Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

Les travaux de la Chambre ont repris le
21 septembre 2017




Speaker: Honourable Murray Scott

Published by Order of the Legislature by Hansard Reporting Services and printed by the Queen's Printer.

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Annual subscriptions available from the Office of the Speaker.

Second Session


Educ. - School Closures: Review Process - Unfair, Mr. J. Pye 168
Transport. & Pub. Wks.:Roads - Repave, Mr. D. Downe 168
Transport. & Pub. Wks.: Hwy. No. 245 - Repair, Mr. J. DeWolfe 168
Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Cheticamp: Road Clean-up - Denied,
Hon. Rodney MacDonald 169
Justice - Shelburne Co.: Rifle Range - Construct, Mr. C. O'Donnell 169
Nat. Res.: Deer Jacking - Unfair, Mr. B. Taylor 169
Transport. & Pub. Wks.: Lamont Rd. (Pictou Co.) - Upgrade,
Mr. J. DeWolfe 169
Anl. Rept. of Nova Scotia Real Estate Commission, Hon. A. MacIsaac 170
Res. 78, Manuel, Doris Juanita - Service: Gov't. (N.S.) - Thank,
The Premier 171
Vote - Affirmative 171
Res. 79, Acadia Univ.: Pioneer Award - Congrats., Hon. J. Purves 171
Vote - Affirmative 172
Res. 80, Women, Status of - Women's Commun. Econ. Dev. Network:
Work - Recognize, Hon. J. Purves 172
Vote - Affirmative 173
No. 9, Pension Benefits Act, Hon. D. Morse 173
Res. 81, Health - Col. Reg. Hosp. Aux.: Bone Densitometry Machine -
Fund-Raising Congrats., Mr. D. Dexter 173
Vote - Affirmative 174
Res. 82, Fitzgerald, Mike - Service (25 yrs): Multicultural Assn. N.S. -
Congrats., Mr. Manning MacDonald 174
Vote - Affirmative 175
Res. 83, MacPhee, Al/MacPhee Pontiac GMC: Customer Care - Congrats.,
Mr. T. Olive 175
Vote - Affirmative 175
Res. 84, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Road Safety: Gov't. (N.S.) - Rethink,
Mr. J. MacDonell 176
Res. 85, Health - Care: System - Clinical Footprint, Dr. J. Smith 176
Res. 86, Sports - Hockey: Pictou Maripacs Atom "B" Team -
Gold Medal Congrats., Mrs. M. Baillie 177
Vote - Affirmative 178
Res. 87, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Drinking Water Quality: Gov't. (N.S.) -
Responsibility Resume, Mr. K. Deveaux 178
Res. 88, Fin. - Min.: Squandering - MLAs Recognize, Mr. D. Downe 178
Res. 89, Commun. Serv. - Feed Our Lambs: Efforts - Recognize,
Mr. J. Pye 179
Vote - Affirmative 180
Res. 90, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Church Cross Bridge (Victoria Co.):
Status - Residents Update, Mr. K. MacAskill 180
Res. 91, Health - Lung Assoc.: Efforts - Acknowledge, Mr. D. Dexter 181
Vote - Affirmative 181
Res. 92, Assoc. of Prof. Engineers of N.S. - Baird, Robert/
Cochkanoff, Orest/Sutherland, William: Honorary Life
Memberships - Congrats., Mr. R. MacKinnon 181
Vote - Affirmative 182
Res. 93, Tourism & Culture - Preston Cultural Festival (2001):
Participants - Congrats., Mr. Robert Chisholm 182
Vote - Affirmative 183
Res. 94, Health - Strait-Richmond Hosp. Emergency Health Needs:
Gov't. (N.S.) - Disregard Condemn, Mr. M. Samson 183
Res. 95, Voluntary Planning - Land Ownership (N.S.): Review Meetings -
Public Locations, Mr. W. Estabrooks 183
Res. 96, Commun. Serv.: Regs. - Consultation, Mr. D. Wilson 184
Res. 97, Sports - Hockey: Richmond Hurricanes - Prov. Title Congrats.,
Mr. M. Samson 185
Vote - Affirmative 186
Res. 98, Health - Persons With Epilepsy: Pharmacare Card - Provide,
Mr. J. Pye 186
No. 1, Exco - Mun. Prop. Tax: Promise Broken - Explain,
Mr. J. MacDonell 187
No. 2, Serv. N.S. & Mun. Rel. - Mun. Equalization Plan: Rejection -
Alternatives, Mr. W. Gaudet 188
No. 3, Educ. - Student Loans: Colleges/Universities - Designation,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 189
No. 4, Fin.: Health Info. System - Costs, Mr. D. Downe 190
No. 5, Educ. - Student Loans: Colleges/Universities -
Policy Discrimination, Mr. F. Corbett 191
No. 6, Health - Prov. Hosp.: Requirements - Details, Dr. J. Smith 192
No. 7, Econ. Dev. - N.S. Businesses Inc.: Appointments - Explain,
Mr. G. Steele 193
No. 8, Commun. Serv. - Educational Choices: Savings - Explain,
Mr. D. Wilson 194
No. 9, Health - Cancer Drugs: Low Income Patients - Coverage,
Mr. D. Dexter 196
No. 10, Educ. - Teachers: Lack of Accountability - Suggestion,
Mr. M. Samson 197
No. 11, Environ. & Lbr. - New Era Farms: Composting Facility -
Request Compliance, Mr. W. Estabrooks 198
No. 12, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Water Supply: Safety - Assurances,
Mr. R. MacKinnon 199
No. 13, Econ. Dev. - Funds: Disbursement - Policy, Mr. H. Epstein 201
No. 14, Serv. N.S. & Mun. Rel.: Equalization - Standards,
Mr. B. Boudreau 202
No. 15, Exco - Pricing: Fairness - Ensure, Mr. J. Holm 203
No. 1, Land Registration Act 205
Hon. A. MacIsaac 205
Mr. G. Steele 208
Mr. B. Boudreau 210
Mr. H. Epstein 213
Mr. R. MacKinnon 216
Ms. M. McGrath 228
Hon. A. MacIsaac 229
Vote - Affirmative 230
Mr. W. Gaudet 231
Adjourned debate 239
Environ. - Summit of the Americas (Apr. 2001): Public Debate -
Gov't. (Cdn.) Urge:
Mr. K. Deveaux 240
Mr. R. MacKinnon 243
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Wed., Mar. 28th at 2:00 p.m. 246
Res. 99, Border Belles: Anniv. (20th) - Congrats., The Speaker 247
Res. 100, Sports - Basketball: Advoc. Dist. High Sch. Lady Coyotes:
Championship Season - Congrats., The Speaker 247

[Page 167]


Fifty-eighth General Assembly

Second Session

2:00 P.M.


Hon. Murray Scott


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

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Dartmouth South.

MR. TIMOTHY OLIVE: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the indulgence of the House. This morning at the Standing Committee on Human Resources, in a debate over Nova Scotia Business Inc., I made a comment which cast aspersions on the professionalism of the Civil Service in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to inform the House and, through you, the civil servants, that I regret that statement very much. It was made, as I said, in a debate regarding Nova Scotia Business Inc. and I would like to apologize to the Civil Service, through you, Mr. Speaker, and to the members of the House for the comments made this morning. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North on an introduction.

MR. MARK PARENT: Mr. Speaker, I would like to introduce to you Dan Leslie - Dan is a Correctional Services worker - and his two children, Nicholas and Ashlene. Nicholas is in Grade 3 and Ashlene in Grade 4 of Kings County Academy in Kentville. I would like you to give them a very warm welcome to the House, please. (Applause)


[Page 168]

MR. SPEAKER: We will begin the daily routine.


MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition on behalf of the parents of Dartmouth North on the school closures. This petition has the signatures of 1,445 parents. The operative clause reads, "We the undersigned feel that the school closure review process of the Halifax Regional School Board is an unfair, discriminatory process that is targeting the North End of Dartmouth. Community schools are the cornerstone of our neighbourhoods. We must keep them open." I have affixed my signature to this petition.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition which reads, "We, the undersigned, hereby petition the Nova Scotia Government to place the following roads on their top priority repair/re-pavement list, as they are a serious safety hazard due to their horrendously poor condition . . . the road known as the 'River Road' (being the lower road along Petite River going into Petite Riviere; the road known as 'Drew's Hill'; and the Green Bay Road from the intersection at Petite Riviere all the way down to Green Bay Beach." There are 91 signatures affixed to this. I have also affixed my signature to this list. (Interruptions) We have a summer patron here who would like to sign his name to it as well, I understand.

As well, there is a covering letter to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works that I indicated would be tabled in the House and presented to him today. So I table this for you. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Pictou East.

MR. JAMES DEWOLFE: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table the following petition on behalf of 313 residents on the Shore Road. The operative clause reads as follows, "We, the undersigned concerned citizens, hereby request immediate short term repairs, followed by long term repairs to the #245 Highway, (also known as the Shore Road). This highway's deplorable condition is not only damaging to vehicles, but also, and more importantly, a threat to public safety." I have affixed my signature to this document.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

[Page 169]

The honourable Minister of Tourism and Culture.

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition from the citizens of LaPointe Road and all adjoining roads in Cheticamp. I have affixed my name to this petition for the purpose of tabling. I will read the operative clause. "We, the citizens and taxpayers of LaPointe Road and all adjoining roads in Cheticamp, Inverness County, Nova Scotia are denied our fair share of winter road clean-up. We have had an acceptional winter with much snow and blizzard conditions. Snowbanks have reached record highs due to lack of continued service from the Department of Highways."

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Shelburne.

MR. CECIL O'DONNELL: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition bearing 1,608 signatures from the good residents of Shelburne County, one of the only counties in the province that does not have access to a public rifle range. The operative clause states, "We the undersigned, residents of Shelburne County, Nova Scotia, wish to petition the Government of the Province of Nova Scotia to construct a public rifle range in Shelburne County."

Mr. Speaker, I firmly believe in this petition, and I have affixed my signature to the document.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition. You might recall and in fact members of the House might recall that on February 5th a decision was rendered by the judicial, and this petition is a consequence of that decision, "We, the undersigned citizens of Nova Scotia, believe deer-jacking compromises public safety and is unfair to wildlife." Yes, Mr. Speaker, I have affixed my name to this petition.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Pictou East.

MR. JAMES DEWOLFE: Mr. Speaker, I hereby beg leave to table the following petition on behalf of 41 residents of the Lamont Road. The operative clause reads as follows, "We the undersigned, all residents of Lamont Road, Edgerton in the County of Pictou, Province of Nova Scotia hereby petition the Government of Nova Scotia to make allowances in the spring budget for major improvements to the aforesaid road.", that being the road of

[Page 170]

the Lamont area, Pictou County. It is in need of upgrading and repair. "We are now saying 'enough is enough'. Grading this road is no longer adequate as the potholes reappear within 36 hours. Please note that there are 21 dwellings on this road. We hope this matter will receive immediate attention, and trust we will see significant results when the weather permits." I will table this petition, and I have affixed my signature to the document.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West on an introduction.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I would like to introduce to you and through you to all members of the House some very distinguished guests that we have in the west gallery. We have the Kyushu - UCCB Cultural Exchange Program students with their leaders, Colleen Stinson and Marion MacLean. These exchange students are from Kumamoto, Japan, I hope I have pronounced that right, not being fluent in Japanese. I would ask all members to extend a very warm welcome to these very special guests who have come such a long way to learn so much about our culture, our educational system and all the social values that we have to offer here in Nova Scotia. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: I, as well, would like to welcome our special visitors to the House today.



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations.

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table the Annual Report for 2000, the Nova Scotia Real Estate Commission.

MR. SPEAKER: The report is tabled.



MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Premier.

[Page 171]


HON. JOHN HAMM (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas Doris Juanita Manuel has been an employee of the Government of Nova Scotia for 46 years and one month; and

Whereas Doris Manuel began government work in the Hansard office under Premier Henry Hicks, later worked in both the Department of Education and the Correspondence Studies office, and has spent the past 40 years at the Queen's Printer; and

Whereas Doris Manuel has been involved in the printing and binding of over 40 provincial budgets and will retire later this week following the completion of her most recent budget work;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House thank Doris Manuel for her many years of service to the Government of Nova Scotia, congratulate her on the occasion of her retirement and wish her the best of luck in all of her future endeavours.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[2:15 p.m.]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Education.


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

Whereas Acadia University is one of our oldest post-secondary learning institutions; and

[Page 172]

Whereas the fourth annual Conference on Ubiquitous Computing has honoured Acadia University as one of North America's leading post-secondary institutions; and

Whereas Acadia was awarded the Pioneer Award as an acknowledgement of its commitment to the creation of a successful multi-site learning environment;

Therefore be it resolved that this Legislature congratulates Acadia University for its leadership and the innovation of its faculty, staff and students.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Education.


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

Whereas the Women's Community Economic Development Network is working on two new projects to help women in starting small businesses in rural Nova Scotia: the community investment funding Antigonish and the Rural Women Get Credit project, which is province-wide in scope; and

Whereas the Women's CED Network works closely with women in small communities across the province, helping women get access to credit for small business enterprises; and

Whereas small business enterprises run by women add millions of dollars to the provincial economy and more than 50 per cent of women-owned businesses in Atlantic Canada were started on less than $10,000;

[Page 173]

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize and applaud the work of the Women's Community Economic Development Network in helping women in rural Nova Scotia get the help they need to become successful entrepreneurs, employers and economic contributors to their communities.

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.


Bill No. 9 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 340 of the Revised Statutes of 1989. The Pension Benefits Act. (Hon. David Morse)

MR. SPEAKER: Ordered that this bill be read a second time on a future day.


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


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

Whereas yesterday it was announced that the province finally approved the donation of a $100,000 bone densitometry machine for the Colchester Regional Hospital by the hospital auxiliary; and

Whereas this very valuable tool in identifying osteoporosis and other bone diseases was rejected on two other occasions by this government; and

Whereas in spite of such folly, Bev Hale and other members of the Colchester Regional Hospital Auxiliary fought tenaciously for this needed addition for health care in their community;

[Page 174]

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulates the Colchester Regional Hospital Auxiliary for their fundraising efforts and the enormous contribution to their community in the form of the bone densitometry machine.

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.


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

Whereas Mike Fitzgerald of Sydney served as President of the Multicultural Association of Nova Scotia from 1992 to 1994 and again from 1996 to 1998; and

Whereas he has devoted 25 years to the association and was recently presented with a 25 year gold diamond pin award for service to the association by Lieutenant Governor Myra Freeman; and

Whereas Mike Fitzgerald continues to devote his time and energy to multicultural issues as an honorary member of the board of the Multicultural Association of Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Mike Fitzgerald of Sydney for his 25 years of service to the Multicultural Association of Nova Scotia and for his continued dedication to multicultural issues.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 175]

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 South.


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

Whereas the Better Business Community Achievement Award is given to members demonstrating an enduring commitment to their communities; and

Whereas MacPhee Pontiac Buick GMC on Portland Street in Dartmouth generally supports many organizations such as minor hockey, the Canadian Paraplegic Association and the Kids Help Phone; and

Whereas MacPhee Pontiac Buick was awarded the Better Business Bureau's Achievement Award for their contributions to their community;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House congratulate Al MacPhee and the staff of MacPhee Pontiac Buick GMC for showing that customer care extends beyond those who visit their showroom and wish them continued success in their future endeavours.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

[Page 176]


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

Whereas in 2000 there were 428 reported collisions involving large trucks and 103 of those trucks were more than 10 years old; and

Whereas last June 1 in 5 trucks on Nova Scotia's highways was found to be unsafe and ordered out of service by the province's vehicle compliance officers; and

Whereas this government proposes reducing the number of vehicle compliance officers who enforce truck safety, foregoing their considerable experience and expertise in favour of a contract with the RCMP;

Therefore be it resolved that this government rethink its cavalier attitude to road safety at a time of increasing truck traffic volume and dump this silly proposal.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.


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

Whereas the infamous clinical footprint was promised to be the answer to all questions concerning every aspect of the health care system; and

Whereas despite being released nearly a year late, the footprint turned out to be little more than a toe print and only covered some aspects of acute care; and

Whereas Phases II and III of the clinical planning process deal with continuing care and emergency care, but have not even started yet;

[Page 177]

Therefore be it resolved that the big picture for fixing the health care system is being lost since the Health Minister is only showing Nova Scotians his footprint on the instalment plan.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Pictou West.


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

Whereas the Pictou Maripacs Atom "B" hockey team, under Coach Len March, took the gold in the Maripacs Provincial Atom "B" tournament; and

Whereas the Maripacs extended a warm welcome to the players and families of the visiting teams; and

Whereas all 17 members of the team, along with their coaching staff and families, shared in the success of their tournament;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the Pictou Maripacs Atom "B" team on its gold medal and commend the families and coaching staff on their commitment to sports and fair play.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

[Page 178]

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.


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

Whereas for many years residents of the Eastern Shore community of West Chezzetcook have had to deal with contaminated water from wells with coliform bacteria; and

Whereas people contacted the Environment Department who offered a certain degree of sympathy on one hand and on the other put the onus back on the individual homeowners to fix their own wells; and

Whereas in the spring of 1999 the province handed the job of collecting and testing water to the municipalities and is planning further downloading of costly chemical tests and sewage treatment monitoring;

Therefore be it resolved that this government act immediately to resume direct responsibility for the quality and safety of drinking water in Nova Scotia before the situation leads to a disaster.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Lunenburg West.


