Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

Les travaux de la Chambre ont repris le
21 septembre 2017

HANSARD 01/02-93

HOUSE OF ASSEMBLY

DEBATES AND PROCEEDINGS

Speaker: Honourable Murray Scott

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

Available on INTERNET at http://www.gov.ns.ca/legislature/hansard/

Annual subscriptions available from the Office of the Speaker.

Second Session

FRIDAY, APRIL 26, 2002

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS:
Bedford/Hammonds Plains/Tantallon: Skate Park - Need,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 8879
STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS:
Educ. - Classroom: Students - Safety, Hon. J. Purves 8880
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 3444, CAF - Personnel: Safe Return - Welcome, The Premier 8883
Vote - Affirmative 8883
Res. 3445, Environ. & Lbr. - Nat'l. Day of Mourning for Can. Workers:
Memory - Honour, Hon. D. Morse 8884
Vote - Affirmative 8884
Res. 3446, Women - Voting Rights (Anniv.): Electoral Process -
Participation Encourage, Hon. J. Purves 8884
Vote - Affirmative 8885
Res. 3447, Inverness Raceways: Volunteers/Horsemen - Recognize,
Hon. Rodney MacDonald 8885
Vote - Affirmative 8886
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 125, Smoke-free Places Act, Hon. J. Muir 8886
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 3448, Wrens: Anniv. (60th) - Congrats., Mr. D. Dexter 8886
Vote - Affirmative 8887
Res. 3449, Graham, Sen. Alasdair: Sen. Anniv. (30th) - Congrats.,
Mr. W. Gaudet 8887
Vote - Affirmative 8887
Res. 3450, Prakash, Dr. Chander: Career - Honour, Mr. F. Chipman 8888
Vote - Affirmative 8888
Res. 3451, Cobequid Multi-Service Ctr. - Sackville Students (HS):
Fundraising - Congrats., Mr. J. Holm 8888
Vote - Affirmative 8889
Res. 3452, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Hwys. Nos. 111 & 118:
Spring Cleaning - Needs Address, Dr. J. Smith 8889
Vote - Affirmative 8890
Res. 3453, Danells, Jean - SPCA Vol.: Recognition - Congrats.,
Hon. D. Morse 8890
Vote - Affirmative 8890
Res. 3454, Quinn, Sandra - Joe Howe Sch. Commun.: Service -
Thank, Ms. Maureen MacDonald 8891
Vote - Affirmative 8891
Res. 3455, Educ. - Victoria: Schools - Retain, Mr. K. MacAskill 8891
Res. 3456, Frenette, Julia - Int'l. Science & Engineering Fair:
Selection - Congrats., Mr. M. Parent 8892
Vote - Affirmative 8893
Res. 3457, DHS - Model Parliament: Participants - Congrats.,
Mr. J. Pye 8893
Vote - Affirmative 8893
Res. 3458, Environ. & Lbr. - Min.: Title - Change, Mr. R. MacKinnon 8894
Res. 3459, Salter St. Films - Bowling for Columbine: Cannes Film Fest. -
Selection, (by Hon. J. Muir), Hon. J. Purves 8894
Vote - Affirmative 8895
Res. 3460, Educ. - Schools: Rational Use - Problems Address,
Mr. H. Epstein 8895
Res. 3461, Women - Voting Rights: Anniv. - Recognize, Mr. D. Wilson 8896
Vote - Affirmative 8896
Res. 3462, CWL (Antigonish): Anniv. (80th) - Congrats., Mr. C. Clarke 8896
Vote - Affirmative 8897
Res. 3463, Anthony, Robert: HRM Vol. of the Yr. - Congrats.,
Mr. J. Pye 8897
Vote - Affirmative 8898
Res. 3464, Gow's Home Hardware: Bridgewater Commun.
Achievement Award - Congrats., Mr. D. Downe 8898
Vote - Affirmative 8899
Res. 3465, Rumbolt, Lindsay - Figure Skating: Success - Congrats.,
(by Hon. Rodney MacDonald), Hon. M. Baker 8899
Vote - Affirmative 8899
Res. 3466, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Pothole: Cheticamp - Repair,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 8900
Vote - Affirmative 8900
Res. 3467, Big Bras d'Or Vol. FD: Installation of Officers - Congrats.,
Mr. B. Boudreau 8900
Vote - Affirmative 8901
Res. 3468, Musgrave, Arleen: Child & Youth Care Services
Award (2001) - Congrats., Mr. C. Clarke 8901
Vote - Affirmative 8902
Res. 3469, Walker, Mrs. Marion: East Hants Prov. Vol. of the Yr. -
Congrats., Mr. J. MacDonell 8902
Vote - Affirmative 8903
Res. 3470, Gov't. (N.S.) - Promise: Breach - Remind, Mr. D. Downe 8903
Res. 3471, Yar. Rotary Club: Anniv. (80th) - Congrats., Mr. G. Steele 8904
Vote - Affirmative 8904
Res. 3472, Diabetes Awareness Day (04/27/02) - Support, Dr. J. Smith 8904
Vote - Affirmative 8905
Res. 3473, Sports: Sackville AAA Flyers Hockey Team - Congrats.,
Mr. J. Holm 8905
Vote - Affirmative 8906
Res. 3474, Nat. Res. - Forests: Sustainability - Methods Explain,
Mr. K. MacAskill 8906
Res. 3475, Kennetcook - RCMP Satellite Office: Establishment -
Congrats., Mr. J. MacDonell 8907
Vote - Affirmative 8907
Res. 3476, Econ. Dev. - Sysco Cleanup Fund: Expenditure - Policy,
Mr. P. MacEwan 8907
Res. 3477, Educ. - UCCB: Progs./Services - Enhance, Mr. R. MacKinnon 8908
Res. 3478, CB North MLA - Rec. Grants: Info. - Impart,
Mr. B. Boudreau 8909
Res. 3479, Mazeroll, Chris - N.S. Student Advocacy Coalition:
Chairman - Election Congrats., Mr. W. Gaudet 8909
Vote - Affirmative 8910
Res. 3480, Econ. Dev. - NSP Rate Increase: Application - Min. Halt,
(by Mr. D. Downe), Mr. Manning MacDonald 8910
Res. 3481, Kusalik, Timothy - Can. Math. Olympiad: Participation -
Congrats., Mr. D. Wilson 8911
Vote - Affirmative 8912
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS:
Smoking Ban - Support, Mr. D. Downe 8912
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 109, Financial Measures (2002) Act 8913
Amendment [debate resumed] 8913
Mr. D. Wilson 8913
Mr. Robert Chisholm 8928
Dr. J. Smith 8939
Mr. J. Holm 8954
Adjourned debate 8966
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Mon., Apr. 29th at 2:00 p.m. 8967
NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3):
Res. 3482, Richard, Josie - Mar. Ctr. of Excellence for Women's Health:
Award - Congrats., Hon. J. Muir 8968
Res. 3483, Women's Mental Health Prog. (Truro) - Mar. Ctr. of
Excellence for Women's Health: Award - Congrats., Hon. J. Muir 8968
Res. 3484, Beresford, Dr. J. Patricia - Mar. Ctr. of Excellence for
Women's Health: Award - Congrats., Hon. J. Muir 8969

[Page 8877]

HALIFAX, FRIDAY, APRIL 26, 2002

Fifty-eighth General Assembly

Second Session

9:00 A.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Murray Scott

DEPUTY SPEAKERS

Mr. Brooke Taylor, Mr. Jerry Pye, Mr. David Wilson

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Just before we begin the daily routine, I would like to bring to the attention of all members that during this session we have had some new Pages who have been here with us since the opening of the House. Actually, one left yesterday, Fiona Connelly, but this morning Meagan Goodyear is with us and Jennifer MacDonell are at the door. Today is their last day. As well, on Monday, Heather MacLean, who is not with us, will be leaving. I would ask the honourable members to give them a round of applause for the great service they provided to the House this session. (Standing Ovation)

Meagan and Jennifer, I believe all members would agree that you have done an excellent job for us and we wish you well in your future careers. All the best to both of you. Thank you.

The honourable member for Glace Bay.

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of privilege. Yesterday, in this House, after the budget vote, several members in the gallery, some of whom are employed with the Premier's office, made a public display of approval, contrary to the Rules of this House. The Premier's own press secretary participated in this action. Senior staff at the Premier's office and other Cabinet offices should know better, especially senior staff who have been around this House for several years.

8877

[Page 8878]

Mr. Speaker, I take this matter very seriously. Not only was it a breach of decorum, it was a breach of our privileges as members of this Legislature. The foundation of our British parliamentary democracy dictates that all members of this House - all members of this House, Mr. Speaker - are equal. In some cases this equality is the only measure preventing the government of the day from running roughshod over an Opposition Party. Members of the Treasury Benches outside this Chamber have the full weight of their office to bring to bear on Opposition members. This House ensures that dissenting opinions are heard.

Mr. Speaker, government staff cannot and must not be allowed to engage in public displays of approval or disapproval and we expect that to continue. Even worse, ministers' staff made inappropriate and unprofessional comments toward myself and other Opposition members outside of this Chamber but still within the walls of this historic Legislature. I take it very seriously, others don't. I hope that these actions were not directed by the Premier or the Ministers of the Crown because that would set a very dangerous precedent. I have stood here and watched ordinary Nova Scotians who have been censured for their conduct and behaviour in this House and I am therefore calling upon the Speaker's Office to do the same to those staff members without delay. These government staff members have brought shame to the Speaker's House and they have violated our privileges as members. We cannot allow those sorts of actions to continue in the future. Thank you very much.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I will certainly take the matter under advisement but I almost have a feeling, from the member's comments, he has made it sound that I, as Speaker, ignored. I certainly hope not because on many occasions (Interruptions) Order, please. I have witnessed when members have actually encouraged the members in the gallery to respond to what's happening on the floor of this House, and on every opportunity I have attempted, when I've been able to, to instruct people in the gallery not to respond either positively or negatively no matter which side of the House it comes from.

I will certainly take the matter under advisement and, as well, I would also say that whatever takes place outside this Chamber is not under my direction. I would think that all members of the public and of this Assembly would hold the proper decorum whether inside or outside and that means everyone, but I will take it under advisement.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

MR. JOHN HOLM: On a different point of order, Mr. Speaker, on Tuesday during the estimates of the Minister responsible for the Petroleum Directorate, the minister promised to table the contract for Roland Martin. I'm sure he has had the opportunity to get that from his office by now and I'm sure - as I see him going through his desk - maybe he's getting the paper out, but I would ask you to remind him, if he doesn't, to fulfill his commitment and to table that on the floor for members today.

[Page 8879]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Economic Development, did you have a response?

HON. GORDON BALSER: Yes, I will get the papers in a minute and table them.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you.

The honourable member for Victoria.

MR. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, on leaving the House yesterday evening I, too, got into maybe a bit of a heated conversation with some of the members outside and I apologize for my actions outside the House, but in my 14 years in the House, that action that was displayed here by senior staff yesterday was something I have not seen.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

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

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition by 396 young people. The operative phrase is, "This petition is to get a skate park for the Bedford, Hammonds Plains and Tantallon area. As a teen, I know that we need this desperately, especially the Hammonds Plains and Tantallon kids. We have nothing to do out where we live." These 396 teenage signatures have one adult as I have also signed this petition.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table written petitions by almost 40 students from Pentz Elementary School in LaHave, Nova Scotia. I would like to read just one of the letters that I received in regard to this petition.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. It's only permissible on the petition to read the prayer only, the operative clause only, the prayer only, not the letter, just the prayer only, whatever the intention of the petition is. Sorry. Are you tabling the petition?

MR. DOWNE: I'm going to take that under advisement and report back to the House later, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you, sir.

[Page 8880]

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Education.

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I rise today on an issue of serious concern to all members of this House and to the people we represent. The issue concerns the educational welfare, safety and respect for all students in Nova Scotia classrooms.

In November I was briefed on complaints against a teacher and a teacher assistant who allegedly encouraged students to kick and hit a child with Down syndrome as a disciplinary measure. Like any parent, like any person, I was sickened, but I was pleased the Tri-County District School Board launched an investigation and removed the employees from the classroom.

[9:15 a.m.]

Last week I learned that the board had returned these individuals to the classroom with no lost pay and with no new training. Obviously I had a responsibility to find out why. Two days ago the board provided me with its reports and rationale behind its decision. This report did not alleviate my concerns, nor did it indicate that the school board had taken action to address the violations of the Education Act, the provincial and school code of conduct and the board's own policies.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to share the information that I can with members of this House. Please bear in mind that the report does contain personal information about the students and employees that I am obliged to protect. Members should know, also, that the teacher and teacher assistant are popular in the community, and they may have done very good things in their careers. But, while past actions should be considered in the degree of discipline, it can in no way excuse what happened over the course of a year in that Grade 3 classroom.

Mr. Speaker, as I said, I cannot release personal information, but the members should know the information that influenced my decision. First, the director of education investigated this matter and found clear breaches of the Education Act, the province's and school's code of conduct and board policy. He then recommended that the teacher and teacher assistant be suspended without pay until the end of the school year, and that they take appropriate training by this coming September.

[Page 8881]

Second, 11 individual students interviewed by different people gave consistent accounts of what happened. Third, while Community Services did not proceed with further investigation under its Act, they did find that the behaviour was inappropriate. Fourth, the classroom teacher had support and resources at his disposal to help him deal with the student's behaviour, specifically, a speech language pathologist, a psychologist and an experienced resource teacher were located at the school. The principal reported that the classroom teacher did not bring these professionals into the classroom to observe and assist him in developing an appropriate behaviour management plan.

Mr. Speaker, these are the facts. They demand a serious response. The Education Act gives school boards far-reaching authority and responsibility for delivering education and for disciplining their employees. For as long as we have elected school boards in this province, I cannot supercede this authority. At the same time, I have responsibilities and authority regarding the safety and educational welfare of students.

Under Section 20 of the Education Act regulations I am giving notice today of the suspension of the teaching certificate of the teacher in question. The teacher will have 30 days to respond before this action is invoked. Mr. Speaker, I do not have the same authority regarding teacher assistants. I wrote to the school board yesterday, asking that they reconsider their decision in light of their responsibilities and to abide by the code of conduct, and to ensure a safe learning environment for all students. At a minimum, I have directed the board to ensure training is completed before the teacher assistant returns to the classroom.

Mr. Speaker, there are no easy answers, and there are always cautions about why a certain action should or shouldn't be taken, but I truly believe this is an issue where all members agree the primary interest must be the students. What kind of message do we send if we say it's okay to hit back? With regard to teachers, they have a tremendously tough job, but this teacher had support and options available to him. The option he chose was unacceptable. Special needs students and all students need to know that. Thank you.

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

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, this is a very serious issue. Let me start by saying I'm glad to see the Minister of Education standing up in this House and acting quickly and decisively with regard to the Digby Elementary School issue. Some of the facts have come through the media; she has presented some today. I appreciate that she cannot present all of them, but she is right, the interest of the students and in particular the student in question in Digby needed to be addressed, and she has done that.

But, Mr. Speaker, I also think it's important that we reflect the fact that this is a symptom of a system that has a lot of problems. I see constantly, in my own riding and as Education Critic throughout this province, special needs and how it's addressed in our classroom is one of the largest, if not the largest, issue facing students, parents, and teachers

[Page 8882]

in Nova Scotia. I even have in my own riding a parent who pulled her son, a Down's syndrome child, out of the classroom because she felt he was not getting an education in that classroom. The problem is a lack of leadership and a lack of leadership from the top.

We have had inclusion in this province for well over 10 years and it has been constantly underfunded by the provincial government. Inclusion can only work when it is properly funded and there are proper supports - whether it be in-services for teachers to ensure they can appreciate the situation and are better able to cope with the very dynamic circumstances that would occur in a classroom. These are the kind of things that must be done and they must be done by the Minister of Education. She must take a leadership role. It cannot be done in individual schools, it cannot be relied upon by principals, it cannot be individual teachers who are responsible for ensuring inclusion works in our classroom.

It must start at the top, it must start with the Minister of Education. If she is serious about sending a message on this issue, if she is serious about protecting the interests of children - whether they be special needs children or otherwise - it is her job, it is her responsibility, she took an oath as the Minister of Education to ensure that we provide the proper funding, we provide the proper supports to ensure that special needs children and every child in a classroom has the right to reach their full potential. That is not happening in Nova Scotia and it will not happen until we implement the report that she requested on special needs and until we begin to fund education properly. Thank you.

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

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for providing a copy of her comments in advance so as to allow Opposition to be able to assess the situation. First of all, I believe it would be safe to say that all members of the House, in particular members of our caucus, recognize that first and foremost the protection of children in our classroom, in particular, special needs children, is first and foremost. It's important that we ensure that all children be kept in an environment which is safe from harm to allow the optimum benefits and privileges and opportunities be afforded to those children.

The minister has taken some very responsible action on taking moves to ensure the protection of children, a child in this particular case. However, we also have to recognize that what's happening here today is a symptom of what has transpired over the last three years in a shift of government policy with regard to the issue of special needs children in the classroom. I suppose we could debate that at great length, but we will leave that for another day.

We also have to recognize that there is a due legal process for all parties concerned and I would hope that the minister would not use this to a political advantage to the detriment of one party over the other. That having been said, we would like to echo the comments that

[Page 8883]

have been made in ensuring that first and foremost, the protection of our children in the classroom is in the forefront and I thank the minister for her comments.

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Premier.

RESOLUTION NO. 3444

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

Whereas on October 17, 2001, Nova Scotians fearfully yet with immense pride said goodbye to our departing military personnel for service in the Arabian Seas in support of Operation Apollo; and

Whereas this weekend family and friends and all citizens will proudly welcome back the brave men and women of the last two of the four ships to have left that day - HMCS Iroquis and HMCS Preserver; and

Whereas while Nova Scotians have already gratefully welcomed back the crews of both the HMCS Halifax and the HMCS Charlottetown, our gratitude is just that much greater today following last week's tragic losses of four of this country's sons in the line of duty;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House thankfully welcome the safe return of our military personnel who departed from the Port of Halifax over six months ago, sacrificing precious time from loved ones and placing themselves in harm's way.

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 Environment and Labour.

[Page 8884]

RESOLUTION NO. 3445

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

Whereas it is the goal of the Department of Environment and Labour to work together with employees and employers to create safe working environments; and

Whereas despite continuing efforts to improve on-the-job safety, 16 workers were killed in workplace accidents in Nova Scotia in 2001; and

Whereas Sunday, April 28th, is designated throughout Canada as a Day of Mourning for Workers Killed and Injured on the Job;

Therefore be it resolved that we join together at noon on Sunday, April 28th, on the grounds of Province House, for a ceremony that will honour the memory of those who have lost their lives on the job and reaffirm our commitment to preventing work-related injury and illness.

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.

RESOLUTION NO. 3446

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

Whereas April 26th marks the 84th Anniversary of the day in 1918 when women in Nova Scotia achieved the right to vote in provincial elections, and May 24th will be the 84th Anniversary of full federal voting rights for Nova Scotian women; and

[Page 8885]

Whereas the right to full participation in the voting process is one of the basic hallmarks of a democratic society; and

Whereas women's voices need to continue being heard throughout the political process;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize these important milestone dates in women's political participation and encourage women to participate at all levels of political life, especially running for elected office.

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 Tourism and Culture.

RESOLUTION NO. 3447

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

Whereas each year, the Inverness Raceway showcases the sport of harness racing to the delight of locals and visitors alike; and

Whereas this exciting sport is an important economic generator and tourism draw for the community of Inverness; and

Whereas the Inverness Raceway will be holding its annual awards night dinner and dance on Saturday, April 27, 2002;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize the many volunteers and horsemen who organize and support the Inverness Raceway and its contribution to the grassroots of Nova Scotia's harness racing industry.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 8886]

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. 125 - Entitled an Act to Protect Young Persons and Other Persons from Tobacco Smoke. (Hon. James Muir)

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

NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 3448

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

Whereas the Women's Royal Canadian Naval Service, WRCNS (Wrens), was formed in July 1942 by Order in Council, making 2002 their 60th Anniversary; and

Whereas Wren Associations across Canada will be involved in various events to celebrate the 60th Anniversary; and

Whereas in Halifax on April 29th at 2:00 p.m., Wrens from the Atlantic region will be gathering at City Hall to celebrate their first 60 years together;

[9:30 a.m.]

