education program, a health care program or a social service program, where you are helping people get off social assistance and get into the job market.

Worst of all, even when we eliminate the deficit in two years, we will be years behind in matching the attractive environment that our competitors are creating for investment in job growth. We are behind, we are going behind, and it is tough. There is no question, it is tough to get out from underneath that debt. It is like the big rock that is rolling downhill, the debt that Nova Scotia has. We knew, as a government, that it was difficult. That is why we couldn't get out from underneath it, but times are better. This government has revenues that

[Page 2162]

we didn't even think we would be able to see, both from the federal government and from the income of just enhancements of our offshore industry that is driving it. Thank goodness that has happened. Where would we be if it hadn't, as they continue to spend, and their spending stays out of control?

Long ago, in the early days of the new government, when a comprehensive program review - remember that, Mr. Speaker, - laid out a strategy for reducing government expenditures in areas that weren't a priority. The plan was that the government could balance its books, in part thanks to a more responsible attitude towards spending. But now, far from keeping a tight lid on the spending, the province is using revenues from our buoyant economy to increase spending even further.

I mentioned that the budget in the year 2000-01, the extra revenues the province received from taxes and federal transfers would have wiped out half the budgeted deficit, if the province had stayed within its own spending projections. Instead, it overspent by nearly $90 million. In the budget just tabled, the spending spree continues. Despite anticipated increased revenues of $149 million, the Nova Scotia Government will still spend $91 million more than it takes in. That is what happens when you allow a $170 million increase in provincial spending between 2000 and 2002.

Then they go on to talk about Sysco and NSRL. The line there that I thought was worthwhile repeating was, by getting rid of yesterday's mistakes - and I suppose all governments have made mistakes, some bigger than others - is no reason to create tomorrow's. That is what this government is doing now. It is now creating tomorrow's mistakes today, and away we go. Mr. Speaker, I will get copies of those made, and perhaps they can be returned to me, and copies for the Clerk.

Mr. Speaker, after the 2000 year federal budget, all provinces decoupled and set their own tax rates. This provided the government with an opportunity to freeze taxes by implementing full indexation, as I mentioned earlier, and of tax credits and tax brackets to inflation. Unlike the federal government, the Nova Scotia Government chose not to freeze taxes, so $12 million in new income taxes in the year 2001.

[9:15 p.m.]

The burden does increase, Mr. Speaker, throughout the mandate of the current government. If inflation does stay at the 2.5 per cent in the next three years, Nova Scotians would pay approximately $30 million more in provincial income tax in addition to the extra $12 million collected this year. That is $42 million in hidden tax increases, while this government said it would not raise taxes. That is what we are debating and that is why we want to hold this government's feet to the fire and have one more Question Period and one more Question Period and then another. That's the purpose of this debate. I make no apologies for that and I want the people of Nova Scotia to understand what is happening in

[Page 2163]

their Legislature here. This takes an effort by a caucus to keep discipline, to have speakers available who can speak from their own experiences and also from the record as we see it.

Can the government afford to fully index the tax brackets? The answer, Mr. Speaker, is as clear to anyone as the nose on your face, that clearly they can do that. While spending pressures in health and education continue, there is absolutely no question about that, we understand that about the government, we understand the challenges, but not to hide behind the clinical footprint for a year and one-half; every question that was answered in this House was answered by, well, it shall be revealed onto you in due course by the clinical footprint.

So $500,000 later, to a company outside this province, flying people in weekly by Air Canada or whatever means. Some of the costs almost look like it was a private chartered jet by the expenses of meals and all those others, to do a study that when it came out was just a rehash of hospital stays and some indication - albeit and one of the more positive ones would be some indication - of the role of hospitals.

But this government is still too much of a coward to stand up and tell the people in their ridings and in their regions as to what those hospitals are going to do. Why didn't you tell them during the by-election when you down there, Mr. Speaker, what you were going to do to the Northside General?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. The honourable member in his moment of passion has cried out, inappropriately the term, coward. He knows and all members of the House know that that is unparliamentary language. Mr. Speaker, I would ask to have the comment withdrawn.

