Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

Les travaux de la Chambre ont repris le
21 septembre 2017

Hansard -- Tue., May 1, 2001

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HALIFAX, TUESDAY, MAY 1, 2001

Fifty-eighth General Assembly

Second Session

12:00 P.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Murray Scott

DEPUTY SPEAKERS

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

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Honourable members, before we begin the daily routine, I would like to advise the House that the winner of the Adjournment motion is Robert Chisholm, MLA for Halifax Atlantic. The resolution is:

Therefore be it resolved that the closure of the emergency room at the Northside General Hospital, one of Nova Scotia's busiest hospitals, shows what Nova Scotians can expect if they elect Conservative MLAs and governments who do not stand up for the things that matter most.

I do apologize for using the member's name. That was not appropriate. The member for Halifax Atlantic won the debate, enough said.

We will begin the daily routine.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

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

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MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the residents of Prospect Road and Peggy's Cove, I beg leave to table a petition with 2,426 names, the operative phrase being that, "This road deserves immediate attention as part of the popular Lighthouse Route of Nova Scotia." I have signed this petition.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition on behalf of the residents who travel Highway No. 208, New Germany through to Caledonia. The operative phrase is, "We realize that the Department of Transportation's budget is limited, however we the undersigned hereby petition the Nova Scotia Government to place this road on the top priority list and request your immediate attention to commit money to Hwy. 208 . . ." There are 620 signatures, plus one, the MLA for Timberlea-Prospect, making it 621.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

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

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a statement and at the conclusion of the statement, to table the Surplus Crown Property Disposal Report for the period April 1, 2000 to March 31, 2001.

Mr. Speaker, every year we have tabled this report in the House and I would just like to present a few of the highlights for this past year. The Surplus Crown Property Disposal Report details how government has disposed of items that are no longer of use in the operations of government but this doesn't mean that there is no useful purpose for many of the items that are declared surplus. In fact, through the Surplus Crown Property Disposal Act, we have been able to find alternative uses for literally thousands of items and in the process assist service clubs and non-profit organizations throughout Nova Scotia.

Perhaps most notable this year, we have provided some 1,150 computers that are being recycled through our technology recycling program and distributed to Nova Scotia's schools through the Computers for Schools Program. In our rapidly evolving technical environment, it is critical that our students have the tools that they will need to acquire the skills they will use in our global economy. Having access to computers is essential. Mr. Speaker, I am

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delighted that we have been able to contribute and that more than 1,000 computers will soon be in use in schools throughout the province.

In addition this year, we are able to fulfill some 164 requests from non-profit organizations in communities all across Nova Scotia. These requests are for items ranging from office equipment to kitchen accessories, items these organizations did not have to use their precious resources to obtain. For example, the Ships Company Theatre in Parrsboro received furnishings for their office - a bookcase, filing cabinet, desk and shelving unit, to name a few of the items. The Lunenburg Family Resource Centre received a desk, bookcase and a cabinet, and the Cape Breton Injured Workers Association received office equipment, including a fax machine and a photocopier. These are only a few examples of the organizations that have benefitted from this program.

Mr. Speaker, the Surplus Crown Property Disposal process also details the sale and disposal of materials and property declared surplus. Items disposed of either through the province's recycling program or in our landfill are things that can no longer be used. They are detailed in the report. Other items such as surplus lands, buildings or equipment sold through our public tender or auction, are also listed. This year, after costs, the process generated nearly $575,000. This is money that is applied directly to the provincial debt.

Mr. Speaker, I believe this document is a demonstration of how we are making the most of our resources, even when we can no longer use them. I am pleased to table the report and share it with my colleagues in the House.

I would advise all members who have organizations within their constituencies who are looking for items they think we may have, all it takes is a letter to the Department of Transportation and Public Works and we will check through our list and, if we can, we will provide those, particularly for non-profit organizations that are a little strapped for cash, to obtain the articles they require. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The report is tabled.

Before I recognize the honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect, the honourable member for Halifax Chebucto on an introduction.

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I would like to draw the attention of the members of the House to the presence in the west gallery today of a Grade 10 student from Saint Patrick's High School. This is a person whom I know took the trouble to travel about 10 days ago to the demonstrations against the FTAA that were held in Quebec City. I am very happy she has chosen to come and watch us here at our work today. I would like to ask

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her to rise. This person is my daughter, Hannah Epstein, and I would ask the members of the House to give her a warm welcome. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Yes, indeed, welcome to the member's daughter, in the gallery, and welcome to all of our guests in the gallery this afternoon.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I, too, welcome Ms. Epstein and the other guests here to the people's House.

There has been some good news from this government again this year, as we have recycled some of the important excess equipment. In particular, I know the school system will take everything it can get, recycled computers aside. I want to assure the minister that there will continually be requests from schools and community groups. Hopefully, these requests will remain an open process that all community groups, schools and Nova Scotians will have the opportunity to apply for.

The $575,000 that resulted from the surplus Crown property disposal process, however, is of some concern to me. That money disappears into the black hole with no particular priority. I would suggest that this minister, as the Chairman of P & P, look at the fact there should be priorities. That $575,000, perhaps this budget year, could be applied directly to the Health Department. Perhaps next year it could be applied to the Education Department. Perhaps in a forthcoming year, a budget year, that $575,000 or money generated could go to secondary roads.

It is good news. I am glad that communities throughout this province have an opportunity but it does concern me, that $575,000 could be used more discriminantly so that schools in particular, nurses in particular, groups throughout this province can say, yes, the money that was raised was used in a manner that would help out individual Nova Scotians.

I thank the minister for the process and I can assure him, I can assure that government, there will be many times in the future those requests will continue to come. Thank you.

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

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the minister for tabling that report and providing us with a copy beforehand. It is good to see this government and this minister continuing a program that was initiated by the previous Liberal Government. This was a program initiated by the previous Liberal Government to provide surplus technology to schools, and I don't think anybody can argue that in this House.

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The not-for-profit groups, who, for years, have been receiving surplus property, there is absolutely nothing new here. This government is by no means doing anything more than previous governments have done, but unlike previous governments, this government and that minister should also remember that they are the ones who have picked the pockets of not-for-profit charities in this province. This is the government who has taken, to date, $3.8 million out of the pockets of not-for-profit groups in this province.

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Mr. Speaker, I notice, in congratulating himself, all this selfless work on their behalf, the minister neglects to mention his government's real treatment of volunteer organizations in this province and the money that has been taken from the charity casino in Sydney and never turned over, and never will be. Perhaps the minister should think about that. Again, I thank the minister for tabling the report and making a statement, even though that statement is somewhat self-serving. But that is the essence of this Tory Government, self-service at taxpayers' expense. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice on an introduction.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to introduce some visitors to our House today, in the west gallery, from the Municipality of the District of Lunenburg, the Warden Jack Wentzell - if Warden Wentzell could stand - and we have with us the Deputy Warden Arthur Young, Councillor Sandra Statton, and the Chief Administrative Officer Douglas Quinn. They are here with us today to see the proceedings of the House. I would ask the members to give them our warm welcome. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Indeed, yes, greetings to our guests in the gallery.

The honourable Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations.

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I want to take a few moments to draw to the attention of the members of the House the important issue of vehicle safety, more specifically motorcycle safety. Motorcycles are a popular form of transportation and recreation for many Nova Scotians, more than 10,000 use motorcycles and are enthusiasts of that activity.

I am happy to say that many motorcycle enthusiasts in our province begin with a heightened awareness of their responsibilities and of the safety challenge before them. Mr. Speaker, 800 to 1,000 new motorcyclists learn to ride in Nova Scotia community colleges every year, under the auspices of the Nova Scotia Safety Council. Ours is one of the few provinces that issues motorcycle licences upon completion of such a course. By doing so, we reduce the red tape associated with licensing a new driver and we ensure that they are trained to handle their vehicles safely and responsibly.

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People on a motorcycle, by the very nature of how these vehicles are designed, face a sense of freedom and a set of risks over and above those associated with cars and trucks. That is why it is important for all motorists to be aware of motorcycles, their drivers and their passengers. We all have a role to play in making our roadways safe for all. No one knows that better than the Nova Scotia Safety Council, and I think it is important that we acknowledge their contribution to motorcycle safety in this province.

On behalf of the government, I call on all motorcycle enthusiasts and motorists in general, all dealerships, law enforcement agencies, and highway safety advocates to recognize this month as Motorcycle Awareness Month. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, this is an announcement that focuses on safety, and that is entirely appropriate. I couldn't help noticing what I believe is a very slight difference between the wording of the written text - for which I thank the minister - and what I think I heard him say to us just a moment ago. It has to do, in the first page, when in the written text he says more than 10,000 of us are motorcycle enthusiasts. I think he might have dropped the word "us" when he spoke it. I was intrigued, I had hoped that, indeed, we would hear from the minister that he is occasionally to be seen out on his chopper on the roadways. It is a picture that one relishes as one thinks about this.

If the minister, however, is not personally one of those motorcycle enthusiasts, I nonetheless must offer him our congratulations for his emphasis on safety. It is particularly among those 10,000 that we would probably find young people. We know from statistics that unfortunately accidents, whether they involve four-wheeled motor vehicles or two-wheeled motor vehicles, are I believe the leading cause of injury and death among young people. So the emphasis in the minister's statement on safety is entirely appropriate. I think we all have to be aware of this, and I thank the minister for drawing this to our attention. Thank you.

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

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to thank the minister for providing me with a copy of his statement today, in advance. I am certainly aware of the

hazards motorcyclists face within this province. The program that is offered by the Nova Scotia Community College is certainly well regarded and of great value to Nova Scotians. I would like to join with the minister in thanking them for that.

The minister also mentions the Nova Scotia Safety Council, which is another organization that performs yeoman service for the people of Nova Scotia and I would like to take this opportunity to thank them, as well.

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Finally, I would join, with the minister, in encouraging all motorists in the province to pay special attention to motorcyclists this summer. Mr. Speaker, thank you.

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Education.

RESOLUTION NO. 798

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

Whereas the University of King's College will honour Madame Justice Louise Arbour with an honorary Doctor of Civil Law degree at its 212th Convocation Ceremonies on Thursday, May 17th; and

Whereas Madame Justice Arbour is known throughout Canada for her even-handedness in conducting an inquiry into conditions at the prison for women in Kingston and her current position on the Supreme Court of Canada; and

Whereas she became known throughout the world as chief prosecutor for the International War Crimes Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, where she put human rights ahead of the rights of nations;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Madame Justice Louise Arbour for this high honour and the University of King's College for its selection.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Education.

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RESOLUTION NO. 799

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

Whereas Sacred Heart School of Halifax recently won the Provincial Junior High School Debating Championship; and

Whereas Sacred Heart won the Atlantic Institute of Education Shield in a competition involving 18 teams; and

Whereas Neesha Rao of Sacred Heart School retained the Gold Gavel in the Karen Pugh Citation during the competition;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Sacred Heart School's debating team and Neesha Rao, their leader, for their outstanding performance in this provincial competition.

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.

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

Bill No. 40 - Entitled an Act to Guarantee Equality of Treatment for All Sufferers of Hepatitis C. (Mr. Darrell Dexter)

Bill No. 41 - Entitled an Act to Establish an Employment Equity and Affirmative Action Policy for the Legal Services Division of the Department of Justice and Crown Law Agents. (Mr. Kevin Deveaux)

Bill No. 42 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 293 of the Revised Statutes of 1989. The Motor Vehicle Act. (Mr. William Estabrooks)

MR. SPEAKER: Ordered that these bills be read a second time on a future day.

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NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton North

RESOLUTION NO. 800

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

Whereas the BCA Investment Co-operative is a strong, community economic engine, which continues to promote self-investment opportunities in Cape Breton; and

Whereas the BCA Investment Co-operative is now in its second year of operation; and

Whereas in its first year of operation, the BCA Investment Co-operative sold approximately $700,000 in common shares to approximately 300 local community investors and is looking forward to another strong year of growth;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs credit investors at the BCA Investment Co-operative for their strong show of support for our local community, as BCA works toward its 10 year goal of becoming a solid venture capital fund with $20 million in investments to continue assisting viable Cape Breton projects.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 801

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

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Whereas the Health Minister made an emergency trip to Cape Breton on March 2nd to assure the residents of Cape Breton North that there was no threat to the future of their hospital; and

Whereas the Premier followed with a speech in Sydney Mines on March 3rd to promise voters that they would be better off with a government member; and

Whereas the Conservative candidate in Cape Breton North dismissed concerns about the emergency room, loss of services, bed closures and other threats to the future of this busy hospital;

Therefore be it resolved that the closure of the emergency room at the Northside General Hospital, one of Nova Scotia's busiest hospitals, shows what Nova Scotians can expect if they elect Conservative MLAs in government who do not stand up for the things that matter most.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 802

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

Whereas on April 6th, 7th and 8th, Denise Haynes of Clare participated in the Nova Scotia Open Racquet Ball Tournament of the West Point Racquet Ball Club in Halifax; and

Whereas Denise won 1st place in the Junior B 13 and under category; and

Whereas Denise was named Female Racquet Ball Player of the Year for Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House of Assembly congratulate Denise for her outstanding performance and wish her every success in the future.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Queens.

RESOLUTION NO. 803

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

Whereas on May 17th, a friend of this House, Mr. John Leefe, will be granted an honorary Doctorate of Civil Law from King's College; and

Whereas this is a great honour for the former MLA for Queens and current mayor of the municipality, who is not only a former graduate, but has always been a strong supporter of the college; and

Whereas he is fine company, as the college is also presenting honourary degrees to the Honourable Madame Justice Louise Arbour, Mr. Terry Kelly, Mr. Mark Starowicz with an honourary fellowship going to Mrs. Cynthia Pilichos;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House extend our hearty congratulations to former member John Leefe and to Mr. Kelly, Mr. Starowicz, the Honourable Madame Justice Arbour and Mrs. Pilichos on being honoured at the King's college 2001 convocation this month.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

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RESOLUTION NO. 804

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

Whereas the janitors have struggled through two months of a labour dispute with the obstinate Halifax Regional School Board; and

Whereas conditions continue to deteriorate in local schools, students have allergy flare-ups and garbage reportedly piles up in cafeterias and other common areas; and

Whereas these conditions are intolerable and it is imperative that the Halifax Regional School Board get back to the table and settle with NSUPE as soon as possible;

Therefore be it resolved that this House support the custodial workers and their union in their efforts to achieve a timely and fair collective agreement with the Halifax Regional School Board.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

RESOLUTION NO. 805

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 Medical Society of Nova Scotia has chosen Dr. Judy S. Caines, MD, FRCD(C) for the Annual Distinguished Service Award; and

[12:30 p.m.]

Whereas this award recognizes a physician who has made an outstanding contribution to the medical profession and to the people of Nova Scotia, resulting in raising the standards of medical practice or an outstanding contribution to the art and science of medicine; and

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Whereas as head of the Breast Imaging Division at the QE II's Diagnostic Imaging Department and as Medical Director of the Nova Scotia Breast Screening Program, she has pioneered and driven education and medical advancements for breast care in women;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize and congratulate Dr. Judy Caines on her award and extend our appreciation for her skills, energy, enthusiasm and dedication to breast care for women.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Health.

RESOLUTION NO. 806

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

Whereas Joseph Miedema, a Grade 12 student at Cobequid Educational Centre, was recently chosen to represent the district at the upcoming national science fair in Kingston, Ontario; and

Whereas building on his love of electronics, Joseph designed and constructed a robot with infrared and touch sensors and developed special computer programs to test his invention; and

Whereas Joseph has spent close to a year working on this project while working part-time and completing his senior year of high school;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Joseph Miedema for his hard work and dedication in making his love of electronics a first-place reality, offer best wishes for success in the national science fair, and best wishes as he pursues post-secondary education at the Royal Military College next fall.

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Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

RESOLUTION NO. 807

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

Whereas the PanCanadian Student Choice Award recognizes special teachers and administrators in the education system who play significant roles in the lives of the students they teach; and

Whereas last Wednesday, April 25, 2001, Beth Raymond, the Vice-Principal at St. Agnes Junior High School, a school located in Halifax Chebucto, was awarded the only PanCanadian Administrator's Award presented in the Halifax metropolitan region; and

Whereas Beth Raymond was nominated by a Grade 8 student at the school in recognition of the five year history she has had at St. Agnes involving projects such as the Homework Club and student breakfast programs;

Therefore be it resolved that this House extend congratulations to Beth Raymond, Vice-Principal of St. Agnes School, on receipt of the PanCanadian Student Choice Award in the Principal Category for 2001.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Victoria. The honourable member is going to read his resolution in both Gaelic and English.

The honourable member for Victoria.

RESOLUTION NO. 808

MR. KENNETH MACASKILL: Fhir na Cathrach, air latha sa tighinn, bithidh agam m'ur coinneamh gun glac sibh mar run na leanas:

A chionn's gu robh am mios Ceitein air a bhith aithnichte mar "Mios na Gaidhlig" bho chionn naoi ceud deug is sia-deug air ceithir fichead; agus

A chionn's gun do ghairm a' Cho-roinn Fhoghluim cursaichean sgrudaidh airson nan scoiltean anns na bordan-sgoile Cheap Breatain-Bhioctoiria agus Chaoil-Roinneil ann an naoi ceud deug is ochd-deug air cithir fichead; agus

A chionn's gu bheil cultar na Gaidhlig na phairt mhor dhe n dualchas againn ann an Alba Nuadh.

Uime sin gum bi e reitichte gum brosnaich gach uile ball Ministear na Turasachd a a' Chultair gus an cum e suas an taic airson cultar na Gaidhlig aig inbhe cunbhalach.

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

Whereas since 1996 the month of May has been recognized as Gaelic Awareness Month in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas in 1998 the Department of Education announced Gaelic Studies courses for high schools through the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board and the Strait Regional School Board; and

Whereas the Gaelic culture is a large part of our Nova Scotia heritage;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of the House of Assembly encourage the Minister of Tourism and Culture to maintain a constant level of support for the Gaelic culture.

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Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you for that translation.

There has been a request for waiver.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 809

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

Whereas PROS, Please Respect Our Safety, hosted a meeting last evening at the Whites Lake Legion, which was attended by more than 150 residents; and

Whereas residents of the communities along the Prospect Road and the Peggy's Cove Road expressed the need for immediate work on this highway; and

Whereas Highway No. 333, as part of the Lighthouse Route, was described as a "national, provincial and local disgrace";

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Transportation and Public Works inform area residents when Highway No. 333 will receive a plan for the upgrading of this road.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth South.

RESOLUTION NO. 810

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

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Whereas Prince Andrew Woodlawn Environmental Enhancement and Conservation Association is the only federally recognized, student-operated, non-profit society in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas their motto, Think Globally, Act Locally, is reflected in their many projects that focus on the school, the community and the world; and

Whereas these projects have raised money for the Children's Wish Foundation, supported a teacher in Central America, contributed to local seniors' programs, are currently replanting in Point Pleasant Park and replacing the two beloved swans in Sullivan's Pond;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize and commend the young members of the Prince Andrew Woodlawn Environmental Enhancement Conservation Association for their admirable work and substantial contributions to our community.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Richmond.

RESOLUTION NO. 811

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

Whereas this government is allowing university tuitions to rise, adding to the already unmanageable debt load of students in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas this government is showing their blatant disregard for our young Nova Scotians who will be called on to lead this province in the future; and

Whereas this government apparently either doesn't care about our young Nova Scotians or cannot understand the importance of their future contribution to this province;

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Therefore be it resolved that this government take another look at how students are treated in Nova Scotia and make a commitment to help them secure their future in this province.

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 Halifax Atlantic.

RESOLUTION NO. 812

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

Whereas the current collective bargaining process between the Halifax International Airport Authority and Local 80829, Union of Canadian Employees, represented by PSAC, is the first set of contract negotiations since the authority took over from Transport Canada last February; and

Whereas the Halifax International Airport Authority appears intent on keeping collective bargaining out of the process and poisoning negotiations by reneging on its agreement with the union to provide essential services at the airport during the strike; and

Whereas the province's members on the Board of Directors of HIAA could play a pivotal role in convincing the board to take the high road, and stop using outside contractors to do the work of its employees;

Therefore be it resolved that this House calls on the Board of Directors of the Halifax International Airport Authority to follow the spirit of the collective bargaining process, end the use of outside contractors to do union work, and direct its negotiators to find a fair resolution to this dispute now.

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 Eastern Shore.

RESOLUTION NO. 813

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

Whereas Chrissy Costard, a student at Auburn Drive High School, is one of two Nova Scotia high school students to be awarded TD-Canada Trust Scholarships for outstanding community leadership; and

Whereas Chrissy's contributions to her community - starting programs to aid youth in foster care and group homes and beginning five drop-in youth centres in rural communities - are indeed outstanding; and

Whereas Chrissy, one of 20 winners from across Canada, was selected from over 2,900 applicants and will receive full tuition to any Canadian college or university with a contribution toward living expenses, valued at $50,000, and a guarantee of summer employment at TD-Canada Trust for up to four years;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House commend Chrissy Costard for her significant contributions to youths, and congratulate her on this well-deserved award.

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 2196]

The honourable member for Sackville-Beaver Bank on an introduction.

MR. BARRY BARNET: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased today to introduce to you, and to all members of this House, Grade 8 students and their chaperones from Madeline Symonds Middle School. We have with us today 33 Grade 8 students, along with Mr. Thorne, their teacher, who, as reported to me by the member for Timberlea-Prospect, is an almost-famous, old-timers' hockey player. As well, with Mr. Thorne, is Sandra Conrad, Hazelle Pettipas, Cindy Steves, and Paul Steves. Mr. Speaker, to my knowledge, this is the first time we have had a visit from Madeline Symonds Middle School in this House during a session. I would ask all members to give them a warm welcome as they rise to receive that welcome. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Welcome, indeed, to the school class and especially the old-timers' hockey player.

The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes.

RESOLUTION NO. 814

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

Whereas in the summer of 1999, nine year old Steven Bowles rescued his six year old brother from downing in Bayport, Lunenburg County; and

Whereas Steven swam his brother to safety when he slipped between a boat and a dock and into the water; and

Whereas Steven was presented with a Canadian Lifesaving Society's commendation for bravery by Lieutenant Governor Myra Freeman, on April 28, 2001;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House of Assembly recognize the heroic efforts of Steven Bowles and wish him our best for the future.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 2197]

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Hants East.

RESOLUTION NO. 815

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

Whereas classical music has stood the test of time and appreciation among music lovers; and

Whereas local pianists who display the talent and desire to excel and perform in this beloved field should be encouraged; and

Whereas Ms. Mary Robertson of Milford received from the Nova Scotia Talent Trust a $400 scholarship to attend the Acadia Summer Music Camp for two years to practice before her peers;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Assembly congratulate Ms. Mary Robertson on winning a scholarship to attend Acadia Summer Music Camp and wish her success in her chosen area of the fine arts.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Pictou West.

RESOLUTION NO. 816

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

[Page 2198]

Whereas increased community access to books and periodicals improves literacy, strengthens reading skills and facilitates lifelong learning; and

Whereas the Friends of the River John Library have successfully campaigned to replace the existing overcrowded facilities which hosted the River John branch of the Pictou Antigonish Regional Library; and

Whereas the new River John branch of the Pictou Antigonish Regional Library is a CAP site and a model for the province, officially opens on June 28, 2001;

Therefore be it resolved that ask all members of this House congratulate the Friends of the River John Library for their diligent work which resulted in the construction of a new and expanded library in our community.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Leader of the Liberal Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 817

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

Whereas Marcel Haynes of Clare recently competed in the Nova Scotia Open Racquet Ball Tournament; and

Whereas the tournament was held at the West Point Racquet Ball Club in Halifax on April 6th, 7th, and 8th; and

Whereas Marcel won 1st place in the Junior A 13 to 15 year old category; and

[Page 2199]

[12:45 p.m.]

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House of Assembly congratulate Marcel for his outstanding performance and wish him every success in the future.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

RESOLUTION NO. 818

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 Awana program is a Bible-based youth program dedicated to the spiritual and moral training of youth of the community; and

Whereas Hannah Main and Mitchell Manthorne took home top points in the Awana Spring 2001 Contest held in Truro recently; and

Whereas the young members of Awana learn to work together to become good citizens, honouring God in all that they do;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Hannah Main and Mitchell Manthorne on winning top points in the Awana Spring 2001 Contest and wish all other members of Awana continued success as good citizens.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 2200]

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Pictou East.

RESOLUTION NO. 819

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

Whereas it takes substantial initiative and foresight to set up a successful company; and

Whereas Nova Scotia's economic vitality relies on encouraging our youth to develop entrepreneurial skills and spirit; and

Whereas Mathew Barker of New Glasgow, Taylor MacIvor of Merigomish and Ryan Carty of Eureka were recently presented awards from the Youth Entrepreneurial Skills Program for their successful venture, TMR Stoneworks;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate these young men for their hard-working entrepreneurial spirit and wish them success in their future endeavours.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

[Page 2201]

RESOLUTION NO. 820

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

Whereas the Well Women's Clinic officially opened on Monday, April 30, 2001, in the community of East Preston; and

Whereas the clinic will receive sponsorship by the IWK for one year and facility rental expenses will be paid by Health Canada; and

Whereas while it agrees that community-based health care is a priority, this Tory Government has made no commitment of any kind to fund or aid this health clinic;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Health live up to the commitment made in the 2001 budget where it says, "For years governments have talked about wellness and community-based health care. This year this government will act." and provide the necessary long-term funding to maintain the Well Women's Clinic in the community of East Preston.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

RESOLUTION NO. 821

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 Elizabeth Ann Seton Award presented by the Sisters of Charity recognizes a person who best exemplifies Saint Elizabeth Seton's pioneering spirit, dedication and commitment to the poor; and

Whereas Jack MacNeil of Dartmouth and Deacon of the Archdiocese of Halifax was a recipient of the 2001 Elizabeth Ann Seton Award; and

[Page 2202]

Whereas Jack has spent his entire life helping those with needs through many different agencies and organizations, including Hope Farm and Metro Turning Point;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize and congratulate Jack MacNeil on the occasion of his 2001 Elizabeth Ann Seton Award.

Mr. Speaker, I realize there had been other resolutions but being a resident of Dartmouth East, I wanted to bring this forward to the House.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Kings North.

RESOLUTION NO. 822

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

Whereas it takes a great deal of vision and initiative to start and operate a business, especially in this day and age; and

Whereas our province's future economy depends on our youth developing entrepreneurial skills and being provided the assistance to do so; and

Whereas the Youth Entrepreneurial Skills Program recently presented an award to Matthew Hennigar of Canning for the outstanding success of his business, Painting 2000;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate these young Nova Scotians for their initiative and dedication to entrepreneurial achievement.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 2203]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

RESOLUTION NO. 823

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

Whereas the Halifax Seed Company, Canada's oldest and continuously operating seed company in historic North End Halifax is celebrating its 135th Anniversary this year; and

Whereas Halifax Seed Company was established in 1866 and has become a market leader in the horticultural and agricultural industry in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas the Tregunno family, owners of the Halifax Seed Company, have guided the company through changes in the marketplace and encouraged the diversification that has made Halifax Seed Company a Nova Scotia success story;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the Tregunno family and the staff of the Halifax Seed Company on 135 years of successful operation.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Victoria.

[Page 2204]

RESOLUTION NO. 824

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

Whereas the Big Bras d'Or fire department ladies have presented their fire department with $10,000 over two years; and

Whereas this money will help the department purchase breathing apparatus as well as a portion for their truck fund; and

Whereas this group of 13 ladies can demonstrate the effect that fire ladies have on many volunteer fire departments;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House of Assembly congratulate this department and their fire ladies for demonstrating pride in their fire department by their tireless efforts to make it such a success.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, if I may, I would like to beg the indulgence of the House and yourself for a quick introduction.

MR. SPEAKER: Yes, go ahead with the introduction.

MR. ESTABROOKS: I would acknowledge the group from the Madeline Symonds Middle School, particularly their exceptional teacher, average old-timers hockey player and terrible referee, it is nice to see you here Mr. Thorne. I hope those students know how fortunate they are to have you as a teacher because both of my kids were taught by you and I acknowledge that here.

[Page 2205]

I have an introduction, however, of an exceptional young man who lives on the Fraser's Road in the community of Timberlea who was a candidate during the recent municipal election, who is the Secretary-Treasurer of the Nova Local of CUPW. I would ask the House to acknowledge the presence of Shawn Lahey. Shawn, could you stand and be welcomed to the House. (Applause)

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

RESOLUTION NO. 825

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for keeping me on track. Students do this to me.

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

Whereas soccer continues to grow as a popular sport for all ages across this province; and

Whereas the growing community of Timberlea-Prospect is fortunate enough to have volunteers willing to give of themselves as soccer coaches and organizers; and

Whereas Timberlea resident, Stephen Ault and all members of the Ault family are heavily involved in soccer;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate and thank volunteers such as Timberlea's Stephen Ault for their commitment and dedication to the development of soccer.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Bedford Basin.

[Page 2206]

RESOLUTION NO. 826

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

Whereas Nova Scotia youth are a cornerstone of our province's future economic development; and

Whereas the Youth Entrepreneurial Skills Program especially recognizes young people who launch innovative commercial pursuits with the assistance of the program; and

Whereas Jordan Allen of Halifax recently won a YES Award for the success of his company, Day Dream Designs;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of the House congratulate Jordan Allen for his achievement and wish him continued success in his future endeavours.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Community Services.

RESOLUTION NO. 827

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

Whereas the Youth Entrepreneurial Program is designed to provide assistance to full-time students who are looking to set up and run their own businesses; and

Whereas the program presents awards to those participants who launch a successful venture; and

[Page 2207]

Whereas Mark Bergman of Bedford was a recipient of a YES Award recently for his role in establishing Day Dream Designs;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Mark Bergman for being rewarded for the hard work and dedication he has demonstrated in this project, and wish him continued success with his future endeavours.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Justice.

RESOLUTION NO. 828

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

Whereas a near tragedy was narrowly avoided in Baker Settlement recently when a young child fell, unseen, into a well; and

Whereas through the quick action of his grandmother, and the availability of trained help nearby, aid was soon there; and

Whereas two volunteer firefighters, close by in the community, were the first to respond, and teamed together to pull the boy from the freezing water and keep him stable until an air ambulance took him away;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House wish the little boy and his family well, and offer high praise to the volunteer firefighters whose immediate and quick-thinking response ensured a happy ending.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 2208]

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 Chester-St. Margaret's.

RESOLUTION NO. 829

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

Whereas Lois MacLeod has a long-standing love of history and has brought that love and her skill to work with the Chester Municipal Heritage Society; and

Whereas Ms. MacLeod has worked many, many hours to research and write a complete history of Chester Municipality from contact to present day; and

Whereas the product of this labour, a much-anticipated local history, is soon to be published;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House commend Lois MacLeod for her tremendous efforts to safeguard the heritage of the Municipality of Chester and for preserving local history in Nova Scotia.

