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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Second Session


Res. 1, Estimates: CWH on Supply - Referred, Hon. N. LeBlanc 354
Hon. N. LeBlanc 354
Mr. K. Deveaux 370
Adjourned debate 374
Gov't. (N.S.): Child Poverty - Eliminate, Mr. J. Pye 375
Res. 147, Educ. - Automated Speech Recog.: Classroom Provision -
Participants Congrats., Hon. J. Purves 375
Vote - Affirmative 376
Res. 148, Nat. Res. - Prospect High Head: Nature Conservancy -
Work Support, Hon. E. Fage 376
Vote - Affirmative 376
Res. 149, Educ. - Libraries (N.S.): Service - Recognize, Hon. J. Purves 377
Vote - Affirmative 377
Res. 150, Murray, Robert - Cranberry Dev. (N.S.): History -
Congrats., Hon. E. Fage 377
Vote - Affirmative 378
Res. 151, Sports - Basketball: Sackville Nu Youth Sonics - Applaud,
Mr. J. Holm 378
Vote - Affirmative 379
Res. 152, Econ. Dev. - Gov't. (N.S.): Economy Strategy - Min. Read,
Mr. Manning MacDonald 379
Res. 153, Black Cultural Soc. (N.S.) - Wall of Honour: Inductees -
Congrats., Mr. D. Hendsbee 380
Vote - Affirmative 381
Res. 154, Dartmouth South - MLA: Three Apologies-You're-Out Strategy -
Premier Adopt, Mr. K. Deveaux 381
Res. 155, Sports - Hockey: Clare Acadiens - Performance Congrats.,
Mr. W. Gaudet 381
Vote - Affirmative 382
Res. 156, Sports - Figure Skating: Davidson, Alyssa/Whidden, Amanda -
Commitment Recognize, Hon. E. Fage 382
Vote - Affirmative 383
Res. 157, Tourism & Culture - Dramagroup (UCCB): Anniv. (30th) -
Congrats., Mr. F. Corbett 383
Vote - Affirmative 383
Res. 158, Exco - Water Quality: Glace Bay - Clean-Up, Mr. D. Wilson 383
Res. 159, Springhill - Arena Loss: Response - Mayor/Staff Thank,
Mr. B. Taylor 384
Vote - Affirmative 385
Res. 160, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Victoria Rd. Interchange (Dart.):
Upgrade - Start, Mr. J. Pye 385
Res. 161, Serv. N.S. & Mun. Rel. - Equalization: PC Caucus -
Premier Consult, Mr. Manning MacDonald 386
Res. 162, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Prospect Rd.: Improvements -
Min. Decision, Mr. W. Estabrooks 386
Res. 163, Health - Care: Decisions - Source, Dr. J. Smith 387
Res. 164, Beuree, Harry - St. Margaret's Bay Area: Contributions -
Congrats., Mr. W. Estabrooks 387
Vote - Affirmative 388
Res. 165, Cape Breton North - MLA: Performance -
Constituencies Judge, Mr. M. Samson 388
No. 39, Fin. - Budget (2001-02): Revenues - Disclose, Mr. K. Deveaux 389
No. 40, Fin. - Budget (2001-02): Message - Define, Mr. W. Gaudet 390
No. 41, Fin. - Budget (2001-02): Fiscal Mgmt. - Factors, Mr. K. Deveaux 391
No. 42, Fin. - Budget (2001-02): Windfall - Mismanagement,
Mr. D. Downe 392
No. 43, Fin. - Budget (2001-02): Health - Long-Term Care Beds Number,
Mr. J. MacDonell 394
No. 44, Health: Long-Term Care - Strategy, Dr. J. Smith 396
No. 45, Fin. - Budget (2001-02): Schools - Safety Priority,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 397
No. 46, Health - Strait-Richmond Hosp. ER: Physician Lack -
Justification, Mr. M. Samson 398
No. 47, Health - Nurses: Shortage - Address, Mr. J. MacDonell 400
No. 48, Econ. Dev. - C.B. & Central N.S. Railway: Viability -
Min. Actions, Mr. Manning MacDonald 401
No. 49, Educ. - Special Needs: Funding - Adequacy,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 403
No. 50, Serv. N.S. & Mun. Rel.: Vehicle Compliance Officers -
Privatization, Mr. B. Boudreau 404
No. 51, Educ. - Dartmouth North: School Closures - Attention, Mr. J. Pye 405
No. 52, Nat. Res. - Tobeatic Wilderness Area: Camping -
Ministerial Order, Mr. K. MacAskill 406
No. 53, Educ. - Hfx. West HS (New): Opening - Time Frame,
Mr. G. Steele 407
No. 7, Lobbyists' Registration Act 408
Hon. M. Baker 408
Mr. K. Deveaux 410
Mr. M. Samson 412
Hon. M. Baker 415
Vote - Affirmative 416
No. 8, Motor Vehicle Act 416
Hon. M. Baker 416
Mr. H. Epstein 418
Mr. M. Samson 424
Adjourned debate 429
Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Roads: Hamm Gov't. - Attention Required:
Mr. B. Boudreau 430
Mr. W. Estabrooks 433
Mr. F. Corbett 434
Hon. R. Russell 435
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Fri., Mar. 30th at 10:00 a.m. 438
Res. 166, Arsenault, Bob - Springhill Arena: Collapse -
Actions Applaud, The Speaker 439
Res. 167, Brodie, Rick - Central Nova Tourist Assoc.:
Presidents Award - Congrats., The Speaker 439
Res. 168, Smith, Louann - Louann's Creations (Springhill):
Opening - Congrats., The Speaker 440
Res. 169, Clayton, Larry: Medal of Bravery - Congrats., The Speaker 440
Res. 170, Sports - Oxford Reg. HS Jr. Golden Bears: Cumberland Co.
Dist. Championship - Congrats., The Speaker 441

[Page 353]


Fifty-eighth General Assembly

Second Session

2:00 P.M.


Hon. Murray Scott


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

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance.

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, before I begin my speech, I would like to introduce members of my family who are in the Speaker's Gallery: my wife, Grace; my son, Jordan and his girlfriend, Seeta Madvani, from Yarmouth; and also my sister Charmaine Sanders from Dartmouth. (Applause) I don't usually put them on the spot.

Mr. Speaker, there is also another individual in your gallery that I would like very much, with the indulgence of the House, to make a special introduction. Seated also in your gallery is a public servant who has played in the preparation of this budget that I am about to table today. In fact, Doris Manuel has been helping to produce Nova Scotia budgets for more than 40 years in this province. Doris is retiring this week after 46 years in the Nova Scotia Public Service. She spent most of those years at the Queen's Printer and she bound the lion's share of today's budget documents that we are all going to be reading very soon.

Mr. Speaker, Henry Hicks was Premier when Doris Manuel started with the government and actually he was Premier before I was born, so that gives you an indication. (Laughter) John Hamm is the 10th Premier under which she has served. In 1955, the year that Doris went to work for the province, the government recorded a surplus of $489,000 and expenditures of just over $46 million. Times have changed but if Doris wants to come back again next year, she will see a budget surplus again.


[Page 354]

Mr. Speaker, I know all members will want to join with me in congratulating Doris Manuel on 46 years of exemplary service to the Province of Nova Scotia and wish her health and happiness in a well-earned retirement. I would ask her to stand and receive the applause of the House. (Standing Ovation)




[Res. No. 1, Estimates: CWH on Supply - Referred - notice given March 23, 2001 - (Hon. N. LeBlanc)]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance. (Applause)

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, pursuant to notice of motion given by me on March 23, 2001, and the Rules and Forms of Procedure of the House of Assembly, I have the honour, by command, to present a message from Her Honour the Lieutenant Governor of the Province of Nova Scotia, relating to the Estimates of Sums required for the service of the Province of Nova Scotia for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2002, which is:

"I hereby transmit Estimates of sums required for the Public Service of the Province for the year ending March 31, 2002, and in accordance with the Constitution Act, 1867, recommend them, together with the budget address of my Minister of Finance and any resolutions or bills necessary or advisable to approve the Estimates and implement the budget measures, to the House of Assembly.


Myra A. Freeman

Lieutenant Governor

March 28, 2001"

Mr. Speaker, at this time I wish to table the message from Her Honour the Lieutenant Governor transmitting the Estimates for the consideration of this House; I would also like to table the Estimates Book, table the Consolidated Fiscal Plan for the government consisting of the Government Business Plan and other information contained in the budget, table the Crown Corporation Business Plans, table the Estimates and the Crown Corporation Business Plans Resolutions, deliver my Budget Speech and move that the Estimates of Sums required for the service of the province for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2002, being Supply, to be granted to Her Majesty and the Crown Corporation Business Plans be referred to the Committee of the Whole House on Supply.

[Page 355]

MR. SPEAKER: The documents are tabled.

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege and honour to rise in my place and present the budget for 2001-02, the last year in which this minister - or any Finance Minister in this government - will present a budget deficit. The government's four year fiscal plan is on course, on time, and on budget. This is the second budget our government has prepared and delivered; and each one has had as its foundation our commitment to fiscal responsibility, the provision of sustainable service, and an eye toward building a better future for our children. Next year every line in the budget will be written in black ink. The year after, Nova Scotians' income taxes will be 10 per cent lower.

This government will achieve those necessary financial milestones while fulfilling another unshakable commitment to Nova Scotians. We will secure for tomorrow, and enhance for today, the public services Nova Scotians hold most dear. This budget includes prudent investments in health care and in our future, the children of Nova Scotia.

This government came to office with a plan for Nova Scotia, based on the certainty that this province can and will have a better future. Our plan, advanced in each of our budgets, rested on the solid foundation of fiscal responsibility. But the goal is much broader. The goal is a self-reliant Nova Scotia, where every child has the opportunity to make the most of his or her life, and where Nova Scotians are assured of the highest quality public services. This budget pursues that goal.

Mr. Speaker, over the past year, Nova Scotians powered an economy that created thousands of new, lasting, and full-time jobs.

Nova Scotians are striding confidently into a new millennium, embracing the opportunities presented by a new world economy, new-found energy resources, and new trade prospects.

In this city and, with increasing confidence, right across this province Nova Scotians are taking hold of their own destiny and building, block by block, an economy that is resilient, sustainable, and inclusive.

The cold facts serve to prove the point. Last year the provincial economy grew by 3 per cent. Nearly 11,000 Nova Scotians who were looking, found jobs and consumer spending increased by 4.7 per cent. Nova Scotians are making that happen, Mr. Speaker, and this government clearly understands its role. Government should be, and frequently is, a broker, a facilitator, a negotiator, a navigator, even a partner. But, as history teaches, government is a direct player at the taxpayers' peril. It must be noted, with resignation and no joy, that this year this government closed the Sydney Steel Corporation. We also set in motion a process that we hope will lead to the sale of Nova Scotia Resources Limited.

[Page 356]

It is a cliché and true: economic success is attained and sustained where governments successfully create a climate in which private businesses, large and small, flourish. The conditions that contribute effectively to that climate include fiscal, and therefore tax, stability; able and dependable workers; and the means to move products to market.

[2:15 p.m.]

With this budget, this government will vigorously pursue the first condition. In the near future, Nova Scotia will achieve fiscal stability, along with a tax climate that is both stable and more rewarding for working Nova Scotians and their families.

Nova Scotia has never suffered a shortage of dependable workers. New opportunities, however, bring new challenges. We must plan to meet those challenges. And we must always invest, where and when we can, in the future of our children.

Moving products to market traditionally meant ships and trucks, planes and trains. Today, just as often, it means fibre-optic cable. Nova Scotia is connected, and competitive worldwide, in telecommunications infrastructure. Some of our more traditional infrastructure, however, is falling apart. Last year, this government reversed a destructive trend to an ever-shrinking highways budgets. This year we will increase highways spending again.

The government respects every taxpayer and spends every tax dollar with care. Each and every investment is made with an eye to the future, and an eye on the bottom line.

L'année passée, en ces mêmes lieux, je vous ai présenté un budget qui visait à mettre la Nouvelle-Écosse sur la voie de la sécurité financière et d'une réduction des impôts. À ce moment-là, j'avais informé la population que l'exercice 2000-01 se terminerait par un déficit budgétaire de 268 M$. Je peux maintenant vous confirmer que nos efforts ont modifié de façon importante l'objectif que nous nous étions fixé, et qu'il m'est possible d'annoncer aujourd'hui un déficit de 199 M$ pour l'année qui se termine - ce qui est une amélioration considérable de notre objectif.

[A year ago, I stood here in my place and delivered a budget that set Nova Scotia on a four year path to financial security and lower taxes. At that time, I told Nova Scotians we would end fiscal 2000-01 with a deficit of $268 million. I can now report that we have improved significantly on that target and now forecast a year-end deficit of $199 million.]

For the fiscal year about to begin, 2001-02, we are estimating a deficit of $91 million. As I said, the year after, the red ink will disappear entirely. Sound management will result in most departments achieving their fiscal target for the year that is about to end. In the year ahead, that same vigilance - from every quarter and corner of Nova Scotia's public sector - will be essential for success.

[Page 357]

Great strides have been made in improving our ability to manage our spending, not just in government proper but right across the public sector. More than half the provincial budget flows out to arm's-length agencies, boards, commissions, and the new district health authorities. We will take significant steps designed to make these organizations more accountable for the tax dollars they spend, but more importantly, for the results they achieve. Increased accountability will enhance our ability, working with those same organizations, to manage to a budget target.

Accountability is a hallmark of good government and responsible management of the taxpayers' money. It is important to note that the books of this province now reflect the most accurate and complete financial accounting found anywhere in this nation. Every expenditure for which the people have an obligation is in clear view. The assumptions upon which we base our revenue are reviewed by the Auditor General.

As we did last year, we are basing our 2001-02 revenue estimates on realistic economic assumptions, within the range of leading private-sector forecasters. But the year ahead is marked by uncertainty. Every day Nova Scotians are bombarded by pessimistic economic information, especially from the United States.

It is often said that if America sneezes, Canada catches a cold. That quip once accurately described the economic relationship of our two nations. Today, our national economy is more diverse, and Nova Scotia's economy is more resilient. But we are not isolated. Economic storms elsewhere will be felt here. Capital spending in the private sector is already slowing.

We can expect growth to moderate in Nova Scotia during this period. We are forecasting growth of 2.3 per cent for the year ahead.

Revenue gains have been significant over the past year, and while we expect revenue will continue to grow this year, it will be at a more modest pace. In a province of fewer than 1 million souls, burdened by a debt that exceeds $11 billion, responsible management demands that we take our gains in stride and invest with diligence.

Diligence demands that we hold spending increases below the rate of revenue growth. We have accomplished that in this budget. Our total estimated spending for 2001-02 has increased by just 0.5 per cent over forecast spending for 2000-01. Revenues, based on the same comparison, are growing by 2 per cent. Estimate-to-estimate revenue is expected to grow by 7 per cent. The same comparison on the expenditure side shows that we will hold spending increases to less than 4 per cent. Let me repeat that. Spending will increase by less than 4 per cent, while revenue will increase by 7 per cent. That, Mr. Speaker, is responsible management of the province's finances. (Applause)

[Page 358]

In the volatile international markets of today, perhaps the most difficult forecast we make is debt-servicing costs. Currency and interest rate changes and the peaks and valleys of the equity markets all influence our debt costs. We continue to take steps to reduce our foreign currency exposure; 31 per cent of our debt is now held in foreign currency. We will reduce that exposure to 20 per cent by the year 2004.

For the year ahead, we are basing our forecast on a Canadian dollar in the range of 63 cents U.S., and Canadian interest rates for a 10 year bond at 5 1/4 per cent. Net debt-servicing costs are anticipated to be $909 million, a number that highlights our financial trouble. Again this year, we are obligated to send more money to bankers than we are able to invest in the public schools that educate our children.

Mr. Speaker, our economy is strong and our revenues reflect that strength. But that does not mean we should abandon sensible, responsible fiscal management. On the contrary, this is the time to recommit to that vital effort. A growing economy and growing revenues provide us with some financial flexibility. We are able to maintain public services at current levels, and selectively and carefully invest in a few priority needs. We will do that while meeting the deficit reduction and elimination targets set out in our fiscal plan.

We have reduced the size of government - the Civil Service payroll - by about 4 per cent, from 9,926 employees 18 months ago to an estimated 9,503 this year. Much of that reduction has been achieved through natural attrition and by not refilling vacant positions.

Across Nova Scotia, public sector employers and the unions that represent public servants are in various stages of the collective bargaining process. Any increase in wages puts pressure on the public Treasury. To date, reasonable, responsible agreements have been reached. The government hopes, and has a responsibility to ensure, that the trend continues.

Mr. Speaker, big budget numbers and macroeconomic statistics mean little to Nova Scotians looking for work and trying to feed their families. From region to region across this province, there are significant and persistent economic disparities. This government believes that all Nova Scotians, wherever they live, deserve every chance to earn a good living.

In Nova Scotia, opportunity has become synonymous with exploration, development and production of offshore energy. Leadership has become synonymous with the Premier and his determined efforts to seize for Nova Scotians future security and prosperity from that opportunity. Our Premier leads a Campaign for Fairness in the distribution of wealth from the offshore. Our Premier leads the steadfast defence of Nova Scotia's interests in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Nova Scotia's goal is to be nothing less than a prosperous, self-reliant province, adding economic strength to a more vibrant Canadian federation. Our Premier is leading us to that goal. (Applause)

[Page 359]

New wealth from offshore energy ranks among Nova Scotia's greatest opportunities, but the story does not end there. Nova Scotians are leading the way into a new economy marked by innovation and creativity. In our universities and on our farms, in our leading-edge factories and literally on the cutting edge of our sawmills, Nova Scotians are discovering better ways and putting them to work for a better world.

With research from the Kentville food science centre, Case Van Dyke of Queens County is turning blueberries, the tastiest and healthiest little fruit on the planet, into the tastiest and healthiest pure fruit drink. Ocean Nutrition is fast becoming a world leader in research, development and production of marine-based nutrition supplements. Innovative, high-tech sawmills, like MacTara Lumber, are maximizing the yield of sawlogs using computers and laser scanners.

In the workplaces of Nova Scotia, Nova Scotians are putting technology to work. And when we venture into our universities we find hundreds of research and development projects aimed at improving the quality of our lives and the condition of our planet.

At the Nova Scotia Agricultural College alone, research ranges from a study into the causes and cure of reproductive failure, to the impact of agriculture on our climate. The latter project, funded through the Canadian Foundation for Innovation, is developing new technology to improve air quality management in farming. Mr. Speaker, the Province of Nova Scotia will support this kind of innovation and initiative.

Today, I am announcing an investment of $15 million that will fuel the innovative fire by supporting leading research, development and commercialization opportunities in Nova Scotia. (Applause) This provincial contribution, drawn from fiscal 2000-01, will trigger additional funding from Ottawa and from the private sector, through the Canadian Foundation for Innovation. Nova Scotia's initial investment has the potential to increase overall research and development funding in this province by almost 40 per cent.

[2:30 p.m.]

Research and development will help lead the way, but in order to seize all the opportunities on our doorstep, more Nova Scotians must be equipped with the right tools. Much has been done. Much remains to be done.

Today, every school in the province is connected to the Internet. Thanks to the federal-provincial Information Economy Initiative, more than 6,200 computers have been placed in our schools, and 200 community access sites are spreading computer literacy to Nova Scotians where they live.

[Page 360]

An additional $4.2 million is being provided to the Nova Scotia Community College. (Applause) This year the community college will expand the Virtual Campus. The Virtual Campus already takes programs and training to 800 Nova Scotians who, as a result, do not need to leave home or work to upgrade their skills. In addition, the college will create 200 new seats. Expanded access to community college programs means more Nova Scotians will be equipped with the skills to take their place, and succeed, in the job markets of today and, more importantly, tomorrow.