MR. SPEAKER: I thank the member for bringing that to my attention. It is not a point of order but I will remind the member for Dartmouth East that perhaps the use of the word, (Interruptions) order, please. Order, please.

I do not think you can rise on your own point of order with another point of order, Mr. Minister. (Interruptions) Order, please. I will remind the member for Dartmouth East that the use of the word, coward, is unparliamentary and I would ask you to refrain from using that. Thank you.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I am glad to see the Minister of Justice is so interested in justice and the written word and the spoken word as well as matters relative to his office, but I thought and I will refrain and I will withdraw it if that's the wish of the Speaker, and call them cowards, but I was trying to think, I thought, you know, quite seriously that that was being kind as to what they did during that by-election to that Northside General Hospital and

[Page 2164]

the foundation that they met with and all the others. So I wouldn't want to use the word manipulative or deceitful or other words like that that would be equally unparliamentary.

So I would say, Mr. Speaker, in summary what I would call them, I think they are just being Tories. That is the way they have done it and that is the way they are used to it and that is the way they are going to do it. The people down in that area will know, Mr. Speaker, when they go into that emergency department, and if you rule me out of order because Tory is not a parliamentary word, I will think of something that could be kinder.

We were talking about, prior to interruption period, we were speaking about, can the government afford the fully indexed tax brackets. The feeling of this caucus is that, yes, of course, they can. I realize I was speaking about it in terms of the pressures on health and education, social services and all those departments that really put such a strain on the public purse. We understand that there must be choices made - tough choices - and the government has to stand behind them. Those ministers must be supported at Cabinet, whether it is a new program, like the secure treatment facility, or it is reforming the social assistance program.

Everybody supports the programs that truly, are not punitive, that are supportive of persons to go back to the workforce and to get off social assistance. Mr. Speaker, it is not that we have large numbers at any one time, there are those that are continuously on over long periods. But what we have are people in and out of the social assistance system and we know that. Those are the types of programs that have to be under control. This government had a chance to balance it this year and chose not to. That is why we want to debate matters such as that on Bill No. 30.

So what we have had, Mr. Speaker, is $512 million in unexpected revenue for this government since the fall of 1999, with $636 million in additional transfers from Ottawa through to 2006, according to APEC. So if the government cannot balance a budget and pay for programs out of $1.146 billion in extra money, it doesn't deserve to govern. That should be doable. There are governments that have done just as well under different circumstances and ones that were far more challenging than that.

So Nova Scotians are saying, well, if these things are happening - that this government is getting more money from the federal government, more money from offshore businesses, created in environments such as Burnside Industrial Park and Bayers Lake, all of those; if you look around, you see prosperity, business; you speak to people who are building homes and building houses. I spoke at lunch time to a gentleman who is doing contracting, building of houses. He has never had it so busy for years. It truly is - they are saying, if that is such, then what is happening? Why the increased waiting times? Why are emergency departments closing down, essentially shutting their doors?

[Page 2165]

Those are the questions Nova Scotians can't understand and I guess I can't understand either. Because I think, with that kind of a windfall, that people aren't expecting waiting times to increase. They are not expecting home support programs to be put on hold, people leaving hospitals after six and one-half months in a hospital - and I assume that person was ill. I will take the family's word for it because, generally, you don't stay in a hospital that long - and coming home and getting practically no home care. Again, the honourable member on this side of the House last week brought up a situation from a senior citizen in Dartmouth that was in the local hospital, the QE II. He went home and as far as I could tell, and the gentleman that brought that forward as well, there was no plan for any home care.

The person came home living independently and with just relying on neighbours and just totally, obviously, from the person who is a very credible person that gave us the information and that shared with both of us because she was truly concerned about the liability issue and the issue of this person not receiving adequate care.

