Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

Les travaux de la Chambre ont repris le
21 septembre 2017

HANSARD 01/02-94

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

MONDAY, APRIL 29, 2002

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS:
Serv. N.S. & Mun. Rel.: Property Assessments - Fair,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 8971
Serv. N.S. & Mun. Rel.: Property Assessments - Fair, Mr. D. Downe 8972
Commun. Serv. - Tearmann House: Cuts - Roll Back, Mr. J. DeWolfe 8972
Health: Disabled Persons - Rehabilitation, Mr. J. MacDonell 8972
Serv. N.S. & Mun. Rel.: Property Assessments - Fair, Mr. D. Downe 8972
Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Hwys. 202 and 354: Concerns - Address,
Mr. J. MacDonell 8973
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 3485, Women, Status of, Advisory Council: Mar. Ctr. of
Excellence for Women's Health - Award, Hon. J. Purves 8973
Vote - Affirmative 8974
Res. 3486, Nat. Res.: Comm. on Status of Endangered Wildlife (Can.) -
Recognize, Hon. E. Fage 8974
Vote - Affirmative 8974
Res. 3487, Tourism & Culture - Toronto Star: Sherbrooke Village -
Recognition, Hon. Rodney MacDonald 8975
Vote - Affirmative 8975
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 126, Environment Act, Mr. H. Epstein 8975
No. 127, Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Resources Accord
Implementation (Nova Scotia) Act, Mr. H. Epstein 8975
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 3488, Westray Inquiry: Criminal Code Amendments - Adopt,
Mr. D. Dexter 8976
Vote - Affirmative 8976
Res. 3489, Can. Mineral Ind. - Awards: Journalists - Congrats.,
Mr. Manning MacDonald 8977
Vote - Affirmative 8977
Res. 3490, Sports - Hfx. Oland Exports: E. Can. Jr. A Championship -
Congrats., Mr. B. Barnet 8977
Vote - Affirmative 8978
Res. 3491, Sackville Vol. Appreciation Celebrations - Awards:
Recipients - Congrats., Mr. J. Holm 8978
Vote - Affirmative 8979
Res. 3492, Sports - Hockey: Dart. Subways - Performance Congrats.,
Dr. J. Smith 8979
Vote - Affirmative 8980
Res. 3493, Evergreen Seniors Club (Port Hawkesbury): Work -
Recognize, Mr. Ronald Chisholm 8980
Vote - Affirmative 8980
Res. 3494, HMCS St. John's - Crew: Godspeed - Wish, Mr. K. Deveaux 8981
Vote - Affirmative 8981
Res. 3495, Sports: Clare Acadiens Midget A Hockey Team - Congrats.,
Mr. W. Gaudet 8981
Vote - Affirmative 8982
Res. 3496, Day, Alex - Nat'l. Wrestling Tournament: Achievement -
Congrats., Mr. F. Chipman 8982
Vote - Affirmative 8983
Res. 3497, Environ. & Lbr.: Violence In Workplace Regulations -
Implement, Mr. F. Corbett 8983
Vote - Affirmative 8983
Res. 3498, Lions Awareness Month (04/02) - Recognize,
Mr. K. MacAskill 8984
Vote - Affirmative 8984
Res. 3499, Fuller, Pierson: Death of - Tribute, Hon. D. Morse 8984
Vote - Affirmative 8985
Res. 3500, Commun. Serv. - Intake: Privatization - End, Mr. J. Pye 8985
Res. 3501, Environ. & Lbr. - Water Strategy: Provision -
Failure Condemn, Mr. R. MacKinnon 8986
Res. 3502, Day, Matthew/Crichton Pk. Elem. Students: Starr Award -
Congrats., Mr. T. Olive 8987
Vote - Affirmative 8987
Res. 3503, Bull, Arthur: Longard, Art, Award (2001) - Congrats.,
Mr. H. Epstein 8987
Vote - Affirmative 8988
Res. 3504, Digout, Christian/Filion, Laura: NSERC Awards -
Congrats., Mr. M. Samson 8988
Vote - Affirmative 8989
Res. 3505, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Hwy. No. 103 Twinning:
Timberlea-Prospect Citizen Commitment - Congrats.,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 8989
Vote - Affirmative 8990
Res. 3506, Andrew, Trevor: Olympic Success - Congrats.,
Mr. B. Boudreau 8990
Vote - Affirmative 8990
Res. 3507, Anna. East Elem. Sch. - Peaceful Schools Int'l.: Induction -
Congrats., Mr. Robert Chisholm 8990
Vote - Affirmative 8991
Res. 3508, Allergy Awareness Wk. - Scented Products: Usage -
Refrain, Dr. J. Smith 8991
Vote - Affirmative 8992
Res. 3509, Nat'l. Forest Wk. (04/04-11/02) - Celebrate, Mr. J. MacDonell 8992
Vote - Affirmative 8993
Res. 3510, Ueffing, Ted: Death of - Tribute, Mr. D. Downe 8993
Vote - Affirmative 8993
Res. 3511, Educ. - Special Needs Children: Report -
Recommendations Implement, Mr. K. Deveaux 8994
Res. 3512, Battle of the Atlantic Wk. - Recognize, Mr. R. MacKinnon 8994
Vote - Affirmative 8995
Res. 3513, N. Queens Commun. Health Ctr.: Establishment - Applaud,
Mr. K. Morash 8995
Vote - Affirmative 8995
Res. 3514, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Hwy. No. 103 Twinning:
Munroe, Bruce - Involvement Thank, Mr. W. Estabrooks 8996
Vote - Affirmative 8996
Res. 3515, Sports - Richmond Acad. Students: NSSAF Wrestling
Championships - Medals Congrats., Mr. M. Samson 8996
Vote - Affirmative 8997
Res. 3516, MacPhee, Melbourne - Mar. Fiddlers Assoc.:
Cert. of Recognition - Congrats., Mr. J. MacDonell 8997
Vote - Affirmative 8998
Res. 3517, Make-A-Wish Day (Int'l.) (04/29/02) - Recognize,
Mr. Manning MacDonald 8998
Vote - Affirmative 8999
Res. 3518, Mullen, Jessie - N.S. Commun. Coll.:
Co-op Student of the Yr. - Congrats., Mr. D. Downe 8999
Vote - Affirmative 8999
Res. 3519, Wrens: Anniv. (60th) - Congrats., Mr. W. Gaudet 8999
Vote - Affirmative 9000
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 109, Financial Measures (2002) Act 9001
Amendment [debate resumed] 9001
Mr. Manning MacDonald 9001
Mr. H. Epstein 9012
Mr. R. MacKinnon 9027
Mr. J. MacDonell 9041
Mr. B. Boudreau 9047
Mr. K. Deveaux 9060
Mr. M. Samson 9078
Adjourned debate 9096
No. 104, Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission Act 9096
Hon. J. Purves 9096
Mr. K. Deveaux 9097
Adjourned debate 9102
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Tue., Apr. 30th at 12:00 noon 9102
NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3):
Res. 3520, Carleton FD - Fire Hall: Fundraising Efforts - Applaud,
Mr. R. Hurlburt 9103
Res. 3521, Membertou: Econ. Dev. Achievements - Congrats.,
Mr. C. Clarke 9103
Res. 3522, C.B. Wellness Ctr. - Mar. Ctr. of Excellence for
Women's Health: Award - Congrats., Mr. C. Clarke 9104
Res. 3523, Hall, Melissa: Medal of Bravery - Congrats., Mr. C. Clarke 9104
Res. 3524, MacDonald, Charlie/Breen, Lawson: Philanthropy -
Commend, Mr. J. DeWolfe 9105
Res. 3525, Bowen, Tennile: Nat'l. Sea Cadet of the Yr. - Congrats.,
Mr. J. DeWolfe 9105
Res. 3526, We Care Soc. - Fundraiser: Success - Congrats.,
Mr. J. DeWolfe 9106
Res. 3527, Culloden, Battle of - Lismore Residents: Efforts -
Congrats., Mr. J. DeWolfe 9106
Res. 3528, Montrose, Darlene: Dist. 6. Vol. of the Yr. - Congrats.,
The Speaker 9107
Res. 3529, Bragg, Courtney: Cumb. Co. Youth Vol. of the Yr. -
Congrats., The Speaker 9107
Res. 3530, Sprague Fam.: Cumb. Co. Fam. Vol. of the Yr. - Congrats.,
The Speaker 9108
Res. 3531, Roberts, Crystal: Parrsboro Vol. of the Yr. Award -
Congrats., The Speaker 9108
NOTICE OF QUESTION FOR WRITTEN ANSWER:
No. 7, NSLC - Directives: Issuance - Details, Mr. G. Steele 9109

[Page 8971]

HALIFAX, MONDAY, APRIL 29, 2002

Fifty-eighth General Assembly

Second Session

2:00 P.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Murray Scott

DEPUTY SPEAKERS

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

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. We will begin the daily routine.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

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

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition from 157 Nova Scotians. The operative phrase is, "NOVA SCOTIANS FOR A FAIR PROPERTY ASSESSMENT We ask that the Nova Scotia government tie land assessment increases to the consumer price index and major renovations. We ask that Market Value Assessments only be established when property is sold. We ask that provisions be made for the transfer of lands and property between generations." There are 157 signatures on this petition and I, too, have signed it.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

8971

[Page 8972]

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I, too, beg leave to table a petition."NOVA SCOTIANS FOR A FAIR PROPERTY ASSESSMENT We ask that the Nova Scotia government tie land assessment increases to the consumer price index and major renovations. We ask that Market Value Assessments only be established when property is sold. We ask that provisions be made for the transfer of lands and property between generations." I have affixed my signature to this petition which is from Lunenburg West, primarily.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Pictou East.

MR. JAMES DEWOLFE: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition from Pictou County, Tearmann House. The operative clause is, "We as citizens insist that the government roll back these cuts and enter into a meaningful dialogue about responsible funding for our community-based services." I have affixed my name to the document.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Hants East.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition. The operative clause is, "We, the undersigned, petition Jamie Muir, Minister of Health to act more responsibly on the behalf of Nova Scotia's disabled and their families. In particular, to weigh each individual case on its own merit and make practical decisions concerning their rehabilitation and quality of life. With our signatures, we insist that the Minister work together with other government departments to help and protect Nova Scotia's most vulnerable citizens, spend reasonable amounts of money today if it will save taxpayers in the long run, and stop putting these families through further torment." There are 900-plus signatures on this petition and I have affixed my signature in support.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Lunenburg West.

MR. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I, too, beg leave to table another petition signed by 167 Nova Scotians from the constituency of Lunenburg."NOVA SCOTIANS FOR A FAIR PROPERTY ASSESSMENT We ask that the Nova Scotia government tie land assessment increases to the consumer price index and major renovations. We ask that Market Value Assessments only be established when property is sold. We ask that provisions be made for the transfer of lands and property between generations." I have affixed my signature to this petition.

[Page 8973]

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Hants East.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition that has come in the form of a letter to me. It is to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works regarding Highway Nos. 202 and 354 in my constituency. The residents there are particularly concerned about the trip for students to get to Hants North Rural High School and ask the minister to address their concerns. I have affixed my signature. The petition has 84 signatures plus mine.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister responsible for the Advisory Council on the Status of Women.

RESOLUTION NO. 3485

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

Whereas the 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 Scotia residents or organizations that had made a significant contribution to women's health issues in Atlantic Canada; and

Whereas the Nova Scotia Advisory Council on the Status of Women was one of the organizations that had the honour of receiving an award;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the Status of Women Advisory Council and the other nine award recipients for their hard work and dedication to women's health issues.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 8974]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Natural Resources.

RESOLUTION NO. 3486

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

Whereas the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada, COSEWIC for short, is marking its 25th Anniversary this year; and

Whereas this committee determines the national status of wild Canadian species, subspecies and separate populations suspected of being at risk and bases its decisions on the best up-to-date scientific information available; and

Whereas the next Species Assessment Meeting is taking place this week, April 29th to May 3rd, at White Point Beach Resort in Queens County, Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House recognize the importance of the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada and the tremendous work it has done during the last 25 years and will continue to do in the future.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

[Page 8975]

The honourable Minister of Tourism and Culture.

RESOLUTION NO. 3487

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

Whereas Sherbrooke Village was recently profiled by the Toronto Star; and

Whereas the Toronto Star has a circulation of 460,000 in one of our core touring markets as identified in our 2002 Integrated Tourism Plan; and

Whereas Sherbrooke Village has preserved and promoted Nova Scotia's history for over three decades, continues to attract 50,000 tourists each year and was described in this article as a "historic gem";

Therefore be it resolved that all members recognize the value of this coverage in attracting tourists to our province and congratulate the Village's staff and volunteers for their valuable contributions to Nova Scotia's heritage and tourism sectors.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

Bill No. 126 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 1 of the Acts of 1994-95. The Environment Act. (Mr. Howard Epstein)

Bill No. 127 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 3 of the Acts of 1987. The Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Resources Accord Implementation (Nova Scotia) Act. (Mr. Howard Epstein)

[Page 8976]

[2:15 p.m.]

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

NOTICES OF MOTION

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

RESOLUTION NO. 3488

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

Whereas almost 10 years after the Westray disaster, the hard truth is that no one was brought to justice for the actions that caused 26 deaths in the Westray mine; and

Whereas another Day of Mourning for those killed and disabled on the job has gone by without federal action to adopt the Westray recommendations that would make corporate executives responsible for actions that harm or kill workers; and

Whereas Members of Parliament from Nova Scotia had introduced their own legislation and taken every other opportunity to press for the recommended Criminal Code amendments;

Therefore be it resolved that this House urges the Parliament of Canada to adopt the Criminal Code amendments recommended by the Westray Inquiry, and that Mr. Speaker provide a copy of this resolution to the Speakers of the House and of the Senate.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton South.

[Page 8977]

RESOLUTION NO. 3489

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

Whereas three Nova Scotian journalists will be honoured by the Canadian mineral industry today for in-depth reporting on mineral-related issues; and

Whereas Dan Léger of CBC Nova Scotia will receive an honourable mention for the report, looking at the end of a way of life in Cape Breton as miners headed underground for their last shift at the Prince Colliery; and

Whereas Rick Grant of ATV will receive first prize for his series on the royalties and benefits Nova Scotia receives from offshore projects, and Kathy Large of CBC Radio Halifax will receive an honourable mention for detailing the offshore boundary dispute between Newfoundland and Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House congratulate these three journalists on winning these industry awards based on technical accuracy and balanced reporting.

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-Beaver Bank.

RESOLUTION NO. 3490

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

Whereas with an exciting finish in a close game the Halifax Oland Exports beat the Ottawa Junior Senators to take the Fred Page Cup and win the Eastern Canadian Junior A Championship; and

[Page 8978]

Whereas with only 3:03 remaining in a 3-3 game, Darrell Jarrett caught a pass from Captain Matt Quinn and fired a backhander to beat Ottawa's goalie on the short side; and

Whereas with a 16-1 record in post-season play, the Exports have been on a roll and will carry this momentum into competition for the Royal Bank Cup for Canada's Junior A Championship early May in Halifax;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the Halifax Oland Exports on their Eastern Canadian Junior A Championship and cheer them on as they compete for the Canadian Junior A Championship title in May.

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. 3491

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

Whereas Lake District Recreation Association, itself a volunteer organization, will hold their annual Volunteer Appreciation Night on May 1st; and

Whereas Sackville continues to be blessed with a wealth of volunteers who experience the reward that comes from helping others and improving the quality of life within the community through their participation in, and the generous offering of their talents, time and resources; and

Whereas numerous organizations will honour one of their own and Ernest MacIsaac will join a select group when he is awarded the 2002 Volunteer of the Year Award;

[Page 8979]

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize, congratulate and extend its best wishes to Lake District Recreation Association, Ernest MacIsaac, award winners and all volunteers during Sackville Volunteer Appreciation Celebrations on May 1st.

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. 3492

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 Dartmouth Subways, through the coaching of Brad Crossley, led the team to its second straight appearance at the Canadian AAA midget hockey championship Air Canada Cup held in Bathurst, New Brunswick; and

Whereas they were the first Atlantic Canadian team to appear in the final in the 24-year history of the tournament, and all of the team performed with distinction; and

Whereas Sidney Crosby, age 14, scored 11 goals and 13 assists in 7 games, winning the tournament scoring title, most valuable player and a $1,000 post-secondary scholarship;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the Dartmouth Subways', Brad Crossley and the support team, on their excellent performance and professional attitude on their way to winning silver in the Canadian AAA midget hockey championship.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 8980]

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 Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury.

RESOLUTION NO. 3493

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

Whereas the Port Hawkesbury Seniors Club has approximately 75 members, a number who are very active; and

Whereas the club provides opportunities for seniors to do everything from play cards to the holding of special learning classes on a variety of subjects; and

Whereas the Seniors Club, officially known as the Evergreen Seniors Club, underwent a major renovation in 2000 and is often used as a venue for other local community events;

Therefore be it resolved that the Nova Scotia Legislature recognize the hard work of the Evergreen Seniors Club in Port Hawkesbury and wish its members continued success with their ongoing activities.

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 Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

[Page 8981]

RESOLUTION NO. 3494

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

Whereas Canadians take pride in their efforts to safeguard the peace in fragile times; and

Whereas part of that effort involves the HMCS St. John's, which leaves today for service in the Gulf; and

Whereas Nova Scotians join together with the friends and families of the St. John's crew in praying they be delivered safely out of harm's way;

Therefore be it resolved that this House wish Godspeed to the crew of the HMCS St. John's as she begins her tour of duty in the Persian Gulf.

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 Clare.

RESOLUTION NO. 3495

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

Whereas the Clare Acadiens Midget A team participated in the SEDMHA International Minor Hockey Tournament in Dartmouth from April 4 to April 7, 2002; and

Whereas the team played against Chebucto in the Accord Division Final; and

Whereas the SEDMHA International Hockey Tournament is one of the largest and most respected multi-level minor hockey tournaments in North America;

[Page 8982]

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House of Assembly congratulate the Clare Acadiens Midget A team and their coaches for winning the Accord Division final during the 25th annual SEDMHA International Minor Hockey Tournament.

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 Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 3496

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

Whereas the national wrestling tournament was recently held in Fredericton, New Brunswick; and

Whereas 15-year-old Alex Dyas from Karsdale, Annapolis County, placed first in the tournament, beating out the 27 other competitors in his group and becoming the first Nova Scotia youth to ever place first in this national wrestling tournament; and

Whereas Mr. Dyas was also voted the most outstanding wrestler in his entire division of 307 wrestlers by tournament referees and coaches;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Alex Dyas on his tremendous achievement of placing first in this national competition and on the honour of being voted most outstanding wrestler.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 8983]

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

RESOLUTION NO. 3497

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

Whereas Sunday marked the Day of Mourning when Nova Scotians remember those who were killed or injured in the workplace; and

Whereas one of the 27 flags placed at the Day of Mourning ceremony in Halifax was for Yancy Meyer who was stabbed to death while working alone in an Antigonish convenience store; and

Whereas such ceremonies highlight the need to ensure our workplaces are as free from violence as they possibly can be;

Therefore be it resolved that this House call upon this government, in particular the Minister of Environment and Labour, to implement violence in the workplace regulations immediately.

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 8984]

The honourable member for Victoria.

RESOLUTION NO. 3498

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

Whereas since 1917, Lions Clubs around the world have been providing services for their communities; and

Whereas today in Nova Scotia there are over 1,900 members in the 70 Lions clubs that stretch from Yarmouth to northern Cape Breton and many points in between; and

Whereas April is Lions Awareness Month when many clubs will be conducting a special activity or project in order to provide information for people in their communities;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize the invaluable role that Lions Clubs play in our communities and that we all be encouraged to take part in activities sponsored by the Lions to recognize Lions Awareness Month.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Environment and Labour.

RESOLUTION NO. 3499

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

Whereas the community of Avonport and surrounding area was blessed for 77 years by the presence of Pierson Fuller; and

[Page 8985]

Whereas Pierson was truly a gentle giant known for his kind nature and thoughtfulness; and

Whereas he, and indeed the entire Fuller family, set the bar high as conscientious, generous and responsible members of the community;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House acknowledge the considerable contribution made by Pierson Fuller during his lifetime and celebrate his enduring legacy enjoyed by all those who were fortunate enough to have known him.

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. 3500

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

Whereas the Minister of Community Service can act today to end the process of privatizing the intake of Community Services clients; and

Whereas Community Services is not supposed to be about profit-driven business but rather about compassion for those in unfortunate situations; and

Whereas the Minister of Community Services has produced no cost study that indicates in any fashion how privatizing this service will be more cost-effective on a private basis;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Community Services end the tender process for client intake and leave it with the public servants, where it belongs.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 8986]

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. 3501

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

Whereas Halifax is host to a national water conference being held from April 28th to April 30th at the Westin Hotel; and

Whereas this conference is being sponsored by the federal-provincial-territorial water subcommittee and is focusing on topics ranging from the security of our water supply to water treatment technologies and financing of our water treatment plants; and

Whereas although water safety is a genuine concern for many Nova Scotians but this government has failed to provide its long-promised water strategy;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House condemn the government for failing to bring forward the promised water strategy before playing host to the national water conference.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth South.

[Page 8987]

RESOLUTION NO. 3502

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

Whereas 11-year-old Matthew Day of Dartmouth was one of 14 Crichton Park Elementary School Grade 6 students presented with the Starr Award honouring volunteer efforts in the community; and

Whereas the Starr Award, named for the historical Dartmouth firm that developed and manufactured ice skates, was devised by parents and staff of Crichton Park Elementary School four years ago to encourage students to participate in their community in the hopes of making them more well-rounded, community-oriented citizens; and

Whereas amongst his accomplishments, Matthew Day raised about $1,300 for Phoenix youth programs, obtained his orange belt in ju-jitsu and did some stock market analysis;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Matthew Day and the other Crichton Park Elementary School students honoured with the Starr Award for showing exceptional civic responsibility and dedication to helping others in their 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 Halifax Chebucto.

RESOLUTION NO. 3503

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

Whereas Art Longard was one of the original founders of the Gulf of Maine Council, whose goal is to promote the conservation of marine life in the Gulf of Maine; and

[Page 8988]

Whereas among the people who have carried on Art Longard's legacy of conservation and marine protection is Digby Neck resident Arthur Bull; and

[2:30 p.m.]

Whereas Arthur Bull of the Coastal Communities Network is the recipient of the Art Longard Award for 2001 for his role in helping foster self-reliance in and among the Bay of Fundy's fishing communities;

Therefore be it resolved that members of the Legislature commend Arthur Bull on his achievements for the people of the Bay of Fundy, and congratulate him on being recognized for the Art Longard Award for 2001.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Richmond.

RESOLUTION NO. 3504

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

Whereas two Richmond County students are winners of the 2002 Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada Awards; and

Whereas Christian Digout of St. Peter's and Laura Filion of River Bourgeois have each been awarded $34,600 for beginning graduate work; and

Whereas St. F.X. has the largest number of PGSA awards among primarily undergraduate universities in Atlantic Canada;

[Page 8989]

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Christian Digout and Laura Filion on receiving these prestigious awards and wish them continued success in all their future endeavours.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 3505

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

Whereas homeowner associations and community organizations have pressured this government to twin the section of Highway No. 103 between Exit 3 in Timberlea and Exit 5 in Upper Tantallon; and

Whereas this growing area's need for a safe Highway No. 103 was recognized with the announcement to twin this busy road; and

Whereas the commitment of such active, involved citizens is a pleasure to witness;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate and thank the residents of Timberlea-Prospect who assisted in making the twinning of Highway No. 103 a priority project for the Department of Transportation and Public Works.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 8990]

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. 3506

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

Whereas only three Nova Scotians have ever competed in the Winter Olympics and, at age 22, Trevor Andrew of Falmouth, Nova Scotia, makes number four; and

Whereas Trevor did very well, placing 9th of 34 in men's snowboarding at Salt Lake City; and

Whereas his ninth-place finish was the top Canadian placing in the men's snowboarding;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Trevor Andrew for his tremendous success in the Winter Olympics at Salt Lake City and wish him well in all his future endeavours.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

RESOLUTION NO. 3507

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

[Page 8991]

Whereas Nova Scotians have been reading distressing stories of school bullying; and

Whereas another Nova Scotian school is creating its own solutions to combat such acts by following the League of Peaceful Schools model; and

Whereas Annapolis East Elementary School was inducted into Peaceful Schools International in a recent ceremony and is the subject of a documentary called Learning Peace;

Therefore be it resolved that the students, teachers and principals of the Annapolis East Elementary School be congratulated for their induction into Peaceful Schools International, and on their proactive stance against any form of violence.

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. 3508

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

Whereas every day we breathe, eat and drink substances that could be harmful to us; and

Whereas people with environmental sensitivities experience strong and often debilitating symptoms through exposure to harmful substances; and

Whereas the last week of April has been designed as Allergy Awareness Week in Nova Scotia;

[Page 8992]

Therefore be it resolved that members of the House be mindful of the harmful effects of chemicals found in products such as shampoos, perfumes and foods, and refrain from using products that are scented or environmentally unfriendly in recognition of Allergy Awareness Week.

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.

RESOLUTION NO. 3509

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

Whereas Canada's forests contribute to the economic, social and environmental well-being of all Canadians; and

Whereas it is only through careful use of our forests that our forests will endure and be enjoyed by all Canadians; and

Whereas the week of May 5th to May 11th is National Forest Week throughout all of Canada;

Therefore be it resolved that members of the Legislature join in congratulating the different organizations and individuals who have helped to ensure that our forests are here for all Canadians to enjoy as we celebrate National Forest Week from May 5 to May 11, 2002.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 8993]

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. 3510

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

Whereas earlier this year, Mr. Ted Ueffing passed away at his Woodside home; and

Whereas following his arrival from the Netherlands in 1957, Mr. Ueffing rose to positions of leadership with the Grain Commission, President of the Nova Scotia Federation of Agriculture, and Chairman of the Nova Scotia Farm Loan Board; and

Whereas with his passing, all Nova Scotians mark the achievements of Ted Ueffing and reach to fill the void he leaves throughout the province, particularly among our farming communities;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House extend their sympathy to the family and friends of Mr. Ted Ueffing and recognize his invaluable contribution to the Nova Scotia farming 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 Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

[Page 8994]

RESOLUTION NO. 3511

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

Whereas services for special needs students continue to be underfunded and undervalued by this government; and

Whereas this continued neglect of vulnerable students severely limits their potential ability to be productive members of our society; and

Whereas the Minister of Education commissioned a study that recommended $20 million more be spent on services for special needs children;

Therefore be it resolved that this government act immediately to implement the recommendations of its own report on special needs children.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

RESOLUTION NO. 3512

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 week has been designated Battle of the Atlantic Week to honour those men and women who served in one of the longest campaigns of the Second World War; and

Whereas for six long years, the Royal Canada Navy, the Canadian Merchant Navy and the Royal Canadian Air Force were principal contenders in the Battle of the Atlantic where Canada become one of the foremost Allied powers in the Battle of the Atlantic; and

Whereas one of the most important achievements of the Battle of the Atlantic was the 25,343 merchant ship voyages made from North America to British ports under the escort of Canadian forces;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House of Assembly recognize this week as Battle of the Atlantic Week and honour those courageous men and women who served our country with great pride.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 8995]

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 Queens.