For a variety of reasons, too many Nova Scotians slipped through, or out of, the education system before they had the most basic tools. The Nova Scotia School for Adult Learning gives them a second chance. This year $1.5 million has been allocated to coordinate and enhance the network of programs that will help adults get their high school diploma.

Mr. Speaker, thanks to the initiative and foresight of enterprising Nova Scotians, we are world leaders in information technology training. As a province we must equal that success in other sectors, notably oil and gas. Today in Nova Scotia there are jobs unfilled because employers can't find workers with the required skills. Closing and eventually eliminating that skills gap will be a provincial priority and is a shared responsibility among government, industry, academic institutions, organized labour, and motivated, individual Nova Scotians. This year government will lead in developing a skills strategy and commit additional funding in future years to implement an agenda that matches training to jobs.

The government is not standing still and waiting for the strategy. Currently in Nova Scotia 80 per cent of students who go on to post-secondary studies choose university, and only 20 per cent opt for community college. That compares to a national breakdown of 57 per cent to university and 43 per cent to college.

Nova Scotia has a proud university tradition and consistently leads the nation in university-educated citizens, as a percentage of population. That should not change. But young Nova Scotians need to be more aware of all career options and prospects. A new public school program will help make that happen.

This budget invests $200,000 in the new Youth Pathways and Transitions Program, to help students plan and prepare for careers and further career-minded education. The program will track students' progress in acquiring basic job skills, using the Conference Board of Canada's list of employable skills. The second phase will include high school courses linked to community college and to the job market. Youth Pathways and Transitions will be available in some schools this fall and will be expanded across Nova Scotia over the next few years.

There is no greater expression of self-reliance than the personal accomplishment of Nova Scotians moving from dependence on the state to self-dependence. In the last fiscal year, 4,070 Nova Scotians moved off the welfare rolls and into paying jobs. Another 4,380

[Page 361]

paved the way to the workforce by upgrading their education or enrolling in skills training programs. This government's social assistance reform initiatives will make a positive difference in the lives of thousands of Nova Scotian families. (Applause)

A new century, a new millennium and a new economy require new ways to support economic activity. This year the province is creating a new economic engine called Nova Scotia Business Inc. This Crown Corporation, at arm's length from government, is charged with a mandate to bring new investment to Nova Scotia, help existing business expand and spread economic activity across the province. Between NSBI and the Department of Economic Development, there is an increase of $8.5 million, year-over-year, in funds available for strategic economic investment. In all cases, those investments will be tied to performance.

Mr. Speaker, tourism is a sector that offers promise in bridging the economic divide between rural Nova Scotia and the more affluent metropolitan area. The province is increasing its overall investment in Tourism and Culture by $1 million. (Applause) Enhanced marketing and a longer season for visitor information centres are just two examples of the increased tourism-development efforts.

Mr. Speaker, every tax dollar government spends should be spent with purpose. This government is determined that taxpayers' dollars will be directed to specific initiatives, with defined benefits. Operating grants to a number of tourism-related, cultural and heritage groups will be reduced, and the funding redirected within those sectors. For example, grants to community museum boards will be reduced by 2 per cent, but $100,000 in new funding is available to those same organizations for more clearly defined, strategic investment.

Nova Scotia's rich music and culture have given our communities life for generations. More recently these immeasurable riches have become important to our economy. Again this year, we will provide $250,000 for export-focused cultural activities. As well, the province will invest an additional $400,000 in regional cultural activities and industries.

Farmers and farm families are the strength of much of rural Nova Scotia. This year the new Agricultural Development Institute will be in operation, with $2.2 million from provincial taxpayers. Specialists from the institute will provide farmers with expertise in pest, weed and disease management, as well as offering services related to livestock, horticulture, and forage and field crops.

Law-abiding fishermen are frustrated when they see the resource diminished by illegal fishing. This year, to combat illegal activity in the commercial fishery, the province will double its commitment, its effort and its funding to $250,000.

[Page 362]

Mr. Speaker, sustainable forest practices must be the only forest practices. Partnerships among government, private woodlot owners and harvesters will invest some $9 million in silviculture on private lands this year alone. In addition, we will increase our silviculture investment on Crown lands by $1.3 million, bringing the provincial investment in Crown land silviculture to $3.5 million.

All the vital economic sectors I just mentioned have one thing in common. They depend on the roads of Nova Scotia to move their product. In the past decade our network of highways and secondary roads has been neglected. The consequences are evident to every driver. Last year, despite severe and necessary restraint, this government reversed a troubling trend to shortchange the highways budget. This year we will do more. We will increase the capital investment on highways and bridges by some $11 million to $49 million. (Applause) Again this year, included in the operating budget of the Department of Transportation and Public Works is $10 million for improvements and maintenance on rural roads.

The federal government has a responsibility for national transportation infrastructure, and in Nova Scotia that infrastructure includes many 100-Series Highways. The province has set aside an additional $5 million from its capital budget as a tangible expression of our commitment to twin Highway No. 101. (Applause) We sincerely hope this commitment will help bring the federal government to the table and to its senses. Nova Scotians paid $137 million last year in federal excise taxes on gas and diesel fuel. Surely that warrants more consideration than the $2.5 million Ottawa returned as its contribution to our highways system.

Mr. Speaker, 18 months ago the government initiated a review of all provincial tax credits and rebates. The tax system must always be fair. Tax breaks must serve their purpose. Last year, following phase one of the review, some credits were modified and others sunset. The second and final phase of the review is now complete and included in the budget material is a full report.

In summary:

Effective January 1, 2002, the value of the HST rebate on new housing materials is reduced, to a maximum of $1,500.

The small business tax credit is retained with minor refinements.

The Equity Tax Credit, which encourages Nova Scotians to invest here at home, is extended to December 31, 2003.

The Labour-Sponsored Venture Capital Corporation Tax Credit is continued, with refinements, until 2003.

The HST rebate for volunteer and municipal fire departments is continued.

The HST rebate on printed books and the HST rebate for persons with disabilities are both continued, unchanged.

[Page 363]

Mr. Speaker, the government is determined to improve service to Nova Scotians and save taxpayers every dollar we can. Technology will help make that happen. Improvements this year put access to motor vehicle registration, and birth, death, and marriage certificates on-line.

Registry 2000 is a monumental undertaking to migrate 250 years of land transactions into an electronic land registry. Soon, searching and recording land transactions will be a

mouse click away. The cost of this improvement will be offset by an increase in land registration fees, from $40 to $70.

The award-winning Nova Scotia Business Registry will be expanded and upgraded. Business can do business with government 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This year, an additional feature will let registered businesses know automatically when any of more than 30 permits and licences are coming due for renewal.

E-government reduces costs to taxpayers and clients alike, while increasing the speed and efficiency of transactions. With this in mind, Service Nova Scotia Express will come on line this year with self-serve terminals in 19 locations across the province, Mr. Speaker.

Some transactions still require face-to-face service. Access Nova Scotia storefront offices are now located within 45 minutes of almost every Nova Scotian. This year full Registry of Motor Vehicle service has been, or will be, expanded into five more counties: Queens, Guysborough, Shelburne, Richmond, and Hants. (Applause)

[2:45 p.m.]

Few services of government are more important to Nova Scotians than those that protect our health and our natural environment. In the wake of the tragic events in Walkerton, Ontario, wise governments everywhere are redoubling efforts to ensure the safety of water supplies. In Nova Scotia, new safe water regulations mean increased vigilance. Nova Scotia is fortunate. We have an abundance of safe, clean water. We need to make sure it stays that way.

This budget invests $850,000 in the development of long-term strategies to safeguard our water supply and ensure the appropriate and safe disposal of sewage. As well, we are allocating funds to a new Canada-Nova Scotia Infrastructure Program that will result in $195 million invested in "green" infrastructure across the province over the next six years. Split equally among Ottawa, the province, and participating municipalities, these funds will build new water treatment, sewage treatment, and waste management systems in communities throughout Nova Scotia. A full 40 per cent of that funding is earmarked for rural areas that have been neglected for too long.

[Page 364]

Nova Scotians cherish their own natural heritage and fully accept that we share a global responsibility for the earth's environment. This province has long been a producer of fossil fuels, and offshore development means that won't end soon. Our energy mix is changing. This budget allocates $200,000 to develop two distinct, but intimately connected initiatives: a long-overdue energy strategy for Nova Scotia and strategies to ensure that this province meets its obligations to reduce greenhouse gases and their undeniable impact on the earth's climate.

Mr. Speaker, this government's commitment to the health of Nova Scotians, and to the health care system itself, is absolute. There are no tax increases in this budget, but there is a promise to raise the tax, this year, on only one product - and that product is tobacco. (Applause)

This year cigarettes will claim the lives of 1,600 Nova Scotians. Higher tobacco taxes won't save many old addicts, but higher prices will reduce the number of young smokers.

This government will continue to pursue an agreement with Ottawa and also our neighbouring provinces to significantly increase taxes on tobacco products, while ensuring we do not become prey for cross-border tobacco smugglers. This may be a so-called revenue measure, but it is really a common-sense measure.

For years governments have talked about wellness and community-based health care. This year this government will act.

Mr. Speaker, this budget increases funding to the Nova Scotia Sport and Recreation Commission by $600,000, with the assurance that every penny will find its way to communities. It will support physical fitness and active living. Increasing activity among young Nova Scotians will be the priority.

For the first time ever, funding is available to Community Health Boards, in the amount of $1 million. These funds will support community-defined priorities and local smoking cessation programs.

There are many reasons why our health care system must evolve. But chief among them is the shift in our population age. Nova Scotians, like it or not, are greying. And I stand as a shining example, Mr. Speaker. (Laughter) The decisions and actions of today must put health care on the solid foundation it will need for the future. This budget reflects those decisions and that action.

Across Nova Scotia, beginning this year, older Nova Scotians and others in need of continuing care will access that care through a simple, single entry point. This program, piloted last year in eastern Nova Scotia, reduces wait times for those most in need. This year

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$1.5 million in new funding will allow us to begin expanding this streamlined process province-wide. (Applause)

As our population ages, the demand for home care services and pressure on our long-term care facilities will only increase. These two cornerstones of continuing care must be solid - first and foremost for the care they provide, but also to allow more efficient use of acute care services.

This budget increases funding to home care by $10.5 million, to an estimated $110 million. Home Care Nova Scotia currently provides health services to 23,000 Nova Scotians, allowing them to remain where they want to be, in their own homes. Funding for long-term care facilities will increase by $19 million, to an estimated $175 million. This will stabilize the sector and maintain the current number of long-term care beds.

There are no magic solutions to health care funding pressures. Either governments manage those pressures and keep health care affordable, or those who require services will pay more, in some fashion, for those services.

In the year ahead, Pharmacare premiums and co-pay fees will not increase. But, I emphasize, pressure on that program is increasing as the price of prescription medication climbs. Increases will be required in future years. The government will continue to work with its Pharmacare partners to ensure equity and access remain the guiding principles of Nova Scotia's Pharmacare Program.

As every Nova Scotian knows, patients in hospitals are not billed for their care. Residents in long-term care facilities, who are able to pay, do pay. Yet, in hospitals across this province, almost one in four beds are occupied by patients awaiting nursing home placement.

Therefore, we will expand a policy, tested in Cape Breton last year. Patients who have been medically discharged, but who remain in hospital, will be charged $50 a day. This fee is lower than what they will pay once they enter a nursing home, and recognizes that they are now long-term care patients.

This fee will net an estimated $1 million on a $1.82-billion health budget. Obviously it is not being done for the revenue it will bring. It is being instituted for consistency and equity and to promote efficiency in both the acute care and long-term care sectors.

Mr. Speaker, before coming to office, members of my Party said we would work with nurses to address workplace issues, and we would move health care decision making closer to the communities affected by those decisions.

This budget makes good on both promises.

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We have allocated $5 million to begin implementing Nova Scotia's first nursing strategy. The strategy includes a four-point plan to: (1) support practising nurses; (2) support student nurses; (3) increase recruitment efforts; and (4) enhance professional development and mobility of nurses within Nova Scotia's health system. This strategy is in addition to, not instead of, other recent advances for nurses. Those include conversion of more than 100 casual positions to full-time, increasing enrolment in our nursing schools by 30 per cent, and providing bursaries for student nurses.

Monsieur le Président, les conseils d'administration des services de santé, situés loin des communautés qu'ils desservaient, sont l'affaire du passé. Neuf autorités régionales de la santé publique, plus rapprochées des communautés, ont remplacé ces conseils. Les autorités possèdent un pouvoir discrétionnaire réel et sont imputables des décisions qu'elles prennent et des fonds qu'elles dispensent. Le budget inclut une augmentation au financement des autorités, ce qui représente un pour cent (1%) en termes concrets, ou 8 M$. En plus, la province a réservé des fonds afin de couvrir les coûts additionnels reliés aux augmentations possibles résultant des accords sur les salaires. Le gouvernement reconnaît que les autorités, ses partenaires dans les services de santé, auront à relever plusieurs défis et à prendre des décisions qui ne seront pas faciles. Elles commenceront leur première année complète d'opérations avec un financement stable et réaliste.

[Mr. Speaker, remote regional health boards are a memory. Nine district health authorities, closer to the communities they serve, have taken their place. These DHAs have real decision-making power and are accountable for the decisions they make and also for the money they spend. This budget increases funding to DHAs, in real terms, by 1 per cent or $8 million. In addition, the province will fund cost increases related to wage settlements. The government recognizes that its district partners in health care face many challenges, and the decisions they must make will be difficult. They will start their first full year with realistic and stable funding.]

It has often and truly been said that those suffering mental illness are the forgotten ones in our health care system. This is tragic always, but perhaps acutely so when the children suffer. Nova Scotia is not alone in this sorry history, but what consolation is that? We must begin the healing.

This budget maintains funding levels established last year for early identification and intervention services at $2 million. Children with special needs will have those needs met in time to make a real difference in their lives.

An additional $500,000 will help redesign delivery of mental health services. (Applause) A child and youth mental health project is now in development and will offer a plan to deliver care closer to home for those in need.

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Mr. Speaker, quality information is essential to proper management. As the Auditor General so clearly articulated in his most recent report, systems to supply that level of information are lacking in health care and in some school boards.

The government will invest $13 million to begin addressing those deficiencies. This funding is split between the fiscal year just ending and the new year.

More than $9 million will be invested in hospitals and other health facilities to support the evidence-based decision making that is fast becoming a feature of health care management in Nova Scotia. Electronic health records, with standardized information across the province, will enhance the speed and efficiency of patient care. A $4 million expenditure on information management systems in education will also begin improving financial management and tracking academic performance and results.

Mr. Speaker, from the government's point of view, I held the most important features of this budget until the end.

Those are initiatives that begin an important process of renewal in our public schools, and new measures that will have a significant, positive impact on the lives and on the future of Nova Scotian children now living in poverty.

Every young Nova Scotian deserves every possible opportunity to make the most of his or her talents. Every child deserves the best possible start in life.

This province is determined to knock down the barriers that keep too many families dependent on social assistance. In partnership with the federal government, we are taking tangible action to help low-income families and, more specifically, their children.

The changes we are making will leave no family with less assistance than they receive today. Increased benefits will flow to low-income, working Nova Scotians and their children. All future increases in the fully indexed National Child Benefit will automatically flow to the rightful recipients, poor Nova Scotian families.

Beginning July 1st of this year, the Nova Scotia Child Benefit will be substantially increased and altered, so that, in combination with the National Child Benefit, low-income families will receive $1,700 a year for each child. All low-income families in Nova Scotia - working or on social assistance - will qualify. This means additional financial support for 20,000 working families and 15,000 families on social assistance. In total, 60,000 Nova Scotian children will benefit. (Applause)

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[3:00 p.m.]

Families whose net annual income is less than $16,000 will receive the maximum benefit. Families with a net annual income of between $16,000 and $20,921 will receive partial payments. The so-called clawback of the National Child Benefit from social assistance recipients ends on August 1, 2001.

This measure knocks a gaping hole in the welfare wall. Parents can move from social assistance to jobs without losing child benefits.

Mr. Speaker, a working family with three children and a net income of $15,999 will see an annual increase in child benefits of $1,650, or 48 per cent, on July 1st.

To support these measures, this government is increasing its commitment to child benefits to $30 million in fiscal 2001-02.

In addition, Mr. Speaker, also in partnership with the federal government, $9 million will be committed this year to early childhood development initiatives. This commitment - part of a five-year agreement - will be increased to $12 million next year, and $15 million the year after, where it will remain for the life of the agreement.

New funding will support a comprehensive home visiting program whereby nurses will help expecting and new mothers and their children get off to the right start. Much of the remainder of the early childhood development funding is earmarked for child care: to improve wages of child-care workers and to expand access through start-up grants to non-profit centres.

Mr. Speaker, the new, combined child benefit and the early childhood development initiative reflect the values of Nova Scotians, who believe every child should get the best possible start in life. Renewal in our public schools will set young Nova Scotians on the path to success.

In the weeks and months ahead, the province, working with partners across the education spectrum, will be engaged in a determined effort to renew our public schools. Not with bricks and mortar, although that job needs doing as well. But with vitality and energy. With standards and accountability. Parents, students, and teachers want our schools to be the best they can be. From modest beginnings, we are launching an effort that, over time, will bring the assurance that our schools have become just that - the best.

Last year the government initiated the Active Young Readers program to help children in Primary through Grade 3 learn to read. This year, we will invest $900,000 more to expand this program to Grades 4 through 6, where children read to learn. In Grade 6, all students will

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be tested for literacy. Test results will be available to parents and to junior high school teachers so they can support students who need extra help. (Applause)

This year the province will increase its investment in our children's future by $13 million. That 2 per cent increase in the public schools budget comes at a time of declining enrolments. In the past year alone, the student population declined by more than 2,000 children. That reflects a 30-year trend. During this same period the number of teachers has remained relatively constant.

Ensuring that children are safe at school is critical. This budget allocates $100,000 to support the students' code of conduct and another $1 million to help school boards meet new health and safety regulations, including those for water quality.

The province is increasing funds to support children with special educational needs. An additional $3 million has been budgeted for this vital effort. (Applause)

The province is keeping its commitment to Nova Scotia's universities through increased operating funds of $5 million, for a total investment of $201 million. Also as announced last year, the province will no longer provide assistance for capital projects on university campuses after we fulfil a final obligation to St. Francis Xavier University.

Mr. Speaker, very little remains to be said. Nova Scotians are building a more prosperous future. Opportunities are on our doorstep. Forty new wells will be drilled offshore over the next four years; exploration is moving into deep waters; Panuke and Sable II are both billion-dollar projects; we are new economy leaders and free traders in a free trade world.

Au plan financier, la province n'est pas sortie du bois ... pas encore; mais il nous est maintenant possible de voir un peu de lumière. Le budget que je vous ai présenté est fidèle à l'engagement que nous nous étions donné : celui d'une gestion financière responsable. Par conséquent, notre situation économique s'est renforcée et les revenus sont à la hausse. Nous maintenons l'augmentation des dépenses en-dessous du taux de croissance des revenus. Et c'est une mesure de prudence que nous tenons à respecter.

[Mr. Speaker, financially, as a province we are not out of the woods, yet. But I believe we can see the light of day. The budget I have just presented maintains our commitment to responsible financial management. Our strengthened economy is providing more revenue. We are holding the rate of growth in spending below the rate of revenue growth. That is prudent.]