Therefore be it resolved that members of the Legislature congratulate the Wrens on 60 years of hard work and history, and thank them for their community efforts during war and peacetime.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 8887]

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 in the House of the Liberal Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 3449

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 Saturday, April 27, 2002, Senator Alasdair Graham will be celebrating 30 years in the Senate; and

Whereas Senator Graham was first appointed to the Senate by Prime Minister of Canada, the Rt. Honourable Pierre Elliott Trudeau, on April 27, 1972; and

Whereas Senator Graham served as Deputy Leader of the Government in the Senate from February 10, 1995 until he was appointed Leader of the Government in the Senate on June 11, 1999;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House of Assembly extend their congratulations to Senator Alasdair Graham on the occasion of his 30th Anniversary as a member of the Senate and recognize his contribution to both Nova Scotians and Canadians.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

[Page 8888]

The honourable member for Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 3450

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

Whereas over 100 staff members from Soldier's Memorial Hospital, Western Kings Memorial and Annapolis Community Health Centres turned out for the retirement of Dr. Chander Prakash; and

Whereas Dr. Prakash has been practising medicine since the early 1970s and has been part of numerous initiatives at Soldier's Memorial, including the establishment of an Intensive Care Unit; and

Whereas from 1991 to 1993, Dr. Prakash held the prestigious position of President of the Nova Scotia Society of Internal Medicine;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House honour the career of Dr. Chander Prakash and extend him many thanks for all the years he has committed to helping the people of 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.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

RESOLUTION NO. 3451

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

Whereas a new Cobequid Multi-Service Centre is a facility much needed by the communities now served by the current aging, undersized facility; and

[Page 8889]

Whereas students from Lockview, Millwood, Charles P. Allen and Sackville High Schools have come together, as a result of an idea by Sackville High teacher Ken Strugnell, to aid in getting the new facility constructed; and

Whereas these students have pledged to raise $80,000 over the next five years to make the new health and services facility a reality;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Sackville High teacher Ken Strugnell and the students of Lockview, Millwood, Charles P. Allen and Sackville High Schools for pledging $80,000 to the construction of a new Cobequid Multi-Service Centre.

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 East.

RESOLUTION NO. 3452

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 maintenance of highways are a provincial responsibility; and

Whereas Highway No. 111, the Circumferential, and Highway No. 118 in the Dartmouth community of the Halifax Regional Municipality are once again unsightly and littered with garbage throughout; and

Whereas springtime is a time of renewal and regrowth in our Nova Scotia landscape;

Therefore be it resolved that this government, through the Department of Transportation and Public Works, meet its responsibilities and address the needs of a spring cleaning along the Circumferential, Highway No. 111, and Highway No. 118 in our Dartmouth community.

[Page 8890]

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 Environment and Labour.

RESOLUTION NO. 3453

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

Whereas there is unfortunately a considerable need to care for abandoned dogs, cats and other pets; and

Whereas this care is often provided by volunteers with animal welfare organizations such as the SPCA; and

Whereas Jean Danells was recently recognized as the SPCA's Provincial Volunteer of the Year for 2001, as well as the Kings County SPCA Volunteer of the Decade;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize the caring of these wonderful volunteers, and in particular the remarkable contribution of Jean Danells as a role model for all Nova Scotians.

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 8891]

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

RESOLUTION NO. 3454

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

Whereas Joseph Howe School is one of four inner-city schools in the Halifax Regional School Board; and

Whereas Ms. Sandra Quinn has served the Joseph Howe School community for five years as school secretary; and

Whereas in addition to her regular duties, Ms. Quinn has been an important contributor to the PTA's activities in the school;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this Legislature extend best wishes to Sandra Quinn as she prepares to leave after five years at Joseph Howe School and thank her for her unwavering service to the Joseph Howe School 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 Victoria.

RESOLUTION NO. 3455

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 Cape Breton-Victoria School Board has to eliminate 42 teacher positions next year because of government formulas for declining student enrolment and student to teacher ratios; and

[Page 8892]

Whereas the Minister of Education has stated that measures are in place to save schools in rural areas like the Victoria region; and

Whereas residents of the Victoria area are worried that schools will be closing in the near future;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Education commit to not closing any schools in Victoria and find alternatives to dealing with the declining student enrollment.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Kings North.

RESOLUTION NO. 3456

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

Whereas Julia Frenette, a Grade 10 student at Horton High School, has been selected to Team Canada for the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair in Louisville, Kentucky, in May; and

Whereas Julia has participated in regional science fairs since Grade Primary; and

Whereas Julia has received several medals for her science projects;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House congratulate Julia Frenette for being selected to Team Canada and wish her the best of luck in this important competition.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 8893]

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. 3457

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

Whereas Dartmouth High School has a long history of involving students in the political process through its annual Model Parliament; and

Whereas students learn first-hand about the formation of political Parties, political representation, the role of government and the Opposition Parties, and the need for parliamentary debate; and

Whereas involving students in the political process builds and reinforces our society by keeping the democratic process alive;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Legislature congratulate the students of Dartmouth High School for participating in Model Parliament and thank their teacher, Don Houle, for his continued efforts in educating our students on how the political process works.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

[Page 8894]

RESOLUTION NO. 3458

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

Whereas the Minister of Environment and Labour is commissioned to protect Nova Scotia's environment and control pollution; and

Whereas numerous complaints to the Minister of Environment and Labour and his department's officials are falling on deaf ears in and around the Annapolis Valley district; and

Whereas the best that residents can hope from the Minister of Environment and Labour is lip service while the Annapolis Valley district becomes increasingly polluted;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Environment and Labour change his title to the minister of pollution.

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 Minister of Health.

RESOLUTION NO. 3459

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of my colleague, the MLA for Halifax Citadel, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas Salter Street Films has good reason to celebrate because, for the first time in 55 years, a documentary has been invited to join the main competition at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival, and it's one of their co-productions; and

Whereas this documentary, Bowling for Columbine, is co-produced by Salter's Charles Bishop and is a look at the American gun culture, from the shootings at Columbine to gun control post-September 11th; and

[Page 8895]

Whereas Bowling for Columbine is a film by documentary filmmaker, Michael Moore, and is 1 of only 22 films selected to compete for the festival's biggest prize, the Palm d'Or;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House offer their congratulations to Salter Street Films on the selection of their production, Bowling for Columbine, for competition at such an internationally prominent film festival as Cannes.

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. 3460

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

Whereas despite the inclement weather, supporters of equal treatment for French immersion plan to rally today, April 26th, at École Beaufort; and

Whereas the decision of Halifax Regional School Board staff to dislocate 320 Beaufort students, added to the concerns of other French immersion parents, has prompted the Member of Parliament for Halifax to request federal action; and

Whereas the Education Minister has not yet explained why she thinks the Halifax Regional School Board is fulfilling a provincial directive by closing Beaufort and disrupting French immersion students in many neighbourhoods;

Therefore be it resolved that in addition to appointing another long-term committee, the Education Minister should address the immediate problems created by the policies and directives of her own department regarding so-called rational use of schools and equitable delivery of the public school program.

[Page 8896]

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Glace Bay.

RESOLUTION NO. 3461

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

Whereas on this day in 1918, Nova Scotia women were granted the right to vote in provincial elections; and

Whereas federally, women became able to vote on May 24, 1918, and in 1929 Canadian women were legally declared persons and were granted the right to become members of the Senate; and

Whereas since 1918, hundreds of Canadian women have moved forward with perseverance and conviction to participate in affairs of state;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize this important milestone in the history of Canadian women and commend those many women who have continued to fight for the right to be heard.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton North.

RESOLUTION NO. 3462

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

[Page 8897]

Whereas the 80th Antigonish Diocesan Convention of the Catholic Women's League of Canada was hosted in Sydney Mines from April 19th to 21st by the parish councils of St. Joseph's in Bras d'Or, St. Joseph's in North Sydney, and Immaculate Conception and St. Pius X of Sydney Mines; and

Whereas the Catholic Women's League adds to the quality of the spiritual and overall well-being of the community while undertaking social justice advocacy and pursuing issues of concern to the league; and

Whereas 2002 marks the 80th Anniversary of this active and vibrant organization;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the Catholic Women's League of the Diocese of Antigonish on their decades of service in the name of God and Canada, and wish them continued 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 Dartmouth North.

RESOLUTION NO. 3463

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

Whereas volunteers play a vital role in all aspects of our communities; and

Whereas our communities and organizations are enhanced by volunteers giving selflessly of their time to provide programs and services; and

Whereas one such selfless person is Robert Anthony, who has been selected by the Halifax Regional Municipality as its Volunteer of the Year for his long-standing commitment to community volunteerism;

[Page 8898]

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Robert Anthony for being named Halifax Regional Municipality's Volunteer of the Year and thank him for a job well done.

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 Lunenburg West.

RESOLUTION NO. 3464

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

Whereas the Community Achievement Award recognizes dedication to community for members of Nova Scotia's Better Business Bureau; and

Whereas Gow's Home Hardware of Bridgewater, a century-old family business, won this year's Community Achievement Award; and

Whereas the community of Bridgewater has benefited immensely as the result of the Gow's family and their charitable contributions over the years;

Therefore be it resolved that this House extend its congratulations to Gow's Home Hardware for their contribution to our community and on being this year's recipient of the Bridgewater Community Achievement Award.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 8899]

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Tourism and Culture.

RESOLUTION NO. 3465

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the honourable member for Lunenburg, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

[9:45 a.m.]

Whereas Lindsay Rumbolt has been figure skating for 12 years; and

Whereas Lindsay's dedication to the sport of figure skating has driven a rigorous training schedule of four times per week and required that she travel to various facilities throughout the Province of Nova Scotia to practice; and

Whereas Lindsay Rumbolt won a gold medal in figure skating in the junior bronze ladies' category at provincials;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Lindsay Rumbolt on her outstanding success in figure skating at provincials.

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.

[Page 8900]

RESOLUTION NO. 3466

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

Whereas each Spring Nova Scotian motorists face major road hazards because of potholes; and

Whereas these potholes may be an inconvenience when they are repaired within a year of being created but after several years of neglect, they tend to grow into craters that devour hubcaps; and

Whereas one such extremely large, hazardous pothole can be found in Cheticamp in front of the home of Gerard Boudreau where the crater was photographed and featured in the Inverness Oran;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Transportation and Public Works reward the patience of Mr. Gerard Boudreau and other residents of Cheticamp and repair the giant pothole that has afflicted local drivers for several years.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes.

RESOLUTION NO. 3467

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

Whereas on Saturday, April 27, 2002, the Big Bras d'Or Volunteer Fire Department will hold their annual installation of officers; and

[Page 8901]

Whereas the Big Bras d'Or Volunteer Fire Department has provided service to the residents of Bras d'Or and surrounding areas for the last 45 years; and

Whereas the members of the Big Bras d'Or Volunteer Fire Department must be commended for their continued dedication and service to the community;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House extend congratulations to the Big Bras d'Or Volunteer Fire Department and its members on the installation of officers and recognize the invaluable service they provide.

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.

Order, please. There is too much noise in the Chamber. It's very hard to hear the speakers on the floor.

The honourable member for Cape Breton North.

RESOLUTION NO. 3468

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

Whereas Arleen Musgrave from North Sydney is the recent recipient of the 2001 Child and Youth Care Services Award; and

Whereas this award is sponsored annually by the New England Network for Child, Youth and Family Services in recognition of dedicated child and youth workers whose service exemplifies their profession; and

Whereas Arleen is a residential instructor at the Devereaux Glenholme School in Connecticut which provides a therapeutic and exceptional learning environment for students aged five to 18;

[Page 8902]

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Arleen Musgrave on the honour of the 2001 Child and Youth Care Services Award and applaud the dedication with which she approaches this valuable career.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Hants East. (Extended Applause)

RESOLUTION NO. 3469

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: I don't think the Premier got that much of a reaction when he came back.

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

Whereas volunteerism marks the essence of community spirit; and

Whereas communities are made enjoyable by individuals who volunteer their skills and assets for the betterment of all; and

Whereas Mrs. Marion Walker of Mount Uniacke is a shining example of community spirit and for that she has been chosen as Provincial Volunteer of the Year by the Municipality of East Hants;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate Mrs. Marion Walker of Mount Uniacke for being honoured as Provincial Volunteer of the Year by the Municipality of East Hants.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 8903]

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 Lunenburg West.

RESOLUTION NO. 3470

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

Whereas the Hamm Government recently imposed new taxes on Nova Scotians that will gouge them from the cradle to the grave; and

Whereas since coming to office this government has imposed over $100 million in new taxes and user fees; and

Whereas this government promised not to increase taxes;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of the House remind the Hamm Government that it has yet broken another promise to the people of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

[Page 8904]

RESOLUTION NO. 3471

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

Whereas the Rotary Club movement in Yarmouth was launched in 1922 to respond to the local community's needs; and

Whereas some of the local initiatives of the Yarmouth Rotary Club, include providing financial support to the Yarmouth Regional Hospital expansion, operating the Meals on Wheels program, contributing money to the South Centennial milk program, and participating in the Easter Seals campaign; and

Whereas the Yarmouth Rotary Club will be staging a Roaring Twenties Musical Extravaganza to celebrate their 80th Anniversary on Saturday, April 27th, at the Rodd Grand Hotel;

Therefore be it resolved that the House recognize the Yarmouth Rotary Club for its first 80 years of operation, thank the members for their worthwhile efforts, and wish them well as they continue their 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 member for Dartmouth East.

RESOLUTION NO. 3472

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

Whereas diabetes is a chronic disease that has no known cure; and

Whereas it is a leading cause of death by disease in Canada; and

[Page 8905]

Whereas a Diabetes Awareness Day is set for this Saturday, April 27, 2002, sponsored by the Kings County Branch of the Canadian Diabetes Association;

Therefore be it resolved that during and after this awareness day people will support the Diabetes Association with the hope that contributions help finance breakthrough research, leading to a cure for diabetes.

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 Sackville-Cobequid.

RESOLUTION NO. 3473

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

Whereas many community organizations give generously for the betterment of their family, friends and neighbors; and

Whereas Sackville has its share of such fine, generous organizations such as the Sackville AAA Flyers hockey team; and

Whereas the Sackville AAA Flyers showed their community spirit by donating $1,000 to the Cobequid Multi-Service Centre's capital campaign;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the Sackville AAA Flyers and their Coach, Dan Duffy, for the fine example they've set in donating $1,000 towards the construction of a new Cobequid Multi-Service Centre.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 8906]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Victoria.

RESOLUTION NO. 3474

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 minister has made a strong commitment to the sustainability of the province's forests; and

Whereas the Minister of Natural Resources has made cuts to the province's reforestation budget of over $250,000; and

Whereas the minister has made it publicly known that the province will keep the sustainable reforestry fund healthy;

Therefore be it resolved that on a future date the Minister of Natural Resources explain specifically to this House how his government is protecting the sustainability of Nova Scotia forests.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Hants East.

[Page 8907]

RESOLUTION NO. 3475

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

Whereas our history indicates volunteers have identified community needs and met them admirably; and

Whereas policing is made more effective through close contact and rapport with community volunteer organizations; and

Whereas local volunteers saw a need, and through their efforts have made it possible to open a RCMP satellite office in Kennetcook;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate those volunteer organizations in Kennetcook, and the RCMP, for their work in establishing an RCMP satellite office in Kennetcook.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

RESOLUTION NO. 3476

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

Whereas the Minister of Economic Development has an interesting view of accounting; and

Whereas the minister seems to believe that it is not costing anything to clean up Sysco because the $250 million allocated for that purpose has already been booked; and

[Page 8908]

Whereas the money allocated for the cleanup of Sysco, while not being fully used, is still real money;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Economic Development should realize that the $250 million borrowed to clean up Sysco is indeed real money and that real money should be spent on real goods, services and labour.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

RESOLUTION NO. 3477

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

Whereas this is the second consecutive year in which the government's budget has negatively impacted on the University College of Cape Breton; and

Whereas such measures are causing the cancellation of programs and services at UCCB; and

Whereas UCCB has consistently been negatively impacted under successive Tory Governments;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Education be encouraged to take a proactive approach and enhance programs and services at UCCB. I would ask the government members' support on this.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 8909]

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes.

RESOLUTION NO. 3478

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

Whereas that this government has reduced the recreation facility development grants by over $1.25 million; and

Whereas the honourable member for Cape Breton North has announced his support in the Cape Breton Post that there will be $2 million for a new hockey rink in a budget of less than $1.6 million for the province; and

Whereas the honourable member is not setting high hopes of the people from Cape Breton North who would benefit from a new rink;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House agree that at a future date the honourable member for Cape Breton North will inform this House of where this $2 million is hiding in a recreation development grant that has been drastically reduced.

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 Clare.

RESOLUTION NO. 3479

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

[Page 8910]

Whereas Chris Mazeroll from Clare has been elected President of l'Association générale des étudiants de l'Université Sainte-Anne; and

Whereas on April 24, 2002, Chris was elected Chair of the Nova Scotia Student Advocacy Coalition; and

Whereas he will be spending the next year as the official spokesperson for the organization;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Chris on being elected Chair of the Nova Scotia Student Advocacy Coalition and urge the government to listen to the concerns of the Student Advocacy Coalition when Chris comes calling.

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 Lunenburg West.

RESOLUTION NO. 3480

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the honourable member for Cape Breton South, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas Nova Scotia Power is applying for a rate increase before the Utilities and Review Board; and

Whereas this government is cleaning out the wallets of all Nova Scotians as it increases gas prices to consumers who drive vehicles in this province; and

Whereas it is evident that the Department of Economic Development hasn't even initiated a study to see what effect power increases would have on business;

[Page 8911]

Therefore be it resolved that the minister, at the very least, ask Nova Scotia Power to cease and desist in its application for power rate increases in this province until he can get a handle on what it's going to do for the employment factor and business in the future of the Province of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Glace Bay.

RESOLUTION NO. 3481

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

Whereas 10 students from across Canada received top honours in the 34th Canadian Mathematical Olympiad, Canada's premier mathematics competition in Ottawa on March 27, 2002; and

Whereas a total of 81 students were invited to write the 2002 CMO and had to solve five difficult questions during a three hour examination; and

Whereas Timothy Kusalik from Queen Elizabeth High School in Halifax received honourable mention;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize Timothy Kusalik and all of those who competed in this very challenging educational competition and for showing their critical problem-solving skills and creativity.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 8912]

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Government House Leader.

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

[10:00 a.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Were we going to revert back to petitions?

MR. RUSSELL: I apologize, Mr. Speaker. Yes, indeed, there was a request.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition. Approximately 40 students from Pentz Elementary School, whose first signature is Hannah Cusack, and the operative words are, "I would like to give you support to make work places and restaurants 100% non smoking places. I think it is important because of second hand smoking, just not smoking period, air pollution and this might even make business better, because (I hope) most people would rather shop or eat in clear air rather then [sic] smoky air. I would again like to give you all my support. Good luck!" I have affixed my signature to this petition.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

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

[Page 8913]

PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 109.

Bill No. 109 - Financial Measures (2002) Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, as we continue the debate on the Financial Measures (2002) Act, and in particular on this motion which is commonly referred to as a hoist motion on the bill, so that it will allow the government the time that it needs to revise this bill and so it does, in fact, reflect on what it is that the government should have done in the first place. We all know what the government should have done in the first place with this bill - the first thing that should have been done is it should have consulted with Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, when anybody asks the question why should we hoist this bill for a six-month period and give that six-month period of time to the government, it is because Nova Scotians should be made aware just how devious this government has been in its actions and this would give them exactly that chance to see that this government is being held accountable to Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, the government thinks that it's okay to introduce a bill and a budget that affects so many people and then pretend that it consulted with those whom it affects. We don't have to go back too far, only within the last few weeks, to get an example of just how this government has not consulted with the people of Nova Scotia. We need not go back any further than to take a look at the cut that is contained in this budget to transition houses, to transitional shelters, to women's centres, and to men's treatment programs. A cut that will amount to some $890,000 that will be cut from the budget. An amount which the Community Services Minister has yet to say is going to be reinstated; as a matter of fact he has never said that. What he has said is that they are going to slow things down a bit and they will not, for the time being, close any transition houses or shelters in this province, but to slow down the process.