RESOLUTION NO. 3513

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

Whereas the North Queens Community Health Centre has officially opened and is serving the people of North Queens; and

Whereas this health centre is the result of good planning and a credit to the community's hard work and is something of which North Queens should be proud; and

Whereas the health centre is at the heart of the community, improves the quality of life and is an important feature of this growing, healthy community;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House applaud the community of North Queens for establishing the North Queens Community Health Centre, an important development for today and for the future.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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 8996]

RESOLUTION NO. 3514

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

Whereas Lake of the Woods resident Bruce Munroe has communicated to three Ministers of Transportation from two different governments over the past four years about the need to twin Highway No. 103; and

Whereas Mr. Munroe is a perfect example of the involved citizens of the growing constituency of Timberlea-Prospect, who know first-hand the need for safety on that busy road; and

Whereas Bruce Munroe now knows that individual Nova Scotians can have a say in determining road construction priorities in this province;

Therefore be it resolved that this House thank and congratulate Bruce Munroe for his direct involvement in bringing to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works' attention the need to twin Highway No. 103 between Exit 3 and Exit 5.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Richmond.

RESOLUTION NO. 3515

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

Whereas five wrestlers from Richmond Academy captured medals at the NSSAF Wrestling Championships; and

[Page 8997]

Whereas Adelle Boudreau, Laura Corkum, Ryan Fougere and Robert Martin captured gold medals while Heidi Soares won bronze; and

Whereas the provincial championships were held at Richmond Academy on April 14th and 15th of this year;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Adelle Boudreau, Laura Corkum, Heidi Soares, Ryan Fougere and Robert Martin on their successes and recognize the dedication and leadership of wrestling Coach, Mike Soares who has yet again led his team to victory.

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.

RESOLUTION NO. 3516

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

Whereas the fiddle has been an integral musical instrument in Nova Scotia culture; and

Whereas many old time fiddlers learned to play their music by ear and enjoyed local fame; and

Whereas on March 12, 2002, Mr. Melbourne MacPhee of Shubenacadie was presented with a certificate of recognition by the Maritime Fiddlers Association for his long and talented career playing the fiddle, even as far back as playing to crowds at the Old Court House in the Gore;

[Page 8998]

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate Mr. Melbourne MacPhee of Shubenacadie on his receiving a certificate of recognition by the Maritime Fiddlers Association for his many years of providing toe-tapping entertainment for the people of Hants East.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton South.

RESOLUTION NO. 3517

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

Whereas today has been designated International Make-A-Wish Day; and

Whereas the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Canada is part of the largest not-for-profit wish granting organization in the world with eight chapters and a national office; and

Whereas the Make-A-Wish Foundation exists for one purpose - to fulfil the special wishes of children between the ages of 3 and 18 who have a life-threatening illness;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize today as International Make-A-Wish Day and recognize the invaluable contributions of thousands of volunteers worldwide who have helped to make over 90,000 wishes come true.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 8999]

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. 3518

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

Whereas a Lunenburg campus student has been named Co-op Student of the Year by the Nova Scotia Community College for the first time; and

Whereas Jessie Mullen of Weymouth, a second year student of Hospitality Services was named the recipient; and

Whereas Ms. Mullen is graduating in June with high performance marks from her work-term employer and college;

Therefore be it resolved that members of the House of Assembly extend their congratulations to Jessie Mullen on being named Co-op Student of the Year and wish her all the best in her future endeavours.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Clare.

RESOLUTION NO. 3519

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

[Page 9000]

Whereas today, Halifax will honour women who served in World War II marking the 60th Anniversary of the Women's Royal Canadian Naval Service; and

Whereas about 50 former members of the service, affectionately known as the Wrens, will march to City Hall for a special flag raising ceremony at 2:00 p.m.; and

Whereas by the end of the war about 6,000 women had served with the Wrens in a variety of duties, including service of anti-submarine equipment, aircraft maintenance, cryptography, signalling and wireless telegraphing;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House of Assembly recognize this day as the 60th Anniversary of the Women's Royal Canadian Naval service and commend those women who served our country.

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.

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.

PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 109, the Financial Measures (2002) Act.

[Page 9001]

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

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Cape Breton South has the floor.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: I rise to say a few words about the hoist motion of Bill No. 109. The hoist motion that's on the table here today would have the effect of giving some time for this House to receive some representations from people throughout the province on some of the measures that are contained in here and some of the issues that I will go through.

[2:45 p.m.]

I see the Finance Minister is smiling over there when he, Mr. Speaker, put a number of user fees through here, consulting with no one in the province, just unilaterally ripped the dollars from the wallets of Nova Scotia taxpayers at will and after consulting with no one, and he thinks that's funny. So the people who start paying the bills aren't going to think it's funny. I believe we should pass this hoist motion on the bill so it will allow the government the time it needs to revise so that it does, in fact, reflect what it is the government should have done in the first place, consult with Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, for the government to say to Nova Scotians that all these user fees are not taxes, they're just that - user fees. Well, if you take a dollar out of somebody's pocket, you can call it whatever you want, but you're still taking the dollar out of somebody's pocket. They've been inventing ways to take money out of people's pockets in this province in the past year. I can recall back to the fee that was going to go on the phone bills for emergencies - I believe about two years ago, it may be last year, or perhaps two years ago and the government went to great pains to say that wouldn't impact on your phone bill at all; in fact, it wouldn't cost the consumer any more. Well, guess what? The consumer is paying more. It's right on the phone bill for that; but that wasn't a tax, that was a user fee that wasn't going to cost anybody anything.

Well, it did cost, and I suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, that a number of issues in the Financial Measures (2002) Act are doing just that - costing Nova Scotians money. Over and above the traditional taxes in this province, they have now invented new ways to tax Nova Scotians and we can only wait to see what they're going to go to the pockets of Nova Scotians for next.

Mr. Speaker, when you talk about change in the way we do business in this province, I can tell you that this government has introduced a number of measures in this session and some of them are contained in the Financial Measures (2002) Act to deal with some changes. You might call it enabling legislation to get on with a number of user fees, and I believe that

[Page 9002]

that particular problem that Nova Scotians are having dealing with this is the fact that they don't really know, they haven't been consulted, and they are upset, rightfully so, of the fact that they're being asked to pay more for virtually every single service and they haven't been consulted at all.

That's exactly what the hoist motion is all about, Mr. Speaker, ensuring that the government is held accountable to all Nova Scotians. That accountability can only come through consultation and properly conducted assessments with the most vulnerable people of Nova Scotia - seniors, women and children. The government should not be allowed to get away with saying it consulted the people of this province in making its decision when that's not the case, clearly not the case. The government should not pass any measures here in this House unless all Nova Scotians have been apprised of what's in these particular user fees or taxes, and have been sufficiently informed about these so they can have discussions with their MLA as to whether or not they agree or disagree with the route that their particular MLA and this government is taking.

With six months set aside, Mr. Speaker, the government will have more of the necessary time to engage in important discussions with Nova Scotians and, particularly, hold meetings with the groups representing the vulnerable people, who I talked about earlier, in our society. Indeed, hoisting this bill will give the Minister of Community Services a chance to appreciate what works and what can be improved upon with regard to transition houses in this province.

Mr. Speaker, we hear another initiative starting to surface just as recently as a couple of hours ago, that the government is talking about bringing in call centres now to deal with

Community Services - people who are trying to access services. So now they're going to get somebody in a call centre when they're looking for their rights under the Community Services legislation. Well, I think there will be much more said about that in the coming days and weeks if that ever sees the light of day.

The Minister of Community Services - was there any consultation done with anybody there, except perhaps the call centre that's looking to get some work from the government? Again, Nova Scotians are in the dark as to what exactly is going on here. Mr. Speaker, that particular piece of information that was passed along recently has the benefit of taking the close association that has existed between clients and workers in this province and turning it over to a number that somebody calls on the phone for information. Let's hope that that doesn't go any further than the discussions that are being held here now, because I can assure you that there is going to be lots of representation about that particular initiative if it starts to move down the road to being passed.

For the Minister of Health, Mr. Speaker, six months gives him a chance to determine, among other things, the impact any increase in ambulance fees will have on Nova Scotians in their decisions to seek immediate and life-saving medical attention. This particular section

[Page 9003]

is taking money out of the pockets of the people who can't afford it. If you take an ambulance ride, it can go from $85 to $125 for emergency rides, and if you're being transported, it goes from $500 to $600. This user fee is a tax, pure and simple. There is no other way you can lay it on the people of Nova Scotia than to call it a tax.

Mr. Speaker, the impact on Pharmacare. The government's $121 Pharmacare increase is in addition to the $150 co-pay increase announced in 2000, when it rose from $200 to $350. The impact of cutting the Children's Dental Program will force some Nova Scotians into the position of being unable to afford certain aspects of dental care. We know that the government's offloading children's dental care to private insurers. People simply can't afford that, but a hoist of this bill will give Nova Scotians a chance to react to this type of pilfering of the money out of the people's pockets of this province.

Mr. Speaker, those are three groups this government has turned its back on in bringing in this budget and this bill, three groups - three vulnerable groups, three worried groups - in our society that worry what these new provisions will mean for tomorrow, a month from now or a year from now. It is important to understand that should the hoist motion pass, for the next six months Nova Scotians would have the opportunity to examine the exact wording and the implications of this legislation that greatly impacts their everyday lives.

Mr. Speaker, emotions have been running high about the services that this government has taken to cut, the privatization plans it hopes it will introduce and the services for which they have decided to either impose or increase fees. There is a reason for that passion; Nova Scotians are worried. They're worried. Without consultation and assessments, the government doesn't respect Nova Scotians or value the input they can provide. Consultation and assessments will ensure that the government makes the most informed decisions for the future of the province.

Budgets of any province, Mr. Speaker, are a series of choices. Governments exist to make reasonable, informed choices for the people, but it didn't make the informed choices it said it would. A great number of people in this province have legitimate concerns with this budget because of the effect and the real and lasting results of this budget. That is why we want to put Bill No. 109 out for the public to review, digest and suggest necessary changes.

Mr. Speaker, I return to the reason we stand by the hoist motion today; it's because of this government's poor management of the priorities it has for Nova Scotians. Everything from children to women, artists to seniors, debt to health care. All of these, I suggest the government has failed Nova Scotians on.

Our message on the hoist motion is clear. There should have been consultation. This government states it's committed to the culture of our province, but it's taking money from those people, the artists of Nova Scotia that contribute greatly to the culture of this province, by taking control of and thereby risking the fund. The relationship between this government

[Page 9004]

and the province's artists is being dismantled because of a lack of consultation, Mr. Speaker, again. The endowment fund of the former Nova Scotia Arts Council will be spent instead of placed in a trust to protect the arts community if amendments to this bill are passed by this government. The Nova Scotia Arts Council intended to spend only the interest on this fund to ensure that revenue would always be available to fund art and culture in this province. But 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.

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 at just about out of the reach of the public. What do you do, Mr. Speaker, when you don't want people to be able to access government information readily? What you do is you increase the cost of accessing that information. So that will cut out people who can't afford to pay to seek information they should be able to get for nothing. After all, it's public information, information that belongs to the people of this province. The government says it has the most open and generous FOIPOP Act in Canada for making information available, providing you can pay for it. I suggest to you that if they keep increasing those fees, nobody will be able to pay for it, with the end result being that nobody will be able to access any information in this province and the government will then be in a position to only let you in on what they want to let you in on, on a need to know basis - if you don't need to know, then the government won't bother telling you. It will become government by secrecy.

The government states it wants to be transparent and wants to be open. It wants to be accountable. Whatever the public wants, the public will get, providing you pay for it, providing you're willing to wait 60 days or 90 days or God knows how long to get the information that you require now to take appropriate actions on a certain issue in the province that's of importance to a citizen. It's almost impossible to get the information and now not only do you have to pay for it, but the government has been notoriously slow in providing that information.

This government is going after FOIPOP, an important avenue the public has to government documents that helps keep the government accountable. I think the key word, Mr. Speaker, is to keep the government accountable here. How does one know the government is being accountable if the government is not telling Nova Scotians what it is doing when they're being asked to provide information on various programs and services and can't get that information? If you have the money and you're willing to wait long enough, then you may be able to finally get some information, probably when it's too late to use the information for the purpose you wanted to use it for in the first place and if you haven't got the money, you simply won't get it. Even if you do pay, there's nothing to suggest you're going to get it anytime soon. You will get it when the government wants to give it to you.

[Page 9005]

User fees, Mr. Speaker, are just another tax. User fees are another way of saying we're going to fleece you but we're not calling it a tax, we're calling it user fees. In other words, over and above the general taxes you pay, the income taxes you pay, the sales taxes you pay and the gasoline taxes that you pay - and, by the way, that has increased this year. That was a direct broken promise from the Premier. He said he would not increase any taxes in Nova Scotia when he came to power except tobacco taxes, and that promise has been broken; gasoline taxes have been increased. I suggest to you that a great number of other things we have in this province that consumers have access to are being increased by the imposition of user fees. They are not calling it taxes. They are calling it user fees. Well, the end result is the same. It costs citizens more money. It costs them more money for birth certificates, driver's licenses and registration fees; just about everything in this province that you've been accustomed to receiving from the government, the price is going up.

[3:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, when you look at the right of access to information in this province and the lengths to which this government is going to curtail the accessibility of this information, you have to wonder why the government is making it so hard for people to access government information. It's public information. It doesn't belong to these gentlemen and ladies opposite; it doesn't belong to the Finance Minister or the Premier or the front benches. It belongs to the people of Nova Scotia. This government has made it nearly impossible for citizens to access public information in this province.

Mr. Speaker, I wonder why? Is it just another tax grab, or is there another reason why they're making it difficult? We've seen a number of concerns brought to this House by various members, concerning Nova Scotians and their inability to access and understand programs. Also, we've been subjected to a myriad of user fees/taxes that are contained in this particular bill. I suggest to you that Nova Scotians have, for the most part, no idea what's contained in the Financial Measures (2002) Act because no one has bothered to explain it to them. No one has bothered to do anything with it, except table it here in the House and wait out the clock until it passes; then it will become law and that will be the end of it. Nova Scotians will find out, when they get bills, what they're going to pay. They will wonder where did that come in, or why did that come to the House? Why didn't we know about that? That's the way this government operates.

Mr. Speaker, I believe this bill affects all Nova Scotians in one way or the other - changes that are affecting school boards, access to government information, health insurance, equalization, and smoking. There are certain amendments in the Act, as well as introducing measures that lead to implementing higher fees and, in some cases, cutting services or downright downloading to municipalities - there are a number of initiatives surrounding that. We have a bill that's yet to come before this House that is going to have the effect of creating a great deal of interest in municipal circles and provincial government circles as well, and

[Page 9006]

that's the Assessment Act. We will certainly be watching with interest what changes are going to be in that Act.

We understand that more privatization is on the way in terms of traditional public services, and we haven't had a chance to have a proper consultation with Nova Scotians as to the effect of these particular changes. The Minister of Finance is changing important provisions, which in many cases put more control in the hands of the Executive Council than in the accountability of this Legislature, this place that I stand in today, which is the House of the people of this province. More and more decisions and the results of those decisions are going to be implemented by the Executive Council and Cabinet decree.

What we're looking at here is that Nova Scotians are only going to be told what this government thinks they need to be told. Anything else, just sit back and trust us. We've got the ship of state well under control; we're just going to tax you right out of your house and home, but while we're doing that we expect you to have faith in that government. The government is going to tax you out of house and home. Every time you turn around, there's another initiative put on the table that's going to mean more taxes or user fees. I will go back to the bill, briefly, and say that the bill itself is one that I thought would have been widely engaged in consultation with Nova Scotians, but that wasn't the case.

Mr. Speaker, this year we're discussing a budget that's balanced when it isn't balanced and, unfortunately for us, we will have to wait a year to have it proven to Nova Scotians that it's not balanced, if the government ever comes back with the figures instead of trying to ride an election on this budget. I'm encouraging them to do that, then we will see what Nova Scotians really think of the user fees and the taxes and the privatizations and the kinds of things that are happening in virtually every department of government.

Mr. Speaker, there are going to be protests about some of the measures in the Financial Measures (2002) Act and some of the measures in the bill itself, but they will be too late because this House will be adjourned for the summer and the bills will start rolling out, and Nova Scotians will go to access public services and find out they have to pay much more than they were used to paying.

Mr. Speaker, I want to touch just for a moment on the Nova Scotia Arts Council Endowment Fund. That endowment fund was established and mostly funded by the Liberal Government in 1995-96. It was a good initiative. Since that time organizations as well as individuals have placed their money in the endowment fund for the purpose of funding the Nova Scotia arts community. This money was placed in the endowment fund in good faith, with the knowledge that the Nova Scotia Arts Council would only spend the interest accrued on the fund.

[Page 9007]

In the amendments the government is pushing through, Clause 43 of the Financial Measures (2002) Act, this government is breaking that good faith with the organizations and individuals who have contributed to the endowment fund since its creation. It's ripping the money right out of their pockets and putting it back into general revenue. The amendments will allow the Department of Tourism and Culture to spend the money in any way it sees fit, and that's not the reason that endowment fund was set up.

The government contends they will not spend the money in the way that the Nova Scotia Arts Council would have; it admits that. They say that they will get better value for the money; that's what the minister states. However, keep in mind that the endowment fund was set up for the benefit of promoting and approving the Arts Council. Why add these amendments to the Act that give the department the power to spend the money in the endowment fund? Why is that in there if the government doesn't have any intention of doing it? With these amendments, it is possible for the government to spend this money as part of a Tourism campaign, as long as it involves arts and culture in this province. That was not the intent of the endowment fund when it was set up. If the government plans to use the fund in the same fashion the Nova Scotia Arts Council would have, then the amendments should not be added to the legislation.

Mr. Speaker, that's why, when we're talking about this hoist, we should have wider consultation with Nova Scotians on this particular section of the Financial Measures (2002) Act. This particular section, I suggest, breaks faith with those who were the original proponents of the endowment fund and also the reason for the endowment fund being set up in the first place. I'm not going to stand here and argue about where the money from the Arts Council is going on an annual basis, that message has been driven home by some members opposite, that it's going to certain parts of the province only.

A number of people will say that the Halifax area has been the main beneficiary of this. I'm not here to talk about that, I'm here to talk about the fact that there was no consultation with Nova Scotians as to the Arts Council itself and its makeup prior to the government coming here with this legislation. My main concern is the provisions respecting the endowment fund. The fact that the amendments have been added prove that the government's plan is to use this money to pursue outcomes that are inconsistent with the original intentions of the endowment fund itself. I believe, because that is in there, there should have been more consultation with those responsible for the endowment fund. The government's amendments state that the endowment fund can be used to obtain advice on matters relating to arts policy. Why abolish the Arts Council when they provided arts policy advice without having to spend the endowment fund?

I see I've got the minister's attention regarding this. He's having a tough time defending this whole thing. If the Minister of Tourism and Culture wants to join this debate and tell Nova Scotians why he has taken liberties, I guess, with the endowment fund, bringing it back to the most crass political kind of scenario where the government can

[Page 9008]

literally take this money and do what they want with it without being accountable to anybody. That's not only with the endowment fund for the Arts Council, Mr. Speaker, that's everything in government that this crowd has been introducing here - no accountability to Nova Scotians.

If I were in their position to come here this year and say they had a balanced budget, while at the same time they were borrowing money and the debt of the province is going up at an alarming rate and they're not riding too high in the polls these days, I wouldn't take too many liberties with the wallets of Nova Scotians like this crowd is, heading towards the next provincial election. As I said before, Mr. Speaker, there are a number of MLAs on the backbenches over there who will be among the missing after the next election because they've sat back and allowed this to happen, allowed the front benches to bring what amounts to a government-by-Cabinet-decree situation into Nova Scotia where they are not consulting with anybody in this province, they're just having their own way with taxpayers and their money.

Every single form of expenditure in this province that people are accessing is going up. I'll go back again, Mr. Speaker, to the fact that this Premier two years ago said to Nova Scotians, I will not increase any taxes in Nova Scotia except tobacco taxes. Well, we all know gas taxes just went up. We all know there's user fees in just about every service that Nova Scotians have to access on a daily basis. Is that keeping faith with Nova Scotians? The Premier didn't keep his promise there. Of course, that's only one of a number of promises the Premier didn't keep, or his front benches didn't keep.

MR. JOHN HOLM: I think you're saying that Tories are bad.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: My helpful friend from the NDP is always very helpful. The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid says I'm making a statement that the Tories are bad. Well, I don't have to make that statement. (Interruption) We agree with that. The polls are suggesting that that's the case, and you talk to Nova Scotians and they can't wait to go to the polls in the next election. (Interruption) Well, I would go through riding by riding, but I'm going to save that because I don't want to get too far off the hoist. During second reading, later this week or next week, I will give a constituency-by- constituency breakdown of who I feel will be back and who won't be back over there, and I will give you the reasons. I would remind, Mr. Speaker, there are less than a dozen people here today who were here in 1993, out of 52. So anybody who doesn't think that can happen, stay tuned until the next election. You have an opportunity to do the right thing in terms of representing your people, and not following the Executive Council, the Finance Minister and the Premier blindly down the road to more user fees and higher taxes.

[Page 9009]

As I made reference before to the Finance Minister, who, as far as I'm concerned has, I believe, embarked upon a course of trying to convince Nova Scotians that he's on the right

track when, in fact, the debt of this province is going up. User fees are going up. What they're trying to do is spend their way back into office. I mean they haven't balanced the budget. They've mismanaged the money they've had, they've mismanaged it terribly, and I believe that when the figures from this budget see the light of day, if they see the light of day before the next election, and that's a big if because I think this budget has been conceived to get this government through the next election and that there will be no accountability to Nova Scotians prior to this crowd going to the polls, you know, Prince John and the Sheriff of Nottingham have had their way with Nova Scotians - user fees and tax increases when they said they weren't going to do that.

[3:15 p.m.]

I believe that the Premier has spent any credibility that he has had because he has made statements and has backtracked on them. People know that. People know that the Premier said there weren't going to be any tax increases. Their memories aren't that short. Their memories aren't that short, they heard the Premier say they were going to control the debt of this province when it's going up. How can a government stand in its place and make a statement by the Finance Minister saying that this province is on the right track when the debt is going up and the debt costs are close to $1 billion a year, if not more, and that Finance Minister can say to Nova Scotians everything is all right. At the same time that's happening, user fees are going up, taxes are going up, services are going down.

Privatization is the key word. Look after all your friends and never mind the service to Nova Scotia taxpayers. Do away with the Public Service whenever you can. You know, to even talk about putting social assistance recipients at the other end of a phone calling a call centre to find out if they can access programs, I thought I heard everything the other day when the Minister of Community Services tried to get away with downsizing and doing away with transition houses and women's centres in this province, but now I have certainly heard it all when I hear the fact that we may be having a call centre to deal with Community Services' requests. You know, I thought I had heard and seen everything in this House, but I guess with this crowd nothing will surprise, nothing.

Destroy the Nova Scotia Arts Council, destroy women's programs, women in need in this province, women's centres, transition houses, take control of the Health Department and the Education Department back into the deputy ministers' offices and away from the community, government by politics, hands-on politics, that's the agenda here that's in the Financial Measures (2002) Act, Mr. Speaker. That's the agenda - take full control. One only has to look at the people's names that are going forward for ABCs and for other government departments that are putting people on boards and commissions or hiring people as consultants. Look at what we witnessed here last week of spending money on consultants.

[Page 9010]

They could have hired two deputy ministers for the kind of money they paid a consultant for a short period of time.

Once again, Mr. Speaker, they're destroying the ability of Nova Scotians to access information and I mentioned that earlier. There was no hint to Nova Scotians that if you want information on this government's programs, it's going to be almost impossible to get now. They will wait until the last possible day to acknowledge that you're looking for the request and then they will look for a cheque, probably certified, and then they will take the last possible day to come up with an answer for you. By that time, you will have forgotten what the issue was or the issue will have passed. That's exactly what's going to happen in this province. In other words, there's going to be no more freedom of information. I don't know why the word freedom is even left in it, because there's no freedom there. You're going to have to pay dearly.

Again, Mr. Speaker, we saw the lack of answers last week on whether or not the government is going to do anything about power rate increases in this province, another tax grab and another increase in fees that the province is going to reap some benefit from directly. But when the Minister of Economic Development was questioned about that, he had no idea. I asked him if he was going to have a plan to deal with increased power rates, and he didn't know what I was talking about. He just said no, we don't have a plan. Why are you asking that question? Well, is the government going to do anything about this, or is it just going to let Nova Scotia Power have its own way with the consumers of this province as well?

AN HON. MEMBER: It's safe to say he's in the dark.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Yes, as my colleague, the member for Cape Breton West, would say, it's safe to say he's in the dark.

Mr. Speaker, there are a number of issues that directly affect consumers in this province. One of them is not a luxury; power rates are not a luxury, but the government is doing nothing about it. They're not even making a public statement about it. You would think the Premier, or at least the Finance Minister, would be down there pounding on the tables of the URB, demanding that Nova Scotia Power cease and desist. No. Sure, they will, at some point, make a representation down there; they will send a lawyer down there or something to file a brief. Then they will say they've done that and that will be the end of it.