A portion of our increased provincial income will be invested, carefully, selectively in the priorities of Nova Scotians - the health of our people and the future of our children. Merci. Thank you very much. (Prolonged Applause)

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

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I am glad to be able to stand up for a few minutes and at least begin my response to the budget presented by the Minister of Finance. I will carry on with the rest of the response tomorrow but I wanted to take a few minutes now to talk about what I think are some of the key points that maybe the minister has glossed over, or the minister maybe has used language that maybe doesn't clearly describe exactly what this budget is going to mean for the people of Nova Scotia.

I remember back to July 1999. For some it was a fond memory, for some it wasn't. I will tell you this, Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance and the Premier, at that time were making a lot of promises. When people on the doorsteps were talking about waiting lists for surgery, lack of doctors, lack of nurses and full-time positions for nurses, how their children's education was deteriorating and how they were frustrated with what the government was doing, it was the Premier and it was the members across the way, including the Minister of Finance, who promised them, these are the things that we will address; these are the things we will ensure that you will have in a Tory Government.

There is a particular quote back in November, I was recently reading the speech from the Premier to the chamber of commerce in 1999, it was the State of the Province speech, I believe is what it is called. Here are a couple of quotes from it. "Governments can destroy prosperity . . . They can destroy it when vital public services are put at risk. They destroy prosperity when they lose their ability to protect their citizens from crime. Or when roads and other public . . ." services crumble. It goes on a little later to say, "Understand, this is not about cutting government to fit a budget. That has been tried and failed. This is about setting clear priorities and determining which programs and services are required to achieve those priorities."

I agreed with the Premier when he said this. I would say these are essential words on how we should be running government. Government is not about balancing the books for the sake of balancing the books, it is about balancing the books while ensuring the people of this province, to use the words of the Premier in the Throne Speech, are able to reach self-reliance, the province is able to become a have-province, and that we are going to ensure prosperity in the future. That can only be done, using the words of the Premier in 1999, by providing the essential programs, like health care, like education, to ensure that the people of Nova Scotia have an opportunity to take advantage of oil and gas, as it explodes as an economic force in our province, to take advantage of those things that give them an opportunity, whether it is in the trades or whether it is university education.

But here is the problem, less than two years later, this Minister of Finance and this government have clearly gone in a completely different direction than the words of the Premier back in 1999, in the words of their platform, in the words they used in the last election in their advertisements. There is nothing in this budget to address the lack of nurses

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with regard to acute care in this province. There is nothing in this budget with regard to new money for education. There is nothing in this budget with regard to providing doctors for people in Nova Scotia who don't have doctors. Those are still many of the problems that the people in this province had two years ago, that are still there, and this government has done nothing to address them. They did nothing last year, and they continue down that same road.

This isn't about setting priorities and trying to ensure that we as Nova Scotians can take advantage of the prosperity. No one would disagree with those words. What this government is doing is the complete opposite. It is more worried about balancing the books for the sake of balancing the books, it is more worried about getting re-elected in a year or two than it is about seriously trying to ensure Nova Scotians have the education, have the level of health care, have the services they need to ensure that we as a province can be self-reliant and prosperous. Those are the words of the Premier, and that is what you are failing to do as a government in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, recently, our Party released some polling that we had with regard to what Nova Scotians want (Interruptions) No, I don't think that is the case. The Minister of Health seems to think that it was balancing the books. I guess the cold must have gotten to his head, but maybe I will refresh his memory. The poll said that investing in health care was the number one priority, investing in education was number two. I believe that balancing the books and a 10 per cent tax cut were much further down the list, much further down the list.

Yet this government continues with an agenda that goes the opposite way to what the people of Nova Scotia said in 1999, said on the streets last year outside this House and throughout the province, and continue to say through polling and through their anecdotal evidence in the last few months. It hasn't changed. Yet this government continues to ignore what the people of Nova Scotia have asked for. (Interruptions)

In particular, I want to highlight a couple of points that I have noted, and I will get into more detail tomorrow. The minister mentioned $19 million for long-term care beds. I think what he has failed to mention is there are no new long-term care beds that are going to be provided under this money. Let's talk about entrapment. Let's talk about what this government is doing. Let's talk about the fact that if you are in acute care in a hospital and they say, okay, you are free to go home. You are an older person, maybe, not home, sorry, you are free to go to a long-term care bed. Well, there are no new long-term care beds, so there is a huge waiting list.

The government hasn't invested any money to create new beds. But guess what? Because we don't have the vision, don't have the leadership to invest in new long-term care beds, and you are going to be stuck in this hospital, we are going to make you pay $50 a day. Now the minister can talk about this being a user fee, but I will call it what it is, it is a tax on the people of Nova Scotia, because you don't have the foresight to create long-term care beds to ensure every Nova Scotian has proper health care in this province. That is what wrong, as

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an example, with this budget, and the lack of fortitude and the lack of vision of this government with regard to the future of health care and the future of the people of Nova Scotia.

Let's talk about the fact that public school education funding is going up 2 per cent. Not bad, but inflation, according to the minister's own budget, is going up 2.7 per cent. That means that the spending of this government is not keeping up with the inflation rate. The minister, when asked, by the media in the lock-up, around 1:30 p.m. or 1:45 p.m., does this mean that school boards are going to have to address that difference, said, I expect there will be job cuts. Those were his words. I didn't hear that anywhere in the speech.

The minister stood up and tried to make this sound like it was a good news budget, when in fact he is going to allow the heavy work, the heavy lifting, the tough decisions to be made by school boards and district health authorities later on. It is the same thing we saw last year. This government tries to stand up and say it is doing the right thing, look how good we are at what we are doing as a government and then the tough decisions you will blame on someone else. That is reprehensible. That is not the way to govern and that is something, I would hope, that you would not be trying to do.

[3:15 p.m.]

I think the last thing I will just say on health care is that there is no new money for ensuring that we are going to have more acute care nurses. The nurses are overworked as it is. Health care workers are overworked. Some of them are here in the gallery today and all we hear from you is small amounts of investment in things like information technology. And do you know what, by the way? That is not even your money. That is the federal money. You are putting in no new money into information technology and health care. No, Mr. Minister, you are putting in federal money.

What type of insight, what type of vision do you have for the future of health care when all you can do is take money from the federal government, pass it through your cheque book and pass it on to the district health authorities? There is no new money from this government. This government has done nothing to even try and spell out how it will address health care. It had to be bullied back last September by the federal government to put some money into certain areas and it is doing that, but no new money from this government and that is wrong.

Before I sit down, I would be remiss if I did not talk about the fact that under Community Services, this government has taken the $9 million from the children's agenda and is putting it into visitations for new mothers. Maybe I will tell you in a few months exactly how well that is going. For now, there are a lot of other people who wanted that money as well, including child care workers who are looking for subsidization of wages. I

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hope the Minister of Community Services will take the time to explain to them how the agenda will particularly deal with it.

Before I move adjournment of debate, I just want to take a couple of minutes to say this government has really tried in this case to please everyone. In some respects, this is a throwback to the Buchanan days, it is a throwback to the MacLellan Government. You have tried in this budget to please those who are demanding more health care and more education, yet it is nothing more than a drop in the bucket. It does nothing to address the overriding serious problems we have in health care, in university infrastructure and in our public schools.

On the other hand, if you have been outside you will know that you have also annoyed and angered the business community who felt you could have balanced the books if you had the fortitude to control spending. By trying to please everyone, this Minister of Finance has pleased no one, and that is the real shame in this budget. We now have a government that is no different than the MacLellan Liberals or no different than the Buchanan Tories. You are in the same trap they were in: trying to please everyone, and the irony is, you will please no one.

We will begin to see as we ferret out, as the Premier has used the words before, as we begin to dive into this budget over the next couple of weeks and months, exactly what the problems are with how this government has tried to please too many people when they have pleased none.

The backbenchers back there will be the ones who will have to go back and defend the lack of investment, the lack of money, the lack of support, to ensure that all Nova Scotians can begin to take part in the prosperity and take part in what the Premier has called our venture towards self-reliance.

This is what we need to do. This is what the Premier talked about in 1999, yet this government has not done it and continues to fail Nova Scotians in every priority they demand this government to address. This budget is a mid-term budget and it is a budget that has failed Nova Scotians. It is hush money while not addressing the real problems of overspending and lowballing revenue. Until this government begins to address the real problems that Nova Scotians want, all Nova Scotians, they will never get the support of this Party, they will never get the support of most Nova Scotians.

We will begin to see whether this government truly has a vision to try to address what Nova Scotians want to ensure they can take part in prosperity in this province. I move adjournment, Mr. Speaker.

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MR. SPEAKER: The motion is to adjourn debate.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

Before we begin the daily routine, I will call upon the honourable Minister of Education for an introduction.

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, up in the east gallery, today, we have three women representing the Advisory Council on the Status of Women and, in particular, I would like to welcome Rita Warner. She is from Judique. She is the new head of the Advisory Council on the Status of Women and in the 25 year history on the council, she is the first woman from Cape Breton to head the organization and only the second person from outside metro. With her is Mary Sampson and Brigitte Neumann, the acting executive director. I would like the House to welcome these women to the gallery today. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham on an introduction.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I would like to draw the attention of members of the House to people who have joined us here today for the budget: Brian Forbes, President of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union, and Sandra Himmelman from the Nova Scotia Federation of Home and School Associations. I would ask them to rise and receive the warm welcome of members of the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth South on an introduction.

MR. TIMOTHY OLIVE: Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to introduce to you and to the members of the House two members of our Dartmouth community: Mr. Jim and Laura Shea, up in the gallery who are over visiting to view the session of the House and observe the Budget Speech. I would like to welcome them to the House and have the House show them a warm welcome. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We certainly welcome all visitors to the House today.

Before we begin the daily routine, the subject for the Adjournment debate was submitted by the honourable member for Cape Breton East:

Therefore be it resolved that provincial roads require the immediate attention of the Hamm Government.

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

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MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to present a petition on behalf of the Feed My Lambs Child Advocacy Group in Berwick. The operative clause reads, "We demand that the Government of Nova Scotia take immediate and concrete measures to eliminate child poverty in Nova Scotia. We ask that you work in partnership with the Federal Government to achieve this goal." I have affixed my signature to this petition and the petition contains some 524 signatures.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.





MR. SPEAKER: 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 Saint Mary's University and the University College of Cape Breton Centre of Excellence and the Alexander Graham Bell Institute signed an agreement recently to provide automated speech recognition into classrooms to improve access to lecture content; and

Whereas this signing represents a strengthening of a Nova Scotia-based worldwide initiative in education and technology, the Liberated Learning Project; and

Whereas since 1999 Saint Mary's, with funding from the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation and with support from IBM, has spearheaded this project;

Therefore be it resolved that this Legislature congratulate Saint Mary's University, UCCB and the Alexander Graham Bell Institute for this inspiring initiative.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Natural Resources.


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

Whereas this morning I participated in an official land transfer ceremony that will see

approximately 276 acres of land in the Prospect High Head area of Halifax County set aside for preservation; and

Whereas this ecologically and socially significant land will remain in its natural state thanks to the protection and care of the Nature Conservancy of Canada; and

Whereas this government's commitment to protecting the quality of our land and wildlife habitat was referred to in the Throne Speech last week, with specific focus given to our work with the Nature Conservancy of Canada;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House support the Nature Conservancy's work throughout the province, particularly as it moves toward preserving additional lands in the Prospect High Head area.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

[Page 377]

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 April 2nd to April 9th is Information Rights Week, and Nova Scotia's 75 libraries are promoting the theme, Your Information, Your Rights @ Your Library; and

Whereas libraries have a long and respected tradition of protecting the information rights of citizens; and

Whereas Nova Scotia was the first province in Canada to offer free public Internet access in public library branches;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this Legislature recognize that Nova Scotia's libraries serve our province well and by providing free universal access to information, they are a key component of our open and democratic society.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Natural Resources.


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

Whereas it is important to document the history and background of activities on the land and in the sea, such that they may be preserved for future generations; and

[Page 378]

Whereas commercial cranberry production has been an integral part of the history stretching back to the late 1800's and has played a significant role in the early diversification of agricultural capability; and

Whereas Robert Murray has recently seen his account of this colourful industry, Nova Scotia Cranberry History and Development published in co-operation with the Canadian Millennium Partnership Program and the Nova Scotia Department of Agriculture and Fisheries;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize Robert Murray for his efforts in researching, collecting, compiling and writing both an informative and entertaining account of the history of cranberry industry and development in our province.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.



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


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

Whereas this weekend Sackville Heights Elementary School hosts the Provincial Girls Midget B championships; and

Whereas the Sackville Nu Youth Sonics, getting stronger as the season progresses, recently won the Juvenile B Division of the Bedford Classic tournament; and

[Page 379]

Whereas the Sackville Nu Youth Sonics will carry their colours under new Coach,

Cam Hartling, into this weekend's championship tournament;

Therefore be it resolved that this House applaud the coach and players of the Sackville Nu Youth Sonics for their splendid season to date and wish them and all teams well in this weekend's midget basketball championship.

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 after questioning yesterday, the Minister of Economic Development made it clear that he has not read his government's economic strategy by demonstrating regional prejudice towards industrial Cape Breton; and

Whereas the document, Opportunities for Prosperity, clearly states that the economic problems of industrial Cape Breton are without precedent in Nova Scotia and Canada; and

Whereas the strategy also clearly indicates that the government rejects any arguments that do not recognize that the industrial Cape Breton economic problem is unique;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House urge the Premier to direct his Economic Development Minister to read the government's economic strategy and caution his minister that his evident dislike for Cape Breton will not be tolerated.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Preston.


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

Whereas the Black Cultural Society of Nova Scotia recently honoured eight Nova Scotians for their contributions to the Black community by inducting them into the Rev. W.P. Oliver Wall of Honour; and

Whereas among the year 2001 inductees were five members of the constituency of Preston; and

Whereas Wayne Adams, Ada A. Clayton, Wilfred Jackson, Betty Thomas and the late Deacon James Bundy, Jr. were inducted to the Wall of Honour for their contributions to politics, education, sports and community service;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Mr. Adams, Mrs. Clayton, Mr. Jackson, Mrs. Thomas, the family of the late Deacon Bundy and the other inductees to the Wall of Honour, and thank them for their dedication to their community and to Nova Scotia.

[3:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

[Page 381]

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 it is time for this government to develop a three-strikes-and-you're-out policy for Tory MLAs; and

Whereas when an MLA finds it necessary to stand three times in this House and apologize, first to the member for Dartmouth North, second to nurses of this province, and now thirdly to the Public Service of this province; and

Whereas perhaps the Premier would like to instruct the member for Dartmouth South just to stand now and make a blanket apology to everyone else he is likely to offend in the course of his duties as MLA and caucus chairman for the Tories;

Therefore be it resolved that before the member for Dartmouth South speaks again, the Premier adopt a three-apologies-and-you're-out strategy for his caucus so none of us will have to listen to the member for Dartmouth South again.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party.


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

Whereas recently the Clare Acadiens hosted the 2001 Nova Scotia Midget B hockey championships at the Université Sainte-Anne arena; and

Whereas the hosting team emerged victorious; and

Whereas four of the Clare players picked up individual honours in addition to the team's win;

[Page 382]

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the Clare Acadiens as well as Jamie Thompson, Gabriel Comeau, Phillip Leblanc and Joel Deveau on their tremendous performance.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Natural Resources.


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

Whereas sports and athletic opportunities, both team and individual, play a significant role in the development and growth of our youth; and

Whereas two young ladies from Amherst, through their perseverance and individual effort, have managed to rise through the ranks of their respective categories in ladies figure skating; and

Whereas Alyssa Davidson has won silver at competitions in Dartmouth and in the Miramichi and Amanda Whidden has won gold, silver and bronze at competitions in the Miramichi, Dartmouth and Dieppe, respectively;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize Amherst natives, 13 year old Amanda and 10 year old Alyssa for their commitment to excel and their shining example to their classmates, friends, family and community.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 383]

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.


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

Whereas the UCCB Dramagroup is presenting Power Plays, a series of original short plays written and performed by participants in the Dramagroup; and

Whereas this is the Dramagroup's 30th Annual One Act Play Festival; and

Whereas the students at UCCB Dramagroup represent a strong sense of commitment to Cape Breton's special brand of creativity and talent;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize the Dramagroup's efforts and congratulate them on 30 years of drama festivals.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton East.


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

[Page 384]

Whereas today I will be sending a letter to the Premier, the Minister of Environment and Labour, and the Minister of Transportation and Public Works regarding water quality in Glace Bay; and

Whereas while many areas of this province have concerns about the state of their water, Glace Bay is in a particularly bad situation; and

Whereas left unresolved, the situation with Glace Bay and area's water supply will almost certainly endanger the health and possibly lives of residents;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House encourage the Premier, Minister of Environment and Labour, and Minister of Transportation and Public Works to fast-track the cleanup of Glace Bay and area water as much as possible.

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 Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.


MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the honourable member for Cumberland South, Speaker of the House, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas approximately 100 hockey players, officials, employees and fans narrowly averted a tragedy when the roof of the Springhill arena collapsed during a peewee hockey tournament in early February; and

Whereas the quick and professional response of fire, Emergency Health Services, police officials and town employees who secured the area and ensured that all who had been in the arena were safe and accounted for; and

Whereas the Springhill arena has been the hub of community activity and will be missed by the community;

[Page 385]

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House, the Nova Scotia Legislature, thank Springhill Mayor Bill Mont, fire, police and Emergency Health Services officials, town employees and the entire community for their response to this devastating loss of the Springhill arena.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.


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

Whereas the Victoria Road interchange is a vital egress street from the A. Murray MacKay Bridge; and

Whereas there has been a serious lighting problem on this interchange for three years; and

Whereas the Victoria Road interchange lighting has been the number one item on the constituency priority list from the member for Dartmouth North to the Department of Transportation and Public Works;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Transportation and his department, which considers the project a priority, immediately start the upgrading of the Victoria Road interchange lighting.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 386]

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

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 yesterday, in this House, the member for Dartmouth South would not take a stand for or against the government's proposal to use the property taxes of residents of HRM to support equalization; and

Whereas the Cabinet Minister-in-waiting, the member for Cape Breton North, stood up in support of the government's proposal to use property taxes to support equalization; and

Whereas the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank left no doubt in anybody's mind that he was against the government's proposal to use property taxes to support equalization;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier follow his own advice by consulting with his caucus and obtain their consensus before placing a policy proposal to the citizens of Nova Scotia.

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 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 387]

Whereas amusement park rides are not part of the advertised tourism package for the Prospect Road, along the popular Lighthouse Route to Peggy's Cove; and

Whereas there are more bumps on this road than on any amusement park ride; and

Whereas the residents of the communities along the Prospect Road are far from amused by the condition of this road;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Transportation and Public Works stop musing and start deciding on the much-needed improvements to the Prospect Road.

MR. SPEAKER: 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 Minister of Health promised that his district health authorities would be able to make health care decisions at the local level; and

Whereas yesterday, in this House, it was revealed that the honourable member for Yarmouth made a pronouncement on where funds would be allocated before the district health authority had had a chance to finalize their budgets; and

Whereas this runs contrary to the commitment the Minister of Health made not only to the district health authorities, but also to the people of Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Health reveal to the people of Nova Scotia, once and for all, that health care decisions are being made in downtown Halifax and not at the local level, as promised.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

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 388]

Whereas community involvement must remain an integral part of the volunteer spirit of this province; and

Whereas each year the communities in the St. Margaret's Bay area recognize a volunteer; and

Whereas Harry Beuree of Hubley was chosen as a St. Margaret's Bay Citizen of the Year for his dedication and many years of hard work;

Therefore be it resolved that this House offer its congratulations and gratitude to Harry Beuree for his contributions to the St. Margaret's Bay area and his announcement as the St. Margaret's Bay Citizen of the Year.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

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 yesterday in this House the rookie member for Cape Breton North used his first chance to speak on government policy to boast about his electoral good fortune in the last by-election; and

Whereas the member seems to have forgotten that in the 1997 federal election he came in a distant third with only 22 per cent of the vote; and

Whereas the Cape Breton North MLA should practice some humility instead of rolling over and doing tricks for his political masters;

[Page 389]

Therefore be it resolved that the MLA for Cape Breton North show more respect for his constituents by letting them judge his performance before bragging about it and remember, anyone can get elected once.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.



