|TABLE OF CONTENTS||PAGE|
|SPEECH FROM THE THRONE||2|
|INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:|
|An Act Respecting Oaths of Office, Hon. M. Baker||18|
|ADDRESS IN REPLY TO THE SPEECH FROM THE THRONE:|
|Mr. Timothy Olive - Moved||18|
|Mr. Cecil Clarke - Seconded||24|
|DEBATE ON ADDRESS IN REPLY:|
|Mr. John MacDonell||28|
|ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Fri., Mar. 23rd at 10:00 a.m.||32|
[The Second Session of the 58th General Assembly was opened with historic ceremony on a windy, overcast day.]
SERGEANT-AT-ARMS: Her Honour, the Lieutenant Governor.
[The Lieutenant Governor, the Honourable Myra A. Freeman, preceded by her escort and aides and by Mr. Noel Knockwood, Sergeant-at-Arms, bearing the Mace, entered the House of Assembly Chamber. The Lieutenant Governor then took her seat on the Throne.
The Sergeant-at-Arms then departed and re-entered the Chamber followed by the Speaker, the Honourable Murray Scott; the Chief Clerk of the House, Roderick MacArthur, Q.C.; and the Assistant Clerk, Arthur Fordham, Q.C.
The Speaker, with the Sergeant-at-Arms on his right and the Clerks on either side, took up his position at the foot of the Speaker's Table.]
SERGEANT-AT-ARMS: It is the wish of Her Honour that the ladies and gentlemen be seated.
SPEECH FROM THE THRONE
THE LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR: Mr. Speaker, Members of the Legislative Assembly, guests: Welcome to the opening of the Second Session of the 58th General Assembly.
As we set forth government's agenda for the near future, we pause to remember those whose passion for public service left a memorable mark on this province and on the lives of countless Nova Scotians. The late Eileen O'Connell, Harry How and Hansen Dowell served their province with distinction. Their contribution to public life serves as a reminder to all who take their place in this historic Chamber of the serious responsibility we individually and collectively bear as the elected representatives of the people of Nova Scotia.
And, while not a native son, Pierre Elliott Trudeau will be remembered by Nova Scotians as one of the most colourful and dynamic leaders this country has ever seen. His passion for Canada, and his no-nonsense approach to those who would see it harmed, were indisputable.
As well as taking time to remember, we take time to celebrate a number of outstanding Nova Scotians whose achievements have brought them to the centre of the world's stage. Fiddling great and Grammy nominee Natalie MacMaster, 14-time provincial champion and three-time world curling contender Colleen Jones, and three-time Olympian and bronze medallist Steve Giles: each has given Nova Scotians reason to be proud they are our athletic and cultural ambassadors abroad.
In this, The International Year of Volunteers, we celebrate the lesser-known but hugely important effort of every Nova Scotian who quietly takes the time to cuddle a sick baby, to stack the shelves of their local food bank, or to deliver a hot meal to a housebound senior. In honour of the outstanding contribution tens of thousands of Nova Scotians make to their communities and their province year in and year out, and in recognition of The International Year of Volunteers, my government will introduce the Order of Nova Scotia. This prestigious honour will celebrate the value of community service, as well as recognize those individuals who have made an outstanding contribution to the social, cultural and economic prosperity of Nova Scotia.
My government extends an especially warm welcome to the new member for Halifax Fairview and the new member for Cape Breton North. We look forward to their determined efforts to help Nova Scotia move forward with a modern, progressive economy that appropriately responds to the needs and aspirations of all of its people, both now and in the future.
Healthy, Productive Children . . . A Healthy, Productive Future
My government knows that the decisions we make today will have a profound impact on the kind of Nova Scotia we have tomorrow. And nothing is more important to Nova Scotia's long-term economic health and social prosperity than helping our children become healthy, caring, productive adults.
Over the course of the last year, my government has enhanced parental-leave benefits for birth parents and adoptive parents, improved access to child care, supported more families and children through early intervention, combined the federal and provincial child benefits into a standard benefit for low-income families, provided new supports for children with autism-spectrum disorders, established Nova Scotia's first school-supplies program for families on social assistance, and introduced the Active Young Readers Program for students from Grade Primary to Grade 3.
In the weeks and months ahead, we will focus more of our energies and more of our resources on building eager, young minds and healthy, active bodies.
My government believes that education is the foundation for Nova Scotia's current and future prosperity.
Nova Scotians have told us that they are concerned about the level of quality, the absence of certain standards, and the degree of accountability in our education system. They understandably want assurances that our students can compete throughout the world, confident in knowing they have an educational grounding that is second to none.
In the coming months, my government will bring forward a number of initiatives that focus on improving the quality, standards, and accountability of our education system from the Grade Primary level straight through to our post-secondary institutions.
We will start by expanding the Active Young Readers Program so that it not only helps children "learn to read" but gives them the confidence to "read to learn." Soon, all children across the elementary grade level, from Grade Primary to Grade 6, will have access to this important learning experience. And to ensure our early learning strategies are working effectively, we will test the literacy levels of all Grade 6 students.
My government recognizes that the education of our children is a shared responsibility between "home" and "school." Therefore, for the first time, the results of these tests will be openly shared with the parents of every child. Just as importantly, these results will be shared with teachers at the junior high level so struggling young readers can be supported to become successful young learners.
Every student, in every classroom, in every school must value and respect their fellow students, as well as the learning environment. Our schools have a responsibility to teach our students at an early age that unacceptable behaviour will be met with consequences that are acceptable to parents, teachers, and society. My government is committed to making our schools peaceful and productive places of learning. We will therefore implement Nova Scotia's first Code of Conduct for our public school system.
Students have a wide range of needs requiring different levels of support. My government knows that we cannot realistically meet all of the demands for new resources in one speech or in one budget, but we do know that every child must be valued, and every reasonable effort made to help each and every one of them personally grow and academically succeed. We will demonstrate our commitment to make this happen by investing in new approaches to help students with special needs.
Just as there are students who require different levels of classroom support, there are students with a wide range of talent, skills, and interests. Not all can be expected to follow the same academic path. Too many young Nova Scotians with lots of enthusiasm and loads of talent are falling through the cracks. My government will invest in their futures by launching the Youth Pathways and Transitions Program. This initiative will introduce the Student Career Portfolio, a new approach for tracking each student's progress in acquiring the basic skills required for employment. It will be introduced in a number of Grade 7, 8 and 9 classes this coming year and will be rolled out for all secondary students in future years.
A second component of Youth Pathways and Transitions will provide students with the option of selecting high-school courses that are linked to specific programs at the Nova Scotia Community College. This will allow students to make a smoother transition into community college and provide a clearer pathway to Nova Scotia's job market, including the knowledge economy and Nova Scotia's resource industries.
To the greatest extent possible, my government wants Nova Scotians to be the first in line to fill the jobs that are becoming available as a result of our growing economy. We will therefore open up more opportunities for Nova Scotians to go to community college and develop the skills they need to get a good job here at home.
As well as making key investments that support learning, my government will invest in the physical health and emotional well-being of our children.
We will begin by addressing the serious gaps that exist in the delivery of mental health services, particularly as they relate to children and adolescents. We will step up efforts to improve access to a wider range of integrated services, as close to home as possible.
As a partner in the National Children's Agenda, we will commit more resources to ensure more of our children get a good start in life. We will introduce a comprehensive Home Visitation Program, designed to provide one-on-one support to expectant parents, new parents and newborns. When fully implemented, this new program will mean every new mother and every new baby, no matter where they live, will have the support of a public- health nurse. It will also mean every family that requires ongoing support will get the support it needs through a network of lay home visitors. Again, no matter where they live.