This particular public service is a monopoly in this province. People don't have a choice. The government knows that they don't have a choice. The government should be protecting the consumers of this province because it does protect Nova Scotia Power. It protects Nova Scotia Power in terms of how it deals with Nova Scotia Power. What a lifeline they threw Nova Scotia Power in their bid for rate increases at the URB when they announced the tax increase to NSP and gave them an issue to fight their rate increase on.

[Page 9011]

Who pays, in the long run, on that? The consumer. You and I and all Nova Scotians, some who can't afford it.

Mr. Speaker, I believe a hoist is necessary, also, because under the Financial Measures (2002) Act, the government may make regulations regarding fees for services in relation to international adoptions, even. They're even getting into that area and finding a way to charge a fee for that. It's the Governor in Council who will have the power to make regulations on increasing the fees for international adoptions. Why not legislate the amount that people are required to pay? What will be the effect on adoption now that the fees for it have increased?

Under the Civil Service Act, I believe we have to take a close look at what's happening there. The province will now "defend, negotiate or settle a claim or charge made against a person appointed by the Governor in Council . . . including the board of directors of a corporation." The Companies Act - they are tinkering with that now and increasing fees there. The Corporations Registration Act - just about every possible way they could gouge money from the taxpayer, they're doing it.

Mr. Speaker, I believe that this bill deserves a six months' hoist so that Nova Scotians will have a chance to see exactly what's contained in those measures and be able to make representation to MLAs, from Yarmouth to Glace Bay, in regard to their concerns about user fees and new taxes. I would remind Nova Scotians again that the Premier promised no new taxes. So whenever you promise no new taxes - of course they did break that promise because there's a gasoline tax; that's clearly a tax, but when you want to get around making a promise of no taxes, you call them user fees. So you increase everything that you can possibly increase, the net result is that you're taking money right out of the wallets of Nova Scotians and you're saying, take heart, we are not taxing you, we are just relieving you of some user fees. Well, the end result is still the same. The consumer has less money at the end of the day, the government has more money and is not managing that money.

When you have all kinds of new user fees and the debt goes up and then you try to come in here and say to Nova Scotians that for the first time in 40 years you have a balanced budget, while the long-term debt of the province is going up, Mr. Speaker, and we're paying $1 billion a year in interest charges in this province, how can anybody even suggest that they had a balanced budget. Well, I'm going to tell you. The proof will be when one of two things happen - the government comes back here next Spring with its figures and the budget is not balanced, or the government goes to the polls on the basis of this budget before next Spring, before they have to come back here and account to the people of the province through this Legislature and, if they happen to, by some miracle, win the next election, they will worry about explaining to Nova Scotians how they conned them then, or if they lose the next election, it's somebody else's problem. That's exactly what's going to happen here, exactly what's going to happen here.

[Page 9012]

One of those scenarios will be in place and, again, I believe the course over the next few months will change when we see what's happening in the coming weeks and months with some of the other draconian legislation; and draconian ways of doing business here in this province are becoming better known by Nova Scotians. I believe when that happens, this government had better get to the polls soon while they still are in double-digit figures in the polls because I don't think they're going to get any higher, I think they're going to plummet even further in the polls.

Mr. Speaker, I want to wind up my few remarks here this afternoon by suggesting (Interruption) No, I will be back in second reading. But you see the problem here, Mr. Speaker, is that - and my good friend from Sackville-Cobequid knows this - you have to stick to the hoist, the motion. You can't deviate from that during the hoist motion so (Interruptions) There's more latitude on second reading so I believe that some of the points that I will make would better properly be done at second reading rather than sticking specifically to the hoist, as I've done here.

Having said that, I will say that at some point in the next couple of weeks, I will give an appraisal of the MLAs opposite, seat by seat, and I will suggest some that will be back and some that won't. I would suggest to you (Interruption) My good friend, the member for Preston has joined the fray over there now. He's uppermost in my mind these days.

Anyway, Mr. Speaker, I want to thank you for the opportunity this afternoon to speak on this hoist amendment and I look forward to resuming debate at second reading.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, thank you. It's no doubt the case that all of us in this Chamber and all of us in any way associated with any kind of political activity spend some time trying to monitor what we can learn of the rest of the world and what we can learn of public opinion by reading the newspapers. I'm sure you, like I, myself, try to read as many newspapers everyday as we possibly can. Some members even read them in this very Chamber just to keep on top of the very latest in news.

Every once in awhile you run across a particularly striking, and one might even say bizarre item in the paper. I wonder if you, Mr. Speaker, and my colleagues here, noticed an item over the weekend that suggested, as a result of some polling, that many Canadians aren't actually able to distinguish between Parties that are on the right and Parties that are on the left. The article suggested that in polling the political sophistication of many members of the public was such that they weren't certain whether the Alliance was to the right or the left of the NDP or vice-versa, whether the NDP was to the right or the left of the Alliance. Like me, Mr. Speaker, you may have been a little surprised to see this item.

[Page 9013]

[3:30 p.m.]

I'm hoping that my small contribution today might be to try to clarify for some of the folks at home a bit of the difference between those who are on, at least in our province, what's generally the right of centre of the political spectrum and those of us in the Opposition who are generally on the left of the political spectrum. It's an interesting piece of language. The right or the left doesn't seem to have any kind of exact meaning or connotation. As we all know, with many things, there is a continuum. There's a continuum of opinion. It ranges generally over a wide scale and, indeed, the opinions of Parties or individuals will vary, often according to the particular topic that comes forward.

For us here, in this House, discussing the hoist, surely there is an opportunity to consider where it is that there is a difference to be noted between the Parties of the right and this one Party, mine, the Official Opposition, the NDP, somewhat on the left of the political spectrum in Nova Scotia. The difference, of course, is that the rubric of analysis that the government no doubt thinks it's operating under is what's known as responsible government. Believe me, I want to immediately say that I have no serious quarrel with the idea of responsible government as it's traditionally evolved. But there is an additional way in which politics ought to be done and that's participatory government. That seems to me to be a more important place to go than simply to stick with the traditional forms of responsible government.

Responsible government we know, of course, had it's origins in British North America in this very building with the historic trial of Joseph Howe. Think carefully about what it is that it established. What it really established was the principle that the government has to be answerable to the full Chamber. I think that's fine, but I think we can go beyond that. What we have to know is that the government and all of us on either side of the House have to not only be answerable to the citizens of the province every four or five years at election time, we should be answerable on an ongoing basis. How do we do that? How do we restructure the form of how we do government so that we can actually allow as many members of the population as possible, those who want to be involved, to participate in a meaningful way in the decisions that are to be made by this government?

Well, that's what the hoist motion is all about with respect to this bill. This bill says, let's take the opportunity to go out and talk to as many people about this very important matter that's been put before us before we actually go ahead and adopt it. Let's go out and consult. I want to be clear that for us in this Party consulting doesn't just mean passing the time of day in a casual way chatting with people. We truly want to know what the opinions of the people are. We truly want to take them into account. We truly want to see to it that there's real power-sharing. Real power-sharing means that you pay attention to the opinions, as expressed to you. Can we doubt that if the hoist motion were to pass and the opportunity were to be taken by all of us here to go out, and I mean especially the government members.

[Page 9014]

and consult with their constituents that they would come back with a different feeling than automatic support for this bill.

What is Bill No. 109? This is the Financial Measures (2002) Act. It's a very peculiar piece of legislation this year. Normally the Financial Measures Act might in some measure be routine, but this year we find an interesting phenomenon. We find that the bill has been put together on what's called an omnibus basis. It's not simply a manifestation of one or two tax measures that might be changed, there are a whole variety of tax measures that are put together in this bill. But beyond that there's a whole series of other measures that are not direct financial measures, so you have to wonder why it is that they appear with this title part of the Financial Measures (2002) Act of the Province of Nova Scotia.

The bill covers a lot of ground and, in our view, it really should have been broken up into a variety of its constituent parts that would have allowed people the opportunity - the members in this House even - to consider them piece by piece, rather than wholesale, but they've been brought to us in an omnibus form which is why it is that further consultation is even more strongly warranted than it might otherwise be for new kinds of financial measures. But I worry about the kind of measure that is in this omnibus bill, it just doesn't seem to accord with what it is that Nova Scotians have been telling us that they want to see as the hallmark of the future of their province.

Let's just focus for a moment, before we explore other aspects of this bill, on some of the particular financial parts of it. Now, we know that when it comes to raising revenue for the government there are a variety of indicators that ought to be thought about. Raising revenue is not simply about making sure that the money comes in in order to support the expenditures; on the other hand, of course, that is a starting point that's known as reliability. That is to say, can the government generally count on a sufficient amount of revenue coming in in order to cover off its expenditures? And I don't doubt that that is one of the principles according to which this kind of legislation ought to be structured. It's not clear to me that that is one of the bases on which this legislation has been structured and I will explain why.

It's because it relies so heavily on user fees. That has been the hallmark of this government's financial plans over the last three years of its administration. It has been to rely less on the kind of equitable tax measure that Nova Scotians believe in their hearts ought to be the main way to raise revenues and to begin to nudge the tax burden in a different direction; in fact, it has been more than a nudge, it has been a very large move in the direction of user fees. Others have commented on this hoist and I don't believe that this is what it is that Nova Scotians want.

It violates other principles according to which budgets and Financial Measures Acts ought to be structured - and I will get to those in a moment - but the way in which it tends to undermine reliability is that as soon as people begin to perceive that the tax structure has been put together in a way that they find to be unfair, they will begin to look for ways in

[Page 9015]

order to minimize the payment of their taxes. They will try to arrange their business affairs as much as they can so that they are not hit by those user fees or any other part of the tax system. It undermines the confidence of the public in the fairness of the system and when that happens and when you combine it with the fact that they see that public services that they pay their taxes for are being eroded, then you get a serious situation indeed - you get one in which people become very reluctant to pay their taxes, and that will begin to undermine reliability of revenues.

Unfortunately, the cycle that will then be entered into is one in which the government will feel even more justified in cutting back on the delivery of services. They will look at it and say if people are paying less, then we can't afford to deliver services. That is not the society, I think, that people want. It's not the society that I believe that Nova Scotians want. So that's the first principle that I think is dubious in Bill No. 109, this question of reliability.

Accountability is the next principle. Perhaps just to be clearer, to let members know where I'm going with respect to these principles, I will just list them, these are standard principles that are referred to by economists when they talk about tax measures and they're: reliability, accountability, transparency, administrative simplicity, efficiency and equity. These principles are frequently identified not just by economists but by other commentators on tax systems as being the way in which one can measure whether a tax system taken as a whole is really of the sort that ought to be put in front of people. So I spoke so far to reliability. Let me turn now to accountability.

The question about accountability is the question of whether the same political entity that actually delivers the service is the entity that raises the revenue. Now, for the most part, of course, when it comes to pure provincial finance, it is. It is the case that the money that's brought in through the tax measures, including these we see in Bill No. 109 here, the money is spent by the provincial government, but that isn't the case with respect to all of the tax measures we see here because there is intertwining with the municipal level of government. We see this in parts of Bill No. 109 where there is a revised equalization arrangement with respect to the municipalities. I will get to that. In general our municipalities are important, they're another level of government that we, the provincial level, create in order to deliver purely local services. If there is a mismatch, if there is a question of problems of accountability, it has more to do with the municipal level than it does with the provincial level.

I want to turn next to transparency. Now, transparency is the question of whether society believes that the entity or person who should bear the burden of a tax is ultimately who does really bear that burden. There are reasons to wonder with respect to some of the fees that are proposed to be charged under Bill No. 109 whether really this is transparent.

[Page 9016]

I will turn next to administrative simplicity. The question there is, would the new revenue source be relatively easy and inexpensive to establish and administer? Well, there we have a real problem. We have a real problem when it comes to things like charges for ambulance services. We've seen already that the government is having to hire collection firms in order to chase after poor individuals who happen to be going along for a ride in an ambulance with someone who is actually injured and they're being charged the same amount as the injured person. It's not clear that there really is administrative simplicity.

Efficiency is the question of whether the tax promotes or prevents the most efficient allocation of resources in society. Efficient is a term economists use in order to talk about whether there is an appropriate structuring in the economy.

The last one is the one that really does concern me and this is the principle of equity. Equity is the question, of course, of whether there is a match between who bears the burden of a tax and their ability to pay. That is the key matter that has to be called into account and concerning which Nova Scotians are very upset. They're upset because of this point of increased reliance on user fees. This bill, Bill No. 109, is replete with new user fees. That's why I think that this bill should go out for public comment at the first available opportunity for extensive public comment, let me say. That's the whole point about a six months' hoist, that that would provide adequate time for this kind of consultation to take place.

[3:45 p.m.]

Let's remember what it is that we know about user fees and why it is that we're looking at some of these things in the form of a specific statutory provision. We know, since the Supreme Court of Canada ruling a few years ago in the Re: Eurig Estate case that it is not appropriate for any government department, on its own or through a Cabinet regulation, to put in place a fee that is out of proportion to the actual cost of delivering that service. If a fee is going to be put in place by that mechanism, by a department or by the Cabinet, then that fee has to closely match the actual cost of delivering the particular service. In the case of fees that might go beyond the actual cost or in the case where the analysis has not been done, then those fees have to be brought in through the mechanism of legislation. They have to go through this House and then they become a direct tax. Even if they're expressed in the form of being a fee, they meet the constitutional definition and standard of being a tax.

So when we see certain registration fees, under the Corporations Registration Act, for example, rising to be $1,000 and we're not provided with any analysis that suggests that this somehow is a good match for what it costs to deliver that service, then of course it has to go through this House. We have to ask ourselves, is it the case always that these fees are fair? Does it meet the principle of equity? Does it meet the principle of transparency? Will it be administratively simple? Will it be efficient? We have to ask ourselves this. It's not clear what the answers are.

[Page 9017]

What's missing from this debate so far is any attempt by the Minister of Finance or anyone else on behalf of his government to attempt to justify these different fees on this basis. They haven't come to us and said, here is why this particular fee is an appropriate amount. Here is how we arrive at this figure of $1,000. Here is why it's $1,000 instead of $1,200. Here's why it's a $1,000 instead of $850. There's no analysis like that. When you see a round number like $1,000 attached to a business registration, you have to ask yourself if this number wasn't just plucked out of the air in order to meet some kind of revenue requirement and was aimed at a sector where it was thought that there was ability to pay, or that the cost of it can be passed on to someone else. In the case of corporations, often to their customers, virtually inevitably, to their customers.

There may be a certain logic to moving in the direction of guessing who has the ability to pay but that's not clear or convincing that the amount charged in the first place is the right amount. It's especially disturbing when there's a different alternative and the different alternative, of course, is to work more extensively with the progressive part of the tax system. The progressive part of the tax system is that which is equitable and that which is transparent. That is, for the most part, to place prime reliance on income tax, either individual or corporate. That, for many years, has been the principle upon which the tax system of this nation has been based.

The major Royal Commission study that established this was the Carter Tax Commission 40 years ago. I think, for many observers at the time, it was something of a surprise that Carter and the others associated with that Royal Commission came down so heavily on the side of steeply-graduated income tax and corporate tax systems. They found however, as a result of their studies, that it met all of these criteria for funding sources. It was reliable, accountable, transparent, and had administrative simplicity; it was efficient and, above all, it was equitable. But what we have seen throughout Canada in the last few years, and particularly in our jurisdiction in the last three years, is a moving away from that. What we've seen is excessive reliance on user fees. That's what we see again in Bill No. 109. That's why a six months study of this through the device of the hoist makes sense.

The problem is that for some reason, those who have been most directly responsible for the structuring of Bill No. 109 seem to have gotten out of touch with what the ordinary Nova Scotian wants to see as part of its tax system. The way to get in touch again is to go back and ask, specifically, what do you think? Consult, and consult in a meaningful, participatory way, just as I indicated would be the hallmark of the kinds of budgets that would be brought in under this Party. The principles according to which tax measures ought to be structured are those, above all, of fairness. I agree that all of the criteria I listed, all six criteria, should come into play, but there's a hierarchy among them. The most important is that they should be fair. If it's not fair, there's no buy-in. If there's no buy-in, then there's erosion of confidence in operating as a community. Operating as a community is exactly what ought to be promoted by any government.

[Page 9018]

Well, let's think about some of the particular points that are included in this omnibus bill and try to consider, in the context of what I've said about how tax measures ought to be structured - do they measure up? That's the question; do they measure up? Certain other speakers have referred to the fees for ambulances. I don't think there's any real necessity to have a detailed look at that one again. Everyone knows how difficult it is to face that large bill in those circumstances. Everyone knows what an ongoing irritant this is and is going to be for members of the public. They won't forget it, and the reason they won't forget it is that it's a constant reminder. It's there. It's not as if it's isolated, because unfortunately the hard fact is that everyone, sooner or later, is going to have a friend or a family member who's going to be using an ambulance service, and they are going to be facing that bill.

They're just going to be reminded, as they are at virtually every turn now, of the huge accumulation of extra costs in order to be a citizen of this province. If they want to adopt a child internationally, the fee is going up, and it's right here in this bill. That's the kind of measure on which there ought to be consultation. There probably isn't a huge number of people who that will affect, but there are some. The question is, is the fee appropriate? Well, that's something they would find out if they were to go out and consult extensively with people, as they should do, during the time of the hoist. Even though the numbers of people who will be involved in international adoptions are not huge, there are some people out there - a couple of dozen, maybe 100 - who will be involved in that, and they will know, and their friends will know because they will mention it to their friends.

There it is, just one more item that will be added to the list of irritants in the form of user fees piled on yet again, year in and year out, over the three years of the mandate of this government so far and, indeed, that we see again in Bill No. 109. More people will use ambulances and they will tell their families and they will tell their friends and people who work in the health care system will know about it. It won't go unremarked. It certainly isn't going unremarked now.

Mr. Speaker, I know you and I and others here get complaints already about this. We've raised a number of specifics in the House during Question Period on other occasions. It's an irritant already. It's not as if this is a fresh item that has never been heard of and that somehow only affects a few people in society who can particularly afford it. They can't. There's no telling who can and who cannot and that's the problem with a user fee - it's what's called a regressive form of taxation. It's regressive because it hits people in the same way regardless of their ability to pay. It's the same $500 for a person who's very wealthy as it is for a person who has limited ability to pay. That's regression in taxation and that's the underlying problem with user fees is that it doesn't respect the principle of transparency and equity. That's the difficulty. That's what we see in Bill No. 109 as an agenda that is being advanced.

[Page 9019]

There are other examples that go on and on. They're in here. There are other forms of fees that are being put up, including, I should note, the probate fees. An across the board 10 per cent. You know what's interesting about that? First, of course, it was the Re Eurig's Estate case that I referred to earlier that established that there has to be some kind of match between the fees charged and the actual government cost of delivering a service and that was a probate case. It was Re Eurig's Estate - that's a probate case. As a result of that we saw a couple of years ago the government bring in its probate fees in the form of a Statute so it would fit the court's definition of what was a tax.

But now we see that wasn't enough, that now the probate fees are going up again. It's 10 per cent across the board. Do you know how those fees are structured already? The fees are graduated in . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, order. Could I have some attention by the members of the Legislature please? I'm listening to the debate of Bill No. 109, the six months' hoist, and I'm certainly interested and I hope that all other members of this Legislature are interested as well. It's very important. Thank you.

MR. EPSTEIN: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Ten per cent is the uniform increase for everyone. It doesn't say, with respect to the larger estates that the percentage increase should be higher and with respect to the smaller estates that the percentage increase should be smaller. It's uniform. The increase is uniform and although there is some degree of progression built into the fee system right now, when you add an across-the-board increase that is the same percentage for everyone, then there is no improvement. In fact, for those estates at the lower end that need to be regularized, it hits them disproportionately. The government isn't justifying it in terms of saying, well, with respect to small estates this is in fact exactly the amount of money we need. You may recall that when the bill came in a few years ago following Re Eurig's Estate to put probate fees into Statute, there was no justification offered at the time of the actual dollar amounts. I don't think there was. I think it was just offered to us as regularizing the fees that had traditionally charged. There hasn't necessarily been some kind of analysis to show us that these are the right fees, but my point is to focus on this question of 10 per cent being the same amount to go up for everybody.

Why 10 per cent? Have costs gone up 10 per cent for everyone, in every category of estate in the last couple of years? There's nothing said by the Minister of Finance to suggest that is the case. We don't know. Why should it cost so much more with respect to small estates? Small estates are generally not expensive to probate - relatively straightforward. A little bit of paper work, not all that difficult, relatively straightforward. It isn't a huge undertaking to go through that process and there are a lot of estates that go through every year. What's the figure? About7,000 people die every year in our province; I think it's something like that. There are a lot of estates that go through and the papers are filed and they're dealt with. It's not clear where the analysis would lead, but there should be an analysis. We should hear, but it isn't there.

[Page 9020]

[4:00 p.m.]

But I'm concerned, again, about the fact that it's 10 per cent for everyone, because this tends to diminish the system that might offer some progressivity in this particular part of the tax system. Well, that's just one example. The government seems to have an attraction for adding uniform percentages, or in terms of their advertised tax cut for next year, taking away uniform percentages, which is again not going to benefit people in the same way. It will benefit those who are at the higher end of the scale much more than those who are at the lower end of the scale, or in the middle. It is a simple fact, but yet the government doesn't seem to follow through on it. This is exactly the kind of question that ought to be asked of the public and for which a hoist makes sense.

Now, there's an alternative to the hoist. If the government doesn't like the hoist, then there are other things that they could do. They could convene a fair tax commission. If they want to actually know what they ought to be doing about the tax system of the Province of Nova Scotia, then they should go out either in the form of a Royal Commission, or a special commission, or a special study, to look at our overall tax system. It has been years since there has been even anything approaching that kind of study of the tax system in Nova Scotia.

The Graham Royal Commission, back in the early 1970s, looked at provincial-municipal finance, but it didn't look at all aspects of the tax system. Certainly the work that it did was very good work and it should have been done. It was done and it was done very well, but that isn't the same thing as the kind of comprehensive, publicly conducted analysis of all aspects of the tax system that the government could, if it doesn't like a six months' hoist, conduct. Why not?

If it doesn't like a six months' hoist, and I've heard from the government that they don't seem to like the idea of the hoist, they don't like a six months' hoist, they think they should just barrel ahead - I don't think that; I think the government should consult - but if they don't like a hoist as a mechanism for consulting, why don't they set up a fair tax commission? Why don't they go out and say to people we've been tinkering with the tax system. We've been tinkering with it in the following ways. We've been adding these user fees and here they are. Here's the long list of user fees that we've been adding, and here's what we've been doing about the income tax system. Here's what we've been doing about provincial-municipal finance. Here are proposals on equalization. Here's what we've done or not done about Nova Scotia Power and its payments on property.

There's a whole myriad of questions out there and, by the way of course, the government could go back and say, do you remember the sales tax, do you remember the combined sales tax against which we campaigned in 1998? They could say to people well, we never did anything about it even though we promised to get rid of it. They could go out to people and they could say, what do you think - should we really do what we said back in 1998 that we were going to do, get rid of the BST?

[Page 9021]

That would be a good question to ask. That is the kind of item that should be asked by the government through some kind of consultation, and if they don't want the hoist, if they don't want to support the hoist as I will, if they don't want to support a six months' hoist, then perhaps they should set up a fair tax commission, and that's the point, that you could look, through a fair tax commission, at all aspects of the tax system. There's no point in tinkering with the tax system because when you begin to move with respect to one part of the tax system, you have impact on other parts of the tax system; government shouldn't ignore that.

They have in place a whole variety of subsidies for different businesses. They should ask the question of the public - should we keep those subsidies in the form of tax rebates or should we get rid of them, or should we modify them in some form? There is no shortage of questions. What do we do about First Nations people, the Mi'kmaq? What about the tax regimes that ought to apply to them? There's a perfectly valid question, one that's being somewhat litigated, one that's being negotiated in part, but it's a question on which the public might have views.

What about all the revenues we get from casinos? What about the revenues we get from VLTs? What about the revenues we get from alcohol and smoking? What should we do about those? What about gasoline taxes? There is no shortage of questions that ought to be asked. As you can see, all of these are related and they're all related because they all have to do with the question of the total number of dollars that have to come in in order to support services but, at the same time, there's a policy dimension to those things, and that is the kind of question that should be asked during the six months' hoist period.

If the government doesn't like the six months' hoist period why doesn't it set up a fair tax commission? If it doesn't like either of those alternatives, let it suggest something else. But, at the moment, this is the best suggestion on the table, because we, as the Opposition, can't establish a fair tax commission. Commissions have to be established by the government. However much we might suggest to the government that this is the best option, all that's within our power is to suggest an alternative. The alternative we have suggested is the six months' hoist.

I like the six months' hoist, even though it doesn't have the full range of consultative power that a Royal Commission or a commission of inquiry to focus on taxation, nonetheless it's the next best thing that's available. I can't imagine why the government's response wouldn't be to say, oh yes, let's not debate the hoist anymore, we agree. They could say that, or they could come back and say, look, we're ready to study in a formal way, in a thorough way, in a researched way, what it is that goes on in the tax system; as an alternative to your hoist, we're going to announce a commission to study all taxation.

[Page 9022]

I don't think the business of government would grind to a halt if they did that; if they either went for the hoist and supported it or they set up a tax commission. Indeed, we know that it is possible for the government to operate for at least six months by means of special warrants under existing legislation in this province. They don't need the full authorization of this House, although we've already passed the budget so, in fact, there are appropriations, they have them. They could go without these kinds of measures for all the rest of the year, no problem.

Once we've passed the budget, as happened the other day, the government departments can operate and, if they need more they can use special warrants, there isn't a problem. There is no practical barrier to having a hoist or the commission. I haven't heard the Minister of Finance or any other representative of the government try to suggest that there's a practical barrier. We could do this. There's no problem. There's no reason why it is that they couldn't go ahead with that kind of measure and support it. Why won't they? Has there been any articulated reason why they won't support a hoist? I haven't heard it. Silence.

Silence is what we've had from the other side of the Chamber about this motion. We know they don't support it or we would have been hearing someone standing up and saying, we support your hoist, let's all vote in favour of it and let's get on with actually consulting with the public. We could all save ourselves a lot of trouble here if the government were to say that but, no, they don't say that. Not one representative I think so far over there has gotten up in order to comment and offer their support for this measure or, if not for this, for some focused alternative to a hoist - haven't heard it, certainly haven't heard it from the front bench.