MR. SPEAKER: Question Period began at 3:42 p.m. and will end at 4:42 p.m.

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.


MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Finance. The budget that this minister has just tabled minutes ago is a stark admission that this government is adrift in incompetence and deception.

The budget shows that this government last year lowballed revenue by $250 million. At the same time, departments were overspending by over $100 million and, yet, the minister stands here today talking about sound fiscal management. My question to the Minister of Finance is, you hid $250 million from Nova Scotians in your last budget, how much are you hiding this time?

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: I am not sure this is appropriate for here but I will answer the question. We prepared our revenue estimates based on the information that is provided from the federal government along with the information that is generated within the Department of Finance using modules. That is what we did last year, we exceeded those amounts and I am proud of it and I am glad and Nova Scotians should be glad that this economy did better. (Applause) We followed the same principles and the same modules that were there before and I hope that this year we will exceed them again because we used the same modules this year as we did last year.

MR. DEVEAUX: This government has said that it is setting off on a clear course. It is clear that they are sailing a ship without a rudder, floating wherever the wind takes them. The Minister of Finance has lucked into a federal windfall and he has had to admit that his revenue projections were completely ridiculous.That is not sound fiscal management. So my question to the Minister of Finance is, was that $250 million deficit the result of deception or incompetence?

[Page 390]

MR. LEBLANC: I answered the question the previous time. We use the models that produce the numbers. In the year ending March 31, 2001, they are going to be exceeded and I make no apologies for that. That is the same policy that we will follow this time. If that member across the floor is hoping that it is the exact same number or lower, I know that people on this side are hoping and praying that the economy will grow. That is the difference of the attitude on this side of the House and that side of the House.

[3:45 p.m.]

MR. DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, the new investments this government tries to trumpet as their own are really nothing more than federal dollars being funnelled through their cheque book. Most of the increases they have provided won't keep up with inflation in the next year. I want to ask the minister one last question, why, instead of investing, really investing in the priorities Nova Scotians want, have you been playing shell games with the finances of this province?

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I find this line of questioning amazing. We have invested $68 million in health this year; we have invested $13 million in education; we have invested $4 million in Nova Scotia Community Colleges for jobs that people across this province can take advantage of. If he doesn't stand for that, well, I do.

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


MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, welcome back to the days of John Buchanan. It is hard to get a straight answer from this government. I think Nova Scotians are more confused today about the state of the province's finances than they have ever been. One day the sky is falling, the next day the spending floodgates have been opened. My question to the Premier is, can the Premier tell Nova Scotians why the message has changed so much and so often in the last month?

HON. JOHN HAMM (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, for those with a good memory will clearly recollect that 21 months ago this government said that we would table a budget this spring with a $91 million deficit. There has never been, in the history of this province, a government that has been so clear in telling the people of Nova Scotia where it will be each and every step of the way. A year from now we will have that balanced budget.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, the Premier talked about as open and accountable government. We all know the Premier is very concerned with his own integrity. My question to the Premier is, why have you and your Finance Minister been so misleading about the state of the province's finances?

[Page 391]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, those who have served in the position, in previous governments, of Minister of Finance, know that many of the revenue projections that go into making up the budget actually come from the federal government. They are checked; every revenue in the books is checked by the Auditor General and approved. These are not our revenue projections, they are those that are given by the federal government and are approved by the Auditor General. That is the way we are going to continue to do it.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, this is the same Auditor General who said that this government over here has no plan. This Premier and this Finance Minister blew it. My question to the Premier is, where did this government squander a $249 million windfall opportunity?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite may think investing in children's programs and reading programs is squandering money; that member may think that eliminating the clawback of the National Child Benefit is squandering money; that member may think that putting more health care in the hands of Nova Scotia is squandering money, but I don't agree.

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


MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance should be, maybe he is already filling out his thank-you notes because he should be sending them to two people - I will call them the two Alans, Alan Greenspan and Allan Rock, because the only way he is even being able to get this in at a $90 million deficit is because of the interest rate cuts that Alan Greenspan has made in the last few months and Allan Rock's money, the windfall that he has been providing to this province over the last little while.

So I want to ask the Minister of Finance, which of these factors is the reason that this minister is able to claim he has sound fiscal management? Is it the interest rates in North America, is it the misleading budget assumptions, or is it government business enterprise?

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, what I can say is the cause of this is something that the New Democratic Party does not believe in, it is called the private sector.

MR. DEVEAUX: The irony of this, Mr. Speaker, is that the private sector, represented by the Metro Chamber of Commerce, has given this government a failing grade in controlling spending in government. So don't come in here and talk about the fact that the private sector is your saviour, when they condemn you for not being able to control spending.

[Page 392]

My question to the Minister of Finance this time, Mr. Speaker, is given the fact that the conditions may not be exactly the same or as fortuitous as they were last year, what is this minister going to rely on in order to make his budget work and keep his numbers looking as good as they are?

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to hear that the member opposite thinks that our numbers look good. (Applause) The great thing about that is that we have Hansard and I can get it off the copy.

Mr. Speaker, we have projected numbers this year for revenue growth that we feel are based on sound advice - they are also substantiated by the Auditor General - but the investments that we have made in health care and in education will help make them sustainable. We have also made some strategic investments in the economy that will help keep our economy strong and diversified, and for that I make no apologies and I stand by my decisions today and I will a year from now when they bear fruit.

MR. DEVEAUX: Luckily, Mr. Speaker, we will have Hansard for those words as well actually.

Nova Scotians have spoken; they have spoken over the last two years about the need to truly invest in health care and invest in education, not a drop in the bucket. This minister calls it strategic investing. I would suggest to you this isn't strategic, it is nothing more than window dressing. My question to this minister is, why have you not made the proper choices by investing fully in health care and education so that Nova Scotians can truly take advantage of prosperity in this province?

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I often wonder which side of the equation he is on. He is saying we are spending too much, that the business sector is upset with us, and he is also saying that we are not spending enough. We invested $68 million in this budget from this year ending March 31, 2001, to next year: $68 million in health care; $13 million invested in education; $4 million in long-term care; $5 million in universities; and we have also invested in innovation at $15 million, that will trigger some of the private sector money, federal money, that will add to research and development in this capital city, and through community colleges and universities throughout Nova Scotia. I think it is a sound and prudent investment, and we made those investments knowing that it will help shore up our economy, but also make those types of expenditures that we have sustainable. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.


MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, a question to the Minister of Finance, and I am sure his previous colleagues, John Buchanan and others, would be very proud of the fact

[Page 393]

that this minister has, since taking office, increased the debt of the Province of Nova Scotia by $1.3 billion; $3.5 million a year. At the same time, this Minister of Finance has mismanaged a windfall of some $511 million of additional revenue since they have taken office. My question to the minister is, how could the minister have done such a poor job in managing this massive windfall in the Province of Nova Scotia?

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: I have often said that it doesn't pay to look to the past, and I won't because, Mr. Speaker, when we came into power I believe that the province's were in disarray, and I don't lay that at the foot of any one specific member. The real news is that we have to fix it. It doesn't matter who created it. Whether it was John Buchanan or whether it was Russell MacLellan or John Savage or previous Finance Ministers, we have to take our head out of the sand and deal with it, and we are reducing our deficit and that will bring long-term benefits to this province, and I make no apologies for that.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians are not interested in what he did in the past. They are here to hear what he is doing here today. The Auditor General is saying to the minister and to this government, for heaven's sake, get a plan and stick with it. They haven't stuck with any plan. In fact, they don't even have a plan.

This year they have had a $249 million windfall. About $177 million of that came from Paul Martin and the federal Liberals. This is a disgrace when you realize what has gone on provincially, today.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. DOWNE: My question to the minister is, how many times does this minister feel, and expect other people will be able to bail him out? (Interruption)

MR. LEBLANC: No, I am going to be nice. Mr. Speaker, from last year to this year our revenues increased. We all know that, and because of that we are able to make additional investments, and I stand by those decisions today. We will continue to make those decisions but we will live within our four year plan. We told Nova Scotians what they would expect in budgets. I meant it last time, I mean it this time and I will mean it the next two years because consistency and the bottom line is what they deserve and I can do no less.

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, the minister says he is going to stick to his plan. Well, the reality is the Auditor General says the plan doesn't work, it will not work. Secondly, this minister has had a windfall profit of $0.25 billion, which was not part of his plan. Not only did he not manage that properly, he has increased the deficit of the Province of Nova Scotia to the tune of $1.3 billion. My question to the minister is, knowing that the good times can't last forever, what is this minister going to do in regard to the long-term plan of the escalating debt of the Province of Nova Scotia?

[Page 394]

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, in regard to the member opposite's comments, he refers to the Auditor General. The Auditor General says that we, as government, have to have more information to make decisions, he said if we did not do that it would threaten our plan. Look, we agree that the information is not there. That is why we are making the investments in information technology both in the health field and in education. In a sense we are agreeing with the Auditor General, but I have to say that I don't agree with the member opposite's comments.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

FIN. - BUDGET (2001-02): HEALTH -


MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, my question will be for the Minister of Finance. Last March the Health Minister released a review of acute and long-term care services in this province. His own reports say that 1 in 5 acute care beds in this province is being used inappropriately for long-term care patients. Occupancy rate is over 90 per cent of the long-term care facilities in this province, provinces are at 99 per cent. This budget boasts of a $19 million increase in funding to long-term care. I want to ask the Finance Minister how many new long-term care beds will be created out of this new funding?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Even though it is a question, I guess, directly related to the budget, it would actually be a question, I would think, that would be related to Health more than the budget.

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the seriousness of the question. However, that question should be directed to the Minister of Health and I would refer it.

[4:00 p.m.]

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, there are a number of initiatives in long-term care. One is the single-point entry for seniors. The other thing that is in the budget, which has to be seen as part of the response, is the increase in home care money. There are two things that are happening in the long-term care - now that we have a universal or a Nova Scotia classification which is going to help - first of all, we have people in hospitals who could be more appropriately cared for or just as appropriately cared for somewhere else, in the long-term care sector. Secondly, we have people in the long-term care sector, taking beds in long-term care, who probably do not really have to be there.

Mr. Speaker, the new system that we have set up will see that anybody who goes into one of these facilities now, their needs can be best met in that facility. What is going to happen is that . . .

[Page 395]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. While I am prepared to allow questions toward the budget, I think we are getting into specifics. There is lots of time and lots of hours that are set aside to go into Estimates, Committee of the Whole, to discuss specifics. I would ask the members to make a little faster questions, a little faster answers, please.

MR. MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I would assume that the Minister of Finance approached the Minister of Health when he was arranging dollars for long-term care beds. The minister knows almost all this new money will simply go toward paying for increases in wages to nursing home staff. No new long-term care beds will be created. What this minister has really done for seniors in this province is hit them with a new user fee, they will now pay $50 a day for a hospital bed they are forced to occupy because there is nothing else out there available. I want to ask the Finance Minister, why are you downloading on seniors, at a time in their life when they are the most vulnerable, the cost of poor government planning?

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I am going to refer this to the Health Minister because the plan did come from the Department of Health.

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the fact of the matter is that if you were to look at it, in some ways it is a good bargain for seniors, because people who happen to be in that situation, we would sooner they be in a long-term care bed. If they are in a long-term care bed, the cost of a long-term care bed on the average, in the province, is significantly more than that. Anybody who goes into that situation has to contribute as they can. That is the same situation, the new policy that will be coming in. We piloted it up in Cape Breton this year and it worked quite well.

MR. MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, they have to contribute as they can because this government didn't see far enough ahead to try to create a place that would be more appropriate for them. The minister refers to a pilot project in Cape Breton. What he isn't saying is that they are charging seniors full per diem rates for those beds. I want to ask the minister, when will you admit that you have done nothing to alleviate acute care pressures, and this is nothing but a slippery slope on a road to charging seniors health care user fees? I would direct this to the Minister of Finance.

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I will answer one just to help the member out, because my colleague, the Minister of Health, has a terrible cold. If you listened to the speech, there is a reference there for single access, trying to prioritize people going into nursing homes. There is a pilot project that happened in Cape Breton this year, whereby there were 400 people who were listed as requiring nursing home beds now. When they did the review, many people were putting their names in advance, many people were more suited towards home care. The number, when it was finally reviewed, was down to 100.

[Page 396]

If we are going to make decisions in the long term to put new long-term care beds in this province, we better have the proper information to make the right decisions. We believe that by doing this, the single access, and doing the reviews that we will hopefully have that information. When we make investments, we will do them once, rather than doing them two or three times because of misinformation.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.


DR. JAMES SMITH: My question is to the Minister of Health. Since last year this minister has been slowly converting acute care beds into transitional care beds, especially in rural communities. Now today we learn the minister will be charging $50 a day because they are unlucky enough to be in an acute care facility and not having access to a long-term care facility. My question to the minister is, is the minister actually giving up today on long-term care strategy by turning our hospitals into nursing homes?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Categorically, no. If the honourable member had listened to the last response from my colleague, the Minister of Finance, what we are trying to do is to get accurate information so that when we do make the commitment to invest in additional beds if they are needed, then we will do the correct thing.

It is not just additional beds, as the honourable member knows. It is what services should be provided to these people. People are getting older and older. For example, the number of people who have some sort of dementia in our long-term care facilities has increased and you need specialized facilities to deal with them as opposed to just a straight bed.

DR. SMITH: With due respect, I did ask the Minister of Health the question, not the Minister of Finance. We heard what he had to say, we know what he is doing, adding $3 million every day to the debt of Nova Scotians.

The only reason the Minister of Health is implementing this measure is because he does not have a long-term care strategy, we have learned that today, a strategy that would open up more nursing home beds. This budget today is not going to add a single long-term care bed. My question is, why is the minister making seniors pay because he does not have enough long-term care beds and why is he putting a tax on unwell and vulnerable seniors in this province?

MR. MUIR: It is interesting that a colleague stands up and criticizes us for spending too much and the Health Critic stands up and criticizes for not spending enough. I mean, it has to be one thing or the other.

[Page 397]

This is not a tax, it is part of our current long-term strategy to try to ensure that more long-term care beds open up and we are trying to see that the people who get into those beds are the people who need to get into them. It is one of these things, I guess. You can carry for so long and if people are able to contribute to the cost of their care, then they do it because they are not in an acute care bed, they are in a long-term care bed. When he was in the department, that is what he did.

DR. SMITH: We have expensive acute care hospital beds that are being used for long-term care - intentionally used. So we have a situation where acute care beds in this province are intentionally being used as long-term care.

Mr. Minister, you are not addressing the problem of long-term care in Nova Scotia or I would ask the question, perhaps the minister is, Mr. Speaker. So is this the first step? My question to the minister is, is this the first step in converting rural hospitals throughout Nova Scotia to long-term care facilities? This tax on our seniors, is that the first step to converting our community rural hospitals to long-term care facilities?

MR. MUIR: I could add just for edification, when this was piloted last year, it was piloted in industrial Cape Breton where - and I am not really sure, we were talking about rural Nova Scotia. So, the answer is no.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.


MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: My question is to the Minister of Finance. Halifax West High School was recently shut down because it was too unsafe for students and teachers to be in the building. St. Pat's High School recently renovated because they had tiling from outside the walls falling off and the building was literally falling apart. Many other schools in Nova Scotia are in similar positions yet this budget contains no new money for preventive school maintenance. I want to ask the minister, what will it take for him to realize that safe schools are a priority?

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I will refer this question to the Minister of Education and if there is anothr question I will have a chance to offer some comments.

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the member for Halifax Needham is quite right. That was one of the pressures in the school system that we were unable to address this year. However, the department does have a capital and renovation and alteration plan which has not yet been approved but which we will be announcing, which will be able to address some of the concerns that the member speaks of.

[Page 398]

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: I have to say it is shocking that the Minister of Finance has no opinion on school maintenance in this province on the day that the budget is tabled. We all know that the reason schools are falling down is years and years of cutbacks and neglect in Education budgets. Maintenance was often the first thing to go when school boards were faced with the choice of losing teachers or putting off repairs. Now we have reached a crisis point. Some of our schools are no longer inhabitable. When will this government use some of Nova Scotia's unexpectedly high revenues to make schools safe? Mr. Speaker, to the Minister of Finance.

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, obviously the member opposite hasn't read the budget document because we have increased the capital money for schools this year. I invite her to do so and to rephrase the question.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, if the Minister of Finance had been listening, paying attention to the question, he would have heard that we were talking not about constructing new buildings but preventive maintenance for which there is no new money in this budget. I want to ask the minister how much longer does he think schools that need preventive maintenance can wait?

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite made a reference about whether or not we are willing to invest in schools and I said we were but specifically in regard to maintenance, I will refer the question to the Minister of Education.

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, there is money in all school board budgets for regular maintenance but what the member is talking about is the kind of deferred maintenance that actually ruins buildings. We are going to be able to address that with a capital and alterations and renovations plan.


MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.



MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health. Since December 23, 2000, there has been no full-time physician at the Strait-Richmond Hospital to cover the emergency room during the daytime. The local residents, staff and physician recruitment committee have patiently waited for this minister to take action to immediately address this serious situation. Today marks the 96th day since Dr. Thomas left the Strait-Richmond Hospital and the minister has yet to send in even one doctor to cover the emergency room. My question to the minister is, how do you justify the fact that your callous

[Page 399]

disregard for the crisis at the Strait-Richmond Hospital has placed the health and safety of the residents in the Strait area at risk?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I take exception to the words, callous disregard. I want to tell you that I feel very badly that we have not been successful in working with the community to get a new physician at that facility. We continue to work. We are putting a tremendous amount of effort into filling that position. We will continue to do so and hopefully will be successful before too long.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, the minister standing in this House and sticking his thumb in his mouth and sucking on it is of little comfort to the people in the Strait area. (Interruptions)

[4:15 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I don't think that the House needs an exchange of conversation like that to get the point across. I would ask the honourable member for Richmond who has the floor for the question, please.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, since the minister has taken over the Department of Health a record number of doctors and specialists have been leaving this province, such as the liver specialist at the QE II and the heart surgeon at the IWK. Not only is there a doctor crisis at the Strait-Richmond Hospital, the community of Isle Madame is in immediate need of at least three more doctors. Can the minister explain, in light of the failure to attract more physicians to our province, what additional steps has he taken to address this pressing situation?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind the honourable member that Nova Scotia in terms of physician recruitment is the second most successful jurisdiction in Canada. This year we have been very successful, even more than last year. The number of physicians we have practising full-time in this province at this current time is greater than it was last year, which is greater than it was the year before. In regard to the Strait-Richmond, our staff is very soon going to be meeting with the district health authority to try to determine what options are going to best serve that community until we can get a full-time physician to the Strait-Richmond in the daytime.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, the Strait area was faced with this problem three years ago. Through the efforts of my colleague, the MLA for Dartmouth East, then Minister of Health, and my colleagues, Ray White and Charlie MacDonald, we were able to attract Dr. Thomas to the Strait-Richmond Hospital and four more doctors to Richmond County. Today the residents of the Strait area question whether the Minister of Tourism and Culture and the MLA for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury are even aware that a doctor crisis situation exists at the Strait-Richmond, which serves both their constituencies.