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

Whereas the Minister of Finance has been on the job for 590 days; and

[Page 179]

Whereas in 1999 the Premier said of our government, "during a period of time when the economy is strong, and government revenues over the last five years have exceeded estimates by almost $355 million," your banker would laugh at you if you did your books the way the province does it now; and

Whereas in 590 days as Finance Minister, the government has received well over $200 million in extra revenue over estimates, yet the deficit remains unacceptably high;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House recognize that the Finance Minister is squandering hundreds of millions of dollars in a time of economic growth instead of preparing for a possible North American downturn.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.


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

Whereas Feed Our Lambs is an organization based in western Kings County dedicated to providing healthy lunches to students in the school area; and

Whereas Feed Our Lambs has more recently recognized the need to actively lobby various levels of government to promote the need to invest in our children; and

Whereas Feed Our Lambs recently held a town hall meeting on child poverty in Somerset, attended by over 300 residents, to express their concern for our children;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize the efforts of Feed Our Lambs and its support in trying to improve the lives of children in western Kings County and throughout all of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 180]

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.


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

Whereas the Church Cross Bridge in Middle River, Victoria County collapsed after a snowplow hooked it while it was clearing snow on February 28th; and

Whereas so far no attempt has been made to repair or replace the structure, thereby forcing residents to take an alternate route which is long and bumpy; and

Whereas some rumours circulating suggest that there is no money in the local budget for such repairs or replacement of a new bridge.

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Transportation and Public Works tell the residents affected by the collapse of this bridge when they can expect to see some action to have traffic moving over the river.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

[Page 181]


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

Whereas March is designated as Asthma Month; and

Whereas asthma is the most common chronic respiratory disease of children, and in Canada, approximately 20 children and 500 adults die each year from this disease; and

Whereas the Lung Association offers many avenues by which the public can better understand and manage asthma including a toll-free help line staffed by nationally certified asthma educators.

Therefore be it resolved that this House acknowledge the Lung Association for all its efforts this past month and every month to provide programs and services on this disease that affects over 2.2 million Canadians.

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.


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 Association of Professional Engineers of Nova Scotia, established in 1920, is the licensing and regulatory body for more than 4,300 professional engineers and engineers in training practising in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas Robert Baird, Orest Cochkanoff and William Sutherland are professional engineers who have served their profession in this province with great distinction; and

[Page 182]

Whereas these engineers were honoured on March 9th, with honorary life memberships in the Association of Professional Engineers of Nova Scotia.

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House extend their congratulations and best wishes to these distinguished engineers on this recognition of their outstanding contribution to their profession.

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.


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 Black Artists' Network of Nova Scotia are presenting the 2001 Preston Cultural Festival, a celebration of Preston writers and artists;

Whereas this festival runs through to March 31st at various venues throughout Halifax Metro and will showcase various artists, writers, storytellers and singers from the Preston area; and

Whereas this is the first festival of its kind to showcase the contributions of African Nova Scotians, the artistic community of our province;

Therefore be it resolved that the House congratulate award-winning playwright David Woods and the entire artistic community of the Preston area for this magnificent production.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 183]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Richmond.


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

Whereas the physician situation in the Strait-Richmond area has reached a crisis situation; and

Whereas December 23, 2000, there has been no full-time doctor to cover the Strait-Richmond Hospital emergency room during the daytime; and

Whereas today marks the 94th day that the Minister of Health and his government have failed to send in a replacement or new physician to cover the emergency room, placing the health and safety of the residents of the Strait area at risk;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House condemn the minister and his government for their callous disregard for the emergency health needs of the residents served by the Strait-Richmond Hospital.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

[2:30 p.m.]

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.


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

[Page 184]

Whereas this government has directed Voluntary Planning to review the issue of non-resident ownership of land in this province; and

Whereas as part of this mandate, Voluntary Planning will be scheduling meetings for public input across this province; and

Whereas these public meetings must be held in convenient local settings in communities most greatly affected by the ownership of land by non-residents;

Therefore be it resolved that the government instruct Voluntary Planning to hold these public meetings in such convenient locations as church halls, Lions Clubs and other convenient community meeting halls.

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 East.


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

Whereas on Page 23 of the Tory blue book there is a promise to consult and inform front-line Community Services workers about all changes impacting their clients; and

Whereas the long-overdue regulations for the new Community Services rules were finally released last week, after months of waiting; and

Whereas the long wait for these regulations should have given the Community Services Minister plenty of time to consult with front-line workers;

Therefore be it resolved that the new Community Services regulations represent nothing but another broken promise by this Tory Government who have refused to consult or seek input from those who deal with these issues every day.

[Page 185]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Richmond.


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

Whereas this marked the inaugural year of the Richmond Hurricanes boys high school hockey team; and

Whereas the Richmond Hurricanes, comprised of players from all corners of Richmond County, quickly displayed their talents by winning the last 10 games in the Cape Breton West High School Hockey League; and

Whereas on Sunday, March 25th, the Richmond Hurricanes capped off their dream season with a hard-fought win over the Central Kings High School to capture the Nova Scotia School Athletic Federation Boys High School Division II provincial banner before a packed house at the Richmond Arena;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House extend their congratulations to Coaches Leon LeBlanc and Trevor Burke, the players and the students for their hard work and dedication in winning the first ever provincial title for the Richmond Academy in its inaugural year.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

[Page 186]

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.


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

Whereas 1 per cent of Nova Scotians are afflicted with the condition known as epilepsy; and

Whereas this condition, if not properly treated with medication, can have a devastating effect on the lives of those afflicted; and

Whereas working persons with disabilities who are not eligible for Pharmacare or other means of assistance can incur costs of $200 a month or more;

Therefore be it resolved that this provincial government and the Minister of Health consider a Pharmacare card for working persons with epilepsy.

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.

Just before we go to Question Period, I just want to remind members, as agreed previously, there are to be no laptops on during Question Period.



MR. SPEAKER: Question Period will begin at 2:34 p.m. and end at 3:34 p.m.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

[Page 187]


MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. The Premier is familiar with the platform he used to win power. On the topic of local government he knows the first and most important promise he made. For the benefit of others, I will read the promise. ". . . a PC Government will: Stop the unilateral downloading which has characterised municipal/provincial relations in Nova Scotia;" My question for the Premier is, will the Premier tell Nova Scotians why his government is breaking that promise and proposing to unilaterally download its responsibilities onto municipal property taxpayers?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, it is unfortunate that the member opposite doesn't understand what is going on, that the process of consultation has been initiated by the department and this government to solve what is a very serious situation in the province. I would hope that the supplementary will show a greater insight into exactly what is going on.

MR. MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I may not be the sharpest knife in the drawer but I can recognize what is in black and white during a campaign. The government cannot have it both ways, they cannot issue an ultimatum to the municipalities and pretend that they are not acting unilaterally. The government's approach smacks of manipulation, not the true partnership they promised in the election campaign. The Premier can give a yes or no answer. My question is, will this government cease and desist any and all threats or plans to unilaterally download its responsibilities onto the municipal property taxpayers?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, this member is quite prepared to acknowledge that the member opposite is quite sharp - in fact very sharp - but for his edification I would ask the minister responsible to give him an appreciation of what is really going on.

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I also welcome the question because it is important for all honourable members, and the House, and people to understand that we are dealing with a process here, and that process arose from the roles and responsibilities exercise that was going on between the province and the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities. We gave a commitment to the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities that we would come forward with a proposal dealing with remaining items on the roles and responsibilities. We brought that proposal forward, and we put it out for consultation. (Interruptions)

MR. MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, it sounds like an odd way to shape a campaign for fairness. The Conservative platform says that, for many, the Liberal experience was higher property taxes with no increased service or benefit to their property. The Premier wants to repeat that Liberal nightmare. His plan means that the well-to-do living in one municipality would escape the cost of equalization, while a senior on a fixed income in another municipality would have to pay more for the provincial equalization program. My question is, will the Premier tell Nova Scotians why it is fair to overtax seniors and reward the well-

[Page 188]

to-do on the basis of where they live, instead of asking all to share this responsibility on the basis of their ability to pay?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, it would appear that the member opposite is suggesting that a very serious inequity that exists in this province should be ignored by this government. This government does not ignore hard problems that will result in serious debate, and the debate has started.

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



MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, as we all know, today is the deadline for municipalities to submit their recommendation on the proposed municipal equalization plan. My question for the Minister of Municipal Relations is, considering that this is the only offer that you have put on the table, and you don't have a plan B, what will you do when some of the municipalities flat out reject this proposal?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, the proposal was put forward for the purposes of consultation. Consultation employs the attitude of putting forward a proposal and listening to the reaction and the results to that proposal. We are awaiting those reactions. I might point out that we have some very thoughtful, well-researched positions brought forward by other municipal governments, proposals which have not been in the press, but nevertheless extremely good proposals and we will evaluate those very carefully.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, my next question is for the Premier. I think all members are in favour of the concept of equalization but there has been so much misinformation about this plan. Can the Premier tell us today precisely why he is in favour of this particular plan?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased that the speaker opposite who has phrased the question has at least accepted that there is a problem to be solved because there is a big problem to be solved. What the government is now doing is opening up the process of consultation and already, as the minister has previously said, a great number of thoughtful proposals have come across the minister's desk as a result of the initiation of this very important process and we expect more over the next several days.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, for the past few weeks constituents have been asking MLAs if they are in favour of this policy. They want to ensure that MLAs, including Tory backbenchers, are aware of their views on this topic. My question to the Premier is, when you bring this legislation forward, will you allow your fellow Tory MLAs to truly represent the will of their constituents by granting them a free vote?

[Page 189]

THE PREMIER: What I can say to you is this government will not do what the previous government did in 1994, with service exchange, when it was faced with criticism of what was a reasonable solution, backed down at the eleventh hour and left the problem on the table. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.



MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Education. I've seen a leaked copy of the proposed policy for the designation of post-secondary institutions for student loan purposes. This proposal was put together by the Nova Scotia Advisory Board on College and University that advises the minister and let me tell you, it's pretty scary. This policy makes post-secondary institutions responsible for reducing the level of student loan defaults by their students by up to 60 per cent over only four years, or they face being cut off from student loans. I ask the minister, why hasn't she rejected this outlandish plan, one that will eliminate almost the entire community college system and many of our most innovative universities from student loans?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I would like to see this plan. I certainly haven't rejected it, since I have never seen it. I would like the honourable member opposite to table the information she has so I can study it.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the minister can deny all she likes that there is no such plan but it is because she does not want to admit that under this ludicrous plan, UCCB, NSCAD, St. F.X., Saint Mary's and most of the Nova Scotia Community College campuses risk being cut off from student loans when this plan goes forward. I want the minister to explain to this House, how would she justify a policy that will penalize students for her government's failure to create employment opportunities that would enable students to repay their loans?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I repeat, I would like the member for Halifax Needham to table this alleged plan.

[2:45 p.m.]

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I don't know how much plainer it can be. You know, this government has failed to come clean on what it is that they are planning to do with respect to student loans in this province. I will certainly table here the advice that this government is now looking at with respect to the student loan plan. Will the minister outline her government's strategy to ensure that accessible and affordable post-secondary

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education continues for Nova Scotian students, and that it is not compromised by this ludicrous plan?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I look forward to seeing that plan. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Education has the floor.

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the issue of designated universities has been under study for more than two years. When a plan has been accepted by the department it will be brought forward to this House for discussion; it will be made public. There is no such plan planned as the member opposite says.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.


MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Finance. The Auditor General said that the new information technology system for health would have saved the province money if it had been implemented almost two years ago. Is the minister investing in a new health information system because he believes it will curb the rising cost of health care?

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, in regard to the investment in information technology for health, I think if I remember, his colleague who used to be the Minister of Health has echoed the same statement that my colleague said, that we require more information to help make the decisions. So, in that regard, we want that information and we will invest in those issues.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, the minister recently gave a speech in Dartmouth and he said that we will be buying computers for our system that needs nurses, specialists and MRIs. Why is this minister choosing between new health technology and money for nurses?

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I have said in different statements that we were making investments in IT. If I remember correctly, this is the same minister who tabled a plan that was going to have a $2.5 million surplus - it was actually a $500 million deficit - but in that plan it was $100 million in those types of initiatives. We will live within our means, but we will make investments where they are prudent. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, if the minister had invested in new health technology nearly two years ago, we would be able to have money to afford to pay for nurses today, like he promised during the election campaign. He had a chance and he blew it. My question to

[Page 191]

the minister is, Mr. Minister, you had all the answers back 590 days ago. Why doesn't he have any answers today about the issues of nurses and health care?

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, one thing I know clearly is that the member opposite and his Party did not have the answers and that was evident in the fact that they lost an election and we received the mandate to do it. We have a plan and we are going to put it in. I agree with the member that there is not an immediate response to this situation, especially in regard to nurses. We are putting forward a reasonable plan that will get the information, that the Minister of Health will have the information at his disposal, and that the right decisions are made the first time and not after some mistakes have been made.

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



MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Education. Over 50 per cent of the students at UCCB are on student loans. They are pursuing an education to help end the cycle of dependence that has befallen many Nova Scotians. This government has proposed a designation policy that stands to harm Cape Bretoners the most. Without the option of receiving Nova Scotia student loans, they will be forced to go to private banks for loans at much higher interest rates. Will the minister stand in the House today and explain why her department is proposing a discriminatory policy that will force students to choose between accepting more expensive bank loans or foregoing a post-secondary education altogether?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I repeat, my department has not proposed any such policy.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, we have tabled a document. This spring, in Cape Breton, students are going to be faced with a double-whammy. Because of the situation at Devco many employees will be receiving a one-time severance package which will impact on their student loan rates because of a one-time spike in their earnings. What contingency plans have you put in place to make sure that this one-time income spike does not permanently damage the students' ability to continue with their post-secondary education?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, this so-called policy seems to be causing a lot of difficulty. I would like to say here and now that UCCB and the students in Cape Breton and their education is very important to this government, it is important to the future of Nova Scotia, and any designation policy is not going to harm the education of Cape Breton students.

[Page 192]

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, we have just tabled this document for the minister to peruse. I am sure she already has. Some more facts, in 1987, UCCB student fees covered 16.5 per cent of the operating expenses at that institution. In 1999, that figure reached 41 per cent. It is pretty clear this government's plan will not only harm students, but will cause job losses at that very same institution. I want to ask this minister, who knows full well about this document, is it a profound misunderstanding of Cape Bretoners or her blatant disregard for their welfare that stops her from doing the right thing in stopping this proposal today?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the universities are a very important part of Nova Scotia, from one end of the province to the other. My department and this government support access to post-secondary education and will continue to do so.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.


DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health. In the minister's footprint plan there is a proposal to slot hospitals into five categories in Nova Scotia. The footprint goes on to say that the most complex care is a provincial hospital, which will offer all services found in other hospitals plus more. My question to the minister is, can the minister tell us the population size needed for a provincial hospital, and will the services at the QE II be affected in order to make it a sustainable provincial hospital?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the facilities which are designated as provincial health centres remain as the QE II and the IWK-Grace Health Centre. It is not so much the size of the facility as the services that they offer. Those institutions offer specialized services they don't offer anywhere else. The QE II is now under the Capital Health Authority, and that board will be making decisions, the same as any other health authority across the province, about what services will be delivered in the facilities that are under its governance.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I was warned that that would be the answer that the honourable minister would give me, but, however, let's proceed.

Mr. Minister, your richly remunerated deputy minister told the staff at the QE II on February 28th of this year that a provincial hospital needs a population of 1 million to be sustainable and we need to talk to our Atlantic partners. My question to the minister, is the minister planning an exchange of services with other hospitals in the Atlantic Region in order to make the QE II fit his clinical footprint plan?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the QE II does service a population of approximately 2 million, as you know it is not only a provincial health care centre, it is a Maritimes resource and, indeed, an Atlantic resource. What the honourable member is referring to with the deputy minister - and I guess if he was at the QE II as he says on February 28th then

[Page 193]

obviously he was - is that to maintain some of the services that we have in Nova Scotia, you need a critical mass. Therefore, we have to make sure that we have the co-operation of the other two Maritime Provinces, as well as the other Atlantic Province, Newfoundland. The honourable member for Dartmouth East well understands the issue of critical mass in medicine and appropriate practices and that is what the deputy was referring to.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for that answer. The deputy minister did say that the population of Nova Scotia alone was too small to sustain the QE II as a provincial hospital. Will Nova Scotians be forced to travel to other provinces for services under this plan or will out-of-province patients be brought in in order to reach the critical mass to sustain the QE II as a provincial hospital?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member for Dartmouth East has just partially answered the question which he asked earlier and Dr. Ward's comments about the other two provinces and encouraging them to make sure that they send their people here so that we can maintain the critical mass, we will have the patient volume essential to maintain a critical mass.

One of the things, Mr. Speaker, is that the provinces that do not have services basically are free to send patients where they would like to send them. We have a good working relationship with the other three Atlantic Provinces and, indeed, I have had discussions with their ministers to encourage them to make sure that in every case possible, every instance possible, that we get the volume that is needed to sustain the service here, because clearly they are not going to duplicate it.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.


MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, my question is directed to the Minister of Economic Development. At the Human Resources Committee this morning, the members of that committee were asked to approve 12 nominees to Nova Scotia Business Incorporated, the new organization that will be doling out economic development money. The members of that committee did not have adequate information before them to decide if those were the best people for the job. For example, we found out that 114 public-minded Nova Scotians applied in response to an ad and only three of them were appointed and the government went out and got nine people who had not applied.