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 2209]

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: The time for Question Period will run until 1:58 p.m.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

HEALTH - NORTHSIDE GEN. HOSP.:

EMERGENCY ROOM - REOPEN

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the Northside General Hospital has closed its emergency room doors during the week to the people of Cape Breton. If you have an emergency and live in North Sydney or Sydney Mines, you will now have to travel to Sydney. The Northside General Hospital had to take these drastic measures because there are not enough doctors to provide emergency services at the hospital. The Minister of Health has stood in this House time and again claiming the province is recruiting doctors. Well, it is not true, and it is certainly not true in Cape Breton. I want to ask the Minister of Health how he has gotten it so wrong. Why has he failed the people of Cape Breton North and the Northside? Mr. Minister, what are you going to do to reopen the emergency room at the Northside General Hospital?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, as usual, the Leader of the Opposition has his facts about 50 per cent correct. It is hard to figure out what it is. I just want to tell the House that so far this year we have recruited 17 new physicians, including some in Cape Breton.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, in the heat of the by-election, the Minister of Health committed to the people of Cape Breton North that the Northside General Hospital would be there to meet their needs. Two months later, this government has failed to fulfill that commitment to the people of Cape Breton North. Although the Minister of Health likes to try to pass off responsibility, the blame lies with him. I want to ask the Minister of Health, what is the plan to get more doctors to Cape Breton to alleviate this crisis?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, contrary to what this bunch might do, we try to recruit doctors for across the province. We are concerned about all of Nova Scotia, not trying to just make cheap, political points when there happens to be a difficulty. That is the trend for them. That is what they are in the House for, cheap, political points. Anyway, I want to tell you that I feel sorry that the Northside General Hospital has had - the question is, are there enough physicians or do there have to be some arrangements worked out with the physicians that are there? (Interruptions)

[Page 2210]

[1:00 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable minister has the floor.

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, we, among other things, have, of course, rural incentive programs. We have just announced, in terms of recruiting rural physicians, a $15,000 relocation allowance for selected communities. I could add, in terms of the District Health Authority 8, they have been relatively successful, probably more successful than any other community in the province or any other district health authority in the province.

MR. DEXTER: I can't believe the minister would take this opportunity to boast because despite all his boasting, emergency rooms in this province are closing. The emergency room at the Northside General Hospital has closed. I want to say, Mr. Speaker, that this government has no vision and no plan. Will the minister turn around and tell the member for Cape Breton North, as well as all the members of this House, when the emergency room doors at the Northside General Hospital will be reopened on a full-time basis? (Interruptions)

MR. MUIR: Hopefully, they will reopen on a full-time basis in the very near future. I guess I am delighted to say that the emergency service does continue there in the off-hours, from 6:00 p.m on. It is cut down in the daytime. One of the good things, it doesn't make it any better there, as the honourable member would recognize, the distance to a full-fledged and high test emergency room is about 25 minutes.

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

HEALTH - NORTHSIDE GEN. HOSP.:

DOCTORS - RECRUITMENT BEGIN

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, my question is also for the Minister of Health. Yesterday, doctor shortages reached a crisis point at the Northside General Hospital. Because of the shortage, the emergency room at the Northside General Hospital will be closed from 8:00 a.m to 6:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. I will table a document which shows that except for an eye specialist, the Department of Health is not recruiting doctors to the industrial area of Cape Breton. My question is, will the minister now recognize this problem and begin recruiting doctors for the Northside area?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I am surprised to hear the honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes make that statement because I was at a new physicians dinner at the district health authority not that long ago and I believe there were something like 29 new physicians up there. So to say that there is one, I believe there is some discrepancy. That area has been very successful.

[Page 2211]

AN HON. MEMBER: Where are you hiding them?

MR. MUIR: There are lots of them there. They have a exceptional recruiter up there. (Interruptions)

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I will table the document indicating that the Department of Health is not putting any effort into recruiting doctors. This hospital serves more than 32,000 residents. In addition, more than 0.5 million people travel through North Sydney on Marine Atlantic ferries to Newfoundland. On March 2nd, during a tour of the hospital with the Tory candidate for Cape Breton North at the time, the minister said he was concerned that the people get the services that they require and need. By closing the emergency room, what is this minister saying about the services needed at Northside General Hospital?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I indicated yesterday, and I indicate again today that I wish the emergency room at the Northside General Hospital was open during the daytime. Unfortunately, the doctors decided to withdraw their services and I don't know if either the Leader of the Opposition or the honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes has discussed the withdrawal of those services with the doctors, but it might be another avenue they might want to pursue.

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I am not sure, I get confused sometimes whether this honourable gentleman is actually the Minister of Health or the minister of denial. The member for Cape Breton North and this minister led the people to believe that their hospital was safe. This is in area where there are approximately 30,000 people, more than 0.5 million people travel to Newfoundland, and we have a major industry in that area, the Prince Mine, the Point Aconi Power Generating Station and the Marine Atlantic Ferry Terminal. My question is, what is this minister going to do to ensure that the full-time emergency services are continued at the Northside General Hospital?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I am always amazed when a member from that Party would stand up and question or make comments about physician supply here in Nova Scotia, that being the bunch that cut back the enrolment and that is part of the problem. We are trying to make up for what they did when they were in power. (Interruptions) (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

[Page 2212]

EDUC. - COLE HBR. HS:

JANITORIAL STRIKE - BLDG. CONDITION

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: I appreciate the applause, Mr. Speaker.

I want to table some very troubling photos of Cole Harbour High School in my riding. These were taken at 1:00 p.m. yesterday. This school is an absolute mess. Those photos came to me from an employee at the school who says she is feeling a great deal of pressure working in an environment that not only isn't clean, but is also unsafe. My question to the Minister of Education is simple, why are you failing to provide clean, safe schools for students at Cole Harbour High School?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I, too, saw those photos. They were sent via e-mail to my office and I looked at them. There is no doubt that parts of the school are messy, but the decision on whether or not the schools are safe is up to the public health authority, the Capital District Health Authority. The schools are being inspected even as we speak and appropriate action will be taken if it needs to be taken.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the minister is always looking for someone to blame, and she can blame the school board all she wants but the truth is that she carries the ultimate responsibility and she knows it. She cut the budget and she hasn't done a thing to end the strike. She has failed these students. I want to ask the minister, if she has seen the photos, what does she plan to do to end the strike so that students can live and learn in a clean, safe, learning environment?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, as the honourable member knows, the budget was not cut. That being said, the schools are messy. I am not going to intervene in this strike. The schools are being monitored. The school board and the union, I am sorry they are not back at the table I wish they were, but I am not going to take sides and I am not going to intervene.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, this employee, my constituent, says that she hopes these photos will prompt the government to action by revealing the terrible mess at the school. Now that the minister has seen the photos, will the Minister of Education admit that this strike has gone on too long and that many schools in metro are not fit for students?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, my answer is yes to the first part and no to the second part.

[Page 2213]

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

HEALTH - WESTERN REG. HEALTH BD.:

ADMIN. POSITIONS - ADDITION EXPLAIN

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. Today, through a freedom of information request, we learned that this Tory Government is spending $272,450 more on CEO's salaries in the former western region than had been spent under the previous government. In addition, car allowances are now being paid to three people under this government's new district health authority system. I will table copies of the contracts of the new CEOs for District Health Authorities, 1, 2 and 3, and a copy of the former CEO for the Western Regional Health Board. My question to the minister is, could the minister please explain to the people of the western region why adding two more administrative positions at an annual cost of over $0.25 million is more important than funding front-line health care services?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I think the answer to that, first and foremost, is that the Western Regional Health Board, as an entity, did not work, and the district health authorities will work and provide services and responsibility, and move decisions closer to home, which is what Nova Scotians want.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I read with interest a comment made by the then-Tory Leader John Hamm on June 29, 1999, "Every position that we can eliminate in administration allow us to have one more nurse, technologist or physician and that's what people are looking for." Daily we are seeing shortages of nurses, technologists and physicians in the western region. My question to the minister is, why has the minister broken the commitment of his Premier by adding to the administrative structure in the region?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the region does not exist any more. We have made health care much more responsive and responsible to Nova Scotians through the new structure. The issue of the two CEOs - and I would have to go back and go through the total administrative structure for the former region - what I can say is that if we can find the additional nurses and the additional physicians, we will hire them and it has nothing to do with the CEOs.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, the Premier has stated in the past that there was enough money in the health care budget, it just needed to be spent better. Today the health care budget is about $250 million more than in 1999. My question to the minister is simply, how can he say that spending over $0.25 million on two additional administrative positions is smarter spending?

[Page 2214]

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I think what the honourable member should be prepared to do, as everybody else, is let's see the results of this new structure after a year or two when it has had a chance to work through, and see that health care is indeed delivered better to Nova Scotians than it has been in the past, and it will be in the future.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

EDUC. - JANITORIAL STRIKE: MIN. - SETTLE

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education. Students aren't the only ones who are suffering because of this government's refusal to reach a fair contract with its workers. The strikers themselves are members of a relatively small union that is unable to pay strike pay, and this means that workers who are striking for a fair contract risk losing their homes, their vehicles and their savings. Some of these workers are the only breadwinners for the family. I want to ask the minister if she will stop causing education workers undue hardship and direct the school board to make a fair settlement?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the member for Halifax Needham knows that a few weeks ago I did meet with some workers, I did write a letter to David Reid, and to the union, hoping that they would get back to the table. They did get back to the table but, unfortunately, those talks ended. Now the honourable members say, who is in charge? They like me to be in charge sometimes and not other times. These workers are employees of the Halifax Regional School Board and that is where the deal has to be worked out - between the board and its union.

[1:15 p.m.]

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, it is clear. This minister has the responsibility to take charge when things get out of hand. This strike matters to Nova Scotians. This morning, students at two high schools here walked out in support of the striking caretakers. They understood what the minister doesn't understand - the importance of the work that is done by these strikers. I want to ask the minister, if she won't listen to the Official Opposition, why won't she listen to the people of Nova Scotia who are asking for a fair settlement in this strike?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I would like nothing better than a fair settlement to this strike, but that is up to the union and the school board.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, in a moment, I would like to table this letter from a junior high school principal to one of the strikers who says, I congratulate you on the pride you bring to your work, your willingness to help out and the quality of your work while at the school. Your conversations with me centred around what you could do to

[Page 2215]

improve the school. At no time did you complain about what the school looked like, the amount of work or the students. These are human beings. They need to be treated fairly. I ask the minister, please, do the responsible thing and act now to mediate in this situation? (Applause)

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, as the member is well aware, the services of the Department of Labour are available if either side in the strike wishes to call on them.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

HEALTH - DIST. HEALTH AUTH. (NORTHERN REG.):

ADMIN. POSITIONS - ADDITION JUSTIFY

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health. Through a freedom of information request, we learned that this Tory Government is spending $238,690 more on CEO's salaries in the former northern region than has been spent by the previous government. In addition, car allowances are now being paid to three people under this government's new district health authority system, and I will table that. My question to the minister is, how can the minister justify adding two more administrative positions at an additional cost of almost $0.25 million to cover a territory that was previously covered by one person?

HON. JAMES MUIR: The fact is, Mr. Speaker, the regional health boards were not working. Indeed, the only people in Nova Scotia who thought they were are sitting on those benches and you see what happened to them after the last election. The issue of the compensation of the CEOs in the district health authorities (Interruptions)

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

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, we had the Goldbloom report and we had a very good committee, cross-sections across this province and they thought they were working and this government didn't give them a chance and cut them off. The Tory Leader, John Hamm, on June 29, 1999, said, the people of Nova Scotia are looking for dollars being spent in eyeball to eyeball health care delivery. If you include the additional administrative costs in the former western region, as was pointed out by my colleague, with these mentioned above, this government could have hired an additional 14 nurses to assist in covering off nurses' vacations this summer. My question to the minister is, how is this minister going to explain to nurses across Nova Scotia that his government's priority is to spend more on CEOs salaries instead of hands-on health care?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, what this government did was to put in place a health structure that the people of Nova Scotia want, one that will be responsive to local needs, one that will put services in that are sustainable and, also, one that is affordable.

[Page 2216]

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, as we see health care unravelling daily before our very eyes, the minister can say that. It is clear this government has broken its commitment to the people of Nova Scotia. On July 18, 2000, it was revealed by the Liberals that two-thirds of the job losses in the former northern region were in front-line health care. My question to the minister is, simply, how can the minister justify breaking a promise not to cut front-line health care?

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, as you remember, health care costs were spiralling out of control under that group. We managed to get a handle on them and our commitment was that we would do everything in our power to maintain the clinical services and to enhance clinical services. I probably should take exception to what the honourable member has said in terms of that report, because I really don't know what he is talking about when he is saying that we have cut down clinical services.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

COMMUN. SERV. - SOC. SERV. RECIPIENTS: FUNDING - STATUS

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, I want to table an internal document from the Department of Community Services. This document discusses the department's plan to limit the outcry from regulations which accompany the new social services legislation. This document states the department "Will not be informing clients that are financially worse of [sic] until June". I want to ask the Minister of Community Services why he doesn't have the courage to tell the people up front what he is taking out of their pockets with respect to money now?

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, the department has made the commitment to review all of the clients, to look at the new rates, to evaluate all the clients and the people that they want. As we then start to do the assessments we will know what situation the people are in. We have indicated we will have discussions with them at the time.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, that minister is aware this very day what kind of an impact it is going to have. Every single dime counts to someone on social assistance. Yet here you are taking the money out of the people's pockets and you won't even tell them. You are doing it until it is far too late for them to complain. I want to ask the Minister of Community Services to admit that the only reason he is waiting until June to tell the clients that he is picking their pockets is because he doesn't want this issue to surface in the Legislature.

MR. CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable member, we will be telling clients that there is additional money for education, there is additional money for daycare and transportation. We will be reviewing all of those issues with them as they go through their assessments.

[Page 2217]

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, I want to tell you that this is a cowardly act by the minister. He has failed the people he is supposed to serve. He is reminiscing back to the Town of Bedford when he was a former mayor. I demand that the minister table the information detailing exactly who will be worse off due to these regulations that the minister is imposing.

MR. CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, the member indicates that we haven't told people what the rates are. Perhaps the member forgets, last November when we introduced the bill, we announced the rates at that time so people would know what the plans are. We have publications in the office indicating what the rates are, what benefits are available to all people. They are not being . . .

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

EDUC.: JANITORIAL STRIKE - END

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, today, as we all know, the students of Queen Elizabeth High School and St. Patrick's High School have walked out to protest conditions of their schools and to show support for the custodians on strike. My question to the Minister of Education is, when will the minister finally take her head out of the sand and put the best interests of students first in seeking a resolve to this long-standing strike?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, it is in the best interests of students, obviously, that they be in school. This is an unfortunate situation but it has to be allowed to play out according to the rules. If either side needs the services of a conciliator, the Department of Environment and Labour will help with that. I am not going to intervene in this strike.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, students, parents and Nova Scotians all now know this strike is not about more money. It is about protecting the basic rights of these workers. The minister has clearly shown her disdain for the custodians on strike. When will the Minister of Education finally demand accountability from the Halifax Regional School Board?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, accountability is precisely what we do demand and accountability is precisely what the Halifax Regional School Board is trying to implement.

MR. SAMSON: You know, Mr. Speaker, if this is what she calls accountability from school boards, God help the students and the workers throughout this entire province when the rest of the school boards are going to learn this is what the minister expects a school board to do, what the Halifax Regional School Board is doing today. It is clear that it is the taxpayers of Nova Scotia who are funding the Halifax Regional School Board. More students will continue to walk out throughout this board to show their support and their opposition to the conditions of these schools. When will the Minister of Education finally show leadership and demand that the Halifax Regional School Board return to the bargaining table?

[Page 2218]

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I certainly hope that the board and the union do go back to the bargaining table.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

COMMUN. SERV. - INFANT CARE: POLICY - ANNOUNCEMENT

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, again I am tabling an internal document that clearly shows the Minister of Community Services knows he is going to have problems with his new regulations. One area they have identified as problematic, "Continuing criticism of impact on single mothers . . ."

Mr. Speaker, you are probably asking yourself, how will they respond to that? According to this document, they intend to emphasize compliance with the provincial leave policy. That means single mothers will be forced back into the workforce once their children are 12 months old. I want to ask the Minister of Community Services, when can we expect an announcement on the new infant care policy?

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, I presume the honourable member is talking about the policies regarding the National Child Tax Benefit and that initiative that we are taking. As I indicated during budget estimates, we were working with the federal government. We hope to have that completed in the next two weeks and have the announcement then.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, I am sure you will be interested as well to know that they are refusing to include phone allowance, that was also mentioned. The planned response to this item, ". . . emphasize prohibitive cost to provide for all" Finding a job when you don't have training experience is difficult enough. To do so without a telephone borders on impossible.

Mr. Speaker, to the Minister of Community Services, my question is, Mr. Minister, why are you failing to support 36,000 people you are forcing into the workforce?

MR. CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, I fail to understand the honourable member's question. When we provide additional support for daycare, for transportation and when we say we are going to extend Pharmacare for one year, I consider that helping people, supports, to get back into the workforce.

[1:30 p.m.]

MR. PYE: I would just like to emphasize to the minister the single link of communication between a prospective employer and a potential employee is a telephone. That is the single most (Applause). Mr. Speaker, this document also indicates they are expecting criticism for, "the lack of meaningful employment." They plan to emphasize the

[Page 2219]

government's efforts to create jobs in the oil and gas sector and ocean-based industries. My question to the minister is, to date your government has failed to provide meaningful employment for women in the offshore and oil and gas sector. Are you planning to correct that failure by sending single parent mothers to sea?

MR. CHRISTIE: No, Mr. Speaker, Community Services has no intention of sending single mothers to sea.

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

EDUC. - C.B.-VIC. REG. SCH. BD.:

TRANSITION PLAN - MIN. ACCEPT

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education. Here we go again, this is the annual rite of spring, that time of the year when students, parents and teachers fear school closures, transfers, job losses and declining academic standards. This year the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board is facing a loss of 53 teaching positions, including 10 probationary teachers and 20 permanent teachers. Notices have gone out to those teachers. My first question to the Minister of Education is, will she commit to providing sufficient funding to avoid any layoffs of permanent or probationary teachers in the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board this year by accepting the board's transition plan?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, as I have said in this House before, the department did provide additional funding to the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board above and beyond the funding we were giving them for this year to help with the transition. But, in answer to the member's question about the transition plan, I have not yet seen that transition plan so I can't answer the question.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, maybe she hasn't seen it, but if that is the case, then her senior officials in her department aren't passing information along to her. My information is that both the NSTU and the local school board have presented a transition plan to that department. The minister knows full well that retirements of teachers in this board over the next two years will reduce the teaching complement, create opportunities for new specialist teachers and establish a student-teacher ratio on par with the provincial average. These retirements will solve the board's difficulty. Will the minister commit to bridge financing for one year as suggested by the NSTU to assist the board in solving a temporary problem?

MISS PURVES: The extra $900,000 we provided to the board should be enough to help them through. I am not committed at this point to providing bridge financing until I see that plan. I am aware the deputy did ask for a transition plan several weeks ago when he went

[Page 2220]

up to meet with the board, but they did not give it to him, so this other plan must have been presented much more recently, Mr. Speaker.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: If $900,000 was enough, I wouldn't be standing here asking the question. There are still 53 teachers going from that board, including 20 permanent teachers and 10 probationary teachers so obviously the figure she is talking about is not sufficient to stop layoffs. My final question is, the people well know this minister's view of Cape Breton - her political axe fell a couple of years ago on the Sysco problem and we all know what happened there. Now we have another political axe being wielded for the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board. My question to the minister is, why won't the minister work with the board to solve a temporary problem instead of creating a permanent problem with education quality as she seems intent on doing?

MISS PURVES: We have been working with all the boards since September, including the Cape Breton-Victoria board. I said in this House and I said to the chairman of the board that I knew this budget would be difficult for them - there were no illusions there. But, all the boards essentially are behind the way the department is going with this budget. Some difficulties with Cape Breton-Victoria, we have already been able to help with. We may be helped with a few more, but the direction is plain and we are sticking with the direction.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

ENVIRON. & LBR. - TWIN MTN. CONST.: MIN. ORDER - OUTCOME

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Acting Minister of the Environment and Labour. Yesterday in Kentville, Twin Mountain Construction Limited and Robie Carty were acquitted on a charge of failure to comply with a ministerial cleanup order. The judge was harsh in her assessment of the actions of the Department of Environment and Labour. The judge said the department was buffeted by political whims, issued an order that couldn't be enforced and then acted unreasonably in the demands it placed on the owner, and meanwhile that offending sludge is still right there where it was all along. My question to the acting minister is, what steps is the department taking to ensure that this comedy of errors never happens again?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the honourable member for the question. I can tell the honourable member, through you, that the department is very much evaluating the entire process that has gone on in this respect and they are learning a great deal from it and those lessons will be applied in the future.

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, the real issue in this case is that in response to real concerns raised by local residents the minister issued an order that could not be enforced. The minister's order was issued in the absence of any realistic alternative and, despite the owner's efforts, the deadline imposed by the minister came and went. The order turned out to be not

[Page 2221]

worth the paper it was printed on. My question to the acting minister, why should anyone take a ministerial order seriously ever again?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I can tell the honourable member and the House, through you, that the department, as I indicated, is looking at what has happened in this file. They have learned a great deal from it and will build on that so that ministerial orders will, in fact, be worthy of the consideration of everyone in this province.

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, the other key issue in this case is that the Department of the Environment and Labour issued a permit to Twin Mountain Construction without checking to see if the proper zoning approval had been obtained. My question to the acting minister is, what assurances will you give Nova Scotians that no environmental permit will ever be issued again until all applicable laws are complied with?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, again, thank you for the question. As I indicated, I am sure that the matter raised by the honourable member is part of what will be learned from this particular file.

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

HEALTH - JANITORIAL STRIKE:

SCHOOLS - SAFETY ASSURANCES

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, last week in the House, the Minister of Environment and Labour stated that he answers questions only to the chief medical officer and not to any member of the House of Assembly. My question to the Minister of Health is, what assurances does the Minister of Health have that all 152 schools in the Halifax Regional School Board are safe for students to attend?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I am going to ask my colleague, the Minister of Education, to respond to that.

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the Capital District Health Authority, under Dr. Robert Strang, has been doing random inspections of schools in the Halifax area. The first week he did 10 schools; this week they are doing between 15 and 20 schools. They are doing the inspections unannounced and we will be hearing the results of this week's inspections on Friday. I can assure members of the House that if he finds anything that makes him think schools are unsafe or unhealthy, that the schools will be closed down and cleaned. Thank you.

[Page 2222]

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, it is ironic it has taken almost six weeks for the minister to do a second round of inspections without notice. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Carry on, honourable member, carry on.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, the deputy minister of Education . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Obviously the honourable member for Cape Breton West is having difficulty with some of his friends to the right, so I would ask all members to bring themselves to order so the honourable member can concentrate on his question.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, the deputy minister of Education is in regular contact with Mr. David Reid at the Halifax Regional School Board, and has a Department of Education official attend all school board meetings, including in camera sessions that involve discussions on the custodial strike. My question to the minister is, why is she putting up smokescreens and hiding behind the deputy minister on this custodial strike?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I am a little too tall to hide behind the deputy minister. Of course the deputy minister is in touch with the superintendent, and all the superintendents. We have regional educational officers across the province who attend school board meetings. This is normal procedure, nobody is hiding anything.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, it is normal procedure, but it is not normal what this minister and this government is doing to the students in the Halifax Regional School Board. My question to the Acting Minister of Labour and Environment is, for what good it is going to do, why is the Minister of Labour and Environment refusing to protect the health and safety of the children attending all 152 schools by refusing to review the 152 JOSH reports that are supplied by each of these institutions?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I am afraid that with all of the noise in the House, I was unable to hear the entire question of the member.

MR. SPEAKER: Would the honourable member for Cape Breton West mind repeating the question?

MR. MACKINNON: Not at all, Mr. Speaker. The answer will be pretty much the same, but I will try anyway. All 152 schools have Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committees, they prepare monthly reports. I have asked the Minister of Environment and Labour if he would have his staff review those committee reports to ensure that all schools are safe environments for the students. Will the minister give assurance that all 152 schools' JOSH reports, Joint Occupational Health and Safety reports, will be reviewed by his department, and give that assurance to the Minister of Education that they are a safe environment to attend?

[Page 2223]

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for repeating the question and, I am sure with the racket across the way he will not likely hear my answer, but I will try to give one anyway. What I can say to the honourable member is that . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Sit down. (Interruptions)

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, they want me to sit down, I will sit down. (Interruptions)

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

TRANSPORT. & PUB. WKS. - WHITNEY PIER:

RESIDENTS - RELOCATE

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, the residents of Whitney Pier want answers, and they want them today. These people want this government to act. More studies, more testing, no, that is not the answer. They want action today. Some people would say in the Whitney Pier area, the people aren't being treated fairly because they are poor. Indeed, one of the residents, this weekend, called it environmental racism that is being practised by this government. The government has a real chance to make a difference in the lives of the working men and women in the toxic waste sites in the area of Whitney Pier. I want to ask the Minister of Transportation and Public Works if he will try to gain the trust and respect of the residents of Whitney Pier and move the families off Laurier, Hankard and Tupper Streets? Do that today, Mr. Minister. Will you move them today?

[1:45 p.m.]

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, as I advised the honourable member about a week or 10 days ago, both the federal and provincial health authorities have said there is no immediate health risk with the present situation.

MR. CORBETT: That is clearly not accurate, Mr. Speaker. Clearly the federal guidelines have been exceeded by 60 times. You know, Mr. Minister, you know that very well. What we see here today is a colossal failure on the part of the government to do the right thing for years; that did wrong to people who live near the coke oven sites and the tar ponds. This minister has the ability to fix that but he will not do it. He hides behind dollars and cents and that is a shame and more so, it is immoral.

I want to ask the minister, will the Minister of Transportation and Public Works commit to move the residents of Laurier, Hankard and Tupper Streets until the latest test results are finished and it is verified that it is safe to go back there?

[Page 2224]

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, we have hired a consultant, Dr. Lewis, who is world renowned, to look at the data. He will be reporting back to us in the very near future. At that time, any future decisions with regard to that area will be made.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, let's be really, really clear here. If you live in Nova Scotia and if you are poor don't look for help from this government. Poor people don't get help from this government. It is clear. I want the minister to finally admit to this House the government has failed these residents and that this government really intends to risk the lives of poor people and save dollars instead?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the honourable expert for Cape Breton Centre has decided that the federal health authorities and the provincial health authorities don't know what they are talking about. If that is the case, I can't help him.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

EDUC. - WEST. KINGS DIST. HS: IMPROVEMENTS - MIN. ACTION

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, last fall the Annapolis Valley Regional School Board presented this government with a 72 page report outlining its school maintenance and replacement needs. Now the board superintendent calls the situation a "crisis". The fire marshal has said that West Kings District High School will be closed next September unless 64 improvements are made. Will the Minister of Education explain what actions her department is taking to help the board complete this much-needed work?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, yes, there are many deficiencies at West Kings. We have a certain amount of money for alterations and renovations in this year's budget and some of that will go to work on West Kings.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, promise 117 of the big blue book of Tory promises included a section which promised a new capital improvement fund to respond to emergency needs in schools throughout the province. Will the Minister of Education indicate if this new fund will assist the Annapolis Valley board in repairing its many schools?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, all the boards in Nova Scotia need help with many of their schools. Our plan is going to deal with the renovations and alterations in all of the school boards in Nova Scotia, including the Valley.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, Superintendent Dr. James Gunn says that school boards need multi-year financial plans, he predicts over five years, so boards can effectively manage schools. What information is this minister sharing about future funding to help boards plan completion of a lengthy list of needed school repairs?

[Page 2225]

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I am well aware of the need for multi-year planning in school boards and elsewhere. Our government is working very hard to do that once we get this province's finances in order.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

HEALTH - CAP. DIST. HEALTH AUTH.:

BUDGET/BUS. PLAN - RELEASE

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, this government is failing its own test of greater accountability. They said that when it came to health care decisions they were going to involve communities. Well, we have learned that the Capital District Health Authority has already submitted their final budget and business plan to the Minister of Health but the government has yet to approve those plans and make the information public.

Mr. Speaker, 395,000 people are served by the Capital District Health Authority. That is 40 per cent of Nova Scotians. These people are waiting to hear exactly what services will and won't be available in the coming year. My question for the minister is, why has he failed to make these documents public?

HON. JAMES MUIR: I indicated in the House last week or the week before that when we had the plans and have had the opportunity to review them, they would be made public in due course. For the honourable member to stand over there and imply that there is going to be great service reductions, I think is really not appropriate.

MR. DEXTER: He can clear it up, he can release the documents, if he has them. I don't know what he is afraid of. All he needs to do is come clean and table the documents. This is not their first glimpse at the budgets. They had them, they approved them, they sent them back for amendments and now they have come back to the minister's desk for a second time. He is just stalling. Will the Minister of Health stop delaying and table the budget and business plan in the House today?

MR. MUIR: There is a difference between being responsible for something and standing up and talking irresponsibly like the Opposition has been doing, particularly that member today. As I said, once the staff has had the opportunity to review the document, we will release it in due course.

MR. DEXTER: Nova Scotians have plenty of reason to be nervous about this government playing games with our health care system. It is time to stop stalling and to start fulfilling their obligations. Is the minister simply delaying the release of the documents until the House rises in an attempt to avoid public scrutiny?

[Page 2226]

MR. MUIR: The honourable member knows better than to get up and imply something like that. As I said, the documents will be released when we have had the opportunity to review them and they will be made public in due course.

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

TOURISM & CULTURE - MEDIA INDUSTRIES:

DEPT. - DEVELOPMENT PLANS

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Tourism and Culture. Just over a month ago, Ontario launched a new group to oversee the development of the cultural sector called the Ontario Media Development Corporation, OMDC. The OMDC will receive $30 million to cultivate cultural media industries in that province. My first question to the minster is, what is your department doing to develop cultural media industries in Nova Scotia?

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Thank you to the member for the question. In fact, this government this year has recognized that our culture industries are extremely important. In fact, we made an investment this year of four cultural industries, not only in cultural industries which will be rolling out over the next number of weeks and months ahead, but also with regard to cultural development funds. I think of the export development fund which has worked extremely well; in fact, it is working in that member's riding in Cape Breton.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: I can see why we are in danger here of losing cultural and economic development to other provinces. The minister waxes eloquently over there about what he is doing, but he is not very specific about what, if anything, is being done on the ground to help these industries out. This government lacks a vision for the future of our cultural industries and again, my question to the minister is, Ontario is offering seven tax credits for cultural industries ranging from digital media to computer animation and a special effects tax credit. Can the minister tell this House if his government is considering any new cultural media tax credits?