Mr. Speaker, I think inadvertently the minister probably made a good point and probably agrees with the hoist motion that we're talking about currently, because this is exactly what this motion is proposing: that for a six-month period let's slow things down and let's consult with Nova Scotians on the Financial Measures (2002) Act.

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

[Page 8914]

MR. WILSON: Certainly.

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

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the honourable member for Glace Bay for giving me the opportunity to have an introduction here. In the west gallery are two teachers from the Metro Region Immigrant Language Service along with 23 students. The teachers are Leta Leung-Malone and Ann MacKinnon. There are a number of nationalities represented here - China, Russia, Ukraine, Turkey, France, Iran, Argentina, Brazil, Columbia, Mexico, and Indonesia, to name just a few, and they are here taking a tour of this Legislative Assembly, this historic building, as well, and they are here to watch the proceedings of this Legislature. I would like to say to them that right now we are debating the Financial Measures (2002) Act, Bill No. 109, and a six-months' hoist. That's to delay it for six months, this Financial Measures Bill. I would hope that the House would give them a very warm welcome, and would they all stand to receive the welcome of this House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We certainly welcome our special guests to the gallery today and we hope you do enjoy the proceedings.

Would the honourable member allow for another introduction?

The honourable member for Preston.

MR. DAVID HENDSBEE: Mr. Speaker, also in the Speaker's Gallery are some friends from Cape Breton. I would like to say hi to John and Barbara Shaw, and happy birthday, Barbara. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We certainly welcome our friends from Cape Breton to the gallery today and hope you enjoy the proceedings as well.

The honourable member for Glace Bay, thank you very much for allowing those introductions. You have the floor.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, I join with everyone in welcoming our guests to the gallery. Welcome to the home of free speech where, indeed, you can say anything, within reason of course, to challenge the government. Indeed, these days our guests will find that the government is being challenged at just about every turn it takes, as a matter of fact.

Mr. Speaker, as we speak on the Financial Measures (2002) Act, Bill No. 109, and in particular the motion to hoist or delay this bill for a period of six months, this period will allow that the government is held accountable, as I mentioned, and that accountability can only come through consultation and assessments that are conducted properly. We are talking about, in particular, on this bill - and it's a bill that certainly I've talked about before - the

[Page 8915]

matters within this bill, because we're talking about some of the most vulnerable people of Nova Scotia; we're talking about seniors, we're talking about women and we're talking about children in this province.

Mr. Speaker, the government should not be allowed to get away with saying that it actually consulted with the people in this province in making the decisions when we know that that is not the case. There have been no consultations with the people in this province. Again, I need refer back no further than to those involved with the decision to cut close to $1 million from families in crisis in this province and the effect that that is going to have. We did see that passing those sorts of measures and instituting those sorts of measures will leave Nova Scotians to speculate and to worry indeed what might be enacted.

Mr. Speaker, there's a great deal of worry within the community that is involved, and the workers and staff members and women and children who are involved with transitional shelters and with women's centres and with men's treatment programs. That worry will be that once this is enacted, exactly what is going to happen? Although the Minister of Community Services has said, let's slow things down, as I mentioned, let's consult with some of the people - and I will give him credit where credit is due, that after all of the sources that were out there, after the outrage that came from the people, the service providers within that, that's when he changed his mind - that's when the minister decided that we're going to consult. (Interruption) Of course, as one of the honourable members has said, the Opposition plays a role in that matter as well. Opposition plays a very important role; that's why we deal with such things as motions to delay a bill for a period of six months.

With the six months that's set aside, this government would have more of the necessary time to engage in some important discussions with Nova Scotians. Particularly, you can hold meetings with groups that would represent these very vulnerable people in our society. Now those groups, I would suggest, in one instance anyway, Mr. Speaker, you would be meeting with the service providers for transitional houses; you would be meeting with the service providers for women's centres; and just with people in general, perhaps with women and children who have had to use these services across this province so they can get an idea and have some input as to what is particularly important to them and what should be changed within the system.

Indeed, Mr. Speaker, hoisting this bill, as we commonly refer to it, will give the Minister of Community Services a chance to appreciate what works and what can be done or improved upon with regard to transition houses, women's centres and men's treatment programs. The Minister of Community Services, if that were to be the case, would get the chance to hear why $890,000 is drastically needed with respect to those services. How, all of a sudden, did the Minister of Community Services decide we're going to cut that much money from a budget when previously what he was hearing - and not through any insistence that he consult with them - from the service providers and the people who work within that community was actually that there was more need. There was more money needed, not less

[Page 8916]

money. For the minister to take this six months and delay this bill would give him the chance to reflect and think back on exactly what is going on.

Mr. Speaker, for the Minister of Health, six months would give him a chance to determine a lot of things. Health is a very important issue that we deal with on a daily basis in this Legislature. In particular, the Financial Measures (2002) Act - the impact that any increase in ambulance fees, for instance, would have on Nova Scotians and their decisions to seek what would be immediate and life-saving medical attention - what happens with this bill and with increases to those fees is that you take money out of the people's pockets who can least afford it. We've seen it time after time with this government and the user fees that are being enacted. Those user fees amount to nothing short of a tax, and they do come from the people - from seniors, people on fixed incomes and the poor.

Mr. Speaker, one honourable member mentioned a word that I can't get to but, as I said, it certainly does seem like someone is picking the pockets of the people who can least afford it in this province. For instance, if you take an ambulance ride, it can cost anywhere from $85 to $125 for emergency rides, and if you're being transported, it goes upwards of $500 to $600. That kind of user fee, as I mentioned, is a tax. It's a tax, pure and simple. It is a tax.

Mr. Speaker, on the matter of Health, I'm sure that a six-month reflection on this bill, the motion to delay this bill would certainly give the Minister of Health the chance to step back and take a look at the health care situation in many ridings throughout this province. In particular, I will give you an example from my riding, the riding of Glace Bay, and it is now happening in other ridings. I read in the Cape Breton Post yesterday that the emergency department at the Northside General Hospital would be closed during certain hours over the next few days. That's been the situation from time to time at the hospital in Glace Bay.

If you can believe it, in this day and age, we have emergency departments at hospitals in this province that will post signs and take out advertising on radio and in the papers that say you cannot show up at this particular emergency department from 7:00 p.m until 7:00 a.m., the next morning. Please do not get sick or have a real emergency during these hours, because if you do show up at the hospital, there will be no one there in the emergency department to take care of you. Mr. Speaker, surely, as I mentioned, in this day and age, Nova Scotians deserve better health care than that. You cannot plan what's going to happen in emergencies. You certainly cannot decide that you're going to go to one emergency department in one area at one particular time of the day when perhaps you're rushing there and it could be a matter of life and death.

Mr. Speaker, a delay, which is being proposed in this case, of six months would give the Minister of Health time to reflect on what should be done within his department in terms of doctor recruitment and in terms of emergency departments and how important they are to the people of this province and how important it is that they be there on a regular basis, not

[Page 8917]

just at certain hours of any particular day of the week. It is not what Nova Scotians expect of health care and it is not what Nova Scotians were expecting from this government.

[10:15 a.m.]

Mr. Speaker, this government sold Nova Scotians a bill of goods and they produced them a tidy little package called their blue book. Three years ago they just trumped it around and said here's what we're all about. These are the promises that will be made to Nova Scotians if you elect a Tory Government and when we come to power, we will put all of these promises in place. Well, we have seen time after time that those Tory promises have been broken. I would suggest that perhaps another promise has been broken with the introduction of Bill No. 109, the Financial Measures (2002) Act, and that is why, as we have said, that we are asking and we are agreeing with the motion that has been made to delay or hoist this bill for the next six months.

Mr. Speaker, another aspect of this bill is the impact on Pharmacare and the Pharmacare increase which is $121, in addition to a $150 co-payment increase that was announced in the year 2000. At that time, it rose from $200 to $350. How in heaven's name can we continue to tax the people who can least afford to pay? In this case you're dealing with seniors. You're dealing with people who are on fixed incomes. You're dealing with people who have committed all of their lives toward this province and toward where we are today. As an end result, as a gift at the end of their working life, in most cases, they look forward to retirement, they look forward to being able to afford what few pleasures they'll be able to afford, depending, of course, on their income, but all of a sudden you come along and you say, well, let's increase the Pharmacare fees and the co-payment and we will take more money out of the pockets of those who, again, can least afford to pay it. Those are the people who are being impacted most by this particular bill. Those are the people who cannot afford to be impacted the most but they are.

I'm not saying that members of the government don't know that there are a lot of people out there who are hurting. I know that members on that government side go home on the weekends and they talk to their constituents and they hear the same concerns that we're hearing on the Opposition benches. I know, for instance, if the member for Cape Breton North goes home and listens to his constituents, that people in his riding on the Northside in Cape Breton are telling him, look, we are really hurting. We can't afford any more increases. We can't afford any more taxes. We are strapped to the limit. We just do not have any more to put out of our pockets so would you please take that message back to your government and tell them to please stop increasing fees in everything from motor vehicles to gas to Pharmacare. It's not just small items here and there. What's being hit by this government is just about everything that you can possibly think about and that impacts on the average Nova Scotian, on the everyday, ordinary Nova Scotian, whether it be a senior, whether it be a middle-income earner, or whatever the case may be.

[Page 8918]

I will give you another example of the Financial Measures (2002) Act and it's the impact of cutting the Children's Dental Program. Now that's going to force some Nova Scotians into the position of being unable to afford certain aspects of dental care. So the government is offloading children's dental care to private insurers.

Mr. Speaker, I don't know how much lower you can go. I don't know if it's possible, but I think the government is reinventing the wheel here, because they have found a way to sink even lower every time they propose some new measure, some new Act or some new user fee or tax. That's why we're proposing and agreeing with the motion that you take six months and you consult with Nova Scotians and you listen to them and you will finally hear what Nova Scotians are saying.

Mr. Speaker, so far I've mentioned three groups that this government has turned its back on in bringing in this budget and this bill. Three groups, three very vulnerable groups, three very worried groups in our society are concerned that these new provisions will mean what they will mean for tomorrow, what they will mean a month from today and what they will mean a year from now.

I mentioned the Community Services Minister and his proposal to cut some $890,000. I've asked the minister in this House and I've asked him during Question Period, he has been asked by the media outside, would he commit that a year from now there would still be nine transition houses or nine shelters existing in this province to help women and children in need? The minister has never made that commitment and he will not make that commitment and refuses to make that commitment because the bottom line is that $890,000 dollars is still going to be cut.

What is being done right now is nothing more than a shell game that's being played with women and children in this province. The minister has told them let's slow things down and take a look at it, knowing full well that a year from now, that six months from now, those cuts are going to go ahead. What was proposed was that we would have a transition shelter in each proposed area of this province, which would amount to the closing of approximately four shelters throughout this province. If the minister, as I said, were to step back and agree with the premise of this motion, which again is to delay this bill and take six months and listen to the people who put him here in the first place, then he would know.

It's important, Mr. Speaker, to understand that should - and I'm not speculating that I think this probably would happen, but should - this motion pass, for the next six months Nova Scotians would have the opportunity to perhaps get into detail and examine the exact wording and the implications of this legislation. As I said, the implications are great because they affect the everyday life of everyday Nova Scotians.

[Page 8919]

Mr. Speaker, you know that emotions have been running high about the services that this government has decided to cut and privatization plans that it hopes it will introduce and services for which they've decided to either impose fees, new fees or they've decided that they will increase fees as well. You've seen it, I'm sure that government members and government ministers have seen the passion that Nova Scotians are starting to display because they're genuinely worried, they're genuinely concerned. There is probably a reason for that passion because without consultation and assessments, the people in this case feel that the government doesn't respect Nova Scotians or that they don't value their input.

A very important part of just being a person is to think that your input is actually valued, that you have something to contribute; whether it be to an opinion, whether it be to an argument that you're having or a task that you're performing, as long as your input is valued. We do that in our society through consultation and in listening to people, Mr. Speaker.

Budgets in any province that are proposed by governments are a series of choices and we know that governments exist - because governments will tell us that - to make reasonable, informed choices for the people. I am sure we've all heard the government members, government ministers on the front benches over there tell us that they're doing all of this because they have made a reasonable choice, an informed choice, but the difference here is that this government continually makes choices and its not the choices they said they were going to make, Mr. Speaker. Again I get back to the issue of broken promises and how many that have been broken by this government since it first came to power almost three years ago.

Mr. Speaker, a lot of people have some very legitimate concerns with this budget. Because, as I said, it's going to have some real and lasting results and that's why we want to put this bill, Bill No. 109, out for the public to review it. We want to put it out there to review it for a period of six months so that we can digest it and probably suggest some necessary changes as well. We're not perfect on the Opposition benches. We know that perhaps with a six-month review of this bill that we too would find some changes that would be necessary and we could contribute toward the process. Nobody is perfect, that includes members on the government side, and they know that.

Mr. Speaker, let me return to the reason we are standing in favour of this motion today and it's definitely because of the government's poor management of the priorities that it has for Nova Scotians. As I mentioned, there are choices to be made. There are informed choices to be made by government, but the fact of the matter is that this government has shown Nova Scotians time and time again that they are poor managers because of the priorities that they have supposedly set for Nova Scotians; everything, as I mentioned, from children to women, artists, seniors and debt to home care. The function of this government is to manage all of those things for the people of this province. It's quite evident that that management is not there, it's not as solid as it should be, and that's why you see the reaction from the public that has been quite evident over the last several months.

[Page 8920]

So, Mr. Speaker, our message is clear. There should have been consultation on such an important bill and a lot of issues that are contained within this bill. The government says, for instance, that it's committed to the culture of our province, but it takes money away from those people who are affected, the artists of Nova Scotia. Whoever would have thought that you could upset the artistic community of Nova Scotia . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Would the honourable member allow for another introduction, please?

MR. WILSON: Yes.

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

MR. WILLIAM LANGILLE: Mr. Speaker, this morning we have in your gallery a very lovely young lady by the name of Michelle Dooks, who is going away to Europe on a five-week backpacking trip with her friend, Marie. She is the daughter of Bill and Colette Dooks. I wish her a safe and well journey. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: I certainly welcome these two special ladies to the gallery today as well. All the members wish you a good trip and safe return. Congratulations and good luck.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, as I was mentioning, I had just touched on the topic of the artists in Nova Scotia. The relationship between this government and the province's artists is now being dismantled. It's being dismantled because, again, we keep coming back to the point that there is a lack of consultation between the government - I don't really know if this government actually cares. Maybe that compassion is what is lacking as well. I thought perhaps that there would have been compassion from some of the members on the backbenches.

Mr. Speaker, as I stood here last night and I saw every member on that government side jump to their feet and howl and hoot in approval of what was passed here last night.

AN HON. MEMBER: Historic, wasn't it?

[10:30 a.m.]

MR. WILSON: Oh, one of the members on the government side says it was historic.

Mr. Speaker, it was definitely historic, because I would say that would rate right up there with the TSN Turning Point. That will mark the end of an era, and it will also mark the end of that government. It will mark the end of that little triumvirate that we have going over in the corner over there, that's for sure. I can guarantee you that the member for Preston and the member for Cape Breton North - enjoy the scenery, guys, because you're not going to see it too much longer. There's a time and a place (Interruption) I'm not going anywhere, I intend

[Page 8921]

to stay right here, but I won't be seeing the same faces, I can guarantee you that. I can guarantee you that.

Mr. Speaker, there's a time and a place for everything. This government and these government members, and some of the big mouths that exist over there - Mr. Speaker, you know in this House that any member can be heard, all they have to do is stand in their place. That's all any member of this House has to do, is stand in their place and they can say whatever they want, and be heard. It doesn't take much intestinal fortitude to heckle from across there. If you really wanted to be heard and engage in debate, as one honourable member from the government side has written about in his column that we need to increase the level of debate here, we shouldn't be doing this sort of thing, that same honourable member will sit over there and listen to the likes of the member for Dartmouth South, who is babbling on right now and trying to egg me on for no other purpose than that.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. First of all, I would like to bring it to the attention of all members that I don't believe it's very parliamentary to be talking about physical attributes of any members which could lead to, obviously, some suggestion that members are pointing out things different about one member from another. (Interruptions) Anyway, as well, I would ask the honourable member to bring his comments back to the debate at hand, which is the hoist motion, on the appropriation Act.

The honourable member for Glace Bay has the floor.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, I'm directly referring, of course, to the motion that we're talking about on Bill No. 109, which is the motion to delay the Financial Measures (2002) Act for a period of six months. We will get back to the point. I'm sorry that I was somewhat distracted by some of the noise that existed in the Chamber. If I did make any inappropriate comments, I apologize for those inappropriate comments.

Mr. Speaker, one of the things that this government has purported to be is that they are open and accountable. This is an open and accountable government, that is stated again - if I go back to that famous document, the blue book - that this government will be more open and more accountable than any government that has ever existed in the Province of Nova Scotia. I don't know if there's any doubt in anyone's mind that this government is actually unaccountable. Consider then that what they want to do is to ensure that the access to government information is kept just out of the reach of the public. This government says that it has the most generous and most open Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act in this country for making information available. The government says it wants to be transparent, to be open and accountable. Whatever the public wants, it's going to provide it.

But this government is going after the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. If you have money now and if you're willing to wait long enough you might find out some of the information that will allow you to hold this government accountable.

[Page 8922]

With the user fee that's being imposed, that's going to be difficult, because the fee is nothing more than a tax that prevents the public from gaining knowledge of the activities of this government. It is increasing, it used to be $5.00 I believe but now it will go up to $25. In my rough calculations that's an increase of about 500 per cent. This really cuts to the essence of our democracy, because this denies people the chance to examine government records which, in truth, are not the government records, they are the people's records, but people who do not have the money and cannot afford this will be denied the chance because, again, this supposedly open and this supposedly accountable government has decided to increase that user fee or that tax.

Again, taking the six months that is being proposed in this case to take a look and consult and talk to people, they would undoubtedly be told that you should not increase that kind of a user fee because if you really do mean that you are open and you are accountable then indeed you would welcome the chance for people to ask you, through the Freedom of Information Act for the records, for the information, for the material that they are seeking. There would be no problem whatsoever in granting that information. I'm not saying that perhaps a nominal fee shouldn't be charged, that's been there. Such a dramatic increase of some 500 per cent would certainly not be in order.

What has happened, I think, with this government is that we hear one thing in this Chamber, but we hear the exact opposite outside the Chamber. I will give you a perfect example. The Minister of Community Services who stood up in Question Period on one particular day and said that they were going ahead with the cuts to transition houses and to transition shelters and women's centres and men's treatment programs, walked outside of this Chamber and in conversation with the media, said exactly the opposite. He said they had consulted in here, they had consulted with the service providers. Outside the Chamber, he said, well, we didn't actually have consultations. We did happen to talk to a few here and there.

So, we get one story inside the Chamber and this is what's happening with a lot of instances. My colleague, the honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes, raised one of these topics today in a resolution. That was the topic of the proposed new sports facility on the Northside. The member for Cape Breton North has told people back in his riding that he will guarantee them $2 million for that facility. But this government has never said that $2 million is going to be forthcoming. As a matter of fact, this government has cut the budget from sports and recreation. They've cut it bare bones. I think the cut was over $1.5 million or $1.2 million that's been cut? So, if you're going to cut $1.2 million from a department, how do you get $2 million that's been promised from that very same department?

What's happening is that - and I don't want to get into trouble, Mr. Speaker, I've been in enough trouble over the past few hours - perhaps some, I don't know if it's a mistruth or whatever the word you might want to use to describe what is happening outside the Chamber from what actually takes place and what is said in here.