This really falls under the heading of adult abuse, but the abuse is from that government and that Department of Health that is discharging senior citizens 80-plus years of age living, albeit in a supportive environment, independent living with no plan for home care with in-home supports and that sort of thing. That gentleman over there knows what I am talking about because that is in Dartmouth and he represents Dartmouth. Those are the sort of things and this wasn't happening a while ago. If it was happening it was dealt with immediately. They had a pilot project that was brought in at the Dartmouth General Hospital that was a very good home care pilot project.

People ask why in these times of increased prosperity, increased federal transfers, that we are going back. Why is the in-home supports program put on hold and told three or four months' time there may be something for you. There are calls coming daily now. There were always difficulties in home care, it is no easy matter, but they are increasing, Mr. Speaker, and they are more dramatic and it really bothers me at a time that we are talking about the continuum of care and we are talking about acute care, home care, in-home support and long-term care.

Long-term care, remember that? That was a priority of this government a year or two ago and now you will hardly ever hear them mention that. This is not in their press releases, this is really - sure, in some areas they have done some modest rejigging coordinating the waiting list and therefore showed a reduction. That was just a manipulation of the waiting list, really, trying to streamline where a person was on a waiting list for a home in two or three different areas, just putting them into one. That is no great leap of faith in this day and age, that you can have a single waiting list. That is really what has been happening, Mr. Speaker, and Nova Scotians are very confused by this and they don't understand.

[Page 2166]

In a time that we should be doing better, we seem to be slipping back. We are losing our infrastructure with medical specialists, family doctors, with the nursing profession and we hear some members talk about daily nurses not being able to look forward to a vacation this year. I think that is a reality. I haven't brought that up personally but I think it is a reality and that is a shame. This government was going to fix that whole system, remember? Now we see the infrastructure falling apart.

Now will someone ask, isn't bracket creep just an issue that affects wealthy families? It doesn't affect me. Maybe I have $20,000 or $30,000 but bracket creep, what is it anyway? In fact the burden of bracket creep is most harmful on low income families and it has been shown that - there has been an outline by an institute. For example, from 1986 to 1998 more than 1 million Canadians, 30,000 Nova Scotians, were added to the tax rolls as a result of partial indexation of rates and credits. That is from 1986 to 1998, 30,000 Nova Scotians were added. That was due to that bracket creep. A further 1.9 million taxpayers, 57,000 Nova Scotians, went from the low bracket to the middle bracket so they went up in the impact on income tax; 18,000 Nova Scotians went from the middle to the top bracket. That was due to bracket creep. It does affect all incomes, all levels.

We know that lower income and moderately lower income are less able, have less flexibility, more fixed costs, more core services of shelter, nutrition and matters of literacy - whether it is education, post-secondary, whatever level it is at. These are low income. Students are in that bracket. One of the most common causes of poverty is those people who continue to try to get a university education, many of us who have done that are quite aware of that.

[9:30 p.m.]

Prior to Paul Martin's budget in the year 2000, the province could do little about bracket creep and they could have rightly blamed it on the feds, they blame most everything else on the feds, including the weather. Now it had a choice, again it goes back to those choices, whether it is health care, choices in education, choices in social services, they had a choice on the financial management of this province and they could have changed it and they chose not to. They refused to do that.

How many more Nova Scotian families are going to see small income gains, as they gain gradually they will find that bracket creep will catch up to their modest increases in their family income, they and that means that that increase, that small modest increase in their family income will see it go down the tube. It will go in the black hole of this government, whether it is the health care system, the education system paying off the debt, or whatever. That doesn't make a lot of Nova Scotians - and it shouldn't make a lot of Nova Scotians - feel good about that $70 million extra that has to go into debt serving this year and that is going to be income tax from low-income, moderate-income families. That is not right and it is not fair and that is what bracket creep means, and it is going into that black hole, this

[Page 2167]

debt that this government could have dealt with, that it has chosen not to do so. That is a shame on them.