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: That member, more than anybody in this House, should know that my department does not look after tax credits. I can tell that member since he is unaware of that that we do certainly make investments in our cultural industries. In fact, $0.25 million will be invested in cultural industries this year. We will not just go out and spend that blindly, we are going out to the industries themselves and asking them for their leadership and their guidance as we move forward on that.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, we all know how successful the film tax credit has been in Nova Scotia because of initiatives of the previous government, which have not been followed through by the current government. Let me go into a specific here. Last Tuesday, R&P Golf Ventures launched a new instructional golf CD-ROM. Marketed

[Page 2227]

around the world, this CD-ROM was developed by a Nova Scotian firm and it just shows the potential of the industry here in this province. My final supplementary to the minister is, what assurances can the Minister of Tourism and Culture give this House that Nova Scotia won't lose companies like R&P Golf Venture Incorporated to other provinces who offer more diverse and substantial cultural tax credits?

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, again the member is confused. My department does not look after tax credits, but I will ask the Acting Minister of Economic Development to straighten the member out.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I want to tell you, as acting minister, I actually have learned a great deal about this in a very few short days. I want to tell you that we believe that tax credits specifically for the new media ventures would be a good idea, but credits - as the honourable would know, and he would know probably better than any other member on the other side, because they will never know - are expensive and the government is determined to put and keep the province's solid financial ground, at least (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I believe it is time for another question.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

ENVIRON. & LBR. - LEGISLATION: ANTI-SCAB - INTRODUCE

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Acting Minister of Environment and Labour. We have at least four strikes going on in this province as we speak, all using replacement workers. There is the airport, there are the home care workers in Queens County, custodians here in the Halifax school board, and daycare workers in Sydney. My question to the acting minister is, will he introduce anti-scab legislation in this sitting of the Legislature?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for the question. If the question had been that important, he would have asked it at a time when I could provide a more detailed response, but I see time has elapsed.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The time allotted for Oral Question Period has, in fact, been used up.

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

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

[Page 2228]

PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 30, the Financial Measures (2001) Act.

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

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect on an introduction.

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, through you and to you, I would like to take the opportunity to introduce a past colleague, a noted historian, an expert on Fultz House, and a current member of the HRM Council, Mr. Robert Harvey. Would you stand and receive the acclamation of the House. (Applause)

MR. [DEPUTY] SPEAKER: Yes, indeed, welcome to Councillor Harvey, a former colleague of mine, too.

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto on Bill No. 30.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: And a former colleague of mine and I am happy to acknowledge his presence here today.

Mr. Speaker, when we left off the other day in our discussions - yesterday - of Bill No. 30, here was the situation. All members who have spoken about the Financial Measures (2001) Bill on this side of the House have indicated why it is that this bill, as an integral piece of the government's economic agenda, is a failure. I don't know that it is necessary to go into a huge amount of detail that repeats some of the observations of those who have already spoken about this. I have a few other things that I would like to observe about it.

The essential point is that the government has an economic agenda which is just plain wrong-headed. The economic agenda that the government has, which is, as we have noted a number of times here, to balance the budget and deliver a tax cut, is in fact not what Nova Scotians want. It isn't going to help Nova Scotians and the steps that are taken through items like Bill No. 30 are not to the advantage of ordinary Nova Scotians. The government seems not to have in mind what is to the benefit of ordinary Nova Scotians. It is indeed only those of us on this side of the House and, indeed, in the Official Opposition who are taking the steps to protect ordinary Nova Scotians from the predations of this government. I would like to ask the question, why is it the government seems to be bent on travelling a road that is so obviously the wrong road? Why is it that they are moving in a direction that does not have within it anything that will palpably help ordinary citizens?

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[2:00 p.m.]

All of us have observed, on this side of the House at least, that it is no art of government to balance a budget by simply stopping spending money in a particular government department or a range of government departments. Anyone could balance a budget that way. There is no skill involved; there is no expertise of government involved; there is, ultimately, of course, nothing to the benefit of ordinary Nova Scotians. The question we ask ourselves is, why don't they rely upon the natural growth of the economy? Why is it that they don't take steps to improve the productivity of the economy? Why is it that they don't take steps to transform the economy in a way that would allow it to generate more money for the government?

Indeed, we have seen them take steps as, indeed, Bill No. 30 contains, to increase the government revenues. This has been well-documented. My colleague, the member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage, has laid out the extensive increases in taxes and user fees, both apparent and hidden, that have been a feature of life under this government. Everyone knows this now. This is well documented, it is clear and the sums are enormous; furthermore, the sums are ongoing. They are ongoing because once in place they will continue each and every year.

The government has taken steps to increase its revenues but it has done so in a way which is regressive. Regressive is a technical term in taxation. What it means is that those who are least able to pay bear the most burden. Progressive taxation means those who are best able to pay, pay the most. That is logical; that is an underlying principle of Canadian taxation, but it is not the principle that has commended itself to this government, either through Bill No. 30 or through any of the other measures that this government has taken. Again, I ask, why is it that they have taken the wrong route? Why is it that this government has moved in the wrong direction? Why is it that they have failed to take taxation steps that they might have taken if they wished to increase the tax burden upon Nova Scotians?

What are those alternative steps? Clearly, they could have sought more revenues from other sources. They could have sought more revenues from our offshore; that would be number one on the list. In addition, they could have increased resource rents. Resource rents are the amounts paid to the government for the right to have access to cutting of timber or extraction of minerals. Fees have to be paid to the government, but they are extremely low. In our Party, we have documented how out of line such charges are in Nova Scotia compared with other comparable provinces on other occasions. The figures, however, are quite striking. Finally, of course, they could have addressed taxation of the corporate sector, where taxes, again, are low compared with other comparable provinces.

We have to ask ourselves, why is it that the wrong choices are made time and time again by this government? There are only two plausible explanations, it is either done negligently or it is done deliberately. I think we are compelled to the conclusion that this is

[Page 2230]

done deliberately. But if it is done deliberately, we also have to ask ourselves why it is that the government is not clear about its priorities. Why don't they simply say, our policy is to tax the middle class, our policy is to tax those with the least ability to pay? Why don't they put it in those clear terms?

Well, I think it is obvious as soon as you say it that this is not an attractive platform with which to go to the public seeking election. Indeed, it was not the platform with which this government, now the government, when it was the Third Party, went to the public in 1999 seeking election. They just didn't say it. They were not straightforward about it. They didn't say explicitly what it is that they intended to do. They said to people, we will balance the books. We will deliver a tax cut. It was the balancing of the books that people were worried about and they expected that it would be done in a reasonable and traditional and progressive way, but that is not what we found.

Again, we have to ask ourselves, just who is it that the government thinks it represents over there? We know that the vast majority of the seats that comprise the government Party come from districts where people are not rich, in the rural areas of this province, which is what most of the MLAs opposite represent. People are not overwhelmingly wealthy. They are middle class or they are lower-middle class. They have incomes which are not spectacular. They have abilities to generate revenues which are not spectacular. They are very much what we would call, and do call, ordinary Nova Scotians.

Now, how can it be that the government chooses to ignore what surely is the essential value system of the people who have elected them? I wonder, and I have to ask whether the problem is that the members opposite just don't understand how it is that the provincial economy works or what its essential features are. So I want to take a minute to just lay out what seems to me to be the essential features of the provincial economy, so that when the government members opposite consider Bill No. 30 as we do, they can ask themselves whether Bill No. 30 is in accord with the correct understanding of how the Canadian and the Nova Scotia economy actually works. Of course, if you don't have a picture in your mind that is completely accurate as to how the economy works, you won't be able to make the right choices about the issues that come before you in this House, like Bill No. 30, like the Financial Measures (2001) Bill, which puts in place taxation measures.

Taxation has to be a manifestation of the policies that the government has manoeuvring room to implement, but only within the context of the economic and sociological realities of our country. So let's ask ourselves, what are the basic economic facts? What are the basic sociological facts about Canada so far as an understanding of determining what tax measures ought to be. I am going to sum them up, quite easily. Let me emphasize, before I do this and before I give a little more detail, that these points are not controversial. What you do about these points may indeed by controversial. People may have different opinions about what you do about them, but this is an accurate description of the economic realities of Canada and Nova Scotia included, I think, is beyond dispute.

[Page 2231]

Let's start with a couple of basic facts. First is that Canada is a nation of a relatively small population in a very large piece of territory. There is no doubt about that. Canada has a population of 30 million in a vast area. This is the second largest geographic mass in a nation on the globe. It is a big country. It is equally true in Nova Scotia that we only have 1 million people. It is less than 1 million people. It is about 900,000 people in a lot of territory. Well, that is one fact. It is a basic fact. What you do about it is a different question and I will get to that. But that is the essential first fact about the Canadian economy.

Next is that we are an urban-based population. Canada is one of the most urbanized nations in the world, 80 per cent or more - and growing all the time - of our population lives in cities. This is obvious, when you look at it nationally because, of course, the bulk of the population lives in Toronto and in Montreal and Vancouver and in the other cities that are ranged along the American border. In Nova Scotia, we are a bit of anomaly because there is a more substantial rural-based population here. It is probably 55 per cent of the population that lives in the central urban area and about 45 per cent that lives in what could roughly be called the rural areas.

Those numbers may change when we see the census from a little later this year. What we do know, of course, is that in Nova Scotia, although we are not up at the 80 per cent of urbanization, that characterizes the nation as a whole, the trend is in that direction. The migration of population, of course, is towards the cities; everyone knows this. Again, these are basic economic or sociological facts that give us a context for making our decisions. So far I don't imagine that any of that is news to the members opposite, they may not think about it but I am sure they were aware of these facts. The next though is an interesting and very compelling observation. It has to do with the concentration of economic power in our nation.

Canada is one of those nations where there is a concentration of economic power in a small number of hands. This is true nationally and it is true in our province. I will give you some details right now, in fact, Mr. Speaker, I am going to table a document that I would like all members to have a look at. It is the result of a Statistics Canada survey done in 1999, called Wealth in Canada. The formal title, I guess, is The Assets and Debts of Canadians. It was published by Statistics Canada in March of this year. The previous analysis of wealth in Canada was done in 1984, so we have seen movement over time. Although this is national data there is no reason to think it is any different in Nova Scotia.

Here is what is wildly striking about this chart that I have just tabled. If you look at the highest 10 per cent of the population in Canada and the change in their net worth since the 15 years previous to this survey, you find that their net worth has gone up a median of 39 per cent. This translates into an increase that is enormous. The median net worth of the top 10 per cent of the Canadian population is more than $703,000, that is the median, that is the halfway mark within that 10 per cent.

[Page 2232]

The table illustrates that the top 10 or 20 per cent of the Canadian population owns an enormous amount. Compared to all the rest of us, they have virtually complete control of ownership of the major assets. They own the land, they own the industrial manufacturing facilities, they own the stocks, they own the bonds. They are the ones who have the major assets and of course, as everyone knows, this translates into control.

What this means is that Canada is a nation of amazing inequality. For all that we talk in our public discourse about equality rights and for all that they are enshrined in documents like our Constitution and the Charter of Rights, the reality on the ground is that when it comes to economic matters, this country is ruled by a closely-knit, corporate, economic elite and that corporate, economic elite has close ties to each other. If you look at interlocking directorships of boards of the large corporations, you find that the same names show up time and again. If you look further at the familial relationships of those people, you find that they are all married to each other. This is well-documented.

All you have to do is look back and see Wallace Clement's books, a well-known Canadian sociologist. This is documented and has been documented in Canada for 30 years; this is well beyond any doubt. Every time a formal study is done, it gives details and we know, in Nova Scotia, that we have families here who are part of the Canadian corporate elite and who own a large number of companies with which many of us would deal every day, and I am talking, of course, about the Irvings, the Sobeys, the Jodreys. These are three of the most prominent of those families. They are part of the Canadian corporate elite and the companies that they own and control are part of that.

[2:15 p.m.]

Nova Scotia is not exempt from this corporate concentration. So, let's be clear that although the vast majority of Nova Scotians and the vast majority of Canadians are middle class, are lower-middle class, are part of working, ordinary Canadians and, in many instances - all too many instances - are part of the working and non-working poor, although they have assets, they don't have anything like the control over the economy that the top 10 per cent do. Never mind the top 10 per cent, within that top 10 per cent, it is the top 1 per cent who really have the control over this nation, and indeed in this province.

I mention all of this because it is the context within which any government, if it is paying attention to the needs of its citizens, would design a budget or budgetary measures like Bill No. 30. It cannot be the case; it simply cannot be the case that the government opposite has turned its mind to these facts, because it hasn't written a bill or assembled an economic agenda that addresses any of these matters.

Let me turn to a couple of other features of the Canadian and Nova Scotia economy. Another is that we are highly foreign owned. There is a huge amount of foreign ownership of Canadian economic resources. This is, again, simply the case and if you compare us with

[Page 2233]

Britain or Japan or any of the other EEC nations, the degree of foreign ownership here is enormous and that is certainly the case if you compare us with the United States. Canadians have investments abroad, foreigners invest in our country, this is a normal part of international trade and investment and I am not saying it shouldn't be. What I am pointing out is that there is a huge amount of foreign ownership and, therefore, of foreign control and influence over our nation.

Now, I know that most of this is beyond the capacity of the province to deal with. There may be a limited manoeuvring area but primarily it is a matter for the federal government, but it is a fact and has to be put on the record and it has to be seen as part of the economic context within which these decisions are made.

Now there is another factor that is, again, well-documented, like all of the others that I have been laying out here. That is, that we have a huge amount of trade with only one partner. That is the United States. In many respects it is not surprising that we should have such a huge amount of trade with the United States. The United States is our immediate geographical neighbour. The United States has an economy that is 8 to 10 times the size of ours. So, of course, they are a large potential market for us and because of their proximity, it is easy to trade with them. Of course, because of the FTA and the NAFTA, the legal framework has been set up to allow that trade to take place with even more reduced barriers beyond those that had already been put in place since the end of World War II.

Well, what's the problem then if we just trade with the United States? The problem is that you become dependent on one trading partner. It is putting too many of your eggs in one basket. The question is, should we not be considering the opportunities of increased internal domestic markets doing what is usually known as import substitution in addition to expanding our trade elsewhere? Well, one has but to state it to realize that it is prudent. It is much more prudent than relying on only one trading partner.

Let me turn to one more feature of the Canadian and of the Nova Scotian economy. This is that it is resource-based. This is the observation that the Canadian economy is highly reliant on natural resources. Now, this is an interesting observation. Why, we have to ask ourselves, is this of significance? It is of significance because trade in resource commodities, trade in grain, for example, trade in oil, trade in gas, trade in electricity, trade in minerals is a large international undertaking. Everyone knows that commodity prices for these fluctuate enormously. It is cyclical.

Unfortunately, as well, unless those resources are managed properly, it is all too easy to abuse those resources; it all too easy to run out of those resources. Indeed, some of those resources are simply inherently non-renewable resources, fossil fuels are the prime example, they are non-renewable. There is only so much oil, so much gas, and once it is gone, it is gone. It is not quite the same way with respect to forests. If we take aggressive steps to be

[Page 2234]

careful about our forests, then they can be made sustainable, not that we have been taking such steps, not that this government has taken such steps, but it is possible.

And yet, bound up with this whole question of being resource-based is the fact that it is not clear that these are real generators of wealth. Make no mistake, we need them, absolutely we need them. We need them for our own domestic survival, we need them as an integral part of the economy, but it doesn't seem to be the role of an advanced industrial nation, as Canada is, to grow its economy and to be more productive in a way that similarly placed economies have been.

We think about economies like Japan's, which does not have, simply does not have the resource base that Canada has, we have to ask ourselves why it is that their economy has generally been more successful than ours. Likewise when we compare ourselves with a number of the EEC nations, we have to ask ourselves why it is that they have generally been more successful than we are.

The answer seems to be that they have valued education, and they have valued the kinds of sectors in the economy that are advanced manufacturing. They have valued the sectors of the economy that are knowledge-based. It is not that the government opposite doesn't know this, they know this. They have been told it time and again. They have been told it by Voluntary Planning, their own chosen experts on what it is that the government needs to do in order to bring its fiscal house into order. We all remember the report done by Voluntary Planning, commissioned by this government within six months of its taking office.

They asked Voluntary Planning, how do we bring the deficit under control, what do we do? Voluntary Planning came back and said, here are a variety of things you can do, but, by the way, you have to put money into education, you have to invest in education, you have to take education seriously. To invest in education, they said, was the best thing the government could do for the economy. It was even more important, they said, than getting the deficit under control right now, and as a long-term strategy, as well, indeed, as a short-term strategy, it was the right thing to do. It hasn't been happening. Very unfortunate. It hasn't been happening.

The Canadian economy and the Nova Scotia economy exists within that context. It remains resource-based. We are fortunate here in having something of a balance, but it is still very much resource-based; it is still very much a question of priorities on natural gas and oil. You have to ask yourself, if it wasn't for the fact that natural gas happened to be offshore here and was developed in the way that it has been developed in the last few years, where would the economy of Nova Scotia be? Clearly, it would be in big trouble.

It is true that there is some diversification; it is true that we have all of the natural resource sectors, plus education, plus, now, some energy, plus some manufacturing, but not enough. There is not yet enough diversification of the economy, especially not into

[Page 2235]

knowledge-based industries. Yet, we are well placed to do it. We have universities here; we have a community college system; and there has been a tradition of people being interested in learning here. This puts us in a position to capitalize upon that in a way that many other provinces are not well placed. We could do it; it is doable. It is possible to accomplish in our province, given the wonderful university system that we have here.

There is no reason why it should not be public policy that every person that has the ability should not only finish high school, but should go on to get a community college qualification or a university degree. That should be public policy and even to the extent that it is sometimes talked about as desirable, it is not a policy that is acted upon. Steps are not taken to make it easy for those who are the poorest to get their community college qualification or their university degree.

We know, from every study that has ever been done, that finances are still a barrier for the poorest to get their post-secondary education; that should not be allowed to be the case. Anyone who pursues the policy of allowing those barriers to be in place, can only do so because they think that skill and ability is the preserve of the middle and upper-middle class. But this is obviously not the case. Brains and ability appear anywhere. Brains and ability appear at any level of society. They have nothing to do with where it is on the socio-economic scale your family starts out, but it is the appearance of brains and ability that has nothing to do with your place on the socio-economic scale. What it does have to do with our place on the socio-economic scale is how you are able to capitalize upon that and develop those abilities and that is the barrier. That is the problem of barriers and it is exactly what this government has not addressed.

I have to offer an apology to the listeners at home who already know all of this. I am sure that there are many people out there who are absolutely aware of each and every one of those factors. They know that Canada is a country of vast potential wealth with a small population. They know that there is a huge amount of inequality of wealth in our country. People at home know about foreign ownership. We see it here in Nova Scotia. Just to give another example, our main manufacturing facilities are pulp and paper plants and our tire plants, and they are all foreign-owned.

They are not owned by local people with a commitment to staying here and to living here forever. They will be gone when the resources are gone or when special provisions in the labour laws are gone, or when they can't get good wages - from their perspective - good wage agreements with their employees. They are prepared to be gone. They are not committed here. They could be anywhere. So people at home know that foreign ownership is a fact of life and they know that we are very reliant upon the United States as our very predominant trading partner, and they know that our economy continues to be resource-based. They know all this, people at home do. The people who don't seem to know it are the government members opposite.

[Page 2236]

Although I have had to take a few minutes in order to lay out what I think are the well-documented basics of the Canadian, and therefore the Nova Scotian, economy, it can only be for the benefit of the members opposite. Those of us here, I assure you, in the Official Opposition, are very much aware of these facts. We think about them all the time. When we sit down to think about what ought to be in a budget, we are aware of the economic context within which we operate. We know whose interests we want to serve. I am driven to the conclusion that when the government opposite sits down to ask itself whose interests do they want to serve, they are saying to themselves that if the top 1 per cent of the Canadian economy are the people who are in charge, we might as well serve their interests and the heck with the interests of ordinary Nova Scotians.

[2:30 p.m.]

Well, that is not our view and that is not why we are here and that is not why we are putting our time into public life. I think when the members opposite, the members of the government sit down and they realize that there is foreign ownership that is an extensive and important fact in the Nova Scotia economy, they say to themselves, well, what can we do to help out those foreign economic interests? That isn't our sense of priorities; that isn't what we are here for. We are here for ordinary Nova Scotians who are trying to make a go of it. We are here for working families, we are here for those who have the struggle. We are here for those who don't want to have such an unequal society. We are here for those who look at the fact of poverty and say, this is not acceptable. That is why we are here, that is why we would do things differently than Bill No. 30 seems to do.

It is not what the government members are for and it isn't, unfortunately, what they told people they were running to do. They sounded mild, they sounded reasonable, they sounded as if they were going to take measured steps, they sounded as if they were going to be on the side of the average Nova Scotian. They were going to put people first.

Well, there is a particular set of people that they want to put first and that is the people who have already put themselves first over the years in Nova Scotia. How can it be that they can go home to their rural constituencies, main street Nova Scotia, and say to people and not be ashamed, we have been standing up for the Jodreys and the Sobeys and the Irvings. They must be ashamed to say this, but that is what they do. It is the message that they give because that is the thrust of what it is that they are doing in this House through measures like Bill No. 30. They are increasing the tax burden on the ordinary Nova Scotian working family. That is wrong. It is not acceptable. They shouldn't be doing it. It is a betrayal of the basis on which they went to people in 1999, and it is a betrayal of what it is that Nova Scotians want, but it is not the sense of priorities that we have.

I have a practical suggestion for the Minister of Finance when he next goes out to write . . .

[Page 2237]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please, honourable members. There is too much racket in the Chamber. Thank you. The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto does have the floor.

MR. EPSTEIN: I have a practical suggestion for the Minister of Finance the next time he goes out to write a Financial Measures Act or a budget. The suggestion is that he should consult as a formal, required matter with ordinary Nova Scotians through their representative community organizations and bodies. This is the way to do a budget and a Financial Measures Act. You don't just hunker down and allow yourself to be swayed and buffeted by the economic elite of the province.

Here is what he should do. The minister should call in the Federation of Labour and say to them, what would you like to see in the budget and the Financial Measures Act this year? He should call in organizations that represent students and say to them, what would you like to see in the Financial Measures Act and in the budget this year? The Minister of Finance should call in representatives of the nurses through their official organizations, through the Nurses' Union, he should call them in and say, what would you like to see in the Financial Measures Act and the budget this year? It should be mandatory. There should be a directive that comes down from the Minister of Finance telling his officials that each year they have to prepare him to prepare a budget in that way. They have to call in, for example, representatives of seniors and say to them, do you want more user fees that are going to make it more difficult for you to live or would you like us to do something else in terms of our taxation measures this year?

I bet if the Minister of Finance was forced every year through a policy that he adopted and made public so that everyone knew that it was part of the routine of how a budget and a Financial Measures Act were to be adopted, that people would come in and speak frankly to the Minister of Finance about what they want and what they need. I think that if the Minister of Finance were to do that, if he were, for example, to call in the municipalities as a matter of normal routine and say to them, would you like us to download the costs of assessments onto you this year as we are thinking about doing, that there would be some fairly frank discussion back and forth across the table.

Now I cannot understand why it is that a Minister of Finance would not welcome the opportunity to create a budget and a Financial Measures Act this way. It seems the reasonable way to do it. It is what Nova Scotians would be perfectly prepared to participate in. In fact, I have to say, I participated in a process like this. Like many Nova Scotians, I have been forced to take work in Upper Canada during my life. Jobs aren't always available here or sometimes there are interesting pieces of work available.

I worked on two occasions in Toronto. On one occasion when I was in Toronto, I represented an organization in the higher education field. I can tell you that the tradition in Ontario was that when the Minister of Finance - the Treasurer it is called in Ontario - when the Treasurer was preparing the budget, they would call in to meet with the Treasurer, for

[Page 2238]

weeks on end before the budget was prepared, organizations from all around the province. Everyone was brought in, every organization that represented a significant employee group, that represented the municipalities, that represented the universities, the hospitals, the schools, the health employment sector and the employees that work in it. All of those people got their chance to meet with the Treasurer of Ontario. This is a tradition that goes back 30 years in Ontario. It is mandatory. They do it and let me tell you, it works. Even if the government decides it wants to reject that advice, at least it has taken the step of consulting.

I think that one of the things that ought to happen here is that this should be part of the normal, automatic routine here. Instead, we know who has preferred access to the government. It is a board of trade or it is those representatives of particularly large businesses who are able to get in to see the ministers any time they want. Make no mistake, I am not saying that the Minister of Finance should not talk to those people. Of course the Minister of Finance should talk to those people. What I am saying is that there is a much broader range of people who ought to be consulted with. It should be their right to be consulted with when a budget and a Financial Measures Act are being prepared. If that doesn't happen, then there is no reason to doubt that this government will continue to get it wrong. They got it wrong here, they got it wrong last year and no doubt they will get it wrong again next year because they are not listening. They are not listening to the ordinary people in Nova Scotia who want to have their say.

Well, consultation is only the first step in the proper way to make up a budget. The next step, as I think I have indicated by my comments at the beginning, is to understand the context within which you are working, that is the broad economic context within which you are working. Clearly, if the government doesn't have a clear picture in its head of what the economic factors are in society, it won't have the remotest idea of how to go about transforming the economy or managing, even remotely, the transformations that are necessary in our economy.

Now transformation is going to come, make no doubt about it. Transformation will come through one of two routes. It will come either because we look ahead to the future and we make predictions about what is going to happen and we manage change. That is the government's job, to think about the future and try to manage change. There is another way that transformation can come about. That is, you can wait until disaster hits you and then you can try to pick up the pieces. We have seen examples in our part of the world on several occasions. I want to mention the collapse of the groundfishery as the pre-eminent example of that. We don't want an equivalent disaster in our forestry sector and we don't want an equivalent disaster in agriculture or energy or in any of the sectors of our economy. So what is necessary is that the government look ahead and plan for transformation, identify what is going to happen and take steps to nudge things in the right direction.

[Page 2239]

That isn't happening; that isn't happening through things like Bill No. 30 or the budget that we see that goes along with it. The Financial Measures (2001) Bill does nothing in order to try to make this a more robust society, a fairer society, one in which all people have their place.

Speaking of all people having their place, let me just go back to that question of the Nova Scotia population. Less than 1 million people. We have less than 1 million people here and only 30 million people in Canada. What I want to ask the government to think about is the potential here for economic benefits from immigration. That hasn't happened. We don't have a lot of immigration in Nova Scotia. Canada doesn't have a huge amount of immigration, it is fairly measured and primarily controlled by the federal government, but it is also the case that provinces are asked by the federal government whether they want to have a say in immigration policy for their province. I have looked around, and I have tried to find out what is available for immigrants in Nova Scotia. The answer is nothing. There is not one single government program in the Province of Nova Scotia that is there to attract or encourage or help immigrants, and yet, look at what an economic boom immigration is wherever it has occurred, and especially here in North America.

There may be some members opposite who hold the myth, the old myth that immigrants cost Canadian society. Do you know what? Every economic study that has ever been done shows that is not true. People who have the gumption, the wherewithal, the ambition to pick up and move themselves and their families from one part of the world to Canada do so because they have the drive to succeed. This has been shown time and again, that Canada benefits from immigrants. You need only look at the thriving and, now, very prosperous and wealthy immigrant communities that are characteristic of Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver to recognize this. Do you know how many people come to Nova Scotia every year as immigrants? Out of the 200,000, 250,000 people who come to Canada every year as immigrants, about 1,300 end up in Nova Scotia every year. This is tiny; this is minuscule.

Yet, these are people who come here because they have met extensive criteria as to their education levels, as to their abilities, as to their abilities already to speak English or French. There is a screening process, people don't automatically get immigration visas to come to Canada. They have to meet strict criteria. There is a point system that the federal government administers. Our provincial government should be going to the federal government and saying, we want more immigrants. They are good for the economy here. We want immigrants. But it is not happening.

Any one of us, particularly those of us who represent urban areas, will know that there are very productive immigrant families who live in our constituencies. They have come here, they work hard, they start businesses, and they support themselves. I think we have to reject, right away, the myth that immigration costs society and Canada, and we can't afford it. It is true we have unemployment in some parts of the province, that is true. We even have some unemployment here in metro. But overall, the wealth of our society has increased.

[Page 2240]

Here is how you have to think about immigration. Suppose Canadians, instead of every couple having approximately 1.6 children each, went back to the patterns of 40 years ago and started having four children per family. The Canadian economy would find a place for those 2.4 extra children, we would manage. We managed with the baby boom, and we would manage if we decided to have more children here. That is how you have to think about immigrants. Immigrants are the children that Canadians have chosen not to have, and there is room in the economy for those children or for the immigrants. Furthermore, most of the immigrants come already with their education and with their skills, they bring them here.

Every economic study has detailed that, so let's not get caught up with any nonsense about this. So, there is room to expand our population here in our province, and I say that we should follow the model of a province like Quebec where there is actually a provincial department dedicated to promoting immigration, to making life easy for immigrants when they come to Quebec and to help them get established. I am not saying we need a whole ministry, but for heaven sakes, surely we could have some kind of program to make new immigrants feel welcome here. You know who does it all? MISA, the Metropolitan Immigrant Settlement Association; this is a community-based group that does all the work to make immigrants . . .

[2:45 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. There is a little too much chit-chat going on in the room and I would ask the members that if they have any private conversations to leave the Chamber, otherwise they should be paying full attention to the member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I was saying that MISA really does the work that one would expect a government program or department to do when it comes to immigrants. MISA is managing fine. It has good programs, but it needs the assistance of an organized government program to bring more immigrants in here. I think this would be a very good thing for our economy. But there is nothing here, nothing like this which would be innovative and a step forward to help us transform the economy and to give us something of a stimulus.

Well, that is an idea. It is one of those that the Minister of Finance and his colleagues would hear if they took the trouble to go out and consult and listen to Nova Scotians. They are out of touch with what it is that is of importance in the economy. They are out of touch with what it is that is actually going on on the ground. We try not to be. I know that I and my colleagues are out making contact with people in their day-to-day lives throughout our constituencies. We are happy to see them thrive and prosper and we are doing our best to help them along because we have their interests at heart. You can search high and low in something like Bill No. 30, the Financial Measures (2001) Act before you will find anything that is going to help ordinary working Nova Scotians to go forward.