As well, my government will expand access to child care and supports to parents at the community level. We will also commit additional resources to existing licensed child care centres. These two important initiatives speak to my government's belief that quality learning and social experiences at an early age help our children become caring and sharing adults.
When families break up, the children are the ones who suffer most. Helping families avoid legal conflict means everyone benefits, particularly the children. My government will continue to urge the federal government to expand the Family Division of the Supreme Court of Canada to all areas of the province. With its focus on counselling, conciliation, and mediation, this court helps families and children in crises by reducing the tension and the conflict that comes when families break down.
My government will also help more young Nova Scotians in conflict with the law become accountable for their actions. We will expand the Restorative Justice Program, paying particular attention to helping young Nova Scotians productively repair the harm they have imposed on their victims and on society.
Participating in sport, recreation, and fitness helps build healthier bodies and sharper minds. To encourage both young and old to become more active, we will work closely with our schools, community health boards, municipal and national partners, as well as sport and recreation associations across the province, to develop an effective strategy that will provide Nova Scotians with more access to both indoor and outdoor sport and recreational activities.
These initiatives speak to my government's belief that the most important thing we can do for tomorrow is to invest in our children today.
Reliable, Sustainable, Evidenced-Based Health Care
Twelve years ago, the Royal Commission on Health Care spoke of the urgent need to make critical changes to the health care system. The commission warned that unless fundamental changes were made in what services were delivered and how they were delivered, the system could eventually collapse under its own weight. Nova Scotia is perilously close to that happening. If health care costs continue to escalate at the levels witnessed throughout the 1990's, in just 10 years from now the government will not be able to provide Nova Scotians with any other service. There will be no teachers, no child care
workers, no snowplow operators. My government is not prepared to let that happen, nor are we prepared to let Nova Scotians go without quality care. Over the last year and a half, my government has made solid progress in gathering the information needed to support proper health planning. With the help of doctors, nurses, and the people who oversee the delivery of acute care services, we have thoroughly analysed clinical services at all of our hospitals. The results of this important and exhaustive undertaking will not only mean better, more predictable care for those who rely on Nova Scotia's health care system, it will mean those who pay for it - taxpayers - get better value for every health dollar spent.
My government recently piloted new efforts to make sure seniors most in need of long-term care are the first in line for long-term placement. The early results from our pilots demonstrate the enormous value of having solid information when planning future services. In the months and weeks ahead, my government will continue to gather the information necessary to ensure every Nova Scotian who needs care gets the best care possible, not only now, but well into the future. We will continue to invest in fair approaches that simplify access to continuing care, making it easier for seniors to get the right care, at the right time, from the best care provider. We will do so by investing in home care and by modernizing our assessment and admission criteria for nursing homes throughout the province.
My government will also proceed with Phase 2 of the Clinical Services Planning Process to ensure the most effective delivery of long-term care and home-care services. As well, we will invest in a new Information Management System. Information technology is critical to improving system-wide performance and to providing patients, doctors, and hospitals with easier and faster access to medical records. This vitally important investment will not only improve patient care, it will help us better monitor, adjust, and plan health services so they are sustainable over the long term.
More than anything else, the future of health services in Nova Scotia is dependent on securing the right number and mix of professionals for our province. We have made significant strides over the last year in recruiting new physicians to communities throughout Nova Scotia, but there are still too many Nova Scotians without a family doctor, still too many regions in need of specialists. My government recently announced a debt-assistance program for medical students who set up practice in underserviced areas. We will continue to investigate innovative, cost-effective ways to ensure that every community that needs a doctor gets one.
Perhaps the most significant challenge Nova Scotia faces, along with virtually every other province in Canada, is recruiting new nurses. Again, over the last year and a half, my government has worked hard to address the many challenges of retaining those we have and recruiting those we need. We have converted part-time positions to full-time, created the
position of nurse policy adviser, funded new nursing seats and introduced a new co-op program for nursing students. We recognize, however, that more needs to be done.
My government will act on the advice it received directly from nurses. We will begin implementing Nova Scotia's first Nursing Strategy. This includes, expanding professional-development opportunities, addressing workplace issues, and providing tangible support for nurses who relocate to Nova Scotia. As well, we will introduce legislation that recognizes the new and critically important role that nurse practitioners can play as part of Nova Scotia's modern team of health care professionals.
My government is committed to reducing Nova Scotia's excessively high rate of smoking, as well the huge costs it imposes on our health-care system. As part of our initiatives to encourage healthy living, we will introduce a Comprehensive Tobacco Control Strategy, aimed at reducing consumption, limiting exposure to second-hand smoke, and creating awareness of the deadly and costly effects of smoking. The Premier's Youth Advisory Council on Smoking will play a key role in developing effective strategies for reducing adolescent and teen smoking.
My government was pleased to pass legislation that finally gave community health boards a mandate to help guide the future direction of health care. In recognition of the important contribution these volunteer boards make to improving the health and well-being of their communities, we will establish a Wellness Fund that will allow many of their ideas and wellness plans to be put into action.
Almost every Nova Scotian has been either directly or indirectly affected by cancer. In co-operation with Cancer Care Nova Scotia, we will introduce a new Patient Navigation System to ensure Nova Scotians with cancer get the information, the encouragement, and the supports they need, from diagnosis, through all stages of treatment, to recovery. An important feature of this significant new initiative will be my government's effort to make specialist reports available to family physicians within 48 hours. We are determined to make early treatment, early cure a reality for more Nova Scotians.
We are determined to give communities a greater voice in shaping the future direction of health care and investing more in wellness promotion and disease prevention.
Individual Independence, Community Sustainability, and Provincial Self-Reliance
Nova Scotia's future prosperity starts with individual Nova Scotians; it will be strengthened with every community that grows; and it will be assured when Nova Scotia gets to keep a fair share of its offshore benefits.
Modern, progressive changes to our welfare system mean more Nova Scotian families will achieve independence, so they can contribute more to their communities.
The fair exchange of service between the province and its municipal partners will help sustain and strengthen struggling communities, so they can contribute more to Nova Scotia.
Winning the battle for Nova Scotia's full and fair share of revenues from our offshore will assure our future as a "have" province, so we can contribute more to a stronger Canada.
Each of these important initiatives speaks to the values we take pride in as Nova Scotians and Canadians: fairness, equity, and self-reliance.
My government asks nothing more of Ottawa than we are prepared to do for our citizens and our communities.
The changes we are making to our social-assistance system mean Nova Scotians will get to keep more of the benefits they receive as they make the transition from welfare to work. We want them to land on their feet and stay on their feet.
Nova Scotia is simply asking Ottawa for the chance to land and stay on its feet.
The changes we have proposed to provincial-municipal relations mean communities that have been struggling to provide basic services have a fair chance to gain a foothold in Nova Scotia's new economy. We want all of our communities to prosper and to be strong partners in a modern, progressive, fair-minded Nova Scotia.
Nova Scotia is simply asking Ottawa for the opportunity to be a strong partner in a modern, progressive, fair-minded Canada.
My government will continue to lead by example.
We are not only talking about the principles of fairness, equity, and self-reliance, we are embracing them in our actions. We do so in the firm and principled belief that independent Nova Scotians will help build stronger communities, stronger communities will help build a more self-reliant Nova Scotia, and a more self-reliant Nova Scotia will build a more prosperous Canada.