Well, early on in my comments, Mr. Speaker, I pointed out that this was an omnibus piece of legislation. So far I've focused primarily on the financial side of it. Of course, when you've got a bill that's called the Financial Measures (2002) Act, Bill No. 109, you can well imagine that what you're dealing with here is purely financial measures, revenue measures of the kind that I talked about, primarily here of course, user fees. There are a number of those, I've talked about them already, but, bound up in this are some other measures that are worth having a look at.

The ones that concern me the most - and I've heard a number of speakers comment on this in exactly the same way I propose to comment on it - are those provisions that take an entity like the Arts Council and decide that it is no longer to exist in its present form and is to be completely restructured. You have to ask yourself, why is it that we see this measure bound up in this bill? Even if it is going to be somehow tucked in with these financial measures, what's the virtue of it? Is it appropriate that this go ahead now? When we call this measure into question by means of the hoist motion, what we're asking is, is it absolutely necessary that this measure go ahead now? What we're asking is, isn't it possible that this measure, if it goes ahead, could go ahead at some other date? Is it not possible that this

[Page 9023]

measure could go ahead, in some revised form, upon more mature consideration? Nothing illustrates that better than the proposal with respect to the Arts Council.

There is nothing that is pressing about going ahead with the very aggressive measures that the government took with respect to the Arts Council back in March. Was it necessary to do it in that month? I don't think so. Even if the government got to the point of achieving consensus among the concerned members of the public on its proposal for doing away with the Arts Council in its present form, why would it be necessary to do it in March of this year? There's no necessity. Even if we accept at least some of the assertions of the minister responsible that there are to be some dollar savings, this has been such an offensive measure to so very many people in Nova Scotia that it's not clear why this measure has to go ahead now. We know that the potential dollar savings that the government alleges are on the order of $200,000 or $300,000. There's been a lot of questioning of this and a lot of different numbers have been shown.

Let's just assume for the moment that it's $200,000 or $300,000. We know that the government is bringing in a budget that although I'm one who's skeptical and doesn't really believe it, the government stands behind and claims it has a $1.3 million surplus on this year. Well, it could have an even $1 million surplus, according to its books, if it kept the Arts Council for the balance of this year. Why not keep it for the balance of this year? I say this, accepting the figures of the Minister of Finance as to his projected surplus and the Minister of Tourism and Culture as to what he might save with respect to the Arts Council. I assure you that in neither case do I really believe the numbers, but if the government does, if those are the numbers that the government puts out, says that they believe and according to which they will operate this year, they could still achieve the purpose of having what they are calling a balanced budget and go through the hoist to consult with people about things like the Arts Council. There is nothing to stop them.

Indeed they should, and this is one of the measures that illustrates exactly why a six months' hoist for Bill No. 109 makes sense. It wasn't our choice to have the Arts Council project or the Arts Council restructuring combined with these other financial measures in Bill No. 109. That was the choice of the government. I would have been perfectly happy if they had hived this off into a separate piece of legislation and we could debate it separately. Indeed, as you may recall, Mr. Speaker, there was a procedural motion made to try to get the government to do that. Unfortunately, the Speaker found he had no power to direct the breaking up of a bill into its component parts. I'm sorry that that ruling was made. Maybe there's a logic to it, maybe not. But, in any event, once the government chooses to combine elements like its abolition of the existing Arts Council with other measures like the financial measures, this gives us extra reasons to have made the hoist motion. It gives us extra reasons to urge the government members, particularly the Minister of Tourism and Culture, to take the opportunity to go out and speak directly to the public that he, unfortunately, has been trying to avoid over the last month, since his announcement. That public wants to speak to the minister.

[Page 9024]

[4:15 p.m.]

That public illustrates, as do the protests with respect to so many other measures of the government, what a desire there is on the part of the public to truly participate in a meaningful way in the decisions that are made by the government. They don't want to be told what the policies are going to be. They don't even want to be polled by telephone, by a polling company, in a 5 minute or 10 minute exchange on a random basis once every year and a half on what the policies of the government ought to be. People have a thirst to be involved in a meaningful and ongoing way with what it is that government does.

That's what a hoist motion is all about when it comes to a financial bill, especially a financial bill that includes within it provisions like those sections that deal with the Arts Council. We've see full-page advertisements in the newspaper from people who find that decision offensive. We've seen endless e-mails; we've seen endless letters; we've seen 400 people marching outside this building. They all came to speak about the Arts Council. They came from different parts of the province to say they didn't want the Arts Council done away with. They believe in the independence of it; they believe in the peer review system; they believe in the system that was established in Nova Scotia some six years ago after more than a decade, almost two decades, of lobbying by the arts and culture community to get an independent Arts Council.

How can a government pretend that it is, in its own terms, a responsible government if it won't listen to what people are saying? We're offering, through the hoist motion, the opportunity for this government to accept what it says that it believes in. I remember their slogans on the campaign trail; I remember when they talked about putting people first; I remember when they said that they would be an open and accountable and transparent government. I remember all of that. That's language that they should follow through on.

That's what a hoist motion is all about. A hoist in these circumstances, with this particular bill, is even more pressing. It's more pressing to support it when it includes more than just pure financial items. It's pressing because the kind of measure that we see in this omnibus bill addresses a way in which a significant number of people in Nova Scotia have organized their community in partnership with the government, and the government has taken a unilateral view. There wasn't real consultation before. The change that was made wasn't on the table. There were talks, there were public sessions, but this particular and very aggressive measure wasn't on the table. It essentially blindsided everyone in the arts and culture community.

That's why we're saying, vote for the hoist, go out and consult, find out what it is that people really think, and if you can engage in discussions with them, if you can explain your side, face to face, around the province, maybe there's a chance you will be able to convince them that way, but that's the right thing to do, not hide, not fail to meet crowds when they come to the Legislature. The hoist says, take seriously the principles of true participatory

[Page 9025]

democracy, take seriously the principles of engaging with the public, takes seriously their desire to be truly a part of the decision-making process in this province.

In the absence of that, I would be, as I said I was with respect to the financial side of this omnibus bill, happy to hear an alternative suggestion from the minister, or from any of the Cabinet Ministers, but they're not there. The only alternative that they're offering to a hoist is to vote for the bill; don't consult, there's no point in consulting, we've talked enough. We have a hard job to do here seems to be their message; let us get on with it according to our lights and if that looks high-handed, too bad. What justifies everything in the view of the government is the so-called balancing of the books. We have a tough job to do, they say, we've got to balance the books. Everything else gives way.

Well, most Nova Scotians I know say phooey. Most Nova Scotians I know say they don't like this. Most Nova Scotians I know say they think that when the Party now in power talked about balancing the books, they didn't talk enough about how they were going to balance the books. Nova Scotians want to balance the books. We want to balance the books. There is nothing wrong with that. That, in fact, is an important objective, but it's not the only objective.

There are many other objectives that have to be advanced and that's the problem with what it is that we see in this bill at all turns and that's why it is that a hoist makes sense; it's why it is that a six months' opportunity ought to be taken by this government to go out and talk to people. In labour relations it would be known as a cooling off period. In labour relations they would say this is a chance for everyone to calm down a little bit, not to take any steps that would make the situation any worse than it already is. This is a chance for people to get together and calmly talk to one another. Let us talk to one another, exactly the correct thing.

I ran across an interesting statistic not so long ago that essentially indicated that when it comes to making telephone calls and using the phone, Canadians use the phone more than anyone else in the world on a per capita basis. We're a talking people, Mr. Speaker. We love to talk to each other, and you know what? This is a virtue, and this is a virtue because at the same time we're a peaceful country. This isn't a country beset by civil wars. This isn't a country beset by such major differences that we're fighting with each other in the streets. This is a peaceful country and I relate the peacefulness of this country to our love of talk. To use the tool of talking is not to use other tools. If you talk to each other, you're not hitting each other and that's important.

Even if it weren't at that level of simple alternatives, there's a virtue in communication because when we talk, we get the opportunity to try to understand each other better and that's what a hoist is about. The hoist is about the opportunity for the government to go out and try to explain in a way that might convince people that their measures are appropriate here and if they think they can go out and can convince people that a unilateral attack on the Nova

[Page 9026]

Scotia Arts Council is the right thing to do and they've got reasons that they can articulate in a public forum, let them do it. If they think that they convince people that a whole range of hundreds of millions of dollars of user fees that are inequitable and that aren't transparent is an appropriate way to go, and if they can think of reasons and they can get buy-in from the population, let them try to do it. That's what communication is all about, that's what public process is all about, that's what participatory democracy is all about and that's what the hoist motion is all about.

The hoist motion is all about giving the government the opportunity to go out there and do that job if they think they can do it and there's a difference between doing it face to face and calling in Communications Nova Scotia or your hot- and cold-running publicity flacks. Now, the government can do it that way if they want. They can buy ads in the papers; they've got the money to do that. They can try to set up a microphone beside flags of Nova Scotia in a particular and limited place inside the legislative building, but managed communication is not the same thing as true participatory democracy. True participatory democracy is often a messy thing. Sometimes it doesn't go according to plan - often it doesn't go according to plan - but it does offer the real opportunity for people not to isolate themselves in this Chamber. It offers them the opportunity that I know so many of my colleagues on the other side of this Chamber really long for, to get out and talk with people in their constituencies. Or, when it comes to the Cabinet ministers, to talk not just in their own constituencies but to the many Nova Scotians who are located in different parts of the province and want to talk about the topics that they administer in their portfolios.

I want to get back to the main point I've made here. A hoist is designed to afford the government that opportunity and to afford all government members that opportunity. What I want to hear from them is, if they don't agree with the hoist, what alternative do they offer? The alternatives are - you vote for the hoist, in which case you're voting in favour of true potential for consultation. The second alternative is you simply vote against the hoist and say, with our majority, we're putting this bill through no matter what. I have to say that that doesn't seem, to me, to be much of an alternative. A third alternative is to come up with some other option, some other way of consulting with people. They may want to formalize it, as I was suggesting with respect to financial measures through a fair tax commission or some other way. It may be that the Minister of Tourism and Culture will want to announce that there's going to be a study of the possible options with respect to the Arts Council, just as we saw the Minister of Education tell us that the other day there was going to be a study of French Immersion Programs.

It's not too late for ministers to make these kinds of initiatives, and so they ought to do. If we don't hear alternatives from them, we are left with no other conclusion to come to except that they don't want to talk to people or believe in full, participatory democracy. I would be sorry to come to that conclusion, but I will be driven to it unless, when the time comes for the vote on the hoist, they join me and my colleagues in voting in favour of it.

[Page 9027]

With those few remarks, I will take my place. Thank you very much for the opportunity to contribute to the debate on the hoist motion on Bill No. 109.

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

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and make a few comments with regard to this hoist on Bill No. 109, an Act Respecting Certain Financial Measures. This is, I suppose, a little of this déjà vu. If you were to go back and look at the last historic budget that the Tories claim they had brought in back in the fiscal year 1990-91, I believe, the then-Minister of Finance, Greg Kerr, was essentially on the same path for financial salvation for the province as our present Minister of Finance. I couldn't help but reflect on some of the thought processes, although I'm not sure which Finance Minister had more grey hair. Maybe it comes with the task. Maybe that's what the job description does to Finance Ministers; it makes them become grey very quickly.

[4:30 p.m.]

But let's look at why we would like to kind of stand back and take a second look at this situation. It was fascinating to listen to the budgetary estimates from some of the various departments. I would be a bit remiss if I didn't touch on the Department of Environment and Labour, but I'm not going to get to that one quite yet. I'm going to focus over on the Department of Transportation and Public Works because I found that one rather fascinating as well. I was a little disappointed that the media was picking on the good Minister of Transportation and Public Works for ragging the puck so that the Opposition couldn't get to other estimates. Now whether that is fact or fiction, that's yesterday's debate.

Mr. Speaker, I found the minister's answers were, for the most part, forthright, and he was very helpful through the estimates. What I did find interesting is this 2 cent a litre tax issue. The fact that the government, the Minister of Finance, in his budget speech, indicated that that 2 cents per litre would go 100 per cent towards road construction and maintenance. Well, we found out during budget deliberations that is simply not the case, in which I was a little disappointed. We're expected to raise somewhere in the vicinity of $24 million, but not all $24 million will be going to that. In fact, what the government will be doing is replacing part of its fleet with new equipment, and that's really not what the Minister of Finance said when he delivered his budget.

So, on this side of the House we obviously became a little suspect. That made me reflect somewhat, Mr. Speaker, on what happened back a few years ago when the Honourable Greg Kerr was Minister of Finance. He brought in a similar type of road tax - 1 cent a litre on gasoline and 4.5 cents a litre on diesel fuel. At that time the Minister of Finance said that these dollars were required for the government so that it can establish a transportation trust fund for highway construction and upgrading. Well whatever became of

[Page 9028]

that particular highway trust fund and why didn't all the dollars that were supposed to have been placed into this particular trust fund be used for highway construction and maintenance?

At face value, we took the Minister of Finance, when he delivered his budget, that all this money would be used to upgrade our roads in the Province of Nova Scotia. Well, Mr. Speaker, that wasn't quite the way things turned out, much the same as it wasn't quite the way things turned out with the former Minister of Finance as he increased motor fuel taxes at that particular point in time. In fact, the impact on Nova Scotia's economy was felt province-wide. At that particular point in time the truckers were quite upset. I'm sure that even the honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley would have been equally upset back in 1990-91 when the budget was delivered, as much as he should be today for the year 2002-03, because it's almost a mirror image of what happened back then.

I would bet you a dime to a donut, Mr. Speaker, that the good member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, who was a member of this truckers' association, the provincial truckers' association, echoed the feelings of the members at that time. The headline in The Daily News article on April 26, 1990 read, Truckers Outraged by Tax Hike on Diesel Fuel. They go into great detail about the impact, about job losses and the effects on their businesses and so on. Again, in the Mail Star on April 28th of the same year, the headline read, Average Nova Scotia Family Taxed, Taxed, Taxed in Budget.

The only difference this time is they don't use the word tax, they use the word user fee. In this budget, I think the estimates are that the government will generate over $101 million in additional revenue through user fees. Now if a user fee is not a tax, then what is it? It's a tax. You can call it by whatever name you want. It's like a duck; if it looks like a duck and sounds like a duck and walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it must be a duck. That's the same as what's happening with this particular budget. A user fee is a tax. When you look at the dynamics of the entire provincial administration of our Public Service, a user fee is a tax. It's a form of taxation. Now, some members would argue, well, you're just paying for the service that you're receiving. That's why we're paying taxes. That's exactly what we're doing.

On several occasions different witnesses have come before the Public Accounts Committee, and we asked, in fact I recall very pointedly asking the Deputy Minister of Health, could he please give us a definition of a user fee. We haven't been able to receive that definition yet. I recall another witness, and I believe my colleague, the member for Dartmouth East, was in attendance at the time, we asked another witness, do you have a definition of a user fee. Well, the member for Preston is saying, cost recovery charge. Perhaps the good member for Preston would be able to provide that definition to the deputy ministers of the various departments who can't define what a user fee is.

[Page 9029]

Even to this very day, to this very minute, they haven't been able to define what a user fee is. So the rather simplistic version that's been given may be the one, and perhaps all the more reason for the hoist, to allow the deputy ministers and the ministers and senior staff in various departments to take advantage of the great insights of the member for Preston. I mean this is a lost opportunity for the government, that we have the member for Preston being able to define a user fee and the senior administrators, deputy ministers and ministers can't do that when they're asked. They all seem to have a different definition. I would encourage, perhaps, that the Minister of Finance take advantage of these very special talents that the member for Preston has.

Mr. Speaker, when we look at the additional revenues that will be generated by the government through these user fees, and that's just this budget, not to mention the increase in user fees that were implemented during the course of the entire year that took place through various OICs, for the layperson that's an order in council, that's a Cabinet order where the government would increase or decrease a charge for a particular service, whether it be a licensing fee for a burning permit or what have you. There were a lot of those that increased as well during the year.

The government, I believe, has embarked on a whole new process of defining what a tax increase is. They feel that if they use the word user fee then what they are doing is psychologically having the people not think about the tax increase when in fact that's what is happening. It's a new code word that the government is using and the Minister of Finance, he knows full well exactly what he's doing. You take $101 million in increased user fees and new user fees, you take another $24 million for the Department of Transportation and Public Works on that 2 cents a litre tax and then we also take an increase on your tobacco tax and I don't know how many millions that's supposed to generate.

Realistically we are looking at between $125 million and $150 million tax increase this year.

AN HON. MEMBER: How much did they promise during the election?

MR. MACKINNON: They promised that there would be no new taxes, no tax increases this year or during the tenure of their mandate with the exception of the tobacco tax. Why wouldn't we want to stand back and take a second look at what is happening here. For the first two years the provincial government blamed everything on the federal government, from transfers to the clawback on equalization because of the royalties with the offshore, but what they forgot to mention was the additional revenues that they received through those transfer payments that were used for additional health care costs to the department.

[Page 9030]

Realistically the Minister of Health and the Minister of Finance know that the government has expended well over $450 million more than they planned on when they first took government and that's just in the Department of Health. The reality of the situation is that things aren't quite as crystal clear and as consistent with the blue book promise that the Premier and the Minister of Finance and other members of the Tory Government and caucus have promised the people of Nova Scotia. In fact, Mr. Speaker, in the blue book, the Conservatives promised that every cent of fuel tax would be going towards highway construction and maintenance by the end of year two of their mandate; that didn't happen. Last year, when the minster was doing his estimates, he said it is our intent to do that at the end of our term, and I will return to that.

Very casually they backpedalled and I am very surprised that some of the Tory backbenchers who were out flagging this blue book, it was almost like the Canadian flag to them. They were wrapped in it so deeply, this blue book, and now you can't see it anywhere. The closest you are going to get to a blue book is the colour of their shirt or their tie and that's it. They don't even mention the word blue book anymore. I don't want to pick on those Tories too much because they know it's an embarrassing situation for them. What about the red tape task force? Well that turned out to be quite a joke. (Interruptions) There were quite a few things over the years with various governments that didn't quite add up. The proof is in the pudding. (Interruptions) I do too. I was at the end of the 90s.

[4:45 p.m.]

We want to return to the hoist on Bill No. 109, we don't want rabbit tracks. We have been down that trail before. (Interruptions) Yes, yes. Well we'll come to the service exchange, sure, and we'll point out all the more reason to have this hoist because of what this government is doing on the service exchange. Yes, it's one thing to criticize a government past for what it did or didn't do, or should or shouldn't have done, but it's quite another to pick up the torch and keep doing the same thing in a more pronounced fashion and, yes, Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations is living evidence of that - all you have to do is look at what is happening in rural Nova Scotia with school closures. You know, that's exactly what's happening in many of those small communities and if that doesn't tie into that issue, what does? (Interruptions)

Well, yes, Mr. Speaker, we'll have to talk about a lot of constituencies with a lot of schools that closed. I mean this year I was slated to have one, two, three, four - four schools close. We were lucky; we were able to salvage two. There was a fifth school which in reality they said was family of another school so they closed that. So in reality they closed three out of five schools, but it was all about what was happening here within the Department of Education.

[Page 9031]

Mr. Speaker, I notice one of the Tory backbenchers sent me over a definition of cost recovery charge, you know, a definition of a user fee - a cost recovery charge assessed to a particular consumer for services rendered that is not being used . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I think it very important for the House not to be somehow misled by that very honourable member for Cape Breton West. He indicated that the term "user fee" and "user fees" by and large were something new to this government when, in fact - now I'm not sure whether the honourable member, and I do apologize, whether it was during his hiatus or not, but I do know that the former member for Preston and Minister of Environment at one time, very important, brought in what he called a user fee for consumers who purchased passenger tires and commercial tires. If the honourable member thinks back, he will remember very clearly that the then-Minister of Environment said oh, but this is an environmental fee, it's not a tax.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I have heard nothing that would indicate there's a point of order there.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I think that's a fair comment. The honourable member, you know, in his dissertation tries very hard, I mean he's very frustrated because we all know the great lengths that he went to to deal with that large stockpile of tires in his constituency. He was very disappointed when the tire recycling plant went down to the Valley Industrial Park and he was ranting and raving; he was very disappointed. He accused the government of the day of partisan politics because he couldn't get the tire recycling plant in his backyard, but he forgot to say it wasn't recommended to go there - and I don't blame him, he's an MLA, he's an advocate for his constituents.

It was unfortunate that the taxpayers had to pick up part of the tab for going out to deal with the stockpile of tires in that very site and in an inappropriate manner that was a hazard to the environment had a fire taken place. They weren't properly stockpiled; it was absolutely atrocious. We had the resources of three different departments to deal with a mess that he, as an advocate for this particular constituency, did absolutely nothing about. Yes, Mr. Speaker, so much for valuable use of taxpayers' dollars. Now, let's deal with this so-called user fee on the . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. As I indicated earlier, the very honourable member for Cape Breton West, I think it's most important and very relevant that the honourable member speak to the topic I spoke to relative to the point of order. Mr. Speaker, you will recall that was about user fees that his government imposed on the consumers of Nova Scotia, and nary a word came from the mouth of the honourable member

[Page 9032]

for Cape Breton West. In fact, the former Minister of Environment and the member for Preston ran from the media when the media challenged him as to whether or not it was a user fee or a tax. I asked the honourable member of the day for Preston, let's go out and poll 10 people on the street. It can be Hollis Street, it can be Granville Street. It could be any street in Halifax . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Again, there is nothing that would indicate a point of order. It is a point, nonetheless. I would remind the member for Cape Breton West that we are speaking on the motion. I would remind you of that, please.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West has the floor.

MR. MACKINNON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. In fact, I think just so that all honourable members and the people of Nova Scotia won't be misled by the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley on this very issue and why it's so important to support this hoist first of all, I wasn't the Minister of Environment of the day. He knows that full well. He also knows full well that I wasn't even a member of the House of Assembly at that particular point in time. But let's not be misled too much. The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley supported the initiative because he saw dollar signs and a business opportunity for someone he was advocating support for in his constituency. Well, that's fine. So the Resource Recovery Fund Board asked for that and they received it with the support for the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley. So, Mr. Speaker, he can't have his cake and eat it to, or maybe he does. Maybe he does see that as a vision for the new Tory definition of user fee.

Mr. Speaker, we have a co-operative effort from two Tory backbenchers there defining what a user fee is - a cost recovery charge assessed to a particular consumer for services rendered that is not being used or accessed by the general public at large. Perhaps we could have both those Conservative backbenchers provide that definition to the government, to the Cabinet, and that could be adopted. Perhaps one of those two members, or both those members could introduce that in the form of a resolution, and I'm sure all members of the House would support them. Then the government would have a standard by which to measure what a user fee really is.

I believe, Mr. Speaker, it would be safe to say that some of the user fees that are being implemented are being used by the general public at large. So it would certainly kind of take a little chip out of that $101 million that the government is looking to take out of the pockets of Nova Scotians. So I applaud the member for Preston and the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley on their gallant efforts. Perhaps this is the type of vision we should have as the government embarks on this particular piece of legislation, Bill No. 109, an Act Respecting Certain Financial Measures. Because what are they? They are financial measures, any which way you look at it.

[Page 9033]

Mr. Speaker, you wonder why we would support a hoist. Well let's go back over to the other department. I indicated that I would raise a few issues about the Department of Labour and Environment. I would be a little remiss if I didn't raise a few concerns about that department. I was almost aghast, I was to the point of being mortified to think that a minister was going to have his budget approved and didn't even know that the fire training school in Waverley, they were running a private trade school which was licensed by his colleague, the Minister of Education. Between last year and this year they will generate somewhere between $550,000 and $600,000 in revenues. The minister for that department, during his estimates, didn't even know that. He didn't even know they were doing that for a paid fire service, to the detriment of some 8,000 volunteer firefighters in this province.

Nothing. Not a whisper. Not a whisper said by any of the Tory backbenchers who, for the most part, represent volunteer fire departments. We know there's a piece of legislation before this House to offer protection for volunteers in this province - what is any more worthy a volunteer organization than the volunteer fire service. And yet, they are faced with considerable liability costs through the issue of workers' compensation. They have to pay these premiums. Not all municipalities have the resources to be able to provide for them. It's not so bad for some of the larger ones like HRM - Halifax Regional Municipality- or perhaps the Cape Breton Regional Municipality to a lesser extent. Still, much more so than a lot of the small rural ones that don't have the capacity or the resources to do that. But why are we taking away from the volunteer service?

That fire training school receives an annual grant from the Department of Labour from the taxpayers of Nova Scotia, $190,000 which I understand adequately covered their expenses, for the most part. There are some other training costs that could be offered, but between last year and this year we're looking at approximately 70 candidates. I would raise this flag for the government backbenchers in particular, for those that live in rural Nova Scotia and ask yourself, are all areas of the province being adequately served by this private training school that's being operated at the fire training centre in Waverley? Absolutely not. In fact, there's only 1 out of 70 from the entire Island of Cape Breton. I would submit that if some of the Tory backbenchers ever had a reason to support a hoist, it would be to protect the volunteer fire service in their very own constituencies. That's one issue.

I also raise the issue with the Minister of Environment and Labour with regard to the workers' compensation clawback, so to speak. As you will recall, and for those members in particular who were here when we passed - I'm going by memory - I think it was Bill No. 90, the bill we had approved in 1999 for the Worker's Compensation Act - 1998, 1999. At that time, the Opposition Parties and in particular the Conservative caucus, many who are sitting in the front benches today, said wait, this is too hard on the employers. They're paying 100 per cent the cost of all Occupational Health and Safety within the Department of Labour. That's too much, because to go back to the words of the honourable member, the difference between a user fee and a tax, they felt that the employer shouldn't be covering the entire cost

[Page 9034]

of Occupational Health and Safety within the Department of Labour because it's being shared by all Nova Scotians.

So, what did they do? They said, let's apportion this. So then it came down to the final conclusion - and it was supported by all three caucuses as I recall - employers would pay 82 per cent and the taxpayers of Nova Scotia would pay 18 per cent. Well, what did the government do in this budget? What a turn of events. They went from 82 per cent to 91.9 per cent, the maximum that they could claw out of the hands of the employers of this province. I asked the Minister of Labour and Environment at the time, who did he consult with? Was it supported by the employers? Was it supported by particular interest groups? Was it supported by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business? Was it supported by the Manufacturers Alliance? Was it supported by John ABC Trucking from down in who knows where? The minister said yes. He had spoken with employers and they supported that initiative. Yes, the record will show, Hansard will show that the minister had indicated that he had consulted, he had spoken with some employers when the initiative came in and they didn't think it was such a bad thing, they supported it.