[Page 2241]

Why is it, we have to ask ourselves again, that the government has chosen to take financial measures that are not based according to fundamental fairness? Why is that? When you look at Bill No. 30, what you find are taxation measures which are regressive. You find tobacco taxation measures. You find downloading onto municipalities. You find things that don't nudge the taxation system in a direction of progressivity. Indeed, as soon as you have consumption taxes, as soon as the emphasis is on consumption taxes, then the emphasis is the other way. The emphasis is on those who can least afford it. Now there may be a good reason when it comes to tobacco taxes because there is another policy at work, but on the whole there is nothing progressive about what the government has done in its taxation policy.

That is what Bill No. 30 is about. Bill No. 30 is about how it is that the government raises the resources that it is going to have available to it to spend. But I don't see that the government has taken another necessary preliminary step to actually allow it to get to this point of deciding what resources it needs. Remember, I said it should have a good grasp of what the economic context is? Then it should consult. But, you know what? There is a third step before you even get to this question of resources and whether the resources are there and whether they are fair. The step that is needed in between is to take an accurate measure of the needs of Nova Scotians.

Now how do you do that? How do you take the measure of the needs of Nova Scotians? Well, you know what? It is not all that hard and we have a lot of the evidence available to us. You look around and you say, in health, in education, in community services, in economic development, in agriculture, in transportation, what do Nova Scotians need? What would it take - that is the question the government has to ask - in order to make life appropriate for the vast majority of Nova Scotians? What would make us a fairer society? What would make us a more egalitarian society? Those are the questions we would be asking ourselves; those are the questions we would be asking people in a formal consultation, should we have the opportunity. That is the right thing to do.

There is already a huge amount of documentation on record in virtually every one of those sectors. We saw one of those documents last week. Just think about the report of the Council on Post-Secondary Education. They said that there is $302 million of deferred maintenance of the buildings on the university campuses all across Nova Scotia. Well, there is step one. If you want to sit down and do a budget, you don't just say, oh well, what was last year's budget, and let's just add 1 per cent or 2 per cent for inflation and sort it out. You have to make policy decisions about these things. Unfortunately, the policy decisions the government has been making have been driven purely by the agenda of bringing the budget into balance and doing it not by growing the economy, but by cutting back on expenditures.

Well, you could argue the toss on that. It is not my policy choice, I think it is not the policy choice that most Nova Scotians want, but alongside the government should be saying, here is what it would take in order to run the province at a reasonable level in a fair way. They should document it. They should include in the budget documents that come out along

[Page 2242]

with something like the Financial Measures Act and the budget what it would take to actually run the province in a fair way. The $300 million that is needed in the university system, that should be on there. The $131 million that is charged each year by the provincial government against the property taxes collected by the municipalities that goes to education, there is another item. There is no reason why property taxes should pay anything toward post-secondary education, it should be paid for entirely at the provincial government level.

Given that there is a pressing issue in metro - I, of course, want to go on record immediately as a supporter, as I have always been, of supplementary education funding. If the province isn't paying for it, then I suppose the municipality can step in and should step in in order to pay for it, but it is not right. It doesn't make it right. The best thing would be if the province adequately funded the school system 100 per cent from provincial level revenues. That would be an extra $131 million.

Well, we are beginning to get a feel for what it is that ought to be in the budget, what ought to be in a Financial Measures Act, because this is all part of taking an appropriate measure of the needs of our society. We could do the same thing in the health care sector. We would say, what would it take? How much money would it take to actually hire more nurses on a full-time, permanent basis? How much would it take to pay them a decent living wage? You can do the calculations. This is the kind of thing that we are here to speak up for, and this is the kind of thing that we would do in formulating a financial measures bill or a budget. That is the right thing to do, because it is the right sense of priorities. It is the kind of priorities that the government, when running for office, tried to suggest it had but, of course, does not.

You can move to the agricultural sector, for example, and you can say, well, what would help the agricultural sector? How can we, maybe, augment the expertise that we have available to help farmers continue to be productive in this province? Instead, what we see is a cutting back of it. You could go to seniors and say, what would it take in order to help seniors be independent in their own homes, or if necessary, if they have to move into nursing homes, what would it take to pay for that? You could say, what would a properly-funded Pharmacare Program cost? What would a proper Home Care Program cost? This would be appropriate.

Or you could look at children, and you could say, what would a properly-funded daycare program cost? Or you would look at the overall problem of poverty, and you would say, what would it take to get everyone out of poverty? Or you could look at the minimum wage, and say, what should the minimum wage be? What would be an appropriate family wage, so that one wage earner could support the whole family?

Those are questions that the government should ask itself, but they are obviously not the kinds of questions that the government has been asking itself, and because they are not asking it, we have to ask it. We have to ask it here every day and we have to lay out the

[Page 2243]

answers for it. It is one of those silly situations where you not only ask the questions, you give them the answers because they obviously don't know the answers.

Well, here is what should have happened instead of Bill No. 30 and the budget that we got. First, you have to understand the economic context within which budgets are made. The government clearly doesn't understand that, they don't understand that there is an amazingly unequal society here and that they should be on the side of the people who don't have. We understand that. We are. The second thing is there should be consultation. The government doesn't go in for it, they don't do it, they don't understand that it should be done, they don't understand that it is a necessary preliminary. We do. We speak up for it. That is why we make these comments. The third thing you do is you take a measure of the needs of the province. You look at it and you say, what would it take in order to run this province properly and you lay it out in detail and then you try to get there.

Finally, and this is the last step, you then say, how can we raise those revenues in a fair way? All of this is precisely and exactly what that government opposite has not done through Bill No. 30 or through its budgets. They didn't do it last year, they are not doing it this year and, I am sure, despite the efforts that we have made today and make regularly to lay it out in the simplest possible terms for them to understand, they won't do it next year either.

Those, in brief, are the reasons that I have been persuaded, as I announced at the very beginning of my remarks yesterday, that I will not be supporting Bill No. 30 when the time comes. Thank you very much.

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

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, as the previous speaker stated at the end of his remarks, that he will not be supporting the bill, I can tell you at the outset that I will not be supporting the bill, to the surprise of members opposite. Let that be a warning. Have all your members in the chair.

I just thought I would rise once again on Bill No. 30. It is the second opportunity I have had since the bill was introduced previously as Bill No. 11 and then the government forgot something, I guess, and decided rather than correct the mistake in Bill No. 11, which was already introduced, they introduced a new bill which, in effect, gave the Opposition two kicks at the can, and that is exactly what we are taking advantage of. I think the government, who are talking about the length of time that this bill has taken to proceed through second reading, I would suggest to you that they are the architects of that themselves, because they brought the bill in once and it was incomplete and then brought it in again. The government is the architect of their own problem here.

[Page 2244]

Nevertheless, having said that, this bill, an omnibus bill, is a bill that deserves much discussion in this House and, as the Minister of Finance correctly points out, it is also an ominous bill, very ominous for the people of Nova Scotia. The Finance Minister, I believe, realizes, as Nova Scotians will come to realize, that this bill is not going to rest comfortably with the government in the future. Once the people of Nova Scotia are sufficiently informed as to exactly what is going on in this particular bill, and that is our job, the job of our Party and the job of the Official Opposition on this side of the House, to try and make the people of Nova Scotia aware of just what is in this particular bill.

There are a number of clauses in this bill and there are a number of statements made in this Financial Measures (2001) Bill that deserve much scrutiny and it deserves the attention of the people of Nova Scotia through the opportunities that we have here on the floor of this Legislature to bring that information to them. One of the things that will come back to this House and through the various speakers and, hopefully, to the people of Nova Scotia time and time again, will be the whole question of taxes versus user fees. As we know, the Premier stated that there will only be one tax increase in Nova Scotia, and that would be the tax on cigarettes, on tobacco. What he didn't say was that there are going to be dozens of other taxes, but they are not going to be called taxes. They are going to be called user fees. That is the rose by any other name. As I said here before, when I was speaking on this particular bill, if you are taking money, literally, out of the hands of the people of Nova Scotia, taking it right out of their pockets or right off their kitchen table, taking the food off the table, taking money that they would normally use for other purposes, if you are taking money from somebody, it is a tax, no matter how you dress it up. It is a tax.

[3:00 p.m.]

But no, the government tries to fool Nova Scotians into thinking that the Premier has kept his word when he has stated there will be only one tax increase, and that is the tax on tobacco. Not true, but they are calling everything else user fees. What they are saying is, we have not broken our promise, we are only going to have one tax. Well, I am going to get into some of those non-taxes in a few moments, in the limited time that is available to me. I hope to cover a lot of those today.

One of the issues that I think deserves some scrutiny right off the bat is the way the government is spending money, and the need for the government to spend smarter and not more. I think the bill clearly represents a failure of this government; a failure of this government in terms of spending and the failure of this government in terms of having a plan that would give Nova Scotians any cause to be unconcerned.

The reverse is true, I believe that Nova Scotians are suddenly coming to the realization that they are being hoodwinked here by this government; they are being hoodwinked, for example, with the tax concession that was given by the federal government this year, which passed through every province and was passed along to the taxpayers of those provinces,

[Page 2245]

except in Nova Scotia. The Nova Scotia Government kept the provincial portion of that, kept it, robbed it from the people of Nova Scotia, with the intention of giving the same monies back to the people of Nova Scotia in a couple of years' time, which just happens to coincide with a provincial election year.

What the government is doing is taking the tax concession that the federal government passed through, robbing that from the taxpayers of Nova Scotia, and then is going to give them the same 10 per cent back in two years' time. In other words, they are going to try to buy the votes of Nova Scotians with their own money. That is what they are going to do. But they are not going to get away with that. They are not going to get away with that, because Nova Scotians are slowly becoming aware of the fact that, yes, they are being hoodwinked by this government.

We talk about the different clauses in this particular bill, and I will get into some of the non-tax items that we have talked about here. The non-tax items. Charging a fee under the Child Abuse Register for employment purposes is expected to generate $75,000. That is not a tax, that is a user fee. In other words, nobody pays for it because it is not a tax, it is a user fee. How do we know that the actual cost of doing a search is $20; we don't know that. The Auditor General pointed that out, we are not saying that. We don't know what it is. It is a tax grab by the government, that is what it is. There is no other way to put it. It is not a user fee, as the government states it is, because they have no idea what it costs to do that actual search. It is fundamentally wrong, flawed. The majority of what they call businesses who are doing a child abuse search are non-profit organizations, such as Big Brothers, the YMCA and others. They are punishing those particular organizations.

The government has a history of punishing non-profit organizations in this province, even in the short term that this government has been in office, and will only have another two years to continue that same series of draconian measures that they put in place and inflicted upon the people of this province. For example, taking the profits from the Sydney Casino that were earmarked for non-profit organizations, non-profit organizations that were expecting this money, because of the cutbacks in government services to these particular non-profit organizations.

The only other avenue they had was government support. That was cut off. So the other avenue they had was to receive the profits from the Sydney Casino. I am talking about non-profit organizations right across the province, of course, but more particularly the ones that I am familiar with in my area that are now not going to be able to access those funds. Where did they go? They put them back in the general revenue to make the government's bottom line look better. Implementing stricter accountability standards with more paperwork and red tape, now charging them to do a search on an employee who will work with our most precious resource - children. Shame on the government for even thinking about doing that.

[Page 2246]

It replaces Section 89 of the Revenue Act with a graduated fine structure. This is something that concerns me and I hope concerns Nova Scotians because it is something that I can't understand why this government is even thinking about implementing. The fine that is levied on tobacco vendors or tobacco wholesalers for offences, the new fines mean that it is minimal as to what it used to be. The government has expressed concern about smuggling. So how do they address it? They lower the fines on smugglers that are caught. Now, can anybody on this side of the House or, indeed, that side of House make any sense out of that?

The Finance Minister said, oh well, we can't impose the larger fines because the courts won't treat it seriously, they won't impose those fines. I suggest that the Finance Minister has taken great liberties with what the courts will or will not do in this particular regard. That is number one. I think that is up to the courts to decide, not up to the Finance Minister of this province to decide because he doesn't think the courts will implement those fines, and because he doesn't think so, he is going to recommend and has recommended that the fines on smuggling cigarettes into this province are going to be minimal compared to what they were.

The message that this government is sending is, welcome smugglers into Nova Scotia. Come on in here because if you are caught, you are only going to get a slap on the wrist and a fine. Nobody has explained to me why that makes any sense. The only thing that I can get out of this is that somebody has approached the government and suggested that that is the way they should go on fines for smugglers. Can you imagine any government that would make it easier for people to commit an illegal act in this province? I can't and people I've talked to can't. They are concerned that the government would bow to the smugglers of this province and, surely, they are going to be coming, with those kinds of fines, and allow them to do business openly in this province.

For example, the first offence is reduced from a fine of not less than $10,000 and not more than $50,000 to a fine of not less than $250 and not more than $5,000. Now that is a considerable reduction. The first fine could be as small as $250. Now does anybody seriously think that that is going to dissuade any smuggler or group of smugglers or the criminal element from doing business in this province, because if they are caught for the first time, they are going to get a fine of, possibly, $250?

The Finance Minister has not convinced me and not convinced anybody, at least on this side of the House, of his reasons for that. To say that the courts won't implement the fines, that is simply not true because the larger fines have been established by the courts and have been levied by the courts in this province when it comes to smuggling and when it comes to tobacco-related offences in this province. We have the proof of that. We have the amounts of fines that have been levied over the past few years. So what the Finance Minister has said to this House is simply not correct. I suggest that if there is difficulty there with the courts levying the larger fines on tobacco smugglers, then that should be up to the courts, not up to

[Page 2247]

the Finance Minister to tell this House what he thinks the courts should be doing and not doing, or can't do or won't do.

What about the equalization plan? Well, we saw the equalization plan talked about at considerable length here in this House for a short period of time, until some people in this province got nervous with it. Backbenchers from the government posed different theories as to what should or should not happen in their brief remarks that they made here; some support it, some don't.

Nevertheless, municipalities are out there now wondering what is going to happen with the equalization plan. The Cape Breton Regional Municipality, for example, is going to budget in the next couple of years, the windfall from that equalization plan as part of their budgetary process. The mayor has already said that, that things are going to be a little bit better in the CBRM because we are going to use this money. I just wonder, Mr. Speaker, whether that money is going to be in addition to the close to $1 million that they are going to lose from Sydney Steel taxation, or is it going to be in place of the $1 million they are going to lose in taxable income for that municipality. I think the municipality has the right to know that and know it soon for their budgetary process.

Is the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities kept up to date on what is going to happen here? I think the greatest deception perpetrated by the government is that it is going to give a 10 per cent tax cut in 2003-04. That is nothing more than a fabrication and a charade. The first reason, Mr. Speaker, is bracket creep. Someone making $30,000 a year in 1999, whose income remains the same in 2002, will be paying higher taxes. No matter how many ways the Premier and the Finance Minister try to gloss it over, Nova Scotians will be no better off in 2004 than they were in 1999. After bracket creep, we look at the failure of the government to pass on the corresponding federal tax cut that I talked about a few moments ago.

What treachery, Mr. Speaker, does this government play on the people of Nova Scotia when a legitimate tax increase is given from the federal government to all the citizens of Canada?

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Tax decrease.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Well, the Finance Minister has corrected me on what I said and what I didn't say. It doesn't make any difference to me if he wants to correct me. What I am telling him is that he perpetrated a hoax on the people of Nova Scotia by keeping the money that was due to the people of Nova Scotia through the federal tax breaks that were given by Ottawa. How dare this province take money out of the hands of the people of Nova Scotia in order to have this money available and try to tell them that they are going to give them a tax break in two years' time when, in effect, they are only going to give them their own money back again that they stole from them by not passing it through on the federal tax breaks.

[Page 2248]

The Finance Minister thinks that is funny. He thinks it's funny that they are taking money out of the pockets of Nova Scotians, only to try to give it back to them in a couple years' time. Well, they will be reminded in a couple of years' time where that tax break that they might pass along to Nova Scotians comes from. I will say it again, that Nova Scotians, under this government, tax wise, are going to be no better off in 2004 than they were in 1999.

Mr. Speaker, after paying higher taxes for two decades, the taxpayer was going to get a break and the government just kept the break. That is all. No big deal. They just didn't pass it along to taxpayers of the province. They said the taxpayers can, once again, do without a tax break. They essentially raised the provincial taxes so the province would not take a hit and that is fundamentally unfair. Add this charge to bracket creep, and every Nova Scotian is paying higher taxes, whether they realize it at this point or not. No matter how many ways you want to cut it, Nova Scotians are not receiving any tax break.

Now the Auditor General got involved in this exercise and he has indicated that the government must justify user fees to show that they are used for cost-recovery. If not, they will be considered taxes. He said that, not me. I am just repeating what he said. The 2000-01 user fees, $29 million in user fees from last year's budget. I will give you an example of some of them. There was a 20 per cent to 33 per cent increase in Seniors' Pharmacare co-pay, an average of $5.00 per prescription, $8.4 million per year total. Of course, that is not a tax. That is a user fee. People don't pay this. That is just in your imagination. It is not really a tax. It is something that is a figment of their imagination, but $8.4 million went out of the pockets of seniors in this province last year to pay for that service.

There was 43 cents on the 911 tax. Now that was something that wasn't going to cost anybody anything. I remember the government stating that, don't worry about it, it is not going to cost you anything, that is not a tax, it is a user fee. It shows up on your bill, I would say that is a tax. It is coming out of your pocket, I would say that is a tax. But no matter how you cut it, the government still states it is not a tax; even though you pay, we get, it is not a tax.

[3:15 p.m.]

Yearly fees, $5 million hospital user fees for preferred rooms, fibreglass casts, televisions, et cetera, et cetera, $5 million. They are not taxes, they are user fees. It is only something that is not really happening here, there is no money coming out of anybody's pocket. The $5 million came out of somebody's pocket last year. Now, $950,000 for driver testing handbooks. They couldn't even make handbooks available for testing drivers without getting $950,000 back. That is not a tax, that is a user fee. If you want to use the handbook, you have to pay for it. But you are not really paying for it, because it is not a tax; $950,000 went to the province from somebody, but it is not a tax.

[Page 2249]

This one here really galls me, $700,000 for prescription drugs for welfare recipients. That one really galls me; that is the bottom of the barrel, that this government tried to scrape up $700,000 last year on the backs of the people of this province who can least afford it. Shame on this government for even attempting that, and shame on them, again, if they try it any more. That, to me, is something that I just feel so upset about, I just can't believe that anybody over there with any conscience at all would deny necessary prescriptions to people on social assistance, the ones who can least afford to pay for them.

Then we go from a very serious situation, in terms of prescription drugs for welfare recipients, to ferry increases; $300,000 plucked from the pockets of people for ferry increases last year. That is not a tax. Somebody paid you $300,000 but it is not a tax. So I guess it just fell from the sky into the government's coffers, nobody paid it but it is a user fee. It is a tax, Mr. Speaker. Call it anything you want but it is a tax coming out of the taxpayers' pockets for this province.

Mr. Speaker, $200,000 for insurance agents' licences. That is not a tax? Or $200,000 to get environmental approvals. That is not a tax? Teachers' certificate fees, introduced by Order in Council, they slipped that one in on February 15, 2001; $80 for a new teacher. It is not bad enough that a teacher is just coming into the system, and has a large student loan to repay and many other expenses while they are waiting for their first pay cheque, if they are lucky enough to get a job, but now they have to pay $80. That is not a tax, it is a user fee. They really don't pay it, it is a user fee, you know, it's not a tax.

Then, when they go to get their certificate renewed, they have to pay another $35 to do that. Again, that is not a tax; that is only a figment of somebody's imagination; nobody really pays it; that money just dropped out of the sky. What do we have coming up here this year, $3 million in new user fees. About $3.00 from every Nova Scotian. Those user fees come less than a month after the Auditor General criticized the government for not being able to justify the last round of user fees, or taxes.

Here is one that really hits the bottom of the barrel, as well, $50 for seniors in hospitals, waiting for transfers to long-term care beds. The government is going to raise $1 million a year from that particular program, on the backs of seniors in hospitals, on the backs of people who cannot afford this $50 charge. If they can't pay it, and won't pay it, what is the government going to do? Are they going to kick them out of the hospital, put them on the street, because they can't pay the $50 charge? Are they going to throw them out? No. Do you know what they are going to do? They are going to charge the municipality that person lives in. I know what they are going to do. Then they will blame the municipality or cut back the municipality's grant to recover the money - that is what they are going to do. They are not going to throw the senior citizen out on the street, but they are not telling the senior that. What they are saying is that somebody is going to pay this and if they can't suck the seniors into paying it, then they are going to charge the municipalities. That is what is going to happen here.

[Page 2250]

Registry of Deeds - $70 charge there, up from $40. There will be $1.1 million generated from that, but that again, Mr. Speaker, that is not a tax. Nobody is going to pay that, that is just on paper. They are going to raise $1.1 million, but nobody pays it. Another figment of somebody's imagination. Another bunch of money that falls from the sky, not out of the taxpayers' pockets of this province.

There is $1.00 from industry for every ton of sulphur dioxide released into the environment. Imagine. Isn't that something? Who is going to police that, I would like to know, in this province? That will be interesting to see how they follow that through.

Now, $6,500 for industries to obtain operating approval - $6,500 for any industry that wants to set up business - to open a business, operate a business. Anybody that would say that is not a tax - what is it if it is not a tax? It is a user fee. It is not a new tax - it is new, but it is not a tax. It has taken money from people, but it is not a tax. It is a business expense, but it is not a tax. Another non-tax the government is imposing.

Now, $75 to $300 for large fuel storage tanks at service stations, factories and farms. But that is not a tax either. As I said before, $20 to search the Child Abuse Register, $416 for a course at Nova Scotia Agricultural College, up from $400, an increase but yet it is not a tax. It is not a tax, no. What is it if it is not?

The Minister of Health says it is not a tax. Anything that comes out of the pockets of Nova Scotians and goes to the government, I consider a tax. It is a tax. Just like the Sheriff of Nottingham used to tax the people, this is what this government is doing. Yes, the Minister of Finance is the closest thing I have ever seen to the Sheriff of Nottingham, I will tell you that. In only two years, I don't think - the best is yet to come.

So, $100 for a permit to drill a well. The Auditor General says, how much has the government decided it costs to drill a well? Well, the government doesn't know so what they did was, we will put $100 in there for a tax. But it is a user fee, a user fee for a permit to drill a well. Doesn't make any sense to me except that it is a money grab - it is a tax. Can't be there for any other reason.

Now, $2.00 per wet ton to harvest marine plants up from $1.00 - just double it, that is all. Just to make somebody else's life miserable, so they have to pay more in user fees or taxes. Now, $50 for propane fuelling stations, another tax on Nova Scotians that are in that business.

The bottom line is, there is no tax relief coming and if John Hamm gives a 10 per cent tax cut, it will be merely a case of giving back what he wrongfully took away over his four years in office. At the rate this government is going with taxes, tax increases and user fees, by the time we get to the next election, everything in Nova Scotia but the poles out there will be taxed. They may even bring back the poll tax, that is right, tax them too. Because the

[Page 2251]

Sheriff of Nottingham is going to bleed Nova Scotians for every single penny he can get out of them. Every single penny. For one reason only - to try to effect the bottom line in an election year that they think they can fool the people of Nova Scotia when they go to the polls. They are going to get votes back from Nova Scotians using their own money, Nova Scotians' money, I mean.

The sad thing about all of this is that Nova Scotians are going to be no better off financially, even if there is a 10 per cent tax cut that was promised. First of all, all these user fees are hitting everybody in this province in one way or the other. That is not bad enough, but the tax increase that the provincial government is getting now is not going to compensate, in two years time, for the amount of money that Nova Scotians are entitled to and the tax relief program, instituted by the federal government, has not been allowed to pass through. So, in effect, after charging Nova Scotians all of these fees I talked about, all of these new taxes that I talked about, they are going to then have the gall to tell Nova Scotians, in a couple of years time, that they are giving them a tax break, not only after they charge them all of those new taxes, but after they took their money back that was due to them by the federal tax relief program, and give them their own money back and say, look, what wonderful people we are, we helped you out.

The Finance Minister and the Premier talk about responsible government, but their net debt has gone up $1.3 billion since last April. Nova Scotians have to realize that when this government goes back to the polls, whenever they have the courage to do so, that the net debt of this province is going to be substantially more than it is as I stand in my place today, substantially more than what it is today, not less, but substantially more, because the government has abandoned any program to try to reduce the long-term debt of this province. They just abandoned it. They are banking on the possibility that Nova Scotians will not be preoccupied with the long-term debt of this province in a couple of years. But I suggest to you that they will, because they are going to remember the promises made when this government came to power, about reducing the long-term debt of this province. Instead, that debt has gone up $1.3 billion since last year.

All the MLAs here who don't sit on the Treasury Benches are going to have to explain that to their people, why the debt of this province has gone up under their watch, under your watch in the short, less than two years you have been in office, it is up over $1 billion. That is some responsible government. In only one year, the long-term debt has gone up over $1 billion, and this government calls itself responsible. The MLAs who are not members of the government, who are MLAs representing their constituencies, are going to have to explain that. Cabinet Ministers don't have the luxury of doing that, as I said here before. But MLAs should be asking questions of the Cabinet, why are we allowing this province to go further in debt on a daily basis; why aren't we trying to reduce the long-term debt of this province?

[Page 2252]

Since the government took office, Mr. Speaker, they have added $300 million to the Health budget with nothing to show for it. Even if the budget stays the same next year, and it will not, the government will still be spending $300 million more than 1999, for a total of $600 million in new spending. After two more years in office the government will have spent $900 million more in health care than the last government, $900 million more with nothing to show for it. We had examples of the nothing-to-show-for-it earlier here today when hospital facilities are still closing, as we speak, in this province.

Mr. Speaker, the provincial debt is about to hit emergency proportions. I would suggest to you that the money lenders, that the people who rate this province, that the people who are out their banking for this province are going to get very nervous about the long-term debt and the way that long-term debt is going here in Nova Scotia. I suggest to you that the Finance Minister and the Premier and the Treasury Benches are going to have difficulty getting good rates for borrowing in the near future.

[3:30 p.m.]

This is all, Mr. Speaker, on top of the federal government windfall that this government received in the past fiscal year. Even without a plan to pay down the debt, even with projected surpluses, this government will have the net debt rise each and every year of this mandate. Each and every year of this government's mandate, the debt is going to rise. in fact, the net direct debt will rise by another $400 million over the next four years. In other words, Nova Scotians, their sons and daughters, and their grandsons and granddaughters, are going to be further in debt when this government finishes its first mandate than it was when this government started, and I will give you some examples.

In the year 2000, the debt was $11.219 billion; in the year 2001, $11.472 billion; in the year 2002, $11.648 billion; in the year 2003, $11.705 billion; in the year 2004, $11.754 billion; and in the year 2005, $11.768 billion. That is what this province is going to owe at the end of the mandate of this government. This government calls itself responsible, when it is inflicting more financial pain on the people of this province for decades to come after only one term in office. But that is not surprising, this Finance Minister was a key player in the previous Tory debacle in this province for the 15 years that bankrupted the place, bankrupted this province. So I am not surprised at the fiscal policies of that Finance Minister. He only has one creed to follow, Mr. Speaker, get re-elected. Get re-elected is the only creed that he follows, the same creed that the Buchanan Government and the Cameron Government followed for 15 years in this province.

There is no real tax cut. Services will not have improved. Nova Scotians will be no better off financially, but guess what? The net debt of this province will continue to grow. Now you people on the government side have to explain that. You members who are not part of the Treasury benches, who don't sit in the bunker and decide how you are going to hoodwink Nova Scotians on a regular basis, you people should be asking questions or, by the

[Page 2253]

way, I think you should be seriously thinking about abandoning ship over there before you go out with the tide.

I am going to tell you, when Nova Scotians come to the realization that the net debt of this province is rising as quickly as it is, this government is going out with the tide and those who are still with that government are going to be washed away with it, because the programs in this province are not improving. There is nothing happening here except this government is putting some money in its own political war chest for a couple of years' time and taking user fees out of the pockets of Nova Scotians at a record pace.

I will also refer, Mr. Speaker, again, to the Auditor General, when he makes reference to the user fees, when he makes reference to the fact that this government is implementing user fees on a scale that has never been seen before in this province. In other words, it is almost like they went out and hired somebody to go get us some user fees wherever you can get them; if you think up some more user fees in this province, we will give you a bonus. It seems to me that they have overturned every rock from Yarmouth to Glace Bay to try and find out ways they can fleece the taxpayers of this province, and fleecing they are, let me tell you. Almost every single citizen in this province has been severely impacted by the so-called user fees, which are really taxes. But you can't say that they are taxes because that would be calling the Premier dishonest, because the Premier said there would be no tax increases except the one on tobacco, but even that one, he tempered that by increasing the tax and lowering the fines for people who will bring it in illegally.

Mr. Speaker, I would like for any MLA over there to get on his feet and tell me, at any time how they would rationalize lowering the taxes on smugglers in this province, lowering the fines on smugglers in this province. In other words, and I can't repeat this enough, the MLAs, I know there is no sense talking to the Cabinet Ministers because they are obviously onside, they were hoodwinked long ago into believing this was a good idea, but the MLAs are not bound by Cabinet solidarity, I want those MLAs to be able to go out there and tell the members of the press or tell the people in their constituency whether or not they agree that fines on smuggling in this province should be lowered. I haven't found anybody yet in this province who thinks that a good idea. Nobody.

Mr. Speaker, there has to be a hidden agenda here. I cannot stand here in my place and believe that the only reason those fines are being reduced on smugglers is that the Finance Minister doesn't think the courts will do their job. How dare that Finance Minister tell the courts of this province that they are not doing their job. That's the arrogance of the Sheriff of Nottingham; that's the arrogance of that Finance Minister.

Yes, the arrogance is there. It was there when he presented his budget to this House and it is there today. He is from the old school, the old John Buchanan style of government: spend, spend, spend, increase the debt, with only one end in mind, getting re-elected, at all costs. It doesn't make any difference, because the Tory backroom boys, Mr. Speaker, have

[Page 2254]

to be looked after. It has been dry for them for a few years. Now, they are back at the well again and they want to stay there for a long time.

They don't care what the provincial debt is, they don't care that it is increasing at a record pace, they couldn't care less. They want their piece of the booty from the Sheriff of Nottingham. They want the political largesse. That's what they want. They couldn't care less whether the taxpayers of this province are being fleeced or hoodwinked or tricked into believing that there is no new taxes, it is all user fees. It doesn't come out of anybody's pocket, it just falls from the sky and lands in the government's coffers, nobody has to pay for those user fees, nobody.