A Modern, Progressive Economy Supported by a Modern, Progressive Government
Nova Scotia is on the verge of economic resurgence. The huge potential of our offshore; our growing knowledge-based economy; our abundant resources; our unique culture, rich history, and natural beauty; but above all else, the resilience and resourcefulness
of our people, give us the means to finally shed our "have-not" status and to become one of Canada's most dynamic and progressive provinces.
My government will not squander the trust of Nova Scotians, nor will we put at peril their opportunity for a better future. We know it is our duty to demonstrate the leadership needed today to bring about real economic gains and meaningful social progress tomorrow.
We have made steady progress over the last year. We introduced Nova Scotia's first School for Adult Learning; and released Opportunities for Prosperity, Nova Scotia's first economic growth strategy in over a decade. We opened up more of Nova Scotia's offshore to oil and gas development; introduced the country's first fully functioning, on-line government tendering service; and invested more in road improvements. We supported silviculture development; assisted Nova Scotia farmers challenged by drought; developed a strategic tourism marketing plan; and introduced new efforts to market our cultural products abroad. We also connected more schools, libraries, and communities to the Internet, and more businesses to on-line government services.
But again, more needs to be done.
My government is committed to seeing that our natural advantages are used to Nova Scotians' maximum advantage. We will begin where it all counts - with our young people.
Nova Scotia's growing economy means new opportunities are opening up in a wide variety of trades and professions: the offshore, high-tech industries, construction trades, life sciences, as well as the traditional resource industries that helped found our province. All of these industries present a new, but welcome challenge: the need to find skilled workers with a range of new talents.
My government believes that, with the right supports, it's a challenge young Nova Scotians can meet head on.
To see that they do, we will launch Nova Scotia's Skills Agenda. In co-operation with business, labour, industry, and our partners in education, we will undertake a comprehensive assessment of new and developing job demands.
Over time, we will put a comprehensive, forward-thinking plan in place to make sure that young Nova Scotians aren't packing their bags to leave - they're packing their bags to come home.
My government will also work with our private sector partners to see that more Nova Scotia businesses, libraries, schools, and homes have better and faster access to telecommunication services. We are enhancing Nova Scotia's high-speed Internet
connections and in the process linking 18 new communities, mostly rural communities, to new educational and business opportunities.
My government is committed to eliminating red tape, creating a positive climate for investment, and making Nova Scotia an attractive place to do business. We have invested, and will continue to invest, in the country's most innovative and cost-effective approach for providing service to business, the Nova Scotia Business Registry. This on-line service, launched last year, will be expanded over the coming year, making it easier and faster for business to deal with government. We want Nova Scotia businesses concentrating more on building their own success and less on dealing with needless red tape. Over the next four years, we expect that up to 80 per cent of all business transactions with government will be available on-line.
My government is also committed to improving access to government services for Nova Scotians living in rural areas of the province. We will work to ensure that, no matter where they live, Nova Scotians have easier access to a wider range of e-government or front-line services. Service Nova Scotia Express will soon introduce service terminals in 19 locations throughout Nova Scotia. This, along with the expansion of front-line Registry of Motor Vehicle services into five more counties, will put Nova Scotians who live outside of Nova Scotia's urban areas on a more level footing when it comes to accessing government services.
We will also launch the Registry 2000 Initiative, to convert our 250 year old paper system into a modern electronic land registry. This multi-year process will be a milestone in our efforts to streamline real property transactions, making it possible to easily search land records from any computer terminal or any registry office in the province.
One of the most serious challenges facing government, and one of the most serious impediments to our economic growth, is the state of our roads and highways. My government is determined to see Nova Scotians travel on safer highways, more tourists come to our province, and more businesses invest in Nova Scotia's future prosperity. Last year, my government increased spending on Nova Scotia's rural roads and secondary highways. We will increase that investment once again this year. We will also continue to call on the federal government to return a fair portion of the $130 million it collects every year from Nova Scotians through gasoline taxes.
As well, my government will release a Ten-Year Needs Assessment Study that will assure Nova Scotians of our commitment to plan and build highways based solely on the most urgent need.
As the gateways to Nova Scotia communities, our highways provide visitors with critical information on local services and attractions. Drawing upon the input received through extensive public consultations, my government will implement a New Advertising Signage Policy that will enhance the quality and effectiveness of business advertisements, while at the same time leaving visitors to our province with a positive and lasting impression of Nova Scotia's wonderful scenery.
This is one of many initiatives we are undertaking to reach our goal of making tourism a $1.5 billion industry by the end of our mandate. Our efforts to aggressively market Nova Scotia, in true partnership with Nova Scotia's Tourism Partnership Council, will help us reach our goal. To ensure that we reach or surpass our target, we are placing increased emphasis on promoting Nova Scotia as a year-round tourism destination. As well, we will continue to support the innovative investments we made last year in the tourism potential of our smaller communities.
Our work with communities does not stop there. We also recognize the potential of our cultural producers and distributors in helping our economy grow and our culture flourish. We will continue to build on their success with new investments that support growth and opportunity in our cultural industries.
Our partnerships with industry do not begin or end with our tourism and culture industries.
My government believes that we increase our opportunities for success when different levels of government come together with communities, our regional development authorities and the private sector to support a common objective. This year, we will bring these partnerships together to implement an aggressive plan for advancing Nova Scotia's digital economy, from broadband connectivity to e-government.
We will also establish the Nova Scotia Business Opportunities Initiative. This new initiative will pilot new approaches to enhance opportunities for Nova Scotian companies to do business with government. It will also develop and implement a new Industrial Benefits Program that will strike a fair balance between rural and urban business needs and opportunities.
My government will also continue to work hand in glove with the people of industrial Cape Breton to bring about a modern economy sustained by modern business and industry.
We will continue to invest in the promise of its people and the economic potential of the area through the prudent use of the Cape Breton Growth Fund. We will also more aggressively market Cape Breton's rich talent and huge potential far and wide.
It goes without saying, Nova Scotia's traditional resource industries are the backbone of rural Nova Scotia. Regardless of the new prosperity that oil and gas will bring, or the new opportunities the knowledge economy offers, farming, fishing, mining, and milling will always be vitally important to our economy and to the future of rural Nova Scotia.
These sectors provide well-paying jobs, continue to adopt new technologies, and offer important lessons for some of our new growth industries.
My government will continue to work with our industry partners to see that we grow our economy through the prudent use of our resources, the proper use of new technologies, and the value that can be added to many of our products.
To ensure future generations have access to healthy forests, my government will implement the remaining elements of Nova Scotia's Forestry Strategy and introduce new regulations to protect wildlife habitat. As well, through the silviculture pilot project announced in the fall, we will continue to work cooperatively with woodlot owners and the industry to ensure our forests are sustainable for the future. With that same goal in mind, we will make an additional investment in silviculture on Crown land.
To support Nova Scotia's farmers, my government will continue to provide assistance through the Agricultural Income Disaster Assistance Program and through the Net Income Stabilization Account. These two programs are vital to helping Nova Scotian farms survive weather-related losses and market-driven fluctuations. As well, we will open the Agriculture Development Institute, an innovative and cooperative partnership that provides farmers with a wide range of professional expertise. We will also support the industry by expanding the curriculum at the Nova Scotia Agricultural College to include the emerging fields of life sciences, environmental engineering and biology, organic farming, value-added products, and aquaculture.
Our fishermen, and the coastal communities they help sustain, are understandably worried about the impact oil and gas development will have on their livelihood. My government is committed to working with representatives from both of these important industries to ensure one does not displace the other. We will insist that modern exploration and development approaches be followed and that the oil and gas industry respect the value of the fishery in any future development.