[Page 8923]

The proposal to delay or hoist this motion or hoist this bill for six months would give us the opportunity to take a more detailed look at perhaps the Sport and Recreation budget and see exactly where that money is coming from. It brings up an important point here too because some of the things that have been cut, or proposed cuts that are going to take place in this budget, will have a dramatic effect on the health and welfare of Nova Scotians. You cut budgets for recreation and sporting facilities, then eventually you're leading to the fact that our young people, our seniors perhaps, or whoever, will not have those facilities to go and take part in sporting activities, in healthy activities. They won't be there any longer because they will no longer have the budgets to support them. You know where I'm going with this, Mr. Speaker, is that down the road that will eventually lead to some illnesses which will eventually cost us a whole lot more money when those illnesses are being treated in our hospitals.

Without sounding like I'm harping on one particular subject, we bring it back to the point where our hospitals are already in the state that they're in and we don't have those services being provided already. So, it can, if this government is not careful, become a very vicious circle. That circle will eventually end up costing the government more than it's proposing to cut. If you take a look at proposed cuts to Community Services and you think about the damage that's going to be done, you think about the end result, then it wouldn't take too long for you to figure out that you're actually going to spend more money in the long run because of the effects of those cuts.

As I said, the important part of all of this is that Nova Scotians are demanding that they be heard. It's a demand that should not be taken lightly because we've seen what has happened in the past when Nova Scotians are not heard. As I said, this government sold us a bill of goods almost three years ago to Nova Scotians. One of the things that this government promised was that they were going to listen. They were going to listen to the concerns of Nova Scotians. Well, those concerns are being expressed on a daily basis.

Some of those concerns have ended up right here at Province House because we've seen groups that have come here concerning the Arts Council, who were here en masse recently. They were outside of this Legislature, protesting. We've seen service providers and so on coming from women's shelters, from women's centres and from transitional shelters across the province. They've come here. Their message was the same as our message. It was no different. Our message is, hold on, delay, take six months, think this over, consult with more groups. Those people are telling the government the same thing. The message is quite clear, the message is the same that they're hearing from us and what they're hearing from average, ordinary Nova Scotians. It's a message that they are not being heard. It's a message that they want to be consulted and that they are really, really very passionate about the effects that this bill and this budget is going to have on them and their daily lives. The effects it's going to have on their brothers and their sisters and their mothers and their fathers. Again, the effect that it's going to have on some of the most vulnerable people in our society.

[Page 8924]

That's what concerns me most. I think that's probably why we're sent here more so than any other reason, because there are people in this society (Interruptions) One honourable member suggests that there are other reasons why I was sent here. He could be right on some of those reasons, but I think in particular, we're sent here to represent the people - not necessarily the people who can be heard. The honourable member for Victoria is right - the people from Glace Bay feel I should be here otherwise I would not be here. The people who can be heard in our society, it's one thing to represent those people. And, it's our responsibility. The people who cannot be heard in our society, those are the people we're entrusted, most of all, with voicing their concerns in this Legislature.

They are the people we should be most concerned about, because in some instances they can't speak for themselves and they rely on others. In a lot of cases, they rely on people who take care of them. I will give you an example that recently touched me to a great degree. I attended a meeting not too long ago at Masonview Homes for the Masonview facility. This will give you an example of some of the bumbling of this government, which is why we're telling this government to take six months and think things over. You've been on the verge and have made some dramatic effects and some dramatic mistakes in the past.

Anyway, this particular visit that I made to a meeting of some of the residents and families of the Masonview facility - what was being proposed by the Minister of Community Services and by this government was that the per diems were no longer going to be paid for the residents of the Masonview facility. That, in effect, would have forced residents of this facility, not necessarily out on the street, but out of a home that they had lived in for a very long time and an atmosphere and environment that they truly loved and wanted to be in.

[10:45 a.m.]

Mr. Speaker, to hear from those residents and the people who provided their care - I think it would have taken the most hardened heart and just reduced it to pulp to hear some of their stories. It was an incredible experience, an experience that I only wish all of the government members had been able to participate in. But sadly, Mr. Speaker, there was not one government member who was represented at that meeting, not one spokesman on behalf of the Community Services Department, none of the minister's staff - no one showed up.

In the end, Mr. Speaker, what happened is because those residents spoke up, because Opposition members spoke up in this Legislature, and because their voices finally became so loud that not even the Minister of Community Services could turn them off any longer, he finally heard what they were saying, finally rescinded the order that was going to put them out of their home and actually increased the per diems that they'll be getting.

So, Mr. Speaker, you may be asking, well what's your point? Well my point is that sometimes if you listen and you do consult, you actually can hear the other side because they have some very good ideas and some very good opinions. In this case it would not have made

[Page 8925]

sense for the minister to do what his department was proposing - to put those people out of their homes. The distress and grief that it would have caused, as we heard from those individuals, would have been immeasurable, but instead - and wisely may I add - the minister decided to listen to these people and to listen to their concerns and to rescind those orders that had been issued. The orders actually had been issued. These people were worried that they were going to be out of their home and they certainly had been through enough. They had found a place that they wanted to live for the rest of their lives.

So, Mr. Speaker, again it brings me back to the whole purpose here and that is that we're proposing and agreeing with the motion that is put forward on this bill, Bill No. 109 - Financial Measures (2002) Act - to allow six months to think it over. As I said before, you know those six months actually might give Nova Scotians a chance to sit back and just see how devious this government actually is.

This is a government that is not open because they like to hide a lot of things, so every once in awhile you will find out about a user fee, or a tax, or a department being cut, or transition shelters being proposed to be closed. It is very much so, and I think Nova Scotians have realized that, that they are in this case being deceived by this government. It's very devious, some of the stuff that they have proposed and the way that they go about doing it, but I don't think anybody is being fooled. You know the end result is going to be - and I know that sometimes tempers can flare in this House and sometimes people say things that they really don't mean, and I understand that, but I think that most, at least the people whom I have talked to out there, and I'm sure government members talk to the same people, I mean we all live in surrounding and neighbouring communities and so on, and my goodness, people can't differ in their thoughts that much from one community to the next - I think that most people in this province are realizing that this government has tried to put one over on them.

This government has tried to pull the wool over their eyes and pretend that they are doing great things. You know, the Minister of Finance says here's my Financial Measures (2002) Act and here's the budget, and he thumps his chest very proudly that this is the first time we have ever had a balanced budget in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, when the Minister of Finance does that - and all the other government members participated in it last night. They stood up and their chests were out proud; I heard the honourable member for Halifax Bedford Basin, I think it was, who stood up last night and hollered out, that's why we're here, and she was so proud. Nova Scotians know what a crock that is. They know the difference, and those honourable members know the difference over there. It's not going to take six months. It didn't take six months for Nova Scotians to figure out that this government is wrong, it is not telling them exactly what is going on, it is going to hurt them and is currently hurting them. It didn't take six months for the people of Nova Scotia to figure that out. I don't even think it took them six seconds after this government came to power.

[Page 8926]

Mr. Speaker, you can only rub it in people's faces so long. People won't take it. They will stand up. Some will wait patiently, as most Nova Scotians are doing right now. They're sitting back and very patiently waiting for this government to expire. Its expiration date is just about to give out, let me tell you. If you looked on this package of goods that this government is selling, or trying to sell you, the best-before date is just about up. The milk is about to turn sour for that side of this House because people will only be fooled for so long. As I said, in this case, they haven't been fooled from the very beginning.

Mr. Speaker, we propose that this Financial Measures (2002) Act be delayed for six months; why should we do it? Because, as I have said, it gives Nova Scotians a chance to be made aware of what's going on within their government and what's actually being proposed. It gives them a chance to hold this government accountable. It gives this government a chance to consult Nova Scotians and consult properly so they can hear from Nova Scotians exactly what they think about this bill, some of the regressive measures that are contained within this bill, and why indeed anybody should support this kind of bill, a bill that will take the most vulnerable in our society and impose some very serious measures on them that would lead to their quality of life not being enhanced, but to their quality of life, if anything, being downgraded even further.

The government should not be allowed to get away without consulting the people of this province. It's why we're here. We're here to listen to Nova Scotians and, as I mentioned, I've been hearing from Nova Scotians who have said, I don't like what I've seen so far. I don't agree. There are Nova Scotians out there, Mr. Speaker, who don't agree that that budget is balanced.

AN HON. MEMBER: No.

MR. WILSON: There are. I'm wondering if any of the Progressive Conservative members of this House, Mr. Speaker, have ever had a Nova Scotian come up to them and say, well, I really don't believe that budget is balanced. (Interruptions)The Premier says, no, I've never had one Nova Scotian tell me that the budget isn't balanced. I know the Premier. He's an honourable man; I will give him that. That Premier is an honourable man, and I can't believe that he believes what he just said. I really can't. I know that he's probably had some e-mails, faxes, or the odd phone call, I'm sure, that said the budget is not balanced. We don't believe you.

Mr. Speaker, you never get personal. I don't like getting personal. I try not to get personal when it's my time. I know the members on that side of the House agree with me. But if the Finance Minister balanced his budget at home the same way he balanced that budget, the Finance Minister would be in deep financial doo-doo at home.

[Page 8927]

Mr. Speaker, I think that's how most people approach a balanced budget. Not everybody sits around and says, oh, how much do we owe on the debt, I'm worried about how much the Canadian dollar is today. A lot of people have a lot more serious worries than that sort of thing, but they do know that if you spend more than you're actually taking in then you have problems there. I think maybe if this government did some really simple accounting they would realize that they should not be putting it out that that budget is balanced. They would also realize that what creates that is some very poor management. That's what we're talking about here in this instance.

I'm not sure of how much time I have left, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member has approximately six minutes.

MR. WILSON: I know I can continue . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Five minutes.

MR. WILSON: I will take your six minutes, Mr. Speaker, over that member's five minutes.

AN HON. MEMBER: . . .11:01

MR. SPEAKER: Order, order. The Speaker will advise you when your time is completed.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, you're well-advised to be - never mind, I won't go there. I will take the next five minutes, not with any great pleasure because I wish I was not standing in my place for the next five minutes proposing that some people would delay this for six months. I wish I didn't have to do this, and if the government came to its senses and realized that it's not right here, things should be changed, and if they made those appropriate changes and listened to the people of Nova Scotia, then there would be no need for me to stand here for the next four and a half minutes, because they would have listened already, they would have consulted.

Mr. Speaker, what we're proposing is for six months, a delay, take this motion seriously and take the next six months to deal with some very, very tough issues. One of the toughest issues that this government has to deal with that has not been resolved, is the issue of transition shelters and houses, women's centres, and men's treatment programs.

It's an issue that we've all been dealing with. Mr. Speaker, I know in your position as the Community Services Critic for the New Democratic Party that you've dealt with this issue very seriously. I have done that job as the Critic for my caucus and the Minister of Community Services has been dealing with this issue as well. I would suggest that the

[Page 8928]

minister, who has already proposed that he slow down the process, has not agreed, has not said to anyone, and will not guarantee anyone, that that $890,000 is not going to be cut or that we will have less transition houses a year from now.

There's been no guarantee of that, but at least the minister has agreed that we should slow down the process and consult with people. That's the very essence of the motion that's being proposed here. The very essence of this motion is what the minister has already done, the Minister of Community Services. He has slowed down the process, he has delayed the process, and he is consulting with the people who are involved.

Mr. Speaker, I dare say that perhaps it's no more than a coincidence, but I find it rather ironic that exactly what we're proposing here today would be exactly what the Minister of Community Services has done in that particular instance with transition houses, women's centres, and men's treatment programs. It would give the people who are most affected a chance to be involved, to be consulted, to speak up, to have their opinions, to have their ideas and their concerns heard once and for all by a government that has said from the very outset that they are going to be the most open and the most accountable government that this province has ever seen.

Mr. Speaker, this six months would give that government a chance to finally live up to one of its promises, to finally live up to one of those many promises that they made, and that would be to at least appear that they're open and accountable and they are listening to people's concerns.

I'm about to wrap up my comments, Mr. Speaker, I know I don't have much time left. My message is very simple, the message is very clear, from our caucus we certainly support this motion to delay Bill No. 109, the Financial Measures (2002) Act for a six month period. With that, I thank you for your time, and I will take my seat.

MR. CHAIRMAN: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak for a few moments about the motion that's on the floor of this Legislature, a motion to hoist Bill No. 109. I do so, Mr. Speaker, because I believe it was an important motion that was put forward, a motion that was put forward with good grounds to consider given the implications of Bill No. 109. I want to start my intervention by saying that I have stood in this House and debated a number of so-called balanced budgets dating back to 1996 and, inevitably, what we've found is that the so-called balanced budgets are more a political stunt than they are an actual accounting accomplishment.

[Page 8929]

[11:00 a.m.]

It reminded me, yesterday afternoon, Mr. Speaker, you were here and other members, of course, when the budget itself, when the Supply debate had concluded and there were votes held on the Appropriations Act. In other words, the budget was voted on, members opposite stood and cheered and their supporters in the gallery stood and cheered. They did so because the politics surrounding this whole question of a balanced budget has become so significant that the very success or lack thereof of this government, politically, depends on whether or not people, the voters, believe that this budget was balanced. It doesn't have so much to do with whether it's balanced or not - and I will talk about that in a second - it has much more to do with this government's ability to convince Nova Scotians that it is, in fact, balanced. That's why such an act of bravado was put on yesterday by this government, because they understand that if Nova Scotians don't believe their contention that the budget is balanced, then their political careers are going to be short indeed.

They have reason to be nervous. They have reason to be concerned. In fact, I would suggest to you that if this motion were a motion to hoist the bill for six weeks, that would be sufficient time probably for us to show Nova Scotians, and for the government itself to show Nova Scotians through its actions that this budget is not balanced. The act, and we've seen this, Mr. Speaker, of balancing the budget has been a real contortion act by this government. The effort that has been taken, that has been made to try to shove programs in and budget lines into the structure that the Minister of Finance has placed upon it has been a real act of magic. There's no question about that.

We believe, on this side, Mr. Speaker, that if we take the six months' hoist, if we take six weeks to deal with Bill No. 109, a bill that puts into legislative practice the budget that was passed yesterday, that we, in fact, would burst that bubble, that bubble which is this government's contention that the budget is balanced. I mean, you and I both know, Mr. Speaker, that the so-called balanced budget, the surplus that this government has registered is, I believe it's one-half of one-tenth of 1 per cent of the overall budget of the Province of Nova Scotia. In other words, were the government to sneeze, the budget would suddenly be out of balance. In fact, my colleague, the member for Halifax Fairview, as a result of some simple mathematics, was able to find another $1 million. We have gone through the budget and found over $150 million that the government has not properly accounted for. So we have already provided real evidence to support our argument that this budget, in reality, is not balanced. In fact, that $150 million continues to build up every day.

The Minister of Community Services, as a result of opposition in this House and outside this House and across the province to his decision to cut $890,000 out of programs for abused women and children and abusers, has decided to reinstate that funding, or not to go forward with those funding cuts. So there's $900,000 already from that $1.3 million surplus, supposedly, that has disappeared, that has changed sides on the ledger. Well, has the Minister of Finance stood in this House and made the correction to those accounts? No, he

[Page 8930]

has not. He has not because he knows, and all members opposite know, that what was important for this government in political terms was the minister being able to stand up in this House two and a half weeks ago, present books which registered that there was a $1.3 million surplus. The fact that the day after, in all likelihood, the books of the Province of Nova Scotia were out of balance, the fact that one, two, three days to two weeks later, we were back into a deficit situation doesn't matter, you see, to this government.

It doesn't matter so there's no need, they feel, for the Minister of Finance to stand in his place and say, you've heard from the Minister of Community Services that he is going to restore that $890,000 to that budget line item. We are going to, and I will do this by resolution, restate the bottom line of the accounts of the Province of Nova Scotia to reflect that. So now, all of a sudden, we've got a surplus - the minister would have to say, at that point, we've got a surplus of approximately $400,000. Again, the point is not that now, as we've given proof, the budget is in a deficit situation. The minister wants to be able to say and the government is saying, and they did so with great glee yesterday , and they said it in the face of all kinds of evidence to the contrary, Mr. Speaker, that in fact the budget was balanced when they brought the books in and the fact that it isn't now doesn't matter to this government whatsoever.

So, Mr. Speaker, the six months' hoist, which I'm speaking in support of, would provide us with an opportunity and would provide this government with an opportunity and provide Nova Scotians with an opportunity to examine more carefully the veracity of those numbers, to examine how things are transpiring within the operations of this government, within the operations of the administration of the Province of Nova Scotia. To convince ourselves that in fact the budget which was presented two and a half weeks ago is a budget that will hold even a glass of water between now and the end of the fiscal year of 2002-03.

I think we need that time. Let me tell you, I've been in this House now for almost 11 full years and there's been some significant debate about how the finances of the Province of Nova Scotia are being handled, are being managed. It does no one any good, leastwise Nova Scotians, for a government to stand up and make claims that have no basis, to make claims that are not, in fact, correct. That is the concern that we have as members of the Opposition. That Nova Scotians deserve to know the truth, that Nova Scotians are responsible, mature, law-abiding citizens who contribute to their community, make important contributions to this province. They deserve the respect from us, from this government, to tell them the truth, to give them the straight facts. If the budget isn't balanced, we shouldn't pretend it is. We shouldn't pretend it is just because of a political promise that was made in an election some three years ago.

That's not a good enough reason and all it does is contribute to the increasing level of cynicism on the part of many Nova Scotians. That's the primary reason, I believe, that we should take a careful look at Bill No. 109 and through Bill No. 109, the actual budget that was tabled and has been debated and subsequently passed yesterday, only because this

[Page 8931]

government has a majority. It should be examined for what it is, that the government should come clean because you know and I know and most Nova Scotians know that while a surplus is budgeted for between now and next spring, the chances of that happening are not very likely.

Let me also take some time to go through some of the other reasons why I think we should take six months to examine Bill No. 109. Bill No. 109, as it accompanies the budget for the Province of Nova Scotia, highlights some of the choices that this government has been making - some of the choices. That's an issue that needs to be dealt with because in the drive to have a politically-considered balanced budget, this government is making choices; some of them are reflected in Bill No. 109, some of them are reflected in other things that this government has been doing. There are choices and quite frankly, the choice has been a clear one in many cases. The government has decided to tax Nova Scotians - not directly, not through income tax, not based on their ability to pay, but indirectly. They're hiding these revenue increases, these taxes, in user fees. They're hiding them in a way which is regressive. In other words, they are applied to people regardless of their ability to pay.

The tax on licences, the user fees for ambulances and so on are applied to a millionaire the same way they are to someone with an annual income of $10,000. You can appreciate, Mr. Speaker, that the impact of those user fees on that person, that individual, the family making $10,000 a year is considerably greater than it is on a family or on an individual making $1 million. That's why it's called regressive. It's not equal. It's not applied equally. It does not have equity and that's what we see throughout Bill No. 109 and we've seen it in other ways. We've estimated that since this government came to power, they have wrung out of the pockets of Nova Scotians over $230 million in user fees, $233 million. It's a shocking figure and, at the same time, they say, we're not going to raise taxes.

[11:15 a.m.]

On top of that, and we know that it was in the budget, the Minister of Finance finally came out and stated it boldly yesterday that they fully intend, on top of squeezing $230-odd million out of the pockets of Nova Scotians through user fees, through this regressive form of taxation, cutting back services to women and children, to people in public education, receiving health services in the Province of Nova Scotia, municipalities and others, on top of that, their plan is clear that next Spring, or before the next election, a week or two before, they're going to announce a 10 per cent income tax reduction for Nova Scotians.