Mr. Speaker, we have no idea if those were the best people for the jobs. So my question to the minister is, will the minister write to the committee and agree to appear to explain how he went about choosing these new members of this new board and if he won't do that, why not?

[Page 194]

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member opposite for the question. He is absolutely right, 114 public-minded Nova Scotians did put their name forward and did apply and the appropriate process was followed. So the member opposite is mistaken in his information.

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, the fact is that the members of that committee have no idea what process the minister followed. He is simply saying to the members, you just have to take the minister's word for it.

Mr. Speaker, one of the pieces of information that the members of that committee did not have is, who is going to be the chairman of Nova Scotia Business Incorporated? It is the ministers choice, if the minister knows who it's going to be then he owes it to this House to tell them and if he doesn't know than he owes it to this House to tell them how he is going to go about doing it. My question to the minister is, who is going to be the chairman of Nova Scotia Business Incorporated?

[3:00 p.m.]

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member opposite for the question. He is absolutely right, the chairman has not yet been appointed. It will be appointed on a recommendation from me to Cabinet.

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, the very unusual thing about this new board of directors is that because of the way this government set it up, the appointees will never again come before the Human Resources Committee unless the minister chooses to do so, and he has that power. My question to the minister is, will you commit today that all future appointments to that board of directors, for that corporation that is handling the people's money, will be approved by the people's representatives?

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member opposite, and certainly so, it was truly pleasing to think 114 people would be put their names forward to be considered. We do have the best and we will continue to have the best, that's the point of having a board of this calibre, to bring the best people into play and that's a commitment I will make.

MR SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton East.


MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, last Friday the delayed regulations to the changes to social assistance were revealed; the bottom line for many in this province will be less money to live on. This government has decided that it will no longer fund those who are trying to improve their lot in life by taking a four year course. My question for the Minister

[Page 195]

of Community Services is, when you look at Statistics Canada unemployment rates by education, those with an undergraduate degree have a better chance of having a job than those with a college course, can the minister explain how much he thinks he will save by limiting the educational choices of those who are trying to get off social assistance?

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for the question. What the Department of Community Services will be doing is not saving any money, we'll be investing in a lot more people, a lot more opportunities for them to attend training and education.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, recently at a press conference that was sponsored by the Advisory Council on the Status of Women, statistics revealed there showed that a women needed a bachelor's degree to earn what a man would with a high school education, and I will table that document from the Statistics Canada 1996 census. My question again to the minister, has he taken into account, by restricting the educational choices of those trying to leave social assistance, that he is being particularly severe to women in this province?

MR. CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, I would say to the honourable member once again, we are not restricting people's opportunities, we are providing and reinvesting money for them to take training, to finish high school graduation and to take training to go to school. We are not reducing money.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, the minister and his government are restricting the possibility of that happening. This government is saying if you want to try and support a family on $20,000 a year, they'll help. But if you have the audacity to try and reach for the sky, they'll cut you off.

My final question is for the Minister responsible for the administration of the Advisory Council on the Status of Women. The minister attended the release of the report on the economic status of women in Nova Scotia so she should be well aware of what I am talking about. Will the minister attempt to convince the Minister of Community Services of the false economy, especially for women, on limiting the educational choices of those who are trying to quit social assistance?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Community Services and I have spoken about this on a number of occasions and there is one thing on which we agree, and we agree completely, the biggest problem faced by women on social assistance is the vast majority do not even have high school. That is the part of the problem that has to be attacked first and we are attacking it first.

[Page 196]

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



MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Health. In seven months the Canadian Cancer Society will end its 17 year subsidy of the drug program for low income cancer patients. This will leave 289 Nova Scotians without coverage for treatment-related drugs. Last year these drugs cost $127,000. How will the minister make sure that low income cancer patients have the drugs that they need?

HON. JAMES MUIR: I thank the honourable member for that question and let me begin by saying that we are disappointed that the Canadian Cancer Society, Nova Scotia Division, is going to withdraw that because that program was set up by the Department of Health some number of years ago, I understand, through an OIC at the request of the cancer society. This program was set up at its request and it has worked very well.

The issue that the honourable member is referring to is that in the cancer drug program the Canadian Cancer Society has provided some people who did the screening to determine who would be eligible for subsidized drugs. We continue to talk with Cancer Care Nova Scotia and who I am sure is talking to the Canadian Cancer Society and we will also talk with our colleagues in the Department of Community Services to see that this service is maintained. Do we have something in place right now? The answer is no.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, to qualify for this program a cancer patient must have a family income of less than $15,720. This rate has not increased since 1984 despite skyrocketing drug prices and increases in the cost of living. I want to ask the minister, when will he raise the ceiling of the program to reflect the realities of the year 2001?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, requests of this type do come annually from the Canadian Cancer Society. Indeed, they do come from many other organizations that get some type of funding from the Department of Health. They are all assessed on an annual basis as, among other things, part of the budgetary process and they will continue to be assessed that way on objective evidence.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, as the minister has alluded, he knows that this is not just about cancer patients. More than a year ago he promised to review provincially-funded drug programs to ensure that low income, chronically ill Nova Scotians are not falling through the cracks. My question is when will the Minister of Health respond to the health charities network and support a medication and treatment program for all disease types?

[Page 197]

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, you will find that by and large the Department of Health does support a pharmaceutical program for all disease types. Unfortunately, and there are a number of reasons for this, we don't support each of these programs the way that everybody would like to see them supported. We just cannot do everything for all people.

I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, one of the interesting things, I did an interview on Radio Noon and I was asked a question about providing one service and not providing another. I can tell you that every month I probably have four or five people come into my office (Interruption)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Richmond.


MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, during the last provincial election the Premier in his blue book lauded the noble efforts of teachers and promised to support them in maintaining control over classrooms with better money and better discipline policies. In the Throne Speech delivered last week, this government turned 180 degrees, taking a Mike Harris-like stance, suggesting that teachers in this province are lacking in accountability. My question to the Minister of Education is, what exactly does your government mean when it says that teachers in Nova Scotia lack accountability?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, yes, I did read the Throne Speech, but obviously I read a different Throne Speech from the one the member opposite heard because I do not recall us saying any such thing.

MR. SAMSON: Well, it is only day one of Question Period and already the Minister of Education is bordering on the ridiculous by suggesting she doesn't even know what is in her own government's Throne Speech. This government clearly said that it questioned the accountability of teachers in this province. This is the same minister that created an uproar amongst teachers in this province last year with the phoney numbers in her budget. The Premier himself blamed teachers in this province for adult illiteracy, now the minister says teachers are not accountable. My question is, has the minister spoken to the Nova Scotia Teachers Union, or consulted anyone else for that matter, prior to saying that teachers in this province are not accountable?

MISS PURVES: I never said teachers are not accountable. What we are talking about in this government as a whole, though, is more accountability throughout the whole system and that includes the minister, the department, the Teachers Union, teachers and everyone in the schools.

[Page 198]

MR. SAMSON: At first she did not say teachers were not accountable, now she says teachers are not accountable. We do not know what it is with this minister, she changes every minute. Nova Scotians know that we will soon be faced with a shortage of teachers in this province because of the fact that baby boomers will be retiring. This government's continued attack on teachers is extremely destructive in this province. My final supplementary to the minister is, will the minister table in this House today her government's plans to address the upcoming teacher shortage in this province or will she wait until we are in a crisis situation?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I do have a copy of the Throne Speech here and what it talks about is quality, standards and accountability in our education system, which is what I said previously.

Now to the member's second question. We are facing a teacher shortage, we monitor this every year. The shortage we are facing is in certain disciplines, the shortage is in mathematics, French and science and we are working to make sure the situation does not become a crisis.

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



MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: My question is to the Minister of Environment and Labour. Concerns continue to be expressed about the New Era Farms composting facility on the Prospect Road. Petitions have been presented, meetings held, local residents are just downright frustrated with the delays and the excuses. Now the Department of Environment has confirmed that leachate has been found in three of the New Era Farms' on-site test wells. My question to the Minister of Environment and Labour is, are you prepared to guarantee that New Era will be forced to comply with the recent Department of Environment requests?

HON. DAVID MORSE: I want to thank the honourable member for a very pertinent question and a question that is a concern in the area. We had been monitoring the situation with New Era Farms and they were requested to come up with an action plan to address some of the issues that he has spoken about and certain other ones. They failed to bring this in yesterday by the deadline and they were issued a summary offence ticket.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Monday's deadline for compliance, as the minister has said, has come and gone. This New Era Farms compost has a long history in this community - a long history of rotten odours, unacceptable trucking and various other complaints. A fine just will not do it. The issue at stake here is they quality and safety of local drinking water. I want the Minister of Environment and Labour to offer a guarantee to local residents that the drinking water in Goodwood and on the Prospect Road is safe for them to drink.

[Page 199]

[3:15 p.m.]

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, thank you again for the supplementary question, a very reasonable concern. I would like to assure the House, the people of the area, and indeed all Nova Scotians, that the department is working with the situation to make sure that the company is brought into compliance and so therefore to safeguard the environment and, indeed, their drinking water.

MR. ESTABROOKS: How dare you stand in your place. How dare you stand there. How dare you, as a Cabinet Minister. When you stood in this House earlier, as a member of this House, you spoke passionately about safe water. I would invite the minister, at a time of his choosing tomorrow, to come to Golda's Cafe on the Prospect Road for a beverage of your choice on me. If you can negotiate the road, I will take you to the compost facility where you will have an opportunity to meet with some local residents who have concerns. Will you accept that invitation? (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable Minister of Environment and Labour can attempt to answer that question, if he dares.

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I kind of wonder who this fellow's role model was, up there pointing his finger at me. I am not sure where he got this from. (Interruptions)

On a more serious note though, there are a number of concerns with this site. I would like to assure the member and the people in that community that we are in fact, possibly even looking to a ministerial order to order the appropriate action.

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



MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the minister responsible for water utilities.

AN HON. MEMBER: That is not a designated responsibility.

MR. MACKINNON: Well, there is a minister responsible for water utilities.

The Speech from the Throne indicates a concern about the quality of water, something that is obviously on everybody's mind, particularly since the Walkerton situation. My question to the minister is, can the minister inform the House as to what steps he will be taking to ensure the safety of our water supply?

[Page 200]

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, for the edification of the honourable member, the responsibility for the water utilities was transferred to the Department of Transportation and Public Works.

All that I can advise the honourable member is that we are taking and adopting the best practices possible to ensure that the residents, who utilize the public utilities run by the Department of Transportation and Public Works, receive potable water.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, given that note, my question to the minister is, has the minister evaluated as to what training each municipality has given to the person or persons responsible for water utilities in their respective jurisdictions?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I think we may be talking about a different matter altogether. If the honourable member is talking about municipal water systems that are run by municipal units, then you are speaking to the wrong minister; that does not come under my jurisdiction. The utilities that come under my jurisdiction are those that are owned by the province and were put in place to meet certain specific needs, such as in one case, I think down the South Shore, we have one there that provides water to fish plants . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Lockeport.

MR. RUSSELL: Yes, Lockeport, and we have another one up in Port Hawkesbury

that provides water to Stora. We have several of these around. Those that are providing water though to citizens for drinking water, we are maintaining the best practices available to ensure that the residents are receiving potable water.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, before I ask my final supplementary, perhaps it would be helpful if the minister would help all members of the House clarify and clearly delineate the different responsibilities between the two jurisdictions because, obviously, it seems somewhat ambiguous and I believe the minister would certainly agree on that.

My final question to the minister is, is the minister prepared to give the House an update as to how many of the public drinking water systems in Nova Scotia have been registered as per the water resources protection Act and the regulations they are under?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, that would come under the jurisdiction of the Minister of Environment. I am prepared to table in the House a listing of the utilities that come under the Department of Transportation and perhaps a short narrative as to what activities we are contemplating at the present time to ensure that we have compliance, as I say, with the best practices for delivering potable water. So I would like to turn the balance of the question over to my colleague, the Minister of Environment and Labour.

[Page 201]

HON. DAVID MORSE: I would like to thank my colleague, the honourable minister, for passing that part on to me. The honourable member is asking for the specific number that are registered with the department? I am not sure of the specific number but I do get a periodic listing of all those that are supplying water to the public, whether it be for a restaurant or school or hospital, and that are under a boil water order. So, if you are looking for a total number, I will endeavour to get that and bring it back to the House.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.


MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Economic Development. Last October this government proudly announced its new direction for economic development in the province, that's the much-vaunted Nova Scotia Business Inc. The approach was supposed to be to take the politics out of economic development decisions, although as we have heard at the Human Resources Committee this morning, what it turns out to be is turning those decisions over to a board made up of a number of close friends of the government. At the same time, what we know is that this government intends to hold on to control of the Industrial Expansion Fund, $57 million, so Cabinet can continue to sidestep that funding agency when it seems politically expeditious to do so.

I wonder if the Minister of Economic Development can tell us, what is the policy of his government, is economic development money going to be handed out by a board that includes a number of the close friends of the government or is it going to be handed out by the Cabinet itself?

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for the question although I think it is highly inappropriate to malign people before they have the opportunity to even undertake the role they will be filling. I would like to compliment all 114 who have come forward offering their names up for consideration. The board is comprised of 12 people who represent geography and various sectors and all levels of expertise. So that board is going to do what has to be done in terms of making the right decisions.

As far as the Industrial Expansion Fund is concerned, that has been applied in situations where the compelling argument for socio-economic reasons would impact on the business case alone.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, well, it is obvious that the government intends to keep both spigots open. What is about to happen is that the Cabinet will maintain control of a slush fund that will not just be on occasion. Now, what I want to know is, will the minister admit today that the Cabinet maintaining control of that fund is really a back door approach to government funds to sidestep what is supposed to be the arm's length established agency?

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MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, the application of the Industrial Expansion Fund has been used in the past in situations where communities were devastated because in some instances they were one-industry towns. For example, if you look at Canso, the fact that Seafreez Foods Inc. is there now is a direct result of the IEF fund or if you look at Larsen Packers in Berwick, or if you want to look at the Nova Scotia Boat Builders and the fact we now have a very viable industry, the application of that fund can be used properly.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I think the minister has made my point exactly. He has described exactly what has gone on in the past and what is likely to go on in the future. I ask the minister, isn't the real story here that your government doesn't want to give up control over a slush fund that you can use to reward political friends? That is the story, isn't it, Mr. Minister?

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, once again because perhaps he failed to hear it the first time, the IEF fund is used in situations that are unique and unusual. It is used judiciously to ensure that small communities in rural Nova Scotia have a continued chance of survival.

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


MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations. The minister and his government have caused a great deal of grief and division within municipal units of this province over the issue of equalization. My question for the minister is, how is he going to ensure that the municipalities that benefit from this plan make responsible decisions to ensure that they do not become reliant on this fund?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the honourable member for a very pertinent and relevant question. There will in fact be performance standards that all municipal units must meet and if municipal units are not able to meet those performance standards or refuse to meet the performance standards, then they would not be in a position to qualify for equalization payments of any form.

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I have concerns about the cost of this new arrangement. The minister obviously had a considerable number of staff working on this project. He also ran very expensive ads in two metro newspapers to promote a conflict within one particular unit. Does the minister have a total cost as to what this poorly handled announcement has cost Nova Scotians to date?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I can tell the House that the only cost out of the ordinary with respect to the normal operations of the department would be approximately equal to that which was spent by HRM. (Interruptions)

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MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, my question to the minister is going to be very simple. Why won't this minister allow his staff, who have always provided professional and capable advice to ministers prior to this particular minister, to provide direction instead of forcing municipalities like the HRM, which has limited resources at hand? Why will he not allow his staff to provide answers to this troubled government and, in particular, to this fund?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I will make a stab at an answer. I am not sure if I will be answering the question that was asked or not. I can tell you this, that we are quite anxious to receive the full consultation with all municipal units and as I indicated earlier, we have received some very constructive responses. When all of those responses are in, we will provide a very thorough analysis of all of them. I look forward to being able to bring the matter to another stage in its development.

[3:30 p.m.]

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


MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, my question, through you, is to the Premier. My first question is quite a simple one, is it reasonable that Nova Scotians can expect that this government will do all it can to ensure that residents and businesses have fair prices and that there is no unfair, predatory practices being followed in the Province of Nova Scotia?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I am sure the supplementary will give me some idea as to where the questioning is going. I am not sure from where we began. I can assure the member opposite that this government does not support predatory pricing.

MR. HOLM: The Premier would tell us that he believes that we should have fair pricing in Nova Scotia as well. My next question is to the Minister responsible for the Petroleum Directorate. The minister, of course, will know that Nova Scotia Power has asked the Utility and Review Board for the freedom to charge different electrical rates to different areas and to different customers. That would mean that Nova Scotia Power could start offering cut-rate electricity in areas that have natural gas, which is what they want to do. Areas like Cape Breton and rural Nova Scotia will be at a double-disadvantage, not only will they not have natural gas but they will face higher electrical costs, which makes it more difficult to attract and to maintain businesses in those areas.

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My question to the minister is, why, even though the government registered as an intervener, they made no representation, has your government failed to intervene to ensure that areas like Cape Breton and rural Nova Scotia are not placed at a disadvantage when it comes to electrical power rates?