[Page 400]

My final question to the minister is, how do you justify the fact that not only have you abandoned the Strait-Richmond Hospital, but you are also refusing to assist your colleagues, the Minister of Tourism and the MLA for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member for Richmond only really tells half the story. He knows perfectly well that we have been working very hard and if I am not mistaken, in his home community there is either one or two new physicians since last fall. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.


MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, my question will be for the Minister of Health. I want to talk to the minister about nursing because despite all the words we heard from the minister over the past year about his knowledge of the nursing crisis, this budget acts as if nurses were nothing but a small footnote to health care services.

Mr. Speaker, this budget provides $5 million towards developing and initiating a nursing resource strategy. Two years ago a strategy, which the Health Department was part of, concluded that this province needed $38 million to address the immediate need of 670 new nurses. So my question for the minister is, what do you expect $5 million to do for a $38 million problem?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I am delighted to say that our government does have a nursing strategy to deal with nursing issues. They are moving ahead with it. The details of that $5 million will be made public in a very short period of time. I can also tell you, as the honourable member well knows, that some of the difficulties which nurses feel they are experiencing is not necessarily related to fiscal things. It has to do with work conditions and, as you know and as he knows, they are currently at the bargaining table with the employers and some of these issues we hope can be taken care of there. They are non-monetary items.

MR. MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I can only assume that one of the work conditions is being overworked and not having enough staff to help. That is a monetary item. This government's response to the nursing crisis is like going from a really bad joke to a worse one. Since this government has entered office nurses have been displaced and laid off. There are jobs for nurses if you don't mind driving 100 miles to the next hospital or working 12 hour shifts two weeks straight. So I want to ask the minister, when are you going to address the retention issues

[Page 401]

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, with our nurses strategy we are taking additional steps to address the retention issue. Our bursary program has been a very positive step and I am pleased to say that all of the bursaries that were available were taken up and that means that those people are working here in Nova Scotia on a full-time basis.

I am also pleased to say, in response to the member for Dartmouth East yesterday, that there are more nurses working in Nova Scotia full time this year than there were last year at this time.

MR. MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I am not sure going from casual to part-time means there are more bodies.

There is a nursing recruitment fair this weekend at the Sheraton. Recruiters from across Canada and from the United States will be here trying to attract our nurses. After today they will have no reason to stay. My question for the minister is, how will you explain to the nurses in this province that you are actually going to do something for them when you have nothing but a pebble to fill a gaping hole in nursing services?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the Opposition today is talking in extremes - pebbles - but sometimes pebbles are very good things.

One of the things that we have done which we think is going to help that is part of our nursing strategy is the $300,000 that is going into the co-operative education program for nurses so that third year nurses from Dalhousie and St. F.X. programs will have the opportunity to do full-time internship practices in hospitals. Hopefully, once they get in there, they will stay. That is an example of one of the things that we are doing which is very positive.

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



MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Economic Development. Yesterday the deal to sell Devco to Oxbow of the United States died, once again placing in doubt the viability of the Cape Breton and Central Nova Scotia Railway. The closure of Sydney Steel and subsequent spin-offs means that every business from Sydney to Truro that depends on rail is in danger of closing. My question to the Minister of Economic Development is, what is the minister doing to ensure that the Cape Breton and Central Nova Scotia Railway and people along that line, will still have access to this vital rail link?

[Page 402]

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, back some time ago when I was responsible for both Economic Development and Transportation I met with that group and talked about what would happen if, in fact, Devco were to close and Sysco were to no longer operate. We talked at that time about the possibility of using the Cape Breton industrial expansion fund as a means to bridge that facility through a time of transition. I suggested to that group that they put together a feasibility plan that would see, perhaps, accessing that fund so that we could work with that community through the transition and we are continuing to do that.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, once again the Minister of Economic Development is being very generous with federal money here, saying that he would access the Cape Breton growth fund for the benefit of the railway. I am asking the minister what his government is going to do in terms of provincial initiatives to keep that particular operation going. Not only are the businesses in danger of closing, no new industry will be able to locate in these areas if the railway is gone. Businesses already in trouble because of this and thinking about closing Copol in North Sydney and TrentonWorks could be placed in jeopardy if this railway does not operate viably in the future.

Mr. Speaker, again my question to the minister is, what will the minister do to ensure the economic lifeblood of 250,000 residents in eastern Nova Scotia is not severed by any downsizing or abandonment of this rail line?

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, I would remind the member opposite that we are partners in that fund, we have committed to contribute $12 million, $3 million of which has been committed. We will continue to do that; we work as a partner with our federal counterparts to ensure that we work as a team to address these problems. I did, in fact, meet with Copol, we talked about this very issue and you're right, it is a very important to us. We can't afford to lose that valuable piece of infrastructure.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the $12 million that the minister talks about has now been stretched so far that it is stretched from Port Hawkesbury to Sydney, the $12 million that we haven't seen yet. The other $68 million, of course, monies that are going to be used in a variety of ways, hopefully in the near future, in Cape Breton to spur economic development.

I believe that this particular problem deserves some special attention and I would ask in my final supplementary that the minister would agree to sit down once again with the owners of this particular railway and make sure that that railway is going to be around to help out businesses from Truro to Sydney in the future.

MR. BALSER: Certainly, I would commit to that. We'll work with any group that has concerns about how to grow the economy. That means that they have to come forward with a viable long-term plan and we can work with them to make things happen.

[Page 403]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.


MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: My question is for the Minister of Education. In today's budget the minister announced $3 million in new funding for students with special needs. However, an education committee recently did a review and they recommended that $38 million is what is needed just to implement the current special needs policies of the minister's department. I would like the minister to explain how a $3 million cheque will fill an existing need of $38 million?

MR. SPEAKER: Again we're getting a little close to getting into real specifics within the budget and the estimates and I would ask the members to keep their questions more generalized if they want to ask about the budget and save the specific questions for Committee of the Whole, please. The honourable member for Halifax Needham, do you want to rephrase that a bit but more generalized as opposed to being specific about a line in the budget.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I asked the minister, what is she going to say to the families of special needs students who are waiting for additional funding that would be adequate?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the question actually refers to the balancing act that our Minister of Finance has done. On the one hand there are people who want us to not spend, not spend, not spend; there are those who want us to spend, spend, spend. So I would say to the parents of children with special needs that we recognize those needs and that we are putting money toward those special needs and, no, it may not be enough. But then again, perhaps $38 million might not be enough either.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, in two years time, this government is planning on offering a $130 million tax cut, yet they aren't prepared to fund their existing policies. Now I'd like the minister to tell us why a tax cut two years from now is more important than children with special needs, students in our school system today?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, there is not much more important to Nova Scotia families than their children. Any tax cut that this government is able to give will benefit all Nova Scotia families and children.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, this government wants to look like heroes for providing 13 per cent of what special needs students in this province have been promised. I want to ask the minister what she plans to say to families of special needs students, many of them who have been writing her and writing me in the last year since she

[Page 404]

devastated the special needs education funds in the education budget last year. How does she explain what they have done here today?

[4:30 p.m.]

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, first of all I have to correct something that the honourable member said. The money we provided for special needs last year was precisely the same as the year before. That budget was not devastated. What I say to those parents is that we are providing additional funding to support the programs that are already in place that are helping many students with special needs.

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


MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotia is known as a leader when it comes to truck safety on our highways. The safety record, of course, is largely due to the work of the province's 32 vehicle compliance officers. My question is for the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations. This memo, and I will table the memo, indicates that you were looking at privatizing these officers. There are suggestions that the RCMP will take over the service and cut the number of workers from 32 to 12. Can you tell this House why you are looking at privatizing this service?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I can tell the honourable member that we have received a proposal from the RCMP which suggests that they could provide this service. We have not made any determination as to whether or not the proposal is one which we are prepared to accept but we are evaluating it.

MR BOUDREAU: My question again is for the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations. Since your department has been quiet on this move to privatize public employees, can you give us an update on what stage this process is at?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, it is at the stage of evaluation of the proposal received.

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, my final question is to the Premier. Mr. Premier, here is the five point plan you agreed to in January 1997, and I will table that, sir. The plan indicates very clearly that if you privatize public employees, the decision will be based on sound evidence and public input. In regard to the vehicle compliance officers, will you and your government follow the five point plan you agreed to?

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Premier. (Interruption) Yes, he wasn't on the record.

[Page 405]


MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.



MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Education. As the minister is aware, the Halifax Regional School Board is reviewing some schools for closure. In Dartmouth North five schools are being reviewed; three for closure, two others where student populations will be redirected. This constitutes a major disruption in the student population in a community, the likes of which has never been seen in Nova Scotia before. My question to the minister is, will the minister commit to paying special attention to school closures in this area so that no student will be denied a quality education?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, school closures and consolidation are always a painful process whether they are in Dartmouth or another part of the province. I must point out to the member, as he knows, these are the exclusive responsibility of school boards. Closure of schools and consolidation is precisely aimed at providing a better quality of education in the classroom to students.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, I just want to remind the minister that I just asked her to pay close attention to quality education here. I did not ask her to intervene. Maybe the second supplementary will, or the first supplementary.

The Dartmouth North constituencys believe it is being unfairly targeted because of the socio-economic status. They also believe that there is not sufficient technical nor financial information from which to do a proper analysis. The question to the Minister of Education is, will the minister use her powers of the office to stop this unfair, flawed process all together?

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

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, my final supplementary. It is the community's understanding that once the decision on a school closure is made, it cannot be reversed, so it is imperative that action be taken before April 17th. Once again, the question to the Minister of Education is, will the minister commit to intervening by removing the Dartmouth North schools from the school closure review list?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, as difficult as it is for people who want to keep their schools open, this process is in the purview of the school board. The school board is listening to parents and it is going to evaluate their responses, and it is going to make its decision. The

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school board is responsible, not the Minister of Education. The school board will make the decision.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Victoria.



MR. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, since the Minister of Natural Resources is back, we would like to put him to work. Reports from Shelburne suggest that a ministerial order may be granted on April 1st to allow camping, campfires, the burial of human waste, the collection of dead trees in the Tobeatic Wilderness area, a protected area. My question for the Minister of Natural Resources is, is the minister considering or is he aware that the Department of Environment is even considering this?

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, I certainly want to thank the member opposite for his warm welcome to the House. On the issue of the question raised, as the honourable member would know, the operation of the 31 protected areas in Nova Scotia does fall under the purview of the Department of Environment and Labour. From time to time, the operating regulations or guidelines on how the 31 protected areas would be dealt with do arise, and we would have discussions with the Department of Environment and Labour on being able to administer them with the Department of Natural Resources.

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, this article, which I will table, makes reference to a ministerial order. It quotes an Environment spokesman saying that the order may come as early as April 1st. My question to the minister is, does the Minister of Natural Resources think that this is appropriate, to allow this new potential for forest fires in the protected area?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, again I have to reiterate, the operation of what are accepted practices within the 31 protected areas fall under the purview of the Department of Environment and Labour. Certainly we would be consulted and have discussions on any protocol in that type of involvement.

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, apparently I am not getting my message across; I am certainly not getting the answer I am looking for. I want to make it very clear to the minister. Does the minister agree that this may open the door to potential fires in that protected area?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, certainly when you are dealing with a protected area and keeping it in its natural state, there are certain procedures and protocols that are acceptable and unacceptable. When the member opposite refers to whether an area can have brush removed or trees eliminated or that they would live their full cycle, those issues are ones that would be discussed with biologists, with the experts involved, and the Department of

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Environment and Labour, with consultation from Department of Natural Resources would make the ultimate decision.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.


MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Education. One of the most important issues affecting the entire mainland south region of Halifax is the construction of the new Halifax West High School. So my first question to the minister is very simple and very direct and I hope she will answer me in the same way. The question is, according to the best information that the minister has today, when will the new Halifax West High School open?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, according to the last information I received on that school, the school would be open in the fall of 2002.

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, there is nobody involved in the construction process, including the parents or the members of that minister's own department, who believe that that is true. It is widely expected that the school will not be able to open until at least January 2003. This has caused enormous disruption not only to the Halifax West students and parents but also to J.L. Ilsley. A lot of people want to know, what resources is this minister prepared to devote to minimizing the disruption to literally thousands of parents, students and educators?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I would like to make the point that when people were screaming for a new school last year no one mentioned the plight of the students split-shifting. One of the reasons we wanted to renovate was precisely to get the kids back in school as soon as possible.

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


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.

[Page 408]

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 7.

Bill No. 7 - Lobbyists' Registration Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise and move second reading of this bill. This is a very straightforward piece of legislation. It is designed to ensure those engaged in the lobbying process do so in an open and transparent manner. Now, surprisingly, there are members on the opposite side of the House that suggest that we are going too far in being open and transparent. We believe Nova Scotians have a right to know how paid lobbyists intend to try and influence public policy. We believe it is reasonable to expect that those who are paid to lobby government outline the techniques they intend to use.

Do we need some specific times and dates? No. Do we expect that overall approaches be outlined? Yes. This bill will ensure the accountability is part of the lobbying process, Mr. Speaker. Is this a Draconian approach, as the Opposition would suggest? It is not. It is an open and progressive approach. Lobbyists will be required to disclose their activities with the Registrar of Lobbyists.

The bill quite clearly outlines the information that must be provided by those defined as consultant lobbyists, meaning those who are contracted by organizations to lobby on their behalf. As well, Mr. Speaker, the legislation covers in-house lobbyists or those who are hired to lobby on behalf of their employer, including corporations operating for commercial gain as well as non-commercial organizations. Non-commercial organizations, of course, would include professional organizations, charitable organizations and advocacy groups.

The lobbying process itself is clearly defined, Mr. Speaker. Essentially, lobbying occurs when a paid lobbyist communicates with a public office-holder in an attempt to influence the development of legislation, regulations or the passing of legislation, or there is an attempt to influence decisions regarding programs and policies of government, the awarding of contracts, decisions to out-source work or there are arrangements for meetings between a public office-holder and a consultant lobbyist.

[4:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, public office-holders are defined as Cabinet Ministers, all MLAs and their staff, as well as members of the Public Service, including serving on agencies, boards and commissions. Members of police forces in the province are also included. The definition does not include judges, Justices of the Peace, the Ombudsman's Office, the review officer under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, or administrative tribunals.

[Page 409]

Obviously, Mr. Speaker, not all contact or communication with members of the House of Assembly or members of the Civil Service constitutes lobbying. This is a key point. Any oral or written submission made to a committee of the House which are a matter of public record are excluded. Individuals who provide oral or written submissions regarding the enforcement, application or interpretation of legislation, or policies, or programs, are not considered to be lobbying. Similarly, any oral or written submissions made to an MLA on behalf of a constituent does not constitute lobbying unless it concerns a private bill for the special benefit of that individual.

This bill means that lobbyists will be required to disclose information regarding their activities. Within 10 days of agreeing to lobby a public office-holder on behalf of a client, consultant lobbyists must provide their own name and address and that of a client firm, or any of its subsidiary firms for which they are working or by whom they are employed. The name and address of organizations that contributed $750 or more in the previous fiscal year to the lobbyists activities must be disclosed. If any government money has been received by the client, the consultant lobbyist must outline the source and amount of funding. A description of the issue for which they are lobbying and the communication techniques to be used must also be outlined. For example, if the lobbyist intends to meet with government officials in the ensuing six months, appeal to members of the public to engage in a letter-writing or telephone campaign, that approach would be outlined. It is certainly not an onerous amount of information that will be required.

Frankly, Mr. Speaker, I believe it is logical that those engaged in lobbying provide a general outline of intended activities. Otherwise, how can one suggest that the process could truly be open and transparent? If you are missing crucial elements of information, you are paying lip service to the notion of accountability. That is simply not good enough.

Mr. Speaker, members of the Opposition have been long calling for openness and transparency in government. We are providing it to them in large measure. Consultant lobbyists will also be required to outline whether they intend to lobby members of the Legislative Assembly or their staff. They must also provide the name of the department, agency or member of the Civil Service they expect to lobby. Specific information relating to the relevant legislative proposal, policy or program must also be provided. If the consultant lobbyist is being paid on a contingency basis, that must be disclosed. Should the registrar request any additional information, the lobbyist has 30 days in which to supply that information. The registrar must also be given 30 days notice of completion of the undertaking or of completion of the lobbyist contract.

Similarly, provisions will be required of in-house lobbyists. They will be required to register within two months of becoming a lobbyist and within two months after the end of each year. An employee would be considered to be an in-house lobbyist if a significant part of their duties is devoted to lobbying on behalf of their employer. If an in-house lobbyist is

[Page 410]

working for a non-commercial organization, the senior officer of the organization is required to list the names of the employees who are performing lobbying duties.

A new registration form with names and planned activities would be filed every six months. Naturally, the information filed with the registrar will be available for public scrutiny. That is the whole purpose of registration. Any lobbyist in violation of the Act would be subject to a fine of up to $25,000. Appropriate fees for filing this information will be determined by Cabinet and outlined in the regulations that will follow. Indeed, however, it is our intention that those fees be kept as low as is reasonably possible.

In terms of where the registry will be housed, we are in preliminary discussions with the Department of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations. It does seem however that with respect to the Business Registry, there would be a logical fit. We will develop additional details as time goes on and discussions progress.

This legislation closely mirrors the federal process and the Act which is currently in place in the Province of Ontario which are the only two areas where lobbyists are required to register in Canada. We believe it will work well here in Nova Scotia and we hope and expect that all members of the Legislative Assembly will support a move towards public transparency with respect to all of those individuals who are paid lobbyists to lobby government. Thank you very much.

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

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to be able to stand and speak on this Bill No. 7, a bill that our caucus will support. As most members of this House will know and for the record, this is a bill to a great extent, with a few changes, we have been introducing for practically 10 years, I believe, in hopes that this province would eventually recognize and the government of this province would recognize the need to have to focus on openness and accountability in the lobbying process. I am glad to hear the words of the Minister of Justice.

I will be honest with you. When he introduced this Bill No. 7, I assumed this would be the exact same result as last year. He would introduce it and it would not be called so I commend the Minister of Justice for calling this piece of legislation and I am glad to see that this is, hopefully, something that will be able to make it through the House, get Royal Assent and we will be able to have a more open process with regard to how people are lobbying government. It is sort of like opening the window in a smoky back room and allowing the process to have a breath of fresh air.

However, I think it is important for the record to talk about the fact that there are a couple of amendments that we would like. Nothing too serious, but I think it is important to put them down on record.

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The government's bill, as compared to the one we introduced last week, includes a new exemption. The bill does not apply to a barrister of the Supreme Court with respect to drafting legislation. We don't particularly see anything wrong with that, but there are a few other things that we would like to see, or changes in your bill compared to ours that we would like to see.

The government bill would have lobbyists file just one return per undertaking within 10 days of starting. Our bill would have lobbyists file initially in the same way, but we would require they file updates on their undertakings every three months for the life of the undertaking. Maybe the undertaking would take two or three years - it could be a fairly long campaign and we would feel that it would be a good opportunity for them to have to give regular updates as to the status of what is happening.

The person who was the actual lobbyist may change. They may move on to another job, there may be changes in how the campaign is being adapted. We think it would be good to have filings on a regular basis.

Our bill requires lobbyists to include details about expenses incurred in the lobbying effort - the government bill does not. We think it would be a good idea to ensure that the filings include some issues around expenses.