To support the continued growth of farming, fishing and forestry in Nova Scotia, my government will introduce Brand Nova Scotia. This new initiative will streamline and strengthen the marketing activities of government departments, as well as the private sector. It will develop common messages and themes that will promote Nova Scotian products as quality products, both at home and abroad.
My government knows that questions over the treaty rights of Nova Scotia's aboriginal peoples have created tension and court challenges that could have serious consequences for thousands of Nova Scotians who make their livelihood from fishing or forestry. My government understands it has a duty both to uphold our legal obligations and to ensure that all of our citizens have equal opportunity to earn a livelihood from our natural resources. We believe that mutually acceptable agreements can provide a strong foundation for certainty and stability for all Nova Scotians. We will continue to try to bring about negotiated solutions as an alternative to the tensions resulting from court challenges.
While we look forward to the incredible opportunities oil and gas will bring to Nova Scotia, we are mindful of the need to prudently plan for Nova Scotia's future energy needs. With the help of the Premier's Council on Energy, my government will soon release a discussion paper that will be used to develop a new Energy Strategy that recognizes Nova Scotia's new and changing energy needs. Nova Scotia is starting to be recognized around the world as a source of significant energy resources. The Energy Strategy will be instrumental in identifying new strategies for maximizing benefits to Nova Scotia consumers, to communities, and to our province in the years ahead.
My government has set a busy agenda. We are working hard to take advantage of the momentum that has been building. We are working hard to position Nova Scotia for success.
Protecting and Enriching Nova Scotia's Quality of Life
Safe communities, clean drinking water, pure air, safe roads, our history, heritage and community spirit - all of these and more contribute to our sense of pride in being Nova Scotians.
My government is committed to ensuring the quality of life enjoyed by Nova Scotians is enriched.
To protect the quality of our land and wildlife habitat, we are working with the Nature Conservancy of Canada to set aside more land to be preserved. We passed legislation to protect agricultural marshlands. We invested in reforestation; expanded provincial parklands; introduced Nova Scotia's first Disaster Relief Policy; and, with the enthusiastic support of Nova Scotians, achieved the landmark goal of diverting more than 50 per cent of Nova Scotia's solid waste away from our landfills.
To protect the quality of our water, we introduced more stringent regulations for monitoring and reporting on all public drinking water supplies, providing the most extensive coverage in Canada. And, along with our federal and municipal partners, we committed millions of dollars to upgrade water and sewer services throughout the province.
To help Nova Scotians feel safer in their communities, we have taken a tough stand and a national leadership role in dealing with home invasion and introduced a new Community Outreach Program to educate seniors and others on how to effectively deal with situations that put their safety at risk. We are working across government to provide better support to families in crises and to identify opportunities for improving our response to family violence. We have also begun the Civic Addressing Project. This project will provide precise digital maps to police, firefighters, first responders, and paramedics so that they can more accurately locate and more quickly respond to emergency calls.
In keeping with our efforts to ensure all Nova Scotians have access to legal services, my government will continue to urge Ottawa to restore funding for legal aid. We will continue to build on this beginning.
My government recognizes that the tragedy in Walkerton, Ontario, raised concerns about the quality of drinking water here at home. To provide even greater protection for Nova Scotians from a similar tragedy, my government will soon release a comprehensive water management plan for both water quality protection and water quantity management.
My government will also work to address deficiencies in sewage-management practices by developing a strategy for dealing with untreated sewage, outdated treatment plants and malfunctioning on-site systems.
We will also invest more in healthy forests and work with communities throughout Nova Scotia to expand our Trans Canada Trail system.
As well, we will expand our solid waste management efforts by negotiating new stewardship agreements with industry and by implementing the recently announced agreement on medical sharps.
In addition, we will continue to work with the federal government and our provincial and territorial partners to develop a workable and effective strategy for the reduction of greenhouse gases, which strikes a reasonable and fair balance between preserving our environment and protecting our economy.
To protect the travelling public, we will introduce regulations covering long-distance small van carriers, and we will support older drivers who voluntarily participate in safe driving courses.
Just as we have been working to make public buildings more accessible to Nova Scotians with disabilities, we will continue to work to make our transportation system more accessible. We will implement the Rural and Semi-Rural Inclusive Transportation Support
Program, which will provide Nova Scotians with disabilities greater access to transportation services in the less populated areas of the province.
My government will also work to ensure all Nova Scotians are protected by effective fire prevention laws. We will strike a Select Committee of the Legislature to review proposed changes to the Fire Prevention Act and seek input from municipalities, volunteer fire departments and others in the development of a new and effective fire prevention law, and any other issues of concern.
These initiatives will help Nova Scotians feel secure in knowing their government is taking the necessary steps to protect their health and safety, to preserve the integrity of our natural environment, and to improve our physical infrastructure.
The Defecit and Debt . . . Nova Scotia's Great Divide
The single greatest challenge confronting any government is to leave future generations with less to worry about and more to be thankful for. For this to happen, Nova Scotia must end its costly dependence on borrowed money. The cost of paying the interest on our debt will soon be $1 billion per year. This is money we can't use to invest in our schools, our hospitals, our roads or, more importantly, in a better future for our children and grandchildren. That is why my government has made eliminating the deficit an urgent priority. The deficit is Nova Scotia's great divide. As long as it exists, Nova Scotia will never be able to claim we are making real headway as a "have" province, we will never be able to say that the future of our children is secure.
My government has set the course for a balanced budget by the end of fiscal 2002-03. We will not waiver. We will end deficit financing once and for all. We will do it by using the country's most advanced accounting principles and by introducing new measures of accountability. More importantly, we will do so by demonstrating we have the right balance of heart and spine.
Protecting Taxpayers Through Improved Accountability
For accountability to be more than a buzzword, there must be open reporting structures, a clear understanding of expectations and consequences for indifference.
My government expects that every department, agency, board and commission will treat every taxpayer with respect and every tax dollar with care.
Last year, we introduced legislation that held government to a new standard of accountability.
The Financial Measures Act established in law the requirement for government to openly account for its progress in meeting its program, policy, and financial objectives. This year we will publish a Corporate Business Plan that will not only establish the priorities of government, but the outcomes and targets we expect to meet. As well, legislation establishing Nova Scotia's district health authorities requires more vigorous financial controls, including regular and timely updates to government on their spending priorities.
Legislation was also passed to ensure that our economic development efforts are based on sound business principles and not political expediency. Nova Scotia Business Inc., a new agency at arm's length from government, will soon make day-to-day investment decisions. This new agency will be guided by a strict framework of accountability that requires open reporting on every transaction it makes.
My government also brought together under one roof the policy planning and financial management arms of government. This will ensure program planning is directly tied to financial accountability. Treasury and Policy Board will soon have the oversight needed to more effectively control spending across the Civil Service.
We have also developed an accountability framework for community-based social agencies that receive core funding from the province. While we recognize and support the important contribution these agencies make to their communities and to our province, we believe that government grants to social agencies must be based on more than history, on more than good intentions, and never on political connections. They must be based on demonstrated need, solid planning, and measurable outcomes.
My government has also, for the first time, started working with the continuing care sector to introduce a common set of business planning tools designed to help our long-term care facilities maximize efficiencies and better plan their operations in future.
As promised, we started the process of examining the role, function, cost, value and standards of accountability of virtually every agency in government. We will eliminate those that are no longer relevant and merge those of like function. We promised to make government more efficient, and we are committed to that end. Legislation to reduce the number of agencies, boards, and commissions will be introduced both this spring and fall.