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, I am glad the member opposite referenced the URB because that is, in fact, an arm's length agency that makes the determination as to what should be fair and appropriate.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, the government registered as an intervene, and they sat on their hands. Back in 1998, maybe the Premier would like to remember what he and his caucus colleagues committed to do back in that election campaign. Nova Scotia Power is also asking the URB for permission to keep, in secret, any proposal if it is going to be accepted, they are asking the URB to make sure that any decisions of Nova Scotia Power fast-tracking rate changes are held in secret. I want to ask the minister, a member of the government that likes to pretend that they are open and transparent, why is this minister not doing anything to ensure that electrical rate changes will continue to be made in the light of day?

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite has a very interesting interpretation of what the role of the URB should be. There are occasions when he wants government to insert itself in the process, and others when he thinks we should be removed. It is indeed unfortunate that he has that view of convenience in terms of what should be . . .

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

The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour on an introduction.

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, thank you very much for an opportunity to make an introduction this afternoon. I want to bring to the House's attention, in the west gallery, participants in the Maple Leaf Foundation Exchange Program. These are students from Auburn Drive High School and Boston Latin School, Boston, Massachusetts. I would just point out that Auburn Drive High School, although located in my riding and serving my district also draws students from the constituency of Preston and also from the constituency of Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage. There are 20 students here along with their leaders, Don Buck, Terri Bussey, Richard Fulton and Marilyn Morrisey. I would ask them to stand and receive the welcome of the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you and welcome to our guests today in the House.

Before we go to Government Business, the subject for this evening's late debate was submitted by the honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

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Therefore be it resolved that in light of the secrecy surrounding the April 2001 Summit of the Americas in Quebec City, this House urges the federal government to undertake a public debate and broadly democratic discussion before entering into any trade agreements that would harm the quality of services and environmental protection enjoyed by Canadians.

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


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.


MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 1

Bill No. 1 - Land Registration Act

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations.

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I move that this Bill No. 1 be now read for the second time. This bill would make substantial changes to the process of registering properties in Nova Scotia, moving from what is essentially a 250 year old paper based system to a modern, electronic format. Most importantly, the new legislation would provide greater certainty about property ownership across Nova Scotia. The government would guarantee the basic ownership of all properties entered in this new land registration system.

This modernization of the 250 year old Registry of Deeds system is long overdue and will be a tremendous benefit to all Nova Scotians. We are acting in response to requests from the legal community, from the real estate industry and from property owners who have told us that the present system is antiquated and inefficient. The new system would streamline the purchasing, sale and financing of land across the province, an asset which is worth approximately $46 billion.

The Land Registration Act is about removing repetitive process from our economy. Currently, the title searches required to determine the ownership must review 40 or more years of paper records each time a property changes. The same historic search is repeated every time the property is purchased or mortgaged regardless of whether the previous

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transaction was done 10 years ago or 10 days ago. Under the new system, historic searches would no longer be required. Anyone who has ever been held up on a closing waiting for a title search would undoubtedly see a quicker turnaround as search times would be dramatically reduced.

Sir, the new system of land registration is also about improved access regardless of where Nova Scotians live or work. Under the proposed system, on-line searches would be initiated from anywhere in the province and when the system is fully operational, the system would link all land-related information through one access point. Individuals who previously have had to drive from a Registry of Deeds office in one building to a municipal office in another building or town and to a probate office in yet another building, know how time-consuming the process can be to access public records about property.

Let me give you just one example of the distance some Nova Scotians must now go to transfer or mortgage their property. At present, a person buying property in the Town of Canso would have to go to Guysborough to search at the Registry of Deeds, to New Glasgow for mapping and location information, to Antigonish to search the current probate and prothonotary records and to the Town of Canso office of property tax information and, possibly, to Port Hawkesbury to view assessment information. The new system, when completely implemented, would streamline this very cumbersome process.

The public interest in this streamlined system, with security of title combined with the cost of maintaining the current system, are reasons enough to close the vault doors on the status quo. We are not alone in this endeavour. Virtually every province in Canada is either reforming its land registry system or planning to do so. For example, Saskatchewan is moving from a paper land title system to an electronic system. Closer to home, New Brunswick began its conversion process last September.

Let me recap what our legislation proposes. Firstly, Mr. Speaker, the government would guarantee ownership of all parcels of land registered in the system. I can't over-emphasize how important this is. Anytime someone invests in property for a home, a business or a recreation property, the buyer should be certain that they own the land. Secondly, the state of title would be certified by lawyers in the private sector, performing the same investigations that they do today. Parcels of land would be registered after one final historic title search and the lawyers' certificates would form the basis of the government guarantee of ownership. Thirdly, the registration of a property in the system would be conclusive as to the ownership of the land. Anyone who sustains a loss as a result of the registration of a parcel, would be able to seek compensation for that loss.

Fourthly, we would implement our conversion gradually. A mass conversion of all properties to the new system would be very costly and time-consuming as a process. Conversion would occur when properties were sold, mortgaged or subdivided into 3 or more lots for a commercial purpose. These are situations where land owners typically seek legal

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advice today. There would also be a mechanism for voluntary conversion. Lastly, the documents coming into the new system would be scanned into electronic format. Existing records would remain available for viewing and use by our clients.

In future most records, new and old, would be in an electronic format, and over time we would also introduce remote filing of documents. Based on the proposed legislation we would implement the new system in the first county by the fall of next year, and extend the system province-wide by the end of 2003. We estimate that it would take about 10 years to migrate all the parcels in the province to the new registration system. This system would be self-funding and we anticipate that registry fees would increase to cover the cost of the registration process. These fees have not been changed since 1990, in anticipation of the new system, and I assure you that any fee increase would reflect the cost of delivering the service as recommended by the Auditor General a few weeks ago.

A cost analysis conducted last year by the registry 2000 team revealed that the current registration fees are below the actual cost to government of providing the service. The actual cost is approximately $74 per document, while the fee charged is on average $43. Registry fees make up only a small portion, approximately 4 per cent, of the total cost of property transaction. With the reduced need for historic title searches, the overall cost of property transactions should be lower once properties have migrated to the new system.

While the legislation would make sweeping changes to the existing registration system, there are some elements that would remain unchanged. First and foremost the legislation would not affect the number of registry offices across the province. The staff in these offices are the front line of our department and offer valuable service and support to our clients. I should also point out that this legislation would provide for the government to implement the new system, working in partnership with real property professionals in the private sector, particularly lawyers and surveyors. Lawyers would continue to perform a variety of tasks that they complete today on a property closing; similarly surveyors would continue to determine the location, boundaries and extent of parcels, as they do today.

This legislation reinforces our government's commitment to improving access to government services for Nova Scotians living in rural areas of the province. It also furthers our goals to provide Nova Scotians with easier access to a wider range of e-government or front-line services.

[3:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, the legislation is the product of a detailed and comprehensive consultation with many of the parties who would be impacted. The Registry 2000 team has spent the past year criss-crossing the province to ensure that all stakeholders have been informed about the proposed changes and have had an opportunity to make comments before we introduce this bill. Those consulted include, but are not limited to: the Nova Scotia

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Barristers' Society, Real Estate Lawyers Association of Nova Scotia, the Association of Nova Scotia Land Surveyors, the Nova Scotia Chamber of Commerce and the Nova Scotia Association of Realtors. We thank all of the organizations and individuals who helped us with the legislation for their support and cooperation. I look forward to the participation of other members of the House in the debate on second reading and other stages of the legislation.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to address Bill No. 1, the Land Registration Act, which is, to a large extent, a fairly dull topic and I think it is unfortunate that our visitors in the gallery have come all the way from Massachusetts to hear this House talk about the system of land titles. It is a long-standing initiative, it has been underway for a number of years. It is not this government's initiative, but the government should be congratulated for bringing it forward. The government could have chosen to put it on the back burner and it did not. It is a good initiative.

The people who have worked on this over a number of years, the organizations and individuals, should be congratulated for doing a great deal of work on a very complex topic. In addition to the organizations mentioned by the minister, I would also mention that the member for Halifax Bedford Basin in particular has personally done some work on the committee that led to this bill and she should be congratulated as well.

There is no doubt that the system of land registration in Nova Scotia is outdated. It is desperately in need of modernization and anybody who has had anything to do with the system will know that. I am fortunate that I have had very little to do with the system. As a young lawyer articling with a firm here in town I was expected to spend some time at the Registry of Deeds learning the system and I am pleased to say that I managed to avoid that responsibility completely. I visited the Registry on only one occasion but it was enough for me to see what everybody else knew about how complex and arcane the system really was. In fact, property matters are the major source of liability claims against lawyers because it is so easy for something to go wrong in such a complex system. This legislation goes at least some way in doing a very necessary thing, and that is modernizing the system of land title in Nova Scotia.

There are still some issues which I am hopeful we can address either in the Law Amendments Committee or in Committee of the Whole House and I want to mention just four, very briefly. There is a group of people that is likely to be opposed to this bill, and that is all the people involved in the relatively new industry of title insurance. To a certain extent, people in the title insurance business took advantage of the very fact of the complexity of the existing land title system. What they did was they simply offered to assess the risk that something would go wrong and then insure that risk; provide protection against something actually going wrong.

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This issue of title insurance is a very important one to the legal profession and is one that has been going on in the background and has taken a lot of time, although only members of the legal profession would be aware of that. This industry of title insurance is more or less effectively going to be wiped out by this bill. I am not saying that is a good thing and I am not saying that is a bad thing, but it will be very interesting to see if the title insurers appear before the Law Amendments Committee to give this House the benefit of its point of view.

The second thing, and the minister alluded to this, is that the land title system has very recently been the subject of review by the Auditor General. In the most recent report which came out only a few weeks ago, the Auditor General essentially gave the existing system a pretty good clean bill of health from an audit point of view, but he did raise some concerns.

One is that the strategic planning process could use some improvements. Another is that regular reports could be prepared for the public and for stakeholders. Another one is that a rationale should be prepared for the fees that are charged. The minister has alluded to a study, I do not know if that study is in the public domain yet; if not, it should be.

Another point mentioned by the Auditor General is that operating agreements should be subject to audit and to date they have not been audited. This is particularly important because one of the essential elements of this bill is provision for the registrar to enter into agreements with the legal profession to essentially discharge the function of the registrar in the name of the registrar. That contract should be available to the public and subject to audit by the Auditor General.

The third thing is under the broad category of privacy issues. Anytime a government assembles a major computerized database there are going to be privacy issues. I certainly am not one of those Luddites who would say that, therefore, is a reason not to computerize. What I am saying is that privacy issues must always be considered when a major public database is developed.

Finally, I would simply like to address the question of cost. Let's face it, this issue is of absolutely no interest to the general public except as it relates to the matter of cost. The average citizen who buys or sells a home or a piece of land has no idea how the existing system of land titles works because that is what they pay their lawyer to do. This is very important to lawyers and very important to land surveyors and anyone else who deals with the land titles system. It is of little interest to the general public, except where it relates to this question of cost. I have asked the question about whether the government is able or prepared to make any kind of commitment that the undoubted efficiencies, the undoubted improvements and economies that will result from this new system might be passed on to the consumer. When I ask these questions, the answers that I get back I feel dance around that issue.

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Surely, there is no point to doing this - I should not say no point - but one of the very important points of doing this is economies and it should not just be economies to the government. It should be economies to the average person, the regular Nova Scotian who maybe in the course of their lives buys or sells a house once. They really ought to be able to save some money as a result of this. I would like to hear some commitment, I know it cannot be ironclad, but some kind of commitment from the government that that issue matters to them, that that issue is an important consideration as the land titles system is changed.

The question of fees is important. The minister says that the system is not presently on a cost-recovery basis. I am sure that the new system will be put on a footing of full cost recovery, and it should be. The minister and this government need to prove that to the people who use the system not simply assert it, so that when the new fee schedule comes out they need to be able to prove it to the public that this is not just another revenue generator, that it is truly being done on a full cost recovery basis.

Mr. Speaker, those are the general concerns that I would raise. I want to end where I began which is that this is a good initiative. The government should be congratulated for bringing it forward and the NDP will be supporting this bill on second reading on principle. We certainly look forward to hearing any presentations that come forward in the Law Amendments Committee and we will be studying it very closely for the Law Amendments Committee.

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

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today in this House. I express a thank you to the minister, of course, for following up on another Liberal initiative. The minister must have sort of forgotten that this process began in 1998, and the target for completion was actually the year 2000; however, the minister was successful in holding it back for at least one year. Our position as a caucus is, basically we are in favour of this bill; modernizing a system this old is clearly not such a bad thing, we don't believe. However, we do have some concerns.

As I indicated, the current system is rather cumbersome and doesn't take advantage of today's electronic technology. Finally, this government has recognized the importance of such electronic technology. I recall last year when the e-commerce bill was presented here, if it had been perhaps a little stronger, then this government would have been able to recognize it and have taken advantage of several other advantages this new industry could bring forth.

The background on the bill, basically landowners, the general public, real estate brokers, land surveyors, the Barristers' Society, this bill will affect all of them. The updates to the 250 year old record keeping, we believe, is a good thing. We don't agree with the tax that is included with this government initiative, although the minister continually refers to

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it as a fee. The fee that is in place today, we feel, is sufficient for the new system, particularly when it is much smaller and less expensive to maintain. We see this as another tax grab from this government.

The pilot project, of course, will be on-line in the fall, hopefully, in one county area of the municipality. Of course, we are eager to see this go forward right across the province as we believe that it will have a major good impact on all areas of the province. This system, we feel, is important because it modernizes land registration. It also allows for the user fees to be collected by the government. We are definitely not in support of that particular fee arrangement.

The total value of land in Nova Scotia is actually about $46 billion. Although the minister indicates that the province will take some responsibility for the ownership of these lands and their registration, there is no indication in the bill, in any way, shape or form, of how much this will cost the taxpayers in the municipality, or how much is going to be budgeted for such an exercise, or if it will be a one-time thing, or will it be able to be repeated over and over as mistakes are made within the system, if there are mistakes made in the system.

Most other jurisdictions of course already have implemented such a plan or are in the process of doing so. Of course, as the minister indicated, we agree that this bill is intended to solidify certainty of ownership. The changes will allow for the title to be searched once, and a certification then guaranteed by the province. Anyone who loses land because of these changes would be compensated. That is where we feel there is not enough information in regard to the cost that the municipality or the province would put aside each and every year, or if it would be a year-to-year budget item within the budget from the Minister of Finance.

The minister has already been asked, I believe, how much would be put aside for this compensation. He did not know and he did not believe that it would be large, but that is really not enough information to base a proper decision or responsible decision on, in particular, that issue in regard to this bill. The overall cost is expected to be about $15 million over seven years and the minister indicated it would cost $10 million over seven years.

[4:00 p.m.]

The plan is to bring one county as a pilot, by this coming fall, I believe. If the information that the minister has provided is correct, it would begin in the year 2001. Not all land within the province would be searched, just this land that is bought, sold or transferred. The cost of the current system does not really reflect the actual cost to the government. Any changes in keeping with the AG's recommendation to bring user fees in line and, as I indicated, we have not set a figure for any increases because the minister has not provided any details in that regard. The $25 to $35 cost increase we feel is out of range, out of touch

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and, in fact, more in the form of a tax than a user fee. Therefore, the cost will increase to approximately $65 to $75.

The minister clearly indicated there are no plans to reduce the number of offices within the province and that is fair, but we have not heard what he feels about the staffing levels. That is a concern we have and we feel that the current staffing numbers should be maintained, as that staff, we believe, are well trained and are highly skilled. We believe it is in the best interest of this particular government to maintain that complement.

The bill, of course, is a little disappointing in that it does not address the foreign ownership issue. Although we are a little disappointed in this bill for not going far enough, we recognize the need to change a 250 year old system that is clearly out of date. It leaves a lot of questions, for me at least. If the process of searching your record is going to be less time-consuming because the process has been modernized and simplified, then why would new fees be required for less work? It is kind of baffling to me. A new fee, higher fees, for a process of searching a record that is less consuming, and because the process has been modernized and simplified, is just simply not enough. The minister cannot, in my opinion, justify the increase, and what he terms is a user fee I regard as a tax increase for Nova Scotians.

The minister was also very non-committal about how much money he would invest in the project, particularly in the area of compensation and project implementation of the fees. So what will the price tag be of this new system? We really don't have a clear idea. As the minister indicated, he believed it would be approximately $10 million over seven years. We feel that the figure is closer to the $15 million fee over seven years.

There are some very old settlements pertaining to landownership throughout the province, right across, from one end to the other. I am going to pick Cape Breton County since I am familiar with Cape Breton County. In particular, many parts of Cape Breton County were sold at auction more than 100 years ago, and how can a clear title to those properties be established? That is kind of baffling, how properties throughout the Province of Nova Scotia can really obtain a clear title in which many of these titles today, with the present system, cannot be provided clear titles. So, there are a lot of questions that we still have that we feel are important to know in regard to this bill. We are still researching this bill and we may be providing some amendments in the future. However, hopefully the minister was being honest and up front when he indicated very clearly that he would be in support of improvements that the department would regard as beneficial to this new bill.

In closing, Mr. Speaker, I want to again congratulate the minister for bringing forth another Liberal initiative, and I have seen it now over 20 years, the Liberal initiatives that provided direction, this government is very successful. However, with another government initiative in approximately 1998, with the equalization fund, when that was just begun,

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although there was no direction provided by the Liberal Government, we can see how cumbersome and difficult this government is providing direction for the municipalities.