Well, I suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, that somebody is paying, but the irony that it is, is that somebody is paying a lot of new user fees. The programs are going backwards in health care and in education. Talking to people in the education system, they will tell you that the current Education Minister and her imported hired help, hired guns, we couldn't find anybody in this province that knew anything about education, I guess, so we had to go outside the province to bring in a gunslinger; the same with Health and the same in some of the other departments.

Then, when all that is done, when we bring in the hired gunslingers from outside, the Government House Leader and the Minister of Transportation and Public Works go out there and tell the press that we should hire deputy ministers from Nova Scotia. After they were all hired from outside the province, he says it is a good idea that we should hire them from Nova Scotia. Well, it would be great if there were any openings right now but they are all hired. He waited until they were all hired from other provinces and then he makes that statement to the press, that he thinks that we have enough people in Nova Scotia to do the job.

Make no mistake about it, there are things happening in health care and education that are going to fundamentally change both of those very expensive line departments of this government, change them for the worse. In terms of education, we see a situation, and every backbencher over there should be concerned about this, we finally see a situation, Mr. Speaker, in education where the government is looking at laying off permanent contract teachers and probationers. Unheard of before in this province. But the door is open a little bit.

Once the door is open and permanent teachers exit the system, a lot of them young teachers who are specialists, then the government is going to be able to get at it again next year with permanent teachers, the following year with permanent teachers, and I would suggest try to reduce the education system down to what the minister said at one point, early in her tenure, to the three Rs. Have we come full circle in education, are we going to go back to the three Rs in this province? We don't need qualified specialists teaching; we don't need remedial reading classes; we don't need computer sciences; we don't need any of that, all we need are the three Rs. We have to get rid of some teachers.

[Page 2255]

When it happens to your boards, where the MLAs are living, when you start getting calls from parents that they are losing their specialists' programs, then I think you should ask the question, because you are at liberty to ask those questions, you don't belong to the government, you are the same as we are, you are elected MLAs who just happen to be on the government benches. Think about it. You have the freedom to say something about that. Some of you are probably very fortunate that you are not in the Cabinet right now.

In any case, I would suggest to you that you think long and hard about that, because I am going to tell you, you are not going to get re-elected by telling people that you have increased the debt in this province, every single year since this government came to office; you are not going to get re-elected if you tell them that. You are not going to get re-elected if you tell them that there are going to be less teachers in your area, any particular area, by the time the next election rolls around; you are not going to get re-elected if you tell them that. You are not going to get re-elected if you tell them that the outpatient service in a particular hospital is not going to reopen, even though you told them in the first place it wasn't going to close; you are not going to get re-elected if you tell them that.

You are not going to get re-elected if you hide behind the government policies, because over the next two years, I can guarantee you, this side of the House is going to be uncovering a lot of that largesse that I talked about, and where the money is going to go in the next two years as this government moves down the road to a re-election bid. The people of Nova Scotia are going to be made aware time and time again of where the money is going, why the debt of this province is going up, and why the services are going down.

There is another bill coming after this one that is going to talk about changing government structure. Now, we know what that means. In certain instances, it is the privatization word. We will be able to get at that at some point, because that is going to be one of the reasons why they are going to do what they are going to do in certain departments, to try to recover some more money at the expense of people working in those departments and at the expense of service to the taxpayers of this province. There is no question in my mind where we are heading with that bill.

I can recall employees of the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission, for example, out here showing relief that they weren't going to be privatized en masse at that time, that there was going to be some demonstration liquor stores set up in places that they wouldn't collect enough money to pay the light bill, but there are going to be demonstration projects. The first step. The next is legislation, to make the Liquor Commission a corporation. Now, the Health Minister knows I am right. There is going to be legislation set up to make it a corporation.

So what happens when we make it a corporation? It paves the way for privatization. Then those liquor stores that are set up, that aren't going to be profitable, are going to be gone. They are going to be gone. Can you imagine some of the places they put them? The only way some of them will get a customer is if somebody drove down the road by accident.

[Page 2256]

But it is paving the way, it is a series of steps to pave the way for privatization. I suggest to you that the Liquor Commission employees have a right to be concerned. Government employees in general have a right to be concerned about the way this government is moving.

I will go back for a moment to some of the more serious implications of this government's agenda Mr. Speaker. One of the more serious items on this government's plate, the front benches, the Premier, is its inability to move the province forward and also his denial that the debt of this province is becoming problematic for him. He actually didn't know, or gave the impression he didn't know, that the long-term debt of this province was going up. That is the Premier of this province.

[3:45 p.m.]

He is going to be asked about that in the next few days, when he comes back from his non-productive trip to Houston. He couldn't get anything over there, as he couldn't get anything in Ottawa. So he is going to come back here empty-handed again and stand in his place in this House and say he is not aware of the debts going up in this province, the long-term debt. He is the Premier of this province. The debt is going up and he professes not to know anything about it. Shame on that Premier and shame on the people who are not telling him what is going on over there. I really don't think he does know. I think he has been programmed to think that everything is going alone just fine, thank you very much, let's just move down the road to the next election, take our victory and run.

It ain't going to happen because Nova Scotians are going to be reminded on a daily basis, Mr. Speaker, that the debt of this province is going up; the services are going down. They are going to be reminded of that on a daily basis. They are going to be reminded of the promises made by the Tory Government, as they are being reminded today of the promises made in the recent by-elections, particularly the one in Cape Breton North. The ink wasn't dry on the signatures of the swearing-in ceremonies when they started to change the rules at the Northside General Hospital. If that is not hoodwinking the people - I don't have any malice towards the member who ran over there. He ran, he was told, you tell them that because we will keep that hospital open, we won't make any changes over here. You go ahead and tell the people that, you will get elected and we will look after it.

Guess what? There is a cartoon floating around now saying that the member for Cape Breton North has been here only three months and he has managed to close the outpatient department there; just think what he can do in three years. I don't blame him one bit for that. I think that member is sincere in what he is trying to do down there. What I do is blame the front benches here. I blame the people who told him there would not be any problem down there. That is happening all too often in this government.

[Page 2257]

Some of the draconian measures going on over there defy description. As I said, the Sheriff of Nottingham, Mr. Speaker, the Finance Minister, has taxed just about everything but the hubcaps on the cars, and he may get around to that before this term is over. That won't be a tax, though, that will be a user fee. I don't know how you use hubcaps on a car but he will find a way to call it a user fee.

Now I have to tell you, our caucus is concerned that this government is getting away with far too much right now. They are becoming masters of the hit and run. I will give you an example of some of the hit-and-run antics of this government; their continuance, for example, on employing a firm called Ernst & Young, to which they are paying millions of dollars on a regular basis, and have no intentions of curtailing the financial expenses paid to that particular organization. They were brought in to liquidate the steel plant, for example, and ended up trying to sell it a couple of time. They were not in the steel business, they are not in the steel business. They are not steel people; they are liquidators, headhunters, and business headhunters, try to get as much as you can for assets and get out of town.

What happened? They saw a government over here that was like a fish on a hook. They said, we have got these guys because they said they were going to sell the plant and we are going to take them for everything they have. Well, they are still there. Nothing has happened. Nobody is getting any work. There is nobody working down there. There are no talks about a major remediation project. There is no mention of that in any financial measures here. There is no mention of that at all. But Ernst & Young are still getting paid. Ernst & Young are still getting paid for another problem that is going on in Cape Breton, Scotia Rainbow. Ernst & Young are doing just a marvelous job there, too, but the government continues to employ them.

You have to wonder what connection Ernst & Young has with the Government of Nova Scotia because they seem to be doing very well, as well as the legal fees that are being paid, that I mentioned from my place here during Question Period a couple of weeks ago. Over $700,000 in the last one and one-half years in legal fees. Somebody saw you people coming with this and we still haven't resolved anything, except the taxpayers' money is flying out the window here at a record pace.

When it comes to industrial Cape Breton, Mr. Speaker, the government has said time and time again that they are going to change the direction. Now we want to move away from steel and coal. They botched the steel deal. There is nothing going on. They haven't even sold the assets. They won't give the municipality the equipment it needs to develop a harbour port strategy, and trying to sell it to them with money that the municipality doesn't have, when they should be giving it to them for $1.00. Instead, somebody will take it out of here. There is a lot of speculation going around that a lot of that equipment in Sydney is going to end up in Pictou County before too long.

[Page 2258]

We all know the kind of influence that Donald Cameron has in Pictou County and we all know, Mr. Speaker, that great love that Donnie Cameron has for Cape Breton. We all know about that. He couldn't stand seeing anybody having to pay to go across the Canso Causeway to go to Cape Breton so he took the tolls down. He said no one should have to pay to go to Cape Breton. But, I am going to tell you, when it comes to the distribution of those assets at Sydney Steel, you are going to find that those assets find there way into some pretty wonderful places over the next little while, pretty strange places, perhaps. But they are going to leave the area. They made sure of that.

Also, they can't escape the legacy of two things. One, they stood by and let the remaining people who were working in that industry lose their jobs. There are a certain number of those people who don't have anything. But then they did nothing to do anything about the failed Oxbow sale at Prince Mine, in the mining industry. The Premier sat there and said absolutely nothing about that failure, as well, of Oxbow to buy the Prince Mine. Now we are unsure of where we are going with the coal industry. To top it off, they haven't done anything on remediation problems. No matter if this government thinks, Mr. Speaker, it is getting rid of the problem at Sysco and the problems with the mine sites down there, there is going to be a day of reckoning when somebody is going to have to clean those properties up.

The government decided they were going to change the strategy in Cape Breton. They are going to change the dynamics. They are going to put a new economy in there - one call centre so far. Actually, there are some jobs in North Sydney in a program that was put in place by the previous government, a call centre on a program that was put in place by the previous government and no money for remediation to speak of. If you think, Mr. Speaker, that there is a problem with the tar ponds and a problem with the coke ovens, wait until the problem with the Sydney Steel workings is uncovered and what is under the ground there. This government is going to have to deal with it at some point. I have suggested before and will suggest again that now that that plant is not a working plant that this government should engage in discussions with the federal government for a joint, massive remediation project in industrial Cape Breton to clean up those sites once and for all and employ people for up to 10 to 15 years; a good investment of government money.

Do we see anything in this bill talking about any of that? No. Do we see anything in this bill - Bill No. 20 will have it - about the Nova Scotia Business Inc. that is being put together with a bunch of Tory hacks; a bunch of Tory hacks and with complete disregard for Cape Breton because there is only one person on that Nova Scotia Business Inc. board from Cape Breton and that person didn't even apply. That person was seconded by the government because they didn't like anybody that applied including Greg MacLeod and people from BCA Holdings that the member for Cape Breton North is up here congratulating today.

[Page 2259]

He can get up here and congratulate BCA, but Greg MacLeod wasn't good enough to sit on the board of Nova Scotia Business Inc. or nobody from BCA was good enough. That member should have ensured that somebody from that organization was on that Nova Scotia Business Inc. What did we get? We got Alistair MacLeod who the Tories asked to be put on the board. No representation from labour, no representation from the small business community in Cape Breton Island. No representation at all from Inverness County, from Richmond County, from Port Hawkesbury, from Victoria County or from Cape Breton County. None. That is how this government is treating the new economy in Cape Breton.

I just wish that I had another hour because I am just getting warmed up here, but I will be back. I will be back during the clause by clause dissection of this bill and I am going to tell you that we are going to be on this bill for a long time. Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have an opportunity to speak on behalf of people who rely on us here in the NDP caucus to bring their concerns here to the House of Assembly. The good people of Halifax Needham, in my case, talk to me all the time about the things that they want brought up here in the Legislature, the hard questions they want asked, they want answers to. I also hear from quite a few people who expressed their profound disappointment in the way this government, who they relied on because of the campaign promises they made in the summer election of 1999 to do something quite differently than what in fact is unfolding in this House of Assembly and around this province as a result.

Bill No. 30, the Financial Measures (2001) Bill, really is more than about numbers, more than numbers on a page. It is really about what this government's plans are to help people be better off. There is very little in Bill No. 30 that would lead anyone to hope that Nova Scotians will be better off as a result of this bill. There is very little here in Bill No. 30 that gives me any hope that the people in my constituency of Halifax Needham will be better off as a result of this bill and this very misguided direction from the current Tory Government.

This is a government that consistently fails to keep their commitments to the people. This is just about the only thing they are consistent on. They are consistently unable to be relied on to keep their word, to do what people in Nova Scotia expected them to do with respect to health care, education, community services, transportation, agriculture, you name it. They have been consistent in failing to understand what it was that Nova Scotians were relying on them to do.

[Page 2260]

You have to wonder, the day after the election, did they take their blue book and have a bonfire someplace? Because it certainly is the impression one would get if you look at the measures this government has brought forward. They are not measures that were part of that father-knows-best kind of election campaign that John Hamm went through in the summer of 1999.

[4:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I am very privileged to represent a constituency that has a very large population of senior citizens. I have said here on more than one occasion that the wisdom of senior citizens, the experience that they have had throughout their lives, seeing a succession of governments - some governments better than others; some governments true disasters - but nevertheless, senior citizens in Nova Scotia understand very much the proper role of government in assisting people to have a better quality of life, through the pooling of our collective resources and talents.

I believe, Mr. Speaker, that many senior citizens had hope that this government was a government they could rely on, but it is clear to the seniors in my riding that this is a government they cannot rely on. What the seniors in my riding understand as well, is that it is the Opposition, it is the NDP that they can rely on to stand up for them. If it is Pharmacare premiums that are being increased without any consultation with senior citizens, then it is the NDP that senior citizens come and speak to about this issue. That is exactly why members of this caucus consistently, in Question Period and during the debates, stand up and hold this government accountable, put their feet to the fire.

Mr. Speaker, it is almost obscene this idea that people in an acute care facility are going to be charged a $50 per day fee when they are unable to find a long-term care facility to meet their needs. The implication of having this guillotine hung over the heads of people, not only those vulnerable people in our communities who are sick, who are ill, who are often elderly in these facilities, but it is a guillotine over the heads of the family members. Let's be clear about what family members we are talking about here. We are primarily talking about family caregivers who are women.

Later on this week, the Family Caregivers Association is going to be having a luncheon, and no doubt some members of the government, perhaps of the Cabinet or of the backbenches, may trot off to this particular event, the launching of the Family Caregivers Association, and I hope that they go prepared to answer some pretty tough questions about who they think is going to be providing the care to people who are being forced out of an acute care bed, when there is no long-term care bed available to them because they have an inability to pay $50 per day to have a place where they could have proper care.

[Page 2261]

There won't be one person in the Family Caregivers Association who will not be absolutely aware, with certainty, that it is going to fall on to the family caregivers, it is going to fall on to women who are daughters, who are sisters, who are mothers-in-law, who are daughters-in-law, and this is a generation who, themselves, are aging; this is a generation who are often in the labour force and are very involved in their communities; and this is kind of off-loading, this kind of downloading of service is precisely what is beneath some of the measures that this government is pursuing, measures that they did not have the intestinal fortitude to lay out in their blue book in 1999 when they ran for election.

This is the situation we have, and people in this province know it. It is our job here in the Opposition to stand up and point out what this government is doing, and to give a voice to all those Nova Scotians who are starting now to see the absolute, shocking, underhanded, disrespectful, sneaky approach of this government to the very important needs of people in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, this is a government that won't cover pharmaceutical drugs for Alzheimer's patients. We have four other provinces that have decided to extend coverage to these very important drugs, but this is a government that people relied on to provide those kinds of services . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I believe the use of the word underhanded is indeed unparliamentary language. If I could ask the member to retract that comment, please, if she would.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I would be happy to withdraw that particular word. I would like to say that this government is fooling no one. There are a lot of ways that you can look at what this government is doing, but you come to one conclusion, and there is only one conclusion that can be reached when you look at the budget that they forced through this Legislature by virtue of their greater numbers. When you look at the kind of complacency, the kind of absolute complacency and acquiescence of the backbench members who know very full, the implications of this government's public policy, their direction, their measures like their budget, measures like the Financial Measures (2001) Bill that will allow the budget be implemented around the province, the fact that those members will sit there silently and say to the people in their constituencies, what you think really doesn't matter all that much, we have the numbers, we are going to proceed the way we are going right now, and just trust us.

Yes, it is true. I heard somebody mention that some of those members send members of their constituency to us. I get calls all the time from the constituents of members on the government backbenches who call for assistance. They call for assistance with the school boards, they call for assistance dealing with the school boards; they call for assistance if they have a child with special needs; and they call when they have problems with student loans.

[Page 2262]

I have a substantial amount of casework that is generated out of the constituencies of members on the government side of the House.

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to help those people. I am happy to intervene and do whatever I can, because that is why I am here and that is why members of this caucus are here. (Interruptions)

The NDP caucus is here to make sure that this government keeps the commitments it made to Nova Scotians. That is our job, Mr. Speaker, and that is why we are here. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Halifax Needham has the floor.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, health care is only one of the very important areas that people in this province have relied on this government to deal with and have been deeply disappointed with the outcome. I think education is the other area Nova Scotians are profoundly disappointed with the approach of this government and the impact of what this government has done on education. It is right across the spectrum; it is the education system from Primary to Grade 12 and it in the university education system. People have relied on this government to provide - I think they campaigned on a clear course but people are saying it is a clear curse.

It has been a clear curse, Mr. Speaker. I think it is very apparent, when you have bus drivers in the Halifax Regional School Board who have seen their collective agreements just gutted. They have seen benefits they have previously enjoyed; they have seen the ability to have paid vacations; they have seen a casualization of their work; they have seen the beginnings of privatization and contracting out of their work. They know that that was not promised; that was not what this government promised it would do. That was not this government's commitments to working people. Yet you have groups of people, like the bus drivers in the Halifax Regional School Board, in this situation.

So, Mr. Speaker, we are here to make sure that groups like the bus drivers, like the custodial workers who came down to the Legislature today, to have an opportunity to ask questions and to plead with the Minister of Education and with the government to show some humanity, to remember why they are here. This government is here to make life better for people in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, is life better for people in Nova Scotia?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: No.

[Page 2263]

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: No. Is life better for those workers who were here today? Absolutely not. Do you think life is any better for the home care workers who are on strike on the South Shore? Absolutely not. Do you think life is any better for the daycare workers in Cape Breton, as a result of this government's policy? Absolutely not. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, we have a Minister of Community Services who calls in the loans to transition houses, that puts women's shelters in a position where they may have to terminate very important programs that abused women and children are relying on. This isn't part of what people thought this government was going to do.

[4:15 p.m.]

This is why the NDP caucus is here. We are here to raise this issue. (Interruptions) We are here to make sure this government keeps their commitments to Nova Scotians. We are here to raise the tough issues, and we are here to ask the government to be accountable, and to stand up and be accountable for what it is that they are doing and why it is that they are betraying people in Nova Scotia who relied on them, who believed that they were going to do things, and that they would be better off.

Mr. Speaker, in January of this year, the Minister of Education told the media that she was going to be introducing, be bringing forth a program that would assist students in the universities who are struggling with rising tuitions and incredible debt loads. Not only have we seen nothing, but the minister has no idea when she is going to be able to bring forward such a program. As the minister is saying that she is going to be bringing forward some new measures to deal with the terrible circumstances that many students find themselves in, at the same time universities across this province have increased, yet again this year, their tuition fees.

Mr. Speaker, this has gone on now for far too long. Students are the ones who are carrying the burden for this, and students relied on this government. They relied on this government to make their lives better, to improve their situations, to make sure that they would be able to get a good education, so they would have a fighting chance for employment.

MR. SPEAKER: Perhaps this would be the appropriate time to ask the honourable member if she would allow an introduction?

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Absolutely.

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

[Page 2264]

MR. CECIL CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to rise today and to introduce to the House two very valuable members of my riding association, who have been instrumental (Interruptions) and I know their youthful appearance will not diminish the fact that they have been involved in politics longer than I have been on this Earth, but I am glad that I can be here today to welcome them. I ask the House to welcome them to the House, Mildred and Berkley Evans. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We welcome our visitors to the House.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, this government, I think today is the day that smoking is no longer permitted in correctional centres. Yet, this government will be receiving a fair amount of revenue from tobacco taxes, but this government isn't prepared to invest any of that money in smoking cessation programs for senior citizens. On the front page of the (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I am having a lot of difficulty hearing the member who has the floor and the member for Halifax Needham does have the floor.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I have a cold and I am having a hard time keeping my voice. (Interruption) The Minister of Health says that I just recovered my voice, all of a sudden. I would like to thank the Minister of Health because he has really helped me recover my voice. It is too bad that the Minister of Health didn't have as good a prescription for the health care system (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, I was saying that this government haven't brought forward measures to assist people who want to stop smoking, and there are a number of senior citizens who have called me, who I know have called members of the government as well, to talk about why it is that the kinds of financial supports so that they can participate in smoking cessation programs are not being provided in an equitable way around the province. Today, in the correctional centres, both the employees and inmates won't be smoking any more in those facilities after today and there are a number of active measures that have been provided for to assist people. This is important. It is an important issue. It is an issue that people want to know, what are the measures that this government is going to take to deal with these issues?

Mr. Speaker, there are people who have been relying on this government to improve their quality of life but, yet, this government has failed. It has failed seniors; it has failed children; it has failed youth; it has failed students; it has failed teachers; it has failed home care workers; it has failed the women's shelters . . .

[Page 2265]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Perhaps members on both sides of the House should remember that the member who is standing has the floor. It would appreciated if we could hear the member.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the Financial Measures (2001) Bill is the piece of legislation that enables the budget to work its way across the province and be implemented. I know that many Nova Scotians, myself included, were scrambling last night to complete our income tax. I don't mind paying my fair share of tax, but it would be a lot easier if I thought that people in this province were getting the services they deserve. When I look at the user fees and the hidden taxes and the absolute tax grab that has been part of this government's budget, at the same time that we see the erosion of services, it is really a situation that doesn't make me too happy. I think Nova Scotians certainly are expecting me, the residents of Halifax Needham are certainly expecting me to come here and really stand up and speak on their behalf when they don't have an opportunity to have their own voices here in the Legislature.

Mr. Speaker, one of the groups of people in my constituency who I have a lot of time for - and I have a lot of time for many, many groups and people - but I have a lot of time for parents who have children with special needs. I have a lot of time for these parents because I know how much time and energy they devote to trying to provide a good quality of life and equal opportunity for their children, especially in terms of education.

We have a situation now where we have a previous government that made a commitment to de-institutionalize children with special needs so they could live in the community, so they could have some of the opportunities that other children have come to think of as a normal life, so that they could live with their families in a family setting or in small options settings and so they could go to school in a school system that would help them develop their capacity to whatever level of ability they had. Just like any other children.

This government has failed. If there is any group this government has failed in terms of providing good quality education and opportunities, it certainly is this group. These are people who relied on this government, who believed that this government cared about them and they have seen how much this government cares about them in the last two years. There has been a work group that has looked at the needs of children with special needs around the province, in the education system. They have concluded that there needed to be additional resources put into the integrating of these children into the school system to provide them with the same quality of education that other people have come to take for granted.

What do they get from this government that they relied on? They get a commitment that falls so incredibly far short of what is required that it is almost laughable. So, these families feel betrayed, they feel burdened by the responsibility that they have that no one else

[Page 2266]

seems to understand or care about. They don't ask for a lot, they ask for the same opportunity - equal opportunity to have their children develop their capacity as any other children.

This is what we are here for. We are here to make sure that the parents of children with special needs, and those children, have a voice in this Legislature. That somebody will stand up for them. That somebody will point out that they relied on this government to be on their side and to provide them with what they are entitled to under the Education Act. They are not asking for anything more than their basic entitlement, but they have been let down by this government.

We have schools in Nova Scotia that are in terrible condition. Just as recently as yesterday, I believe, I was reading in the local newspaper a report that talked about the schools, about the deterioration of the schools in the Annapolis Valley Regional School Board. Mr. Speaker, I would be happy to table this article when I am finished with it. This article said that the Valley schools are riddled with safety risks. All over the province we know that we have schools that need fixing and replacing.

School boards around Nova Scotia relied on this government, they relied on this government to provide them with the adequate resources to operate the education system, to maintain the buildings where children are taught and where they learn; where teachers do their jobs; where all of the support staff provide the support that they provide in the education system. Mr. Speaker, these people who relied on this government feel like they have been let down. Do you know what? They are right, they have been let down. They are not any better off, in fact, they are worse off than they were.

[4:30 p.m.]

We see in North Dartmouth, and in other communities in the HRM, small schools closing. We see this happening without any evidence - the kind of detailed evidence that would lead one to conclude that there were going to be financial savings and that those financial savings would, in fact, be reinvested into the education system - that evidence is absolutely missing. These parents, these communities and voters relied on this government to understand the importance of small community schools. They relied on this government to make decisions based on evidence. They like to talk a lot about making decisions based on evidence. But it is clear that they cannot rely on the government and they cannot rely on members of the backbenches to stand up and speak on their behalf. They have been forgotten by the government members.

So I am here and members of the NDP caucus are here doing our job, which is standing up to speak on behalf of those who have no voice in this Legislature. That is why we are here; that is why we voted against the Tory budget. It is a budget that fails to make the lives of senior citizens better or the lives of children, or rural Nova Scotia, youth, teachers, minimum wage workers.

[Page 2267]

Now, Mr. Speaker, the P to 12 schools that are in such deplorable circumstances without any kind of plan from this government on how they are going to deal with the deteriorating infrastructure in our Primary to Grade 12 school system, they are not alone. They are not the only aspect of the education system that has been failed by this government. Universities are in precisely the same predicament and perhaps they're in an even worse predicament. There is ample evidence, there has been a lot of study done that indicates that there is at least $302 million in deferred maintenance costs throughout the university system in this province.

What has this government's response been to that situation, Mr. Speaker? There has been no response, zero response. The response has been not to invest one penny in the deferred maintenance situation in the universities in this province this year, not one penny. This is after this government received a windfall in new revenue from the federal government, revenue they had theoretically underestimated, I guess, if you were to believe the forecasts they were bringing out, where they failed to recognize they were going to get this revenue when, surprise, surprise, the federal government knew it was coming and so did some independent think-tanks who were able to read the information. Nevertheless, Mr. Speaker, they did not invest one cent into the deferred maintenance of the universities.

Mr. Speaker, this is a very serious problem for universities because the managers of the physical plants in those universities estimate that they need at least a 2 per cent re-investment in universities on an annual basis so that they can even try to hold their heads above water. Mr. Speaker, I am sure that many people in the universities relied on this government to make their lives better and I have to say that they feel like that has not happened and it hasn't happened. The evidence is quite clear that it has not happened. This is why we are here, Mr. Speaker. It is to raise these issues, it is to see that the government, that their feet are held to the fire and that they have to live up to the commitments that they made to Nova Scotians. This is why we are here.

Mr. Speaker, not so many days ago my colleague, the honourable member for Dartmouth North, brought forward information about the Department of Community Services where the door in the Department of Community Services has been opened to the private sector now to assess whether or not they can profit by providing case management and intake services. This is a government that has gone after the poor. This is a government that has taken on the poor with a vengeance at every conceivable opportunity that it has had.

The very first term of this government's office they used the opportunity to take money away, to take charitable revenues away from groups that were anticipating revenue from the casino in Cape Breton toward non-profit organizations in that area. This government was fairly unapologetic about that when the Opposition brought this information out. Mr. Speaker, this is not what the Hamm Government promised Nova Scotians they were going to be about, but it didn't take them very long showing their true colours, did it, Mr. Speaker? It didn't take them very long at all.

[Page 2268]

Mr. Speaker, in August we will see the Minister of Community Services flagship piece, new piece of workfare legislation. Today documents were tabled in this House by the honourable member for Dartmouth North about what really will occur in August with respect to that legislation. This minister is going to be telling young mothers, mothers with newborns, mothers with babies that are one year old, that they have to participate in workfare type programs. This is a government that has, at the same time, implemented a series of measures that are seeing some of the few infant daycare spaces that we have available to us in the metro area potentially be lost. This is a government that people relied on to be compassionate and now we are starting to see what the true motivation of this government is and what their plans actually are and it is not a pretty sight.

This government, in addition to the approach that they are going to take with parents who have babies that are still babes in arms, basically, is going to, at the same time, try to encourage women, as I understand it, or any people on social assistance to participate in ocean-going ventures, ocean-centred, I think it said, as ocean-oriented. I have to say when I first saw that I wondered if they were going to have them cleaning barnacles off the bottom of the Bluenose, Mr. Speaker. It wouldn't surprise me in the least. Perhaps the Minister of Community Services knows a few people with the odd yacht or two that he would like hosed down, and perhaps he will be finding people to do that in the ranks of the people who are in need of support through the Department of Community Services.

So, Mr. Speaker, it is very apparent when you read those documents tabled in this House today that this government doesn't have a clue about what people on social assistance are going to be doing after they bring in their regulations and their new social welfare plan on August 1st. They certainly haven't been able to demonstrate that they have any commitment to getting women into good-paying jobs in the offshore, which is a question that we asked earlier last week. In this province there are many women who voted for this government and who are relying on them to make their lives better. Do you think that the lives of women in Nova Scotia have gotten better as a result of this government?

I would dare say that if there is anybody in this province who will be bearing the brunt of what this government's plan is in Nova Scotia, it will be the women of this province who are going to have to, increasingly, do the health care providing, increasingly doing the fundraising and the volunteering that this government expects in terms of literacy, in terms of home care, in terms of looking after the frail and elderly, in terms of children with special needs and their additional needs in the school system, answering the phones, raising money for paper, raising money for curtains, probably even sewing the curtains in the schools across the province. So it is very clear to me that women in the Province of Nova Scotia need the NDP caucus to be here to make sure that this government keeps their commitments to Nova Scotians. There is no doubt in my mind, Mr. Speaker, about that and no doubt in the minds of many women in this province as well.

[Page 2269]

I dare say, Mr. Speaker, we haven't heard the end of where this government may be going with respect to policy that affects women in the Province of Nova Scotia. It would appear that the concerns of women and the experience of women isn't high on this government's agenda. Because, after all, what was one of the other things that this government abolished? The Family Violence Prevention Initiative. Can you imagine that? Was anybody able to find in the blue book that this was a government that was not committed to doing the right thing when it comes to violence against women and children?

Mr. Speaker, this Financial Measures (2001) Bill is a test about this government's commitments to Nova Scotians and to people in Nova Scotia who have a variety of different experiences because of where they live, or because of their age, or because of their health status, because of their gender, because of their educational attainment, and this bill fails so many of these people. It fails to live up to the promise that this government made, that it was going to take Nova Scotia on a clear course that would lead to an improvement in the lives of people in Nova Scotia, and it has certainly failed to do this and it has failed to do this quite dismally.