[5:00 p.m.]

I am paraphrasing here a bit but my memory is pretty good on this issue. The minister is shaking his head in disbelief and why shouldn't he because it is a complete betrayal of everything the Conservative caucus stood for when they were on this side of the House. The Minister of Environment and Labour is in absolute awe. Why wouldn't he be? We contacted the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, they weren't consulted. The Manufacturers Alliance, they weren't consulted. The minister's argument was that this is a budgetary matter, we can't discuss that with them. Well excuse me, this is not taxpayers' money they are talking about. This is money belonging to the employers of this province which is paid into the accident fund. He surreptitiously went in and took that money from the employers without any consultation whatsoever. (Interruptions) It's a little heavy for some Tory Ministers, I understand that so I will confine myself to single syllables if that's more appealing. Just think syrup and a lot of syrup and then you'll get the message.

You wonder why we would want a six months' hoist. We have clear examples of a minister who wants his budget approved and doesn't even know what is in it, that is very concerning. I would venture to say if we put any one of the Tory backbenchers sitting at the table they could have answered just as many questions as were answered that day. It is very disappointing. I would think that if the government was quick enough to pass an Order in Council to limit the amount of assessibility that would have to be paid to an injured worker at a moment's notice because they were lobbied by the Federation of Independent Business, surly to heavens they would be just as quick to notify the injured workers that there would be less money in the accident fund to pay compensation for when they are off work. Compensation, by the way, which clearly by the minister's annual report shows that the amount of time lost is increasing ever since this government, this minister and his

[Page 9035]

predecessor, his seat mate now the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations, brought in the sunset clause for Occupational Health and Safety Regulations. The evidence is undisputed.

The number of compensable time-loss claims registered has increased over the last year by over 200, or by close to 200. The average claim duration in days has increased from 85.5 to 102.4. Clearly the injuries are becoming more serious. As well, the total assessable payroll has increased from $6.19 billion to $6.45 billion and that's good news. Do you know why? Because when we brought in amendments to the Workers' Compensation Act in 1999, we did what we should have done years and years ago, and that is start requiring non-Nova Scotia firms to start playing by the same rules as Nova Scotia firms. Up until 1999, any firm from Montreal or Winnipeg or wherever that would win a contract to put, for example, a high-rise here in Halifax didn't have to pay workers' compensation premiums for six months. They had a six-month holiday. They could go by their own provinces, which in some cases we know are much cheaper than Nova Scotia, and we brought that down to five working days.

Mr. Speaker, it was an initiative, by the way, that I think was greeted with great skepticism by the former Leader of the Socialist Party. He thought, no, we shouldn't be embarking on that, but on the other hand, when you talk about all the problems with the organized labour in this province, particularly in the construction industry, the electricians and so on - all the various tradesmen - they're without jobs when all these workers from other provinces were coming in. They weren't able to compete because the cost of doing business in Nova Scotia was higher. We leveled that playing field by making those non-Nova Scotia entities play by the same rules but, unfortunately, this government seems to be slipping. They're taking advantage on the revenue side and letting things slip terribly on the issue of occupational health and safety.

That's why I was a little perplexed when the minister supported a resolution today requiring himself, as minister, to immediately implement violence in the workplace regulations. I would hope that, within the next few days, that R & R will be going before Cabinet because now, Mr. Speaker, this is an order of the House. This was unanimously supported by all members. You wonder why we would be a little skeptical about rushing through with Bill No. 109, An Act Respecting Certain Financial Measures. That's in sharp contrast to last week, perhaps the week before, when the minister said that these regulations were still back before the advisory council. Now, why he would support sending the regulations immediately to Cabinet for approval today, when he doesn't even have them, demonstrates quite clearly the contradictions and the lack of coordination and understanding of what's happening in this very serious department.

Mr. Speaker, the Auditor General has spoken to that issue. He has expressed great concerns about what's happening over in that department. I believe the Minister of Economic Development and some other ministers, and rightfully so - I think the latest federal report that

[Page 9036]

came out showing Nova Scotia's economy doing well - and that's good because it was doing quite well when the government first came in and the year after it dipped. We went down to ninth on the list, so it's good to see that we're coming back up.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, on a point of clarification, I wanted to say thank you to the honourable member for acknowledging that the economy has really gone ahead under this Progressive Conservative Government, and I think it's very important that the people . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. (Applause)

To my knowledge, there is no such thing as a point of clarification. The member for Cape Breton West has approximately 19 minutes left.

MR. MACKINNON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I thank the Minister of Health for his intervention. We're not above giving credit where credit is due. That's what a responsible Opposition is supposed to do and, in some measure, the government has done some good things, but let's be fair to the minister, if he's willing to take the credit, he should be willing to take the criticism. On the same note, and I will quote, "Investment in non-residential building construction, first quarter of 2002. In Nova Scotia, first quarter, 2002, investment in non-residential building construction declined by 14.1 per cent to $125 million over the fourth quarter 2001 and declined 32.1 per cent over the first quarter 2001." So, my gracious, if he's anxious enough to take the credit for the good, he should accept the responsibility for why the construction industry is starting to shrink. Why have things declined in the construction industry by 32 per cent on that side of the equation under this government? If they're doing that well you would think that things would be growing, because they are, in other parts of Canada, nationally, they're doing very well.

In the same report - just so the minister won't think these are my figures, these figures are from Statistics Canada, the same source - the minister says up 50 per cent in Truro-Bible Hill. Are you building a school? If he's not building a school maybe he's building this medical centre that he's fighting so hard for when he was on this side of the House. Maybe it's finally coming through. He had to become minister to get the money out of that department. Maybe that's the trick, I'm not sure. Mr. Speaker, at the same time it's shrinking in Nova Scotia by 32 per cent, it's growing Canada-wide by 3.2 per cent. Obviously, things are not as stable in Nova Scotia as the Minister of Health would like us to believe.

Mr. Speaker, it's a famous, I don't know if you'd use the word trick, but it's an opportunity for politicians, when things are looking good, if the reports from Statistics Canada comes out on employment issues and so on for certain regions, when things are looking good, the government says, we did all that; if things are looking bad, well the federal

[Page 9037]

government is to blame for that, that's got nothing to do with us. I think the people of Nova Scotia, they're pretty fair minded and they're very reasoned people, they can analyze that very easily and know who's really doing what.

Mr. Speaker, another issue that I think we have to look at here, and it's one I touched on a little earlier because the government brought in this new 2 cents a litre tax for capital road construction and maintenance, the latest Fuel Facts Report just came out and it's dated April 23, 2002, Vol. III, Issue 8 and it's subtitled, Price Monitor. What they do is they monitor the price of gasoline in 10 of Canada's major cities starting in Halifax and going right through to Vancouver. The ironic thing about this is that at one time Nova Scotia was never really up near the high end of the pricing relative to other jurisdictions. It was somewhere in the middle of the pack but, now, Nova Scotia, for example, Halifax because they're using Halifax as the barometer to measure these fuel prices, is now the second highest in Canada, next to Newfoundland. We have the second highest prices of gasoline in Canada. (Interruption)

There's a lot of debate as to whether we should be regulated or not, but that was a policy decision that was made by the Donald Cameron Government, and I recall almost as if it was yesterday, sitting at the Law Amendments Committee and listening to the good minister of the day, the minister, I believe he was still Minister of Development or Economic Development, or I'm not sure what title it was then, or perhaps it was just when he became Premier - pushed very expeditiously the issue of deregulating gasoline prices because he said it was going to be good for Canada and for the consumers of Nova Scotia.

[5:15 p.m.]

Well, Mr. Speaker, the evidence seems to point to the contrary, that he was wrong. I know this would be somewhat of a popular position with the socialists in regulating fuel, but I believe he pointed towards Prince Edward Island, who have a regulated gas industry, and the figures here show - and I'll table it for all honourable members when I'm finished - that Prince Edward Island is actually one of the lower ones. Right now, Prince Edward Island - well, by golly, according to this, Prince Edward Island is the lowest! It is regulated and it is the lowest: Halifax is 74.9 cents; Saint John is 73.8 cents; St. John's is 79.7 cents; Charlottetown is 65.4 cents; Montreal is 70.4 cents; Ottawa is 69.3 cents; Toronto is 69.4 cents; Winnipeg is 66.8 cents; Regina is 73.9 cents; Calgary 67.6 cents; and Vancouver is 66.2 cents.

So, by golly, Mr. Speaker, Prince Edward Island appears to be right. It is 10 cents a litre cheaper than Nova Scotia. What a coincidence. I'll table this for all honourable members.

[Page 9038]

MR. JOHN HOLM: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. It has been suggested that we might have - but I don't know that it's true - a chair over here for the member. But I just wanted to point out that had the Conservative Government of Don Cameron or the Liberal Government of the member speaking, followed our advice and done what we had said, Nova Scotians would have been enjoying that 10 cents a litre cheaper gasoline.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Perhaps a lot of the members could refresh themselves with what a point of order is. The honourable member for Cape Breton West has the floor.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, if I had followed the path of the socialists, I would be on the road to oblivion. That's exactly where we would be. No, that's why we're first in the polls. That's why the people are turning to the Liberal Party of Nova Scotia as a viable alternative to this right-wing government, not to the socialists who are haphazard in just about everything they do. But let's not get bogged down with rabbit tracks. There's lots of time, we will get to them on a future day. The important issue here is Bill No. 109 and why we would support the hoist.

AN HON. MEMBER: Who moved that hoist?

MR. MACKINNON: Yes, Mr. Speaker, it was the socialists who moved the hoist. Let's give credit where credit is due. Not everything they say and do is vacuous. Many things are, but in this case, no. So I have to support it. As a responsible Liberal caucus, like we always are, we support good amendments, so in this particular case, they hit the mark. It's like in the Sunday newspaper's, Hits & Misses. They hit the target this week, so we're going to support it.

MR. JOHN HOLM: So you're followers again, not leading . . .

MR. MACKINNON: I'm not going to get sidetracked by the rabbit tracks by the honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

The fact of the matter is, Mr. Speaker, there are many reasons why we just simply can't allow the government to go unchecked with this particular piece of legislation. There was a point raised last week - and it was a very valid point that was raised - I believe it was by the Leader of the NDP caucus, the Leader of the Official Opposition, on the fact that there were so many young people not being given an opportunity to enter the Public Service. In other words, it's almost as if the government has embarked on a policy of reducing any opportunity for renewal, on the human resources side, in the Public Service.

At the same time, it seems to giving hefty pay raises to senior directors and political advisers to the minister and to the government, Mr. Speaker. Just look at what The Daily News said on Saturday, April 27th: "Booze Boss Up For Hefty Bonuses" Well, Mr. Speaker, if you figure it out, this one individual will be making somewhere in the vicinity of $175,000.

[Page 9039]

Is that really necessary in this day and age, when we're supposed to be tightening our belts? That's getting a little ridiculous and that, I would suggest, is reflective of how the government thinks. This is the way the Buchanan Government thought as well. If you look after a small clique that's in and around the corridors of power - everything will permeate down, so let's look after the senior generals here, political advisers and policy advisers, and then we won't have to worry about all the rest because we're going to keep them in the dark anyway, you see. That's evident by the fact that the government has increased quite substantially the cost of Freedom of Information requests.

It's so transparent, what they're trying to do, but on the other hand, they're trying to do it, you know, under the veil of value for dollar. Well, Mr. Speaker, I don't think we're getting value for dollar when we start hiding vital information from the people of Nova Scotia. It's just not right. The government has actually done a U-turn on this open, accountable government. This is why we're somewhat suspect of moving so quickly with the Financial Measures (2002) Act, Bill No. 109.

Mr. Speaker, do you remember when the Progressive Conservative caucus was on this side of the House, just after the 1993 election? For about three years they started travelling the province and putting ads in the newspapers; we want to hear from you. Call the Tory caucus; call the Tory hotline, anywhere in Nova Scotia, anytime, morning, noon or night. You call us, we want to hear from you. Well, as soon as they heard from the people and they got on that side of the House, what did they do? They cut the telephone lines. They don't want to hear from the people anymore. The only communication - you know, you wonder why people would get nervous. I received an e-mail last week from a senior minister in the government and, do you know what? I couldn't receive it. I was not allowed to receive it; do you know why? Because it was infected by a virus.

If we don't even have good securities from the senior ministry in that government, what chance do the people of Nova Scotia have? What chance do Opposition Parties have? It was a good thing that there was a firewall established in the system because that would have wiped out years and years of work that had gone into my computer. So it begs you to wonder, really, what's happening. It looks good on the outside, but once you get beneath the icing, the cake is not good. It's not fresh. It's hard, crusty, cold and not edible, and do you know what? That's like the government. It's not palatable to the people of Nova Scotia. The policies and these financial measures are not palatable; they're not tasty in any way, shape or form, to draw the analogy. (Interruption) Yes, some would suggest they're half-baked.

Mr. Speaker, there's always a danger when you use an analogy. There are lots of people who would love to offer some suggestions on how to improve it, but I'm disappointed

the government has tried to lead people to believe that they have a balanced budget. Now think about it. How can you go and borrow $100 million to pay the interest payments on the debt, or whatever else the government would argue that it's doing with it? The debt is still growing. They had to borrow $100 million and he's saying that he has a balanced budget.

[Page 9040]

That doesn't seem to add up, to me, that if you're spending more money than you're taking in, that's not a balanced budget. Now accountants can have 15 different ways of presenting a budget sheet, much the same as lawyers in court can provide 15 different arguments on the same issue. So which is right? Take your choice. It's like a spin of the wheel. That seems to be what's happening. It's not a balanced budget. If it was a balanced budget, we wouldn't be borrowing money to pay the interest charges on our debt. We would have enough money coming in to pay the interest charges.

It's scary when you think. We all support this offshore development. I think it's very important to Nova Scotia and in some ways we have to applaud the government for some of their initiatives, but certainly negotiating a good deal won't be one of them. I think the point was made that it would take 400 years to generate enough revenue off the royalties, the royalty regime, to be able to make interest payments on our debt for one year.

AN HON. MEMBER: Who signed that agreement?

MR. MACKINNON: Well, Mr. Speaker, if you had seen what we inherited, we did our best. When we came to government in 1993, there was over $1 billion unfunded liability with the teachers' fund. Where was all that money? At the same time the government passed a piece of legislation taking the accountability for the Teachers' Pension Fund out of the Legislature down into the Cabinet. Why? Because they really weren't putting the money into the fund. They only did it on paper. They really never put the money in. So why wouldn't they want to take it out of here? That's the type of stuff we inherited - the unfunded liability with the workers' compensation system, the big debt at Nova Scotia Resources Limited. These were the issues that we had to face. Tory times are hard times, yes, it seems to be. (Interruption)

Mr. Speaker, there are a few illusionists on the backbenches over there who seem to think that Tory times are good times. We will allow those members an opportunity to stand in their place, rise to the occasion and defend Bill No. 109.

MR. WILLIAM LANGILLE: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, The honourable member mentions what they inherited. I think it's what we inherited. We inherited from the Liberal Government a $0.5 billion debt. That's we inherited and now we have balanced the books.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. While I would submit that the honourable member raised a good point but, again, it is not a point of order. I must move on to the NDP caucus in the interest of fairness and co-operation.

The honourable member for Hants East.

[Page 9041]

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, my colleague, the honourable member for Glace Bay, I think would like to rise on an introduction.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, if I could just bring your attention to the west gallery where a couple from Regina are paying us a visit today. They just happen to be my brother, James Wilson, and his wife, Carol Ann, and also along for the ride is my new three month old niece, Alexandra Frances Helen Wilson who joins them here. For those of you who have been harassing me, my brother James is with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. (Interruptions) Yes, he is as a matter of fact. I would like to welcome them, they are moving to Newfoundland in the near future, closer to Nova Scotia, where someday they will land and call home again. So, I welcome them to the gallery and I wish the members to join with me. Thank you. (Applause)

[5:30 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Yes, indeed. Welcome to our guests in the gallery. We certainly want to welcome members of the honourable member for Glace Bay's family to the Legislature and all the guests to the gallery. We especially would like to welcome Dave's three month old niece to the gallery. Alexandra, welcome to the Nova Scotia Legislature. The honourable member for Hants East and thank you for letting us do that introduction in co-operation with the member for Glace Bay.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: No problem Mr. Speaker, my pleasure. I know the member for Glace Bay had mentioned to me earlier he was hoping that his brother's family would be here, so my pleasure and I would certainly like to welcome them. I hope that the experience here has been an educational one - certainly for Alexandra; I hope no damage or trauma from being in the House.

It's a pleasure to rise today and speak to this hoist motion on Bill No. 109. I want to say that after four years of speaking to Financial Measures Acts and I guess probably speaking to hoist motions of Financial Measures Acts, that, well, actually, I think it was the budget that got defeated that we still think was the right move. I'm always amazed at how history seems to prove our correctness in judgment. I remember the 1998 budget that was supported by the Tory members who were in Opposition at that time. We said it wasn't balanced, well history has shown that the New Democrats were correct. That Liberal budget in 1998 was not balanced.

Being a politician is not getting easier, I want to say. There are some good reasons for that and that is it has become more and more difficult for the electorate to actually distinguish between the Parties and certainly depending on just what role or what time of a mandate we're acting in. I think that the honourable members in the Liberal caucus, they

[Page 9042]

sound fairly much like New Democrats while they're in Opposition, but they sure didn't govern like New Democrats, I want to say that.

AN HON. MEMBER: Thank God.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Well, that's why they're in third place. (Interruption) The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes hit a point that I definitely want to go to. That's a rabbit track I will set a snare for. That actually only addresses my very point of the difficulty for the electorate to try to determine who is actually saying anything that they can believe. When we go to the polls or go to the doorstep during election time, I think all three Parties quite often sound very similar. It certainly doesn't seem to be the case when governments are put into power.

The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes had mentioned Glen Clark, the former Premier of British Columbia and what I want to relay to the member, this document - and I can table it although the House already has it - a balanced approach to surplus and debt management. This is produced by the Tory Government here in this province and what it shows is an interesting fact. It shows the relationship of debt to gross domestic product to each province. Nova Scotia has the greatest debt to GDP, Alberta has the lowest. But the province that has the next lowest is British Columbia and for all the puffing and goings on around the fact that the New Democrats in British Columbia had run up exorbitant debt, it isn't true. That's not to say they didn't have debt. I heard the Premier of British Columbia speak the other day on radio saying that every man, woman and child in British Columbia was carrying about $9,000 in debt and in this province they're carrying about $12,000 of debt. Certainly, the Liberals and Tories can both take credit for that.

So, the question has to be, how is it that if the Liberals are a Party that's supposed to be left of centre, why are the ones in British Columbia acting so right of centre? Actually, they're identical to the Tories in Nova Scotia. Therein lies the challenge for Parties that are not Liberals or Tories, to try to create the distinction that there is a Party or politicians that are different. It's a tough one. It's hard for the electorate; it's a hard one to try to convince the electorate that what politicians are trying to sell them is in their best interest, not because the message may say that, it's because the delivery doesn't indicate that after they get into power.

So what this bill is doing, Mr. Speaker, is bringing in either a wide variety of user fees or it's actually causing the cuts to programs or endorsing the cuts to programs. When we hear the Minister of Community Services talk about the cuts to transition houses and women's shelters and programs for men, yet talks about the redesign, well all the more reason for a six months' hoist. My impression of what the minister has been saying is that he's going to take this over a much longer period of time. It doesn't appear to me from what he's saying that he's backing off this agenda of closing any of these transition houses or laying of staff, it just appears that that may take a longer period of time to do that.

[Page 9043]

The cuts that have been stated by the minister and shown in his department still exist and, actually, the budget was passed with those cuts existing in the approval of the House. So therefore the minister didn't say I'm going to rewrite the budget of my department before this budget gets passed and, therefore, that will be a clear indication to the people who are represented by transition houses that I'm standing by my word that I'm going to move away from this agenda. That, I think, makes it pretty difficult for Nova Scotians to believe anything that the government tries to tell them. If it was clear that the minister wanted to move away from this agenda, then he had an opportunity to do that. Actually, the Minister of Finance even had a better opportunity when it was pointed out by my colleague, the honourable member for Halifax Fairview, that, actually, the government had $1 million more than they had shown in their books, and that was $1 million that could have really saved those programs.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I think since 1991-92, Nova Scotians have been told to tighten their belts. That started with the Donald Cameron Government. I would say to the members opposite if ever there was an event that may have sparked this member to think about the New Democratic Party, it was a movement by Donald Cameron when he signed a contract with the Nova Scotia Teachers Union and then broke the contract. Since I was a teacher, that certainly made me think that politicians were not necessarily thinking about me and my family. That goes to the root of trying to convince Nova Scotians that what the members opposite are trying to do is in the best interests of Nova Scotians. So, Mr. Speaker, it would be in the best interests of all members of this House, it would certainly be in the best interests of members on the government side to actually support this hoist for six months; actually do some consultation. The Minister of Community Services has certainly spoken on several occasions about how he has consulted, although those individuals who have been working hard at transition houses and women's shelters felt that they had never been communicated with. This would give an opportunity for any government member, any of the backbenchers, to speak to people in their community and try to reassure them that the government is actually interested in hearing what they have to say and redesigning this Act so it works in the best interests of Nova Scotians.

Another example of numbers that are thrown around that seem to be particularly difficult to swallow is the notion that the health care budget is growing out of control at 13 per cent per year. Across the board in Nova Scotia we have had the lowest dollars spent on programs over the past few years of any province. In other words, our funding has not grown in programs or departments like it has in other provinces. Actually, it has either been cut back for the most part and, in some cases, for some programs, the funding has been annihilated. If health care funding was growing by 13 per cent per year, and if we take that to be a $2 billion budget growing at 10 per cert per year, that's $200 million a year; that's another $1 billion every five years. If members opposite expect Nova Scotians to believe that the health care budget is going to grow by $1 billion every five years, then how they can look Nova Scotians in the face and say that with a straight face is beyond me.

[Page 9044]

There has been absolutely no evidence that that budget has been growing at that rate and actually the minister confirmed for me earlier today that 75 per cent of that budget's cost was in salaries. Since most of those salaries are salaries under union contract, then you certainly can predict your funding based on what you agreed to in the contract and there are certainly none of those going at 13 per cent per year. Where are the other costs in that other 25 per cent that is not salaries? I would say that this has been a scare tactic to justify cuts that we think that Nova Scotians would buy into because they expect that the government would represent them in the best interests of Nova Scotians.

I have to say, Mr. Speaker, that we have had two Premiers who were doctors - or still have a Premier who is a doctor - and we would think that a Premier who is a doctor would be someone who actually could make the best decisions to improve the health care system. It doesn't seem to happen. I think physicians are counselled under the Hippocratic oath to first do no harm, but from what we've seen of cuts to programs and services for Nova Scotians, we have a doctor who is doing harm to the people of this province. I think it is something that members on the government side should seriously think about and they should think about that not everything you do has to be a cost. There are some things that are investments that are worth investing in so that you can reduce your costs in the future, and this is a view that the members on the government side don't seem to embrace. Certainly their legislation or their budgets or their cuts to programs don't indicate it.

Mr. Speaker, imposing user fees across the board affects people in a regressive way. In other words, if somebody has a $25,000 a year income and somebody has a $75,000 a year income, paying the same fee for some people may seem to be fair. The percentage of your income that you're paying to that fee is markedly different, and those with lower incomes pay a greater percentage of their income for a service that those with a higher income don't pay and in those terms that is definitely unfair.

[5:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, we've heard the Minister of Finance and we've heard the Premier speak about the fact that government can't be everything to everyone, but it can be something to everyone, and that's the point that they seem to miss, that the government actually has a responsibility to deliver services to its people. It's one of the major functions of government; it's why people pay taxes. They expect to get some delivery for their tax dollar, and the government has moved away from that. They're willing to give taxpayers' dollars to private interests to deliver those services, and yet even if the service is compromised so that the companies can make profit it doesn't seem to be a factor. To me, the profit margin can be used to put money back into programs and services for the benefit of the people, because it is their tax dollars that are paying for it.

[Page 9045]

We know that poverty is one of the highest drivers of health care costs. So to address poverty, to take some dollars that might otherwise go to health and address issues of poverty would be money well spent by this government. It would prove to be a benefit to Nova Scotians as far as their tax dollars are concerned, because if we can come close to eradicating poverty, or at least reduce the impact on poverty, we can cut our health care costs, and that should be in the best interests of all Nova Scotians. For example, low-income women have a 62 per cent higher rate of hospitalization under the age of 40, and a 92 per cent higher rate of hospitalization over the age of 40, than women with an adequate income. The numbers are in, Mr. Speaker, to show how poverty drives health care costs higher, and this is something we really should be investing in to try to bring those health care costs down.

You can talk to some people in society who say, well, you know, welfare bums, or anybody on welfare, don't help them at all, but they don't seem to realize that everyone who is making use of social assistance is there for one reason or another - some good, some bad. Seven per cent of Nova Scotians are on social services and 3 per cent of that 7 per cent are people who are deemed to be fraudulent.

Now 3 per cent of 7 per cent is not very much, and actually, Mr. Speaker, you probably have run into this in your own constituency in terms of people, that when they send their papers in to Community Services there's a time lag between the information and Community Services giving them a cheque to take care of their needs and their paperwork getting in on income. What you find, quite often, is the income is higher than what the person indicated it would be, so therefore there's an overpayment. So in those cases the person who got the overpayment has to return that to the province, which they do, but that overpayment is regarded as that person being fraudulent and that's included in that 3 per cent. That means, to me, that there's a large number of that 3 per cent who are actually not fraudulent at all and who are actually paying the money back to the government.

I've even heard people say we should hire more individuals to enforce whether those dollars are spent wisely or not. In other words, they want to pay salaries to people to go out to check on people who might be cheating. Well, if you hire those people for $35,000 to $40,000 a year to go out to find out who's being fraudulent, then you would have to have an awful lot of fraudulent dollars to make that worth it; I mean if you hire 10 of them at $40,000, that's $400,000. Well, I would say that you would be pushing it to try to find $400,000 that has been wasted by the government in its money that it gives to welfare recipients. So I would suggest to the government that they would be well-advised to actually put the $400,000 into programs or in the hands of social assistance recipients to take them in a transitional phase from welfare back to work, if that's possible, for them to go back, and in some cases for those who are disabled, it's not possible. But you have to try to ensure some quality of life for those people and their children because you're going wind up paying that cost in the health care system.