So in closing, again we will support this bill in its present form if we have to. We are looking forward to some improvement with regard to amendments and, again, we denounce the tax increase that would come forth with this bill.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, my new colleague, the member for Halifax Fairview, described himself as a young lawyer who had managed to avoid the rigours of the Registry of Deeds during his time of articles. I suppose I have to describe myself not as an old, but as an older lawyer, and I can assure the members of the House that in no way did I escape the rigours of the Registry of Deeds during my time of training.

In the summer of 1972, when I first started to article - it then being the allowable rules in Nova Scotia to permit students who had completed their second year of law school to do up to three months of articling - I was taken by my principal to the Registry of Deeds. We did this work in the evenings; it was a very busy practice. My principal was a former member of the City of Dartmouth municipal council and a former member of this House. I refer to the Progressive Conservative former member of the Legislature, Richard L. Weldon; a man, subsequently a member of the Utility and Review Board.

Mr. Weldon had a very busy real estate practice. The article clerks went with Mr. Weldon and his partner, Mr. Meisner, and we went to the registry which was located in the basement of what was then a new courthouse on the harbour. I enjoyed searching titles; I enjoyed it enormously. I found it fascinating to read through the documents that were necessary to study in order to establish a chain of title going back to a good root of title. That's what we were taught to do; we were taught to check by looking at every document that was pertinent to the title to see that the vendor who was purporting to sell the land actually could show that they owned the land that they were purporting to sell. The way that was done is to look back at all the preceding linked documents, to go to the deed or other instrument that the owner obtained their title from and then to go to the document behind that and to go to the document behind that. It's called a chain of title.

I think I heard the minister say that you searched a title back 40 years and perhaps more. I have to say that is not quite what I was taught. What I was taught is that you have to go back to a good root of title. You have to go back to something that is a solid origin to guarantee that there is the best kind of extended linkage of good ownership that you can show. Certainly, you would have to go back 60 years - not 40, but 60 years - in case there was some kind of Crown interest because 60 years would have been sufficient passage of time to extinguish the right of the Crown to move against an otherwise well-established

[Page 214]

possessory title. It was preferable, if at all possible, to go back to a Crown grant, and many's the time I searched titles back to Crown grants and that was regarded as a good root of title.

I do not know how many members of this House have had the opportunity to be in a Registry of Deeds, but the documents are bound in large, heavy books. There is a physical pleasure associated with dealing with these books, looking through the indices, reading the documents, admiring the penmanship of those who put the documents into these bound books. This was certainly not a time of photostats or even of typing for many of these documents, the early ones were all handwritten and they were handwritten by the Registrars of Deeds and their staff so the penmanship and preserving the state of the documents was an important aspect of running a Registry of Deeds.

I think that this activity of searching titles is something that the many people who are engaged in it do tend to enjoy. It is not just the lawyers who do it - there is in fact an active profession of title searchers who are busily at work all the time all over Nova Scotia. I know many of them, I have worked with many of them. They do excellent jobs and, indeed in many cases it is not the lawyers now who search titles at all. For the most part they tend to rely upon the title searchers.

But I was saying that I enjoyed title searching and I think most of the lawyers I know enjoyed it. We probably enjoyed it the first 10, 20, 50 or 100 times we did it. After that, I have to say that I cannot but agree with the observation of the honourable minister that the process of title searching is a bit repetitious. I do not think he said boring, but I will say boring. It is problematic to have to continue to do this, however fascinating it was to have been engaged in this kind of title search process. Every one of us who were engaged in that in Nova Scotia understood that this was something of an antique process. Every one of us understood that a different kind of system prevailed in other parts of the country, in other parts of the world. This is known generally, I believe, as the Torrens system of land registration.

The Torrens system or the certificate system which the minister is bringing forward in this legislation is an alternative method of land registration. It is based on the certificate and the guarantee of the government as to the worthiness of the title. So those of us, however much we enjoyed working in an historic system, did recognize that a better way had been devised. What facilitated the development of the better way in those provinces that had managed to adopt it was the fact that they adopted it very early on in their systems and they did so with the benefit of regular surveying of regular land portions. This is why in the western provinces of the country you hear references to sections, half sections and quarter sections. It is because those provinces were from the beginning surveyed into regular parcels and it was that kind of orderly surveying that tended to allow the development of a certificate system. Unfortunately, we have not had that here.

[Page 215]

[4:15 p.m.]

I heard the minister say that he hoped and anticipated that over a period of 10 years from the anticipated passage of his bill that all of Nova Scotia might be able to move to a certificate system. I have to tell the minister that I would be extremely surprised if a period of 10 years was even remotely adequate to move the province as a whole into this modern certificate-style system. I should not be misunderstood as suggesting that it is not desirable because, indeed, as my colleague, the honourable member for Halifax Fairview said, we do support the initiative and we support this bill in principle. We will certainly be voting in favour of it, but 10 years is not a realistic time-frame, I have to say, and here is why.

It will be the case that there will be many parcels of land that will simply not come forward for land transfer or alteration within that time. The owners will not sell or may not die or may not mortgage during that time. There will be many people whose land will be held by them and none of those circumstances will apply during 10 years. So simply from that fact alone, a reasonable apprehension of what people's life circumstances will be leads me to the conclusion that it will be a lot longer than 10 years before we arrive there.

There is a second reason and that reason is that there are a huge number of extremely convoluted title problems in our province. Anyone who has tried to search a title in the community of Prospect, for example, in the district of my colleague, the honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect, or has tried to search a title perhaps in Cherrybrook, in any number of small communities, there was a tradition of passing land on without proper documentation and Nova Scotia has struggled with this problem for years. We have Acts like the Quieting of Titles Act, things that are designed to enable people who are in the position of having family traditions and some kind of possessory title to be able to come forward and try to convert that to paper title. There are still many parts of the province where this has not occurred and one of the reasons it has not occurred is because of the convoluted ancestry of title of those pieces of land. Again, I suspect for many parcels for many districts it will be well past a 10 year mark before this is sorted out.

Again, Mr. Speaker, we think that this initiative is a very good initiative. You won't get there unless you start to move in that direction. There are many lawyers who have been engaged in real estate practices who have tried to nudge the province in the direction that the minister has now adopted. Just across the street an eminent property lawyer, Charlie MacIntosh, Q.C., one of the leading property lawyers in our time in Nova Scotia, has written about the difficulties of the Nova Scotia land title system as it has existed in the past. He has been I think one of the people who has prompted us to move in this direction. I cannot tell the minister how happy, I am sure, that Mr. MacIntosh and others at the Bar who have wrestled with this problem will be to see this Bill No. 1 come forward now in order to try to move in that direction. So, again, I congratulate the minister for it and we are looking for ways to improve this bill, if possible, through detailed study when it comes to the Law Amendments Committee and when we deal with it in the Committee of the Whole House.

[Page 216]

I want to draw out of the bill, an interesting aspect that struck me very forcibly. It has nothing to do, really, with the fact that we are engaged now in revision of the land title system. What strikes me is that the minister has now given his endorsement, his government has now given its endorsement, to a public insurance system. I have to congratulate the minister for that, because at the heart of Bill No. 1, is acceptance of the idea that there is a role for the government in insurance.

The minister may have chosen to do this in a limited way, only with respect to land titles. I haven't actually heard the minister say how much of a guarantee, how much of a liability, how much of a cost this might ultimately be. I have to say, I don't really know what the experience has been in other provinces. I hope at some point the minister will tell us what the experience has been in other provinces so we have some notion.

Entirely apart from the details of it though, this is one of the principles of the bill. On the one hand there is a principle that deals with organizing, into a different system, the land title system in our province, but along with that a second principle, that is inevitably bound up with it, is the idea of a government-guaranteed system. That is public insurance. The minister may have no thought of moving beyond this particular example to other examples, and yet once the principle has been established in our province, I don't doubt that there will be others who, in their turn, will consider other opportunities for a public insurance system.

Mr. Speaker, that said, I thank you for the opportunity to have given my colleagues my thoughts.

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

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to make a number of observations on Bill No. 1, An Act to Provide for the Registration of Title to Land and to Amend Certain Statutes Respecting Real Property. I guess it would be fair to say at the outset that I have a little bit of experience from one particular aspect, and that is in dealing with the extent of title as opposed to dealing with the quality of title, which is the essence of what this particular piece of legislation sets out to do. That being said, I believe that both are intricately connected, and they are of great value to the purpose and the intent of this particular piece of legislation.

Before I set out to focus on some of the points that I think are of important value to myself, not only as a professional land surveyor but also as a member of the Liberal caucus and, indeed, hopefully I can try to separate my two hats somewhere along the way so as to ensure that the concerns of my constituents are certainly reflected through my discourse. The first time I came to work with the existing registry system, which we all know is certainly in dire need of an overhaul and, as has been stated by a number of members in the House, that process has been undergoing for quite some time. Actually commencing nearly 30 years ago with the progression of mapping, the aerial photography and subsequently reducing that

[Page 217]

to orthophotos and subsequently proceeding with the mapping which came in under the Council of Maritime Premiers and eventually through the Land Registration Information Service. Then, as of late, when that process went from being an interprovincial to a provincial responsibility, under LMIS, Land Mapping and Information Service, which certainly comes under the purview of the Department of Housing and Municipal Affairs.

Mr. Speaker, for those who aren't familiar, I think it is worth repeating because it would certainly assist all members in the House as to why in fact we even have a registry system as opposed to a land title system here in Nova Scotia. It was simply an issue of practicality because in western Canada, land for the most part is fairly flat and level, literally, from one provincial jurisdiction to the next; whereas here in eastern Canada we are dealing with a rather difficult and hilly and mountainous terrain. It would be almost impossible to implement that type of land system - that land-guaranteed Torrens system - as has been used in western Canada for generations, certainly since the inception of and the Confederation of Canada.

One of the biggest flaws in the land registry systems that we have here in Nova Scotia is that there is no requirement under the Act to register a document. There is no requirement in the registry Act of Nova Scotia whether it be a warranty deed, a quit-claim deed, a trustee's deed, a will, or what have you. Certainly there have been some amendments to that process by virtue of the Planning Act and the subdivision regulations that come thereunder that require subdivision plans in all jurisdictions across the province under certain conditions to be registered, even more so in some jurisdictions, if not all, that the document of title transfer be recorded at the same time the plan is recorded.

Ironically, the present legislation to ensure that, is actually in conflict with another section of the same Act. It allows for the registration of such plans and documents for a period of up to thirty days without the deed being recorded and remaining in effect so as to allow the time for the deed transfers, that legal transfer, to take place because of perhaps financial considerations there may be with the issue of due diligence, and timing is of the essence under contract law, real estate law, that somebody may be buying a piece of real estate from outside (Interruption) No, I am talking specifically about real estate transactions.

That is why the initial provision was put in there, although the government overlooked that particular situation, so that is a conflict that still exists. What implications that would have under the new land title system I am not quite so sure and I still have some additional research to do on that. That would certainly be an issue of concern, Mr. Speaker, that I think would have to be addressed under this new land title system, because certainly the provincial registrar would have the authority to be able to address that, at least all indications are that he or she would.

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Now, with this particular registry system that we had initially, a lot of the documents that were recorded were handscribed. Generally what used to transpire in our jurisdiction was that if a transaction was handled by a member of the legal profession or a Commissioner of Oaths, or back then we used to have the local Justices of the Peace who would have the authority to go and make up these transactions. Generally they would make up two documents, two identical documents, that they would handscribe, one for the registry and one for the client.

In some cases, for whatever reason, the document that was scheduled to go to the registry would not always necessarily make it there, but the client who would have the unrecorded document in hand may have that in a vault for 30 years and not know that his or her piece of real estate was not given public notice, because that really is the essence of the registry system, it is simply to give public notice of some type of ownership or claim or interest, or what have you. Whereas under the land title system, it addresses the issue of title. It is a transfer of interest from person to person, whereas under the land registry system you are transferring the title of land from one to the next. So it is specifically and essentially different and that, Mr. Speaker, is one of the reasons I think that this new land registration system is very important.

[4:30 p.m.]

As we recall, from right up until about, I would say, the late 1950's, early 1960's, before they actually started typing deeds to be registered in the Registry of Deeds and then, of course, the old system of having the two deeds would still apply in many cases, it was not until being able to photocopy deeds in the late 1960's and early 1970's, that the process really started to become a little more efficient and effective, notwithstanding the fact there is still no requirement to record documents; survey plans, perhaps somebody would subdivide their property. An individual might, for example, will an entire piece of real estate amongst 5 or 10 children, in our case 14 children, so a large tract of land you would generally consider that would be quite a considerable task that would have to be addressed, and if this were 15 or 20 years ago, there is absolutely no requirement by law to register either the individual transactions. There would be a requirement under the Probate Act to ensure that the will was recorded and probated and so on, but if it was in reference to a plan that was prepared for the division of that particular piece of real estate, there was absolutely no requirement to register that plan, and perhaps the ambiguities would be carried on.

Then we move on to, obviously, the issue of the LRIS and the aerial photography, which was the basis for essentially bringing total management and assessment of what we have here in Nova Scotia. So if you add up all the LRIS parcels in the province they should add up to the sum total of what we have in land mass in Nova Scotia; then that is essentially where we are today. I know one of my legislative colleagues here who has done some real estate work and I have sold real estate as well so I know some of the concerns. (Interruption) Well, she was certainly a paralegal, and being a paralegal she has certainly dealt with real

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estate agents and real estate property, which is true, Mr. Speaker, because much of the onus was put on the paralegals and the present registry system and it still does.

One of the biggest difficulties that has come to the forefront because of the cumbersome and somewhat unorthodox process we have, is the fact that the American insurance industry is now trying to capitalize on our inefficiency and ineffective system, notwithstanding the fact there are considerable corporate interests that stand to lose considerable amounts of money should this new land registration bill be adopted.

For those who were not familiar, perhaps I can give you the benefit of some front-line experience. Traditionally, if one were to go out and buy a particular piece of real estate, they were going to buy a home, they had to get a mortgage, well, generally you would hire a lawyer. The lawyer would search the title. The lawyer and/or the client would contact the surveyor so as to ensure that the house was on the property and essentially they were going to get what they were going to pay for, but somehow over the last five to seven years, I would say more five years, I think I would be in line, this Americanization of this process started and what that means is that the American insurance industry, as I understand, many of the American insurance corporations approached the Canadian banking system and they said, okay, we are going to save you some money. We are going to save you a lot of money if you would allow us to give you mortgage insurance.

What mortgage insurance does, first of all, it eliminates the need for any mortgage certificates or survey certificates. In the short term, you would think, well, the surveyors are going to be the big losers and for them to complain, that would be self-serving. In the short term, that is partly correct; in the long term it is the interests of Nova Scotians that would be at risk.

The second facet to that is that many within the legal profession are being - in many of the cases that I know of - being directed by the banking industry now that here is x number of dollars, this is what you do this mortgage for or we are going to get somebody else because it is a numbers game; we do not want you to go back and do a title search back to the Crown, we do not want you to go back the 40 years, we do not want you to go back 20 years plus a day. Go back, for example if it is a private loan, for 7 or 10 years, go back for that, or whatever.

It is a numbers game so the requirement to do complete due diligence somewhat became evaporated over the last two years for sure and I would venture to say upwards to the last five years. If you were to multiply the total number of transactions on that basis here in Nova Scotia, you were looking at tens of millions of dollars that have been lost. I must apologize, perhaps the minister could enlighten us approximately as to how many transactions take place in the Province of Nova Scotia a year. It might be between 15,000 and 20,000? (Interruption). Yes, thank you.

[Page 220]

But if you were to take that and to multiply that as to the differential between the average cost of a mortgage title search depending upon what jurisdiction you are in, if you average them all out, the light ones and the heavy ones - to use for the lack of a better phrase - you would be looking at between $400 and $500. Then if you look at the cost of a survey certificate, today you would be looking at between $300 and $350. So, if you take the total cost of going from about $800 down to about $250 multiplied by the total number of transactions; you can imagine the amount of business that is lost in Nova Scotia.

One of the flaws in that process is that most clients would have the legal work and the survey work done when they get their mortgage. I say most because I am speaking from a jurisdiction that I come from and my comments may be a bit skewed. It may not be representative of all the different counties. But, generally, a lot of these documents are Greek to the average client. They are Greek because you hire a professional and you expect them to look after your interest.

In the Cape Breton registry system, in the Registry of Deeds in Sydney, up until, I would say, the early to mid-1970's, any member of the Bar who would search title and prepare an abstract of title would generally record that in the Registry of Deeds for protection. That was their insurance. Today, I think a totally different view would be taken of that and I see some of the members of the legal community putting a slight smile on their face and there are lots of rationales and I do not want to go in that direction.

To move into the land titles system, one of the benefits of this is this quality assurance that has to be provided to the Registrar because it is a no-fault insurance plan that is being put in place. As I understand, when any transfer of title would take place, for value, not anything that would not have value but anything that would have transfer of title for value, would automatically require an abstract of title certified to be registered with the registrar so as to ensure the quality of title up to that particular point of time for which the document would be recorded.

Certainly the issue of freedom of information is a consideration, and I understand those documents are protected. That is a good facet, as I understand. In this particular document, that is a good facet. I would be interested to hear from the minister as to how he and the government propose to pay for this insurance plan. Perhaps I missed it somewhere on the dissertation, his opening remarks. I would be most interested to see how the people of Nova Scotia would be paying for this particular piece of insurance.