The government bill requires in-house lobbyists to file an initial return within two months of becoming an in-house lobbyist and then to file an annual return. Our bill requires in-house lobbyists to file an initial return within two months of becoming an in-house lobbyist and then subsequently every six months instead of a year. Again, given the fact that campaigns and lobbying efforts can change fairly quickly in this day and age, we think that every six months would be a better opportunity for people to give us updates as to what is going on. As above, our bill requires details about expenses incurred to be included in the return; the government bill does not. We would like to see expenses having to be identified for in-house lobbyists as well.

Bottom line, our caucus would like to see some minor changes that we think will improve this legislation. We would hope that the government, and particularly the Minister of Justice, will take this back to his department, give it some strong consideration in seeing whether or not this is something that can be done.

There is one other amendment I think we thought would be important. We know it is not the intention of this bill to apply to the collective bargaining process. It is a unique situation, one very different than other forms of relationships between the government and organizations, but it is not explicitly put into the legislation that that is clear. So we would like to have an amendment that clarifies that the collective bargaining process and the relationship between the collective bargaining unit and the employer is unique and is not considered lobbying, and therefore will not be put into this legislation.

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Mr. Speaker, other than that, we think this is good legislation. As I said, it is something we have been - some would use a less charitable word - "harping" on, but is it something we have been promoting for a fairly long period of time, and I am glad to see the government finally moving on it. We will be supporting this bill, as I say, with some amendments when it goes to through the Law Amendments process.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, it is a privilege to rise today and to make a few comments on Bill No. 7. We are happy to see this is but one of many bills, I would suspect, that the government will be re-introducing. They have probably - I would dare say if my colleague Mr. MacEwan was here, I am sure he would correct me on the history - I don't know how many times before a majority government has allowed so many of its own bills to lapse on the floor of the House without ever calling them, and this government has established a reputation of doing that quite early in its mandate.

Mr. Speaker, we are pleased to see that Bill No. 7 has come back to the floor of this House. I guess only time will tell whether the government will have - in using the words of Mr. Baker, the Minister of Justice I should say - the intestinal fortitude to actually pass this bill on this occasion. We have seen a number of bills, unfortunately it seems that they lacked the spine they talk about in their Throne Speech so regularly.

Mr. Speaker, clearly lobbyist registration is something which our caucus has indicated its support for on previous occasions, and that certainly has not changed. Lobbyist registration is something that has been done by both the federal government and the Province of Ontario for quite some time. I believe the federal legislation, it was in 1988, when that was first introduced and it has been in effect ever since.

Mr. Speaker, at this point in time, as the minister said during his remarks on the bill briefing - and I should commend the minister again for having a bill briefing on this, although I notice that his press release and his comments were basically the exact same as when he first introduced the bill; it certainly didn't require too much additional work on his behalf to do it - the whole idea of lobbyist registration is an important one to our democratic process. It is essential that Nova Scotians from one end of this province to the other feel that what we are doing up here and the operations of government are very transparent and very open.

It is unfortunate in this day and age, in many ways the media itself has fostered a type of environment out there where everyone is very suspicious of what we do up here at Province House and what politicians do throughout the entire country. This is one piece of legislation which I would say is good public policy to try to address that very misconception that is out there and it allows Nova Scotians, wherever they are in this province, to see

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exactly who is lobbying government to make changes, and exactly why they are doing it, and on whose behalf they are doing it.

Mr. Speaker, in that respect this is clearly a concept which our caucus fully supports. We are continuing to go through the legislation itself, in Bill No. 7, and are continuing to see those different sections which are causing concern for our caucus. There are different items which have not been put in the bill which we are concerned about. I will not get into those in detail at this point in time, I will save that for the Law Amendments Committee process and Committee of the Whole where we will have an opportunity to go through this bill in its entirety, clause for clause, so I don't feel that it's something we should be discussing at this point in time.

[5:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, the concept of the Lobbyists' Registration Act is only as good as the enforcement and supervision that goes along with that Act. That is one of the main issues that we have with this legislation. Is this simply a public relations exercise by this government in saying, look we're open and accountable, we've passed this legislation or are they actually going to put the monitoring and supervision required to make sure that the Lobbyists' Registration Act is adhered to and that actually the sections of the bill are followed as they should be?

We have no indication at this point and I have to say that I am disappointed that in the minister's comments he has not given us any indication as to how this Lobbyists' Registration Act will be enforced, who will be there to supervise it and what provisions they are willing to take if there is any violation of this Act or if it is not followed, what they're prepared to do?

That is one of the main concerns that we have, that this is just window dressing by this government. They'll pass this legislation, check off their blue book and say what a great thing we've done and then leave it there to die within the Civil Service and not act upon it. It's essential that the framework be put in place to make sure that this is an effective Lobbyists' Registration Act.

I have spoken to a number of people, a number of individuals who are involved in the lobbying profession about this bill and what they thought of this bill and one of the comments that was made when I indicated that in many ways it mirrored the legislation in Ontario, they laughed and said, well, if they enforce it as much in Nova Scotia as they enforce it in Ontario, they're just wasting the paper that the bill is written on. We have no guarantees that this government is going to pursue any different course than what the Government of Ontario has.

[Page 414]

This government has shown a propensity to want to copy legislation from other Tory provinces in this country and to follow their lead. Similar to the johns bill which is also going to come up for debate at some point, which the minister seems to slip in his bill briefing. That's an integral issue right there.

The number of questions that remain around this bill that we're hoping in the debate that goes on in the days and weeks to follow that this government is going to be able to answer, the minister's going to be able to give us the necessary assurances and that we will be prepared to give our final support to the bill itself.

As I said from the start, this is a concept that we support. We do believe that lobbyists should be registering. It is our hope that this bill while we review it, is not going to unnecessarily hamper the efforts of community groups and non-profit organizations. We want to make sure that they are protected.

There are a number of issues that need to be clarified as to the role of elected officials and people who lobby us, I think that remains a bit of a grey area. The bill says, I believe, that MLAs are exempt from needing to register under this. The question is, what activities are exempt and I gave the example at the bill briefing that I am currently lobbying the Minister of Sport and Recreation to try to get some money for an elementary school in my riding for a playground. That is getting money from the government to give to an organization, I am clearly doing that on their behalf. The question is, will this bill in any way hamper those types of activities? Will they hamper our activities on behalf of business organizations in our ridings, different groups that are looking to locate to our ridings. We want to make sure that in no way, shape or form is this bill going to hamper our efforts as elected officials here in this House.

There are a number of groups, we did speak with some representatives from the different unions here in this province. They have some concerns as to what the impact will be on them. They are prepared to be open and accountable but the question is, how much control is this bill placing on them or is it limiting them and their free expression and the rights to expression here in this province?

There are still some issues out there that need to be clarified. I think they can be clarified if the minister has the goodwill to allow some possible changes to his legislation, some possible additions, possible amendments. I think that will make the passage of this legislation a much simpler process for him. Certainly in the past, I have to say that the minister has been open to making changes to legislation which, on second thought, proved to be positive changes. I know that once we present the changes that we are going to propose, the minister will see them as being legitimate, being very reasonable and, hopefully, he will use those same qualities in assessing our changes.

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With that, Mr. Speaker, I am not going to unnecessarily delay the debate on this bill, but I am glad to see the government has called this. As I said before, this is the second time around. Hopefully, we don't have to say third time lucky on this bill, that it is going to make it through the House this time. (Interruption)

Mr. Speaker, the honourable member for Preston tells me to stop talking. I would be more than happy to see him join in this debate to be able to tell us what he thinks of registration and making sure that lists don't get out to the wrong people or that civil servants don't be slipping lists out to the wrong people. I would love to hear what that member would have to say on that very issue, but I don't expect that he will be getting on his feet to tell us what he thinks of that whole issue and how that might be stopped through this lobbyist registration. With that, I suspect he will not interrupt me anymore.

Mr. Speaker, as I said, there are a number of issues that we do have with this. We are working on them right now to present them here to this House. We will do so on second reading. We do look forward to the Law Amendments Committee process to see what organizations are out there. I would suggest to the minister, in working through the Legislative Counsel Office, that proper notice be given that this bill is coming before the Law Amendments Committee.

It is often a frustrating thing. Organizations and Nova Scotians are not made aware of when this happens. Often they hear the bill being introduced and suddenly the Law Amendment Committee process has passed within 48 hours and they have missed their opportunity. So I am hoping that this process will not be at least before the middle of next week to give Nova Scotians ample opportunity to make presentations to that committee should they wish to do so. With that, Mr. Speaker, I will take my place and look forward to the continuing debate on Bill No. 7.

MR. SPEAKER: If I recognize the minister it will be to close the debate.

The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comments that were made by both Opposition critics. I can tell them that I look forward to looking at any amendments they may have. I will look at them with an open mind, as I at least try to do on all occasions.

I would make a comment though by way of a short note, Mr. Speaker, that I understand this bill, because of the definition of paid, would not affect the typical community organization as those kinds of things that would be involved with the Red Cross Society in Richmond County, if they wish to come forward and lobby for something, that that would not be covered because they are not paid. Of course, the other thing is that the honourable member, as long as he is not being paid by a company to lobby on behalf of that company, my understanding is that member is free to lobby for any business enterprise that he is able

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to get in his riding, as I am sure all honourable members have done and will continue to do. (Interruption) Yes, the Grand-Mère Hotel is an example of that perhaps, not to be partisan, but that is for a House in a slightly different place to discuss at great length, that hostelling opportunity.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I would close debate and I can also indicate that it is not my intention to be calling any meeting of the Law Amendments Committee before Thursday of next week so that should give more than ample opportunity for people wishing to put their name on the list with the Legislative Counsel Office.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 7. 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.

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 Bill No. 8.

Bill No. 8 - Motor Vehicle Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, this is like déjà vu all over again, as Yogi Berra would say, and I certainly hope that my luck is holding here with respect to this measure.

I am very pleased to speak in second reading on these amendments which we are bringing to the Motor Vehicle Act. These amendments have been before the House before, as I am sure honourable members will remember. We believe these amendments are important and certainly worth bringing forward once again. We made a commitment to the people of Nova Scotia that these amendments would be brought forward and we are living up to our commitment.

As honourable members are aware, this is enabling legislation. In March 1999 the Board of Police Commissioners in Halifax asked the government to bring forward legislation which would deal with this issue. We are giving municipalities the legislative framework needed to deal with prostitution in a very practical and effective manner. The elements required in a bylaw that may be adopted by a municipality are all clearly laid out in the legislation.

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The approach is quite simple, Mr. Speaker. If enacted, the bylaw will allow a peace officer to seize a vehicle if he or she is satisfied the car is being used in the course of committing a prostitution-related offence. As you will note from the legislation, the specific sections of the Criminal Code we are referencing are Section 211, which is transporting a person to a bawdy house; Section 212, procuring; and Section 213, which is an offence relative to prostitution.

As I have stated, there are several elements which must be contained in the bylaw. For instance, the bylaw must contain procedures for the detention and impounding of the vehicle and the subsequent forfeiture if the owner is found guilty of one of the offences I have just mentioned. The owner will be required to pay for any costs involved in the impounding or detention of the vehicle, because we believe that those who break the law must be accountable and must pay for their actions.

We also understand that there must be some circumstances where the lawful owner couldn't possibly know the vehicle was being used for an unlawful purpose. That is why any bylaw enacted must outline provisions that deal with that situation. We want to ensure that innocent owners are not punished for the actions of others.

There are several other provisions that must be included as well, Mr. Speaker. The bylaw must outline procedures for the return of personal property. It must also outline procedures for the release of the vehicle should money or security be provided and, obviously, should the owner be found not guilty. The bylaw must also outline the process to be followed should the value of the vehicle be less than the cost involved in the detention.

Mr. Speaker, we know there are some areas of the province where prostitution is seriously damaging communities. Certainly people in the north end of Dartmouth and other places in metro have been very vocal about their concerns. Some people have referred to prostitution as a victimless crime, that is not the case. The victims are the people in our communities who have to live with the problem. The victims are the families of the johns who continue to solicit prostitutes despite the impact that activity has on their families. The victims are the women themselves - and they are mostly women - who are responding to a demand that we hope will be reduced. It is also the children of those communities who are forced to walk to and from their homes, by street prostitution.

Mr. Speaker, we believe the amendment will provide municipalities, who choose to, with an effective enforcement tool. It gives municipalities the power to take back their communities. We are not the first in Canada to take this approach to the problem. Manitoba has had legislation in place for some time now and it is noticed for its strong deterrent to the problem of street prostitution. In other words, the legislation has gone a long way in promoting safer homes and safer streets.

[Page 418]

Mr. Speaker, in the spirit of co-operation that the honourable member for Richmond mentioned earlier, I am prepared, if members have an honest and constructive suggestion, to look at that. We have to remember one thing, and that is that street prostitution is more than a moral issue, it is a community issue. It is a community issue that negatively affects the communities in which it occurs. This will not be the sole cure if a municipality chooses to proclaim a bylaw of street prostitution, it is a tool for police officers to use, like the john school, like the criminal justice system itself, to deter this kind of activity. I would encourage all members of this House to allow this bill to proceed on to the Law Amendments Committee so that we can have an opportunity to hear from them.

[5:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I will also indicate to honourable members opposite that I believe that one of the concerns that had been expressed at one point was the issue of whether or not this would stand up to some legal challenge. I can indicate with this law, as with any other provincial law, that if the constitutionality is challenged, it is the responsibility of the Government of Nova Scotia to uphold and argue for the constitutionality of legislation that passes. I mention that because someone may ask about the question of what happens if there are appeals. I can assure you that it is the responsibility of the government to uphold the legislation of the Province of Nova Scotia.

With that Mr. Speaker, I would encourage all members to allow this bill to move promptly through to the Law Amendments Committee so that we can hear from Nova Scotians about the bill. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, the one point in the honourable minister's address on which we, the Opposition, could agree is that prostitution is indeed not a victimless crime. I do not want anyone to think for a moment that we take a different view of it. Indeed, it is clear to any thinking citizen that prostitution is an evil. It is something that is a blight and certainly those who are the prime victims of it are those who find themselves in life circumstances that drive them towards engaging in prostitution. It is a serious problem.

It is a serious problem that any society that is organized has grappled with completely unsuccessfully for thousands of years. Nothing that has ever been devised has ever worked. Certainly penal approaches do not work. This is a serious problem that has to be dealt with by dealing with the circumstances that victimize people and drive them into prostitution in the first place. This is our first problem, not just with this bill but with this government's approach to what it has identified as being a serious problem. Now if it is a serious problem, I would have expected the Minister of Justice to tell us something about it.

[Page 419]

I would have expected the Minister of Justice to say to us something about what are the numbers of people who are engaged in prostitution. How to they break down as to age? Is it young people, is it older people? How do they break down as to gender, because we know from studies that have been done elsewhere in Canada that typically 30 per cent of those who are engaged in prostitution are young males.

I have not heard the minister address this question of numbers or a breakdown by gender. I have not heard him say anything about practical and effective steps, to use his words, that might be done to assist people to make sure that they are never put in the position of prostituting themselves, or, if in that circumstance, to assist them out of the life. Now there are organizations in our community here that are engaged in trying to assist people who are street prostitutes get out of the life. I think that our efforts and our concern might first be directed to helping ameliorate the circumstances that surround this. It is a detailed, problematic, hard-to-eradicate social problem and it is far from clear that this measure is going to do anything effective to deal with it.

So, I agree with the minister when he says it is not a victimless crime. The prime victims are those who are engaged in it. There is nothing here that really moves ahead with that agenda. It is not as if the government has a record in which it can say, well, we have engaged seriously with the problem of poverty in our society and so we don't anticipate that people will be driven into prostitution except perhaps for a very few people. Government cannot say that - it cannot even remotely say that. And the government cannot say, we have engaged seriously with prejudice and violence against women so that they will never find themselves driven or tempted to engage in prostitution. The government cannot even remotely say that, let me assure you.

They cannot say that our first priority as a government is to protect those who are the most vulnerable in society. That has not been even remotely the hallmark of this society, of this government. And so long as that isn't the case, what they do here becomes almost an irrelevancy.

It is very disappointing to continue to find - I think this is the third time - that the Party opposite, now in the government, has brought forward this or a similar bill. I think the first time it came forward, they were still on this side of the House.

They continue to bring this bill forward, now with some refinements clearly designed to meet constitutional law challenges that have been mounted to predecessors elsewhere and yet continue to fail to engage seriously with the issue. I am not saying that it is easy to deal with this problem. I am sure every member here understands that this is a difficult problem to deal with. We know that even when we consider what legal remedies or aids might be available, they are limited. Even the Criminal Code enacted by the federal government takes a limited approach to prostitution. Prostitution itself is not illegal, it is keeping a common bawdy house, it is communicating and soliciting for the purposes of prostitution. It is things

[Page 420]

like that - it is being a pimp, which certainly is illegal and absolutely ought to be and continue to be treated in the most severest of ways - it is those things that the Criminal Code deals with, not prostitution itself which is not illegal.

The reason there is a limited ambit for the law is precisely because it was seen as not productive to try to deal with it this way and there are other kinds of attempts that have been made to use the law. The one that has been used, virtually completely unsuccessfully in the past, has been the civil remedy of an injunction based in nuisance. There are municipalities, including ours, where cases have been taken to the courts seeking injunctions to try to drive prostitutes from the streets in residential neighbourhoods. These applications to the courts, including to our Nova Scotia Court of Appeal, in the past have not been successful. Courts have pointed out that this is not what this kind of nuisance remedy is all about and that it is not applicable for something that is not even a crime. It is certainly difficult to get an injunction against some kind of anticipated action.

So the legal tool has a limited ambit which makes me wonder what exactly it is that the minister is engaged in when he is bringing forward this bill. I am driven to the conclusion that this bill is ready for show. This bill is designed to send a signal that the government has a particular moral stance and to show that the government has followed through on a promise.

I cannot think that there is a huge audience for such a show, especially when they realize that it is not likely to be effective. I especially cannot think that it is going to have a huge attraction for municipalities.

Let's note that what it is that the government does here is not to take directly onto itself the responsibility for saying what it believes ought to be legal and illegal. This is, as the minister said, purely enabling legislation. As I said, it is for show. It allows a municipality that chooses to enact a particular kind of bylaw.

I heard the minister say that if there are constitutional challenges to the bill that he will step up to the plate. Well, that remains to be seen, Mr. Speaker, because if a municipality passes a bylaw and the bylaw ends up being challenged on the basis of its constitutionality, it will be primarily the first responsibility of the municipality to defend its bylaw. I seem to recall that the honourable minister is a former municipal solicitor. He has undoubtedly seen many cases in which there have been challenges to bylaws and one of the first challenges, most fundamental challenges that might be made to a bylaw, is that it is unconstitutional.

It is undoubtedly the case that when a constitutional issue is raised, notice has to be given to the Attorney General of the province that that question has been raised, but whether the Department of Justice will then get involved, as I said, remains to be seen. I suspect that since the minister quite clearly contemplates that the main municipality that might even remotely be tempted to enact a bylaw if Bill No. 8 goes through would be HRM, that there

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would be ample opportunity for the minister to step back and leave it to the legal resources and purse of HRM to defend the constitutionality of the bylaw. Cases of this sort can be expensive. I would think HRM would be tempted to regard this as a little item just to add to the top of the list of municipal downloading, which gets me to the question of whether the bill is in fact constitutional or not.

The minister and I have had a number of discussions in this very Chamber about various bills that he has brought forward, as to whether they are constitutional or not. I want to make a few suggestions about potential vulnerable areas in Bill No. 8. First, of course, is it in pith and substance a criminal law matter? The constitution is absolutely clear that it is the federal government that has jurisdiction over criminal law matters. Now it may be the case that the minister tries to justify it as being a public nuisance and a traffic hazard that he is dealing with, although I note it is the Minister of Justice who is introducing this bill, not the Minister of Transportation, nor is it the Minister of Municipal Affairs.