Why is that a problem? I mean, surely, any kind of tax cut is a good thing, right? Well, the problem with it, Mr. Speaker, and the reason why we need the six months' hoist to discuss it somewhat more fully is because a 10 per cent tax cut advantages people disproportionately, again, based on income, based on their ability to pay. So, in other words, a family with an income of $1 million will receive a considerable return on the basis of a 10 per cent tax cut, whereas that family that I referred to earlier that makes $10,000 a year won't

[Page 8932]

see a thing because they don't make enough money to pay any income tax. So you've got user fees which impact disproportionately low and middle income Nova Scotians and on top of that, the government is planning to bring in a 10 per cent income tax reduction, which, again, disproportionately advantages people with higher incomes.

So I would suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, it's clear to most Nova Scotians what side of the line this government stands on, who it is this government has decided they're here to represent. They're here to represent wealthier Nova Scotians. They're here to represent Nova Scotians with privilege, Nova Scotians who can easily look after themselves and are able to count on this government to avoid paying their fair share. Those are the kinds of discussions we would have on the whole question of Bill No. 109 and we can do that if we get majority support on the six months' hoist.

Mr. Speaker, I want to talk a little bit more about some of the things that are in Bill No. 109 that require our attention, the attention of all members of this House and of Nova Scotians, and why it is that we require six months to examine them.

There's a clause in Bill No. 109, Mr. Speaker, that facilitates, sanctifies, and finalizes one of the most draconian acts by a minister that we've seen - I was going to say in some years, but with this government I had better say in some days. That is the decision by the Minister of Tourism and Culture to disband the Nova Scotia Arts Council. The decision was to disband the Arts Council, and in this legislation the minister not only legalizes, sanctifies his decision, he also is going to make off with the Arts Council's endowment fund and the revenues, the investment income, generated from that endowment fund. This is a fund that has been contributed to by Nova Scotians who support the arts and culture in the Province of Nova Scotia. Hundreds and thousands of dollars have been donated by Nova Scotians, supporters of arts and culture in the Province of Nova Scotia, to this fund, and that money has been used by the Arts Council to further fund and support the arts and cultural activities in the Province of Nova Scotia.

Well, whereas once upon a time it was the responsibility and in the hands of artists, now all of a sudden, as a result of Bill No. 109, the minister has absconded with that money. The minister put padlocks on the door, put guards at the door and drove everyone out, and he went inside, grabbed that money, and escaped with it to someplace unknown, Mr. Speaker. That's, in effect, what happened. Now, we need six months to examine what it is that this minister has done, because we can't understand it. The hundreds and thousands of Nova Scotians who support the arts and culture in the Province of Nova Scotia have been asking questions of this minister and this government, backbench MLAs and members of the Opposition. Why would a Minister of the Crown treat the arts and culture sector in this manner? They've said this for this reason, Mr. Speaker, and it will be explained more fully if we have the six months to debate the issue, once we've passed the six months' hoist.

[Page 8933]

The Arts Council, Mr. Speaker, was established - just to give you some background and support why it is that I'm in favour of this six months' hoist, this is a very tangible and material part of this bill that needs to be examined in full - back in 1996 by legislation passed unanimously in this House by a former government. We were the last province in this country to establish an Arts Council of this type. Why is it special? It's special because it was arm's-length. It was completely independent of the influence of the minister and the backbench of any particular government. It was completely immune - I suppose within reason. Nothing is completely immune from politics, let's be clear. But the idea was that decisions for which the Arts Council was responsible in handing out grants and supporting arts and culture programs and so on that fell within their mandate, those decisions were made through peer assessment by people who were involved in the arts and culture industry and community, who sat on that board. It was peers evaluating peers. It was peers making a decision on which peers, which projects, which programs, which individuals would get support from these funds.

It was an action - the setting up of that Arts Council - that was lauded by Nova Scotians, that was recognized and applauded by people across the country who are knowledgeable of and aware of this type of process. We all felt good about that. That year the budget was approximately $1.5 million. Since then, the budget, every year, has decreased; it went to $1.4 million the next year and then it has gone through 10 per cent and 15 per cent reductions in the last two budgets, which has had considerable impact on the ability of that Arts Council to function. There's no question about that.

In the meantime, the Arts Council was streamlining its administrative capacity and activities. The community was very involved as individuals and as organizations in ensuring that the operations of the Arts Council were as reflective of the community as they possibly could be, were as equitable as they could possibly be, were as efficient as they could possibly be, and there was a fair bit of effort and time put into those activities. We could explore those more when we support this motion for a six months' hoist.

The work that was put in to make the Arts Council better is very important. The Arts Council had to respond to successive years of funding cuts, which they did. Over the past year they have been in negotiation and have been engaged in discussion with the minister and his officials about a very important part of their responsibility, that is taking over responsibility for what's called the big four arts and culture agencies in the Province of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, the current administrative . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, order. I wonder if the honourable members wouldn't mind taking their conversations outside. The Speaker is interested in the debate on Bill No. 109, and certainly wants to make sure that the member who is speaking to Bill No. 109 is

[Page 8934]

consistent with the topic, so I would greatly appreciate it if you could carry your conversations outside.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate your interest. I'm trying to give you and members of this House a taste of the complexity of one issue that's contained in this bill in support of my decision to vote in favour of this motion for a six months' hoist. The decision to get rid of the Arts Council has been a significant one that's affected hundreds and thousands of individuals who work in the arts and culture sector, their organizations, people in their communities and people across the province.

I believe that this minister needs to be held accountable, to explain, for example, his contention that the administrative costs of the council are greater than the grants that have been given out to individuals, which his own documents show is not true. Mr. Speaker, his own documents have shown him to be inaccurate in that contention. The minister is not an unintelligent individual. That's the point that's trying to be made, we need six months, a six months' hoist to examine that. I have been trying over the past 6 days, 12 days, 3 weeks to find answers to that, and the minister has provided us with some accounting, a few photocopied pages from the Public Accounts, but guess what? It proves that we're right and that he's wrong. Why is he giving the press that kind of evidence? Maybe we need six months to fully understand that. So the Arts Council is an issue that's dealt with in Bill No. 109 that needs to be examined over the six months.

[11:30 a.m.]

I have referred to the fact that the budget isn't balanced, that the performance we saw yesterday was politics - depending on which side you look at it - at its best or at its worst, this government shouting as loud as it possibly can to say the budget is balanced, knowing that it isn't balanced but hoping in their insistence that Nova Scotians will believe them. You know, you sometimes get engaged in an argument with somebody and they feel that if they yell louder than you then they will win the argument. Well, that's what the government members opposite have been engaging in.

So there are a number of other issues as well, Mr. Speaker, that I want to raise. This budget and Bill No. 109 talks about other types of user fees. There are provisions in that Act that raises the user fee for the use of an ambulance, let's say an ambulance ride. The member for Halifax Fairview, my colleague, raised an example the other day where he said that somebody was involved in an accident and this man's daughter, I believe, travelled with her father to the hospital. The fee for using an ambulance now is $500, so the father, the person for whom the ambulance was called, was sent a bill for $500. Well, somebody else got a bill for $500, and that was the daughter who rode in the ambulance with the father to make sure that he was all right.

[Page 8935]

Now, what is that? What is that? I mean if the member for Halifax Fairview and I take a cab to the airport, cabbies don't charge us both $40. The cab ride, the cost for that cab to travel to the airport is $40 - and knowing the member for Halifax Fairview, he would probably get me to pay for it.

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: It's only fair.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: It's only fair, he says, but what they won't do is they won't bill us both and that's what's so crazy about it, literally crazy, Mr. Speaker, about what's happening with these fees. Not only is it egregious, I believe, for this government to smack the users of ambulances - I mean it's not as if people use an ambulance because they don't have any other way to get to town, they use an ambulance because they need an ambulance, they are sick or somehow suffering from some medical condition which means that they need those specialized attendants, those experts, those professionals, and they need to get to acute medical attention as quickly as possible. This government has decided that wherever you are, whether you're around the corner from the hospital, or wherever you are, you're going to pay at least $500, and if you happen to catch a ride in the ambulance in support of the person who's sick or injured, then you too are going to have to pony up an additional fee.

That's wrong, and there has to be some explanation for why a government would ever bring forward a piece of legislation with that kind of provision. Maybe with some effort, some considerable effort over a six month period - if we support, by a majority, the hoist motion that's before us - we can examine that issue and we can deal with it.

Mr. Speaker, there's another issue that I want to talk about that was dealt with. There was some discussion today. This government introduced a piece of legislation that had to do with banning, ostensibly, smoking in public places - bars, restaurants and others. In fact, it doesn't go that far. The government has pulled back considerably from going that distance, and it has put some caveats in there which - I guess if you want to be optimistic, and we do, you could say that this was a first step. I guess it was. I think all of us wish that the government had taken a bigger step and shown some more courage, because the vast majority of Nova Scotians support strong and clear legislation banning smoking in public places.

Anyway, what I wanted to talk about with respect to this motion to hoist Bill No. 109 is the fact that this government has increased its revenue from tobacco taxes this year to the tune of, I believe, $10 million to $15 million. I have supported, in the 11 years I have been in this House, as has the caucus I've been a member of, increasing tobacco taxes, because the evidence is clear that price affects the use of tobacco. As prices increase, usage rates go down. There needs to be more than that, no question about that.

[Page 8936]

But what bothers me about what this government is doing - do you know that this year, next year, this government will be collecting, in total, somewhere in the area of $150 million to $160 million in tobacco tax revenue? Do you know what the budget is for smoking abatement programs, strategies to help people stop smoking, and smoking prevention? It's $1.5 million. It is shocking. We advocated that with this new tax, this $10 million to $15 million that's being raised this year, the government should plow that back into smoking cessation programs and programs that will get right in the classroom and right to the hearts and minds of young people to prevent them from smoking and starting to smoke.

We could talk about that in more detail if we support this motion, as I will, for a six month' hoist. I think we need to have that debate and that discussion. It's just one more important debate that needs to be held over this budget and Bill No. 109. We can do that over a six month period if we agree to hoist this bill, Mr. Speaker.

Why does this government continually fail to put the resources necessary into smoking cessation programs, to public awareness campaigns focused most particularly towards young people because the evidence is so clear and so dramatic that if you can get to children before they start smoking, that is where the efficacy of a program really begins to show itself. And, we also need to provide support to those people who are addicted because nicotine and tobacco is a drug - we know that. Extraordinarily addictive. We need to provide programs to help people get through and beyond that addiction and this government is failing in its commitment to that particular issue and we will, when we vote in favour of this motion to hoist Bill No. 109 for six months, we will give this much more attention.

When I began I talked about how this surplus was more fiction than fact. Do you know that since 1995-96 - it didn't happen until 1996 - that regional health boards were established. Now bear with me for a second - that was the reform initiative by the government of the day to move the decisions around health care and the organization of health services more to the community. They established four regional health boards across the province and subsequently, in 2001, established district health boards. They took those regional health boards and cut them up - so we had four regional health boards and nine district health boards. My point though, is this, that in every year that those regional health boards and now district health boards have existed, they have blown their budgets all to pieces. They've been faced with fairly significant deficits and they've been deficits that the government of the day have had to pick up because regional health boards, district health boards do not have the authority to run deficits and to accumulate debt.

So, my suggestion and I will make this and provide supporting evidence more completely during the debate that will follow during the six months we support this hoist motion, is that the budgets for the regional health boards which get approved and get put in these books, aren't real. They're not real. The government knows they're not real. They know that come the Spring of 2003, they're going to have to assume those deficits. The beauty of that accounting game of smoke and mirrors is that that money doesn't go on this year's

[Page 8937]

books, on the operating accounts of 2002-03, it passes right on to the debt in the Province of Nova Scotia and they don't have to account for it. That's a little bit of gamesmanship that's going on here and were we to have the opportunity and I believe it's the right thing to do by supporting this motion, the six months' hoist, we can examine that whole issue in more detail.

[11:45 a.m.]

So I'm making this point to support what my contention is, that this budget, this surplus already is way, way out of whack. Already what was tabled here two and a half weeks ago is nowhere near a reflection of reality, in terms of the real story as to the state of the province's finances, Mr. Speaker. I think we owe it to Nova Scotians to be much more precise and that if it's going to cost - you know, now the budget in health is what, $1.9 billion - $2.3 billion, and the government knows that, then the books should reflect that. The books should reflect that if we're going to spend that kind of money and we know we're going to spend that money, that's why we have financial statements. That's why we have a budget tabled here, line by line, that can be debated, can be explained, Mr. Speaker, so that we, as members of the Legislature, can learn the true state of the province's finances, can share that information with our constituents so the people operating businesses and other organizations in the Province of Nova Scotia know where they stand.

Only through proper budgeting, proper accounting, can we plan and operate in a manner that is logical, that is forward-thinking, that is constructive and, I would suggest, responsible. That's why this game that's being played of "fuzzying" the books is not in anyone's best interest, Mr. Speaker. So that's something that I think - and I mean, you know, regional health boards, or district health boards, and you can go down the line, you can talk about a number of agencies, direct and indirect, and what impact that the demands for services will have on the budgets that presently exist here.

There are other areas where that's a problem. The whole question of the infrastructure in our education system, infrastructure in health, in terms of buildings and equipments, the infrastructure in education, the buildings. My goodness, we have that school in Barrington that has - they call it grey water - waste water dripping out of a pipe in the ceiling and it's making people sick. Surely that's not good enough, but where in this budget are they accounting for the repairs, the regular maintenance that needs to be done to the infrastructure of our public education system, Mr. Speaker. Internal Department of Education documents estimate that cost of deferred maintenance in the area of $500 million. This government, in fact, has not increased the allocation for deferred maintenance; they've actually cut the budget for school renovations again this year.

[Page 8938]

Mr. Speaker, if we take six months to delve into the implications of Bill No. 109, I think that we can talk in more detail, and examine in more detail, those issues. There have been a couple of other changes proposed in this bill that I certainly haven't talked to, but I know some of my colleagues will certainly talk about at some length.

I wanted to mention one, the change in here - the Minister of Finance takes great delight in talking about how accountable his government is, and particularly his department is, for the finances of the Province of Nova Scotia, and with new accounting rules and procedures that are being followed, they are the most accountable of the accountable. I would suggest to you that the accountability processes, the financial accountability processes and procedures of the Province of Nova Scotia have improved over the last decade. It started under the Liberal Government, the Savage Government that came in in 1993 and tried to clean up the mess left by the Buchanan era, and slowly over that 10-year period there have been some real improvements, thanks, I believe, to the successful, important work of the Auditor General of the Province of Nova Scotia, who has continued to push Ministers of Finance, and governments of all stripes and Parties to try to make improvements in that.

There continues to be problems, and I talked about some earlier, where a government can participate in sleights of hand, in acts of smoke and mirrors. Just one little issue, again, it galls me to some extent. I applaud the Minister of Finance for some of the strides that have been made on the whole issue of accountability, but I warn him not to go too far because there's still a considerable distance to go and he has fallen short in a number of areas. One of them has to do with the whole question of accounting, when it is we put out our statements.

There's a requirement according to the Provincial Finance Act to issue quarterly statements. Yet last year, the last fiscal year, this minister only released two financial statements. Some of us suggested at the time, and would continue to suggest that that was done for political reasons, because the government was having trouble keeping its budget reined in and its deficit for the year 2001-02 reined in.

In this legislation - and we can talk about that more if we approve the six months' hoist, the minister has said that, in fact, they will issue quarterly forecasts, that, in fact, instead of it being quarterly and wide open, he would ensure that it's done on specific dates, and that this legislation would ensure that it's actually done on specific dates. Well, if the minister is not going to pay attention to his own legislation that already exists, the language that already exists, the requirements that it already contains, why would we believe that by dressing it up a little more that it will in any way make any difference? The question is being clear, being truthful, being transparent with respect to the Public Accounts of the Province of Nova Scotia, and we think that this government has considerable distance to go in that respect.

[Page 8939]

Mr. Speaker, my time is coming to a close. I just want to wrap up by saying this: the motion on the floor is to hoist Bill No. 109, the Financial Measures (2002) Act, for six months. I support that motion, Mr. Speaker, and in the few moments I've been on my feet, I've tried to argue a couple of things. One is that the presentation of this budget as balanced is wrong; that it's not balanced, it's not even close to being balanced, and that the act of calling it balanced requires a significant contortion act by members opposite and, particularly, the Minister of Finance. It's serving no one's interests, in reality, to suggest that something is when it isn't. But Nova Scotians deserve much more respect than that.

I have argued, in support of this six months' hoist, that there are provisions of this that which sanctify and try to legitimate actions by members opposite that have been wrong-headed, misguided, and require further examination and explanation to the people affected and the people of Nova Scotia, ultimately. I believe that's a responsibility this government has, and I believe it's an opportunity that this government would take, were we to give it some more time. Let's be clear; this government has a lot on its plate. They've got their fingers in a lot of holes in a few different dykes, but that does not excuse them from trying to roll over Nova Scotians and present a reality and push that reality through - some would say, shove that reality down Nova Scotians' throats - when they know that it is more fiction than fact.

So we have presented this motion. My colleague, the member for Halifax Fairview, has presented a motion that says that Bill No. 109 be hoisted for six months. He does so and we support him for having made that motion because we believe that it is the right thing to do and that we need to examine in more detail what this government is saying and doing with respect to the finances of the Province of Nova Scotia. Nova Scotians ultimately deserve no less. Mr. Speaker, I want to thank you for your patience and for allowing me the opportunity to speak on this motion. I would be happy to yield the floor to members who also want to participate in this debate. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

DR. JAMES SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for the opportunity to speak on the motion to hoist Bill No. 109. I'm very pleased to be able to have that opportunity. Bill No. 109 gets more cumbersome every time this government introduces it. It's not only about matters directly relating to the budget and matters that may proceed from there, but it also deals with other issues that one is less able to determine are in fact financial measures relating to the budget.

This bill has 61 clauses, a fairly substantive number, and that's broken into 24 sections. For people who are impacted by this particular measure, it does take some reading and understanding, cross-checking with various other Acts. Instead of bringing in other Acts, this government has brought in a comprehensive bill that goes well beyond certain financial measures.

[Page 8940]

[12:00 p.m.]

Who will the bill affect, Mr. Speaker? The reason that I support this motion to hoist for six months is that the answer to that question is almost all Nova Scotians. I don't think Nova Scotians understand the extent of far-reaching implications of Bill No. 109, An Act Respecting Certain Financial Measures. Changes will affect school boards. It's clearly there, involving some changes of control and power within that structure. It involves having more consultation on accessing government information. Again, the common theme that runs through all of this is power and control.

How better to control access to government's information where people of Nova Scotia can hold this government accountable than to keep upping the price as to how they may access information that is relevant to themselves, to the community in which they live and to the groups to which they belong. This bill also deals with health insurance, matters relevant to physicians, payment schedules of physicians, residency relative to privileges within institutions. So while a great consultation has taken place on the salaries and the reimbursements to physicians for medically necessary services, there are other implications here, Mr. Speaker, that must be understood. It deals with equalization, the chestnut that keeps rolling around and now keeps rearing its head.

Nova Scotians who have appeared before the Utility and Review Board last evening mentioned this on several occasions. There are many municipal units. You, Mr. Speaker, having been a past municipal councillor would be interested to know that some of your colleagues were there. There was an open forum where they could come and make representation. They will have that opportunity in the Law Amendments Committee when this bill finds its way there, but it takes some time. Those people and their support staff and the municipal units are more informed than the average Nova Scotian, I think, on the impact of what is happening with this government, the municipal units, equalization, as it's called, the changes that are happening there, the direct impact that that may have on power rates in this province.

This goes back to my earlier comments of how the impact of what's happening here in Bill No. 109 will certainly have some impact on the power rates of this province, particularly in a negative way if that is in fact granted as the representations are being made to the review of that process. Of course, the smoking taxes, and that is part of the strategy, some of which we heard this morning and a first step, in some ways, to where the people of Nova Scotia want this smoking strategy to be. But we will have another day and another bill and I don't want to stray from the point of why I'm supporting the hoist for Bill No. 109. It is an extensive bill, 61 clauses, 24 sections, that impacts on many, many areas and goes far beyond certain financial measures that come before this House, Mr. Speaker.