These are important first steps, but government still has a distance to go in improving accountability for every tax dollar spent.
New investments in information management systems in both health and education will make it possible for government to identify spending areas that need adjustment and to more accurately predict future costs. But information management systems alone will not guarantee that taxpayers' dollars are spent on Nova Scotians' priorities.
My government will therefore extend the scope and mandate of the Human Resources Department to cover the broader public sector. Legislation creating the Public Service Commission will be introduced to ensure the fair and consistent expenditure of taxpayers' dollars across the broad spectrum of government-funded services.
Today we have outlined the vision, values, principles and priorities of my government. But vision and values, principles and priorities do not guarantee good government. It's action that counts.
Nova Scotians will quickly see the words and the commitments contained in this document turn to action. And over time, they will see my government's vision of Nova Scotia as a "have" province become a reality.
We know we cannot realistically meet every need. We never expect to meet every want. We do, however, want Nova Scotians to know the kind of future we believe in, the principles we will stand tall for and the priorities we will invest in:
- healthy, caring, productive children.
- reliable, quality, essential services.
- a modern, progressive economy.
- the fair and equitable distribution of opportunities.
- accountable, fiscally responsible government.
- a better quality of life for all Nova Scotians.
God bless Nova Scotia.
God bless Canada.
God bless the Queen.
[The Speaker and Clerks left the Chamber.
The Lieutenant Governor left the Chamber preceded by her escorts and the Sergeant-at-Arms.
Mr. Speaker took the Chair.]
SERGEANT-AT-ARMS: His Honour the Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: Please be seated.
The honourable Minister of Justice.
HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to introduce a bill entitled An Act Respecting Oaths of Office.
MR. SPEAKER: Ordered that this bill be read a second time on a future day.
Her Honour the Lieutenant Governor has been pleased to make a Speech to the members met in the General Assembly of which, for greater accuracy, I have obtained a copy which the Chief Clerk will now read.
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear! Hear! (Laughter) (Applause)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Premier.
HON. JOHN HAMM (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, I move that the Speech be taken as read.
MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that the Speech be taken as read. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
The honourable member for Dartmouth South.
MR. TIMOTHY OLIVE: Mr. Speaker, Honourable Myra Freeman, Mr. Freeman, Premier, colleagues in the Legislature and guests, I am honoured to have the opportunity to move the Speech from the Throne as just read by Her Honour. I share this moment with the constituents of Dartmouth South without whose confidence I would not be here today. Also, I would like to thank my wife, Bunny, my daughters Jennifer and Stephanie and my granddaughter, Shonn, for their patience and support. They are always there for me even though this job has kept me from spending as much time with them as I would like so that I am able to serve in the public office and be part of a government which is steering a course for Nova Scotia which will offer a better tomorrow.
Mr. Speaker, I am anxious to participate in the debates in the coming days and weeks under the able direction of your balanced management of the affairs of this House. (Applause)
I would also like to welcome our new members recently elected and just this morning sworn in as representatives for this province. The member for Halifax Fairview will, I am sure over time, achieve the considerable respect that was accorded his predecessor who I know is missed by all in this House. I wish him success.
I am particularly pleased to welcome the newest member of our caucus, the member for Cape Breton North. His victory was once again a case of a supposed third-place standing rising to a stunning victory, thanks, of course, Mr. Speaker, to hard work and a great candidate. (Applause) He, like our government, has shown that he has the necessary vision, values, principles and priorities that Nova Scotians are looking for and feel confident in supporting, not only because our vision for Nova Scotia is clear but because we are committed to overcoming the challenges we face and meeting the goals set just some 20 months ago.
Mr. Speaker, our government is creating opportunities at home, opportunities for our youth in preparing for jobs in Nova Scotia, opportunities for young families to develop within extended family units at home in Nova Scotia, the opportunities at home that result from fairness and justice in the distribution of wealth gained from our offshore activity. We will open opportunities for those individuals who have been subjected to the restrictions of social assistance and who will experience the excitement of self-reliance and regain the self-esteem necessary to succeed. In Dartmouth, we have a very successful program that assists Nova Scotians to gain the skills they need to achieve self-reliance, the Dartmouth Work Activity Society.
Mr. Speaker, I have seen with my own eyes that this strategy works, it changes people's lives for the better and creates better, stronger communities. But while we look to the future, Nova Scotians are never ones to forget their noble past. In Dartmouth, we are fortunate to have a writer by the name of Harry Chapman, who has captured that past to remind those of us who weren't there at the time just how pivotal our role was in the shaping of this province. On our 250th Anniversary last year, he launched his latest publication, In the Wake of the Alderney. I was pleased to be able to provide a copy to the Legislative Library.
He has also documented numerous highlights of Dartmouth's history through works including: Sketches of Old Dartmouth; Dartmouth's Day of Anguish: The Explosion, December 6, 1917; Men . . . Money and Muscle: Building the Shubenacadie Canal; and 100 Candles: Dartmouth's Natal Day 1895-1995. I, for one, cannot thank Mr. Chapman enough for capturing on paper the spirit and strength of the people of our fair community of Dartmouth.
Mr. Speaker, in my role as member for Dartmouth South, I have brought to the floor of this House the present-day accomplishments and noteworthy initiatives of its people. I would like to take a few moments now to mention a few more. I invite all members and, indeed, all Nova Scotians to come to Dartmouth to see what is happening. In the downtown you will see the commitment of the development community through Cheltonham Developments on King Street, Starr Lane Developments on Prince Albert Road, Harbour Place Condominium Development at the corner of Alderney Drive and Portland Street, and three residential and commercial properties slated for development on Ochterloney Street.
We have seen the transformation of the old Woolworth building on Portland Street by Ramey Investments into a major commercial development, the conversion of the Dartmouth Medical Centre into Marine House, quality offices by South West Properties. These projects are examples of the commitment and confidence of the private sector in the downtown revitalization and in our government's Economic Plan for Nova Scotia.
Mr. Speaker, in early 1999, I was amazed at the lack of vision and commitment from the government of the day. I was concerned by the disregard for the historical and economic significance of my community during the years following municipal amalgamation. The significant issue, and one that epitomized the perceptions of the day, was the plan that would see the Dartmouth Museum put in cartons and shipped off to Halifax for storage. That was perhaps the last straw, and in fact the catalyst for action by concerned Dartmouth residents. It certainly was decisive in my decision to enter the public service.
I want to mention and thank the members of the Dartmouth Historical Society and the members of the Dartmouth Heritage Museum. These groups, along with a dedicated list of volunteers, are well on their way to preserving Dartmouth's heritage. Their efforts contributed to a fervour of emotion amongst the citizens that today has resulted in a renewed passion for Dartmouth by its citizens that has not been as visible since the mid-1970's. We owe these volunteers a debt of gratitude and our continued support during this International Year of the Volunteer, and thanks to them a number of other organizations have come together to promote and revitalize our beloved community.
They include the Central Dartmouth Neighbourhood Association, the Dartmouth Cove, Harbour Drive, Shore Road, Admiralty Place, and Portland Estates residents' associations; the North Woodside Community Association; the Downtown Dartmouth Development Corporation; the Alderney Landing Corporation; and the Greenvale Arts and Cultural Society. As well, our own Crichton Avenue Theatre and the Eastern Front Theatre and, Mr. Speaker, the many existing organizations that have for years worked to preserve and develop Dartmouth for the benefit of its citizens.