What we are seeing, the sad thing is that families who have a chance to better their situation, to get a little bit beyond those core services of shelter, nutrition and those core services, they will remain poor. That is the legacy of this government because the income tax collector hits them year in and year out, increasingly, as that bracket creep follows along their modest increases with each minor inflation-based raise. So, shame on this government.

I want to go back to the revenue side, and I will repeat, between the years 1999-2005 this government will receive approximately $1.1 billion in extra revenue if the projections, by all reliable matters of accountability, come to fruition. That $1.1 billion is about what we spend on secondary and post-secondary education each and every year. So that is what we are talking about, that is what will be done, that is the extra revenue. But still the government continues under this bill, Bill No. 30, An Act Repecting Certain Financial Measures, that continues to tack on user fees and increase, whether it is $20 looking up the Child Abuse Register for the Boys and Girls Clubs or whatever. That may not sound like a lot, and I want to address this if I have time later. I think it is a message to a very important group, the agencies and non-profit organizations that we entrust our children to, and it is a message to them that, well, listen, this whole thing, we appreciate what you are doing, we understand your good works but it is too bad we are not going to absorb this cost for you any longer, so we are going to nail you with a new tax. That is essentially what has happened.

Mr. Speaker, as I said, this government has spent $70 million more on debt-service charges last year because they added over $1.3 billion, in that range, to the debt at a time when they had a chance to balance this budget. Let us set the record straight once and for all and I want the Premier to check the numbers; $1.3 billion added to the net debt in the year 2000-01, not 1999-2000, not the year that the Liberal Government had some input that they can blame the previous government. That mode is changing, Nova Scotians don't want to hear that now. This government has a majority government and to say, oh, well, that is the way the other people made me do it. The figure this year is entirely attributable to this government and to this government alone. They can no longer blame the matters, whether they be fiscal, education, health or social service, or other important matters, they are responsible now, they are the government, they have the majority.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I will ask the members' indulgence for an explanation just for a moment, if I may. It will only take one minute. Earlier this evening, I ruled on a point of order by the Minister of Justice, which was a valid point of order at the time, on the use of unparliamentary language by the member for Dartmouth East. However, I did warn the member for Dartmouth East, cautioned him about the use of unparliamentary language and I did assume the minister was rising on a point of order on his own point of order, with which ruling I will stick.

[Page 2168]

The honourable member for Dartmouth East has the floor.

DR. SMITH: I was going to get you to repeat that, Mr. Speaker, so I could understand it, but I think I understand it. I am sure there will be no more points of order that we will have to address.

Mr. Speaker, we could speak about the history of the debt and why it is so important to get this under control and we certainly will give the government credit when it finally does bite the bullet and make the right decisions and move in that direction. I think it is all too clear, even though the amounts may not be staggering. You might even say that $70 million is not a lot. But it is very significant when you are looking at the laying off of permanent teaching positions, nurses that are unable to be hired and we haven't even heard from the regional health authorities. We haven't learned of their business plans and we haven't heard of how the budget will impact on their budget, how the provincial budget will impact on the regional health authorities budget. It is very quiet out there and that only means to me that they are watching pretty carefully and pretty cautiously. They are not going to say anything right now. The CEOs will be quiet for now, at least, just to see how they are able to work and function within their budgets. We know their budgets are going to be close to the line and there is going to be a lot of pressure to have a balanced budget.

We know now, Mr. Speaker, just like Nova Scotians are being bought with the 10 per cent tax reduction, they are being bought with their own money. We know that anything that looks like over-expenditures and cut-down on services such as we have seen in the Northside General Hospital that we learned of today or the last couple of days, we know that that blame is going to be firmly placed from downtown Halifax, the Department of Health and the minister's office, directly on that regional health authority. That was even being done when there were no regional boards and everything was being blamed on them. Now they have even more people to blame it on. They have nine CEOs out there and will be able to share the blame more. Anyway, we will see how that goes. Right now, on that score, we are starting to hear some rumblings from the regional school boards. We have yet to hear much from the regional health authorities, or anything much, but we are seeing, certainly, some indication that there is going to be a limitation of some services.