I have to say that I cannot recall the minister saying anything about the traffic hazards involved here. I don't think we have heard any statistics about accidents being caused in the circumstances that the minister contemplates. So on the face of it, I would say that a court might well be tempted to regard this as being, in pith and substance, not a matter having to do with transportation, traffic or municipal affairs, but having in its essence to do with the criminal law.

The second problem, the second constitutional law problem, of course, is that a court may well be tempted to regard this as an additional penalty. The dividing line between the criminal law, which is a federal responsibility, and the administration of justice in the province, which is a legitimate area or ambit of provincial responsibility, is not completely clear. I think if the minister ever comes forward with a detailed scheme to charge any of his prisoners for room and board, we will get into a discussion about where the dividing line is in that context. That is another example of something where the problem is pretty clear, but I think the problem is pretty clear here as well.

[5:30 p.m.]

You have to ask yourself - and it is a parallel to this question of charging room and board - is it an additional penalty? If that is the case, then a line would have been crossed. The line would have been crossed and the province would have strayed into federal constitutional law territory. So that is a problem.

The third constitutional law problem is one of procedure. I understand that this bill includes in it a number of specifications as to what it is that any bylaw adopted under it has to provide for when it comes to fair procedure for taking account of circumstances in which cars might have been stolen or borrowed, or used without the knowledge of the owner, and likewise it provides that a bylaw must include provisions for recovery of the vehicle and so

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on. If this bill goes through, it is very desirable that these kinds of provisions be included in such a bylaw.

Indeed, I think the courts, in grappling with predecessor bills in other jurisdictions, have indicated that the absence of such provisions might lead to a finding of unfairness. It is not that part of it that concerns me, because indeed we find such provisions in the bill. What does concern me on the procedural side is the question, really, of whether there is an opportunity for the peace officers to form a kind of opinion as to the behaviour of the individual that will likewise pass constitutional muster.

The problem is the ambit of presumption of innocence, because you have to recall that what the peace officer is doing, or being invited to do under any bylaw here, would be to seize the vehicle that was being operated in the course of committing an offence. A peace officer has to come to the conclusion that a criminal offence is being committed. I think this is inherently problematic. I suggest that there will be circumstances in which constitutional questions will indeed be raised about the application of this bill.

Where does this leave us? The honourable minister described this bill as setting in place a framework for action that he thought would be practical and effective; those were the minister's words, practical and effective. Would it were so; would it were the case that the minister had actually put before us some measures. I don't ask for them to be statutory measures, but budgetary measures perhaps that would be practical and effective to deal with prostitution in our communities.

We know from studies that have been done that even the johns schools are not often all that effective. Publicity doesn't necessarily seem to deter those who use prostitutes. From the studies, we know that they are not often able to say exactly why they were using the services of prostitutes. It is a difficult area. I am not saying - as I said before - that it is easy for the minister to grapple with this or to come to some kind of practical and effective measure, but it is far from clear that this is going to do it.

Again, all of this to one side, we do recognize in our Party that residential neighbourhoods do not like to have prostitutes in them. This is a natural reaction. Parents with their children do not like to have to walk down streets and find that there are people standing on street corners offering to prostitute themselves. They do not like to see that in their neighbourhoods. That is not the full ambit of the problem but it is a real problem. No one denies that. No one denies that it is uncomfortable, it is difficult, it is unpleasant for residents.

We have seen this activity move from neighbourhood to neighbourhood. There was a time when it was a problem a little further down Hollis Street here. People who lived there did not like it and tried to take measures. Right now in HRM one can see in the evening on Agricola Street near the liquor store clearly people who are there for the purposes of

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prostitution. That is around the corner from my neighbourhood. I do not like to see it. We know that in the constituency of the honourable member for Dartmouth North that he has drawn to our attention on a number of occasions that there are prostitutes operating in his constituency and people who live there do not like it either. This is a real problem. Everyone knows it is a real problem.

What we are concerned about is what really will be, in the words of the minister, practical and effective to deal with this. So we are profoundly sceptical about this or, really I have to say, virtually any other measure that we have heard the government talk about. I want to be understood that we would encourage and support the government to do something serious about this. Where we would encourage the government to put its main efforts would be on the social side of things, to assist those agencies that are engaged in the very difficult person-to-person work talking individually with prostitutes about what their problems are and how they can be assisted to get out of the life. We would instantly and without hesitation support a measure like that and it does not require legislation. It requires the commitment of some funding. That is important.

Under the existing criminal laws of this country, which we in the province administer through our police forces, there are laws against pimping. I, and I am sure everyone in our Party, would encourage and support the government to use the police forces to arrest and prosecute anyone who engages in pimping activities. This is undoubtedly one of the nastiest of evils and we know from some of the cases that have come forward just how nasty the circumstances can be. That is an existing criminal law power. That is illegal right now. To be a pimp is illegal. The framework exists. If the minister came to us and said, we are going to form a special task force, we are going to work hard, we are going to prosecute pimps, we are going to get at it that way, we would say this is an excellent, an appropriate step.

I know that there is a theory that says that if you can reduce the demand then the supply will not have to be there. This is the underlying thought here, if there is indeed a structured theory for this legislation. What it says is, let's discourage and make it harder for the customers or potential customers of prostitutes and if there are fewer customers then there will be fewer prostitutes. Well, it is a theory of sorts but it is not a very convincing theory. Over thousands of years nothing like that really seems to have worked. The demand apparently does not go away. It will not go away at the behest of criminal sanctions or quasi- criminal sanctions. It will go away through education, it will go away through betterment of our general social conditions and it will go away through targeted efforts that try to assist those who have unfortunately found themselves in circumstances where they've chosen or been driven to engage in prostitution.

So, I am worried about this bill. I am worried about it because it seems to be a gesture and not something practical and effective. We'll support it in principle, so we get the opportunity to debate it in more detail at the Law Amendments Committee. I hope that representatives of Stepping Stone and others who know the details of what it is that is

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actually required, will come forward and talk to us there and that the minister and his colleagues will listen. Thank you very much.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, I would like to say that it is a privilege to rise and speak on Bill No. 8 but unfortunately it is not the case. It is quite unfortunate if any Nova Scotian wants to see what type of government they have here in this province, then this is a fine example of how open and accountable this government is.

This legislation is not only here for the first time or the second time but here for the third time. One would think - it has been rejected twice - that there are going to be substantial changes in this bill to address the concerns that have been raised by the Opposition and that the minister has used logic in this and said how can I get this bill through. Well, I have already heard the concerns on two occasions, I am going to make changes and bring a different piece of legislation to the floor of the House.

But not this Minister of Justice, Mr. Speaker, and not this government. Oh no, didn't work once, didn't work twice, maybe I will be third-time lucky. That won't be the case in this situation because I would say this is more appropriate to say first strike, second strike and third strike you're out. I would say that is what is going to happen to this piece of legislation. The idea that the minister would bring us the exact same bill to the floor of this House for the third time, I think is a terrible waste of the time of the House and again shows the arrogance of this government in wanting to once again ram through this piece of legislation for the third occasion. I would suspect that when this House rises, that this legislation Bill No. 8, will once again be on the order paper of this House of Assembly.

Mr. Speaker, I'm not going to repeat the arguments, constitutional arguments that were very well spoken by the member for Halifax Chebucto. It's a similar speech that he gave last year and the situation has not changed. It remains the same problem as it was last year.

I would like to take it from a different angle, the NDP took it from a constitutional angle, I would like to take this as another example of municipal downloading by this government. A provincial government in this province is expected to be the one to address social, economic, cultural concerns that exist in this province. But not with this government, they realize that there is a very important social concern here in the Halifax Regional Municipality.

What the minister keeps saying is look, it's only a problem in one part of the province so I am just going to make legislation to allow HRM to put in the necessary by-laws to take care of this. It is but another example of how far out this government looks when it is trying to draft legislation. They don't look at its impact in 5 years or in 10 years or in 1 year. If there is a problem today, we're going to fix that exact problem or we're going to attempt to fix that

[Page 425]

exact problem and if the problem occurs somewhere else then we'll have to come up with a different solution.

This is an issue that needs to be dealt with by the provincial government. The Minister of Justice and Attorney General for the Province of Nova Scotia is who is responsible to put the necessary legislative framework in place to allow for the addressing of this most serious concern.

[5:45 p.m.]

I don't have the blue book with me but I am sure that the government members will recall the very important section of their book which said that they will no longer download upon municipalities. Well, once again, we spoke about equalization, last night we had a nice, quiet informed discussion on equalization. I am not going to get back into that today but it is just one more example of how this government is saying, look, we want to be able to put a check mark next to our blue book, we want to wipe our hands clean of this problem, we don't want to deal with it, so we are going to put something in place, let the municipalities once again take the responsibility for it, let them wear it if anything goes wrong and we will just have our clean hands and another check mark next to our blue book.

It is just not going to work. I can tell the minister right now that our caucus is not in support of Bill No. 8. We were not in support of Bill No. 8 the first time, we were not in support of Bill No. 8 the second time. It hasn't changed a third time, and I would go so far as to say it will not change the fourth time when this minister tries to bring this same piece of legislation in.

The minister told us, well, this legislation, we are not the only ones to do this, Manitoba has done it also. He says it has worked in Manitoba. Last year when I spoke on this bill I asked the minister, fine, if it has worked so well, table the numbers in this House which show how the legislation in Manitoba has curbed the problem of prostitution in that province. I think that was a very legitimate request. I think as an Opposition member it is the type of information we need to be able to properly assess legislation to know if it is good public legislation. Fortunately, I know the Minister of Justice is a very busy man. It appears he has not had the opportunity since the last time we sat, to go through it with his staff and find those very numbers to present here to the House.

I don't have the updated numbers but I remember during last time - round No. 2 when this bill was here - our good, hard-working research staff got the numbers from Manitoba. While I don't recall them off hand by heart, I can tell you they were abysmal. It was a joke, a real joke, and to see this minister rely on that type of data to bring legislation to the people of this province and say, here is my solution to addressing this most serious social issue. What a sad, sad example of what this government - if this is an example of the amount of logic and intellect they put into legislation, well, Mr. Speaker, it is pretty sad. They looked

[Page 426]

through the web, they saw legislation from Manitoba, the minister says, that looks good, put it through the photocopier, and he throws it on the floor of this House.

I believe my colleague, the member for Cape Breton The Lakes, spoke on two occasions on this legislation, in round No. 1 and round No. 2 and I know he is going to want to address this legislation again this time. Also, I know a number of my colleagues are going to want to address this legislation.

I can tell the minister right now that his request for prompt passage of this Bill No. 8 to the Law Amendments Committee will not be granted as far as our caucus is concerned, and we will continue to encourage the government to withdraw this piece of legislation, not try to ram it through the House. It is not good legislation, it is not going to address the problem of prostitution and it is time this government realized they were elected by the people of Nova Scotia to address these types of problems and to take control of them themselves, not to say we are going to put in this enabling legislation, let municipalities do up their own bylaws, but don't worry because if they have to go to court based on constitutional grounds, we will take them by the hand and go with them.

The municipalities throughout this province have enough on their plates as it is. They do not need to have this problem dumped on them also. The minister refuses to say that he is going to address this problem himself. I believe, with all due respect, that the minister knows this legislation is not going to work. It is not going to work, but do you know what it gives him, do you know what is essential to him, not that he solved the problem of prostitution, his main goal with this bill is the check mark next to the blue book. That he can wave it around and tell the Premier and say, look, what a good little boy I have been, I got a check mark next to the statement in our blue book that says that we will address the problem of prostitution.

I asked the minister the last time, have you consulted with HRM, the Halifax Regional Municipality; asked them if they do support this, if they would like to be responsible for this and that they will be the ones who will do the enforcement on the issue of prostitution. Once again the minister remains silent on that issue. I asked him in round No. 1, asked him in round No. 2, round No. 3 and he still hasn't spoken to HRM. He still hasn't done the wonderful consultation that he spoke to us so eloquently about last night on the issue of municipal equalization.

According to him last night there has never been a government that has consulted as much as his, but on this bill, the one muncipality most affected by it - whoops, forgot to talk to them. Not once, not twice, here is the third time that he has forgotten to speak to them about this bill.

[Page 427]

M. le Président, c'est la troisième fois j'ai l'occasion de me presenter sur la loi no. 8. Les problèmes qu'ils y ont eu avec cette loi dès du début n'ont pas changées. Si qu'on veut un example de voir comment ce gouvernement a la tête dure, comme on dire à chez nous, c'est qu'ils ont pris une loi, ils ont presenté ça à l'Assemblée la première fois - c'était rejetée. Ils l'ont presenté la deuxieme fois, la même loi - c'était rejetée une deuxieme fois. Nous la voyons aujourd'hui pour la troisième fois et encore c'est la même loi.

Là, on se demande, d'où viens cette idée avec la loi no. 8? Est-ce le ministre de la justice qui s'est assis chez lui avec le premier ministre Hamm et le bel ministre des finances, M. Leblanc, et on dit, on a un problème de prostitution; qu'est-ce qu'on va faire pour régler ce problème? Alors, mettons-nous nos têtes ensembles et on peut voir qu'est-ce qu'on va faire. Je propose que ce n'était pas ça qui c'est passé, M. le Président. Moi, je propose qu'un de le ministre de la justice, ou le premier ministre Hamm ou bien le ministre des finances s'est assis chez lui à son ordinateur sur l'Internet, et puis qui --- a regardé les lois des provinces, du Canada et on vu sur là le Manitoba. Bien, voilà le Manitoba a mis une loi en place. Ce que j'ai à faire, et bien là il on clique leur mouse, puis, là il a imprimé la loi du Manitoba. Tout d'un coup le ministre de la justice est venu et il dit j'ai la solution. Nous voilà, j'ai la solution au problème de prostitution de cette province et c'est une très bonne idée. M. le Président, c'était tres clair, ce n'était pas l'idée du ministre de la justice, ce n'était pas l'idée de ce gouvernement, c'était une idée d'aller dehors et - je ne veut pas dire le mot voler, mais on dit emprunter, l'idée de Manitoba et ils l'ont presenté ici à la Maison.

M. le Président, les deux parties d'opposition, les NPD et le parti libéral ont dit clairement que nous ne supportons pas la loi no. 8 à deux reprises. M. le Président, je vous le dis aujourd'hui que au moins de notre caucus, le parti libéral, nous ne supportons pas pour la troisième fois et j'oserai aussi à vous dire que nous n'allons pas le supporter la quatrième fois que c'est presenté ici a cette Asemblée.

M. le Président, comme je l'ai dis, les municipalités à travers de cette province ont assez sur ses mains. Ils n'ont pas même le montant d'argent, les resources qu'ils ont besoin pour donner les services qu'ils peuvent donner maintenant. J'ai demandé au ministre de la justice la première fois; j'ai demandé la deuxième fois. Est-ce que t'a presenté avec les municipalités ici à Halifax pour discuter la loi no. 8 avec eux? Est-ce que tu les a parlé et les a demandé, est-ce que vous est en support de cette loi? C'est clair, pour la troisième fois, qu'il vient avec la même loi ici, qu'il n'a pas même parler; peut-être il l'a oublie. J'y ai demande par deux fois et je pensait que deux fois c'est assez, mais peut-être il faut la troisième fois si je demande au ministre de la justice cette fois-ci s'il va se souvenir et s'il va faire ce demande avec les representants du municipalité ici à Halifax.

Moi, je suis prêt à dire, je ne viens pas de la municipalité d'Halifax, je demeure ici pendant que la Maison associent, je viens du côté du Richmond; mais j'oserai dire que les résidents, les gens de ce municipalité et les différents conseillers qu'ils ont élus a ce municipalité ne sont pas en support de la loi no. 8. Ils ne sont pas en faveur du tout. M. le

[Page 428]

Président, est-ce que vous avez jamais vu un représentant du municipalité d'Halifax se presenter ici à la Maison, soi en la galerie en haut ou en dos de ces portes ou même avec la presse, CBC ou l'autre niveau de presse que l'ont ici; sont jamais presenté vous dire, écoutes, on veut que l'opposition ici de la Nouvelle Écosse qu'ils vont supporter la loi no. 8; on pense que c'est une bonne loi; on veut votre support pour ça. On ne l'a jamais vu, ça n'est jamais arrive - et il se faut demande pourquoi.

Pourquoi? C'est-ce que je vous le dis, que la loi no.8 n'est pas une bonne loi. Comme je l'ai dis a mon collegue de Cap Breton les Lacs, j'espère que lui il va se prononcer sur ce sujet aussi. J'espère qu'il va avoir beaucoup de commentaire aussi au note, pas justement au note de ces residents, mais il va parler au note comme nous de critiques des affaires municipaux. Il va dire que c'est le temps que ce gouvernement conservateur, le gouvernement Hamm, a raide son programme de mettre toute la responsabilité pour les services et les programmes sur les municipalités. Le gouvernement a dit quand ils ont été elus, on va prendre charge et alors on va mettre un fin a ce programme.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. The honourable member, while I don't understand very much French, aside from conservateur, I do understand Hamm, and Hamm is a reference to a member of the House, and I don't think it is appropriate to refer (Interruptions) I think it is generally not proper. I know earlier there was a reference to Neil LeBlanc, and I think those are references - well, I didn't catch the minister.

In any event, I am just pointing out that I believe the use of the name is inappropriate. It is supposed to be a reference to the person . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. That is not a point of order.

The honourable member for Richmond has the floor.

MR. SAMSON: Merci, M. le Président. C'est très interessant quand qu'on voit les membres conservateurs se presenter sur leurs pieds pour discuter.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I was wondering if perhaps you could tell me, with regard to using a person's name in this House who is a member directly, where that is permissible. I understood from the rules that it was not permissible to refer to a person by their name, they should be referred to by their constituency.

MR. SPEAKER: In reply, of course, the honourable member knows the answer himself, I do believe, and doesn't need to seek my advice to know that answer. Of course, you are correct, yes, you are absolutely correct. At the time, I understood the reference to be

[Page 429]

towards the government, the Hamm Government, I don't know. I have made my ruling. I can check it further with the Clerk and with the Speaker, and I will get back to the honourable member at a future time.

The honourable member for Richmond has the floor.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, thank you. It was quite unfortunate the Minister of Justice and the House Leader for the Tories were not paying close attention to my words, because they would have known that my reference was to the Hamm Government as a collectivity not to an individual. Unfortunately, if the minister and the House Leader brushed up on their French lessons, maybe next time the same problem will not occur.

Alors, M. le Président, c'est toujours interessant quand qu'on voit les membres conservateurs; ils sont si frustrés de voir qu'un membre de cette Assemblée se présente dans la deuxième langage ici au Canada, deuxième langage officielle; que ça les frustrés et puis là ils se lèvent sur des point d'ordres qui sont clairement pas des point d'ordres et faisent des fabrications. C'est juste un example de comment ils sont frustrés. J'espère, M. le Président, qu'ils vont continuer d'être frustrés à la loi no. 8, ce que si ils sont de l'idée que l'opposition est ce parti-ci vont supporter la loi no. 8, je dis aujourd'hui encore, la deuxième fois aujourd'hui, je redis pour la troisième fois dans cette Assemblée.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. We are approaching the moment of interruption. I am wondering if the honourable member would please entertain a motion to adjourn the debate.

MR. SAMSON: M. le Président, ça me fait grand plaisir de supporter cette motion.

Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure that I do support that motion that we now adjourn for this evening, to resume debate tomorrow.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is to adjourn.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[The motion is carried.]