Is it going to be on a user-fee basis? Is it going to be on a taxation basis, a direct taxation? Is it going to be a fund that is set up by the provincial government through Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations, an initial fund of x number of millions of dollars, so as to be able to kick-start the system? Because all it would take is one claim to make things rather interesting, particularly if you are talking, for example, a piece of real estate in

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downtown Halifax. It wouldn't take long to gobble up $10 million or $20 million on a major legal impasse there. These are the types of things.

It would certainly require a command of considerable interest by members of the legal profession. I understand they are required by law, as any member of the Survey Association, to carry what we refer to as mandatory liability insurance. These are issues, I believe. It would be quite helpful if the minister could clarify some of those points.

Mr. Speaker, on the issue of privatization, obviously this point has been made to some extent, the issue of privacy because of the utilization of electronic processes. Now presently, for example, surveyors in the province prepare their plan; they can do it using electronic means, but eventually they have to reduce it in print form and submit it to the planning offices, if it is a subdivision or for a building permit. Before it is given final ratification, they have to have that in print form, maybe x number of copies there.

My understanding is that over the next number of years, particularly under this process, we will be eliminating a lot of that need for paper usage. A lot of these documents will be transferred automatically, whether it be from the lawyer's office or from the surveyor's office or whoever would be responsible for the transfer of that document, that would be dealt with electronically.

Now, the issue of ensuring private interest, or to protect it, certainly I believe that those mechanisms have to be ensured before this new system kicks in. If there are any bugs in the system, and if for some strange reason somebody happens to push the wrong key, if they are doing business with three or four different law firms in the province, and then inadvertently they press the wrong key, instead of sending a document to lawyer one, they send it to lawyer two, and that could very well compromise their client's position. These are the types of securities that I think really have to be addressed. That could be anything from the notice of judgment, it could be some documents, some statutory declarations that would have to be recorded in the registry.

That is a concern, how this whole process is going to roll out. Certainly in the Registry of Deeds, you can go down, for example to Hollis Street at the Terminal Building, and go on-line and essentially do your title search without much difficulty because you have your land registration, your land mapping and information service immediately adjacent. So it is fairly integrated and I have had the good pleasure to utilize that service. That to me, Mr. Speaker, is a real concern.

[4:45 p.m.]

Another concern that I have and this is a concern that I have not so much for metro as for rural Nova Scotia. In many respects in the Halifax Regional Municipality, in my view, I would suggest it is almost the equalivent of a land title system because it has not quite an

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integrated survey process in place which is what you require for a full land title system to be in place much the same as they have in St. John's, Montreal, parts of Toronto, western Canada. My concern is that in rural Nova Scotia many documents are not recorded and I realize that there is a process to bring them into the system. When you are dealing with attitudes towards a system that has evolved over 250 years-plus, the time frame that has been suggested as to whether that could be addressed in a 10 year period, I would have to agree that there is considerable concern as to whether that would actually be an appropriate time frame.

I understand as well that perhaps the government will be moving with at least one pilot project under this new bill. Then if that works and as that is completed the government will move on to a series of projects. Is that going to be focused in an urban centre or is it going to be focused in a part of the province that balances the interest between rural and urban? There are in many respects two entirely different schools of thinking and attitudes on dealing with these documents.

I will give you an example. When I was working for the Department of Lands and Forests back in 1976-77 just around the time I was doing some formal training and it was around the time the expropriation took place for the proposed steel plant at Gabarus that never really materialized. The 3000 acres, the government had to settle land claims through expropriated, mutual agreement of purchases, sales and so on. Ironically one particular piece of real estate that had been settled through the process, I am not sure whether it was through purchase or expropriation, I believe it was through the expropriation aspect, although the entire thing was expropriation, the mechanisms inside that for settlement for individual land claims took different courses of action. After one particular parcel was all settled we came back and I just happened to stumble on a will in the Registry of Deeds that actually divided that property eight different ways after it had been settled one way.

These are some of the complexities that can arise and it is very difficult to put this all on the shoulders of the legal profession. I know that certain caveats and certain restrictions can be put in their certificate of title but these are some of the difficulties that can arise. Particularly, since we have many pieces of real estate in every county of this province that are designed on what we refer to as meets and bounds description. In other words, if you had 200 acres that came from the Crown and somehow down through the first or second generation of land ownership, the architect of the first set of deeds downstream so to speak, would actually start to make reference to bounded on the east by Joe MacLean, bounded on the west by Angus MacIsaac and north by Tim Olive and south by Ron Chisholm. So what you have under this proposed system is the requirement, or it enables the registrar, to give directive that that deed description is not acceptable in the registry. That is my understanding. Now, does that require the client to go out and survey that 100 or 200 acres? Perhaps maybe there have been some pieces of road put through, power transmission lines, there could be a whole variety of things, small lots taken out, could be some overlap, because the issue of adverse possession through that 40 or 50 year period of time is unsettled.

[Page 223]

The registrar does have that authority to direct a proper description to be put in. Now, that doesn't necessarily require the client to have a survey done, but ergo we're dealing with the land registration system. The land registration system, as I understand, and this is from discussions with some of the stakeholders that were involved with the consultative process, who advised me that the registrar would generally or presumably direct the parties to whom this transaction would be partaking to go and base the description from the LRIS mapping. That's a possibility. Now on the bottom of the LRIS mapping, there's a big note that says these are to be used for graphical representation only and not for transfer of title.

I'm paraphrasing a bit but I think essentially the point I'm making is, we have to be careful that we are not going from the pan to the fire, that's something I'm sure that the technical experts within the department and within the legal profession and certainly my profession will address. But it's something I look at, not from within my survey profession perspective but rather from the general public point of view. Having worked in various capacities on that, this will be a problem, because you can have the best laws in the country but if people reject and resist, we are going to have major problems. I would encourage the minister to ensure that we have a very effective communications package to ensure the people of Nova Scotia that there is a comfort level and there is something very positive for everybody to participate in this system. It's one thing to legislate but its another thing to ensure that people accept this. Because it wouldn't be the first piece of legislation, heaven knows we haven't even gone one full session and already the government has shelved the issue dealing with foreign ownership. It went through first, second and third reading and now they want it proclaimed. They're going to send it off to Voluntary Planning and then ask Voluntary Planning to adhere to certain terms of reference that will meet the government's objective.

Now, first of all, that's against the very principle of what Voluntary Planning has been set up for. They're an independent think-tank to give the type of information to the government that they feel would be in the best interest of public policy and for the interest of Nova Scotians. But for the government to go and start advising, and strong-arming and saying to Voluntary Planning, these are the terms of reference that we want you to go back and review this process, obviously, you can pretty well draw what your conclusion is. It's pretty much the same as what happened with the red tape task force. It's the same idea.

The government had a conclusion, essentially they drew up terms of reference to meet that conclusion and then they encouraged x number of members of the government backbenchers to go out on a road show to achieve that goal. Of course there was one rather able member who saw the folly of that, and he pulled up stakes and left. I am not going to mention that person's name because he is in the Chamber but he is not sitting in his chair.

I am drawing an analogy here, obviously, but it is a major concern. If you were to go to Glace Bay, and look at some of it. There are essentially three phases in history to the transfer of titles in Glace Bay. From the Crown to the first set of land tenure, that was backed

[Page 224]

up with some of the best legal and survey work that was done in the Province of Nova Scotia. Then it went through a period of not so good. Then, for the most part, the coal mining companies, I believe it was Dominion Iron and Steel and some other company interest, they came along with their own surveyors and lawyers, and they did a bang-up job. All the streets were laid out according to where the houses were. The houses were laid out in rows, and all the street lines were set x number of feet from the front of the houses. That is how the street lines were established. The same for the sidelines, the boundaries.

It is very easy to survey in Glace Bay, in some places. But there is that dark part of history where surveyors and lawyers didn't do such a good job. Being a member of the survey profession, as a representative of that body, I have to accept some of that responsibility. I know this new system will address a lot of those inequities.

Mr. Speaker, another issue in here with regard to the central registrar being able to appoint deputy registrars and additional employees. What happens with all those employees in the existing system? (Interruptions) Nine minutes, I am just getting warmed up. What happens to all those employees? Is there a carry-over? Are there successor rights? Will a lot of these registrars of deeds lose their jobs? Will they have to go back and compete, and go back into the system? These are real concerns that I think should be addressed.

Certainly the issue of the Matrimonial Property Act. In the last session of the House, the Minister of Justice brought in legislation that made provision for two options for those living common-law. One is with regard to common-law partners who want to register in the system, and from the date of registry into the system, then they have the same rights as if they were a married couple. What happens if those individuals decide they are not going to register? Perhaps in process that can be dealt with internally. These are, perhaps, issues that maybe the minister would refer to as being problematic and could be addressed without too much concern.

Mr. Speaker, oh, my time has doubled, I have gone from 9 to 22 minutes. As I understand as well, when an individual is going to register a document, and that is if there is a consideration for value, in other words, if I am going to give a piece of land, for example, to the Minister of Community Services, I don't have to go and get that abstract of title or he doesn't have to provide that abstract of title because it is not for value. It is only if there is value. So that is fine. If it is for value, one of the flaws that I see in the existing system, and I may have missed it in my read through but I don't see it in the new proposed legislation, is the requirement to ensure that the certificate of value is also recorded somewhere within the system, whether it be in the Assessment Office, whether it be with the Land Registration Information office, whether it is in the Registry of Deeds, or with the Registrar.

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[5:00 p.m.]

I don't think you would register it in the Registry of Deeds because that is confidential information, but the fact, if there are some potential conflicts that would arise because that information is not available; for example, Mr. Speaker, if I sold a piece of land to the Minister of Community Services for $50,000 and perhaps that is by design of three or four parcels and, in fact, only two get recorded as being transferred and that affidavit of value comes back or is lost in the system, he does not have a copy of it. I don't have a copy of it. The Assessment Office does not have a copy. The Registry of Deeds does not have a copy. The municipal tax office does not have a copy. There is no requirement to hold that in the system somewhere under protection because, obviously, privacy is an issue.

Now presently, when a document, whether it be a mortgage document or a simple transfer for value takes place, those affidavits - they usually come in triplicate, I believe, in all municipalities now, the initial format was put out by the Department of Housing and Municipal Affairs - those documents for the most part are only held for 30 days and then they are put in a basket and they are thrown in the garbage. Will the new system ensure that if we are dealing electronically, that somewhere they are secured, perhaps with the Assessment Office I would think, or the tax office, so as to make sure that when these certificates of title are provided to the central Registrar, they will contain all the pertinent information and these type of loopholes don't become exaggerated and it is a way to close that gap.

That, to me, is a major issue because it goes right back to what the government is doing, both provincially and municipally, and that is monitoring the value of our real estate. Certainly it should be a major concern if the government is proposing this equalization plan. Every penny counts and you want to make sure that the value that is being attributed to a particular piece of real estate is, in fact, what transpired because maybe as has happened recently in a previous government, is you can go out and buy a $10,000 car from myself and say I am only going to pay $100 and at one time that is what it was. You paid the tax on the $100. Presently there is an assessment process.

Mr. Speaker, that is a major issue because under this new system the government will be forced to address some of those inequities because there will have to be a requirement, as the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations said during Question Period today, some accountability to ensure that they just don't fall back and rely on the benefits of the more well-to-do municipalities in the province.

So it all ties in. So I would raise that. I would flag that with the minister. I have flagged it with some of the stakeholders, as recently as yesterday, because I think it is an important issue that perhaps most people would not consider if they were not working with the system on a regular basis.

[Page 226]

Obviously, Mr. Speaker, what we are doing here is giving a guarantee for fee simple and fee simple only. It is not going to be the same as the land title system in any of the integrated jurisdictions whether it be Saint John or Montreal, Toronto or in the Torrens system. It is a good first step to go in that direction but the big thing is the cost.

My understanding is the cost of registering a deed, a document, will go from its present level to a substantially higher level. (Interruption) Well, I would like to address that because my understanding is the average cost of registering a document in the Halifax registry is somewhere around $25 to $27 a document but yet the fee that is charged is $40 plus $1.00 for every page thereafter. I see the member for Halifax Bedford Basin shaking her head - I can only go by the information as provided to me by officials within the department and the schedule of fees that we have to pay when we go in to register documents, so that is what I am going by. Maybe she has a different access of information.

My understanding is that will go from a basic $41 to somewhere between $70 and $75. Is that fair to the Halifax Regional Municipality? But on the other hand, if you look at Baddeck, if you were to take in the total cost, really, as the Auditor General would say, analyzing the user fee versus a tax, then you would have to look at the entire cost of having that registry office there. The cost of the rental space, heat, lights, staff, the whole component because it does such a low volume of transfers and transactions, my understanding is if you were to translate that into a user fee you would be looking at in excess of $200 a document.

You can see there is quite a disparity. I believe within the Cape Breton Regional Municipality we are pretty much on line. I might be off - I am going by memory here - but I think it is pretty much on line with the going fees. So, it is one of the few user fees that is really a user fee in the province and I would like to compliment the previous administration for that.

This is an issue that certainly will be a concern for all Nova Scotians because anyone in the survey profession, anyone in the legal profession and it will certainly generate lots of activity and protect us from those American interests, but at what point will it start to cost more than the system can bear? I recall it was not that long ago when you could go to the local planning commission and register a plan for $15. When I started surveying, 21, 22 years ago, the cost of a subdivision plan registry (Interruption) - I know I do not look that old, but I am aging in here - the cost of registering a plan was $15. Now because of the requirement of registering in the Registry of Deeds, to register that subdivision plan is $200. That is how much it has increased in 20 years. That is a phenomenally high increase, notwithstanding the cost of registering a deed. I believe back around 1978 that would have been about, I am venturing to say, $15; now it is $40 plus the cost, although when you figure out the legal fees that are on that and so on, generally the cost for a client would be about $125 so if there is going to be an additional fee on this, how much more is the government going to be downloading on to the people of Nova Scotia with the implementation of this particular piece of legislation?

[Page 227]

That has not been discussed and that is a concern. Another concern is, at what point in time will the government make a decision that it will start to close some of the registry offices across Nova Scotia. If the system, as envisaged by the minister, is implemented, it is quite conceivable . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I am having a great deal of difficulty hearing the honourable member speak. I would appreciate it if the members would take their private conversations outside of the Chamber, please. The honourable member for Cape Breton West has the floor.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I can certainly speak up a bit, if that would help. My concern is that the issues that we have before us, the issue of fee simple, I believe will be addressed; the issue of life interest and interests of the Crown, I would ask if the minister would be kind enough to perhaps explain that a little more in-depth, maybe when he is closing up, because I am not sure that I fully understand the implications of this with those two issues. The issue of protecting individual interests is obviously a major concern.

Mr. Speaker, I can only encourage the minister to make sure those points are conveyed, particularly to a lot of the seniors across Nova Scotia who find it difficult even grasping the issues of the metric system. It took 10 years for many of them to start to think in terms of the metric system rather than the imperial system. We have gone through a whole generation, several generations, where we are dealing with the metric system, where we had to come from the old English system where we were dealing with poles and rods and chains, rather than inches and feet and yards and so on.

Much of the documentation that is still there is something that one has to be careful of, because when you go through different periods of time, that terminology means different things, it means different measures. That is a concern that I see from a front-line worker.

Going back to the issue of registration and the Registries of Deeds across the province, at what point in time would the minister, I would conjecture loudly, be in a position to be able to rationalize the need for all these various registry offices and deed, land information offices? For example, on Cape Breton Island the central mapping registry is in Sydney. In Richmond County or Victoria County or Inverness County, they have to draw on the resources from the Sydney office to be able to carry out their day-to-day activities in many respects. Is it more plausible for the government, under this new system, because they are both companion now, and under this legislation there is provision to incorporate those, will that negate the need for these offices, after this 10 year period or 5 year period?

There is nothing entrenched in legislation to protect that local interest. The Registry of Deeds in Richmond County is very small in comparison to the Registry of Deeds in Sydney. The same in Inverness, in Port Hood, and the same in Baddeck. You could put those

[Page 228]

three registries together and I venture to say they wouldn't be as big as the registry in Sydney, in terms of total volume and day-to-day activities.

We have to be careful that these local interests are protected. That isn't included in the legislation, and I would submit that is very important, particularly for the uniqueness in Richmond County for which I know I have done considerable amount of work over the years there. It is an entirely different culture, you are speaking an entirely different language, I don't mean French and English, but in terms of the generics of the terminology in deed descriptions mean to the people in Richmond County don't mean the same as it does to people in Cape Breton County, Inverness or Victoria.

[5:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, perhaps all these are just problematic issues but it is a major concern. I certainly wouldn't want the Registries of Deeds in Richmond County, Baddeck or Port Hood within the next number of years to be phased out. Under this plan, right now, the government could very easily transfer everything lock, stock and barrel and still carry on. It would be a major inconvenience for all the residents in those local counties. It would be a major loss in more ways than one, much the same as the issue of the government rationalization plan on courthouses and jails. We saw what happened in Glace Bay, we saw what happened in other parts of the province.

With those few comments, I thank the minister for listening intently. I don't know if I have been of any value, I know some of the points I've raised may be just problematic and can be dealt with within the mechanism, the scope of the legislation and I would appreciate some clarification on that. There are one or two other ones, I think, perhaps particularly with the affidavit of value. I believe that is something that perhaps should seriously be considered. There are certain regulations within the Barristers' Society and so on that would commend the retention of those documents but this is not a perfect system and the government has a slightly different responsibility than a particular society or association in the province.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I realize it may have been very dull and boring for some people but for someone like myself, it is a very important issue that has major implications. It is probably the major piece of legislation that is before us barring the equalization should it come forth. This is a major, major bill of profound proportions. I would encourage all members to participate in this particular deliberation. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Bedford Basin.