We spoke earlier about the AIMS Group that is speaking about losing the battle of competitiveness within the financial strategy and it is those areas, Mr. Speaker, when the media was speaking today about what is the impact on the Northside General of this type of environment and isn't it too bad that we can't find physicians and that. But what that does, that really damages the retention and the recruitment of new physicians to go in that community because they know there is something wrong in that community and something is not right. They are being courted by Texas and the Carolinas and British Columbia and all the other areas and that is what happens when your infrastructure starts to crumble and you will see it there. You will see it in Yarmouth. You will see it in Amherst and you see it in all those areas.

[Page 2169]

There was a good recruitment program, very innovative, Mr. Speaker, that was working and it was starting to work well and doing much better, particularly in the areas of very high competitiveness, such as the medical cancer specialist who came to this province and now, I think, is almost or is, a full complement.

That whole issue of building an infrastructure and sustaining, whether it is education or health care, it is competitive and we are competing and people other than ourselves on this side of the House are saying this government is losing that competitive edge. If you talk to people in business, they will tell you there has been a downturn in a lot of the areas even though the consumer confidence is still there, and I hope it does remain.

I want to speak briefly about the issue addressed in this bill under the Revenue Act and Part VII, relative to the tobacco fines. This is one of the more puzzling parts of the legislation, especially with information that we have of the numbers of fines under the Revenue Act, Part 3, Tobacco Tax for the period April 1996-2000 and large numbers of fines that were rendered within that $10,000 mark. They say this government is bringing this in and reducing the fines dramatically because they are unable to be enforced. In turn, they didn't blame the federal government this time, they didn't blame the Opposition, they didn't blame the previous Liberal Government, this time they blamed the courts because they were unwilling to do that. With some of the information, I would really question that and I think the minister should look again at that. We don't feel that is true. People have been convicted under the old fines and they have paid those fines. There is information to that effect and I am sure the minister has that.

The question that we would ask is who actually got to this government, who made this case? I personally hadn't heard of this dramatic request for reduction of fines, but we don't know yet, but we will probably find out and somebody will mention it to us. We don't want to say that this government would be in bed with organized crime, that would certainly be unparliamentary and that would be worse than what I called them earlier, so I don't believe that to be true, but we know that tobacco smuggling is a relatively large part of that, it is very prominent in organized crime. In fact, there has been before the courts, it has been shown that this has actually been in conjunction with some tobacco companies. Any reduction in fines actually plays into the hands of those people who choose to violate the law and certainly organized crime, but also others who can be co-opted for one reason or another into that illegal activity.

You can only conclude that when you see dramatic decreases in the fines, and the minimum fine reduced to a dramatic low that this government that was going to be tough on crime and take a firm stand on crime has really played directly into the hands of organized crime. This is the government that during the election said that they were going to be tough on organized crime. It was realized that much of the jurisdiction and certainly the Criminal Code is under federal jurisdiction, but they said they were going to do it anyway; come heck or high water they were going to do it. The main area that they do have control over is

[Page 2170]

tobacco and where they did have that control, what did they do? Rather than take a tough stand, they actually lowered the fines to wittingly or unwittingly help those who choose to break the law. As I have pointed out - and others I am sure would agree - there is really a great deal of involvement of organized crime. This is not just one or two people out there, this is organized.

In the end, what we have is a Tory Government by its own action, supporting organized crime. Tobacco smuggling is a serious organized criminal activity that has to be stopped, and yet this government lets it go on. Perhaps the Minister of Justice would like to explain it more fully, I haven't heard an explanation. Perhaps he even needs to apologize to everyone that is touched by organized crime, and just get tough on the criminal element. We know that many people, very innocent and through no fault of their own, are touched and often damaged by this organized crime. We see them aided and abetted by this government now, this get-tough-on-crime government. I guess the polls showed them that that is the stance they should take during the election.

[9:45 p.m.]