One would think that with all these groups we would have such diverse opinions that communication would be impossible. Well, as many have found when dealing with Dartmouth, what we all have is a single, sincere and focused vision for Dartmouth and what its place should be in this great province.
I would be remiss if I did not also mention the recent support of the Halifax Regional Municipal Council and its mayor and thank them on behalf of the people of Dartmouth for their efforts in including Dartmouth as a major player in the municipality. But there is room for growth.
The citizens of mainland Halifax have been fortunate to have the Waterfront Development Corporation manage their waterfront development over the past 10 years, and the WDC has done a magnificent job. The people of Dartmouth now look forward with anticipation to the next phase of the development of the Halifax Harbour waterfront under its direction. We hope over the next few years to be able to say in public, and with confidence, "the best thing about the Halifax waterfront is the view of Dartmouth".
While we have a strong past and, I believe, a strong future, so too do we have strength in our youth population and in our seniors. I am pleased that our government recognizes this strength and mentions in the Throne Speech an investment in home care and a modernized assessment and admission criteria for nursing homes, here and across the province, so that seniors can be assisted to stay in their homes if possible and, when long-term care is needed, the new pilots show that those most in need are the first in line for long-term placement.
For our youth, the launch of the Skills Agenda in partnership with business, labour, education and industry, so that we have a good assessment of the new and upcoming job needs so that our youth can stay in their home province, make a good living and, in turn, raise their families in our communities, along with the Youth Pathways and Transitions Program, will assist young Nova Scotians who are falling through the cracks and missing the opportunities they have ability for but do not have the means to get them there.
Mr. Speaker, our education system is critical to the future of our economy and the expectations of our youth. We must look forward, be progressive in our approach to education funding, and be innovative in our approach to the management of our education system. I am pleased to be a partner in a government that recognizes that education is the foundation of our province's current and future prosperity. We must, however, work co-operatively with both the student, the parents and the school system and be able to measure our success at designated intervals. I am confident our government's program will provide that pathway for our youth, who will have available to them greater opportunities for jobs and opportunities at home.
One of the most important issues we face today is the management of our health care system so that it is reliable and sustainable well into the future. We are well on the way to meeting that challenge with the clinical services planning process recently unveiled by the Minister of Health. My constituents, many of whom are seniors, want assurance that the health care system will be there for them when they need it. They know from past experience that there was waste and duplication and, Mr. Speaker, in 1999 they gave this government the mandate to take the necessary action to ensure the sustainability of the health care system.
This government is moving ahead with a $10 million expansion to the emergency department of the Dartmouth General Hospital in Dartmouth. This is as a result of evidenced-based planning and ensures Dartmouth General Hospital will remain a key element in the delivery of health care in the capital district. In addition, our hospital and those who rely on its services will benefit from the move to an enhanced information management system support that will radically improve the movement of patient information within the health care system.
The Auditor General in this year's report called for better processes for accountability and this is part of that improvement to processes which can be measured.
I am also thrilled to see on the table the first-ever nursing strategy which will help to address the many issues and concerns facing our nurses in today's environment. I also look forward to the introduction of the nurse practitioner legislation which recognizes the critical role these health care professionals can play in our evolving health system. I would like to thank the nursing and physician staff at the Dartmouth General Hospital for their support and patience in gathering the information necessary to support effective health planning in the capital district.
Mr. Speaker, our Premier's Campaign for Fairness, as he said, is probably one of the most important tasks he will take on in his leadership role in Nova Scotia. He has crossed the country looking for critical support for this initiative. Following the Premier's presentations in Calgary, a Calgary Herald editorial stated, "The precedent has been set: Alberta continued to receive equalization transfers until 1965, despite earning high royalty revenues . . . A decade hence the concession will be well worth it, especially if it sets Nova Scotia on the entrepreneurial path that has made provinces such as Alberta and Ontario economic winners."
Mr. Speaker, recognition of the lack of fairness to the royalty issue is crucial. I look forward to what I believe will be further positive support for this important campaign.
The Speech from the Throne is filled with positive movement on our commitments to the people of this province, on measures to improve accountability and on measures which will support our resources, business, the education and health systems and our most
important assets, our children and our youth. I know that these will not only be positive for Dartmouth but for Nova Scotia as a whole.
A dear friend to all in this House, the late Eileen O'Connell, often lifted the spirits of all members through poetry. While I do not have the same writing skills, I want to share with you the following that many maybe have heard, a poem by Will Allen Dromgoole called The Bridge Builder, which reads:
"An old man, going a lone highway,
Came at the evening, cold and grey,
To a chasm vast and deep and wide;
The old man crossed in the twilight dim,
The sullen stream had no fear for him;
But he turned when safe on the other side
And built a bridge to span the tide.
'Old man', said a fellow pilgrim near,
'You are wasting your strength with building here;
Your journey will end with the ending day,
You never again will pass this way;
You've crossed the chasm deep and wide;
Why build you this bridge at evening tide?'
The builder lifted his old gray head -
'Good friend, in the path I have come', he
said, 'There followeth after me today,
A youth whose feet must pass this way;
This chasm that has been naught to me
To that fair-haired youth may a pitfall be;
He, too, must cross in the twilight dim -
Good friend, I am building this bridge for him.'"
Mr. Speaker, I believe that all members of this House are those builders, looking to make a better way for those who will follow. For those of us with children and grandchildren, this becomes a very personal goal. However, I believe we have the tools for the bridge in this Throne Speech and in the supporting legislation and budget to follow. I believe we can capitalize on the resources within our great province and move forward.
At this juncture, it is my pleasure to move that the Speech from the Throne do pass, as read by the Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia.
Mr. Speaker, may it please Her Honour Lieutenant Governor Myra Freeman that we, Her Majesty's cheerful and loyal subjects in this House of Assembly for the Province of Nova Scotia, during this Second Session of the 58th General Assembly, assure Your Honour of our loyal support and affection.
May God bless you and keep you well.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton North. (Applause)
MR. CECIL CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, Her Honour Myra Freeman, Mr. Freeman, Premier Hamm, honoured members of this House of Assembly and our guests and friends. I want to thank my colleagues for the opportunity to stand before you this afternoon to second the Speech from the Throne as just read by the Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia. As a newly elected representative in this historic Chamber, I feel especially privileged to have this opportunity. The people of Cape Breton North just this month gave me the responsibility to bring forward their interests, their concerns, their wishes and their hopes for a brighter future. Theirs is a desire to work with all Nova Scotians to realize a modern, progressive economy, an economy reliant on new opportunities before us.
I want to note the valued service of my predecessor in this House, former Premier Russell MacLellan, who after decades of public service is now deservedly finding more time to spend with his family.
I want to also congratulate my colleague across the floor, the member for Halifax Fairview, who today was also sworn in as a Member of the Legislative Assembly. I know that he respects the honoured goals of his most esteemed predecessor, the late Eileen O'Connell.
May I take this opportunity to join with the Lieutenant Governor in wishing a friend of this House and a long-time friend of Cape Breton, the member for Cape Breton Nova, well as he continues to recover from a very serious affliction. Our prayers and thoughts are with his family as they await further positive news. (Applause)
In the gallery today are my mother and father, Margaret Bragg and Edgar Clarke. I cannot tell you how thrilled I am to have them here. I guess there was a spark left in that ash pile on Pitt Street in Sydney Mines and hopefully we will get the fire burning soon here. If it were not for the love and support of so many of my family, friends, colleagues and supporters, I would not be standing here today.