MS. MARY ANN MCGRATH: Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased today to rise in my place and speak on behalf of the land registration bill. For those of you who may not know, I spent 25 years of my professional life working in land registration and particularly in property law. (Interruption) I absolutely am that old. For the last 6 years of that time, a lot

[Page 229]

of my energies were devoted to reform of the registry system, reform of property law. This particular bill has great personal satisfaction for me.

The bill addresses a number of issues that, over my 25 years, myself and my colleagues and the lawyers I worked for and the clients we represented, had a great deal of difficulty with. The major piece of the whole thing is consumer protection. We will have certified title guaranteed by the government for landowners in this province and that is such a major issue that it cannot be stressed enough.

We will have electronic storage of documents, which ends the paper mountain that swallows Registries of Deeds across this province. We will have timely access to information. Not just title documents but all major information systems related to land will be captured in an integrated electronic management system. We will have a modernized and streamlined land registration system which eliminates a great number of outdated and cumbersome and timeless processes that we have all had to go through in order to certify title to land in this province. Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to endorse this bill and I thank you for the time.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations.

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank all honourable members for their contribution to the debate. A number of issues have been raised that I will attempt to perhaps clarify and some others I will provide information as the process continues.

First of all Mr. Speaker, I do want to acknowledge the contribution of the last speaker with respect to the development of this legislation. She has provided tremendous assistance to the committee and the work that they have done. She has taken a very keen interest in the development of this legislation.

I believe that there is tremendous potential for this legislation to benefit consumers not just from the point of view of the guarantee, but also from the point of view of creating a much more efficient system which should reflect a more streamlined process that would be more efficient and enable consumers to get a better product for less dollars when it comes to the process. That is my sincere hope as to what will happen with the legislation.

The point has been made with respect to the fee that is charged and I want to underline again what I said in my opening remarks, the current fee is one which does not come close to covering the cost currently incurred in the registration process. That fee, as I indicated, was held constant since 1990 and that was in anticipation of the new changes. The new fee structure is one which will meet the test of the Auditor General in terms of covering the cost of the process. That, Mr. Speaker, is the principle that will be applied with respect to this.

[Page 230]

A point was made, a very legitimate point, with respect to the amount of time and the number of properties that would be registered at the conclusion of the 10 year period. It is not anticipated that all properties would be wrapped up in the new system at that time. It is anticipated that we would have - you can gain an appreciation of how many properties would be affected by just looking at the statistics - there are 100,000 documents recorded every year in this province relative to properties. That means that 100,000 properties per year in the first year, at least, would be taken in. That does not mean that in every year we are going to take in 100,000 properties because some properties would get flipped the second time and they would have been included. We will move a long way toward including all of the properties in the province through the process. It is anticipated that we will have to evaluate where we are as we move forward and develop a strategy with respect to bringing in remaining properties into the process. That is recognized by all who have worked in the system and have attempted to bring the system forward.

I can say with respect to registry offices within the Department of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations, we are depending very heavily on the existence of those registry offices to deliver other services of government. We anticipate those offices remaining in place for quite some time to come because we are going to use their existence within every county of the province to be able to provide other services of government besides the registry function. I feel quite confident in saying that they will be around for quite some period of time.

The compensation issue was raised and the experience in Manitoba. Just by way of example, they made the conversion quite some time ago and have had a guaranteed system in place and in the period since 1885 there were 115 compensation payments made out for a total of less than $200,000. That is since 1885 in Manitoba. We are budgeting a figure of approximately $200,000 a year and do not anticipate having to use all of that. We are certainly allowing for it.

Mr. Speaker, I think I have touched on some of the major questions that were raised by members and if there are other outstanding issues I would certainly be prepared to address those as the process continues. Again, I want to thank all honourable members for their participation in this debate and I am extremely pleased to be able to conclude the debate at second reading and have this matter moved forward to the committee stage. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 1.

Is the House ready for the question? Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

[Page 231]

Ordered that this bill be referred to the Committee on Law Amendments.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call the order of business, Government Motions.


HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move that the adjourned debate on the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne be now resumed.

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

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I am very honoured to have this opportunity to respond to the Speech from the Throne as read Thursday by Her Honour, the Lieutenant Governor.

M. le Président, je suis heureux d'avoir l'occasion de commenter sur le discours du trône de jeudi dernier.

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the two new members in this House, the honourable member for Cape Breton North and the honourable member for Halifax Fairview. I am sure you will find this job presents many challenges, but I know you will find it very rewarding. Good luck to you both. I also would like to congratulate the members of the Party to my right on becoming the Official Opposition, Mr. Speaker.

AN HON. MEMBER: Thank you.

MR. GAUDET: Well, we could probably enter into further debate on that some other day.

Mr. Speaker, this session of the Legislature is a very important one. For the first time in our Party's history we are entering a new House session by sitting in this corner of the Chamber as Third Party. We will work harder to make our voices heard and our message understood.

M. le Président, comme chef du parti libéral, je pense que c'est important d'indiquer la position unique dans laquelle se trouve notre parti. Pour la première fois dans l'histoire du parti libéral nous sommes placés au troisième rang et, M. le Président, la democracie exprime la volonté du peuple.

[Page 232]

The Liberal Party is not content to sit on the Opposition side of the House. As Liberal Leader I want to serve notice to the Premier and to his government that we are focused straight ahead. From where we sit we are looking forward to the government side of the House. We are here to ask questions Nova Scotians have and to get answers Nova Scotians deserve. We do not feel that this government has served the people in the manner in which Nova Scotians were promised. This is why we are looking forward to the next election, Mr. Speaker, not just the end of the session.

M. le Président, nous ne sommes pas convaincus que ce gouvernement agit dans le meilleur interêt des citoyens de la Nouvelle Écosse. C'est notre rôle, comme opposition, de le faire voir à la population.

Mr. Speaker, this is the first opening of a session in more than 30 years without the honourable member from Cape Breton Nova sitting in this Chamber and I know his friends on all sides of the House join me in wishing our colleague a speedy recovery. We hope to have the honourable member for Cape Breton Nova back among us very soon.

[5:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, responding to the Speech from the Throne is an important function in our parliamentary process. It is a responsibility that the Liberal caucus takes very seriously. So I stand here today not simply as Leader of the Liberal Party but as the MLA for Clare.

M. le Président, je prends la parole aujourd'hui, non seulement comme chef du parti libéral mais aussi comme le député de Clare.

As I reflect on the Speech from the Throne, I have to ask some very simple questions. First, are we better off today than we were a year and one-half ago? Is our health care system better equipped to treat us and our loved ones when and where needed? Are children getting a better education in good, healthy schools? Are Nova Scotians confident that the public purse is being managed in a competent and reasonable manner? We all remember the habits of past Tory Governments and names like Buchanan. Are the roads in Nova Scotia safe and well maintained?

M. le Président, à chaque fois que je fais le trajet entre Clare et Halifax, je réalise l'état pitoyable de nos routes.

Can we say that the Tory Government is open and accountable and fulfilling the promises made by that Party to all Nova Scotians in July 1999? Were the commitments made in the last Throne Speech met and does this Speech from the Throne outline a clear vision for the future. Well, Nova Scotians can answer yes to any of those questions, but I would have to admit that this government is doing a good job. Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, the answer is not yes. The answer is not even maybe. The sad truth is that this government is not

[Page 233]

keeping its end of the bargain. They are not fulfilling the contract they made with Nova Scotians in 1999.

Malheureusement, M. le Président, la vérité, il faut le dire, que le gouvernement conservateur actuel n'a pas gardé ses promesses, faites pour se fairé elire. Ils ne remplissent pas le contrat qu'ils ont fait avec les citoyens de la Nouvelle Écosse en 1999.

The Premier and his Cabinet are not living up to the expectations that they themselves have created. They said, Mr. Speaker, that a Premier who cannot balance the books cannot be Premier. They said the health of the health care system can be determined by the number of beds. They said that the health system did not need any new money, it could be fixed with just $46 million found by cutting administration. This is the standard set by the Tories, but they have learned that they have set the bar too high for themselves. Just last year the Premier stated that it may take eight years to fulfill all of his commitments instead of four years as originally promised. He is already asking for a second mandate. If he cannot fulfill his promises in four years, how can Nova Scotians trust him when he says eight years?

Mr. Speaker, at the end of his first mandate Nova Scotians will judge him on his performance. With 243 promises it means that the Premier has to fulfill one promise every week to meet his original goal.

M. le Président, le parti au pouvoir a fait 243 promesses en 1999. Ça veut dire que le premier ministre doit garder au moins une promesse par semaine s'il veut gagner une certaine crédibilité.

Of all the commitments made in the last Throne Speech, the vast majority of them have only been paid lip service. We have seen this with a watered down version of their promise of a code of conduct for students. They have also watered down their code of conduct for Cabinet Ministers and the promised code for senior civil servants is still non-existent today.

So instead of a full time red-tape commissioner, the Tories appointed a task force to keep their backbenchers out of trouble for the summer and the recent statement on Sunday shopping proves how seriously this government takes that task force.

We have yet to see a non-partisan road plan in this province as we were promised. Volunteer firefighters are still waiting for the legislation that will fulfill the promise the Premier made to them on July 21, 1999 regarding providing tax breaks to them. They are waiting.

There has been no plan to clean up heavy industry sites in Cape Breton even though taxpayers continue to pay for it. Again, this was announced in the last Speech from the Throne.

[Page 234]

The last Throne Speech spoke of long-term funding to allow school boards to better plan for the future of our children. Mr. Speaker, you probably misunderstood. I will repeat. The last Throne Speech spoke of long-term funding to allow school boards to better plan for the future of our children. Well, instead, this government delivered cuts to education, not extra funding.

Perhaps the biggest message to come out of the last Throne Speech was privatization.

M. le Président, le plus grand message du dernier discours du trône, s'adresse aux entreprises privées de la province.

Nearly every page mentioned that there will be less government and that government will turn over a host of services to the private sector. The Tories used the 1999 Throne Speech to appease their friends in big business, but the government, this government, has lost its political will.

Instead of privatizing highway workers, liquor stores, provincial resorts, the Tories waffled and wavered and delivered half-baked schemes that are not satisfying anyone. They backed away from their plan for Sunday shopping only when the Premier's personal credibility came into question and only after the Finance Minister finished speaking to the Metro Chamber of Commerce.

The last Throne Speech stated that the first goal of the government is also its first priority - health care. Health care was also the number one set of promises in the election blue book. In fact, two-thirds of the Tory blue book contain promises on health, education and jobs. Nowhere in those first 17 pages does it mention finance, balanced budget or a 10 per cent cut.

M. le Président, nul part dans les premières 17 pages du livre bleu, fait-on réfèrence aux finances, à un budget équilibré ou une réduction de taxes de 10%.

Even tourism ranked higher than finance in the Premier's election campaign but today the Premier is trying to convince Nova Scotians that he was elected based on a promise to balance the books. Talk about credibility.

People voted for health care but got a health scare instead.

M. le Prèsident, les gens de la Nouvelle Écosse ont votés pour un meilleur système de service dans le domaine de la santé. C'est ça qu'ils ont votés pour. C'est ca que nous avons aujourd'hui est un système de santé en crise.

[Page 235]

It has been a year and a half since this government presented its first Speech from the Throne so when I listened to the Lieutenant Governor deliver the Throne Speech last Thursday I felt a sense of déjà vu. I had heard many of these promises and commitments before. I hardly see the need for this current document because most of the commitments from the last Throne Speech have not been fulfilled and the rest have been recycled in this year's Speech from the Throne. When it comes to the Throne Speech, I can't help but think everything old is new again.

While I am pleased that several pages are devoted to issues concerning children, I hope this means Tories will stop their continued criticism of our teachers and provide the resources they need in the classroom. The people of Clare have questions regarding the public education system in our community. The provincial government, through the Department of Education, the Southwest Regional School Board, the Tri-County District School Board and the Conseil Scolaire Acadien Provincial, is offering public education to the citizens of Clare.

There is discord on education issues in Clare. It all started out with a well-meaning goal, making sure Nova Scotia Acadians and French-speaking citizens have an education of high quality with control over the administration of their education and the resources necessary to assure top-quality education. But the effort to create top-quality education programs in Clare, a right under the Canadian Constitution, has created a tense situation. Very tense; there is frustration in our community. The Department of Education relies on three administrative structures for recommendations.

Mr. Speaker, there seems to be confrontation rather than co-operation between all the different groups involved in this matter, and the political strategy is very obvious. This coming fall, students who choose courses in English might be bused outside of our community. That was never heard of before; for the first time ever, students from the Municipality of Clare will be bused outside, those who are looking at taking programs in English. This doesn't sit well with me or with many residents of Clare, even though it might be said that this is a temporary measure. I believe Clare students should have a choice to study right at home in Clare.

If there is no dialogue and consultation, the controversies might lead to hurting programs for our students and, yes the quality of education might suffer. Unless the tone changes, the practical impact of what we might end up with is going to be limited and perhaps even negative, so I hope the Department of Education will monitor this situation very closely. I also hope that the numerous studies, reports and surveys proposed in this Throne Speech do not mean that we will have to wait another year and a half to see real progress.

[Page 236]

I am not encouraged by the Speech from the Throne; it is just a rehash of the 1999 Throne Speech, the Tory blue book, federal programs and initiatives started by the previous Liberal Government. The Tories have once again promised new information technology for the health care system. The Auditor General said this proposal is long overdue and has been sitting on the Health Minister's desk for quite some time, while health costs continue to grow. This was something the Liberals identified as a priority, but the man, now Premier, said no. I hope it is not too late.

Other items borrowed from the previous Liberal Government include the Nova Scotia Business Registry, Cancer Patient Navigation System, the rural transportation program, Internet connections for schools and communities, highway sign policy, Land Use Registry 2000, and restorative justice. I am not going to go into detail. I know that my colleague from Cape Breton South did the other day. I could go on but I think I have made my point about this Throne Speech lacking vision or original ideas. Among the over 50 percent of recycled material there are a number of areas that the Liberal caucus is deeply concerned about.

[5:45 p.m.]

First, we feel the speech lacks any vision for offshore development. How are Nova Scotians expected to understand where the Tories see the offshore industry 10 years from now? Once again, the government has set its target for $1.5 billion for the tourism industry in spite of the fact that tourism numbers have dropped since the Tories have been in power. Although, Mr. Speaker, I understand that tourism in Scotland just got a little boost lately.

Mr. Speaker, I am afraid that the Tories are sending mixed messages about equalization. On Page 8 the government begs for better treatment from Ottawa but then announces its plan to punish prosperous municipalities. It is interesting that the Throne Speech mentions the expansion of the Human Resources Department despite the fact that this government has already announced it was going to be done away with.

Nova Scotians should be concerned that after a year of clinical services planning there is still no plan for health. The Throne Speech says there is more planning to come. I am sure this will please people on waiting lists or nurses who have just been fired.

As a former teacher, I am disappointed that there is no mention in the Throne Speech of the Loan Remission Program. Even though the Minister of Education hinted that it would be brought back.

On the very first page of the speech is recognition of the International Year of the Volunteer. Mr. Speaker, these would be more than hollow words if the Premier would return the over $4 million he took away from charities and non-profit organizations. That is what I call recognition.

[Page 237]

Mr. Speaker, I have to wonder why the Tories are repeating so many promises and rehashing their last Throne Speech. I believe that it is because this government did not know what they were getting themselves into. I am reminded of the story that is a favourite of the Minister of Transportation, the MLA for Hants West. It is the story of the outgoing Premier who offers advice to his successor after an election. The older, wiser politician gave the Premier three envelopes to open in the event of a crisis. The first envelope said blame the former government, the second said blame the federal government and the third said make three more envelopes.

It is an old joke, Mr. Speaker, but it sounds very familiar today. This is where the current government now finds itself. The Premier has no more envelopes but he would like at least one more that says blame the health boards except the health boards have not existed since October 1999. The Premier has pointed the finger at everyone else for troubles of his own design. There is only one left to blame. This is a crucial time for the government because they must now be accountable for their own decisions.

C'est un temps critique pour le gouvernment. Le gouvernment est responsable pour ses propres décisions.

This government no longer has any excuses for ducking their responsibilities. For nearly two years the Premier, the Finance Minister, the Health Minister, the Transportation Minister and every minister inside Cabinet has tried to blame the former government for unpopular decisions. The best excuse they could come up with is, the Liberals did it too.

Well, let me remind the House what the Tories did. It took the Finance Minister nearly two years to finally tell the truth about the legacy of the Government of John Buchanan. When the Liberals took power in 1993, we were left with a deficit of at least $1.1 billion. In fact, this figure could be closer to $1.8 billion. The Finance Minister has tried his best to hide his past in hopes that these fiscal sins will be forgiven. Nova Scotians should never forget that $1.1 billion. That's $70 million in extra debt-servicing costs year in and year out. That one year's deficit could almost pay for the health care system for the entire year, but the Finance Minister does not want to talk about past Tory Administrations. He only wants to blame past Liberal ones. Well, if the minister does not want to talk about past government, we will hold him to that, especially when he tries to blame the previous government for the failures of the current one. We will hold the Premier to that standard.

I have been looking forward to this session in order to face the Premier. Our caucus wants to look the Premier in the eye, and this group across the benches when we address and when we debate the issues that are so important to so many Nova Scotians. In between sessions the Premier seems to disappear. He is stage-managed by his handlers. Instead of a Premier, Nova Scotians and the media have been forced to depend on soundbites from his official spokesperson. Otherwise, the Premier has taken on the role of just making special appearances at well-rehearsed public events.