[Page 9046]

This is not rocket science. The members opposite, if they do any inquiry, if they do any investigation, if they read any number of commentaries on this, they can find that the evidence is in and this has been proven to be true. One of the roles of government is to actually not just spend taxpayers' money, but to spend taxpayers' money in a wise and prudent manner. I don't think Nova Scotians, after 10 years of belt tightening from Donnie Cameron to John Savage to Russell MacLellan to John Hamm, are starting to believe that any of these governments have really served them well. I think they would like to see some benefit for the dollars that they pay in taxes, actually taxes and user fees, more taxes. Mr. Speaker, maybe six months would be enough for members opposite to take a look at this and determine whether or not they could actually work a benefit to Nova Scotians by changing this bill so it works to the benefit of Nova Scotians. My experience tells me that since 1999, six months is not going to be long enough and if members opposite want to stand and say, let's hoist this for a year, then they would probably have my support in doing that.

In terms of own-source revenue for the province, the government is fairly limited. It has personal and corporate income taxes, sales tax through the HST and user fees, and user fees are making up a greater and greater component all the time. In 1992-93, Nova Scotians had derived almost 8 per cent below the average of all other provinces in Canada for their own-source revenues and 4.3 per cent below the average of other Atlantic Provinces. That 4.3 per cent, Mr. Speaker, is about 1 per cent of our GDP, our gross domestic product. If over a nine year period we had been able to take in close to the same percentage that other provinces did on their gross domestic product, if we took that in from our own-source revenues, then Nova Scotia would have generated in the range of $180 million a year, every year for nine years.

Now that would have accumulated into $1.6 billion. That's $1.6 billion that the province would have had either to place on the debt or for programs, but had they placed that on the debt, they would have reduced their debt servicing costs by $130 million a year, Mr. Speaker; now $130 million a year is a lot. When it comes to cutting programs and trying to deliver services to Nova Scotians they definitely would think that someone was acting in their best interests, which I'm sure they're not.

Being in government, the members opposite would tell you is about making hard decisions. I want to say that I'm not sure that we have a lot of evidence of the government making the hard decisions. What they've done is they've made the same decisions that other jurisdictions have who have impacted on the lives of their people in the most negative ways. We've seen this, certainly, in those provinces that carry out what would be referred to - if people want to refer to it - as a more right-wing agenda. We definitely have gone down the road of Mike Harris in this province and the question is, what will that cost us? Members seem to think that if we did balance the books - which we are somewhat suspect - that didn't have an impact and that hasn't cost this province something.

[Page 9047]

I think it was 1998; the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, in its alternative budget, had stated then that those provinces that had cut the most in health care funding and other programs prior to 1997 would have to spend the most in the future. We are one of those provinces that cut the most, yet we haven't spent anything, Mr. Speaker. We are still cutting programs, and at some point we are going to have to spend. We should be spending in a way that will reduce costs in the future. This brings me to the point that I keep trying to drive home to the members opposite, the notion that there are things worth investing in. You can spend money to save money in the future, and this is something the government seems to be reluctant to do.

Mr. Speaker, I certainly hope that members opposite would think about this hoist and try to think of the impact that this Financial Measures (2002) Act has on their constituents. I think we had come to a figure of over $100 million, somewhere in the range of $120 million, last year that this government was collecting in user fees. Now it looks as though it's another $104 million, and I think that Nova Scotians have paid enough. I have to ask what the agenda is. I know that the Finance Minister has indicated that the government is backing off its agenda of a tax break, but it still seems to be still driving ahead and causing hardship, I would say, for Nova Scotians. I'm not sure that the government doesn't still have a plan to try to give a tax break and bribe Nova Scotians with their own money.

I think that the consensus among Nova Scotians has been that we don't necessarily care if we get the tax break; we would like to have services. This is a message the government does not seem willing to pay attention to. We've seen it in an increase in ambulance fees. We've seen it in cuts to programs, and at some point, Nova Scotians are going to start to demand service for their tax dollars. So with that, Mr. Speaker, I'm going to relinquish the floor to a member of the Liberal caucus, and I hope government members opposite have been enlightened by my comments.

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

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, of course, when you rise here in the House and you have a whole hour to speak up and beat up on the government, you really don't know where to start because there's so much that you can beat up on them about. I don't know where to start.

In fact, first of all, I think if we consider the minister - or if the whole government would consider this hoist motion - I think it's a good idea if the government just took six months and laid back, relaxed and reflected on what they're about to do and where they're going to lead Nova Scotians. Perhaps the Minister of Finance will come to his senses somehow, and maybe if he takes a couple of Aspirin and goes on a retreat with some of those backbenchers over there, who are obviously pretty bored because they're sitting around and they're not saying much - they're pretty quiet. I guess after two and one-half years, they're finally trained to sit there, be quiet and not say anything.

[Page 9048]

[6:00 p.m.]

Just for the record, Mr. Speaker, every time I run into one of my former colleagues from the municipal world, which I did today, and every time I bump into someone who is still in the municipal world, they can't believe the role that the backbench is playing in this government, especially given the municipal experience that they had gained before they came in here. Of course, as a municipal politician - and rightfully so, they're the closest - they claim that they're the government closest to the people. I believe that to be true because for instance, back in Cape Breton right now the municipal councillors are in the community and they're dealing with issues on a daily basis and discussing many of the issues with local residents every day. We don't have that opportunity, of course, anymore, as provincial politicians now we're here in Halifax debating the issues and holding, on this side of the House at least, the government accountable. We just simply are amazed when we look across the floor and we see these guys: elect me, vote for me, I'm going to tell those Liberals in 1999, what to do and how to do it and when to do it.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Was the honourable member going to speak to the hoist after a while?

MR. BOUDREAU: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I indicated in my comments the six months' hoist would provide an opportunity for the government to reflect on all these roles. To reflect, that is really what the hoist is about. To provide six months quiet time - maybe we want to call it quiet time. Perhaps the Minister of Health is familiar with what quiet time means. That's when you sit down and reflect on where you want to go and what direction you're going in. It seems for some reason or other this government doesn't want to use this six-month period of grace to provide them with an opportunity to really sit down and review what they did and the damage they've done to Nova Scotia and Nova Scotians in general.

Six months would allow those former municipal politicians over there to reflect on how much property taxes have increased in this province as a result of the direction taken by that crew over there, by that gang. They're the individuals that I used to attend conferences with as a municipal politician, and of course they would be saying the top priority was to keep property taxes low, our property owners can't afford any tax increases.

I've heard those individuals on a regular basis and I could name them, but I'm not going to get into naming them, that's against the rules here in the House. However those municipal representatives, when they were there, were protective of the property taxpayer in this province, but since they came up here to this House, I don't know, for some reason they obtain this theory now that we'll dump on the municipalities and the guys back home will look after it. It's about time that they pinched themselves and realized that the municipalities are stretched beyond any limit that this government could even imagine - that they tugged them across the line, and the six months' hoist would provide the government an opportunity to reflect on this activity.

[Page 9049]

For instance, some of the things - I will get into what they're downloading and the different issues. We see it every day, day after day after day. How can they sit over there and borrow $11,000 every hour of every day and contribute to the overall debt of this province that John Buchanan left them, and Donnie Cameron? They inherited that debt and it's a good thing that we had the Liberal Government since 1993 to manage the debt up until this point because for the next seven years, these guys, this crew over here for the next seven years, approximately, the debt will increase on a regular basis in this province. Every day, every hour, this government borrows $11,000. Imagine running a business - borrow $11,000 an hour over here to balance the books. There are slush funds created all over the place over there. For instance, they're in housing; they're in transportation. They're everywhere; they are in every department over there. The rich minister from Bedford, the Minister of Community Services - $1 million from the women's shelters and the men's programs, and then turn around and say that they consulted with the groups because they rung up the phone in the morning and said, guess what? You're cut - I believe it was $984,000 - see you, and they hang up. That is what their description of consulting means in this province. Imagine. Then, of course, the minister stands up and says, well, we consulted with Nova Scotians on these issues.

Mr. Speaker, the six months' hoist would allow this government to take the direction that the Minister of Community Services thought he was doing when he initiated these cuts to these programs in his department. What he thought he was doing, he wasn't doing. Pinch time, wake up, didn't happen. So the six months would obviously provide an avenue for that minister to go out and consult with those groups. What's wrong with that? I would suggest that's what the minister indicated, but he obviously had to be confused at some sort - maybe he was over-napping or overeating that day; perhaps he was overtired that day. The six months would provide that minister an opportunity to get all systems running on an equal par, and then he could sit down and really consult with Nova Scotians. Isn't that what the minister suggested he wanted to do?

Mr. Speaker, from all reports that we received, that's what Nova Scotians want. Nova Scotians want an opportunity to discuss these issues with the government. It's the government that is refusing; it's the government that refuses to be accountable to the people it represents. Fees and taxes, the previous speaker from - my colleagues from the left over there or the right over there, wherever they're coming from, because any given day - they're from the left one day; the next they're on the right. Today at least they're at the right. (Interruptions)

AN HON. MEMBER: You could just say on the correct part.

ANOTHER HON. MEMBER: He's definitely on the left; he's trying to be on the middle, but he's on the left.

[Page 9050]

MR. BOUDREAU: You know they indicated and spoke a little bit about the amount of money that fees, the fees' increase - there was approximately $104 million, I believe is the figure. The ministers over there and the Premier will stand up and say, we didn't raise any taxes. We didn't increase taxes; a fee is not a tax. Read my lips. Remember that, in 1999? No tax increases. Well, the next time any Nova Scotian who still happens to enjoy the ownership of a car - because many of the seniors and people on fixed incomes who I speak to in this province are in the process of eliminating the burden now because they can't afford this necessity. They have to make a choice.

When those individuals pull into the service station to refuel their tanks, look at the pumps and ask yourselves, did the gas prices increase as a result of tax increases? The answer is simple. The pure simple truth is, yes, taxes did increase at the pumps. They increased all over the map right across Nova Scotia. Imagine, you're borrowing $11,000 each and every hour of every day at a cost of over $100 million this year, added on to the debt, by the way. I may add that we already spend more money, as a result of the Tory Government direction and the choices that they have made this year and in previous years, and we are already paying more to service our debt than we do to educate our children. That is something that I certainly, if I was on that side of the House, would not be too proud of.

What they are really doing over there is playing with the intelligence of all Nova Scotians because they really believe over there, they honestly believe that Nova Scotians are not smart enough or intelligent enough, they're really not up to realizing what the truth is. You know, Mr. Speaker, most ordinary Nova Scotians - and that's a phrase I don't hear too much from that side of the House anymore - can identify with the truth. They can identify what's truth and what is an untruth. Now some people may say an untruth is a lie.

AN HON. MEMBER: You're not allowed to say that.

MR. BOUDREAU: I'm not allowed to say that here, Mr. Speaker. That is not what I said. It is untruthful. Ordinary people, at least the people that I represent, stopped me all weekend. This government is certainly not fooling anybody in my riding. I honestly can't fathom anybody in Halifax believing any of the hogwash that I hear from over there. For instance, the equalization formula. Look at the scam. Originally they wanted the low income earners in Halifax to subsidize property taxes in other areas of this province.

Mr. Speaker, six months would give that government a length of time over there to reflect on where they want to go because, really, if they're smart, what they have to realize, although they still have some breathing room, there's no doubt about that, but what they must recognize on that side of the House is that sooner or later Premier Hamm is going to run out of time. He's going to run out of time and he's not going to be able to protect them back there in the back seats back by the wall. Sooner or later, he's going to have to let them out of the room and go out and knock on doors and say, howdy doody Nova Scotians. This is

[Page 9051]

what we're doing for you - increasing your debt, increasing and adding fees and costs on things that we never paid for before. They increased taxes. They increased property taxes.

Mr. Speaker, this government is out of control. We have a Minister of Finance here who is doing this. This is not a suggestion. This is actually reality time, a reality check. One of my residents said to me this weekend, you know, that Finance Minister they have, he's penny smart and dollar stupid.

[6:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, that pretty well sums it up, doesn't it? They're penny smart and they're dollar stupid. They don't realize; they don't understand the impact that they're having, not only on people with fixed incomes and seniors but children, women in need and people in crisis. It doesn't matter what area of life you look at, this government has impacted on it. The municipalities came along and told them how to do the equalization formula, and they even messed that up. They can't even do something when it's suggested to them; they can't do that right.

Mr. Speaker, the six months' hoist would allow the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations enough time to figure out who's going to pay to service the amount of money that Nova Scotia Power now owes that government. The minister applies this new tax scheme with Nova Scotia Power. They were kind enough that they notified them in writing, all you rich business people at Nova Scotia Power, you don't have to pay your taxes until next January. We will give you a break, we know we're increasing them a lot this year. You guys, we don't want to be too hard on you. You can pay your taxes in the year 2002; you can pay them in January 2003.

Mr. Speaker, what I see wrong with that, what the minister forgot to tell Nova Scotians is that he will be paying out this fund in June. Where does the minister get the money in June if Nova Scotia Power doesn't pay up until January 2003? I would suggest there's only one place the minister is going to get the money, at the same trough that the Finance Minister is getting the $11,000 an hour, every hour, every day. They're borrowing the money. Who pays to service the debt from June to January in regard to the tax account with Nova Scotia Power? I will tell you who pays, the seniors, the people on fixed incomes, the people purchasing gas at service stations tonight, or cigarettes or just about any other item you would want to mention. Just roll into your local service station and ask yourself when you leave there if I just made untruthful statements.

Mr. Speaker, they remain quiet over there, and silent, because they know I'm right. Who pays to service the debt from June to January? The six months would give the minister ample time to come up with some scheme, and maybe he could blame it on a country overseas or something. He is really good at coming up with these phantom ideas. If you really give him six months, it might work for that government over there.

[Page 9052]

Penny-wise, dollar stupid. I believe that gentleman who told me that on the weekend, he hit it right on. Accountability. How about accountability? What accountability, eh? An accountability session over there. Six months would provide them with an opportunity to have an accountability session, and then all Nova Scotians could come in here and witness for themselves what the government looks like, the appearance of the government. Those people down in the Valley (Interruptions) This Minister of Health would like you to believe that people down there are not concerned about paying $6.00 to have their blood work checked.

This is what the minister would like you to believe, you and I in this House, to believe that's okay. That's okay.

Well, you go down to the Valley, Mr. Speaker, and ask those people on fixed incomes, seniors and people on low incomes, ask them for yourself and perhaps in the six months you could get them involved. As we're all aware, you are a member of the government, Mr. Speaker. You are a member of that proud crew over there and if I ever need a picture of them over there, I'll be certain to have you included in it. But perhaps you, Mr. Speaker, could go out on behalf of the government and bring a report in for all members of the House. You would have six months to do it, six whole months. Six whole months, you could go out and spend all the free money, cards, and they could all travel around the province. They could really have a solid vacation before they're defeated in the next election because that's what will happen to them, each and every one of them, and that's the Tory way, isn't it? Isn't that the Tory way? Give me the credit card and I will go and then the Liberals come along and got to fix it all up. It's just like what happened in 1993. (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, some of them over there, and I'm not going to call any of them names tonight, sometimes they're called different names, but I'm not into names actually. In any event, they're hollering out health cards and all this stuff. Well, you can thank the honourable Ron Stewart for the elite ambulance service that's in this province and until this gang came along and transferred hospitals, they're trying to get hospitals into the ambulances. Now, somebody should tell that government over there that it doesn't fit. It doesn't fit. It just simply doesn't fit and it doesn't fit because ambulances were never designed to be mobile hospitals. In fact, I could tell you that a six months' hoist could do another thing.

The honourable member for Cape Breton North, Mr. Speaker, is down boasting in Cape Breton on the Northside, and it's adjacent to my area and most of the members over there are aware of that, and I hear these rumors that he's down there boasting he has $2 million to build an ice rink, a sports complex. You know, the hospital has got no emergency wards. They don't know now when they get an emergency, you don't have any confidence in the hospital. When you get in the car, you don't know whether to go to Sydney Regional or go to North Sydney.

[Page 9053]

The beds are all getting turned over, Mr. Speaker, they turn more short-term care beds into long-term care beds, it's like they just flip, flip. People down there just can't believe it. Even nurses tell me, they go home from work after working 12 hours to 15 hours. They get up the next morning after having a short sleep. They go to work and the beds are changed. They're now long-term acute care beds. The maternity ward now, they don't even want people having babies at the Northside any more. You have to go somewhere else to have a baby and that is their inability to attract doctors. Do you know why they can't attract doctors? It's simple. The education system is being destroyed, dismantled by the Minister of Education. She doesn't have a problem doing that, of course, because she doesn't like Cape Breton anyway. I mean that was quite obvious during the last provincial election when she was passing out the flyers which all said they were going to close Sysco and open hospital beds.

Well, Mr. Speaker, they did close Sysco, but I would like to know where the hospital beds were opened because every facility that we're aware of the beds are closing. The beds are closing. They're closing; the plan is not working; the game is over. This government really has to sit down and realize after two and a half years that they have the responsibility to govern the Province of Nova Scotia. That's what they have to try to fathom.

Six months would allow the member for Cape Breton North to come forth and go out and explain, tell us, because this is pretty important. He's committing $2 million to a project in his riding when the total budget for the entire Province of Nova Scotia is $1.6 million. I don't know what kind of math - I mean, I went to school and I know many of my teachers, they taught me math, this doesn't add up. If you have something here that costs $2.00 and you have $1.60 here, how can you buy it? How can you purchase a $2 million item with $1.6 million? I will tell you how. I will tell you how. This is the Tory way, this is why it's necessary to borrow $11,000 per hour for every hour of every day for every month of the year. That's why they borrow the money. This is why they think they're going to pull the wool over the eyes of all Nova Scotians and say, here we got the money and nobody's going to ask where they got it from. It's borrowed money.

That's why somebody should tell the Finance Minister over there - and he was here during the John Buchanan years, and that really concerns me because it's obvious that he's a "pop-off" of John Buchanan. And you know the debt that was borrowed during that scenario, whatever you want to call it, for 15 years each and every year. Now it's at the point where we pay more money to service the debt or the interest on the loans than they over there could find to educate the children in Nova Scotia; they now pay more money to service that debt than they spend on education in this province.

Teachers are being laid off, schools are being closed. They're even closing schools in Halifax. But this is the government over here that pretended - pretended - that they were the government of rural Nova Scotia. Remember that? Rural Nova Scotia. Well, well, well. This is why they need the six months, they could get another plan because this simply does not

[Page 9054]

fit. It won't fit the next time. They're not going to be able to go out there knocking on those doors saying we are the government of rural Nova Scotia, we have a plan.

We already heard that. It would be like an echo. That's all you hear, echoes and burps and other things coming from over there. So the six months' hoist, in all fairness, would be to the advantage of the government. They could use this time, really they could have vacations, they could go out into Nova Scotia, they could get that vacation that the Tories always enjoy before a general election because when they're defeated, at least they would have had their vacations.

I don't know, Mr. Speaker, this is the other trick they are up to. They buy hospital equipment with federal money. They take the money and they hide it. This year, even the Finance Minister doesn't know where he hid it. He hid it somewhere and he forgot about it. So to give the Minister of Finance a six months' hoist is an ideal situation for him. It's an ideal suggestion. All he's got to do is stand back and say, look, I didn't want to take six months to go and see if I could find the $15 million for medical equipment for the hospitals in the Province of Nova Scotia that the Honourable Allan Rock gave me when he was the federal Health Minister. I'm going to take the six months to go out and find out where I put it. He can take six months, and there are a few bank accounts, he's probably got a few swirling around, a slush fund here or there. He could check all these funds within six months and if Nova Scotians question why he was doing this, he could blame it on us. He could blame it on the Opposition. That's what he's been doing for two and a half years.

Mr. Speaker, it's kind of hilarious when we talk about new roads in this province, there hasn't been one road, other than the road that I classify as an emergency on Route 4, because when you couldn't see the guardrail anymore after it fell into the lake, about 200 or 300 feet straight down, yes, the Minister of Transportation and Public Works was kind enough to repair that section of road. I'm going to tell you that the people in that area - it's in the area of my colleague, the honourable member for Cape Breton West - the local residents, are very grateful and I want to thank the minister too. The only thing they're hopeful for is the section down the road a little bit that it falls into the lake too because then he will fix that this year before somebody gets killed there. So that's what they're hoping for.

So maybe the six months would provide that minister six months' grace and at the end of the six months maybe he will get lucky and the guardrail will be gone and it will be gone in the lake and he will be able to go down there and pave that section of the road to ensure the safety of all the residents who use it, visitors and the tourists who go through that road from Port Hawkesbury to Sydney each and every year, Mr. Speaker. So the six months' hoist, really, I don't understand why they get all uptight when the Opposition members make a suggestion. You don't need to tell us we need six months to do this and six months to do that. Nova Scotians have been watching this government now for two and a half years. Nova Scotians know their capabilities, their abilities and their disabilities. The people who I speak to have themselves familiar with this government like you wouldn't believe and they're

[Page 9055]

waiting. Six months would give these guys the opportunity to regroup, reorganize, and perhaps they could maybe even find another Minister of Environment and Labour over there, maybe they could find another one like him. That way I am sure that would ensure that they could get through at least the mandate that John Hamm was given when he was elected Premier in 1999.

[6:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, here they are with housing problems all over the Province of Nova Scotia, every area of the province. These guys have $9.4 million sitting in a slush fund and you know what they're going to do with it? Probably six months before they come into an election they will start pouring it out, RRAP grants and maybe the odd senior citizen housing here. I just want the backbenchers over there to realize, because I don't know if they looked at the budget, I don't know if they realize that they have money hid everywhere in every department for a lot of other things than what is being budgeted for. I hope that the honourable members in the back rows back there in that government are going to get their share. But see, they're not going to get their share because the gang up front there, the Premier's dozen or Baker's dozen - I don't know what you want to call them, these guys on the front row over here - they don't tell them anything. One suggestion I would make to my former colleagues over there is get the budget documents out, gentlemen. Take them out and look in them, for heaven's sake, and you will see what we see. If you have any problem understanding what all those different figures and lines mean, come over here and we will help you.

Mr. Speaker, six months will give the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations ample time to figure out what seats he wants to win in the next election so he can spend all the money in those ridings. This sounds like a lot of money, $9.4 million. What we must realize is that half of that is federal money, $4.7 million to be exact. It was a 50/50 program; they had to put $4.7 million in with it. It's a pretty good deal; you borrow the money and you get double the money. I guess that's the theory they're coming forward with. I can't understand why they think people don't understand that they're borrowing money. You borrow $11,000 every hour of every day for every day of the year, which amounts to over $100 million, by the way, being added.

Somebody asked me on the weekend, where did the honourable Minister of Tourism and Culture obtain $10 million to replace a bridge in Margaree? I'm glad he did, but it's borrowed money. It amounts to borrowed money. When a government has an opportunity to take this six months' hoist seriously, they could go all about and then the minister could explain why they're borrowing $11,000 every hour to build bridges in Margaree or sports complexes in North Sydney. I could go on and on. Every riding over there will have borrowed money spent in it, and they will try to buy their seats back. That's what they're going to do, the same as they did in 1993. If they think for one minute that when they knock on the doors - they better hope it won't be near property tax time. See, the six months is a

[Page 9056]

good idea. They could go out and put a timeline. The six months would give them the time to go out and figure out a time when they could maybe go to the polls. That would be pretty hard to figure out, wouldn't it, when that gang over there could go to the polls safely?

The six months is probably an amount of time that they would require to come in with a date. If they think for one minute that they're fooling the people of Nova Scotia with these fees - now I didn't say fleas, Mr. Speaker, I said fees. I didn't suggest there were any fleas over there; I'm not saying that. I will tell you one thing, they obviously have a problem with fees, because they have created and increased more fees in the history of Nova Scotia. Mr. Speaker, if we look at it overall, I would suggest that they're embarrassing Nova Scotia, not only on the country scenario, but worldwide because the bottom line is they're borrowing money to pretend they're balancing the budget. Increasing debt in this province is in no way a responsible manner in which to govern.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I need a bridge, too, in my area. In fact, the Minister of Transportation and Public Works was kind enough to condemn it and cut it off and put up a temporary structure - a Bailey bridge - and he made the commitment that he would replace that bridge this year, but he tells me he doesn't have the money. He had to borrow the money to go put it down in Margaree. So that's the difference with this borrowed money. You see, they'll spend the borrowed money in Tory ridings, but they won't spend the borrowed money in ridings held by Opposition members. If the Minister of Transportation and Public Works has ample money to replace bridges in his budget, then I would suggest he should start replacing the ones that he already has condemned first and then he should move on and replace them as they go - some kind of process. So that's why the six months' hoist is a good idea.

The six months, Mr. Speaker, would be ideal. I know if I was sitting over there, I would welcome the six months because then maybe I could sit down and talk to the Health Minister. I would have an opportunity to stop him from his very busy schedule that he's always telling them that he has. They could really sit him down and ask him to honestly tell them why people down in the Valley now have to pay $6.00 to get their blood work done. If we can't find out from this side of the House, those members over there have a responsibility as well. Perhaps they should find out for us. If the minister does not want to be truthful with the members of the Opposition, then the members of the backbench should hold that minister and that government accountable for the destruction that they're causing the residents of the Province of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, you know, I'm not going to dwell on the fact whether a fee - Mr. Speaker, I know sometimes you get upset, I'm not saying flea, you can take the "l" out of there. I'm saying fee and, you know, over there they say, well, a fee is not a tax. It is not a tax. A fee is not a tax and I and we over here, we say that a fee is indeed a tax.

AN HON. MEMBER: We know the difference over here.

[Page 9057]

MR. BOUDREAU: Now, there's an argument in this House, Mr. Speaker, and for me, where I'm sitting, I accept what happens here. I accept this over here. When I look around, my honourable colleague, the member for Glace Bay, and I are very fortunate to sit in this caucus.

MR. DAVID WILSON: Proud and privileged.