I must also thank my caucus colleagues, many of whom travelled to my constituency to campaign with my team and to lend their support and advice and it is truly appreciated. I thank them for the honour of speaking today. They have toiled away for the last year and
a half as a government and deserve this honour much more than I, and what a year and a half it has been.
Things are happening in this province for the better and no better example of support for that work do we have than my election in Cape Breton North. The pundits felt that my government's work to attempt to find a buyer, and now the work to finally close the chapter on Sysco, was an albatross for my constituency's campaign. They were wrong. They were wrong because they were wrong about the sentiment, about the desire of the people I represent, to open new doors and to build the foundation for the same financial footing that our Premier is seeking for all of Nova Scotia in this new economy.
The people I have grown up with, that I have worked with and I have met along the campaign trail, recognize that we can't rely on the old economy. It is time to move forward so that our region can stand on its own.
I want to compliment and commend the children of Cape Breton North who chose, along with their teachers, to engage in classroom debate, study and discussions on their participation in the political process. I am encouraged by their keen interest to be connected to an essential component of our lives. Democracy is often criticized, but their open minds look to the positive outcomes that can be realized. Our youth dare to dream, and it is their destiny, not ours, that we commit to today. (Applause)
What I will remember most of the campaign is the desire and intent of youth, regardless of age, to have a real, viable future. The discussions of our youth in Cape Breton North and the work of this House are closely linked, as both speak to our duty as citizens to achieve responsible, accountable outcomes, for it is their generation that will sustain and lead Nova Scotia well into this new century and era. That is why this government has put a proposal forward, developed over the past several years in conjunction with the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities, which would reconfigure responsibilities and presents an equalization proposal currently awaiting additional input. It is based on the same principle, fairness. It is with fairness, balance and integrity that we will move all of Nova Scotia to new levels of stability and prosperity. (Applause)
I support the Premier's Campaign for Fairness, which he has dedicated many hours to in the short time since its launch. The Premier, having just returned from Toronto as part of the campaign, has said that in 1930 all of the subsoil rights in western Canada were owned by all Canadians, but in the Constitution Act of 1930 they were awarded to the western provinces. It was known that those resources would be the vehicle to allow those provinces to build their economies, and from 1957 until 1965, despite the fact that Alberta was receiving equalization payments, it also received full royalties for the development of underground resources.
The undersea resources off the coast of Nova Scotia are part of Canada for one reason and one reason only: Nova Scotia brought them in when it joined the country. We believe that those resources are ours because undersea resources always belong to the adjacent land mass, and Nova Scotia is that adjacent land mass. We have a very legitimate argument that these resources are ours. (Applause)
In the 1970's and 1980's, when Nova Scotia undertook to negotiate with Ottawa to determine what benefit those resources were to be, we agreed to set aside the issue of ownership and Ottawa agreed that we would have control of those undersea resources. When in Alberta just a few weeks ago, the Premier said, "This is an issue of fairness and an issue of nation-building . . . we want to be afforded the same opportunity that other provinces received when the time was right and the opportunity was there to allow them to build an economy." Offshore development means that for the first time in over a century, we have an opportunity in eastern Canada to build an economy that will allow us to contribute, rather than draw, from programs such as equalization, because fair is fair.
The Campaign for Fairness extends to every part of our great province and will lead Cape Breton on to new opportunities that were previously just dreamed of. I believe that Nova Scotia's Premier took a gigantic step forward towards self-reliance when he launched the campaign, and he is garnering both public and private support at home and across this great country.
While the region of Cape Breton is looking at other means as well, its people, my people, are also keenly interested in the other major campaign before our government and our province, and that is recognition for the boundary of the Laurentian Sub-basin. The outcome of this issue could be key for our region's future. I am proud to have had our Premier at the table presenting our province's case. I believe this too was an important opportunity. I hope we can have a resolution to this serious dispute before we miss out on this incredible opportunity.
I have been blessed to have loving parents, along with two brothers and two sisters and a family I cherish in the area that I am now privileged to represent provincially. While I am a newcomer to this House, I am not a newcomer to the understanding of the incredible responsibility that each person has individually to do what they can with the resources they have to make their lot a better place for those who come after us. This was instilled in me at a very early age. I have been working toward similar goals in my position as the Project Manager for the Sydney Mines Renewal Association.
Leadership sometimes comes at a cost, but effective leadership is about realizing benefit through focus, commitment and drive to accomplish what is right, fair and just. I believe the Sydney Mines Renewal Association is an excellent example of such leadership and I am proud to call Reverend Gerald Dunphy, Reverend Karen Ralph, Reverend Ian MacLeod, Reverend Tony MacDonald, Reverend Brenda Drake-MacDonald and Reverend
Ken MacRae my colleagues and my friends. While each person named represents a different viewpoint and in some cases very different ideologies, they have committed to providing leadership on what they have in common. In so doing, new ideas, approaches and accomplishments are being achieved every day. I hope my time spent with community-based economic development over the past years will serve this House well, and all of Nova Scotia.
I believe that this government holds a similar philosophy in its thoughts and deeds, that each step we take must be a step forward no matter how small, so that we can alter the course of the past to a brighter economic future for the province we love so dearly. We are here to make a difference.
I ran for public office because I believe in what our government is doing. We are taking responsibility today so that those who come after will not continue to pay for the decisions of the past. The easy route now would be to continue to spend more money we don't have. The easy route would be to say yes to everything we were asked for and there isn't a member in this House who hasn't heard personally from a family or an individual whose message hasn't hit home. But spending at the same rate would also be the irresponsible route.
Spending almost $1 billion to service a debt is not right. It is incredible when you think of the social workers that could be added to the ranks to protect our children, the physicians and nurses we could attract and retain, the supports we could offer those who are unable to support themselves, and the investments we could make into vital transportation links. These are priorities that will be effectively addressed with the wisdom of this House.
We can't afford to allow a sum in the vicinity of $1 billion to pour out of our province. Until we balance the budget and start to cut away at the debt, that is exactly what we are doing. This isn't fear-mongering, this is simply telling it like it is. As I traveled door-to-door in the campaign, I heard support from the people of Cape Breton North to continue on that course and I am glad that I am here today to ensure that their voice is heard in this Chamber. There is no fork in the road to fiscal responsibility, the choice is clear. The people of Cape Breton North have embarked on a clear course, knowing the journey, while difficult at times, will enable our citizens to move into the future with confidence.
Speaking of roads travelled - and that would be the figurative roads - I would not be standing here if it wasn't for the moral support, hard work and guidance of people who, like I, have a desire to effect positive change. I recognize the advice of a friend to me and to Cape Breton and also a former member of this House, Alfie MacLeod. (Applause)
Never before have I felt such tremendous responsibility on my shoulders and never before have I been as proud of where I have come from nor where I believe we, as a province, are going. The Speech from the Throne provides us with some steps needed to get there: steps that provide opportunity for individuals to take charge of their future; steps that will bring greater accountability to those who are in control of spending throughout the
province; steps that will introduce processes necessary for that accountability; steps that will produce a healthier generation of Nova Scotians; steps that enhance the resources we have within the health system now, so that the money we spend is based on evidence and best practices; steps that protect our traditional industries like forestry, fishing and farming, while moving forward on new opportunities like oil and gas; and steps that ensure that the current investment in debt servicing instead becomes an investment in our people.
The region, which is such a part of who I am - Cape Breton, indeed all of Nova Scotia - has so much of which we can all be proud: past and present, heritage, rich natural resources, individuals who have instilled in us both strength and pride. This combination will see us through a difficult period to a brighter economic future. A future which will ensure that the younger generation does not have to go down the road to find a job; a future which will provide stability and growth that we have not known for some time.