[Page 238]

We have seen the Premier on TV with his Campaign for Fairness or his "deal is a deal" appeal in the offshore boundary dispute. Well, Nova Scotia has been reduced to government by catchphrase; leadership through clichés.

Since the first Throne Speech Nova Scotians have learned new clichés as well. Phrases like, ferret it out, the footprint is coming; and the FOIPOP-able. Is it any wonder why Nova Scotians have such a dim view of politics and politicians? This is very regrettable.

M. les Néo-Écossais ont raison d'avoir un manque de confiance dans la politique et les politiciens. Ceci est très regrettable. Le parti au pouvoir a perdu le contact et la confiance des citoyens.

The Liberal caucus has the role to hold the government accountable. When we Liberals are successful in regaining government, we will have to spend the first half of our mandate cleaning up the mess of this Tory Government.

As my caucus prepares to carry out duties as a thoughtful and responsible Opposition, I have to pause and think about what we, the Liberal Party, would do differently. We would approve the budget for hospitals and nursing homes in an efficient and timely manner. We would have recognized the need for strategic investments in health two years ago, instead of trying to downsize and cut our way out of a financial crisis. We would not waste the potential of the offshore by allowing industry to drift forward in neutral. We would present this vision to our federal cousins in a clear way and not drop the problem on Ottawa's lap and expect them to develop the solution for us. We would not pit one area of the province against another, or play divide-and-conquer with municipalities. I hope that the government will allow its members a free vote on this equalization proposal when it comes to the floor of the House.

M. le Président, plutôt d'être en conflit avec les municipalités, le parti libéral veut travailler en coopération avec les municipalités.

We would not sacrifice the health and education of our children today in order to pay for a 10 per cent tax cut in two years; we would take responsibility for our actions.

M. le Président, nous n'allons pas abandoner le santé et l'éducation de nos enfants pour payer pour une réduction de taxes de dix pourcent. Nous serons responsables pour nos actions.

We would not continue to try to convince Nova Scotians that there is a plan if there is not. That is what this current government has done since it has come to power. At no time since the last Throne Speech has this government acted like it knew what it was doing. Even the Auditor General says the Tories seem to have no idea where they are going, and certainly no direction on how to get there. This is why the Finance Minister recently threatened Nova

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Scotians with new user fees for health care, but now he says that if it was not for investments in health the budget would be balanced this year.

Well, no wonder Nova Scotians are confused with the financial status of our province. This is why we have not yet seen their promised plans for health, education, roads or economic development. The only plan this government has, and has ever had, is to dangle the 10 per cent tax cut in front of voters just before the next election.

M. le Président, le seul plan que ce gouvernement a jamais eu c'est un plan de réduire les taxes de 10% pour annoncer pendant la prochaine campagne electorale.

Mr. Speaker, in closing, the Premier expects that the pain of his cuts will be forgotten, but Nova Scotians will remember that they paid for this 10 per cent tax cut through larger class sizes, fewer teachers, longer hospital waiting lists, fewer front-line health care workers and higher user fees. This Tory Government will pay for underestimating the priorities and values of Nova Scotians, because Nova Scotians will not tolerate Tory political games at any cost. I thank you for your attention.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. We are approaching the moment of interruption, so if I may ask the member, please, to move adjournment of debate.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, at this time, I would move adjournment of debate.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is to adjourn debate.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, tomorrow being Opposition Day, perhaps the House Leader for the Official Opposition might give us an indication of the business for tomorrow and the hours which we will be sitting.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Opposition House Leader.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, we will be sitting from 2:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. The two items that we hope to be able to get completed are Resolution No. 74 and Bill No. 6. I have conveyed information on those two items previously to the two other House Leaders.

Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now rise and that we meet again tomorrow at the hour of 2:00 p.m.

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MR. SPEAKER: The motion is to adjourn until tomorrow.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

The motion is carried.

MR. SPEAKER: The subject of tonight's late debate was submitted by the member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage. The motion submitted:

"Therefore be it resolved that in light of the secrecy surrounding the April 2001 Summit of the Americas in Quebec City, this House urges the Federal Government to undertake a public debate and broadly democratic discussion before entering into any trade agreement that would harm the quality of services and environmental protection enjoyed by Canadians."

[6:00 p.m.]



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



MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate having the opportunity to speak on this resolution. Sometimes in the day-to-day grind of our lives, or in the day-to-day grind of the House, there is a tendency to forget about the bigger picture and to forget about the fact that there are decisions being made. In this coming month, in April, in Quebec City, there will be very serious potential decisions being made that will impact our lives for years to come.

When this was first read earlier today, one of the other members of the House commented, why are we wasting our time talking about a federal issue, I think was the term that member said under their breath. I thought to myself, is labour standards a federal issue? Is the environment a federal issue? Is health care or education federal issues? No, these are issues that under the Constitution of Canada are under the protection of the provincial jurisdiction and they are things that the province must deal with. Yet, in April, less than a month from now, in Quebec City these are issues that will be discussed by our federal government on our behalf and they will be discussed with other countries in an attempt to

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try to negotiate a free trade agreement for the Americas which is nothing more than an extension of NAFTA for all of Central, South and North America.

Why is that wrong? Our Party would tell you that it is wrong because free trade isn't the answer, fair trade is the answer and I will talk about a couple of examples in the short time I have as to why fair trade has worked and worked quite successfully in other parts of the world, but what we have under NAFTA and what is being proposed under the Free Trade Agreement of the Americas, Mr. Speaker, is an attempt to create the free transportation and deregulation of capital amongst all the western hemisphere, not labour, not anything else, but to allow capital to be able to move freely throughout the western hemisphere and this is being done because certain interests within our society, notably corporations and the business community, is interested in being able (Interruption) Look, it is their job. Don't get me wrong. They believe in the bottom line. They believe in making the largest and best profits for their shareholders, that is their job, but the fact is governments do not have to kowtow to that. Governments do not have to accept that as the only agenda and that is where we get into a problem.

Government's job is not to free up the markets to the point where they are then able to allow corporations to run freely without regulation amongst the western hemisphere and that is the real problem with what some call free trade, Mr. Speaker, with the FTAA, with NAFTA, and before that, the FTA. It is an attempt to allow business to be able to freely without regulation be able to move their capital to other parts and we see this. This is part of globalization and this is why so many people are upset about it. We see businesses moving their capital to Indonesia or to Papua, New Guinea, or to Vietnam, or to China where most things are made now, and in an attempt to try to ensure that they can either use the cheapest labour possible, the cheapest materials possible, again, for the bottom line, but there are impacts of that and governments are elected by people, not by corporations, and they are elected to protect our interests.

In the case of Nova Scotia, our interests, as I noted earlier, labour, environment, health care and education, how are they affected? We see under NAFTA already that a lot of pressure is being put on our standards for labour and environment. There is a real attempt to try to prevent us from being able to impose more strict regulations because we are told that businesses will pack up and move. They will move to South Carolina. They will move to Indonesia under GATT but, in fact, Mr. Speaker, that is the real problem, that we are being held hostage by transnational corporations, that we are not allowed to actually control our own destiny. That is a real problem and that is what must stop and that is why free trade is so dangerous.

It goes even further. We see under GATT, we see under NAFTA that there are attempts to try and talk about health care and education as goods and services that then should come under those particular agreements. Then we get into the whole issue of privitization and corporatization of our education and our health care system and American and European

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corporations being able to come to Canada and be able to set up private health care systems and be able to set up private educational services. That is not the way we run things in Nova Scotia. That is not the way we run things in Canada and that must be stopped. The irony of it is some in Canada are doing the same thing in other countries and I would suggest that if those in other countries are not happy with that, they should stand up and fight for it as well.

There are a couple of examples, Mr. Speaker, of how this can be done, why fair trade can work over free trade. The most prominent is the European Union. The European Union has clearly identified a system in which it has said we are not just going to have the free deregulation of capital, we are going to ensure that standards are in place. Some say, well, those standards are for the countries that are already developed. Canada, the United States, England, Japan, they already have high standards. They have a high quality of life. It is to protect their own. Well, no, the EU has done a very good thing. It has created a system in which, for example, Ireland, or Greece, or Portugal, which were countries that were clearly not as developed, did not have the infrastructure, did not have the education levels, did not have the health care system and the quality of life that the other countries in Europe had were provided with time frames. If they wanted to enter the EU they had then the dropping of barriers with regard to trade over a period of time in return for them and they would get money in order to help them improve their standard of life.

Now we see with Ireland how this has been so successful. Ireland is now - I was reading this in the Economist the other day - the fifth best per capita income, Gross Domestic Product per capita in the world. Better than Canada, better than England, better than every country, I believe, except Switzerland, Norway, Denmark and the United States. This is Ireland, a country that only a few short years ago many people said was always the poor cousin to England, poor cousin to the U.K. It is now a stronger, more vibrant economy and the strongest, most vibrant economy in all of Europe and that is because they were given an opportunity under fair trade to improve their standards and their quality of life. It was not just about capital, it was about more than that.

That is what we need under the FTAA. We do not need free trade - we need a fair trade agreement. This resolution we brought forward because in April this is going to start being discussed in Quebec City. It may not end there but a lot of decisions, potentially, will be made and we have heard a lot about the summit, we have heard a lot about the People's Summit at the same time. We have all heard about the fear of confrontations and so on.

This is democracy in action and this is what we should not be afraid of. This is about people coming forward and saying, we want an opportunity to have our position heard. The Government of Canada and the Government of Nova Scotia must ensure that is being done and that we do take the opportunity to ensure that democracy is going to have a say, that the people of Canada will have a say.

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Whether its health care system, its Medicare system will be destroyed and whether our public education system will be further deteriorated and opened up to private sector influence, whether or not we will destroy our labour standards - Nova Scotia sometimes has the reputation now of being the Mississippi of Canada when it comes to labour and environmental standards. Are we now going to be the Paraguay, the Uruguay, the Nicaragua of North America? I don't know but the fact is, let the people of Canada have an opportunity to look at this, learn and ensure that the government is accountable for its negotiation tactics and in the end hopefully have an opportunity to maybe even vote on this through a referendum; at least have the opportunity to ensure the government is being held accountable and is able to put forward clearly what it is negotiating.

Fair trade, I believe, is what most Canadians want. They do not want their standard of living destroyed. It is an agenda of a small minority of Canadians who are concerned - again, rightfully so - with the bottom line. As a Government of Canada and of Nova Scotia, our agenda and people in this House are elected to represent more than just the bottom line, we are here to represent quality of life, we are here to represent an opportunity for all Nova Scotians to succeed.

That does not start by reducing our quality of life. That does not start by further reducing our labour standards and our environmental standards and I would hope that the Government of Canada through the influence of this House encouraging them, will ensure that those things under our jurisdiction: health care, education, labour standards, environmental standards, will not be further deteriorated and that we will ensure fair trade in North America and indeed, the western hemisphere and not just free trade. That is what we need and that is why we brought this resolution forward. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: I am pleased to rise to make a number of interventions on this particular resolution. I must say at the outset I am somewhat surprised by the presence of this particular resolution before the House given the state of urgency that the NDP caucus has indicated as late as yesterday with the release of the poll that identified a number of other rather more pressing issues such as health care that certainly is not available when you need it, and that was identified as their number one priority. Quality education for Nova Scotia's children was their number two priority. Ironically that is not before us here today.

New and expanded industries that bring jobs. Again, what are we talking about? We are talking about encouraging some support for a socialist Leader in Ottawa who has failed to capture the imagination and the hearts and the minds and the confidence of the people of Canada, and has now resorted to falling back on her provincial counterparts to go and give some support at an official protest rally. That is essentially really what they have been commissioned to do here today. It is very disappointing. I respect the honourable member

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for his resolution and his rather eloquent dissertation on the issue, but I think that it demonstrates quite clearly that they are not dealing with what they themselves feel is their number one priority to the people of Nova Scotia, which indeed has an impact on all people in Canada because we are all Canadians. What is good for one is good for us all.

What about their 10 percent tax cut? No discussion of that. What about eliminating the deficit and the debt burden on future generations? Obviously some of the other more interesting topics I think would have been appropriate here this evening rather than this resolution which is somewhat superfluous to our needs here in Nova Scotia, such as the shortage of doctors, nurses, medical technology and certain particular drugs that are needed to help critically ill people here in the Province of Nova Scotia.

Water quality. Certainly that falls within the purview of Environment and that is the essence in part of what the honourable member is refering to, as well as Labour Standards. What about the issue of water quality in Glace Bay? What about down in Garland, Nova Scotia? What about all the problems we are having with our landfills? We have considerable confusion within the Department of Transporation and Public Works and the Department of Environment and Labour as to who really has what responsibility for what aspect of the environmental regulations and the water facilities here in the Province of Nova Scotia - major issues.

Let us look at the issue of global warming. What about the impact that we are having down in the Annapolis Basin on the farmers, the dairy farmers, the beef farmers, the apple industry? How many contraventions of the Act have occurred because farmers have been forced to pump water from those water reservoirs against the very laws of this province? Yet we have a government, a Minister of Environment and Labour who will travel all the way to The Hague and not even bring us back a report on what in the name of heavens he did over there. I think that is of paramount importance to the farmers in the Annapolis Valley, certainly to all those communities that are now developing a lot of water quality problems because of past sins in various administrations. Make no mistake about it, there is no focus, there is no clear, concrete plan to deal with these things in a timely fashion, and certainly this resolution does not do that.

The honourable member asks if we are going to become another Uruguay or Paraguay, or some banana republic-type society, because certain actions and certain support is not given to this particular resolution and this protest in Ottawa.

Mr. Speaker, let us be realistic. Nova Scotia stands second to none on its ability to deal with its problems democratically. That picture on the wall to your right, Mr. Speaker, Joseph Howe, speaks loud and clear about the democratic process. Are we happy with some of the policy initiatives with this government? Not in the least, because so far we've only seen voodoo economics from the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Transportation and Public Works has become the minister of all things but stop and look back. All we're getting

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is a rehash of John Buchanan's Government. That's essentially what we're having. What about roads?

The Minister of Transportation and Public Works, he doesn't have a concrete policy to deal with the major problems that we have on our infrastructure. What about Highway No. 101, the Minister during his election campaign stated clearly, with or without the federal government's help that issue would be dealt with and the bulldozers would be going and road construction would start in September, right after the election. That was in his promotional brochures, Mr. Speaker. That hasn't commenced. These, I believe, tie into environmental issues, tie into environmental standards. Let's look in our own backyard first before we concern ourselves with supporting a socialist Leader whose lifeline is extremely short.

[6:15 p.m.]

Let's be realistic. I mean, I find there is more honour in standing as a member of the Third Party for doing things which you believe and you know to be correct, whether people agree or disagree with you, than to constantly jump on bandwagons that really capitulate the ideology and the principles for which you say your Party stands. Has that Party reduced itself to the point of becoming a cheerleading section in protest rallies? Well, my, my. For that to occur at that level, the federal level and then to try and cajole some fine bright talented individuals in the NDP of Nova Scotia to support that type of initiative, when they themselves provincially are saying, there are more pressing, more compelling, more demanding needs that have to be met.

That's why I stayed and wanted to participate in this debate. Not that some of the issues aren't important but what's more important to us right now? What about the social services, the new regulations, that will have a profound effect. Notwithstanding, the Minister of Education's deliberate evasiveness on a policy which a senior director in her own department, as late as October 2000, before the Public Accounts Committee, stated that they were putting the finishing touches on that policy paper that was raised here in the House today. The Minister of Education said, she didn't know anything about it. Now, what is going on in that department. Is that not a major issue?

Ten community colleges and one, possibly more universities, will be adversely affected. Over 3,000 students will be precluded from getting financial assistance, determining whether or not their future will be one with education for which they have greater potential, desires and aspirations or reduced to struggling back on the work line. That's not what this resolution is purporting to address. It is a question of priorities, I agree that in some level of magnitude this resolution is important. But at this juncture, Mr. Speaker, I believe that this resolution has missed an opportunity and even more so, I would have certainly welcomed the Minister of Environment and Labour to at least state his position on this debate. That has always been the protocol and the custom and the tradition of this House, that the minister

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responsible for that department would at least give us the courtesy of his response. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I must draw to the attention of the honourable members the fact that the time allotted to the Adjournment debate has expired.

The House will stand adjourned until 2:00 p.m. tomorrow.

[The House rose at 6:20 p.m.]

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By: Hon. Murray Scott (The Speaker)

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

Whereas the Border Belles have been sharing friendship, fun and barbershop harmonies for 20 years; and

Whereas the Border Belles celebrated this milestone with a party at the Amherst Fire Hall for members past and present; and

Whereas over the years the Border Belles have given financial support to the families of autistic children;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the Border Belles for their 20 years of harmony, fellowship and community involvement, and wish them many more years of success.


By: Hon. Murray Scott (The Speaker)

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

Whereas solid defence and timely scoring recently propelled the Advocate District High School Lady Coyotes to the NSSAF Division IV girls championship; and

Whereas Coach Peter Spicer was impressed by the high calibre of basketball in the final game against the Oxford High School Lady Golden Bears; and

Whereas Advocate's Kate Spicer led her team to the 44 to 35 victory with 32 points in the championship game;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Coach Spicer and the Advocate District High School Lady Coyotes on their Division IV championship season and wish them the best of luck next season.