Now, they have not shown any programs for seniors, to reinforce - remember the video, lock your door and watch the video on how to defend yourself. It is not working very well around this province. You don't have to go any further than the local media to realize that, in the last few days in Nova Scotia. I don't think the video really worked in many of those instances. I am referring to home invasions. The Justice Minister said he would get tough on home invasions. Well, all he did was issue a video telling seniors to lock their doors. I guess they would say for the summer, be happy, watch the video, maybe while you are barbecuing, maybe even the NDP will give you a call and see how you are doing. They are going to be there for you. (Interruptions) Just didn't want to think I was getting too partisan here.

There are people who do beat up seniors for money, valuables and credit cards; they have to fence the merchandise somewhere, and that is where organized crime comes in. Let's not make it easy in any one area, because we know that as soon as one area is made easier, there is a vacuum there and that will be filled.

The other sad fact is that many of the home invasions, as we know, occur so that other people can find money to fund their drug habits. That is a reality. Again, it is not a long bow that I am drawing here tonight, by supporting tobacco smuggling this government is supporting all the other organized crime activities, like the trafficking of heroin, cocaine, crack cocaine, Ecstasy and all the other drugs, prescription drugs, that find their way to the street.

We think that is a part of the bill that is deficient, we have not had an adequate explanation, and we are just asking, who is the minister catering to? Where is his ultimate responsibility as Minister of Justice? We haven't heard that explanation.

[Page 2171]

Mr. Speaker, the various measures here - I did mention the Child Abuse Register, I think, in a way it is $75,000 in revenue, projected. It is not much when this group has taken $3.8 million from charities - that is the amount that someone did the numbers the other day. It is not so much, but in some ways it really minimizes that whole issue of child abuse, that maybe that is not so important. Again, you don't have to go any further than the media to realize that this is an issue that is very much with us in our society, and how important it is to support and make it easy for any group to facilitate any programs that are dealing with young people and those in a position of trust.

Mr. Speaker, there are some other areas that I just wanted to address in closing this evening. I know my time is getting short. I tried to address, basically, the financial issues, but sooner or later it comes back to the areas where we see the Health budget, increased waiting times and access, whether it is through the primary care system or into the acute care hospitals, we see those areas still being blocked, and yet the money is being spent and it is being spent without a plan and still Nova Scotians in their communities don't know what their hospital and their health care facilities will look like and where they will have to go. The people in the North Sydney area are being told certain hours you can travel over to the Cape Breton Healthcare Complex. That is going to cost lives. It is going to cost lives, not so much maybe that a few minutes is going to make a difference, lots of times it doesn't, we know that. What it does mean, it means that the system is breaking down. The system is not intact and it is not functioning. It is like a little blip in the skin, it is a symptom of something else that is happening, it is a symptom that those doctors that are needed there are less likely to come when it can't be solved before it reaches a crisis system - whether this is in Digby or whether it is in Yarmouth, or it is in industrial Cape Breton.

What could we do even with the modest amount of the increased debt services that we have? How could we better deal with our education system with our teachers and with our impact on our nurses? The need for the comprehensive health care plan and the importance of a balanced budget. Acute care. What are the business plans and how fair are they and how realistic are they? What do they really mean for those communities that have small community hospitals like those in Shelburne and some of the smaller areas? Whatever happened to the continuum of care, the emergency department? We see now even that persons wanting to train to become paramedics are having to go out of this province. Some will, yes, they will maybe just go to Prince Edward Island and look at it and turn and come back when they graduate, but what if they go further afield and what if they go to Ontario and even to the United States or somewhere like that? The chances of them returning here, we will lose them, one and two at a time but that is very important as we have lost our physicians.