[Page 8941]

What does this bill do and why should we have a six months' hoist where persons who are impacted from this legislation need to understand? It introduces measures that lead to implementing higher fees. I mentioned the access to information, but we see that with ambulance fees. Sometimes, probably as important, is cutting services and downloading onto municipal units - downloading onto seniors, downloading onto single female seniors, single moms, those groups that we have seen impacted - all done in some way or other through the various clauses of this bill. It is important. This is an important bill. It tends not to be a high profile bill because it's so pervasive and impacting on various departments, various levels of government, various areas of government that provide services, and also areas that people come before to receive information to hold this government accountable. So it is important that if adopted as it is introduced, without changes, the Minister of Finance will change important provisions that in many cases put more control in the hands of the government and raises questions of accountability.

So, Mr. Speaker, that is the reason that I have chosen to speak on behalf of our caucus here this morning on this initiative, to support the motion before us to hoist this bill. The whole Financial Measures (2002) Act, you can look at it in some broad areas, that the debt is growing. You can argue, as we have, whether the budget is balanced. We'll only know that in the first and second quarters, and Nova Scotians might be in for a surprise then, but this is the tricky little bill that goes along to gouge and to bring in fees, fees for services, fees for health services, but also for the Freedom of Information Act fees that we see, but the fact is we know whatever accounting principles you're using, things really haven't changed much along that line.

It has been very difficult for all governments, particularly minority governments, and this government now is coming up to their third year, to really get out from underneath that terrible large stone they call the debt that is rolling downhill and interfering with the function of this government - not this government, but with businesses and families throughout the Province of Nova Scotia. It has been an awful task to get out from underneath that, and what this government this time has chosen to do while they're spending runs out of control, mismanagement within that spending, they continue to use user fees and outright taxes - gasoline tax, but also taxes that are called user fees.

Now, some user fees are user fees because they cover the cost of the fee and that's how I look at it. It's quite simple, but when the government realizes more income than they are spending to offer those services to Nova Scotians, then in fact a user fee becomes a tax. This is being looked at at the federal government level and all governments look to these areas for income, but it's where those are, where those fees are. You could say a gasoline tax, if it went back into the road system most Nova Scotians would be pleased to see their potholes filled, the shoulders of the roads upgraded and having highways that are safe. We would look particularly at Highways No. 103 and No. 102, and those highways, Mr. Speaker, I know that probably already there has been an announcement, I expect it will be this morning on Highway No. 103.

[Page 8942]

In my opinion, there are parts of that highway and you, sir, Mr. Speaker, would be aware, being a man of the highways and byways, and a man of the people I mean really, that there are parts of that Highway No. 103 that, in my opinion, should be closed - I frequently go up to that area - particularly in rainy weather where the control, you can have all the kind of fancy tires you want, but there are several stretches there, several kilometres beyond Bridgewater, toward Liverpool, up in that area, and then this side of Bridgewater there's another area particularly bad, where I think there is no question that deaths have occurred and more will occur. We'll lose some persons travelling those routes because it's really not safe.

So if the government is announcing that today, and particularly if it's not with federal government sharing and they're making that initiative, I would certainly compliment them on behalf of the people who travel Highway No. 103. I better wait to find out more on what it is before I give them too many accolades. But also within this budget, Mr. Speaker, the Financial Measures (2002) Act touches on and why we need more time to look at this, and Nova Scotians need more time, is that health care is deteriorating while the money going into the health care system is increasing.

We were criticized for suggesting that more money go into health care. I think this government has realized that when they got there, after they promised Nova Scotians that they were going to fix health care for $46 million taken out of administration - we will be paying less, just tidy things up a little bit. Of course, they found it wasn't that easy. But what they haven't got, Mr. Speaker, is a plan. So they're still, on an ad hoc basis, throwing money into health care. I think that's a very significant thing about this budget, and part of that is addressed in Bill No. 109, An Act Respecting Certain Financial Measures. The gas tax, of course, is a matter I have alluded to. It certainly is a significant part of this budget and the Financial Measures (2002) Act. Nova Scotians should have input into this.

I wonder, some days, about this. Nova Scotians are fair and they will make the right decisions, given the information. That's why they need more time to find out what the 61 clauses and 24 sections of Bill No. 109 are really touching on. But one thing about the gas tax, I believe that most Nova Scotians, if they could see better highways in the rural communities and the 100-Series Highways, would be prepared to support that, just as they've been prepared and supported the Cobequid Pass. All the criticism that our government took for that, I wonder, today, the only question - you could discuss that and I don't want to get too far afield on this hoist motion - but you could ask how many lives have been saved through that Cobequid Pass. I would wonder. A dozen, 24? What would that look like?

I think of the soldiers coming back from Afghanistan, and when we see their families and the faces of those soldiers, some of them as young as 21 - we all have, in our families, young adults of that age. What lives would have been saved? What ages those people would have been that have been saved by the Cobequid Pass? We will never know. We only have statistics to go by. But there would have been children, probably babies, lost as well; families were being killed on that stretch of highway that was just unacceptable. We had to

[Page 8943]

do something. We didn't have the increased money coming down from Ottawa at that time, Mr. Speaker, so we made a choice. We paid for that choice, I believe, certainly in some areas, at election time at the polls. But I really feel good that we did the right thing. As Guy Brown from Cumberland County used to say, if you're doing the right thing, in the long run it will be appreciated and you will feel good about the decisions you made.

Government is about choices; sometimes, at the time, it is not an easy choice, but you do the right thing. So I don't want to get off too far on highways, but it's really an integral part of our province, which is basically an island circled by roads and crossed by secondary highways. That's all an integral part. So we've addressed the issue of the new tax here that this government has brought in on gasoline. You can argue the user fees, and only accounting will know and the bureaucratic - as I think an article in the National Post said, the shadow of the bureaucracy is protecting the information relative to user fees, and while the federal government is being criticized for that, certainly we can say that that is very true here in Nova Scotia as well. When the user fee has been recovered and the service is paid for, anything above that would be considered a tax.

[12:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, those are the three main areas. The debt is growing and health care costs are increasing while the quality of care deteriorates throughout this province in emergency departments, primary care areas, particularly physician and nursing services, and long-term care and even home care. The gas tax would be number three that I would highlight that we need to discuss relative to Bill No. 109.

The Arts Council, although not addressing it within the bill, the government chose to go here in some way within certain financial measures. Why that is done within this particular bill, I think we need some time to look at. The concern is, it's not that the government is supporting the arts stronger, that they will use up the endowment fund, that they will directly use that. The idea that they're going to save that much money that they're able to save the budget of the Arts Council by what they're doing, any student in a secondary school could certainly figure out that they're not going to do that. Whether that's a financial thing, I think it's really been an attack on the arts community in this province, and that's certainly the way they feel. They need some time. Why is this included here? One could ask why that is so.

Mr. Speaker, this is a yearly occurrence, the debate on the Financial Measures Acts, it tends to be generalized and have a larger impact on various departments and various areas of activity within the province. As we're discussing, I think it's ironic that last year we were discussing a budget that wasn't balanced and could've been. Our critic, the member for Lunenburg West, has made this pretty clear. The government has their reasons, and they're accountable for that. Now this year, we have a budget that really isn't balanced. The debt continues to rise, that's quite simple. What's also important is certain sections of the bill, as

[Page 8944]

far as I can determine, don't directly apply to Financial Measures Acts. I mentioned the Arts Council as well. We will hear from that Arts Council, those persons will make their voices known as they have previously.

The amendments to the Education Act that are included here need a fleshing out, particularly with the statements of the minister today on disciplinary actions and the injection of the Minister of Education in matters that normal people would generally think would be done at the school board level, at the local level, that all of a sudden, some very private people and their families have become part of a provincial initiative by the minister to inject herself into the education system at a level, that's usually not seen. There must be reasons for that, and they will become apparent later. This is why I think that while some of these areas are being addressed within the education system, the people of Nova Scotia will want to know more of the facts surrounding the activities of the ministry and the office of the ministry. Some of those amendments in the Education Act are good amendments, but why would they be contained in the Financial Measures (2002) Act?

Further, speaking of accountability, one would be remiss if we didn't comment on the sections of the bill that deal with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. We feel, on this side of the House, that to avoid being accountable, the government raises the rates for obtaining information. Disguised between the lines of this bill is the true intent, the true philosophy of this government. It is an agenda about power and control. We deal in information daily in our lives in this House of Assembly. When you control that information, it's power and control, and this government is controlling it by increasing fees for persons who are unable to afford that, who have a right to that access to that information to hold this government accountable. We will do what we can at this level and we will try to access our information. We've been told to do that by the Premier. That was one of his earlier statements on taking government - to ferret out the information. Yet, the cost of ferreting out that information, not only to our caucus is becoming a burden but, particularly, to the people of Nova Scotia. It's an agenda of this government of not wanting to be accountable to the people of Nova Scotia. It's an agenda of not wanting to work with their arm's-length partners to deliver programs and deliver services that are in the best interests of Nova Scotians.

So this government, Mr. Speaker, thinks it's okay to introduce a bill and a budget that affects many and then pretends it consulted. The reason for supporting this hoist motion, on these have been before the House before, it's not new, this is a process that is open to the opposition within the British parliamentary system that I hope is preserved, that we intend to use it within the confines of the Rules of this House, but the consultation is the area that is lacking and the reason for supporting the six months' hoist.

So let's pass this motion and allow the government to have a look and time to revise it, as it does. Perhaps it was hurried at the end. In fact, the smoking bill that came in this morning was certainly hurried, where they tried to please everybody, and I predict will end

[Page 8945]

up pleasing very few. The fact that the government has done it in the first place will give them time to go back and to consult.

When anybody asks, Mr. Speaker, why we should hoist this bill for six months, it's because Nova Scotians should be made aware of how devious this government is with its actions. That's exactly what this hoist motion is all about - ensuring that the government is held accountable to Nova Scotians. That accountability can only come through consultations, properly conducted assessments with the more vulnerable persons of Nova Scotia, as I mentioned earlier, the seniors, the senior single women, children and the vulnerable.

Today we saw this government bring in a punitive legislation on possessing of tobacco. Sure, it's wrong for someone under 19 to possess tobacco whatever the age is. So, we're going to sign them up in the army and send them off to be shot at, but you're going to have police checking their status of tobacco consumption. So it gets a little bit clouded here, Mr. Speaker.

The government should not be allowed to get away with saying it consulted with the people of Nova Scotia in making its decisions, when it's not the case. This is becoming more apparent every year with this government. Governments start off, they come in, they're going to consult with everybody. They're going to have a consultation process, groups are sent around the province. Then you can see it cutting back. This government has really capped it all off at this time with the lack of consultation here before this budget.

So, the people of Nova Scotia, Mr. Speaker, are left to speculate and to worry, and they are worried what all of this might be. They're worried about the power rates. You have the equalization and the impacting between municipal units and this government's departments, and what a great reason for Nova Scotia Power to make interventions to support their increase than the increased tax that's been passed on right at this opportune time. It almost sounds like collusion. Maybe they've consulted with them but they sure haven't consulted with the people of Nova Scotia.

With six months put aside this government will have more of the necessary time to engage in important discussions with Nova Scotians and, in particular, hold meetings with the groups representing these vulnerable people in our society. We heard those people last night making presentations to the review board on the power rates. Some were there speaking from their own experiences and others were there representing the people they saw in their own communities who were most vulnerable.

I think the most touching and one of the more relevant presentations I heard was the gentleman who was the President of the Chamber of Commerce in the Strait area. So there is a chance to bring concerns from his community, which is a business community that he was representing, but yet spoke very clearly of those who are vulnerable in our society. That's why we support this hoist bill today and those people who speak for those persons

[Page 8946]

who don't have a voice, Mr. Speaker, that others who choose to represent them have the opportunity to hold this government accountable.

So, for instance, Mr. Speaker, hoisting this bill would give the Minister of Community Services a chance to appreciate what works and what can be improved upon with respect to the transition houses, the women's centres and the programs for men that have certainly come up tight very quickly. This promise that this was going to be maintained; most people involved do not feel that way. These are responsible people. Many of them have spent years in an advocacy role and direct service to persons in our community, usually women, usually women suffering from domestic violence. So they have years of experience and yet they have not been consulted. Why would that be?

Why would this particular group that is a rich resource, and their means have been very modest, this group with women's centres and transition houses and men's programs have just been holding on by their fingernails throughout the years. That was one of the challenges we had when the federal government made cutbacks, particularly to women's centres, and we had a very difficult budget. We weren't getting the extra money from Ottawa at that time. In fact, the cutbacks were still going on. There was a decrease. Yet, we tried to find and we did find, within our budget, our limited resources, support for women's centres. Those people are very appreciative. They remember that and they know that it was a tough decision.

Government is about choices. So to go and start reconfiguring why this Minister of Community Services and why this government would bring in a major change in those three areas of transition homes, women's centres and men's programs without a consultative process for the network of persons in these communities. These people aren't out to get the government. They're out there to work with the government. Those men's programs, Mr. Speaker, particularly in rural communities, are being driven by reverends, by ministers of the church and those types of groups. That's who's involved in those programs. This government is saying to them, that's not good enough. You haven't been doing your job. We know what's best for you. We're going to take this home. We're going to bring this control like we did for the Arts Council.

This government, and this is really typical of the right-wing agenda that's sweeping across this country, I hope it doesn't stick too much here, Mr. Speaker, but they don't trust the groups out there and that's very clear. Everything has got to come home. We've seen the four regional health boards go into nine regional health boards so the community can have a greater input in decision making. That has not happened. What's happened there, for example, is that decisions are now being made more across the street in the Joseph Howe Building at the ministers' and the deputy ministers' offices.

AN HON. MEMBER: And the Premier's office.

[Page 8947]

[12:30 p.m.]

DR. SMITH: Well, I hesitate to say the Premier's office because I know when I was minister there, the Premier's office didn't interfere, but they had interfered in earlier governments. I'm not sure of the status here and I would give the Premier the benefit of the doubt that he will leave it up to his minister. But I thank the honourable member for his intervention and thoughts that it could have also been from the Premier's office. I think if there's any one area that does demonstrate the difficulties this government has with trusting people it's this area of Community Services, and the transition homes, the women's centres and the men's programs. Why they would, during a time of budget, bring in a reconfiguration; even if it's going to make it better, why would they do it? Why would they choose such a time? It's very difficult, in all fairness to the minister, to treat himself that way as to why he would have to explain to people what they intend to do - why wouldn't they have delayed it, or done it another time, even before the budget, or whatever - and to explain what this is going to look like.

It's not necessarily only about cutting out services and closing transition houses, women's centres or men's programs, but it has to do with the future. I spoke of this earlier, that Nova Scotians are concerned. They can only speculate as to what this might mean, and what the government intends to do. Even today, if you ask me what the Minister of Community Services intends to do with women's centres, transition houses and men's programs, I don't know. Why wouldn't they have consulted, laid out the program, and then if you had to change, if you had to regionalize, if you were going to upgrade the services in some areas and provide good transportation in rural communities, you may have to go that way, but share it with the people, trust the people enough that they will support the right thing, if in fact the government chooses to do the right thing.

During times of budgets and budget secrecies and lock-ups and all the others, we know it's difficult to explain, so why would the government do matters like that and have it reflected in a certain Financial Measures (2002) Act when it's really a social program? It just clouds the issues. It's like today, the Health Minister introduces a punitive bill that speaks more from the Department of Justice than the Department of Health; it's wasn't a Health Act, it had to do with punitive actions towards children and youth who are caught with tobacco.

Those are the issues, Mr. Speaker, and that's why we need more time to look at this bill. Six months would give the Minister of Health a chance to determine various matters that are encompassed in these various parts of Bill No. 109, the 61 clauses and the 24 sections. The ambulance fees, you talk about worry and concern. Our constituency office, I am sure all of us have received them, these bills that arrive very quickly after someone is taken to a hospital, for $500. Now we're going to see those increased to $600. The ambulance fees go from $85 to $125. Some people would say it's taking money out of the pockets of those who can't afford it and those who can afford it the least. The other issues, of decision making to

[Page 8948]

seek immediate and life-saving medical attention, the impact an increase in ambulance fees in Nova Scotia would have on those persons.

Mr. Speaker, Pharmacare. We've seen a double hit each year. Last year it was the co-pay; this year it's the premium increase for our seniors, major increases, 56 per cent increase is what I think the total comes out to be. Next year, maybe it will be back at the co-pay again, and the following year, well, of course they will be out of office so it won't be there. We will see if they delay an election long enough to go back at the co-pay. Just so they remember, next year, members of the government, it's the co-pay you nail, because you got the co-pay last year, the premium this year, next year it's back to co-pay. If you're still around, try to remember that. Get it right.

Another subtle one was the Children's Dental Plan. We haven't heard a lot about that in this House. We've tried to keep this issue alive. It is very clouded as to why these matters were coming forward. It was being indicated by the minister that, well, the dentists were really in support of this. They really wanted that. I think there are some dentists, particularly in the Halifax community where private insurance is quite high and they would probably rather get the Children's Dental Program out of their way where they have to, in most cases, accept a lower fee; I imagine in all cases it would be a lower fee. It is something that these programs, like the MMC and the various programs, as MMC progressed and supported MSI, that those matters have grown in this province and have become an integral part. You talk about prevention and the hypocrisy of saying that you support prevention when you chip away at the various parts of that.

I think this government, they were great advocates over here when they were Third Party status. I remember them sort of trying to beat up on me day after day on why the poor superannuates of this province, why we didn't allow them to opt out of the Seniors' Pharmacare Program; and we did that, Mr. Speaker. They're getting confused here because this is not the same. These are vulnerable families who are just coming through the generations, the early generations where dental health was not seen as an issue, as a priority with families. That's one of the prices - I think those of us who grew up particularly in rural Nova Scotia - have paid with dental health. I know it was when I got into the town schools as an adolescent before I remember any distinct dental care. It was just the way things were. So we've evolved, we've come a long way and we now know how important dental health is to the well-being, not only of our bodies, but our total health as well.

So this government has said, well, let's listen to some of the dentists, and I know they've been advocating. They used to lobby me when I was minister and I know this minister has probably been lobbied as well. You may think it's a good thing on the surface, but until you look at what it really means, this is really a step backwards for preventative dental care, particularly in rural parts of Nova Scotia. This was a real concern. I know it's a real concern to people who were involved in that program for a long period of time and

[Page 8949]

valued it and were proud of it, to see it deteriorate to the extent that it has under this government.

I know a letter went out to the dentists on this informing them of that. I will be following, with interest, how this works because the consultation with the dentists, they didn't know anything about it. A couple dentists I spoke with - and I could have called more, but I didn't bother because I had my answer - this person I spoke with is very responsible, I know, and he hadn't received any letter but one of his partners had received their letter. I guess it was sent out alphabetically and it was just arriving around that time, the same time that this was announced. So the fact that there was any great consultation with the dental community and those persons, hygienists and dental assistants, anybody who sees these families and know how important this plan is, there was none of that done.

So that's why the six months' hoist is important, that we have a chance to look at this, and before we scrap these programs. You can only ratchet back so much, Mr. Speaker, in these programs until they totally lose the effectiveness. There has been great emphasis on balancing the budget, and that's important. It's important that governments do that, but what we've seen through this certain Financial Measures (2002) Act are the various areas that have been attacked by this government to do that.

Who is paying the price for this? Is the price being paid by the people who can best afford it or those who are more vulnerable? I would suggest the Children's Dental Program is an area of vulnerability. Other people with private plans will make out quite well; how the dentists will deal with the rules and regulations within their office, and the changing status when people have a private plan and may lose it, maybe through no fault of their own, through the group changing. So there's always a danger when you make those moves, that people are going to be caught out and not eligible. So how the dentists will deal with this is going to be very interesting to see. I hope it's done fairly and I'm sure it will from dentist's offices, but it's not clear and we will certainly follow that. So the groups are vulnerable, and those who are particularly vulnerable are worried and they worry what these new provisions will mean, what it will mean for tomorrow or next week or the days ahead.