[4:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, one of the things that this government has proposed has been to change the way in which assessment is done in the Province of Nova Scotia. This, too, is a very good example of off-loading onto the municipalities, who are getting very tired of having the provincial government not live up to its responsibilities with respect to what people expect from them. I have had so many examples of the runaround that this province gives to people who get assessments, assessments that are ridiculous, that have absolutely no rational basis. When they go to this government and they ask what is the rationale for the assessments, they often get sent to HRM, the blame gets placed on HRM for what the situation is, when HRM, in fact, is not where the problem lies. The problem lies in the assessment process.

Mr. Speaker, I am very concerned about the people who relied on this government to bring a measure of collegiality into the relationship between municipalities and our provincial government. We went through a terrible time in this province, of forced amalgamations, when there was nothing. The atmosphere between provincial governments and municipal governments was absolutely poisoned by that process. I think it would be hard to find people who would say that those forced amalgamations were conducted in an atmosphere of collegiality, because they weren't. It was a very divisive, destructive kind of process that poisoned the relationships. There was a lot of healing to be done, and a lot of bridge building to be done between the provincial government and the municipal governments.

Yet, what have we seen from this government? We have seen this government bring forward a half-baked plan for municipal equalization that is anything but equitable. There is no equity in this plan. This is the most inequitable approach to equalization that one could

[Page 2270]

imagine. If you put some people in a room and you said, I want you to come up with a plan that is so outrageous and so unfair and so insulting to people, do your best to come up with that kind of a plan, then that would be the kind of plan that we saw this government bring forward.

Equalization, a fine idea. A fine idea in terms of making sure that all Nova Scotians have the same basic services, as a group of core services people should have. They should have clean water; they should have good sewage treatment; they should have decent infrastructures in the towns, fire services, policing services and recreational services at a municipal level. No question about it. There is no argument. You will get no argument in this caucus that there is great inequity in the province, because the economic cycle has been kinder to the HRM region, for example, than it has to other areas.

Mr. Speaker, to develop an equalization plan that doesn't rest on the general revenue of the province, that doesn't emerge from the personal income tax base, that looks solely at property taxation, is an insult to the good people of Halifax Needham who I represent. It is an insult to the many people throughout this province who pay their property taxes with the absolute conviction that that level of taxation will go to improve their immediate community, the municipality in which they live. Mr. Speaker, that is the kind of thing we want to avoid, taking property tax out of a specific area and transporting it somewhere else.

Mr. Speaker, this government never campaigned on this kind of equalization program, that didn't form part of the blue book of campaign promises. I know that Nova Scotians around the province who are relying on this government to rebuild the collegial relationship between the provincial government and the municipal government feel betrayed. They must have felt betrayed when they got up one morning and saw in the newspaper that this government was planning such a silly, inequitable, divisive kind of approach to equalization in this province.

The whole issue has been pulled off the front burner and it has been on the back burner. I think everybody in this caucus recognizes that that particular plan has not died, it has not gone away, it could be back tomorrow. If it is, Mr. Speaker, who are people going to call? Who are people going to rely on to stand up and fight that plan? I will tell you for one, I will be more than happy to stand up and speak on behalf of people who don't like that plan, more than happy. That is why I am here and that is why the NDP caucus is here. We are here to live up to the promises and commitments we made to stand up and speak up on behalf of those who don't have a voice in this Legislature; to stand up and speak on behalf of people who relied on this government to make their lives better. Their lives are no better today, whatsoever.

So, Mr. Speaker, I know my time is drawing to an end. There are many other issues we could certainly talk about. We could talk about what workers in Nova Scotia expected from this government with respect to workplace safety and bringing forward really important

[Page 2271]

regulations regarding occupational health and safety. Workers have been let down by this government, a government they relied on.

I think the environment, Mr. Speaker, especially for young people although the environment isn't an issue that is of interest just to young people, but there is a growing awareness in the youth of our province. They understand that our province is our greatest resource; our environment is our greatest resource. They are relying on the government of the day; they are relying on the older members of the community to leave an environmental legacy that is sustainable for them and for their children. They very much want a much more activist approach to environmental protection and environmental sustainability with respect to economic development and with respect to the natural beauty of our province, the treatment of the resource-based sector in our province.

Mr. Speaker, they are very distressed about this government's commitment with respect to the environment. The environment takes a very low priority with respect to this government. It is almost not even on the agenda for this government. So who are people who are concerned about the environment going to come to? They are going to come to the NDP to stand up for their concerns. That is what we are here for and we are very happy to stand up and speak on their behalf.

Mr. Speaker, I know my time is about to end. I want to say what a pleasure it is to represent the people from my riding, what a pleasure it is to come here and raise issues that people in my riding bring to me. I am also very happy to raise issues that people from other constituencies, especially members of the government backbenches bring, as well. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise today to speak to the Financial Measures (2001) Bill. I am very pleased to follow the member for Halifax Needham because I think she has articulated, very well, why the members of the NDP are here and why this House needs the members of the NDP, why the province needs the members of the NDP.

The fact is, we are coming down to the end of the debate on Bill No. 30, the Financial Measures (2001) Bill. We are coming down to the end of the debate, not because we are running out of things to say, not because there are not more people on whose behalf we have to speak, we are running out of time because the rules of this House impose a limit on how long the people's representatives can speak.

Mr. Speaker, some of those rules were imposed by the Liberals when they were in government and now they are feeling the sharp end of those rules that they imposed when they were government so that they wouldn't have to listen to people's representatives. But

[Page 2272]

it is not all their fault. This is part of a long evolution of government in Canada where the executive, the Cabinet takes control of the Legislature, where the Cabinet takes control and treats this historic House as something to be managed, as something to be gotten away from as quickly as they possibly can.

Mr. Speaker, the reason that we are coming down to the end of the debate on the Financial Measures (2001) Bill . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. There is way too much chit-chat in this room. I would ask that all members, when they are speaking, be given due respect by the other members. If you have conversations, take them outside. Otherwise, the honourable member for Halifax Fairview has the floor and I expect everyone to be listening intently.

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, the reason that this debate is winding down is not because there is no other member of this House who is allowed to speak, it is not because more than half the members in this House still can speak. They can speak if they want to, but they don't. I know that that is a good part of the reason why I am here, because the members on the government side will not speak on behalf of their constituents. The members on that side of the House are there in silence because Hansard will record, history will record, that on this debate when this government laid out its financial plan for the province, Hansard will record that not one single member on that side of the House got up to address this very important piece of legislation.

Why not? Is it because their constituents are not telling them to? Is it because their constituents are not mad? Is it because their constituents are happy? No, Mr. Speaker, none of those reasons. The reason they don't speak, despite the fact they were elected to be in this House to be the people's representatives, the reason they don't speak is because the Cabinet tells them not to.

[5:00 p.m.]

Is that because some of them hope to be in Cabinet some day? It could be the reason, although they are running headlong into one of the promises in the book, the book of shame. The promise was that this government would never have more ministers than that government had. Do you know something, Mr. Speaker? They have kept that promise. The problem with keeping that promise is that nobody in the backbenches actually has a hope of making it into Cabinet now because they have only so many spots and, if they appoint one more person, then that promise is broken. We know how important it is to this government to be seen to be keeping as many promises as they can because Heaven knows, they have kept so few. So they are not ready to break one that they have kept so far.

[Page 2273]

Mr. Speaker, (Interruptions) Well, there could be a little bit of bumping, as they play their own special game of political survivor over on that side of the House. So we examined one reason why the members on that side of the House don't stand up and speak but we realize that it doesn't actually apply because there isn't room for them in the Cabinet and to keep the promise at the same time.

So why else would they not speak? It is not because they are going to get into Cabinet, certainly not because they are all going to get into Cabinet, so why would they not speak? It is because their constituents don't want them to speak? Is it because their constituents are happy? Is it because the constituents have no issues they raised with the members on that side of the House? No, Mr. Speaker.

MR. WILLIAM LANGILLE: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, this gentleman across the hall has been speaking for six minutes and I don't know what it is that is relevant to the bill that he is speaking on. Now could you please have him advise me what it is, so we will know.

MR. SPEAKER: Order. I appreciate the member's point of order. I will say that you would refer to the member as the honourable member for Halifax Fairview, first of all, and not as the gentleman across the floor. Second, I understand your point but I believe the member has been talking about it but given the point raised by the member, maybe the member for Halifax Fairview will mention the bill from time to time, as he goes through this process.

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview has the floor.

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, I know the members on that side of the House don't get an opportunity to speak very often so I am glad the member exercised his legs to get up and ask. What I will do is treat that as a question. I will accept that question. What does this have to do with the bill?

Well, Mr. Speaker, because of the Rules of this House, we are running out of time to discuss the government's fiscal plan as embodied in the Financial Measures (2001) Bill. We are running out of time because the members on this side of the House have used up their time. We could talk for many more hours, days and weeks if those members expressed the voices of their constituents.

Mr. Speaker, the reason I am here is to give a voice to their constituents who do not have a voice in this House, because they will not speak. They will not speak to this bill. The Financial Measures (2001) Bill is the final piece of this government's budget. It is an expression of the fiscal plan and the fiscal aspirations of this government for the people of Nova Scotia, but they will not speak.

[Page 2274]

As you are well aware, less than two months ago I was out on the campaign trail, along with the member for Cape Breton North, and it is very clear to me why I am here. I am here to be the advocate in government of the people of Halifax Fairview. I am here to be their representative in this House; I am here to speak out as loudly as I can so that their voices are heard in Province House. That is why I am here; that is what I was elected to do. I was elected because I believe that no one in Nova Scotia should be left out. I am here because I believe that no one in Nova Scotia should be marginalized, and I am here because no one in Nova Scotia should be left behind. Everybody has a voice and it should be heard. I will be their representative, their advocate, and their voice in this House.

I am not afraid to stand up and speak. I am not afraid to stand up and talk about the government's fiscal agenda. I want to tell this House and I want to tell the members, on that side of the House especially, and I want to tell Nova Scotians about some of those voices that I think need to be heard. I want to tell this House about some of the voices that need to be heard because it is my most profound political belief that every voice must be heard, and the reason that I am here, the reason I am a New Democrat, the reason I am here in this House as a New Democratic MLA is the NDP is the only Party that listens to every voice. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Order. Order.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Would the honourable member be willing to entertain a short question?

MR. SPEAKER: Will the member for Halifax Fairview entertain a question from the member for Cape Breton West?

MR. STEELE: No, Mr. Speaker. (Interruptions) I will not . . .

MR. WILLIAM LANGILLE: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. The member stated that he listens, the NDP listens to every voice, but when the issue was raised he wouldn't listen to the voice of the other member. (Applause)

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

MR. STEELE: Time is so short in this House to be the voice of my constituents, and I noticed that the other Parties got very excited just at the point where I was about to talk about those voices that are not heard; I don't think they want those voices to be heard.

I want to start by talking about one group of voices that this government is certainly not hearing, and that is the voices of the seniors - the seniors in my constituency, the seniors who voted for that government and then have been taken for granted every single day since. I want to contrast three things. I want to contrast their promises with what the budget says

[Page 2275]

as incorporated in the Financial Measures (2001) Bill, then I want to contrast that with what I heard when I was campaigning in Halifax Fairview less then two months ago.

Let me read a very short piece from the book of shame (Interruptions), the book of 243 promises, not counting the other 17 promises that they made on the campaign trail. That is 260 promises. Let me read what they said they were going to do for seniors. It says, and this is only one sentence, Mr. Speaker, "Our seniors are those members of our community who have contributed to making our Nova Scotian society the wonderful place it is and who now have a right to live their remaining years . . . " listen to this, " . . . a right to live their remaining years in comfort, security and with the best possible health and quality of life." (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, I, for one, could not agree more. Those are fine words and our seniors deserve nothing less. Let me contrast that promise with this Budget Bulletin which is part of the package that includes the Financial Measures (2001) Bill. Let me read this and see if the members of the House think that what I am about to read bears much relation to what I just read out of the book of shame. This is a very short excerpt from the Budget Bulletin that they have the nerve to call "What It Means for Seniors". Here it is: "As Nova Scotians grow older, government is making strategic investments to ensure the programs seniors need can be sustained, now and into the future. This is being accomplished by making decisions based on evidence and identifying ways to manage growth in costs."

They talked about security, health and comfort but when the rubber hits the road, when they actually release the budget, what they talk about - the budget which includes, I might add, the Financial Measures (2001) Bill because the Financial Measures (2001) Bill is simply the statutory expression of the budget measures, Mr. Speaker - it says "This is being accomplished by making decisions based on evidence and identifying ways to manage growth in costs." That is what they are saying.

Let me now contrast those bureaucratic weasel words that are so different from what they promised less than two years ago with what I heard when I was out knocking on doors. Then this House can judge for itself whether the Financial Measures (2001) Bill does anything to address these promises. Perhaps I can sum it all up, Mr. Speaker, by saying that what seniors told me is that they do not feel secure. They do not believe that the health care system is going to be there for them when they need it, when their families need it. That applies equally to the families of seniors who are watching their parents or grandparents age and they want to know that the health care system is going to be there for them and they don't believe it. I heard some heart-rending stories on the campaign trail of what is actually happening out there in the health care system.

The seniors are saying to me, we do not feel secure, and they are also saying to me, we cannot stand any increases in costs. That is what they are saying to me. That was one of the loudest and most clear messages I heard throughout my 40 days on the campaign trail. I am

[Page 2276]

sure the member for Cape Breton North heard the same thing at the same time because he was on the same campaign trail at the same time, but we haven't heard from that member.

AN HON. MEMBER: That's why you're here, isn't it?

MR. STEELE: I am here to give voice to those people and what they were saying to me is they cannot stand any increase in what they are being expected to pay. They have paid their dues, Mr. Speaker, they have paid enough; especially our veterans who are a very special group of our seniors to whom we owe a great deal. Many of the seniors I have spoken to are veterans.

[5:15 p.m.]

The government's municipal service exchange plan would have added on to their property taxes, and they would have received no property services in return. Many seniors were very upset at the service exchange plan that was announced on February 27th, just one week before the Cape Breton North by-election. They were very upset because they knew that they were just one step closer to being forced out of their homes. In my constituency, many of the seniors do own their own homes, and they are very proud of that. They have lived in their homes for 30 or 40 or 50 years.

They have seen governments come and go, but now they know that they can't trust this government to relieve them from the pressures that are being imposed on them through property taxes. Nothing in the Financial Measures (2001) Bill is going to relieve that pressure, nothing. What about Pharmacare? I want to make particular note of Pharmacare, which many seniors in my constituency told me was a great concern for them. I alluded to this when I stood on my feet on this bill before, and now I am going to cite chapter and verse. This is about Pharmacare, which is a very important program for our seniors, make no mistake about it. This is a crucial program to their comfort, to their health, to their sense of security.

Mr. Speaker, in the Budget Bulletin, which is part of the budget package that includes the Financial Measures (2001) Bill, it says, no change in Pharmacare premiums or copayments. That is in the headline. That is as far as they wanted people to read. Here is the reality, I am going to tell this House what the reality is. Because the members on that side of the House aren't saying it, so I feel that I need to say it. I need to say it to them, I need to say it to the seniors, to say I heard you. I heard what you said to me in that by-election, and I know that you want me to be standing up on this Financial Measures (2001) Bill to hold the government accountable.

Here is what they actually said, a very short excerpt from a much longer budget bulletin that they had the nerve to call, "What It Means for Seniors". It says, " . . . Pharmacare premiums or copayments will not increase.", this year. "However, drug costs continue to

[Page 2277]

grow faster than any other component of the health care system, and, as our population ages, more seniors will need to rely on the program. Over the next year, government will work with physicians, pharmacists, and seniors' groups on ways to ensure the program remains accessible and affordable. Along with continuing efforts to manage growth in costs, this work will also consider how future increases can be implemented as fairly as possible."

There it is, very clear. There are going to be future increases, and all they are talking about is how it can be managed. They are not saying, maybe it won't happen, or we are going to find ways to make sure it doesn't happen. They are saying, we are going to find ways to manage it. That is what they are saying to the seniors in my constituency, in Halifax Fairview; that is what they are saying to the seniors in their constituencies; and that is what they are saying to seniors across Nova Scotia. It is not going up this year, because they don't want seniors on the streets the way they had students and teachers and parents on the streets last year. They don't want seniors on the streets, but next year, look out. There are increases coming, and there are going to be increases coming every year after that. That is their promise.

That is not what they intended to do, they just had to say it. What they had to do was say they are going to work very hard to make sure that there are no increases in Pharmacare premiums and co-pays, because on the campaign trail it was one of the most common issues that the seniors in my constituency raised with me. They said to me, we want you to go to the Legislature and we want you to be our voice. We want our voices to be heard down there saying, we cannot afford any increases in Pharmacare; we cannot afford it. Don't let them do it. That's why I am here, that's why I am standing on my feet on the Financial Measures (2001) Bill, which is part of the government's budget package, which is part of the government's fiscal plan, because without a Financial Measures Act the budget is incomplete.

Somewhat uniquely in Nova Scotia, there is not just one single vote on the budget, what many people don't realize is that the budget hasn't passed yet; the estimates portion of it has, but the other part of it, the expression of this government's idea of the future is in the Financial Measures (2001) Bill. That is why it is so distressing, there is nothing there on property taxes, nothing to say they aren't going to feel that pressure. There is nothing there on Pharmacare.

Mr. Speaker, another issue that I heard the people in my constituency talk about, especially the seniors, and the one I want to spend a few minutes on now, is home care. I have learned a great deal about home care in the last couple of months, over the campaign trail and since being elected. I think it is one of those issues out there that is a ticking time bomb, because the people providing care to their loved ones are so isolated, they feel so alone. They do not realize how many other people out there are in the same position they are, who are as stressed as they are, who are as hurting as they are. They don't realize; that's why there hasn't been the groundswell around the issue of home care.

[Page 2278]

I think the members on that side of the House realize it too, because they must be getting the calls. But I haven't heard any of them stand up and talk about it in this House, to give voice to their constituents who are receiving care or who are providing care in their own homes. What the government promised on the subject of home care and what they haven't delivered in this budget, certainly not in the Financial Measures (2001) Bill, they promised tax incentives for family caregivers. Have they done that yet? They haven't done that. They said they would, but they didn't; we are still waiting. This is cruel, Mr. Speaker, they promised they would provide more respite care, and they did or, more accurately, they said they did.

The person they should be talking to is the 63 year old woman who is looking after her husband, who has been incapacitated by uranium contamination. The husband needs oxygen 24 hours a day, needs good home care, and he is getting it from his wife. What she told me, Mr. Speaker, because I listened to her and I can give voice to her concerns, is that she was allocated that extra respite care but the home care agency doesn't have the staff to actually provide it. So the extra respite hours is simply something on a piece of paper that she doesn't actually get. Now, where in this government's budget, where in the Financial Measures (2001) Bill is there anything to deal with that problem?

The on-the-ground reality or, should I say, the in-home reality, because within the four walls of people's homes, beside the doors of small modest homes on quiet streets there are dramas going on, but they aren't dramas you are going to read about in the newspaper, they are the hopes, the fears, the anguish of ordinary families, ordinary Nova Scotians struggling to come to terms with issues that couldn't be more important to them but don't seem to be very important to this government. If they were important to this government, we would see the government doing more in its budget, we would see the government doing more in the Financial Measures (2001) Bill.

Home care, Mr. Speaker, my constituents tell me that some of the payment schemes are a little perverse, where workers may receive more for staying home than for working. The wages in the home care sector are so low that good workers can't be kept, so there is an ongoing turnover of staff. My constituents are telling me, and I am here to give voice to their concerns, that one of the most important things in the home care sector is continuity, stability, trust; trust, because the people receiving care and their family caregivers must be able to trust the people who come into their homes. How more intimate could it be than to have someone come into your home and provide medical care to you? How much more intimate could it be? There must be trust, but the low wages and the lack of standards mean there is a constant turnover of staff and that is the most distressing and most debilitating thing that my constituents tell me currently exists in the home care system.

Mr. Speaker, despite the promises, there is nothing in the budget, there is nothing in the Financial Measures (2001) Bill that would even begin to address that very serious concern. So I am here to give voice for the seniors in my constituency. I am here to talk on

[Page 2279]

this bill. I am here to talk on any other piece of legislation. I am here to raise questions. I am here to speak out on behalf of the seniors in my constituency because the members on that side of the House, on the government side are not doing it. They are not doing it and that is a shame.

Mr. Speaker, there is another group being left out, that is being left behind, is being marginalized by this government and I heard them loud and clear during the campaign and I am here to give voice to them to make sure that their voices echo out in this House so that the members of this House and anyone listening will hear those voices. Those are the voices of the students, not only in the primary education system, but secondary and post-secondary, as well, because I don't think their voices are being heard. They certainly are not being heard by this government.

One particular group of students who I think are being marginalized completely, and it is so tragic, Mr. Speaker, are special needs students. Over the course of my time here and over the course of the work that I had done before I came here, I became aware of the fact that there are few groups who are more marginalized than special needs students and their families. Is there anything for them in this budget or the Financial Measures (2001) Bill? No, nothing serious. Are the members on that side of the House speaking out on their behalf? No, they are not. Do you know how I know they are not? It is because the people in their constituencies are calling us. I know they are because I am getting those calls. They are telling me that the member for Halifax Needham is speaking out on their behalf, the NDP Education Critic; the Leader of the Opposition is speaking out, we are all speaking out because they are not. We are getting calls from their constituents and that is a shame because those people know they need a voice and they are not getting a voice if they have a government member. They are going to get it on this side of the House from the NDP.

Mr. Speaker, there are some very sad cases of special needs children. I will mention only one, perhaps, two. There is one boy, almost a man now, he is about to turn 18. He has Pervasive Developmental Disorder, but he has not been listened to. Certainly, his parent and his grandparents, who are the ones who came to me, are not being listened to. Where do they live? I don't want to pick on members on that side of the House.

AN HON. MEMBER: Yes you do. Tell us where he lives?

MR. STEELE: No, I think it would be unfair to pick on an individual member of the House, but what I will say, Mr. Speaker, is that this severely challenged child and his mother live in the constituency of one of the members, not on this side of the House. They came to us because they needed a voice. Those people live in the constituency of a member on that side of the House, but do they go over there? This boy has been shuffled from pillar to post but his real problem has not been dealt with. He really didn't belong in the education system, he was not able to, but the education system has shuffled him around.

[Page 2280]

[5:30 p.m.]

I was talking to his grandfather yesterday, who told me that essentially this boy, who is supposed to be going to school, is on permanent suspension from his school, but they won't ever suspend him for more than five days because if he was suspended for more than five days, they would have to pay for a tutor in his home and they don't want to do that. So they put him on a series of suspensions of up to five days each, to keep him out of the school because they know he doesn't belong there. His mother has been saying that for a long time but do you think that government would recognize that and would recognize the needs of that child? Do you think there is anything for him in the Financial Measures (2001) Bill? No, Mr. Speaker, there isn't. Now that he is about to turn 18, the education system is just going to wash their hands of him and say, goodbye, so long. Now he becomes a problem of the Department of Community Services. That is a boy, shortly a man, he turns 18 in just a few months, who has been utterly failed at every turn. He is only one case.

There is another boy, a special needs child, and I won't identify which member's constituency he lives in other than to say, does that boy live in the constituency of a member on this side of the House?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: No.

MR. STEELE: No, his mother came to us because she knew she needed a voice. I won't identify which constituency it is other than to say that it is somewhere in Pictou County, but I won't say which member except that I think the member involved knows very well who I am talking about. I think the member, whether he is from Pictou East or Pictou West, or our Premier from Pictou Centre, I think they know.

This boy's case came to my attention, Mr. Speaker, because he had been out of school for over a year. I had never seen a case like this, where the parents were so distressed by the lack of services the school could offer. The special education policy, which is a fine policy, was not being backed up with the necessary resources to deal with this boy in the way they should have been. His parents took him out of school and, as far as I know, he still hasn't been in school. There is a 9 year old boy who has not been in school for over a year and that is a darn shame. Where did his parents go in order to have their case given voice? They came over here, it wasn't over there. Is there anything for that family in the Financial Measures (2001) Bill? Is there anything for them in the budget? No, there is not.

There are other special needs families, Mr. Speaker, in my constituency and I am doing what I can to give them voice, to make sure they are heard loud and clear in this Legislature because that is why I am here. That is what I was elected for. I was elected to speak until I was losing my voice, as I am now, to speak until I could I could speak no more, until somebody on that side would listen. That is why I was elected.

[Page 2281]

Mr. Speaker, I want to talk about another group of people who are not being listened to in the education system. I want to talk about the caretakers in the Halifax Regional School Board system. Is there anything for them in the Financial Measures (2001) Bill? Is there anything for them in the budget? Is there one darn thing for them in this government's entire fiscal plan? Nothing.

Oh, wait a minute, there is; there is a 3.6 per cent tax cut two years from now that most of them won't be eligible for. That is what there is in the fiscal plan and meanwhile, I cannot tell you the hurt and the pain and the tears of those people. They are trying to do their job and they are on a picket line because this regional school board is being tough with them. Why is this school board being tough with them? Because this government is starving them. It is underfunding them and I know the minister says, we didn't cut their budget this year and I think it is a sad statement when the best the government can do, when the most noble thing they can say is, well, what do you expect, we didn't cut their budget this year.

The education system has been underfunded for at least 15 years. That is not all their fault. Certainly the Liberal Party has a lot to answer for in the underfunding in the education system. It is not all their fault either. The system has been starved and when you starve the system and when you download the cost savings, it has got to hit the floor somewhere, it has got to hit the road somewhere. Do you know where it hits the road? It hits the road in the homes of those caretakers who live in my constituency and throughout the Halifax Regional School Board. It is hitting their homes today where they wonder if they have enough money to pay for groceries this week. That is where this government's downloading is hitting the floor. You don't just cut stuff and expect that nothing is going to happen. Stuff happens, Mr. Speaker, and it happens when those school caretakers go to the grocery store and try and figure out where they are going to find the money to pay for food for themselves and their families this week.

The downloading of responsibility hits the road when those caretakers watch scab workers cross the picket line and do their work. I cannot think of anything more shameful than a government that refuses to do anything about scab labour, which is the most shameful part of labour relations in any province. Certainly in this province, there is a government that will not stand up and outlaw once and for all the practice of bringing in replacement workers.

I know that some of those caretakers who are on strike live in their constituencies. I know some of those caretakers would like the members on that side to return their calls. I know some caretakers who would like the members on that side of the House to speak out with their concerns, but they don't and that is why those caretakers rely on us.

It is not the Third Party that they go to. It is one of the most - words fail me - it is one of the most disgraceful displays in this House to watch that Party and their former Minister of Labour, who was quite possibly the most anti-labour Minister of Labour this province has ever had, stand up and pretend to be a friend of the worker. It is all for show because those

[Page 2282]

workers know that when they need someone to give voice to their concerns, they will come to the NDP because we are the only Party that will hear their voice.

What about post-secondary students? What about students in universities and colleges throughout this province who are graduating with crushing debts? Is there anything in the Financial Measures (2001) Bill or this budget? Is there anything in this government's fiscal plan or fiscal outlook? It is funny, Mr. Speaker, there is nothing, although there was a promise to do something, but it is not anywhere in the Financial Measures (2001) Bill.

If I might, Mr. Speaker, I will take the great liberty of reading a single sentence from the book of shame, actually it appears twice, according to my notes, it appears twice in the book of shame - because what they said they were going to do is provide income tax relief for post-secondary students.

I have read the Financial Measures (2001) Bill from top to bottom, from side to side and is that in the Financial Measures (2001) Bill? No, it is not. Here is the quote, just a single sentence, ". . . PC Government," I think that is them, "will improve post-secondary education by: Establishing a provincial Income Tax Relief Program for graduating students with high debt loads, allowing students to re-direct a portion of their provincial tax payment to retire a maximum of 30 percent of the value of their original debt load, . . . "

Mr. Speaker, a highly detailed, a good promise - sounds good - Heaven knows, when I graduated from university with a large debt, a five-figure debt, I could have certainly benefited from that. But since I can't benefit from that, I think the post-secondary students we have today should be able to, and they should be able to because their government promised them they would. I read the Financial Measures (2001) Bill, I read it from top to bottom and side to side, and then I read it again, and do you think it is there? It is not there.

Mr. Speaker, I am here because those students need a voice in the Legislature. (Interruptions) So when the students call to find out who is actually going to follow through, who is going to do something for them, do they call the people on that side of the House? No, I will tell you they don't, because they call me, and they call the member for Dartmouth North, and they call the member for Halifax Needham, because they know that someone will talk to them, and they know that their concerns will be brought into this House because that is what we are here to do.

Mr. Speaker, in fact, that is why they are here, but history will show, and Hansard will show for anybody who cares to look, that not one single member on that side of the House has yet - and it is not too late - risen to speak on these very serious issues, has yet risen to speak to give voice to their constituents who are raising these concerns.

[Page 2283]

Mr. Speaker, there is a great deal more that I could talk about, there are many more voices in my constituency that have asked to be heard, that need to be heard, and over my time in this House, be it short or long, I will speak on their behalf. I will stand up for them; I will stand up on behalf of the seniors; I will stand up on behalf of the students; I will stand up on behalf of the special needs kids and their families; I will stand up on behalf of the people in my constituency who find it necessary to turn to Community Services; I will stand up, and I listen to the voices and speak on behalf of the trade unionists in my constituency who only want a fair wage, who only want fair and safe working conditions; I will stand up on behalf of injured workers in my constituency because they need a voice; I will stand up on behalf of the people in my constituency who are concerned about the environment; and I will stand up on behalf of the people who are concerned about what this government has done and is doing to provincial-municipal relations.

Mr. Speaker, if I wanted to I could go on for another hour about what this government has done to provincial-municipal relations, but I won't. It is on the record already, when I had a previous opportunity to speak to this bill about what this government did and when they did it and why they did it. That is why I am here. I am here because I believe profoundly that no one should be left out, no one should be marginalized, no one should be left behind. Every voice should be heard. That is why this House needs the NDP to speak out. That is why they need the NDP and I am pleased and proud to stand up in this House and shout out that these people in my constituency want to be heard and, as long as I am here, they will be heard. Thank you.

[5:45 p.m.]

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 the fourth time on this piece of legislation. Actually, not on this legislation, I guess on the contents on this bill. It was originally Bill No. 11, which I had an opportunity to speak for one hour on. Then minor changes were made and it became Bill No. 30. I don't know what happened to that bill. Now we are on to Bill No. 30 and this is my third opportunity to be able to speak on that. (Interruptions)

Spoke on the hoist? This is that previous question I am speaking on, technically, I guess. I think it is important, as many times as possible, Mr. Speaker, that the members of this House stand up and talk about this budget, talk about the Financial Measures (2001) Bill. That is not only the members on this side. Of course, that includes the members on the other side, as well. As the person who spoke just before me, my colleague for Halifax Fairview, said, we are limited in the number of times we can speak and it is only by certain technicalities that allow me to speak for a fourth time. But that doesn't prevent the members across the way from each spending an hour talking about this legislation, supporting it,

[Page 2284]

defending it. Because as I said before when I spoke on this bill, this legislation is the most crucial legislation on an annual basis.