MR. BOUDREAU: When I look at the abilities and the qualifications of the individuals, every one of those former ministers are very well experienced in government, and we discussed this, whether a fee is a fee or a tax. We believe, and my colleagues believe that a fee and if you recall during debate here this afternoon, I heard a little bit of jostling here when the honourable member for Cape Breton West was on his feet. The honourable member for the beautiful Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley stood up and admitted that a fee was a tax and I believe the record will show that, Mr. Speaker, tomorrow. He can check Hansard to see and actually realize that maybe if he sits down for a minute and reads it twice, he will understand what he said. For those of us who were sitting here being entertained by him we were very clear at what he said.

[6:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, the six months' hoist would give the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries time to go down to the farmers, since he hasn't been down there yet. They don't call, they haven't - he obviously doesn't talk to the farmers in Cape Breton. This (Interruptions) Hello, there are farmers on Cape Breton Island. Just last year, this is the type - the minister would welcome the six months' grace, this hoist bill would give him an opportunity to go down there and hire the agricultural specialist that he promised that he would put down there this year, committed to here in this House the other day. It would give him six months to go down there and explain to the farmers why he didn't even bother notifying them that they were being infested with pests and fees.

AN HON. MEMBER: Not fleas.

MR. BOUDREAU: Fees and pests last year. There were Tory fees and live pests.

AN HON. MEMBER: You've got it now, you're on a roll.

MR. BOUDREAU: They're live pests. They've been called a lot worse than that on the sidewalks, I'm sure, in various towns and villages throughout Nova Scotia. They're the former closest-to-the-people guys, remember? (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, the six months' hoist would give the Agriculture Minister an opportunity to come down there, and I'd go with him and explain to the farmers why he didn't bother notifying them last year when their crops were attacked by not only the fees imposed by him

[Page 9058]

and his department and his government, but by real live pests that were alive and well on the mainland and moving toward Cape Breton.

Perhaps the Minister of Tourism and Culture may pay particular interest to this comment because he was the minister who stood up here in this House the other day and he said, I will fight for Cape Breton. Let's just see how much fighting he's going to do for the rest of his term because in the last two and a half years that I've sat here, I didn't see any arguments coming from over there. All he was was transformed into a yes man, all of a sudden he's a Hamm yes man. Maybe by the way, when the Minister of Agriculture is down there he can not only put the specialist in place, he can also put the other services that are available to farmers on the mainland. Perhaps the Honourable Minister of Agriculture could assure the farmers in Cape Breton that those services will be in fact available to them; some time at least in the future if not today because last year they didn't get any. They don't even get phone calls.

Mr. Speaker, this is in an area that an industry contributes over $20 million in industrial Cape Breton. This honourable minister doesn't even have the time to call them up and tell them and warn them that their crops are threatened. Only for the ability and the knowledge of the local farmers down there they probably would have lost the entire crop of turnip at least.

They got fooled, maybe that's what they wanted to do because after what we've seen what they did with the steel plant, maybe they want to do that with the farming industry too. But they got fooled because the farmers in Cape Breton are very well versed in operating farms in this province, I can assure you. Because of their knowledge and their abilities and their skills they got through the turmoil themselves. They fought the battle themselves and they won and they should be congratulated for that. Of course, there's not too many congratulatory comments coming from the Agriculture Minister because he doesn't want anybody in Nova Scotia to know how he treats the farmers in Cape Breton, he doesn't want anybody to know that.

Six months, Mr. Speaker, six months would allow that minister and his staff to sit down, and perhaps, since it didn't work, maybe sit him down and work on him for six months because for two and a half years they never got the message through yet. For six months they could sit him in the chair and work on him and maybe they could get him to understand that he has a responsibility in regard to the food in this province, particularly when it's grown by farmers in the Province of Nova Scotia. It doesn't matter whether they're located in Cape Breton or the Eastern Shore or the South Shore, it doesn't matter. A farmer is a farmer and those services should be made readily available for each and every one of them. Each and every farmer. Don't separate them. Divide and conquer.

[Page 9059]

It will be interesting, Mr. Speaker. Too bad I couldn't witness some of the knocking on doors because I know down in Margaree if the honourable Minister of Tourism and Culture thinks building a bridge down there is going to save him, well he had better start speaking to the people in his constituency on a regular basis and start dealing with the issues that are affecting them in their daily lives every day of the week.

AN HON. MEMBER: He will have to look for more weak bridges . . .

MR. BOUDREAU: Yeah, he will have to look for some weak bridges. If he can't find any more bridges that are broken down, I got them readily available in my riding, Mr. Minister, so you just come on up to Cape Breton The Lakes and I can show you where they're at.

Another minister accepted the recommendation of the former government. Now, this is the theory of this government over there - he accepted the recommendation that was on file with regard to the Highland Village at Iona and approved it to be a museum. This is what the minister did. I do appreciate that because that is a very important facility for not only Victoria but for Cape Breton The Lakes and for his area as well and for the entire industrial Cape Breton, the entire Province of Nova Scotia when we look at promoting tourism. It's a major facility that we can build upon. The other day, last week, I asked the minister in a general conversation, has he approached the Minister of Transportation and Public Works with regard to paving Route 223? What would I do that for he said, what would I do that for Duh.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member is nearing the end of his time, but I would ask him to bring his comments back to the six months' hoist. You have about three minutes left. The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes has the floor.

MR. BOUDREAU: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The six months - I haven't finished yet and you're jumping to conclusions - the six months would give this minister enough time to sit down and recognize that when you have a facility like the Highland Village, you have to have a way to get to it. You can't take helicopters in there continually because the roads are that bad leading to this facility, Mr. Speaker. The road will be paved, eventually. Whether this government decides to use some of the borrowed money that they're borrowing every hour for every day for every month for every year for the next seven years then, sooner or later, if they don't pave Route 223, maybe the minister down there has some wood roads or something he wants to pave and he might be able to promote tourism back in the woods down there somewhere.

Mr. Speaker, penny-wise, dollar stupid. That about sums the whole government up. Those former municipal politicians over there, I will give you the message you're going to hear and the Premier can hold them back so long but, sooner or later, knock knock, here we go, oh Mr. Hamm. What are we going to do this time? The people are not going to fall for mistruths, misinformation or be misled this time. It won't happen twice in a row. Six months

[Page 9060]

would be an ideal opportunity for this government to reflect on the damage they are imposing on the lives of Nova Scotians each and every day of the week. Those former municipal politicians over there, the message I'd like to tell them before I sit down is they should be ashamed.

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

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, there's that old saying in show business, don't follow animals and small children, I think, isn't it? The Minister of Tourism and Culture might know the saying, but in politics, I guess it is, don't follow a member from Cape Breton because they have such a skill at speaking that it's difficult sometimes to follow them.

I want to talk, Mr. Speaker, about this hoist that we have before us. It's a very important hoist motion that was brought forward by my colleague, the honourable member for Halifax Fairview, and it's important for the very reasons that this government has brought forward this budget. They have told us that this is a balanced budget and that this is the first balanced budget in 40 years. I think it's important that Nova Scotians have an opportunity to debate this budget and to debate, quite frankly, whether it is actually balanced, something that I'll talk about a little later.

Mr. Speaker, I would suggest to you that a $1.3 million surplus on more than $5 billion in revenue is not much of a surplus. Actually I think someone worked it out to 0.03 per cent surplus with regard to this budget. That is within the margin of error in most accounting circles. I would suggest that what we have here is a budget that could very easily be tilted into deficit again, not unlike the budget that was introduced by the honourable member for Lunenburg West when he was the Minister of Finance.

AN HON. MEMBER: Oh, come on. It wasn't that bad.

MR. DEVEAUX: Well, he said there would be a $1 million surplus. The only difference between that budget and this budget, Mr. Speaker, is that the honourable member for Lunenburg West, when he provided his "surplus of $1 million," it did not even last 24 hours. We all remember, those of us who were in the House, that he hadn't even left the Red Room and it moved from a $1 million surplus to a deficit. There's a joke that we sometimes say here in the House; it's get the Hoover out because between the Red Room and this Chamber, which is only probably 50, 60 or 70 feet, there's $1 million hidden in the rug somewhere. If you get the Hoover out, you might be able to find that $1 million.

[Page 9061]

[7:00 p.m.]

That's why we need six months, Mr. Speaker. We need six months to debate whether this is actually a budget that is in surplus or whether we're going to have the 41st straight deficit in Nova Scotia history. That is why it is important to debate this budget and the Financial Measures (2002) Act. Some of the changes that this budget has brought forward are in this Financial Measures (2002) Act. They're in Bill No. 109, and a six months' hoist would give us an opportunity to debate the direction in which this government is going.

I particularly want to talk about education, Mr. Speaker, because it's my critic area. It's an issue that's near and dear to my constituents. I have what I consider a young riding, a riding on the outskirts of Dartmouth, a suburban riding with many families and many children who are in school. Yes, there are those who are concerned about health in my riding, but education, I would suggest, is probably an issue paramount in the minds of most in my riding. I think it's an issue that needs some discussion and I'm glad to have an hour's time in this House to be able to speak about that because this government has made some fairly bold decisions and has tried to paint itself as a government that is defending the taxpayers' dollars and trying to wrestle control from overspending school board superintendents and staff as a means of ensuring that they will save every dollar possible in the school system and put it into the classrooms.

Well, Mr. Speaker, the problem is that there is example after example of how this government is penny-wise and pound foolish. I think it's important that we actually have an opportunity to debate these issues. The Financial Measures (2002) Act, if we had six months to review it, we would have an opportunity to talk specifically about the parts of the Financial Measures (2002) Act that deal with accountability, and let me say for the record that there are provisions in here with regard to accountability that I think are good provisions. There are provisions in this bill relating to accountability of school boards that talk about auditing committees, for example, or external auditors, which I think are legitimate means of trying to ensure that our school boards are properly spending the money that our taxes are going towards.

The problem is, Mr. Speaker, that the issue is much bigger than that. The issue is much bigger than auditing committees or auditors. It's an issue of who should be trusted to ensure that our tax dollars are being spent wisely in the classroom. Is it locally-elected officials of our school boards? Is it a Minister of Education who has absolute control? Well, I would suggest to you it's more the former and less the latter, and that is why we need six months to give Nova Scotians an opportunity. Do the people in Digby Neck or Lockeport or Baddeck want most, if not all, of the crucial decisions with regard to their schools being made in Halifax? I would suggest to you that no, they would not.

[Page 9062]

The provisions in the Financial Measures (2002) Act don't talk about that. They talk about accountability. They talk about auditing and, as I said, those are decent provisions, but the same day that this legislation was introduced and we talked about these types of changes and accountability - I think it was the Minister of Finance, on behalf of the Minister of Education, who spelled out these accountability changes. We had the Minister of Education, who wasn't here that day, down in Antigonish, or was it Port Hawkesbury or somewhere in that area, telling us that she was going to take over control of the Strait area school board as she had done with the Southwest Regional School Board.

Mr. Speaker, that is why these two are so closely tied together. It's not a coincidence they happened on the same day. There are provisions in this legislation with regard to accountability, and our Party has said that they are good provisions, that came forward from the auditor's report that came out a couple of months ago - the one that we have actually not seen in full - that made certain recommendations around auditing. I always have one caveat with regard to auditing and I think it's six months we could use to talk a bit about this very specific issue because most recently we've had a lot of debate in North America about the role of auditors, we've had a lot of debate about how auditors should be selected.

That all goes back to the Enron scandal in the United States. Very specifically, that Enron scandal, amongst other things, dealt with a very specific issue, should we have auditors who are so closely tied to a certain company that they become dependent on the contract to be an external auditor and therefore we no longer get an unbiased audit? These companies, they want to keep their contract, they want to be able to keep doing that auditing work because it is a very lucrative business for them, whether it's Arthur Andersen or KPMG or a local chartered accountant running their own firm, they need that work so instead of being as honest and as upfront about the books as they're supposed to be as external auditors, they end up becoming too closely tied to the company, too dependent on the work or maybe even getting other work on the side, doing managerial consulting or maybe they're doing certified managerial accounting work and that results in that company not being as honest and forthright as possible.

That's what happened in Enron; that's what's happening in other companies around North America, maybe around the world. What we need to ensure in this legislation is that if we are hiring external auditors, that those auditors are not going to in the end, in 2, 5 or 10 years become so tied to a local school board - because let's face it, in some parts of this province having a contract to be the external auditor for the Southwest Regional School Board or the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board or the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board could be one of the most lucrative contracts in those communities. How can we ensure that an external auditor is going to remain unbiased?

I'm not trying to impugn the reputation of accountants, no more than has already happened through the Enron scandal and everything that's on the public record, but the fact is we need to ensure that auditors are going to be auditors who will remain unbiased and

[Page 9063]

independent. There have to be controls in the legislation to do that. That's a principle of the legislation, that's a principle of accounting, and I hope it's something we can talk about as this legislation comes forward and through to the Law Amendments Committee.

But the bigger issue, Mr. Speaker, is about accountability. It's about accountability and who in this province should we trust to ensure our taxpayer dollars are being spent properly. We have a Minister of Education who has consistently downloaded decisions on our school boards, and I'm going to give you a couple of examples. Many of us will remember back in the year 2000 - as the government likes to say - their first budget. They did bring one out in the fall of 1999, but their first budget in the spring of 2000. We always remember those famous sayings from the Minister of Education, 50 kids in a classroom is okay, there aren't going to be that many - at the time there was a debate over whether we would have 700 or 800 teachers laid off, that's what the school boards were saying, that's what the Teachers Union was saying, but the Minister of Education claimed it would be much lower, through attrition and through other things, maybe only 100 teachers would be laid off.

It was a very controversial debate. Many of us will remember the protests out on Granville Street and around this Legislature, of students, of parents, of teachers, who were very upset with what was being done to our education system. In the midst of all that, as a means to try to defray the protest, as a means of trying to appease those who were very concerned about what this would mean to our education system, the Minister of Education went out and had a meeting - I very clearly remember this, we were sitting a little further to the left in the Opposition benches at the time - with unions and school boards to try to resolve this issue.

She came here, in the seat that she's still in today, and she stood up and made a statement saying, we have come to an agreement that will ensure that very few layoffs will occur. I think she had it under 100 or something like that, which is what she needed to save face. She needed to save face and say very few teachers will be laid off. How did she do it? She did it by specifically laying out policies and I think maybe even regulations that allowed school boards to move staff off the books. They had until the end of June 2000 in which to find ways of getting teachers off the books. Some of it would be done by secondment, some of it would be done by sabbatical, some would be early retirement packages, but there were various means - I think there were four - in which she laid out, that would allow beyond regular retirement for the school boards to move teachers and staff off the books, so that instead of having to lay off 700 teachers, they only had to lay off 100 or so.

The Minister of Education passed those regulations, imposed those policies as a means of saving face, and saved political face at that moment. While among other things, do you know what happened as a direct result of that, Mr. Speaker? We had, Mr. Sullivan, the Superintendent of the Strait Regional School Board use those policies . . .

MR. DAVID HENDSBEE: Jackpot Sullivan.

[Page 9064]

MR. DEVEAUX: Well the honourable member for Preston says Jackpot Sullivan. Maybe that is his name, I don't know, but here's the point. He took those policies that the Minister of Education imposed for purely political reasons to save face and he decided to take that policy and help his friends. Four of his friends were actually able to get very nice sweetheart deals that got them off the books. They were handed very good severance packages. They were handed jobs on corporations that were doing economic development that were only tangentially related to the school board yet still owned by the school board.

Mr. Speaker, these are the things that were done as a direct result of this Minister of Education trying to save political face in the year 2000. This wasn't something done by the Liberals four or five years earlier. We can blame them for the Jack Sullivan contract, but the contracts of those four members, which all came out a few months ago, very lucrative contracts, contracts that resulted in Mr. MacNeil having practically as lucrative a contract as Mr. Sullivan, with very nice mileage contracts like guaranteed mileage money every month, other benefits, travel benefits and so on. Those four lucrative contracts were a direct result of the Minister of Education imposing policies in order to save political face.

Now my point is, Mr. Speaker, in the next six months, the people of Nova Scotia would have an opportunity to debate whether a Minister of Education that's willing to save political face and at the same time it results directly in the squandering of taxpayers' dollars, is someone who can be trusted to ensure our taxpayers' dollars are going to be spent properly, whether it be in Port Hawkesbury, Antigonish, Digby or Halifax. We need a government that's going to ensure our tax dollars are being spent properly and that there's accountability for. This Minister of Education has failed to prove that she's the one that can do that. She's tried in the last year to say that she was. She's attempted to say that she is the one who can ensure Nova Scotians can trust her to protect them against the bad, evil school boards that are ripping them off.

Well, Mr. Speaker, the fact is that it's her own policies, her own regulations that she created in order to get out of a political bind, a political hole she dug for herself that resulted in many people on the school boards getting lucrative contracts and wasting taxpayer dollars. That is what is wrong with this government. That is why they're not accountable for the tax dollars. It doesn't matter what the Minister of Education says to try to make herself out to be a very good Minister of Education willing to protect our children in the classroom. The fact is and the facts will bear out that she's directly responsible for those four contracts that wasted taxpayer dollars.

Example number two around the Strait Area Regional School Board as well, Mr. Speaker. Strathspey Place. This is an auditorium attached to a school in Mabou, a P3 school in which this Minister of Education allowed $1 million to walk out the door of her department and she had no guarantees that money would ever be paid back. We hear in the paper this weekend that she expects the community to fund raise for it. She expects them to do bottle drives or chocolate bar sales or fiddling contests maybe with the MLA for the area.

[Page 9065]

The fact is that that Minister of Education allowed $1 million of taxpayers' dollars to walk out the door of the Department of Education and she had no legal guarantees to ensure that money would be paid back.

In Supply debate, she said that Mr. Sullivan had promised, promised on his word, that he would pay it back or that ACOA would pay it back. But the fact is, Mr. Speaker, that she allowed it to go out that door. She also tried to blame it on others saying the deal was done. It's pretty clear if someone reads the Supply debate that the deal was not done. She had every opportunity to stop it. She had every opportunity to do the due diligence to ensure that there were going to be legal guarantees, that ACOA or the school board or someone would pay back that money. This was a loan. This wasn't a grant. In the next six months, the people of Nova Scotia could have the opportunity to investigate this, to actually see whether the Minister of Education is accountable for the tax dollars that she is wasting, the $1 million. She's never really explained if some was paid back or not, but she claims now the amount is $680,000-odd that is still owing. The Minister of Education believes she will never see that money again. She believes that that money will never be seen, unless of course bottle drives will cover the cost.

It's pretty clear that the Minister of Education allowed that money to go out the door

without any legal guarantees that she would get that money back. A verbal commitment from the superintendent of the Strait Regional School Board that someone would pay her back, ACOA, the school board, ECBC - that's not good enough. Anyone who has any sense of responsibility to the taxpayers who elected her as the Minister of Education - elected that government and she was appointed the Minister of Education - must believe that she has the brains and the smarts to ensure that there would be some form of legal guarantee. That there would be something in writing to say, if I loan $1 million on behalf of the people of Nova Scotia, that money will be paid back. The Minister of Education had none of that and as a result, we see $1 million walk out of the door of the Department of Education and there's no chance we'll get most of that money back.

[7:15 p.m.]

When we talk about accountability, it's not about the fine tuning of whether we have auditing committees, it's not a matter of having external auditors, because, quite frankly, all the auditing committees and all the external auditors in the world would not have stopped the Minister of Education from passing policies that created lucrative contracts for the friends of Mr. Sullivan. All of the auditing committees and external auditors in the world would never have stopped her from letting that money go out the door without any legal guarantees of getting it back. As a result, we have a situation where we have a Minister of Education that consistently tries to claim that she's the one, she's the person who will save our parents and our children from having tax dollars wasted when time after time we see that she's the one who is actually wasting that money. She's the direct result of so much waste in our system.

[Page 9066]

Then, at the same time - and I want to go on to talk about special needs education - we have a Minister of Education, when asked by her own committee to increase funding in the classroom, directly in the classroom, she tells us I can't do it. I think the quote on the weekend was, well, there's just no money. That's too bad. But, it isn't too bad. What we saw on Friday with regard to special needs education was one example in Digby of a very sad and serious situation. The Minister of Education stood in this House and she said to us, this is not a matter of a lack of resources, there were psychologists, there were speech therapists and as a result of that, the teacher still didn't do their job. This goes back again to what this Minister of Education has a tendency to do. She tries to paint everything black and white, with her being the saviour and the Teachers Union and teachers and the school boards being the evil people who are destroying our education system and preventing our children from learning. It isn't that black and white.

Specifically, I want to talk a bit about that Digby case because I went to the press conference on Friday afternoon and listened to the parents talk about their son and the horrible circumstances which he faced. Over the next six months, if we pass this hoist, we would have an opportunity in Nova Scotia as taxpayers to talk about whether or not the Minister of Education is ensuring dollars are getting directly into the classroom. I want to back up. The Minister of Education stood in her position as Minister of Education Friday morning and specifically stated in her statement, this is not an issue of resources. Psychologists and speech therapists were available. No more than three hours later at the Delta Barrington at a press conference, the parents of that child in Digby stated that if the resources were there, this would not happen. They basically told the Minister of Education that she was wrong, that there weren't the resources.

A specific example, the Minister of Education says there were psychologists available - the parents tell a different story. A psychologist would show up maybe once or twice a year to help their son. That's it - once or twice a year. Is that resources available? Well, technically correct - they might be available, but once or twice a year is not going to ensure that their child or any child with special needs will get the help they need to be able to learn to their fullest capacity. It will not help the teachers to be able to ensure that everyone in that classroom is learning to their full capacity.

Today I heard of a case where a speech therapist was supposed to spend time with a young disabled child, supposed to give 22 sessions. In the past eight months, only able to attend 10 of them because the speech therapist was too busy. That's not enough to ensure the child would be able to meet their full potential. Yet, this Minister of Education continues to stand in this House and claim that she is not diverting or preventing resources from getting into the classroom to help special needs children. Well, I tell you, Mr. Speaker, that is wrong. That is wrong. Our children are suffering. Our children with intellectual and physical disabilities are suffering; every child in the classroom is suffering because this Minister of Education, when push comes to shove, is not ensuring that the money is going directly into the classroom. It can go to Strathspey Place in Mabou; it can go to nice contracts for the

[Page 9067]

friends of Mr. Sullivan as a direct result of her actions, but it isn't going into special needs education. That is what is wrong and that is why we don't really have accountability in this province, because the Minister of Education hasn't ensured that dollars are going into the classroom.

I want to talk a bit more about special needs education because it is a very important issue, not only because of what happened the other day in Digby or around that circumstance, but just generally. This is an issue that, in many ways, is in full debate in our education system. There are many members of this House who are teachers, who may be teachers again, and they know full well what inclusion has done to the classroom. I think it is 12 or 14 years ago that we had a court case where the Charter was used to argue that children with special needs have the right to learn in the classroom like everyone else. Many of us who went to school in the 1970s and 1980s, and those who went before, will remember the special ed classes. These were classes at the end of the school or in the basement that were special classes for those with some form of disability - behaviourial, learning, intellectual, physical, mental. These children were always different because they were never in our classrooms.

The whole point of inclusion was to ensure that we would have those children in our classrooms so they could learn like everyone else. Many people will tell you now that teachers today are already teaching to five different levels in a class from the children who are advanced to the children who are slightly below average. There are various levels of education going on in that classroom, so what's the problem with teaching children with special needs? Well, it is slightly different. Those needs have to be addressed and those needs change every year. There are children with Down's syndrome, cerebral palsy, intellectual disabilities, and behaviourial disabilities like ADD, ADHD or Tourette's syndrome. They are all very different and they have to be treated differently.

The problem is that in the last 14 years, since that court case came out, the Department of Education has paid lip service to inclusion and at the same time has not properly funded the system. We have teachers who are doing more and more with less and less - less support in speech therapists, school psychologists, and in the sense that they have more children in their classrooms as classroom sizes burgeon. At the same time, these teachers have not been given the support they need. In the last 14 years it has resulted in a very divisive debate, a debate which in many cases has not been very pretty and is one that I worry about over the next few months and years because it has created this sense of division in our classrooms. There are those who have children who would be considered - I think some people call the term typical or normal learning ability, and they will claim, sometimes, and you hear it. They don't talk about it publicly; they understand that political correctness prevents them from saying it, but they will say it in the quiet corner. They will say, my children are having trouble learning, and they point the blame at the children with special needs.

[Page 9068]

Mr. Speaker, at the same time, you have parents of special needs children who will say, my child is not learning and it is not a safe environment for my child. Instead of inclusion working to build harmony and create a more inclusive - as the term defines - education system, we are creating more division. This is the problem that we have right now. We have an education system that, because of the lack of funding, the lack of vision, and the lack of leadership from this Minister of Education, we don't have the ability to ensure that our children, no matter their level of education, intellectual ability, or physical ability, will get the education they need. In the next six months we could use this hoist motion to talk to the people of Nova Scotia about how we can fund our education system and, specifically, how we can fund special needs education.

I travel to the classrooms, and I travel to every school in my area on an annual basis. In the fall I go around and meet with the principals in my area. I meet with the PTOs, the home and school associations, and the school advisory councils, and special needs is an issue that constantly comes up. It's not just ones with high needs but also those with behaviourial issues that need to be addressed and are not being addressed. One of the answers that seems to be coming up since the four years that I got elected is something called learning centres. This is a very interesting debate. I don't have the answer to it. I'm not an educational professional but I think it's important that we at least identify that this is an issue that has arisen. Learning centres are popping up throughout elementary and junior high schools. Now, in junior high and in high schools they have a specific role, Mr. Speaker, they have a role of preparing certain children with certain disabilities for the world, to make them be as independent as possible. No one would disagree that at that age, 13,14, 16, 17, there is a need; the problem is we have learning centres now cropping up in elementary schools.

What's a learning centre? A learning centre is a separate room with a resource teacher and a couple of TAs, teacher assistants, or program assistants - there are different names for them, EPAs, PSTs, TAs - and the children with disabilities are sent there from time to time. What percentage? No one will really tell you. It could be 10 per cent, it could be 100 per cent, there is no clear definition. I asked this in the Supply debate, Mr. Speaker; the Minister of Education has not laid out any specific guidelines or policies around how learning centres will be used. So what you have is a situation where, instead of those children under inclusion being in the classroom 100 per cent, they could be in a separate class down the hall for anywhere between 10 per cent and 90 per cent or 100 per cent of their day. Well, it begs the question, is this the slippery slope towards those special ed classes again? In the next six months we need an opportunity to debate whether or not that's where Nova Scotians want to go.