So a lot of this, Mr. Speaker, has been a chance to do good here and the government has chosen to go in the opposite direction. So it's important for us in this House to understand that should the hoist motion be passed, for the next six months Nova Scotians would have the opportunity to examine the exact wording and the implications of this legislation that greatly will impact on their everyday lives, in various ways that they have no understanding of now.

So emotions have been running high about the services that this government has taken to cut, and the privatization plans it hopes to introduce, and services for which they have decided to either impose fees or increase fees. There's reason for this worry and this concern throughout the province, and Nova Scotians are worried. Without consultation and without

[Page 8950]

assessment, the government doesn't respect Nova Scotians or value the input that they can provide. Is that what this government is saying to Nova Scotians when they bring in, through their budget, the secrecy of the budgetary process, sweeping changes that impact on those who have less access and have less of a voice to address those particular issues? Now we've seen that compounded through various fees and user fees that are well beyond the recovery to provide that service.

Mr. Speaker, the reason we support this bill to hoist is we know that budgets are a series of choices and the process that follows through. There are many things on the table. Some remain and some are taken off - it's the right thing to do - and others are left on. What has happened, I think, this time is there's been a lot of small areas, other than the gasoline tax, that have been impacted through this legislation, through this budget, and through the Financial Measures (2002) Act that really impact dramatically on Nova Scotians and will have a great fallout over the times ahead.

So the series of choices have been made - and the government exists to make reasonable and informed choices for the people, but it didn't make those choices here and it's reflected in the 61 clauses in Bill No. 109. A lot of people have legitimate concerns with this budget because the effect will have real and lasting results. That is why we want to put Bill No. 109, with this budget, that we want to delay implementation of this bill and proclamation of this bill because the effect will have some real and lasting impact.

So why are we here debating the hoisting of the bill? It's because this government has poorly managed the priorities of Nova Scotians. Nova Scotians have priorities and they know what they are and they're fair about that and they understand. They want to see the balanced budget. They want to see accountability in government. But there is mismanagement and they know that and that's what we're seeing in the health care system that continues to be mismanaged. Everything from the children to women, artists to seniors, debt to health care, we see poor management and actual mismanagement taking place.

Our message on this hoist motion is clear. There should have been more consultation, Mr. Speaker. This government says it's committed to the culture of our province, but has taken the money from those people, from the artists of Nova Scotia who contribute greatly to our culture. This province has taken control and thereby risks the fund - I would question that foundations and others that contribute to the endowment fund and other significant involvements would be as keen when this is under the wing of the government itself. This is not a good mix and this government has heard this loud and clear and still is stubborn and resists changes in this matter, but we will hear more as this legislation passes through.

The relationship between this government and the province's artists is being dismantled because of a lack of consultation, and that's why we're here today to debate this hoist motion. The endowment fund of the former Nova Scotia Arts Council will be spent -

[Page 8951]

and that's our concern - instead of placed in trust for those who protect the arts and the community if amendments to this bill are passed by this government.

[12:45 p.m.]

My understanding - and I could be wrong - but my understanding is the Arts Council, as it was constructed, intended to spend only interest on this fund to ensure that the revenue would always be available to the arts and the culture of this province. This government's amendments with respect to the Arts Council and this bill will allow the government to spend the endowment fund as long as the funding broadly relates to arts and culture.

Under freedom of information and we need more consultation - if there's any doubt in anyone's mind that this government is unaccountable, consider that they want to ensure that access to government information is kept just out of the reach, just beyond the reach, the tantalizing availability of this through legislation and then the layering of user fees increasing to just move that information out of reach of the average public.

This government brags it has the most open and generous Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act in Canada for making information available. What they're not saying is that we're going to price it out of the market and those persons that need the information the most and are the most difficult perhaps to come forward and to have them take the initiative in the first place and then to be blocked by increased costs, we cannot support that.

This government says that it wants to be transparent, be open and be accountable. That whatever the public wants, it will provide it. This government is going after this Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act in a very perverse way. This is an important avenue for the public and to access government documents that help ensure that this government will be accountable. We need that.

I mentioned the various sections and they are considerable. There are many, we can go through them, but I know when you're debating the hoist bill can't get into that kind of detail. Many of them I've mentioned already, but with the Health Services and Insurance Act, some of the changes there, one would have to get more feedback on. Will the proposed changes to the Health Services and Insurance Act drive up insurance rates in Nova Scotia due to any increase in government administrative cost, delays and reduce insurance settlements? We see some changes that will force people injured in accidents to sue on behalf of the province for health-related services provided to the person. Do Nova Scotians understand where this is heading and has there been adequate consultation? This could well cause insurance premiums to climb as insurance comes back to the consumer to make up for those increased payouts. Insurance companies now won't be able to settle up with the claimants until the province signs off. Importantly, the current legislation doesn't compel an injured person to recover health-related costs on behalf of the province.

[Page 8952]

We're seeing various areas - now this is called a Financial Measures (2002) Act, but it certainly involves the rights and privileges of persons relative to how their insurance programs and what their role is, that they must become workers for the government, that they can go out and help them collect some of the payments there after they have been injured and have other things to worry about.

One would have to ask the question in a consultation process, how can the government ensure that these proposed changes won't drive up the costs to the government itself and since each insurance claim will see insurance companies dealing with government over their share of the claim. It gets very complicated and so, with higher health care costs and limited liability, will the government expect an injured person to receive less for their own expenses, as well as for the pain and suffering? This whole area - you get in insurance; you start mixing injured persons there and putting the onus on them to do the work that is generally considered to be that of the government. That is an onerous thing, and I'm not sure that Nova Scotians understand that.

Under this Financial Measures (2002) Act, that particular section, "The Minister may enter into a contract with a private corporation for the provision of ambulance services in the Province." In addition, the minister can make regulations "setting out fees for the use of ambulance services in the Province," authorizing the private corporation to collect fees, and "setting out a procedure for resolving disputes relating to the imposition and the collection" of fees referred to in the clause. It is important to know that a system like this is already in place. It makes you wonder if this provision will open the door for a private system and the possibility of losing any quality of the system that is now in place.

What can the government do to ensure average Nova Scotians that these fees won't arbitrarily and unfairly increase at the government's whim? Are there concerns about the risks that people might take driving themselves to the hospital because they fear or know they are unable to pay for any new increase? We've heard of that. We've had matters of a similar nature brought to the House, and we've already heard that.

Effective November of this year, this government wants to do away with any agreement between a provider and a hospital, stipulating compensation for the provision of insured professional services, for the provider undertaking to be on-call for the provision of such services or for the provider to relocate or maintain a presence in proximity to a hospital will now be void. You have the whole issue of privileges, communities and physicians' residencies, and how that will impact their providing services to institutions.

Mr. Speaker, why, if decision-making is being given to the district health authorities, is legislation like this coming in? What does this do to the district health authorities' ability to make locally important decisions in hiring specialized physicians, particularly in emergency departments and other areas? Where a local area has a need for input here, does the minister become responsible for the decisions relative to those new doctors? Those are questions that

[Page 8953]

we have, questions I'm sure that the people in the communities have, and why we see the need to hoist this particular bill.

The other area, mentioned earlier, is about the impact of the equalization grant between the province and the municipal units and the Municipal Grants Act. Just to consider some of the poorly understood changes proposed to the Nova Scotia Power Privatization Act, also under consideration in the Financial Measures (2002) Act, while this company is exempt from taxation by a municipality, it must begin to pay $15.7 million in June and every June thereafter. Additionally, in 2003 and every January 31st thereafter, the company will pay $10.7 million.

Mr. Speaker, the minister will then distribute the amounts among the municipalities in a manner determined by the minister after consultation with the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities. That is good, because we know they've had some consultations - a bit of it being misrepresented, perhaps - although the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities probably doesn't feel it has been consulted to the extent it required, or the fact that some of the agreements seemed to be misrepresented by the minister. But for clarification, Mr. Speaker, the amounts are increased each year by the same percentage in the average annual increase in the consumer price index. So what this does in a roundabout way, in effect, and I alluded to it earlier, is allow Nova Scotia Power to justify before the Utility and Review Board to increase its rates. It's really handed them a golden opportunity.

So where's the government going to get the money and, more importantly, who's going to be charged for the borrowed money? Is the government willing to have this company pay? Will it force Nova Scotians to pay? This is an important issue and we need to have consultation. So what can the government do to ensure that customers aren't unfairly forced to pay for any of these new increases? I think that this is an important issue. It's one that's very much in the minds of Nova Scotians at this juncture, Mr. Speaker.

I'm going to very quickly bring my comments to a halt. I have a bit of time left. I know the areas of consultation that we feel strongly about are those relative to the Arts Council. I think it's very symbolic of a government that doesn't trust the community to do what's right, that they want to have control within the House and in their own house.

It touches again on the Workers' Compensation Act. I would just like to close my comments on that. I thought I had a little bit more time. You say one minute?

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member has until 12:58 p.m.

DR. SMITH: Okay, thank you. I'll be very brief. The Workers' Compensation Act, I would just say, I was wondering why, Mr. Speaker, they would bring in changes within this bill instead of really addressing the report that they have before them. So why would the government now consider going through with amendments that we have before us when the

[Page 8954]

new report calls for a total overhaul of the system? So again, it's like in health care, and we talk about management and mismanagement and we talk about the ad hoc - I'm getting the signal to wind down.

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

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I, too, would like to add my words of congratulations to the previous speaker. I thought that he brought forward some very coherent, very logical and, dare I say - I can't say all of them, but certainly some of them, coming from the former Minister of Health - some sensible suggestions, as well, that all members of this House should pay heed to. I'm sure that he also, in preparing for his remarks, had the benefit of listening to the wisdom that was extended or expressed by many members of our caucus who preceded him. I have to get a little bit of a dig in there, but I just wanted to say that I appreciated it and I listened with a great deal of interest to the comments that were just stated.

I also want to say, even though it's Friday afternoon, Mr. Speaker, to the government members, through you, that I'm very pleased to see that there are a goodly number of people in their seats prepared to listen to me this afternoon. I want to assure them that I won't, even though I have the ability to do so, call for a quorum vote this afternoon during my time of speaking. That is, I won't call a quorum vote unless I notice that the numbers should happen to drop below a certain number of 15. So I just want to let all members opposite know that if they have something more pressing and would like to go home, although I can't imagine what they would find more pressing than wanting to listen to my few words this afternoon.

Mr. Speaker, as I begin my remarks, I want to say, and I want to make it very clear, that I am in 100 per cent support of the very reasonable proposal, the very reasonable amendment that was moved by my colleague, the very capable member for Halifax Fairview. I want to indicate I am in full support of what is traditionally referred to as a hoist motion, to have this bill not be debated, not be considered for a period of six months.

[1:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I have many reasons for doing so. One of them, and it's a bit of a different tack - maybe a little bit but not totally - from some of the kinds of comments that other members in this House have spoken about. What I'm referring to is this bill in itself, and for the love of me, looking at this bill - and on second reading debate you're supposed to be talking about and your comments are restricted to discussing the principle of the bill, I had moved, and I, of course, am not challenging - I didn't then and I'm not now - the decision of the Speaker when I had by means of a point of order requested that the Speaker rule that this bill be out of order. The Speaker made what was, in his opinion, even though it wasn't the one I wanted, what he considered to be a fair decision and a good decision. I can't challenge, and

[Page 8955]

I don't disagree with the decision that he's made, but that doesn't change the fact that I believe that the legislation before us sets a very dangerous precedent.

Mr. Speaker, we have a committee, and you know of the committee quite well, the Committee on Assembly Matters. One of the difficulties that I had in getting the request that I brought forward approved was that the Rules of our House don't cover a situation like that. I would like to think that all members in this House, whether they be on the Opposition benches or the government benches, I would like to think that even the Minister responsible for the Petroleum Directorate . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Even him.

MR. HOLM: Even him. I would like to think that they would believe that this House should operate in as efficient and effective a manner as possible.

Now, within six months the Committee on Assembly Matters could be called to order - under not you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but under the chairmanship of the Speaker - the Rules of the House could be examined to find out if it is really appropriate in one piece of legislation to amend so many pieces of legislation. I want to just give a few examples. I didn't write them all down. My colleague, the member for Halifax Fairview, did a great job listing off the various pieces of legislation that are to be amended by this bill if it isn't hoisted before we have the chance to make some changes to our rules. Then I'm going to come up with some suggestions.

He listed that this piece of legislation amends the Children and Family Services Act, the Civil Service Act, the Companies Act, the Corporations Registration Act, the Education Act, the Financial Measures (1997) Act, and the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act - some people here are saying the government is trying to rename that as well, "the freedom from information Act," but that's not the official name - it also amends the Halifax-Dartmouth Bridge Commission Act, the Health Services and Insurance Act and it amends the Income Tax Act, the Insurance Act, the Motor Vehicle Act, the Municipal Government Act, the Municipal Grants Act, but it goes further, Mr. Speaker; it doesn't stop there. It amends the Arts Council Act, the Nova Scotia Power Privatization Act, and the Motor Vehicle Act. It amends the Probate Act, the Provincial Finance Act, the Public Service Superannuation Act, the Revenue Act, and last, but not least, the Workers' Compensation Act. This one piece of legislation that is before us for consideration amends all of those various Acts of this House. I didn't count them up, but I would guess that's probably 25 or 26 pieces of legislation.

So, Mr. Speaker, if this bill passes and citizens of this province are trying to figure out, okay, what the law is related to this, that or the other thing, or they want to find out what the regulations are or what's the Probate Act say? So they go to the Probate Act and they read it. They might read it on-line. You can go to the government site, http://www.gov.ns.ca, and then from that they could go to the Legislative Counsel's Office. They could weave their way through

[Page 8956]

that and they could click on legislation. They could click on the Probate Act and they would see it. However, what they wouldn't see are the amendments that are made to it by this Act, because those amendments will appear under the Financial Measures (2002) Act. They won't know what the current state is.

The same is true for the Income Tax Act, the Education Act, the Arts Council Act and so on. That is a sloppy way to do government. What the government is, in effect, trying to do - it wouldn't be correct to say that it's completely undemocratic. But what the government is trying to do is be less democratic than they could be and Nova Scotians should expect them to be, and that would be Mr. Speaker, to introduce separate pieces of legislation - or at least to combine those that actually have matters to do with financial measures and introduce separate pieces of legislation for all the others - but what they're doing here is this.

Mr. Speaker, you know the rules as well as I do. Certainly the very cagey Government House Leader - nobody knows the rules in this place better than he does. He knows, as do the real planners for this government - they're the backroom people, the ones who sit up in the ivory tower across the street or down in the bunker and don't have to come to the floor of this House, meet the people face to face and answer the questions.

It's the backroom people . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Not the backbenchers.

MR. HOLM: Not the backbenchers, no. No, the backbenchers don't have any say at all; I was asked the question. Backbenchers have no say.

Mr. Speaker, I know that some of the backbenchers - I feel quite confident, from some of the things that I heard them saying - really were cringing about voting for that budget, but they knew they had no choice, just as they feel that they have no choice but to vote for this Financial Measures (2002) Act because that would be a vote of non-confidence in the government. There may be parts of it that have absolutely nothing to do with financial matters, that in themselves, if it was hived off, if that section of the bill was actually defeated, would not classify a vote of non-confidence in the government. But the government, to keep its backbenchers in line, to keep them toeing the line - can't let backbenchers start to have any independence. Can't let them actually speak their mind as a government, as the Premier said that he wanted them to be able to do, and have free votes. You mass it all in together so they've got no choice or the government would fall, and then they know there would be an election and they would be sure to be defeated.

But what the government is doing - and I see that my comments are bringing a great deal of humour to some on the government benches and I'm glad that I'm at least having some impact. If they really want to be entertained, what they should do is go out and see some of the performances of those artists in the arts guild in this province. The ones who really have

[Page 8957]

talent and who have belonged to the Arts Council that the government has just abolished, but I will get back to that.

For example, the changes to the Education Act that were announced by the Minister of Education and have zero to do with financial measures, if the Minister of Education had introduced a bill to amend the Education Act to do those things that are included within this bill, that bill would have to receive second reading of this House as a separate piece of legislation. That would give all members of this House an opportunity, even the backbenchers, the member for Colchester North and Cumberland North, for Digby-Annapolis, for Yarmouth, for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury, a chance as well to speak on that bill in second reading. It would also mean that that bill, after it passed here in second reading, if it did, would walk its way down the hall to the Red Chamber where we would have a Law Amendments Committee process dealing specifically with the amendments to the Education Act. Those members of the general public who are concerned about or who have an interest in the education system in this province and how school boards function and how much control the minister and government has, they would have an opportunity to appear and to have the Law Amendments Committee pay special attention to their concerns.

Mr. Speaker, from there the bill, after careful deliberation in the Law Amendments Committee process, would be walked back down here. The minister in charge of the Law Amendments Committee process, the Attorney General, or his substitute, would stand in his place and report that bill back to the House. That bill would then receive what it deserved, the attention of the committee in the Committee of the Whole House where amendments could be made and then go on for third reading. I'm sure that the Minister of Tourism and Culture doesn't want to have the section dealing with what they have done to the Arts Council, the reprehensible actions of this government in regard to the Arts Council, dealt with as a separate piece of legislation.

You know, Mr. Speaker, some members of the Tory caucus might; there are some members of the Tory caucus, I hope, who aren't just such trained puppets and parrots that you're just going to automatically dangle and dance as your Premier and your front benches tell you, but, honestly, I haven't seen much evidence of that independence so far. Not from the member for Queens. Not yet anyway, but hope springs eternal. At least I know I now have his attention.

If that legislation were brought and debated as a separate bill, it would deserve the attention, it would receive the individual attention that it deserves. Those people who the minister - is cowardly parliamentary, Mr. Speaker? Sort of on the borderline? Then I will risk it. (Interruption) You say no?

MR. SPEAKER: Are you asking me to rule on that?

MR. HOLM: Well, your advice before I refer to him as such.

[Page 8958]

MR. SPEAKER: My advice would be for the member not to go down that road.

[1:15 p.m.]

MR. HOLM: Well, thank you Mr. Speaker. I will have to think of another word that has the same meaning as cowardly, because I wouldn't want to use that word. Let me just say that the minister, in his overly timid way, does not display any great amount of courage, where he has refused to meet with the representatives of the community - he, for example, didn't go out to address the crowds who came here to the Legislature. I may even, before I finish, if I have time, read some of the comments, some of the letters that I have received and that I'm sure that members of government have also received, especially the backbenchers and others who would have been too busy to have read them, so I might read a few of their comments into the record so that those who have the good fortune to be here this afternoon to listen to my remarks at least will have the chance to hear some of them.

But you know, Mr. Speaker, if it wasn't an attempt by the government to get as much bad legislation through this House as possible in as little time as possible, that would have been a separate bill. The Arts Council, if you listen to the minister, has absolutely nothing to do with any budgetary measures. It has nothing to do with fees or taxes. But they've lumped it in so that they can amend, in effect, 25 or 26 pieces of legislation with one. That's a dangerous precedent. The Minister of Health thinks he's going to get positive PR on the smoking legislation that he introduced today. But you know, if you follow the logic and you follow the example that was set in this legislation, the Financial Measures (2002) Act, the minister could have rolled his legislation into that as well. They don't want to do that. The reason they don't want to is that they think, ahh, this is going to be popular with Nova Scotians and, therefore, we want it to stand alone. We want it to look so we can show that we have done this and we want to draw attention to what we've done in this legislation.

They could have combined it in. In fact, Mr. Speaker, if the government wanted, if you follow what they're doing here to the extreme, they could introduce one obnoxious omnibus bill that would include all the legislation that they want to do in a session, railroad it through this House in second reading, limited to whatever number of Opposition members there are times one per hour, times two per hoist, 20 hours of debate, maximum, in Committee of the Whole House, maximum, to deal with all of the legislation and then one third reading debate. That's the direction this government is going.