Mr. Speaker, the role of the community health board needs enrichment. They have been legalized now and recognized there, so we need that continuum of care with an input from that area. There has been a modest amount of money that will go in for some minor administrative supports for those areas but still needs to be up and functioning. These

[Page 2172]

programs that have been valued by the people of Nova Scotia, that Nova Scotians have had to rely on, that an assessment would be done for seniors returning to their homes at the age of 82 when they go home to independent living, that somebody surely to goodness in the hospital system would look at those people and assess them as to what their needs would be in their home. They are being sent back to their own apartments in a complex where neighbours have to bring in food. That is fine but neighbours aren't always there and in some communities they are not. We have in-home support programs that are now put on hold. We can't afford that, we must move forward and this government has the resources, they have the revenues to do it right.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member's time has expired. Just before I recognize the next speaker I think it fair to mention that probably that tea kettle from the Annapolis Valley that is boiling should be taken off the stove, it is whistling quite a bit.

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I don't want to keep anyone in suspense, so I will announce now that I intend to join my colleagues in voting against Bill No. 30 when the time comes. What I would like to do, however, is set out the reasons that have persuaded me that that is the approximate step.

When I last had the opportunity to speak about the Financial Measures (2001) Bill, it was about a week ago in the context of dealing with the hoist motion that had been made. At the time I went through, I think, in a fair bit of detail, some of the problems associated with the overall program of the government, particularly as it relates to the financial program which really is of course the centerpiece of what it is that the government has laid out as its agenda for its term in office. Certainly, there is nothing else that has appeared as anything that the government wishes to advance as its agenda for the people of the Province of Nova Scotia. It is a financial agenda, pure and simple, which is why it is that those of us who have addressed Bill No. 30 have decided to range over our perspective on the government's plans because, of course, the two are one and the same. Bill No. 30 is just part of what it is that the government is putting in place, piece by piece, as it moves ahead towards a very simple agenda.

MR. SPEAKER: Would the honourable member consider adjourning debate?

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I am always happy to take your suggestions, and looking forward to the opportunity to continue the debate, I will move adjournment for this evening.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is to adjourn debate. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

[Page 2173]

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the House will sit tomorrow at the hour of 12:00 noon and sit until 8:00 p.m. The order of business, following Question Period, will be Public Bills for Second Reading, commencing with Bill No. 30 and, hopefully, getting to Bill No. 20 later in the day.

Mr. Speaker, I move that we do now rise.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is to adjourn. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

[The House rose at 9:57 p.m.]

[Page 2174]

NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)

RESOLUTION NO. 795

By: Mr. Frank Corbett (Cape Breton Centre)

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

Whereas high school graduation ceremonies for this June are being planned across this province; and

Whereas on the occasion of their graduation, these students look forward to a motivational message from their guest speaker; and

Whereas to be chosen by a graduating class as its guest speaker is a significant honour;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the Sir John A. Macdonald High School graduating class of 2001 on its selection of Timberlea-Prospect MLA Bill Estabrooks as the guest speaker at their June 28th graduation.

RESOLUTION NO. 796

By: Mr. Richard Hurlburt (Yarmouth)

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

Whereas a Canadian crew of a small twin-engine propeller plane undertook a rescue others would not dare; and

Whereas this crew braved the Antarctic snow and -54C temperatures in the darkness of the polar winter to help an American doctor who had fallen ill; and

Whereas this effort was one of the riskiest efforts ever made by a small plane to the South Pole and showed remarkable courage and stamina;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House send up a cheer for the success of this amazing rescue and commend the captain and crew for their bravery and skill.

[Page 2175]

RESOLUTION NO. 797

By: Mr. Frank Chipman (Annapolis)

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

Whereas the pineapple is the international symbol of hospitality; and

Whereas the Tourism Industry Association of Nova Scotia gives the Pineapple Award to individuals nominated by visitors to our province as a way of recognizing those who have gone above and beyond what is expected to enrich a visitor's stay; and

Whereas one of the award recipients was Derek LeGard of Falcourt Inn in Nictaux, Annapolis County, for adapting his accommodations and making sure he was always available for the needs of a guest who had a progressively deteriorating medical condition;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Derek LeGard and extend to him our appreciation for the outstanding contribution to Nova Scotia's tourism industry.