I look forward to working with all members in this Chamber to ensure that this can be achieved. We, as individuals, are only one, but we can move forward by working together. I am proud and very honoured on my first day as MLA to second this Speech from the Throne as read for the first time by Her Honour the Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia, which provides our government's outlook for the year to come. Thank you. (Standing Ovation)
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.
MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, Their Honours, Myra Freeman and Mr. Freeman, Premier, members of the House of Assembly and guests, I take great pleasure in having this opportunity as Leader of the Opposition to reply to the Throne Speech on behalf of my Leader, Helen MacDonald, and the entire NDP caucus. I got the impression from the previous two speakers that they probably had their speech in their hands for a relatively longer period of time than I had mine. (Laughter) They did an excellent job.
Mr. Speaker, it is certainly my hope - and I will try to exercise brevity with this speech, not in the same style as my colleague to my left - that tomorrow when I come back to it all members of the House will recognize that I have tried, and hopefully my colleagues after me, to offer something positive, that they won't think that the New Democrats will do what Opposition does and purely tear this speech to pieces, that we will say things that we think are constructive as well.
Mr. Speaker, let me take a minute now to say that for a government that likes to portray itself as being on a clear course, today's Speech from the Throne was written by a government that seems to be veering wildly all over the road. In this government's last Speech from the Throne, we saw what we think was the true direction that they wanted to
take Nova Scotians, albeit kicking and screaming, toward a Mike Harris-kind of government. To that extent at least, the last Speech from the Throne came closer to the government's real agenda. Of course, what we found was that Nova Scotians wanted them, or what they found was that Nova Scotians wanted them to live up to their promises of making health care the number one priority and ensuring that our children get the best educational opportunities possible.
I think all members in the House by now know, although not everybody in the House would know, for many years I was a teacher. I am glad to see the Speech emphasize youth in the content and certainly hope that the substance is there to go with that. Public pressure following last year's budget saw this government forced to do the right thing. Today we see this government has learned a lesson, unfortunately it is the wrong one. They seem to have learned that they have to try even harder to hide their real intentions and provide a government blueprint that, frankly, contains less than meets the eye, that takes away your food money but then offers you some money for school books, that robs Peter to pay Paul and hopes that Peter does not notice. I think it will be difficult for the government to work harder to hide its real intentions as we found that you have to go to court to get information from this government.
This is a government that is continuing to, on the one hand, make deep fundamental cuts to programs and, on the other hand, throws back small initiatives to add the appearance of governing progressively. As a rural member of this Legislature, I will take a minute to talk about some moves recently taken by this government that I feel signal this government's abandonment of rural Nova Scotia.
We see in the Throne Speech a reference to more money for transportation and I think for all of us who are rural members of this house, roads are a major priority and the Minister of Transportation would be well aware and yet, not only would I like to see more money, I would like to see significantly more money and I certainly would like to see a strategy dealing with those roads that are the worst so that they get priority. This is something that was in the Tory election campaign and we have never seen it yet, so we certainly would hope that this will happen.
The government has mentioned in their speech more money going into silviculture on Crown land. For two years now this government and the previous government said to us that Crown land is sustainable. There is no mention of roughly how much is going into the 70 per cent that has been identified as the unsustainable, particularly that percentage that is small private woodlots. The sustainability fund that the province has entered into, which this year should be the first year for collection on that fund, the government has backed away and instead of paying for 100 per cent of the wood allocation, the mills will pay only for 70 per cent. Considering that 30 per cent is paid by the government, there is a 20 per cent deferral and 10 per cent for administration, that means that only 10 per cent of the wood supply
acquired by mills is what they will pay into that fund and this is not going to lead to sustainability of the forest sector.
I am also talking about the anger being rightly expressed by the agricultural sector over a new fuel rebate program fee of $25. The government tells the farmers that this is necessary, that will run the program, but farmers have to ask why is it that they already pay a registration fee which is intended to pay for that. Brand Nova Scotia, I think, would be a good initiative and I would also like to see the government enter into a program of labelling for genetically modified foods as well, if we want to expand markets.
I also want to mention the disappointment being expressed by students, teachers and parents over this Tory Government's abandonment of its responsibility to provide an adequate amount of technology in schools across the province and the minister would be aware of the Elmsdale school question now and for a $5 million or $6 million facility, to nickel and dime on $50,000 to get appropriate technology seems to be a low blow to a community that only got that information in the past few days.
There are many other actions by this government that have rural and urban Nova Scotians shaking their heads. There is no mention of women's issues in this Speech from the Throne and I (interruptions)
Mr. Speaker, I enjoyed the member for Dartmouth South's poem and I would like to make it clear to him that there is nothing in this Speech from the Throne that tends to bridge the gap between the rich and poor in this province.
Before I ask for adjournment, Mr. Speaker, I would like to extend my congratulations to the two new members of this historic House of Assembly who were sworn in this morning, Graham Steele and Cecil Clarke. On behalf of our caucus and our Leader, I wish you both the best of luck. I know you will both add a great deal to the debate that goes on in this Chamber. Sometimes I think I wish there was more debate. It seems to generally be on one side of the House. Like the rest of us here, the voters have given you a huge responsibility. Be proud of what you have achieved, look forward to what you will accomplish and, yes, a bit of advice, avoid loud neckties with cartoon characters or hockey teams crested on them. (Laughter)
I want to welcome all previously elected members back as well, to take part in what I feel will be an important session to the future direction of this province. I will also take a minute to pass along the best wishes of the NDP caucus to Cape Breton Nova MLA, Paul MacEwan and his family. Paul, we hope for a speedy and full recovery and I would ask the interim Leader of the Liberal Party to give that message to him if he could, please. I want to welcome back the member for Chester-St. Margaret's, John Chataway. (Applause) John, I certainly hope you live up to your name. Mr. Speaker, and I would say that seeing him here should offer some hope to Mr. MacEwan's family for his recovery. (Applause)
On a sad note, I would like to remember a former colleague, Eileen O'Connell, who loved nothing better than the challenges and opportunities represented by the beginning of a new session of the Legislature. She often said being an MLA was her dream job. Not many of us get to do our dream job. She brought so much to this place and the important work that is done here on behalf of all Nova Scotians.
I would like to mark the passing of Mr. Edgar Friedenberg. He was a valuable and leading member of the Chester-St. Margaret's NDP Riding Association, a world-class thinker and renowned innovator on educational theory.
I want to bring greetings also from the people of Hants East. I am truly honoured to represent Hants East in this Chamber. I feel so fortunate to have them place their faith in me to carry their best interest forward each day. I know they want me, as they want all of us here to do what is best for them and their families.
Mr. Speaker, I will have more to say tomorrow, hopefully more eloquently, but for now I would like to move adjournment of the debate.
MR. SPEAKER: The motion is to adjourn debate on the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne.
Is it agreed?
It is agreed.
The motion is carried.
The honourable Premier.
THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, at the conclusion of today's session on your behalf I would like to invite all members of the House and visitors in the gallery to a do, down in the Hollis Street foyer. It will be a reception on behalf of the Speaker.
MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.
HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now rise to meet again on the morrow at 10:00 a.m. (Interruptions) We will leave that until next week. (Laughter) We will meet until 1:00 p.m. Following the daily routine, we will return to the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne.
MR. SPEAKER: The motion is to adjourn until 10:00 a.m. tomorrow.
Is it agreed?
It is agreed.
We are adjourned.
[The House rose at 4:01 p.m.]