Honestly, Mr. Speaker, by our review of previous Financial Measures Acts, and I'm not suggesting for one minute that some of the other governments and this government weren't a little bit bad before and the Liberals before them - I almost said the Tories, before this government, but I get confused some times, Liberals and Tories, because it's the same old story. Anyway, they might have been a little bit bad, but never as bad as this. You're setting a bad example for others. Now if the Law Amendments Committee were to meet and the government were to approach that Law Amendments Committee's process in an open way

[Page 8959]

and truly try to look at what is in the best interests of Nova Scotia and providing good government in this province, then we could amend our rules. I'm not saying amend it so that you can't have a bill that addresses a number of things but, surely to heavens, we can amend the rules to say that a bill that is to deal with the financial measures of the Province of Nova Scotia can only deal with matters that have a financial impact, a direct one. Whether that's dealing with increased fees - this government of course is in love with gouging Nova Scotians through fees, the death of a thousand cuts - or the taxes or budgetary items.

Mr. Speaker, to have everything, the kitchen sink, all included, as is being done here, is wrong. It's simply wrong. And yes, indeed, they know it. I haven't touched on the Department of Health yet. I will be, but just as an example, just one little example. Tell me, what a provision, to disallow foundations and community organizations to enter into contract negotiations or discussions with physicians to try to attract physicians to communities and to hospitals where they are insufficient - like in your community, Mr. Speaker. To disallow that to happen, if the community or the foundation wants to try to attract them, what does that have to do with financial measures? What does that have to do with the bottom line of the province? What right has that kind of revision to be in the Financial Measures (2002) Act?

It's a matter of control; it's a matter of power. The minister - more power. It's like the Minister of Education, looks rather innocuous in the Act, change one word. I don't know, I won't until after the next election, I haven't had the opportunity, to sit on the front benches of government, and I'm being a little bit presumptuous, I'm not really being as modest as I should be, because after the next election we will have so many candidates and so many elected representatives on this side, of very high calibre that I may not be up to the standards or the calibre of some of the others who would be going into the front benches.

But if I were so lucky, Mr. Speaker, I would sincerely hope, and I know it would happen, that the members of the entire caucus would be involved in a process. It wouldn't be as appears to have happened, well, we know what happens, here. You have the front benches, a minister comes forward with a piece of legislation, and says we want to do this Act. Cabinet discusses, Cabinet approves it, then at a caucus meeting, the backbenchers are told what they need to know. They're told, the first thing you need to know is, we're introducing this legislation, that's point one, you need to know that. The second thing you need to know is you're going to vote for it, because we told you so. That's the second thing they need to know.

The third thing they need to know is, here are the speaking notes, here is the propaganda, this has been prepared by our PR flacks, and they're all over the place with this government. Here are the speaking notes. When you're asked any question, this is how you're to answer it. No, don't think, don't come up with anything new on your own, this is what you're supposed to say. You are supposed to turn your ear, pretending as if you're listening, but turn your mind off to hearing what people are saying.

[Page 8960]

That's the way it appears to be acting at the present time and, Mr. Speaker, I want to extend my condolences to the backbenchers on the government side because I want to say to them that I really truly do have a great deal of sympathy for them being treated in such a way because I know that some of those members would be able to contribute and give much better advice to the front benches than they've been getting and, you know, it shouldn't only be the select few of the backroom people who have the front bench's ear. The elected representatives, the ones who know their constituencies, who listen to their constituents and talk to their constituents and are accountable to their constituents, they should have direct input into the legislation that is coming forward.

Mr. Speaker, I might say to you, I'm reaching the point in my remarks where I thought I would be at after I started to talk about five minutes ago. So I have a couple more things to say. However, I want to say this. You have about 25 to 26 pieces of legislation going down to the Law Amendments Committee and people are going to be scheduled to come in to appear. You're going to have people who are coming in on the Education Act, on the Probate Act, on the Income Tax Act, on the Health Act, on the Public Service Superannuation Act, on the Revenue Act, on the Workers' Compensation Act, on the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, the Halifax Bridge Commission quite possibly, and more. Did you want to ask me a question? I thought somebody was getting up to ask me a question, Mr. Speaker. I would have taken it. However, I will pass at the moment.

However, Mr. Speaker, you are going to have all these people lined up and they're all going to be coming in to speak on all kinds of different sections of this bill and, do you know, when you get large groups who want to appear on legislation, government tends to put down the hammer and say, well, you've only got five minutes to make your presentation. So if 200 of the artists who want to appear at the Law Amendments Committee, who appeared outside, of the performing arts and the cultural community, if you have representatives from the school boards who object to the minister's grab for power where she has changed a word from "and" and added the word "or", which gives the minister even more clout and power to take over in the school boards (Interruption)

I see that the member for Preston goes aha. In other words, he sounds like he's all in favour of that. He's all in favour of it and I hear a colleague of his over there saying, yes, he's all in favour of that, but I, Mr. Speaker, would suggest that maybe the member for Preston should speak for himself on that. The aha sounded like he was, but I will let him take his place and put his comments on the floor of the House.

Mr. Speaker, you get all these people lined up and all of a sudden the time is shut and basically what we have done is brought in closure. We like to run around as politicians and brag about how open we are here in Nova Scotia, how we have such a fantastic Law Amendments Committee process and how we listen to the people of this province but, do you know, the Minister of Community Services did zero in prior consultation before he announced

[Page 8961]

his plans to rip $890,000 out of essential programs in this province to support transition homes, women's shelters and men's programs. There was zero consultation.

[1:30 p.m.]

I, for one, Mr. Speaker, am one who really wants to tip my hat to those citizens who have some compassion, unlike this government, who stood up long and hard and screamed at this government to come to their senses. The government has backtracked a little bit. But you know, even though they know they're wrong, and even though some members on the government side know that what was done was wrong and would privately say so, they wouldn't publicly. You know that a budget was voted on in this House yesterday that didn't correct that. A budget was voted on yesterday that didn't correct the errors in addition to reflect the $1 million that my colleague, the Finance Critic for the New Democratic Party, discovered. The government had lowballed; they made a mistake. What was it? They didn't know how to take one from two, or two from one? It was just arithmetic, anyway. It was $1 million, and they didn't correct the budget to reflect it.

That's like the guy on the beach kicking sand. He can't admit a mistake. Oh my, it's called democracy. It's going to be interesting. Of course, the government doesn't want people to appear at the Law Amendments Committee because you know what that does? It speeds up the Law Amendments Committee process. It means, Mr. Speaker, that the government can get in and out of here faster, because if they're in here, they have to answer questions. They have to answer questions from people like us on the Opposition benches. They have to be held accountable. Do you know what? When you hold this government's feet to the fire and hold them accountable, they don't look very good.

You know what this legislation is more about than anything else? It's called politics. It's called an election. The Tories are in election-readiness mode. You want little bad press. You don't want what you are doing to be seen. You don't want to be held accountable in a public forum, where the media have ready access to you, and hear your answers, where you're under scrutiny and where they can then report it to the citizens of this province. Mr. Speaker, instead of the ministers being here, where they have to answer, they would rather it be set up as they do so much - I have to admit that I sometimes wonder who the Premier of the province is. Is it John Hamm or Rob Batherson?

AN HON. MEMBER: It's the man from Sackville, Mr. Christie.

MR. HOLM: The honourable member for Preston says it's the man from Sackville, and I don't think he means me, Mr. Speaker. It seems to me that you hear the Premier's spokesperson and read the Premier's spokesperson more often than you hear the Premier.

AN HON. MEMBER: How did Rob do when he ran in the election?

[Page 8962]

MR. HOLM: He didn't do very well then, but he did well in his salary increase. Mr. Speaker, when you're not in session, you can send your public relations person out front and they can answer the questions. So if there is any bad press or whatever, the government's hope is that it will stick to the media person, rather than to the government.

We've got the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act amendments in here. I don't know how many times I have heard members of government stand up and say, Nova Scotia has got the best Freedom of Information Act in the country. I've heard that from the Government House Leader, I've heard it from the Attorney General, the Premier, you name it. The vast majority - and it would be interesting, maybe you should do a FOIPOP on this one. The Minister of Tourism, I see, is asking if I will talk for six months and the way I feel about what he's doing, I might be able to.

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I meant to say that it feels like six months since he's been speaking.

MR. SPEAKER: That is not a point of order. The member for Sackville-Cobequid has the floor, but I would remind the member please, I know you're getting around to the relevance . . .

MR. HOLM: Oh, yes, absolutely. Definitely. I just want to say to the minister that if it feels like six months, I want him to know that I have at least accomplished part of what I want him to hear. I would love for us to be able to wear down the minister so much - I know he's pretty hard to get through to, he's got one of those thick skins, but the arts community has been trying to get through to him too. And if he's here for six months, maybe we will.

Throughout all this period of time, of six months, relevancy for you, Mr. Speaker, and you can consider that almost ahead of every statement that I'm making, but because there are so many things that I want yet to cover, I just want you to realize that the expression, within six months we could look at this, is included there. For example, on the freedom of information business, within six months we'd be able to get information on how many of the freedom of information requests took more than two hours. The reality is, the majority of requests for information submitted to the government don't take two hours to fulfill. People are forced to go to the freedom of information route because despite what the government says, all you have to do is ask, that's all you have to do to get the request in. But to get the information back, that's a different story.

So, what do they do? They crank up the fees. They say no two hours free because it's our task - and this is the logic behind it - to provide as little information as possible to the public because some of that information could embarrass us and show that we were wrong. Instead, they want to add a fee, minimum of $25 and increase the amount that they are now going to be charging on an hourly basis to make it prohibitive for many people to apply - especially groups like the media, to say nothing of the NDP caucus. Quite truthfully, the only

[Page 8963]

way you often get information is when they can't deny it because of the Freedom of Information Act. Then, of course, now they want to crank up fees for appeals because the government is noted for saying no so you have to file an appeal, many of which, I think it would be fair to say, most of which we win. Most of which we win. It's freedom from information. So, you want to be able to say, we have the best piece of legislation in the country but we're going to do our darndest to make it impossible to work.

When I take a look at this legislation that's before us - before I leave that point though I just want to make this conclusion on that, because it's where I started, and this concludes about 10 minutes of where I had planned to be in my speech. In six months the House of Assembly's committee could meet, could devise a rule to ensure that this kind of trampling on an open democratic system that this government is imposing with this legislation cannot happen again. That would even serve some members on the government benches, if there are any, the few who will be remaining after the next election and who are sitting on this side of the House, they will be grateful that the rules were changed and the process was actually made or forced to be more open and democratic. That would be a tremendous boost.

Now the Minister of Tourism and Culture hasn't had his six months' worth of speaking yet - on my behalf, just making him feel like that - but the Minister of Tourism and Culture, I listened to him in his very feeble defence, and I have to tell you that my interpretation of what I heard of the interview that the minister did on CBC Radio the other day about the Arts Council, I have to tell you the minister sounded particularly weak. I have to say that it was my view that the one who did the interview sounded rather skeptical about the minister's replies, and I look forward to the opportunity, and I hope I know in advance when the minister is invited back, and he said he would be happy to go to continue that.

Mr. Speaker, all you have to look at to know how bad this was in the very beginning, it almost reminded of the days when the former Liberal Government went in and shut down parts of Supply and Services and the locks went on the doors and civil servants showed up for work only to find that they weren't allowed in because their jobs were gone. It looks like the Minister of Tourism and Culture decided to copy the model of the former Liberals because, what did they do? They padlocked the doors. Take away the keys; usher the people out the doors; take your belongings, you're gone. It's one hell of a way to treat employees.

How many members opposite? Some might have some personal experience with having been treated the way I am describing. How does that make you feel, your worth, to be treated in such a shabby manner? That's all I can describe it as, shabby treatment. No pre-warning, no consultation, no here's so many weeks' notice, it's gone. People who have been serving and working for the arts community and so, through that, serving the Province of Nova Scotia, gone in such a shabby manner.

[Page 8964]

What are we trying to do with this legislation? What are we trying to do with this budget? I'm going to start to jump around here a little bit, because I think I only have about 15 minutes left on my six months . . .

MR. CHAIRMAN: The member has 13 minutes left.

MR. HOLM: I like my math better, but I will have to stick by yours.

Since the John Hamm Tories took office, and remember made commitments about no new taxes, but what we have seen so far is - and this is only what we've been able to ferret out - about $220 million in increased user fees and taxes. (Interruption) Pardon me?

[1:45 p.m.]

AN HON. MEMBER: How much did they promise they would raise it?

MR. HOLM: Zero. Not only that, they promised none, so it's going to be zero; $220 million worth of broken promises there. This year it's over approximately $100 million that we know to date, and why, Mr. Speaker? Now, the minister and the government will deny this, but they have been slashing programs. Emergency centres are closing. The Minister of Education hasn't got the money to provide and hasn't had enough clout in the Cabinet to get enough money to provide the specialist resources that are needed in the schools for children with special needs; to begin in any kind of meaningful way to address the tremendous deficit in unhealthy and unsafe buildings, hasn't begun to address that. Those funds are continuing to be slashed, hospital beds closed.

This legislation gives the Minister of Health the power to again adjust the ambulance fees. He's already cranked up the user fees for Pharmacare for seniors. He's already increased the co-pay to the many seniors in this province who are forced to decide - eat or take my medication. Do I gamble? Do I run the risk? Do I join the Pharmacare Program and count on not getting sick this year so that I can eat, or do I say that I join the Pharmacare Program this year and, therefore, not be able to eat a proper nutritional diet.

Why are they doing all this? Because deep down in the fine print of the budget books, although the Premier and the Minister of Finance had tried to back off from talking about a tax reduction, a tax rebate next year, a reduction next year, Mr. Speaker, way deep down - and I think it was in B22 - reference to the tax break coming next year. So Nova Scotians who are lined up, and long waiting periods for essential medication and services, health care, operations, who can't get necessary medications under Pharmacare, whose children are in unfit sick buildings, they're doing all of this plus paying over $220 million so John Hamm can hold up his next blue book and say we have delivered a 10 per cent tax cut, and people are supposed to forget everything else.

[Page 8965]

Now, let's examine that 10 per cent. Mr. Speaker, everybody wants to get a tax cut. I do, sure do. Maybe the member for Halifax Bedford Basin would like to have an income tax cut, I don't know. Who's going to get the real tax benefit? We know that over 57 per cent of Nova Scotians pay less than $1,000 in taxes in Nova Scotia. That means that the number of people who pay is only a little over 40 per cent, and those who are paying the most, the highest rate, are a small proportion of the population. So when this government cuts taxes for, let's say the gentle head of Nova Scotia Power who only makes a little under $1 million a year, when he gets a 10 per cent tax cut, he's going to save a lot of money in his taxes if he hasn't got it already all sheltered, but the individual family who is living in this province on $40,000 to $60,000, or less, their savings are going to be very small.

Yet, Mr. Speaker, those same people who are going to save very little, they're paying that increased cost for their driver's license. They're paying that increased cost to register their vehicle. They're going to pay that increased cost for the dental care for their children and the premiums that are going to be driven up. Those people who are going to benefit very little are the primary ones that this government is going to say, you pay through all of these little cuts and increased taxes and service fees so that the very rich, like Mr. Mann, can get a big tax break. Then they're so proud because the president of the Chamber of Commerce gives them a little bottle of black ink.

What does this legislation do to help the working poor in this province? What does this legislation do to increase the minimum wage for the thousands and thousands of workers in this province who are forced to live on that? Zero, Mr. Speaker. How can a government, how can you as backbenchers, look your constituents in the eye, those who are making $6.00 or $6.25 an hour trying to support their families, and say that you support this kind of legislation and this kind of budget so that you can give the most affluent of your friends a tax break. I know what the honourable member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury says to them. That's, in effect, what you're doing. That's what this government is doing. You're making choices and your choice is that the most affluent, the most powerful are going to get more. The most vulnerable, you pay.

Mr. Speaker, the amount of money that this two cents - actually 2.3 cents because HST is added on - that is being added on to the price of gasoline is three to four the times the amount that this province is receiving in the way of royalties for our natural gas that is being exported to the States, a product that when it comes out of the ground is worth well over $1 billion and the two cents that we're going to take from every motorist, every business as they fill up their vehicles is going to raise three, four or maybe five times more than we are getting in the way of royalties.

Mr. Speaker, how much time have I got left? Four minutes? Nova Scotia Power privatization, I'm all in favour of Nova Scotia Power paying more in the way of taxes, all for it. But I also know that those costs are then going to drive up the rates and it's going to hurt the seniors, it's going to hurt the poor, it's going to hurt the middle class family, it's going to

[Page 8966]

hurt many people in the community of Sackville, I can assure you, who have electric heat. It's going to hurt them a heck of a lot more than it's going to hurt your close buddies who are in seats of power down in South End Halifax. Even when they are doing that and supposedly increasing this tax so money can be shared with the municipalities, the government still has the ability to get their greedy little hands in and take out $2.5 million because they're not going to pass all the money over to the municipalities.

Mr. Speaker, they're going to take away the reduction and registration fees for the commercial motor vehicles. So the fire department vehicles, the police vehicles, all those other vehicles, unless they're a volunteer organization, are going to lose that registration reduction, another way for this government to get in and to have those tax increases passed on, not by them, but now it's going to be the bad municipalities that will increase the taxes to cover those costs. That's what your plan is. Sinister. This legislation as it is does not deserve to pass. Six months - maybe the government can come to their senses. In six months, maybe this government will agree to hive this bill into many sections. It is mean-spirited. It is just downright bad legislation.

Accountability. Government, of course, wants to be open and accountable, so they would have us believe. They even spend taxpayers' dollars - get this - to go out and tell us what a good job they're doing. They can't depend on the press to report the truth, or maybe they can and that's why they want to put ads out there to put out a misconception. Spend taxpayers' dollars - while they're shutting down hospital beds, while they're denying people the necessary medical treatment, medical aids and so on, they're spending taxpayers' dollars on ads.

I'm just starting to get warmed up. I'm now at about the point of 20 minutes into my speech in terms of the notes that I have prepared. I have a sense that I may have an opportunity to come back to this at another time. I know it's been a long day and listening to me has been rather tiring on many members of the government so therefore, I would like to move the adjournment of the debate.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is to adjourn debate.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

The motion is carried.

The honourable Government House Leader.

[Page 8967]

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the House will adjourn to meet on Monday at the hour of 2:00 p.m. and sit until 10:00 p.m. The order of business will be Public Bills for Second Reading and we will be continuing with Bill No. 109 and continuing with the other bills in sequence.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that the House adjourn until 2:00 p.m. on Monday.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

We are adjourned until Monday at 2:00 p.m

[The House rose at 1:58 p.m.]

[Page 8968]

NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)

RESOLUTION NO. 3482

By: Hon. James Muir (Health)

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

Whereas the Maritime Centre of Excellence for Women's Health recently held its annual leadership awards presentation; and

Whereas 10 of the awards presented went to Nova Scotian residents or organizations which had made a significant contribution to women's health issues in Atlantic Canada; and

Whereas Ms. Josie Richard, a leader in critical cardiac care and rehabilitation, was one of our citizens who had the honour of receiving an award;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Ms. Richard and the other nine award recipients for their hard work and dedication toward women's health issues.

RESOLUTION NO. 3483

By: Hon. James Muir (Health)

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

Whereas the Maritime Centre of Excellence for Women's Health recently held its annual leadership awards presentation; and

Whereas 10 of the awards presented went to Nova Scotian residents or organizations which had made a significant contribution to women's health issues in Atlantic Canada; and

Whereas the Women's Mental Health Program in Truro was one of the organizations that had the honour of receiving an award;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate this women's program and the other nine award recipients for their hard work and dedication toward women's health issues.

[Page 8969]

RESOLUTION NO. 3484

By: Hon. James Muir (Health)

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

Whereas the Maritime Centre of Excellence for Women's Health recently held its annual leadership awards presentation; and

Whereas 10 of the awards presented went to Nova Scotian residents or organizations which had made a significant contribution to women's health issues in Atlantic Canada; and

Whereas Dr. J. Patricia Beresford, who has been an advocate of preventive medicine since the 1970s, was one of our citizens who had the honour of receiving an award;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Dr. Beresford and the other nine award recipients for their hard work and dedication toward women's health issues.