Why? Because the Financial Measures (2001) Bill is the legislative vision of this government and where they are taking this province, where the province is going. I find it hard to believe that the members of the government would not take an opportunity to stand up for 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes, one hour and talk about how their riding is impacted by where this government has been taking Nova Scotians and where they are going to take them over the next year, two years, three years. They were elected in 1999 based on a blue book, Mr. Speaker, based on promises that were made to the people of Nova Scotia.

To sum up, what were the promises? We will fix health care for $40 million. We will save our education system and we will give you a tax cut, to boot. Those are pretty big promises. People in Nova Scotia believed them, whether it was the member for Queens, as he was knocking on doors, or the member for Shelburne. The member for Shelburne, who won by one single vote (Interruptions) By a flip of the coin, sorry, yes. He should be taking an opportunity to stand up in this House, Mr. Speaker, and say why he is supporting this legislation and why it is good for the people of Shelburne, why it is good for the people of Lockeport and the impact on their high school.

What about the member for Shelburne talking about the hospital, the Roseway Hospital, I think it is. He threatened to resign if they took anything away. Well, here is his opportunity to stand up and thank his government, thank his Cabinet for having the vision to protect health care, if that is what he truly believes. But, Mr. Speaker, it is their opportunity to stand up and defend the vision of this government, their perspective and why they believe, as Tories, they are doing the right things for Nova Scotia. This is their opportunity.

In fact, I believe, once I sit down, if there are no other speakers, we will be voting on this bill. That will be it. Second reading of this bill will have passed and the principles behind this legislation, the vision of this government for Nova Scotia and an opportunity to speak on that will be lost. The members of the government will probably not have spoken on the Financial Measures (2001) Bill and that is a shame. They are the ones who have to go back to their ridings when they decide to answer their messages from their telephone or check their e-mails or if they go to the local bean dinner or the local lobster supper in the summertime

and listen to their constituents who say, you know, my son is sick at school, he has asthma, or his allergies are really bad, and I am actually thinking of keeping him home today. Or maybe I am going to have to keep him home for the year, maybe I am going to have to home-school him, maybe I am going to have to quit my job to home-school my son because the schools, that my tax dollars are supposed to pay for, are making my child sick.

[Page 2285]

Mr. Speaker, no one wants to hear that. I go to bean dinners, I go to lobster suppers. I don't want to have people talking to me about that as well because these are supposed to be nice events. The problem is that when you are a government member, you have to defend the vision of this government. You have to defend why you were elected as a majority in this House and why, over the last two or three years, you have done nothing at all to ensure those schools are healthy, safe and that those children with asthma or allergies that are getting worse and worse by the day actually have a school they can attend.

I remember during the election, I believe it was, there was a whole debate about sidewalks in Beaver Bank. I am sure there are other places as well. It is one more example of the safety issues our children face in our schools, infrastructure that is so desperately needed, maintenance that has been deferred since the Tory Government was last in power has resulted in schools that are in desperate shape. The members across the way, Mr. Speaker . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please - well, some semblance of order anyway would be helpful.

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage has the floor.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I think it is important to recognize that the infrastructure of our schools, whether they be the new ones which our children can't walk to, the same problem.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. In case you forgot, moments ago I asked for order. Would the members please give the member who has the floor some attention, please.

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage has the floor.

MR. DEVEAUX: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. So my point is this, whether it be Beaver Bank or Eastern Passage or Timberlea or Beachville, there are new schools that do not have the infrastructure to ensure that our children can walk to them safely. There are old schools, whether it be in Halifax or Dartmouth or Sydney or Amherst or the Valley. We have schools in the Valley - I think it is Kings West High School - that basically the fire department is condemning because it is unsafe. What does the member for Kings West do when he goes to the local bean supper? Maybe he goes to the local Officers' Club at Greenwood some night - what is he telling the people there about the school? How does he explain that the Minister of Education has only $90 million this year in the pot to fix schools, to build new schools, a major capital investment. How does he explain that? Maybe he doesn't go to these things; maybe he stays home, maybe he shuts off his phone.

[Page 2286]

Mr. Speaker, maybe he is trying to hide from this government's record. This government and its members, if they are not willing to defend the government's record in this House, what makes us believe they are going to defend it in their own ridings? That is a shame.

Let me assure you, Mr. Speaker, the people on this side of the House, the people in the Official Opposition, will continue to hold every member across that way accountable for what they are doing to this province. What people voted for in 1999 was a government that made promises that many would say were grandiose; many would say were promises that they never intended to keep. They are trying to hide from that, they are trying to deceive the people of Nova Scotia into believing that these are tough times, that everything we promised had to go out the window as soon as we got elected and that we will continue to fight hard, they might say, to balance the books.

Mr. Speaker, they are deceiving the people of Nova Scotia. They are telling the people of Nova Scotia something different than when they were elected. The people on this side of the House will continue to fight to ensure that the voices of Nova Scotians in every riding, whether it be on our side of the House or the government side of the House - what they said they would do when they were elected is actually what this government is going to do. That is why the members on this side of the House are here. We were elected to ensure that the government does what it said it would do. Unfortunately, they are not doing that. They are not doing what the people of Nova Scotia elected them to do.

I have talked about the deception, I have talked about the fact that this government has a tendency, during elections, to say one thing and then, as government, to do another thing. Let's talk about the fact that this government makes such grandiose promises, Mr. Speaker, about tax cuts, about balanced books, about no tax increases, about saving our health care system without any money being spent, really, in real terms, about saving our education system. Now let's really look at what they are doing.

They are blaming everyone else for the problems in Nova Scotia. I don't even know if they expected to get elected. Lo and behold, on July 27, 1999, oops, look what happened. We got 30 seats. What are we going to do? Well, rule number one, blame someone else, that old envelope trick. Instead of having one envelope to blame your predecessor, this government has several envelopes. Let's look at them. First of all, blame the federal government. We can't twin Highway No. 101, that is the federal government's fault, even though we promised, with or without federal money, we would twin Highway No. 101. This government continues to blame the federal government for something they promised they would do.

Well, now you hear the members saying that they are actually doing this. How many press releases does it take before this government actually achieves something with regard to Highway No. 101, Mr. Speaker? The point is that this government blames the federal

[Page 2287]

government for the lack of Highway No. 101 being twinned, for lack of equalization payments being fairly divided up. Don't get me wrong. Our Party supports the Campaign for Fairness, but when is this government going to realize that the federal government is not going to provide them with that extra equalization money? When are they going to say, we are in it alone. We have to do what we can to make Nova Scotia a have province and stop blaming the federal government for the mistakes that they are making with regard to Nova Scotia.

Well they may try, Mr. Speaker, to tell the people of Nova Scotia that the federal government is at fault for everything that this government should be taking blame for, but the people on this side of the House, we are here to tell the people of Nova Scotia that it is this Tory Government that is not doing the job that they said they would do, whether it be Highway No. 101, whether it be investing in health care, investing in education. Don't blame the federal government. Look in the mirror and look at yourselves and know that you are the reason why our roads are unsafe, roads are not being twinned, our health care system is in crisis and our children are sick in their own schools. We are here to continue to tell the people of Nova Scotia that you are the reason for the problems that Nova Scotians are suffering.

What is in the second envelope, Mr. Speaker? Maybe, given it's 5:59 p.m., I will wait for that second envelope for a half hour. I am trying to remember if I move adjournment.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. We have reached the moment of interruption. The subject for tonight's late debate is submitted by the member for Halifax Atlantic:

"Therefore be it resolved that the closure of the emergency room at the Northside General Hospital, one of Nova Scotia's busiest hospitals, shows what Nova Scotians can expect if they elect Conservative MLAs and governments who do not stand up for the things that matter most."

[6:00 p.m.]

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

HEALTH - NORTHSIDE GEN. HOSP.: - ER - CLOSURE

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, it is with great pleasure I rise to speak on this motion this evening. We have just learned that, in fact, daytime coverage at the Northside General Hospital's emergency department will resume tomorrow morning. (Applause)

[Page 2288]

Mr. Speaker, I don't expect for the members of that government and the member for Cape Breton North . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The Leader of the Opposition has the floor.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I don't expect the member for Cape Breton North to congratulate the member for Cape Breton Centre, because I don't think he has it in him to do that, but he ought to. He ought to congratulate him because it was the member for Cape Breton Centre who put this issue on the agenda here. It was the work of the member for Cape Breton Centre that reopened that emergency room. That is why we are here, to make sure that this government doesn't get away with ignoring the commitments that they made to the people of Cape Breton North. We intend to continue to hold them accountable on this issue and on all others, where they make commitments and then try to break them.

Mr. Speaker, I understand that a physician will be arriving from Halifax to provide coverage for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, that will enable the ER to provide coverage around the clock, as ought to have never ceased. It is a sign of the inability of the Minister of Health to be able to properly administer that department, so that these kinds of gaps don't exist in the health care delivery system. If it hadn't been for the members on this side of the House, bringing it to the attention of the minister, the egregious actions that were being undertaken in his name, on behalf of his department, by allowing the emergency room service to be cut, I am sure that nothing would have been done.

One of the things that is sad about the performance of this government on this issue was this afternoon in Question Period, when we asked the Minister of Health about this issue. Did he stand up and say, look, we are trying to find a solution to this? (Interruptions) No, he didn't do that. He didn't understand the issue. Do you know what he did, the first thing he did is he tried to find a scapegoat. He tried to find somebody to blame for the inadequacies of the department and of that particular minister, that is what he tried to do. He said that it was the fault of the physicians who were withdrawing their services. Can you imagine?

What the minister ought to have done is he ought to have stood in his place, and he ought to have admitted that the physician recruitment strategy that he has been pursuing in this province is not working, that it has been a failure, and it is not bringing people into Richmond, it is not bringing physicians that are necessary to support the emergency room services at the Northside General Hospital, just as a dramatic example.

The Minister of Health is so caught up with trying to explain away spending $0.5 million on health care consultants over a clinical services footprint that is only going to wreak further havoc and chaos in the system, when the minister finally gets around to tabling the business plans, when they work up the courage to actually put forward the budgets and the business plans that they now have in their possession. You know how that is going to roll

[Page 2289]

out, don't you? That is going to be the day after the House closes. The day after the House closes, the Minister of Health will do what he did last time, and then he will drop those business plans on the public. That is when we will get to know just exactly what is going to happen to health care in this province.

Mr. Speaker, I say it is a shame. We are not going to allow it to happen. We are not going to allow them to get away with a desertion of the commitments that they made to the people of this province throughout the election campaigns and throughout the period since that time. They continue to talk, but there is no action that follows up. There is a lot of examination of this issue that I would like to do. I made those points because I think it is necessary to point out that the member for Cape Breton Centre should be congratulated for doing the work that he did in order to hold the Minister of Health accountable.

We only get 10 minutes on this, and I want to allow the member for Cape Breton Centre the opportunity to speak for himself. I know that he is a very gracious individual, and he won't take credit, and that is why I thought it was important to point it out. I would like the rest of our time to go to the member for Cape Breton Centre. Thank you.

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

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, I thank the Leader for the kind words. We are at this point today because of this government and its vile threats during the recent by-election. That is why we are here. We are out here using, the very people who can't defend themselves are the sick. This government used them as pawns and now they expect to be congratulated. Is this a statement coming from the minister's office? Is this a statement we have in front of us here - and I will table it if they wish - is this coming from the member for Cape Breton North? No, this is coming from the hard workers at the Cape Breton Health Care Complex who have to scramble every day because of scarce health care dollars from this government.

This government likes to tell what a great job it is doing in recruiting. Why is it, then, that the majority of recruiting that is done in Cape Breton is done by the chief of the medical staff and not your recruiter? It's done by him; are you giving them extra money for that? We don't see no financial line for that. Shame on you, minister, to sit there and smile while people in Cape Breton suffer. Do you think that young nurses, do they go to North Carolina and Texas and Florida for the weather? No, because there are no jobs here in Nova Scotia thanks to you and your lot. (Interruption) There are lots of jobs; well, I can tell you 10 young people from my constituency alone left this country because of your shenanigans, nothing good. (Interruptions)

I hear some whimperings and noise from the Wal-Mart greeter over there from Preston, who doesn't have the intestinal fortitude to stand up in his place and say what they are doing in this House is wrong. But, no, Mr. Speaker. Why doesn't he say, how come we have got

[Page 2290]

to spend our own precious resources and we can't use the resources of the provincial recruiter in Cape Breton? It is because of the shameful acts of that minister, the shameful acts of this government, of how they allow people to live in toxic situations in industrial Cape Breton. He laughs, you laugh at it.

If this government cared about the health needs of the people in industrial Cape Breton, we wouldn't see having to pay for plane fare tickets for doctors from Halifax to fly in. If you look at this government, it would remind you of a remote area of Australia, when they used to have that television show back in the late 1950's, early 1960's called the Flying Doctor, where this doctor flew all over the outback. Now they are flying from Halifax and you know what? The member for Cape Breton North thinks this is great. We have a three day a week doctor, wow! Isn't that fantastic? A three day a week doctor while his own constituents suffer, while they have got to pay $50 a day for long-term care beds, that is great. Mr. Speaker, instead of being boastful he should be shameful. It is unbelievable.

I must go back to the point of this press release because, as my Leader has just said in his address, it is very clear that this was a deed done in Cape Breton, that had to be done by Cape Bretoners. They were abandoned again by the minister, they were abandoned by their member for Cape Breton North, so the workers down there had to get a plan together. Again, they had to go to their own medical chief of staff and say, what are we going to do about recruiting because the provincial recruiter doesn't help us in industrial Cape Breton, probably because the Minister of Health won't allow him. It is the anti-Cape Breton bias in that whole caucus. Worst of all, it is being abetted by the member for Cape Breton North. This government should be ashamed of itself that we had to do this to get this job done to get a doctor for the people of North Sydney. It is a shame on them and a pox on all their houses.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Would someone like to volunteer? (Interruptions) Order, please. I will volunteer someone for us.

The honourable member for Cape Breton North.

MR. CECIL CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, with the great voracity the Liberals were attacking the government earlier today I just assumed they would jump to their normal feet but they want to try, I guess, and do some mop-up here. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to be a member of the Progressive Conservative Government and I am proud to represent the people of Cape Breton North, which includes the jurisdiction of the Northside General Hospital. While the honourable members quote from a press release, I have been doing my work as the representative from that area, working with the officials, talking to the nurses, finding out what is going on with the doctors, being an accountable, responsible representative for the people of Cape Breton North. While these members from across the way say, I should get up and speak on the issues, well, I will have

[Page 2291]

no problem taking them on in this House, outside this House or anywhere because we are doing a responsible thing for Cape Breton North.

Mr. Speaker, I didn't rely on merely a press release because I have spoken with the medical director directly. I have affirmed our commitment, ensuring that our outpatients department - when the issue came before the Island yesterday, I didn't hesitate to be on a local talkback show, ensuring that I was not running from the issue and I affirmed yesterday, in the public, in Cape Breton, that I was on top of this and would ensure it had the full priority of this government. It has, and I will not take that rhetoric from the Opposition. The sheer indignation against the people of Cape Breton North has been personified by the NDP. I made a pledge to the people of Cape Breton North to keep the Northside General Hospital open. It is open tomorrow morning, it is open the next day and it will continue to do so. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, the NDP are not promoting health care in Nova Scotia. The NDP are promoting a health scare in Nova Scotia. You are fear-mongering. The fear-mongering of the NDP will not be tolerated by this Party. It will not be tolerated by the people of Cape Breton North. I can fully understand why the NDP feels the need for acute care emergency services at the Northside General Hospital because their last Leader is still bleeding on the streets of Cape Breton North because that is your approach to governing. Unbelievable. Shame on the NDP. Shame. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, I understand . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. It is a very spirited debate. I am enjoying it, but let's remember that the member for Cape Breton North has the floor.

MR. CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, I understand why they are trying to drown me out, but they won't. They didn't in the campaign. They are not doing it here today because I will continue to represent Cape Breton North to the full efficiency of what this government is doing to prove our commitment to extended quality health care.

Mr. Speaker, they don't want to listen to what responsible government means and what responsible actions mean because they don't know, and they never will know because they will never have the chance by Nova Scotians to be in a government position. The Opposition members speak to an agenda of sensationalization, not substance, and the people of Cape Breton North have elected substance, ensuring that we have a plan.

Mr. Speaker, I would be remiss, it was interesting how around the House today, and it was fully indicative of this House, and I don't mind if people want it, I will table this to the House, sending around - as the member for Cape Breton South said - a joke about our performance in the House, and my performance. I wasn't spending my time with rhetoric like

[Page 2292]

this, I was spending my time on the phones and ensuring that a reasonable solution was achieved. Thank you very much. (Interruptions)

[6:15 p.m.]

During Question Period today, the NDP brought up that the government failed to meet a commitment, asking how we are going to deal with this situation, that there is no vision or plan. My heavens! The hypocrisy of what they are suggesting. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. All members are certainly not having a problem of being heard, especially within earshot of me, so if we could tone it down a bit.

MR. CLARKE: Once again, Mr. Speaker, anytime the Opposition wishes to engage in debate, I would be more than glad to do it, but right now I will just respond to their rhetoric of the day because the people of Cape Breton North have health care delivery at their hospital tomorrow morning. Our health care officials have assured me we are working towards a positive resolve to ensure that we get those two ER doctors that we need to provide the long-term stability for our resident family physicians, as well as the men and women who provide the utmost of service and health care to the people of Cape Breton North.

But, you know, I believe the people of Cape Breton North deserve a break. They deserve a break from the rhetoric of the rudderless Opposition Parties who just go at any issue they want. During the by-election they wanted to do a dog and pony show in front of the Northside General Hospital, but that didn't fool the people of the area. During the by-election they wanted to tell people that their benefits would be cut and they were on the streets doing it, but the people didn't buy into it, and the people of Cape Breton North are not buying into it now. You can say what you want, but Cape Breton North is well protected with Cecil Clarke as the MLA at the watch. (Applause)

I want to thank the NDP for showing in this House today, to any Nova Scotian who is watching, why they are the Opposition and they will be quickly going out the doors of this House because their rhetoric is going to be gone down the road.

The Northside General Hospital is the second busiest community hospital in Nova Scotia - second none to Glace Bay with the Cape Breton Regional Health Care Complex at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital - the second busiest regional hospital in Nova Scotia, outside of Halifax. The volume and the capacity at that hospital suggests there is no down-sizing of the Northside General Hospital. There will be upsizing of the quality of services provided. As the Minister of Health says, we need to provide people with the services that they need and we are doing just that and the Northside General Hospital is an integrated part of that. I tried to talk about logic, however that is foreign to most parts of the Opposition benches. Logic has nothing to do with their approach to representing the people in this House. We are going to see an expansion of services.

[Page 2293]

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

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I just wanted to stand for a few minutes and support my good colleague from Cape Breton North. I just want to show that bunch over there who proposed the resolution, and you notice that they didn't even speak to the resolution because that member for Cape Breton North, along with our department and the people in the District 8 had solved that problem by the time. As he said, health scare, not health care. We know why they are there and we know why they are always going to be there, unless they are out of the House totally, where they should be. (Applause) Totally irresponsible. Not one positive thing. They remind me of one of the reporters in my local newspaper where they can't see anything good. They are so used to being down, they can't see anything good. Lack of positivness. That is why Cecil Clarke was elected, because he was positive, he was a new voice for Cape Breton. The old voice, they didn't want it proposed by that Party. The new voice, the new future in Cape Breton was elected in Cape Breton North.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The member for Cape Breton The Lakes.

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: You know I am rather astounded at the behaviour in here this evening (Interruptions) particularly with such a serious issue. I am shocked and appalled that my colleagues would behave in this manner. It is very interesting, the good member for Cape Breton North, his comments. If this member was as effective as he indicates, then we wouldn't be here discussing this issue this evening. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, this government allowed this crisis to develop to this point. Now they pretend (Interruptions) Now they want everybody in Cape Breton North, on the Northside of Nova Scotia, to look like heroes. The kindness of one doctor is not a doctor recruitment strategy. Before the government pats itself on the back, there is still no active recruitment of doctors in the Cape Breton area, particularly on the Northside. This is a band-aid solution.

The Minister of Health has come up with a better, long-term plan to recruit doctors to North Sydney, to the Northside General Hospital, but what about the Strait-Richmond Hospital, and what about other under-serviced facilities? This is a very important, vital issue to Nova Scotians today in this province. Yesterday, a doctor shortage had reached a crisis point at the Northside General Hospital, and it took a crisis for this government to act.

AN HON. MEMBER: Shame.

MR. BOUDREAU: If a permanent solution is not found, this crisis will repeat. Repeat. Except for an eye specialist, the Department of Health is not recruiting specialist doctors in industrial Cape Breton. Family doctors need specialists for backup and support. This hospital serves more than 30,000 people. In addition to that, more than half a million people travel to Newfoundland via the Marine Atlantic ferries in North Sydney, each and every year. There

[Page 2294]

are several industrial users in this area, including the Prince Mine, the Point Aconi generating station, the Marine Atlantic Terminal, itself, among many others. This is a very active industrialized area of our community.

On March 2nd, during a tour of the hospital, with the honourable minister and the candidate, at the time, for Cape Breton North, the Tory candidate at that. The minister said that he was concerned that the people need to get the services they need. I will table that document. By closing the emergency room, what was the minister saying about the services needed at the Northside General Hospital? The member for Cape Breton North and this minister led people to believe that their hospital was safe. What is the minister going to do to ensure that he takes responsibility for health care in this province? That is the real issue. Where is the doctor recruitment plan? Where is it? I challenge the minister to table that document in this House.

Mr. Speaker, the government spent $500,000 on the clinical footprint but no money for doctors nor for the nurses. They have spent another $500,000 on CEOs in the northern and western region; no money for doctors. Health care is about priorities and this minister appears to have no priorities.

Now, Mr. Speaker, as I indicated in the beginning, if this good member for Cape Breton North is as effective as he indicates, then the crisis would not have occurred in the first place. The crisis would not have arisen. This is a very important issue, particularly to that area of Nova Scotia. That hospital services the majority of my constituency and, in fact, all of my constituency except for the Westmount and Coxheath area, which are serviced by the regional hospital.

Mr. Speaker, this is a vital and serious issue to those residents. I don't believe it deserves the type of activity I have witnessed here this evening in this House. We must think about the impact on the nurses in that emergency ward in which there was a directive to transfer these nurses to other responsibilities within that facility. We must acknowledge the hard work, the dedication and the effort put forth by Dr. Naqvi at the regional hospital to bring family doctors into that area. That effort cannot be questioned; it is a very strong commitment on the part of that individual to deal with the health issues in that area. His efforts should be acknowledged, very strongly.

Mr. Speaker, to close an emergency ward in any facility in this province is unacceptable. No business plan for the hospitals. The good minister indicates he ferrets off the problem to the district health boards, but it is clear within the Act that the responsibility for the recruitment of doctors in this province lies with the Minister of Health and his department and not the district health boards. The district health boards are volunteers within our community and within this province. They do not deserve this negative criticism from this minister. Their efforts are strong. Our hospitals and our communities are built upon these efforts. They should not be used as political pawns by this minister or this government.

[Page 2295]

Now, Mr. Speaker, I would suggest that this good minister start accepting responsibility and, not only that, as a piece of advice, I would suggest that the minister start taking advice from individuals who know health care better than he does . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The time for debate has expired. We will resume debate on Bill No. 30.

[PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING]

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

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage. You have approximately 47 minutes left.

[6:30 p.m.]

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I have been sitting with interest with regard to this particular debate on the Northside General Hospital. It is another compelling example of what I was talking about before our moment of interruption. This government will not accept responsibility for the devastation that is occurring in our health care, education systems, or with regard to our fiscal situation.

I talked about the 1999 election before the break, and I talked about the fact that this government made grandiose promises then and turned around, as soon as they were elected, and ignored everything that they said during the election and did the complete opposite, and I will get into that a bit more. But we have seen, only a couple of months ago, that the member for Cape Breton North - we see in the article that was tabled from the local newspapers - brought the Minister of Health down and said - this is clear, if you read the article and read between the lines - Northside General Hospital is safe. There have been no cuts. Northside General Hospital will continue as it was.

That is really what he is saying. He brought the Minister of Health down to say that. He got elected on that assumption. People were clearly upset and worried about health care, worried about the hospital that has been in their community for years and years. This member for Cape Breton North was able to get elected on the basis of saying, I have the ear of the Minister of Health. I have the ear of the Premier. I have the ear of the Minister of Finance and, because of that, I will guarantee Northside General Hospital will be protected.

Lo and behold, within a couple of months, this government has done what it has continued to do since 1999, which is preach one thing during an election and completely ignore it once they are elected. That is another example of why on this side of the House, we in the NDP will continue to fight for the people of Cape Breton North, for the people of

[Page 2296]

Shelburne, the people of Dartmouth South who have seen their hospitals devastated by the health care cuts.

I was talking before the break, Mr. Speaker, about the fact that there are a number of envelopes that this government opens up whenever they have to blame someone. I talked about the federal government and the Minister of Transportation and Public Works the Government House Leader's penchant for press releases, blaming the federal government for his own inability to keep his promises. The Minister of Transportation and Public Works says shame on you, but he laughs at the same time because he knows it is true. He has a smile on his face as we talk because he knows it is true. He knows that those press releases keep coming. We already had one this part of the year. Probably sometime later in August, just as people are travelling a bit more and going on vacation, probably the last week of July there will be another press release so that they are reminded, when they get on that highway, that, oh yeah. Ron Russell said he can't do anything because of the feds, those naughty feds.

AN HON. MEMBER: The alder bushes will . . .

MR. DEVEAUX: Yes, that is right. A couple of pieces of machinery and some orange pylons. Maybe the Minister of Transportation and Public Works will get a few orange pylons out there and a couple of people in orange hats. Maybe, if he is really desperate, he will put a press release out and then, within a week, he will have the flag people that stop traffic so people will know there is real work going on there when, in fact, we all know he is never going to keep his promise. His promise was to twin this road, with or without the federal government. Come heck or high water, this minister is going to do what he can to blame someone else. That is the first envelope.

The second envelope relates back to the Northside General Hospital and why this Financial Measures (2001) Bill is such a disaster and it goes to the Minister of Health. I have teased him during Question Period, but if you read, right in this article that was tabled from the Cape Breton Post, he says in it, it is quite funny to actually see it in print, because you hear it so often here in the House. When asked about the Northside General Hospital and the reporter is asking him about what is going to happen to the Northside General Hospital, his answer isn't, we will save the Northside General Hospital, though that is between the lines. His answer was - the Minister of Health knows what his answer was - that is not my responsibility. That is the responsibility of the district health authority. How many times have we heard that answer in this House? That is Envelope No. 2.

Health care crisis, health care disaster in this province and the Minister of Health says that it is someone else's fault. It is those nasty district health authorities. Now that is a recent one. Before that, he used to blame the Liberals and the regional health boards. He shuffled the chairs on the deck of the Titanic and now claims that it is the district health authorities that are at fault for these nasty cuts in the health care system. He seems to forget, he doesn't seem to remind the reporters that he actually has to sign-off on all the decisions with regard

[Page 2297]

to funding that these district health authorities make. He puts pen to paper and approves every one of them. Yet, he seems to think, well, I didn't do it, it is not my fault.

Mr. Speaker, we, on this side of the House, in the NDP, will continue to hold this minister accountable for the cuts that he is making to the health care system. Let's be clear, I said this in one of my earlier speeches on this bill, the people of Nova Scotia, when this government goes to the polls next time, aren't going to say, those nasty district health authorities, they are at fault, I am not going to blame the Tories. They are going to say, this Tory Government, this Minister of Health is at fault. If they need any reminding, if they need any nudging I will assure you the NDP will be there, because we have been on the record with regard to what this government has been doing to the people of Nova Scotia and the health care system. It is a shame.

Mr. Speaker, Envelope No. 3; open it up when you want someone else to blame. Who is it? It is the school boards. This Minister of Education has already taken over de facto and de jure power of the school board in the southwest region, made it into two. But like the district health authorities, she has to sign off on all the major decisions. Who knows what her plans are for the other school boards? But let's be clear, the school boards are given a global budget that they are provided by this province, with some extra money provided by the municipalities. It is this Minister of Education who is providing 83 per cent, I think, roughly, of the budget of the school boards in this province.

When they have trouble funding their schools, when they have trouble keeping them clean or keeping them safe or keeping them healthy, when they are in a position where they are causing major strife through strikes with their janitors, where they have to slash and cut contracts with bus drivers, when education assistants, and secretaries are on the brink of strike, it is the Minister of Education who is at fault.

What do we get from the Minister of Education? I had the chance, during the break, to go out and watch a bit of the news. I found it quite interesting. I hadn't known that the Minister of Education was suffering again from foot in mouth disease, like she was last year. Last year she tried to tell the people of Nova Scotia that 50 kids in a classroom is okay, no problem with that, 50 kids, hey, education can still go on. What did she say this year? What did she say today? It was brought to her attention that there is no toilet paper, there is no soap in the bathrooms of the schools of the Halifax Regional School Board. What does the Minister of Education say? Bring your own.

AN HON. MEMBER: No, she didn't.

MR. DEVEAUX: She did.

AN HON. MEMBER: She did not.

[Page 2298]

MR. DEVEAUX: The reporter even made a joke of it, and said it was BYOTP, bring your own toilet paper, to school.

AN HON. MEMBER: You didn't do that, Jane, did you?

MR. DEVEAUX: The Minister of Education seems to have no concern or care. In the same breath, she says - and this is why this Financial Measures (2001) Bill is such a disaster - I don't think there is a health problem in our schools but, by the way, why don't you bring your own toilet paper. Please explain to me - and maybe if some of these backbenchers could get up and help explain why they are supporting this budget and this Financial Measures (2001) Bill - how you can have no health problem, yet people are supposed to bring their own toilet paper.

AN HON. MEMBER: She didn't say that. She said, 'tis you, 'tis you.

MR. DEVEAUX: Gesundheit. Mr. Speaker, it is another example of this government having no regard for the problems that are suffered by the people of Nova Scotia on a day-to-day basis. Do we have to go out and buy larger lunch boxes now? It used to be you had a lunch box, you would pack your sandwich, you would pack your juice box or your drink, it used to be a thermos. Now you are going to need a really big one, you have to pack that roll of toilet paper with it. (Laughter)

That is just the toilet paper, we forgot about the soap. Everyone has to bring their own soap as well. They are going to need a mighty large container to bring all that to school. They are going to have to increase the size of the school buses because they are going to have that extra wing in the back, where everyone is packing their lunch, with the toilet paper, with the soap, and I suppose with their own towels.