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now rise to meet again on the morrow at the hour of 10:00 a.m. The House will sit until 1:00 p.m. The order of business following the daily routine and the responses from the Official Opposition and the Third Party to the estimates and the referral of the estimates to the Committee of the

[Page 430]

Whole House on Supply, we will move into second reading of Bill No. 7 and also Bill No. 9, I believe. Pardon? (Interruption) No, it is not. Just one moment. It is the bill of the Minister of Tourism. (Interruption) Thank you. We will be doing Bill No. 8 and Bill No. 10 for second reading. Without further ado, Mr. Speaker, I move the House do now rise.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[The motion is carried.]

[6:00 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: We have reached the moment of interruption. The subject for the late debate was submitted by the good member for Cape Breton East:

"Therefore be it resolved that provincial roads require the immediate attention of the Hamm Government."



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



MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, of course, I only have a short time so I am going to get right to my point. I think it is very important to talk about this urgent matter and, Mr. Minister, I think it is time we talked about it today. The conditions of the roads and highways in Nova Scotia have reached a critical point. While the Transportation Minister claims this has been an unusually bad winter, the fact of the matter is that the roads are in worse condition today than they were 20 years ago.

The greatest damage, of course, to our highways was not frost and all these lame-duck excuses. The biggest and the greatest damage to our roads came after the fiscal disaster of 1993, or before 1993, pardon me, a $1.1 billion-plus in the deficit in this province. That is where the difficulty with our roads began, Mr. Speaker. The inability of this government and the previous government to fund basic maintenance means roads have gotten to a point where they have become a threat to the safety of our citizens in this province. Government and Opposition members alike have tabled petition after petition obtained across Nova Scotia

[Page 431]

from the residents we represent and those residents signing those petitions agree that these roads that we drive on every day in this province are unsafe and are a total disaster.

Recently in a news release by the Minister of Transportation and Public Works, issued on March 16th, Mr. Russell warned motorists that the worst is yet to come. Mr. Speaker, let's talk about the urgency when we talk about the fire department in Scotchtown on Cape Breton Island who have concerns about whether they are going to be able to get to an emergency in a timely and fast manner. These roads are affecting our citizens on a daily basis. Let's talk about the urgency, Mr. Minister, when we talk about a busload of elementary children who, because of the conditions of the roads, have bitten their lips on a simple bus ride to their local school in the mornings. These roads are intolerable and unacceptable.

Let's talk about the urgency of roads in my constituency, Mr. Speaker. Route 223, which is, and I am sure the Minister of Tourism would agree, a major highway in my constituency that is intolerable. It is basically impassable and it is a major tourist route in that area. Boisdale and the Christmas Island area are bulging with resources that are handicapped because of the condition of the highway in that area. I can go to Leitches Creek, Westmount, Coxheath, Alder Point, Georges River, Millville, I can go in any area, Little Pond, it is unbelievable. In my constituency it is total insanity.

AN HON. MEMBER: They pay taxes.

MR. BOUDREAU: When you drive down the highway and realize the mess that these roads are in, it is unbelievable. The repair bills to my residents in particular, and I know there are other members here in this House, their residents are experiencing high repair and maintenance bills to their vehicles because of the conditions of our highways, because this government doesn't have a plan to deal with the condition of our highways.

They didn't have one coming in, and 20 months later, they still don't have a plan. Ten million dollars new in a weak provincial budget. Well, at $1 million per kilometre, I would suggest that will pave less than eight kilometres of highway in this province. It is unacceptable. In my own constituency there is no problem on Highway No. 105, the provincial cost-shared highways, there is no problem. The minister will agree any day, just because the federal government pays 70 per cent of the costs, no problem to get a bridge repaired or replaced or highways maintained on the Trans Canada Highway, because this minister grabs and clutches hold of the federal dollars.

Secondary roads in my constituency and right across this province are in an intolerable situation, and this minister must pay more attention to what the people - the ordinary people that they claim to represent, those people - are telling that minister and those members over there that the conditions of the roads in this province are unacceptable.

[Page 432]

Mr. Speaker, I want to echo those comments. The roads are unbelievable. Maybe the minister should apply to one of the major motor cross companies - recently there was a motor cross proposal in my constituency. Several of my residents phoned my office to indicate that perhaps the roadways could be used as a motor track. That is how bad a shape they are in. It is intolerable.

This minister, this government refuses to recognize it and to hear the people that they represent, to provide proper roads for the residents of this province. They pay taxes, hospital taxes, road taxes, there are all kinds of fuel taxes. This minister and this Finance Minister didn't have a problem sucking $15 million new provincial tax dollars from the fuel increase prices and gasoline prices. They don't return it themselves. All they do is condemn the federal government and blame the federal government for our secondary road problem in this province.

The problem is yours, Mr. Minister. You deal with it. You told people in this province that you had all the answers when you campaigned door to door, you and your colleagues. Let's see the answers. There are none. This government has no plan, it has nothing. They play with people's intelligence when they stand up and pretend they are doing something.

Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians will not be fooled by this minister or this government. They will be held accountable sooner or later. It is 20 months and counting for this gang of merry men over on the other side. Let's talk about the urgency, when we talk about the tourist season that is about to come upon us. It is common knowledge, we have the worst roads in the world, not only in the country, in the world. This is a universal problem that we have here, and this minister must recognize, he has to drive on these roads. If this minister cannot . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Would the honourable member entertain a question?

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I don't have time to answer silly questions from over there.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes has the floor.

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, the size, the scope and the urgency of this public safety issue dictates that time for debate now must close. It is time, Mr. Minister, for direction.

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

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

[Page 433]

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, what they say as a teacher, never yell above the class, I think I just returned to a classroom. This is a serious discussion which we have. I want you to know that this Minister of Transportation and Public Works has some tough decisions ahead of him. He has some tough decisions because of the few dollars that were given in the Transportation budget. Those few dollars are going to be gobbled up pretty quickly.

What Nova Scotians want to know is where and when, but more carefully they want to know why. Why have certain roads been given priority? Let's not talk about pavement politics; let's not talk about the bad old days and why a certain past Minister of Transportation and Public Works took care of the Upper Clyde Road and we knew he lived pretty close to it. Let's not return to those days.

Mr. Speaker, let's look at the facts. This minister has a challenge ahead of him; therefore I challenge him now to explain, when he gets on his feet, how he will determine the priorities for work. Let's face it, the work that we need on our roads, we only have so much money, and these factors should be considered: how important the road is to economic development in that particular community; how long since that road has been worked on is a factor that must be looked at; the average annual daily traffic on that road, that is another important factor; the type of traffic on that road, whether it is a transport, whether it is a tour bus, because those are the sorts of traffic factors that really build up the time when you look at what happens to the roads in our province and the deterioration that takes place.

The bottom line, of course, is every member in here could talk about a particular section of road. They could talk about a section of road that has been neglected, a section of road that is important economically, a section of road that needs desperate attention. We have all received calls from constituents concerned about damage to their vehicles and so on. This minister has some tough decisions, and what I would like to advise him is that when those tough decisions are made and those tenders are called, the explanation for why certain sections of roads in various parts of this province receive attention should be included. The criteria should be clear. The priority list should be published.

When you tell Nova Scotians a particular section of road is going to receive attention, when that road will finally be looked at, I think Nova Scotians will be fair because, as we well know, it is not that minister, it is not that government, it is previous governments, it is poor funding, it is bad decisions, but we can't talk about the history of it anymore. We have to talk about the future of it. We are talking about the safety of Nova Scotians, the best use, economically, of the roads across this province. The minister, I welcome the challenge of debating these issues with him during estimates. I would like to share the remainder of my time with my friend from Cape Breton Centre, if I may.

[Page 434]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre. You have about six minutes.

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my colleague from Timberlea-Prospect for yielding the floor to me. I want to say a few words about the roads and the transportation system, particularly as it applies to my constituency. The minister is well aware, because he and I spoke yesterday and he received a letter from my office about these very conditions.

I think it is important, in a public way, to put them on the record. The member for Cape Breton The Lakes mentioned something from my very community in his speech, and that was about the Scotchtown Volunteer Fire Department. I am not going to go on ad infinitum about how important volunteer firefighters are to our rural communities, I think everybody in here is aware of that. Here is a group that goes out, and we all know how they pay, by and large, for their equipment, they go out and solicit funds within the community and work within the community.

Mr. Speaker, at great cost to themselves and the community, they have put many vehicles on the road, and I think they do an excellent job. What is happening now is that very equipment they got funding for from their citizens, they are afraid to take over these roadways. They are not saying this, they are not being political, they are not saying, let's get at this Tory Party, let's do this or let's do that. Their one and only reason for going public is the safety of the people they serve. This is what this is all about, the safety of the people who live in that area.

[6:15 p.m.]

I say that because I know these members of this department very well and that is their concern, Mr. Minister, public safety. Within this core area that these firefighters serve, I am going to mention four streets and that is Lingan Road, May Street, the upper part of Lingan Road and Roaches Road. In the letter I sent to the minister, Roaches Road, for instance, there was one man who carried on a building supply business who mentioned to me that he is losing customers because they will not travel this road to buy material. Furthermore, CBRM has said, well, we will pave a section or rework a section of that road from what used to be the boundaries of the old Town of New Waterford to the intersection of St. Joseph Street, but the rest was part of the old County of Cape Breton and they are looking for funding there. So I would hope that the minister would look favourably on that request.

May Street in Scotchtown, Mr. Speaker, has not been touched in over 30 years and the same with Lingan Road. As I mentioned to the minister before, these are not new facts to him, those are all major thoroughfares to the City of Sydney and ways people can get back and forth to work. Another area outside the Scotchtown area that is not serviced by that volunteer fire department is the Centerville Road. The Centerville Road, which is commonly

[Page 435]

referred to in the area as the Rabbit Town Road, has a real unique problem because some years ago when the Department of Highways was upgrading the Sydney-Glace Bay Highway they used the Centerville Road as a detour site which caused at least the traffic pattern to quadruple on that road and it caused it to be in the state of disrepair it is in today.

Mr. Speaker, we can debate about who is in power and who is out of power and so on. While I agree with some of the statements from the member for Cape Breton The Lakes, I also agree very fervently with the member for Timberlea-Prospect who says, that was then and let's make this the future. Part of that is that roads have to be done on a priority basis. Roads and road work has to be, to use that overworked phrase, a transparent process. It has to be done by not who is in power, or what minister happens to live there, or whatever, it has to be done in a system for two basic reasons and I believe first and foremost, public safety. Secondly what has to be taken in is the economic development that it helps or hinders, obviously hinders if it is in disrepair.

These are items, Mr. Minister, that have to be considered when we do this work, that we especially look at industrial Cape Breton and the economic pitfalls that have happened to it; that I believe two reasons, that the roadways should be repaired for safety and economic reasons and the economic perspective being that it is labour-intensive and it will cause us to have more employment.

Mr. Speaker, whether we do this in my riding, which I would love to see done - by virtue of coming up here I drive through Cape Breton The Lakes, I know what that member is talking about. I have been out to Timberlea-Prospect, and I am sure that this is a problem not germane just to my constituency, but I implore the minister that when the money is there, and I hope it is sooner than later, I hope it is this year, that it is meant not on a political basis, but a basis that is needed for everybody.

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

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I thank you very much for having the opportunity this evening to stand up and talk about roads. There is no doubt it is a tremendous problem in this province not only for our native Nova Scotians but also for tourists who choose to visit this province.

I have been in government quite a long time and I always wanted to be Minister of Transportation because I figured that if you got to be Minister of Transportation, you had the ability to do things that are there, you can see them, you can touch them, you can feel them and also as a rural member I receive a tremendous number of complaints such as you gentlemen are receiving at the present time from constituents and businesses, et cetera who are complaining about the state of the highways. I always figured that if I got to be Minister of Transportation, things would be different and I could go out and I could pave this province from one end to the other and there would be no further problems.

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Unfortunately, that just didn't come about. I inherited this job at what some people would say was perhaps an unfortunate time when the demands by far exceeded the money available to satisfy those demands.

I think it was the member for Timberlea-Prospect who said, we shouldn't go back in the history, we should look ahead and I emphatically agree with that. But I think you have to understand how we got to this situation in this province. The roads in this province are disgraceful and I am the Minister of Transportation and I am quite prepared to say that on any platform across this province. They are a disgrace and they have to be fixed.

The reason that we have roads in such a deplorable state in this province is not the fault of the Department of Transportation or the people who work in the Department of Transportation. The fault lies with successive governments that have not made money available, not only for capital expenditure, which is bad, but most importantly, for preventative maintenance. If you own a house, you know darn well that if something goes wrong with your house, a few shingles fly off the roof, you don't wait until they all fly off before you fix it. You get up there and you do an ongoing repair on your roof.

If you have a car, you know that if you don't continue to put oil into it, it falls apart. The result is that in the long term - eventually if you don't put that money into preventative maintenance, you are going to have to not just repair, you will have to rebuild and that is when it gets expensive.

I will be tabling in the House in about a couple of weeks or perhaps even sooner than that, a 10 year plan for the highway infrastructure of Nova Scotia. The cost of that plan is $3.4 billion. That is $3.4 billion to be spent on highways, not to put in place the best system in Canada, but to bring it up to the average of other provinces in Canada.

Let me just tell you - I think it was the honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes who said the roads 20 years ago were better than they are today. And he is absolutely right. Do you know why they were better? There was more money available at that time in the 1980's, 12 per cent of the provincial budget was going into the Department of Transportation - the highways and bridges and that kind of infrastructure - 12 per cent. Today, it is 5 per cent; in fact, in 1999 it was 4.6 per cent. Last year it was 5 per cent, this year it will be up again a little bit, just incrementally.

That is just not enough money to maintain the system that we have. All that we can do at the present time with the money that we have available is to look after the very necessary repairs to protect first of all our 100-Series Highways because they are the ones we rely on and the manufacturers and the exporters and the importers in this province rely on the 100-Series Highways to get their product in here.

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We must then spend whatever money we have left on our collector roads and our routes and our trunks et cetera so that people can get from wherever their place of business is to the 100-Series Highways to carry on with their particular business.

We have about 29,000 kilometres of road in this province, and I think about 10,000 kilometres of those 29,000 kilometres are still gravel. Included in those 29,000 kilometres there are approximately 700 kilometres of national highway system. The national highway system was built at the time - or at least it was funded at the time that the Trans Canada Highway across this country was put in place and the federal government said we are going to have a highway system in this country that's going to stretch from Newfoundland out to Victoria and all places in between and that will become the national highway system and we will provide a part of the funding to put that highway system in place and we will provide a part of the funding to keep that highway in suitable shape.

Mr. Speaker, we have been shortchanged by the federal government, dramatically shortchanged. We have not, in this province, had a federal-provincial agreement for highways since 1994. Now, I know that the federal government has been crying poor, same thing we've been doing for the past couple of years or so. They have said they haven't had the dollars. I have been up to see Mr. Collenette, I don't know maybe four or five times, maybe he has been down here and I have visited him whenever he has been in the province and put a case to him that we should get a share of the $135 million that they take out of this province every year in motive fuel taxes. He said, we'll have to think about it, but right now we don't have the money.

Now, let me tell you. This is a minister that says he hasn't got the money and yet I read in the paper and I got a press release from that same minister just three or four days ago saying that they are going to put $90 million into Front Street in downtown Toronto. During the last election campaign he still had no money, but he was going to put $300 million in building a ring road around Montreal. He still hasn't got any money but he has just recently given, I believe it's $300 million in cost-shared funding to the Province of Newfoundland. The province across the way here in New Brunswick has received $500 million since 1994 for their highways.

At one time you could drive with your eyes shut from Amherst to Moncton and I bet you could tell me when you got to the border, because the road was just terrible when you got to New Brunswick. Now, when you drive from Moncton to Amherst, you know when you have crossed back into Nova Scotia because of the state of our roads. That hasn't come about because New Brunswick's been so smart in spending dollars, it's because they've had federal funding and we haven't.

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I am not going to blame the previous government. I am sure they did exactly what I did. They pursued the federal government for funding without success. I don't know what is wrong with our relations with the federal government but I can tell you it's going to have to change. It's going to have to change because we have to get more money into the system.

Mr. Speaker, very quickly, in this budget that we had today we're going to have more money for RIM, the Rural Impact Mitigation Fund and that is a great program. It gives an opportunity to small rural contractors to do jobs out in the rural areas. We're going to have another $11 million in capital which will help us to get more paving done this year and we're going to spread the dollars around.

I know everybody thinks that this is all political and you just shovel money left, right and centre. In point of fact, we do have a program in Nova Scotia, where we have, I think it's two vehicles now, which we bought from Alberta actually, which go around and measure the roads. They actually measure the worth of the asphalt, the what have you. We do, to a large extent, base our allocation of funding on those results.

However, there are other things we have to look at too. We have to look at the density of population on a road, we have to look at the amount of traffic on a road, we have to look at whether or not the road is dangerous. We have to take all those things into consideration and we do our best but the reason we have bad roads right now is that we just do not have sufficient money to bring our system up to the national average. We will by 2003 hopefully have enough money to do that. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: I would like to thank all members for taking part in this interesting debate this evening. I was hoping if the honourable minister continued he might tell us which roads. Anyway, thank you to the members for this discussion.

We are adjourned until tomorrow.

[The House rose at 6:30 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 emergency situations seldom give any warning and overcoming panic is the factor that can make all the difference in these situations; and

Whereas more than 100 Nova Scotians were in the Springhill arena to watch a playoff match between the Cumberland and Tatamagouche peewee teams on the morning of February 5th; and

Whereas Bob Arsenault swiftly reacted when he heard the snap of a steel tension cable in the roof support system by ushering fans out of the stands prompting the teams to also be evacuated from the rink, all without serious injury;

Therefore be it resolved that the House praise and applaud Bob Arsenault for his prompt, heroic action and calm courage in averting this potential tragedy.


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 Central Nova Tourist Association recognizes an individual who provides distinguished service to the community they represent, the CNTA and tourism in general each year with the President's Award; and

Whereas Parrsboro resident and long-time CNTA Board Director Rick Brodie was the recipient of the President's Award at the organization's annual meeting and awards banquet on January 27th; and

Whereas over the years, Mr. Brodie has worked on various committees and projects, including tourism advisory radio service at the Amherst Visitor Information Centre, the financial committee, the editorial committee for the Glooscap Trail Guide, and Doers and Dreamers Guide and the Fundy Shore Eco-tour;

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Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Rick Brodie on receiving the CNTA President's Award and recognize him for his tireless efforts to promote tourism in Central Nova.


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 Louann Smith has parlayed her love of nature and plants into a new Springhill business called Louann's Creations; and

Whereas the business specializes in traditional and modern silk flower arrangements; and

Whereas Mrs. Smith strives to create arrangements that express the personalities of her clients;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Louann Smith upon the opening of Louann's Creations and wish her every success in the future.


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 selfless and heroic actions of Springhill resident Larry Clayton at the Springhill Institution defused a volatile situation and potentially saved an injured colleague's life; and

Whereas Mr. Clayton placed himself in danger to help a critically injured fellow correctional officer; and

Whereas his actions were recently recognized when Governor General Adrienne Clarkson bestowed upon him the Medal of Bravery;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Mr. Clayton upon receiving the Medal of Bravery and thank him for his exemplary work at the Springhill Institution.

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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 Oxford Regional High School Junior Golden Bears clinched the Cumberland County District championship with a 48 to 42 victory over the Pugwash District High School Junior Panthers in late February; and

Whereas Dave Wood led the Bears' scoring with 11 points, while Kris Wood and Marshal Crowley added 10 points each; and

Whereas the Bears wrapped up their regular season with a 21 to 5 record;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the Oxford Regional High School Junior Golden Bears upon the Cumberland County District championship and wish them continued success next season.