Mr. Speaker, we seem to joke a little about it, but the fact is it is another example of this government trying to ignore the fact that they are the root of the problems that the people of Nova Scotia are suffering.

Envelope No. 3 to this government - No. 1 was the federal government, blame them when you can; No. 2 blame the health authorities; No. 3 - blame the school boards. It is another example of this government continuing to deny what they are doing to the people of Nova Scotia. They were elected in 1999 to solve the problems that the people of Nova Scotia have - whether it be bad or undrinkable water, whether it be waiting lists for surgery, or a lack of doctors in rural Nova Scotia, whether it be schools that are sick and unhealthy or overcrowded - they were elected to solve these problems and they promised the people of Nova Scotia they would and their answers are glib and pat.

[Page 2299]

The Minister of Health says blame the district health authorities, the Minister of Education says 50 kids in a classroom is okay - and oh, by the way, bring your own toilet paper and soap while you are at it. I guess maybe the soap actually has a double intent - help cram the kids into the classroom while at the same time they can use it in the bathroom.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I am wondering if the member would allow for an introduction at this point?

MR. DEVEAUX: Certainly.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you. The member for Hants East with an introduction.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Thank you Mr. Speaker and I want to thank my colleague, the member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage, for relinquishing the floor. I was enjoying his presentation.

Mr. Speaker, to you and to all members of the House, I would like to introduce the 1st Lantz Scouts. Actually, I wish the note here had the names of the scouts, but it doesn't, but I would also like to introduce their leader, Keith Stothart and I would ask them to please stand and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Welcome to our visitors. The member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

MR. DEVEAUX: So, Envelope No. 3, the school boards. This government will continue to download and try blame the school boards. They set the budgets, they give them the money, it doesn't keep up with inflation. Last year, I think there were even cuts and this year, real cuts with regard to the funding of schools. What do I mean by real cuts? Let me make that clear. The money that this government is giving went up, I will grant that, but not in keeping with the rate of inflation. That means in real dollars, the school boards are having less money to spend than they did last year, unless of course, they don't have to pay for toilet paper, soap and paper towels, which I guess might mean that they might actually be able to cut that off their budget line and maybe then they can squeeze through.

We are seeing the real cuts. We are seeing what this government again tries to deny. We saw this again. You know, it is funny because the Minister of Health sits next to the Minister of Education in the House and they must just talk to each other. When we ask questions about the Health Department and the cuts in our health care system, the Minister of Education must lean over to the Minister of Health and say, just blame it on the health authorities.

[Page 2300]

When we get up and ask about the fact that the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board is cutting permanent teachers, that the Annapolis Valley Regional School Board is cutting teachers, that the Halifax Regional School Board is in disarray from the funding cuts, I am sure the Minister of Health just leans over and says, oh, that works for me, why don't you blame the school boards as well? And that is the problem. Maybe we would actually get something done in this government if the Premier actually separated the Minister of Health and the Minister of Education so they couldn't consult and compare notes.

In all seriousness, this government continues to blame someone else for its problems. When it isn't blaming, it is downloading. Envelope No. 4 - the municipalities. When in doubt, when you can't blame the school board, when you can't blame the health authorities, when you can't blame the federal government, download and blame on the municipalities. How? Well, first of all, pit them against each other. Equalization and the scheme that the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations has attempted to impose on the people of Nova Scotia is clearly an example of trying to download on municipalities. There are other examples and I will get to those as well.

With regard to the Financial Measures (2001) Bill, they could have done something to clarify in this bill what they were going to do to truly ensure that we had a more equitable and balanced approach with regard to municipal services in this province, but, no, this government tried to blame someone else. So again, actually coincidentally, related to the Cape Breton North by-election, a few days or a week beforehand, out came a plan of equalization. So when the people of Cape Breton said, my gosh, I can't get ambulances or my ambulance service isn't very good, or I have to pay a user fee for that, the pat answer of course is, blame Halifax.

[6:45 p.m.]

Blame the city of Halifax because they don't want to pay their fair share of property tax to you. They are rich up in Halifax, it doesn't matter that there are senior citizens on fixed income paying property tax, it doesn't matter that there are workers who - I think it is 55 per cent of Haligonians earn under $22,000 a year - are barely scraping by, are paying property tax, but it is okay when you are in Cape Breton to try and blame someone else. Of course, in Halifax, they are probably doing the same; maybe the member for Dartmouth South or the member for Halifax Bedford Basin or the Minister of Education or the member for Eastern Shore are blaming Cape Bretoners. Those bad Cape Bretoners, if they could get their act together, your property taxes wouldn't go up.

Well, Mr. Speaker, that is another example of this government blaming someone else for its faults. Last time I saw, this was the provincial government, this was the government of all Nova Scotia and they must have the gumption, they must have the leadership, they must have the vision to ensure that all Nova Scotians must have the same basic services based on a system of reasonable taxation, not regressive taxation, not property tax, yet this

[Page 2301]

government continues to try to impose that and blame other people for its mistakes. That is a shame, and we are on this side of the House to continue to show the people of Nova Scotia whether they live in ridings that are represented by government members or represented by people over here, that this government does not have their best interests at heart and will continue to try to obfuscate the issue as to who is to blame for the problems they are suffering from.

If you have bad ambulance service in Cape Breton, if you have unhealthy schools in Cumberland County, if you are upset with the fact that you are losing your community schools in Pictou County and they are going to be consolidated, it is not the fault of the school board, necessarily; it is not the fault of the health authorities or the regional health boards, it is not the fault of the municipalities - big, bad Halifax or Cape Breton - it is the fault of this Tory Government and their inability to clearly lead. This Financial Measures (2001) Bill is a classic and obvious example of how this government continues to lack any leadership or vision for the future of Nova Scotia, and the problems Nova Scotians are suffering will continue and continue until this government gets it right.

I am almost losing count of my envelopes, I think this is Envelope No. 5. When you can't blame the federal government, when you can't blame the health authorities, when you cannot blame the school boards, when you cannot blame the municipalities, there is only one person left. Unfortunately, there are almost a million of them, and it is the individuals of Nova Scotia. Envelope No. 5 is this government blaming the people of Nova Scotia and downloading on them services and costs, direct and indirect, that are destroying the quality of life that Nova Scotians have come to enjoy in this province.

What they have expected while living in Nova Scotia, while living in Canada, while living in North America; what they elected this government to maintain and improve is the quality of life that allowed them to live here, whether they are on fixed income, whether they are entrepreneurs, whether they are working for a living, they expected this government when they were elected to continue to fight and improve the standards that the people of Nova Scotia so desperately wanted to ensure that quality of life.

Mr. Speaker, these are the issues that Nova Scotians need to hear from this government on and they need to know where this government stands. These are the issues that people elected New Democrats to deal with. These are the issues that Nova Scotians elected us to fight for and this is why we are on this side of the House, to ensure that Nova Scotians get honest and truthful answers on what this government is really doing to the people of Nova Scotia.

I have talked about the various envelopes. Mr. Speaker, with regard to individuals there are a lot of examples; $38 million in user fees, whether that be increases in Pharmacare costs or user fees for beds, they are all taxes, they are all imposed on the seniors. These are the seniors that voted for you guys. Clearly they are in a situation where they cannot take any

[Page 2302]

more. Seniors in Nova Scotia cannot afford any more money to be taken out of their pockets, yet the people of Nova Scotia, and the seniors in Nova Scotia, continue to be hit by this government.

There are many more user fees, $38 million worth. That is a lot of money. Add to that the direct tax increases from this government and it comes out to almost $120 million a year in new taxes that this government has imposed annually on Nova Scotians. Now, Mr. Speaker, let me be clear, that is what we have found, that is what we ferreted out because on this side of the House the NDP will continue to fight to find out exactly how much money this government is taking out of the pockets of Nova Scotians. That is how much we have found so far, $120 million a year. I think we will see that that number will grow and grow. The people of Nova Scotia will continue to be hit, this government will continue to force Nova Scotians to pay more and, in many respects, they are blaming Nova Scotians for the problems this government is unwilling to face.

One hundred and twenty million dollars in tax increases. I just want to put on the record what those are, Mr. Speaker; $28 million extra in bracket creep. When the federal government re-indexed the percentage rates with regard to their tax system, because we decoupled our tax system and it is not connected to the federal system anymore, we didn't follow suit. That is an extra $28 million in taxes. Everyone in Nova Scotia, when they filed their tax return - many would have done it just recently - would have noticed that you get a basic personal exemption. The federal government increased the basic personal exemption, our government didn't follow suit. That is an extra $12 million in taxes that they are collecting from Nova Scotians. That hits the low- and middle-income working families the most. If you are a single parent struggling to get by, you get to claim the equivalent-to-spouse deduction. If you are a two-parent family but have only one person working, you get to claim the spousal or the equivalent-to-spouse deduction. The federal government adjusted theirs; we didn't adjust it much and we ended up with a rate that was $1 million more in taxes we are collecting.

The Premier, in his own words has admitted beyond those, there is another $5 million in taxes increased because of our decoupling of the tax system. That amounts to $46 million in new taxes per year that this government is collecting from Nova Scotians. It is the poor, working-class and middle-class working families in Nova Scotia who are suffering the most. Yet this government continues to impose on them, continues to download on them instead of trying to solve their problems. So not only do they have parents who may be suffering because there are no long-term care beds and they are going to have to pay $50 a day to stay in a hospital that should be free; maybe they have a child who is sick who has asthma or allergies or just can't go to school because it is unsafe or unhealthy; maybe, on top of all that their property taxes have gone up because they live in a municipality where the tax system doesn't allow them. The tax system is being burdened because of this government's faulty equalization plan or downloading services, the cost of assessments have been imposed on municipalities. Given all that, this government turns around and increases their taxes as well.

[Page 2303]

They were not elected to do that; they weren't elected to destroy our health care system; they weren't elected to destroy our education system; they weren't elected to increase our taxes, yet, funny, that is exactly what they are doing. They continue to deceive Nova Scotians and try to make them believe that none of this is happening. Why? Because it is the federal government's fault; because it is the health authority's fault; because it is the school board's fault; because it is the municipality's fault; or maybe, it is your own fault.

Mr. Speaker, this Financial Measures (2001) Bill does not do what Nova Scotians elected this government to do. It does not provide them with the quality of life they had or will continue to have. That is a real problem. That is why we are on this side of the House, to continue to hold this government accountable, to continue to point out that what they are truly doing to the people of Nova Scotia, $120 million in new taxes per year, destroying our health care system, destroying our education system, that is what this government is doing and that is why we are here - to ensure that this government is held accountable for what it is doing to the people of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I want to talk a bit about really what this government is doing. Let's be clear. The Financial Measures (2001) Act, Bill No. 30, is a simple question. Where are we going? There is that famous ad by a software company that says, where do you want to go today? Well, in many ways, the people in Nova Scotia have elected this government to be the keepers of where they want government to go today, and the government is nothing more, let's be clear, than the collective of all of us. We pay money into a pool of money, the taxes we pay and, through that, we expect to get the basic services, that by coming together as a society, we are better able to provide than we are individually. We educate our teachers through subsidized education. Those teachers then have skills that can come back and teach our children because we can't teach our children everything they need to know. We educate nurses and doctors so they can make us healthy. At the same time, we become productive members of our society.

Mr. Speaker, that is the sort of agreement that has always been involved in society. That is why we have the quality of life that we do, that is second to none, or at least it was, and, yet, this government, when asked the question, where are you going, what are you going to do for Nova Scotians, their answer is a shrug of their shoulders. This is their third budget. This is their third Financial Measures Act and we continue to see this government does not lay out any plan. It is a short-term agenda. It is not an agenda that will ensure quality of life for Nova Scotians. It is not an agenda that will ensure that Nova Scotians are better off in two years than they were two years ago. It is an agenda of short-term answers and, because of that, problems are not being solved.

Our health care system cannot be fixed in two months or two years. Let's be clear. It will take a long time, but it takes a government that is willing to recognize that and work in the long term to ensure that we have a health care system for the future. Mr. Speaker, this government hasn't even admitted that. It hasn't even recognized that there is a problem or

[Page 2304]

how to fix it. They have no plan for fixing this and that is why we are on this side of the House. We continue to point out to the people of Nova Scotia and to this government that their short-term agenda is not what Nova Scotians elected them for. It won't ensure that the quality of life of Nova Scotians will improve. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, I hear the phrase from one of the backbenchers, who I hope will have an opportunity to stand up, who says Marketing 101. That is why we are here. Well, you know, I took Marketing 101, back when I was in my years of commerce at Saint Mary's. I remember that Marketing 101 - and someone may want to correct me on this - but this is my recollection, that it is recognizing a need and meeting that need and saying, quite frankly, there is a problem. Marketing isn't just about the original sale, it is also about the service after the sale, making sure they come back and want to continue to come back and be your customer.

Well, the member for Yarmouth says we are doing pretty good. Well, Mr. Speaker, let's remember. Maybe this Tory Government got the marketing principles down to some extent. They knew how to hoodwink the people of Nova Scotia and explain to them what they wanted to hear. This is what you need. Don't worry. Like an old medicine man of the western days back in the 1800's, they promised them a lot. They told them it would fix everything. This is the elixir that you need to make your life better. The health care system, we can fix that. The education system, we can fix that. Tax cuts, throw that in. We can do that, tax increases, don't worry about that. We have everything you need right here.

AN HON. MEMBER: I thought elixir killed a lot of people back then.

MR. DEVEAUX: So, they knew what the need was, the problem is, Mr. Speaker, they are not meeting that need and the people of Nova Scotia will recognize and are continuing to recognize on a day-to-day basis that this government is not meeting the need. They have taken a sip of the elixir that this government has provided them with and they are realizing that it is nothing more than a placebo. It has no purpose. It is not fixing their problems and, truly, they are looking for something that will truly cure them, cure them of a health care system that is destroying their lives, that is putting their parents and grandparents into a Catch-22 where they are stuck in $50 a day hospital beds, looking for a cure for an education system that clearly is hurting their children, physically, mentally, and in the long run destroying our opportunities to succeed with a good education.

[7:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, this government learned a part of Marketing 101. They learned that they know what the need is, but they did not meet that need and the people of Nova Scotia will continue to remember that, and come the next election that after-sales service will come back to haunt this government and the people of Nova Scotia are going to say no to what they have been providing.

[Page 2305]

Now the problem. When those old medicine men used to come into town on a horse and buggy or in a cart, they always got out of town fast and probably never came back. Well, Mr. Speaker, this government does not have it right if they believe that that mentality, the medicine man way of politics will work in Nova Scotia. You can't come in in a horse and buggy and try to sell your elixir to the people of Nova Scotia and assume that that is actually going to work upon re-election, because when you get out of town you are not going to be able to come back, and that is the problem.

Mr. Speaker, this is the dilemma this government faces and this is what these backbenchers should be standing up and defending, this Financial Measures (2001) Bill. Stand up and tell your constituents, the people of Nova Scotia, why this is good for them. On this side we are telling them the truth; we are telling them that this Financial Measures (2001) Bill and this government and all its Financial Measures Acts so far have done nothing for them. They have not provided them with what they need. They have not provided them with the health care system they need; they have not provided they with an education system they need. This government continues to deceive the people of Nova Scotia like a medicine man. That elixir and any short-term effect it may have is wearing off and the people of Nova Scotia know that in a year or two or three, when this government has the gumption to go back to the polls, it is like the medicine man coming back into town. You know what? Those medicine men never came back into town because they knew they were going to be chased away because people don't buy that medicine twice and the people of Nova Scotia are not going to buy what you are selling twice.

Marketing 101 is something that this government has failed. You get an "F" with regard to marketing; you get an "F" with regard to administration; you get an "F" in medicine; you get an "F" in education. This government must begin to pull up its socks and begin to learn something. That is why this Financial Measures (2001) Bill, we are voting against it, Mr. Speaker. It is not because we are in Opposition, it is because this Financial Measures (2001) Bill, the middle of this government's term continues down the road of destroying the quality of life of Nova Scotians. We are on this side of the House, and we are here to remind this government - and to listen to the people of Nova Scotia - that this Financial Measures (2001) Bill and the lack of leadership from this government is destroying the quality of life of Nova Scotians. It must stop; it must change. This Financial Measures (2001) Bill cannot be accepted for what it is doing to the people of Nova Scotia.

I have talked about the deception they have put on the people of Nova Scotia in terms of health care and education. There is one I have not hit on, and that is revenues. Mr. Speaker, I want to take a few minutes to talk about how this government is deceiving the people of Nova Scotia. You know the ink is not even dry - this is the Budget Summary - on this budget. Probably if you sniff it you can still smell the ink.

[Page 2306]

Mr. Speaker, here are some of the assumptions they have made with regard to how they are going to balance the books and come in with, I think this year it is a $90 million deficit, and next year they will balance the books. They are assuming an unemployment rate of 9.5 per cent. My understanding is that the unemployment rate is over 10 per cent now in Nova Scotia; it shot up very quickly. They are assuming an increase in retail sales this year of 3.5 per cent.

Those are two very important statistics. Why? Because if the unemployment rate is 9.5 per cent or less, then based on that assumption this government is able to make a clear assumption as to how much income tax it is going to bring in. Working people pay taxes, it is that simple. If the unemployment rate is above 9.5 per cent, then what this Financial Measures (2001) Bill is not doing is reflecting that. It is at 10 per cent now, Mr. Speaker, the amount of income tax this government is bringing in will go down. Retail sales is the basis of sales tax, it is a clear indicator of consumer confidence and their ability to go out and spend money, and they have to spend money when they are making money. If you are unemployed, you have a tendency not to buy as much, and therefore the retail sales go down.

Mr. Speaker, between January and February of this year, retail sales in this province went down 4.7 per cent, a massive drop, down to a level it hasn't been in almost a year and a half. It is pretty clear, as unemployment has shot up to double digits, as the people of Nova Scotia spend less, dramatically less, this government's assumptions as to how it is going to get a balanced budget next year are falling apart. That is a problem, because they want to continue to deceive the people of Nova Scotia into believing maybe we will raise taxes $120 million, we won't really explain that to you, but we are going to get more tax money because the economy is doing well. That is the other part of the deception. The economy is going strong, don't worry, we can balance the books.

Mr. Speaker, the economy isn't going strong anymore, as unemployment rises to double digits, as retail sales plummet, a 4.7 per cent drop in one month, clearly there is a problem. There is a problem with what this government is able to do for the people of Nova Scotia. That means the harmonized sales tax predictions, they are predicting a 5.2 per cent increase in harmonized sales tax, if sales drop instead of going up, that is not going to happen. We will be getting less money in harmonized sales tax. Personal income tax will be down. That is a lot of money. We bring in $1.25 billion a year in personal income tax. A simple 1 per cent drop would be about $12 million. That is a lot of money; that is a lot of education that could buy; that is a lot of repairs to our schools; that is a lot of hospital beds; that is a lot of long-term care beds that this government isn't even building.

The assumptions this government has made, the deception they tried to put on the people of Nova Scotia is that they have things under control. It is pretty clear from these numbers, they don't have things fiscally under control; they don't have our health care system under control; they don't have our education system under control, but they are running out of envelopes of who to blame.

[Page 2307]

I want to talk about equalization payments. That is the money we get from the federal government. It is not the money the federal government gives us, that is CHST, that is money for health and social transfers, education. Equalization is actually the money we get when the Ontario, Alberta and British Columbia economies are doing really well, and they were robust last year. Alberta gained, I think it was a 6 per cent growth in domestic product. Ontario was much higher than Nova Scotia. And because of that, we got almost $1.4 billion in equalization payments. That is a lot of money.

This government is predicting it to be at that same level, basically at the same level for this year, which means those economies are going to stay robust. Alberta is going to grow at the same amount; Ontario is going to grow at the same amount; British Columbia will continue to grow, and because of that, this government is assuming we are going to have $1.394 billion in equalization payments.

Well, there is a problem, I was looking at a document today, retail trade - I will table this - from Statistics Canada, and it makes it very clear, retail sales dropped and, in particular, in the last couple of months, almost a 2 per cent drop in the automotive sector. Let's think, the automotive sector. In fact, the automotive sector dropped itself, 3.5 per cent, my apologies. A 3.5 per cent drop in automotive sales in the beginning of this year, and I believe that is still continuing. What does that mean? Who builds cars? Where do they build those cars? They build them in Ontario, the largest economy in Canada by far. It is the largest province, it is a robust economy, and a lot of that extra money they have been bringing in because the over-heated automotive sector has resulted in extra money coming to us. The automotive sector is hurting. Sales are dropping.

What does that mean? That means that equalization is going to be going down. Now, you might say that is an assumption on my part, but I think I want to put this on the record as well, I had the opportunity of getting some information from the federal government. The federal government does its own calculations as to how much money it thinks it is going to provide us in equalization. The province thinks it is going to get almost $1.4 billion from the federal government in equalization to help pay for our health care and our education.

Mr. Speaker, the federal government, only days before the budget, produced a document that says we are only going to get $1.3 billion. That is almost $100 million difference. Now why did the federal government do that? I can tell you. Because they know what is happening to the automotive sector. They know what is happening to the economy in Ontario. It won't be as robust as last year. No one has ever thought it would, except this government. They seem to think that the economies in Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario are going to stay as hot as they were last year and will continue to get almost $1.4 billion in equalization, when, in fact, the federal government and almost any other economist will tell you the economies are not doing as well and they are only going to bring in $1.3 billion. That is $100 million difference. What does that mean? That means $100 million less in the

[Page 2308]

pockets of the Minister of Finance. That means $100 million less than he predicted in this budget.

As I said, the ink isn't even dry on this budget. This Financial Measures (2001) Bill isn't even past second reading and the numbers that this government is relying on aren't accurate. This government has a major problem, not only with our economy, but with the money it has to work with. That is the deception they are putting on the people of Nova Scotia, Mr. Speaker. They are deceiving them into believing that they can balance the books without raising taxes and with a robust economy. Our economy isn't robust. We are in double digit unemployment. Retail sales are dropping. Taxes have been shot up by $120 million a year and more. It is our job, on this side of the House, to continue to point out to the people of Nova Scotia that this government is deceiving them, is not telling the truth with regard to how it is raising money and the state of this economy and what that will mean for the people of Nova Scotia. It means tougher times. It means harder decisions. It means more delay.

The Premier and the Minister of Finance and the Minister of Health have sort of tried to make people in Nova Scotia believe, Mr. Speaker, that, don't worry, it is a four year thing. We have a four year plan. We can see the light at the end of the tunnel. It is four years and we will have a tax cut. We will have plenty of money. We will be dancing in the streets with money to spend on health care because we will balance the books, we will have everything right because we are tough.

Well, Mr. Speaker, we are halfway through their term and this government has been unable to do that and it has not been deceiving the people of Nova Scotia as well as it thought. Income taxes have increased; taxes and user fees have increased and the assumptions with regard to how they are going to balance those books are wrong and way off. That means that light at the end of the tunnel seems to be getting farther and farther away. The people of Nova Scotia might have been able to hold their breath, they might have been able to tighten their belts for three or four years in hopes that things would get better, but if you are going to go back to the polls in one, two or three years, if this government is going to do that, they better be prepared to show that the end of the tunnel is there, that people can see that end of the tunnel.

It is not going to happen. Their assumptions are wrong. The economy isn't doing as well as they would like. Taxes have been jacked up and still they can't balance the books. They have money for coffee for the Department of Education, $37,000. They have $3 million for a botched PR plan for the sale of Sysco. They have $500,000 for health consultants. They have money for new bathrooms for the Minister of Community Services, but they don't and cannot balance the books. The people of Nova Scotia and the deception, that this government is trying to pull the wool over the eyes of the people of Nova Scotia. They are going to know better by then because the people on this side of the House, the NDP are going to continue

[Page 2309]

to point out exactly what this government is doing and what they are doing to the people of Nova Scotia.

It is going to take time, but we are here. We are not going anywhere. We will continue to press this issue. We will continue to point out that your revenues are wonky, that your numbers are wrong, that your assumptions are wrong. This was only one month ago and your assumptions are off. Mr. Speaker, their numbers are off on revenue. They are wasting money on the expense side and they are deceiving Nova Scotians.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member knows full well, especially since he serves in the Chair from time to time, that using the term deceive and deception and terminology of that sort has been ruled unparliamentary quite frequently by Speakers. I will just caution the honourable member. He doesn't have to withdraw the accusation but, in fact, it is in Beauchesne, referenced many times.

MR. DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I am not questioning the Speaker's decision but I will point out in Beauchesne it also says deceive is an acceptable word and if you look at Marleau, deception and deceive and all those words are things that depend on the context and I don't mean in a derogatory way . . .

[7:15 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I understand the honourable member may be explaining that he doesn't mean to question the Speaker, but in fact, he is. I would caution the honourable member that in fact, Beauchesne also says clearly that an expression may be deemed inappropriate and unparliamentary today, but it may not be deemed inappropriate and unparliamentary tomorrow. We don't want to get into a discussion with the honourable Deputy Speaker for the NDP, but in fact, we could split hairs on this one for some time and we are eating up his valuable time and he only has one minute left.

MR. DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I am going to wrap up by saying this, whether it is toilet paper that you have to bring to school, whether it is your roads that are in bad shape, whether it is a health care system in disarray and seniors having to pay $50 to stay in a bed that the government should be providing for free, whether it is a lack of snow clearing because this government has cut snow and road clearing in its Financial Measures (2001) Bill, all of these things, the government may try to blame someone else, but in the end, they will wear this and the people of Nova Scotia will ask whether their quality of life is improved and this government will have to answer no. And, come the next election, this Financial Measures (2001) Bill will come back to haunt them and the people of Nova Scotia will remind them, as they go door to door, what they haven't done for them and why they don't deserve re-election. Thank you.

[Page 2310]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance.

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to move second reading of Bill No. 30.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that the previous question be now put. Is the House ready for the question?

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

A recorded vote has been called for.

Order, please. The honourable Government House Leader on a point of clarification.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: I would like to clarify perhaps what we are doing, if I may, in that we are voting on the motion that the question be now put. Following that, we vote on the bill for second reading.

MR. SPEAKER: Yes, the House is clear on that, I understand.

Are the Whips satisfied? No. We will have to ring the bells until the Whips are satisfied.

Ring the bells. Call in the members.

[7:18 p.m.]

[The Division bells were rung.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I was informed by whom I took to be the Whip for the Liberal caucus that they would be ready to carry a vote out at 7:55 p.m., and I believe all honourable members (Interruptions)

Order, please. Are the Whips satisfied?

The motion is that the previous question be now put and a recorded vote, of course, has been called for. I would ask the Clerk to call the roll.

[The Clerk calls the roll.]

[Page 2311]

[8:00 p.m.]

YEAS NAYS

Mr. Rodney MacDonald Mr. Corbett

Mr. Christie Mr. Deveaux

Mr. Baker Ms. Maureen MacDonald

Mr. Russell Mr. Dexter

Mr. LeBlanc Mr. Gaudet

Mr. Muir Dr. Smith

Miss Purves Mr. MacAskill

Mr. Fage Mr. Wilson

Mr. Parent Mr. Boudreau

Ms. McGrath Mr. Samson

Mr. Ronald Chisholm Mr. MacKinnon

Mr. Olive Mr. Pye

Mr. MacIsaac Mr. MacDonell

Mr. DeWolfe Mr. Robert Chisholm

Mr. Dooks Mr. Estabrooks

Mr. Langille Mr. Epstein

Mr. Chataway Mr. Steele

Mr. Clarke

Mr. Hendsbee

Mrs. Baillie

Mr. Carey

Mr. Morash

Mr. Chipman

Mr. Barnet

Mr. O'Donnell

Mr. Hurlburt

THE CLERK: For, 26. Against, 17 .

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please put the question for second reading of Bill No. 30.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 30. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

[Page 2312]

The motion is carried.

Ordered that this bill be referred (Interruptions)

Order, please.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. As I understand the Rules of the House, this vote was called for after the hour of adjournment and therefore would require the unanimous consent of the House.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member does, in fact, raise a good point, and if I could I would like to have a minute to confer with our legal counsel on that particular matter.

I have been advised that the honourable member is correct; without unanimity of the House, after the hours that have been allocated for today, 12:00 noon until 8:00 p.m., no business can be carried out without unanimous consent.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the House Leader for the Liberal Party will give us the business, I hope, for tomorrow and the hours of sitting.

MR. SPEAKER: The Deputy House Leader for the Liberal Party.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Immediately after Question Period we will be calling Resolution No. 778 and Resolution No. 661. The hours are from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.

I move the House adjourn.

MR. SPEAKER: There is a motion to adjourn.

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

The motion is carried.

We stand adjourned until 2:00 p.m. on Wednesday.

[The House rose at 8:05 p.m.]

[Page 2313]

NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)

RESOLUTION NO. 830

By: Mr. Cecil Clarke (Cape Breton North)

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

Whereas this government recognizes the vital importance of Nova Scotia's Community Colleges and invested an additional $4.2 million for the community college system this fiscal year; and

Whereas the Marconi Campus of the Nova Scotia Community College system in Sydney is already a leading player in the provision of training for the petroleum industry, with the opening of the Industrial Control Technician/Instrumentation Lab last fall thanks to support from our government; and

Whereas an additional 5,000 to 7,000 jobs in the petroleum industry could become available by the end of this decade;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs recognize the focus being shown by this government and private sponsors to ensure the training needs of today will meet the challenges of tomorrow.

RESOLUTION NO. 831

By: Hon. James Muir (Minister of Health)

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

Whereas St. James Presbyterian Church in Truro recently celebrated its 75th Anniversary; and

Whereas as part of the festivities, members dressed in period costumes and attended a special worship service that featured guest speakers, an anniversary cake, and hymns that were sung at their first service 75 years ago; and

Whereas following a congregation dinner, a book launch was held for the recently published Celebrating Our Heritage - A History of St. James Presbyterian Church, a book highlighting the 75 year history of the church;

[Page 2314]

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the congregation of St. James Presbyterian Church on its 75th Anniversary and thank everyone involved with making it a very special celebration.

RESOLUTION NO. 832

By: Hon. Michael Baker (Minister of Justice)

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

Whereas Watts Communications has invested approximately $22 million in their Bridgewater call centre, employing 475 Nova Scotians; and

Whereas the company is continuing to invest in the community by providing two $1,000 scholarships each year to graduating students who want to pursue careers in information technology; and

Whereas Watts Communications is offering similar programs in Charlottetown and Summerside, P.E.I., as well as in Devonport, Australia;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House applaud Watts Communications on their exemplary corporate citizenship and thank them for giving back to their communities by assisting Nova Scotian students.