Many will tell you that that isn't right. That there is a constitutional right for their children to be able to learn in the classroom. They're right, Mr. Speaker. Others will say that the learning centre is a very valuable tool in ensuring that education can be provided in a mixed setting, that they can be in the classroom for certain functions and learn with everyone else and at other times they can go to the learning centre and get that one-on-one attention

[Page 9069]

that they need. But the fact is that there are no clear guidelines, policies or regulations in this province with regard to what a learning centre is, when it can be used, who will access it and how it will be accessed. Without those guidelines - and let me be more specific - without the vision and the leadership of the Minister of Education, we will see learning centres crop up even more without any true understanding of exactly how they can be used or where they can be used. That's why we need six months to talk about special needs education and where it's going in this province.

Back, I think it was, in the year 2000, the Minister of Education asked for a report. She wanted to hear, Mr. Speaker, from those involved in special needs education. At the time, some of us were skeptical as to why she was looking for this. Was she going to review inclusion totally, maybe dismiss it, maybe dismantle it, was she going to change it, was she going to address the issue of the learning centres and how they should be developed? Well, this is the report, Report of the Special Education Implementation Review Committee, June 2001. They reported to the Minister of Education; they made 30 or 40 recommendations, I believe. Some people aren't very happy with it, they believe it didn't go far enough; others believe it was bang on. I will talk about a couple of those different opinions, but I want to talk about some of the specific recommendations in here. I believe this has been tabled for the House.

Mr. Speaker, in the next six months Nova Scotians would have an opportunity to debate more fully this report, what it says about our education system and whether this government is fully committed to ensuring those dollars they claim they want to make sure go in the classroom are going into the classroom to make sure that every one of our children can learn to the best of their ability. I'm going to quote a few sections from this.

On Page 53 of the report, it states under Recommendation No. 3, the development of a plan with regard to special needs education and in specific with regard to professional development of teachers. This is a crucial issue, Mr. Speaker. Back with the issue of Digby, many will say that the teacher and the TA in question were never given that support, were never given that education on how to handle special needs children. It may be, in particular, that a child with Down's syndrome, without that support, without that training, we have a problem. A problem not only in the Digby Elementary School, not only in Digby County, not only in the Tri-County District School Board, not only in the Southwest Regional School Board but across the province. On Page 53 of the report it states the development of a professional development plan, ". . . should increase knowledge and understanding of specific disabilities, and the link between assessment and instructional practices and should focus on a variety of teaching strategies, adaptations, learning styles, individual program planning, meaningful parental involvement, teacher-student communication, behavioural issues, and leadership." It spells out that without that level of support and instruction, our teachers in the classroom, our TAs in the classroom, will never be able to cope.

[Page 9070]

[7:30 p.m.]

Digby is not an isolated case. It's a symptom of a much bigger problem of children with special needs in our classrooms who are not getting the education they need and deserve, and as a result they become disruptive and as a result the other children in the class aren't getting the education that they need and deserve, Mr. Speaker, all because the Minister of Education is unwilling to ensure that teachers get the training they need, and that's why we need six months to talk about this.

Mr. Speaker, Recommendation No. 6, Page 54 of the report, talks about the need for ". . . uniform guidelines that establish appropriate and timely referral and assessment practices.", so that we have testing of our children to know what type of disability they may have, if any. Recommendation No. 7 talks about the need to " . . . design, implement, and evaluate professional development opportunities for resource and classroom teachers, including institutes and courses on identification and assessment practices." This goes back to the fact that we have teachers in classrooms who may not know how to handle a child with Down's syndrome, may not know how to educate a child with cerebral palsy and, as a result, in some ways they're swimming over their heads.

A teacher who can be a teacher for 25 or 30 years in a regular classroom, under inclusion needs that help, needs to know how to address the issues, needs to know how to help that child learn to the best of their ability, and we don't see that. The minister's own report recommends that we have this and yet we do not, because the Minister of Education throws up her hands and says, well there are enough resources, there's nothing more I can do, there's no more money. Mr. Speaker, it's all about choices, it's about a vision, it's about leadership, and this Minister of Education has failed to provide a vision or leadership with regard to special needs education.

Recommendation No. 8, "The Department of Education should set targets and provide financial support for appropriate numbers of qualified professionals in the school system to support the identification and assessment process." This means school psychologists. The minister claims there are enough in Digby. The parents of the child in question will say the psychologist showed up once or twice a year. I happen to believe the parents over the Minister of Education, I'm sorry to say. I would suggest to you that what we have in these circumstances, if the minister even implemented her own report, specifically Recommendation No. 8, she would have an opportunity to say we provided enough school psychologists, speech therapists and people who can assess children to make sure we're teaching them what they need to learn and the way that they need to learn. It can be done.

It's a challenge. Children with special needs will learn differently than the average child in the class, but that doesn't mean we should just put them in the corner with paper and crayons and hope that they just stay busy. I had one parent in my area say that to me: They provide my child with nothing more than paper and pencil, and hope that he will stay busy.

[Page 9071]

They're not teaching that child; they're not helping him to develop. He can live independently, possibly. He can live a life in which he's independent, in which he has a job. We don't know, but in those formative years between Primary and Grade 12, if we do not provide them with the support, if we do not provide them with the assessments to ensure that we're teaching them to the best of their ability, we will never know. Our society will be poorer for it.

This Minister of Education, in the next six months, can go out and talk to parents, teachers, school boards, teacher assistants, and maybe she can learn a thing or two about how she can ensure we're going to provide sufficient support for the classroom teachers, the parents and the children in the classroom.

Recommendation No.14 of the report, Page 56, states, "The Department of Education should define core services and desired service ratios (based on recognized professional standards) for professional staff at the school board and school levels." I will suggest to you if the psychologist is only coming around one or twice a year to deal with a child with special needs that our ratios are way out of whack. This Minister of Education, who again likes to claim that she's the one who will defend taxpayers' dollars and make sure they're in the classroom, has dropped the ball with regard to special education. She has prevented our children with special needs and the others in the class from learning to the fullest of their ability because she's not providing proper ratios, and even her own recommendation from her own committee says she should and to this day she has failed to do it. She has failed to implement it and our education system is poorer for it.

As I suggested before, I think it was in the South Shore District School Board, Mr. Speaker, I heard today about a speech therapist who was supposed to meet with a child 22 times since September and could only meet with him 10 times because she was too busy. She had too many other children to look at, to deal with, to help, and because of that all those children are suffering; again, because the ratio of professionals to students which was recommended in the minister's report has been ignored by the minister.

Recommendation No. 17, Mr. Speaker, "The Department of Education, in consultation with education partners, should develop programming guidelines and strategies to support students with behavioural challenges in the school system." Well, that seems like a no-brainer, programming guidelines to ensure support for students with behavioural challenges, ADD, ADHD, and such, and you hear all over this province and, in my case, talking to principals in my area - and there are 11 schools that I deal with - the principals will all say that children who are suffering the most are the ones with behavioural problems.

They're not high special needs, as someone called them, they're children who can function, who will go out and work, or maybe they will be part of the justice system, or maybe they'll be on welfare, but in those formative years between Primary and Grade 12 we will help them, hopefully, get to the point where they can become full-time, long-term

[Page 9072]

employees who can end up living a full life, or as the Minister of Education does nothing and our special needs education collapses around us and our children from all types and all groups are suffering, the children with behavioural problems will be the ones who will be in jail. They will be the ones before the court system. They will be the ones on welfare. They will be the ones who - you know the old saying about the car part company, you can pay a little now or you can pay a lot later, Mr. Speaker, well the Minister of Education seems to have lost that. She's willing to allow our justice and welfare systems to dole out millions and millions of dollars in five, 10, 15 or 20 years instead of investing a little now to ensure these children can meet their full potential.

In the next six months maybe the Minister of Education can take a little time to learn about how our schools are really working. It isn't about photo opportunities at the IWK, reading a storybook. It's not about trying to look like the white knight or the knight in shining armor coming in to save the day, Mr. Speaker. It's about actually understanding what our classrooms need and listening to those who are there - the parents, the teachers, the staff, the principals, and in going out and actually ensuring we have the funding we need in our classrooms. It's not there. The minister can continue to try to say there's no more money, there's no more funding. Well, the fact is she has choices to make like everyone else and until she makes the right ones, our entire education system is in peril.

So talking about funding, Recommendation No.19 on Page 57 of the report, Mr. Speaker, and again, in the next six months the minister can take the time to go through this report with people from across the province and talk about how this report can be implemented, but No. 19, and the minister likes to say that this is the one I like the most because it talks about funding. Well, no, but let's be candid, you need money in order to ensure we have proper professional ratios to students, that we have the proper in-service supports for teachers so that they can learn how to be a better educator. Recommendation No. 19, "The Department of Education should provide an immediate injection of $20 million in the year 2002-03 fiscal year targeted to a base level of core services and appropriate service ratios." There it is - $20 million immediately this coming fiscal year, right now.

The bill that we're debating, the budget that we have debated this Spring, Mr. Speaker, $20 million, the report that the minister asked for, that she hand-picked the people, please, minister, $20 million immediately and what did we get? In real dollars we got a cut in funding to special education. We didn't get $20 million more. We got less than we had last year and as a result things are only going to get worse.

What happened in Digby is a shame. It's a sin, but it's a symptom of a much bigger problem, Mr. Speaker, with the problem with our teachers who aren't given the supports to make sure that they can do their job properly. It's a symptom of a system that is in crisis because the Minister of Education has been unable to ensure that we have provided not only the funding but the support to ensure that children with special needs and all children can

[Page 9073]

learn in the classroom and until this Minister of Education wakes up and sees that this is what is happening, our system will only get worse.

I do want to talk a couple of minutes, Mr. Speaker, because in the next six months, when the Minister of Education, after we pass this motion, takes the time to talk to Nova Scotians, she might actually see and talk to a few people. I'm going to highlight a couple of them. One of them happens to be a constituent of mine but she's a chair of a group called Families for Inclusive Education. They're a local group in Halifax, but I think they are expanding across the province. They are affiliated with the Community Living organization. Her name's Lorraine Colpitts. I've dealt with Lorraine for several months now. Lorraine has a son with Down's syndrome. But the problem is that she is quite clearly not happy with how the system is working, how inclusion is working. In a letter that I've got a copy of, she talks a bit about that. I think there's some really interesting stuff. This is her take on the review committee report.

"The Special Education Implementation Review Report . . .", I'll table this, Mr. Speaker, ". . . focused on the need for increased funding, however, it did not address parents concerns about the attitudes and accountability of many of our administrators and educators. This situation in Digby validates these concerns. 'How can these situations be prevented and education of children with special needs be improved?' is the next question. The answer is threefold- 1.) Provide the leadership to ensure the necessary accountability, . . ." 'I talked about accountability earlier, which this minister hasn't done' ". . . 2.) provide training and information sharing opportunities for administrators and educators . . .", again, something that's in the report, but this minister has failed to do, ". . . and 3.) develop real partnerships with parents. These things can be accomplished without increased funding."

Well, that should be music to the minister's ears, Mr. Speaker. If you can do this without increasing funding, why isn't she doing it? Ms. Colpitts has made some very good points about the Implementation Review Committee. It really deals with what I think is the crux of the problem. If you talk to parents, if you talk to teachers, if you talk to administrators in our schools, the problem is there's no consistency. Many of them can list a school in their area where they feel special needs education is being done right. In the Dartmouth area, I keep hearing about the Mount Edward School. I don't know who the administrator is there, but he or she has a very large fan club amongst children and parents and parents of children with special needs, because at that school many people feel they're doing inclusion right.

Mr. Speaker, that's good. I'm glad to hear it, but it should not be a matter of one school versus the one down the street, or one school board next to the adjacent school board. This should be done across every school in every classroom in Nova Scotia. There is only one person who can guarantee that type of consistency and that's the Minister of Education. In the next six months, the Minister of Education can take the time to go to, heck, every school in Nova Scotia to find out why certain administrators are implementing inclusion and the way it should be done and some are not. That is why we need the next six months; that's why

[Page 9074]

the Minister of Education needs six months, because right now, there's no consistency because there's no leadership. There's no hope for many children with special needs because there is no vision.

AN HON. MEMBER: But in the last election, they promised . . .

MR. DEVEAUX: Well that's right. My colleague, for the Halifax Fairview points out Strong Leadership . . . . a clear course. That's what was promised in the last election. Mr. Speaker, in the next six months, maybe the Minister of Education could go around the province. (Interruption) Well, yes, six months. Because for the first three months if she tries to stand up and say Strong Leadership . . . . a clear course, people are just going to be laughing at her. Maybe after they stop laughing after three months, in the next three months, she can take the time to actually listen to why there's been a lack of leadership on education, why there's been a lack of leadership with regard to special needs children, why there has not been a clear course with regard to how we deal with this problem. That is why this Minister of Education needs six months. There is no vision. There is no leadership. It starts at the top to ensure every child in this province who has the right to learn gets that ability to learn to the best of their ability. This minister has failed on that count. She has no vision. She has no leadership and every child in this province is suffering because of it.

The alternative perspective, Mr. Speaker, is that the Teachers Union President, Mr. Forbes, and I'm going to quote from his press release, which I don't think has been put here before, so I will table it after I quote from it. In the next six months, the Minister of Education can talk to the Teachers Union, talk to teachers, talk to staff and get a sense of their perspective as well. I will quote various parts of this. This is dated September 13, 2001, I think shortly after the report was released to the public. The Nova Scotia Teachers Union President, Mr. Forbes, says his ". . . members are particularly supportive of the call for an immediate injection of $20 million in the 2002-03 fiscal year, targeted to a base level of core services." Well, their support obviously didn't help the minister understand that it was needed, because she didn't do it, in fact, she made cuts this year.

[7:45 p.m.]

He goes on, "Achieving this base level of core services would require the addition of 333 resource teachers, some 26 speech-language pathologists, up to a dozen educational psychologists, 28 special education classroom teachers and more student services coordinators." Well, isn't that funny, because the Minister of Education only a few days ago in this House said resources isn't the issue, that there is more to it than that. Mr. Speaker, the problem is, the people who know, the parents of the children, like the people in Digby, the president of the Teachers Union will tell you that the resources are not there; 333 more resource teachers are required. It's pretty clear that it's an issue of resources.

[Page 9075]

Mr. Speaker, 26 more speech-language pathologists are needed, a dozen educational psychologists. We heard from the parents in Digby that the psychologist showed up once or twice a year. The Teachers Union says a dozen more would be very helpful. The Minister of Education said that's not the issue. It is the issue. Our children are suffering because the Minister of Education has an inability to understand what helps in the classroom.

He goes on, "A major issue of concern for teachers has long been the need for sufficient time for program planning", says Mr. Forbes. "The recommendation that 'contact time' should include time used for program planning is particularly welcome, as is the acknowledgement that the amount of training and professional development opportunities . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. It's a little bit loud in here. I would ask the honourable members to take their conversations outside.

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

MR. DEVEAUX: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and in the next six months the members will have plenty of time to go outside and talk to their constituents about why this is a serious problem in our classrooms.

"A major issue of concern for teachers has long been the need for sufficient time for program planning," says Mr. Forbes. "The recommendation that 'contact time' should include time used for program planning is particularly welcome, as is the acknowledgement that the amount of training and professional development opportunities for those working with special needs students be increased." Again, I noted that in the report. The problem is that the Minister of Education didn't note it in her own report, Mr. Speaker, as there has been no new money for program time, there has been no new money to ensure in-service training and, as a result, teachers do not have the support they need to ensure special needs education can be implemented in our classroom. Until that happens, until this Minister of Education takes a leadership role, our children will continue to suffer.

He goes on to say, that to ". . . implement and evaluate professional development opportunities for resource and classroom teachers" is good. I agree, if it is done. The Minister of Education has failed to do that. He also says that "The Department of Education is also urged to table an annual report on progress in implementing the special education policy, these recommendation and on the resources provided to school boards and schools." Well, that's sounds like accountability.

Let me go back to what I started with during my hour, Mr. Speaker. The Minister of Education likes to claim that she's accountable, but when it comes to actually ensuring accountability, telling people how the money is going into the classroom, she buries her head in the sand. The Teachers Union president had some very good points back on September

[Page 9076]

13, 2001, the problem is the Minister of Education wasn't listening. She wasn't listening then and she's not listening now.

So, Mr. Speaker, this is an issue that will continue to dwell on Nova Scotians' minds, not only those with children with special needs, because as I said, inclusion without the resources has created division. When you talk to parents with children who have special needs, when you talk to parents of children who are typical children, whatever, average children, depending on how you want to define that term, there is a division. The Minister of Education is feeding on that division, is feeding on that anger amongst both groups and it will only result in more problems with our system. The problem is this Minister of Education is either blind to that or willfully blind or, worse yet, she knows it's happening and yet she is unwilling to do anything about.

The lack of vision, the lack of leadership by this Minister of Education is going to destroy a generation of children. I, for one, will not stand her and sit here in this Legislature and allow that to happen. The problem is that this Minister of Education is not standing up for the children of this province. When there's a photo opportunity she's the first one there. Her spin doctors have done a good job in the last year, I will give them credit with actually trying to make her look like she's compassionate, to make her look like she cares about children. Well the fact is the proof is in the pudding. The lack of funding for special needs, the lack of support for our teachers, the lack of opportunity for everyone in this system to be able to thrive and grown and learn to the best of their ability is proof that this minister is only interested in photo opportunities and does not have a vision or leadership with regard to education.

I want to take the last few minutes I have to talk about in my riding, every year, I hold three town hall meetings: one in Colby Village, one in Eastern Passage, and one in South Woodside. Three communities in my riding; three very different communities. As I said earlier what I have a tendency to do - well I do - I meet with all the principals in the fall, usually in October just after school starts, and then November through February I go to as many PTOs and Home and Schools and SACs as I can because I want to hear what people are saying, and I hold town halls in March as an opportunity for people to come out and tell me what their concerns are, and I want to talk about a few of those.

That's why in the next six months I would suggest every member of this House could go out and do the same and listen, on the issue of education, as to what the people of Nova Scotia are wanting. As we heard last week, polls show that people would rather the government spend and make choices with regard to investing in education, investing in health care rather than tax cuts, and maybe in the next six months this government can learn that as well.

[Page 9077]

I've talked about funding, and I've talked about vision. Those are two of the issues that came up at my town halls. Some of the others, class sizes, this is a very important issue. I think is does tie into special needs as well because class sizes are one thing. You hear of 25, 30, 35 kids, depending on the age group. For Primary, 25 kids is a lot, maybe for high school geography 25 isn't, but 35 or 40 is for high school math. We are on the high end of the maximums that can be done to ensure our children are going to learn properly. It only gets more compounded and this is why we have this division when we have children of special needs in those classes. They are special, they do need that help, but it also results in the problems because our teachers don't have the supports or the training to be able to give that level of teaching and training that everyone can get in that classroom.

The bigger the class size the less likely those children are going to have the opportunity to learn, and that is an issue that has not been address by this province. As the Minister of Education said, and I will remind her of this as long as I'm the critic, she said in the year 2002, that 50 kids in a classroom she didn't have a problem with.

Well I think that was indicative then, and I've seen nothing since to prove she's changed her mind of this Minister of Education's attitude towards education. It is an issue that's very specifically important to the areas in the former county of the Halifax Regional Municipality, the member from the Eastern Shore or the member from Sackville-Beaver Bank or the member from Timberlea-Prospect or even Chester-St. Margaret's, part of his area will be familiar with it - it's called supplementary funding. It's an issue that has divided, in fact, created a three-tier education system in our province. You know from time to time I have to talk when people ask how did supplementary funding ever create this problem. People have to understand that back in 1996 when the Education Act was passed they put in a very specific clause that allowed the former City of Halifax and the former City of Dartmouth to continue to have a special tax that will go directly to education, but the former Halifax County was banned from actually having any form of area rate or tax that they could put into education, and that has created a three-tier education system in the HRM.

The former City of Halifax has the highest rate of tax with regard to education and it has the most services: extra art, extra music, extra French immersion programs, much smaller class sizes, more psychologists, more speech therapists. The City of Dartmouth has a little less, and because of that they have a fewer services, but a lot more than the former county where there is no extra funding. This is an issue that in 1996 was entrenched in the Education Act and to this day it is created a mess in the Halifax Regional School Board, and the regional school board will tell you that.

I can give you one specific example in my area - in the next six months the members of this House could go around and get a lot of other examples. Specifically on this issue, the South Woodside Elementary School is very close to Shearwater, which is an area with lots of children, but because there's an artificial boundary there which is the former city and the former county, the children in Shearwater cannot go to the school in South Woodside. They

[Page 9078]

end up having to be bused all the way to Eastern Passage, where the South Woodside school is closer and as a result, all our children are deprived of something - the ability to learn with the children in their neighbourhood, the ability to learn in a school nearby. As a result, we have an education system, particularly in the HRM, that has resulted in a lot of problems. When asked, who passed this legislation? All I can say is, I wasn't elected at the time. I wasn't here to debate this legislation as to why they would put this kind of amendment in that created a three-tier education system in the Halifax Regional Municipality.

In the long run, what we need is the provincial government to properly fund our education system, but in the short term, supplementary funding must be dealt with as a means of ensuring that all the children in HRM have the opportunity to get the same level of education. That's not there. The people in this House who represent people in the former county are the ones who know full well that their children are being deprived of services and of educational opportunities that in the former cities they do have.

In conclusion, I would like to make the point that in the next six months if we pass this hoist motion, there's an opportunity for every member of this House, particularly the member for Halifax Citadel, the Minister of Education, to go out and talk and to listen - to hear Nova Scotians. She has lacked the vision as the Minister of Education for coming up on three years, she has lacked the ability to be able to tell Nova Scotians the clear course as she likes to say, where they're going to go with education. It's not there. Special needs education has collapsed, there's a lack of accountability on where and how she's spending taxpayers' dollars and in the next six months, that Minister of Education can take the time to go out and listen and ensure she can develop that vision. She can begin to have that leadership that everyone is crying for in this province. Digby and what happened at Digby Elementary is a symptom of a much bigger problem and until this Minister of Education is willing to remember that and address that, we're going to continue to see our children suffer in our education system. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, it's a pleasure to rise in the House tonight to speak in favour of the motion for the six months' hoist on Bill No. 109, An Act Respecting Certain Financial Measures. Needless to say, there's a variety of different issues that one could talk about on Bill No. 109, especially in relation to why a hoist would be necessary. In my limited time this evening I would like to touch on a few of those points, especially keeping in mind the impact that this will have on my own constituents in the good riding of Richmond County.

One of the issues addressed in this bill that this government has decided to attack is in the area of Community Services, especially in the support being provided to both transition homes and women's centres. We saw here in this House quite a display where the Minister of Community Services stood up after the cuts were announced and said that he had

[Page 9079]

extensive consultation with these groups and that they understood this was coming. Within a few hours and a few days, he then stands up and says, oops, by the way, I didn't do any consultation, I didn't talk to anyone and no one had any idea this was coming. Once they saw the public outcry that was coming from all sectors of this province as to how this cut was an unwise decision and certainly did not represent the priorities of the people of this province, the government decided to retract. One would wonder, given six months, how many more of the decisions which are contained in Bill No. 109 that the government may have a chance to reflect upon and possibly once again change their decision, given the proper amount of time. I am sure you will appreciate, Mr. Speaker, you've been in this House long enough to know how a government brings down a budget and it's the rush to get through the 80 hours of debate, try to get it passed, try to get a few bills through, and then get out as quickly as possible and it appears the government in this session is certainly following that path.

[8:00 p.m.]

So, therefore, it's clear that as an Opposition, you're limited in the amount of time that you can bring up issues, that you can point out the concerns that we're hearing from our constituents, the concerns we're seeing in the papers every day and we're hearing on the radio stations, we're seeing on TV. Unfortunately, we only have so many hours in a day here in the House to bring those concerns forward to the government which is why, if we allowed this amendment to go through, this would certainly provide them with ample opportunity and ample opportunity for the Opposition to do our job which is to be the voice of the voiceless in this province. Those who cannot stand in this House and speak to the government directly with their concerns, we must do that for them. Again, Mr. Speaker, there is so much in this bill, in the budget and in other legislation that one wishes we had more time.

As to the cuts in Community Services, Mr. Speaker, I can tell you that it touches directly in my riding and in the Strait area. How ironic that the Leeside Transition House just last week celebrated its 10th Anniversary, providing protection to both abused women and children. How ironic that in celebrating their anniversary a mere week before that, the Minister of Community Services was threatening to close down that transition house, and at the same time, the Antigonish Women's Resource Centre which services the entire Strait area in providing services to women in need and trying to give them a leg up and some assistance in providing a better future for both them and in specific cases for their children.

The idea that the government would look at cutting or closing either of these centres makes it clear that the government needs more time to appreciate the impact that some of these decisions are going to have. I'm sure the government sometimes feel that the Opposition relishes and enjoys when they have to retract on a decision and that we find this such a wonderful thing to watch them have to do that, but that's not the case, Mr. Speaker. One would hope that when decisions are made that there is proper thought that goes into it, proper consultation, and that the government can predict what the outcome will be. One would hope that in most cases it is a favourable outcome and that it is a favourable change

[Page 9080]

being brought into place. What this government has shown traditionally, and I'm not trying to be too critical, but since they've been elected, we've seen a number of examples where they've brought stuff in. Furor has been the result from that and then they've been forced to retract as a result of it. One has to really question how much thinking went into some of the decisions which are included in this bill and what impact and what reaction they expected they would get from Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, as has been said by a number of different speakers here today, the ambulance system that we have in this province is one of the best ambulance systems that we have in North America. I think all Nova Scotians know which administration was responsible, the leadership of Ron Stewart in bringing that forward. I have to tell you, on the weekend I heard a very sad story and I think it's a story that more and more members are going to hear. It was a case where a family had one of their elderly parents get sick. Suddenly one of the children went to call for the ambulance and the next child said don't. He said we can't afford the ambulance. We better take them in the car and that's what they did. They packed the ill member of their family in a car and drove as fast as they could to the hospital because they felt with all the changes that this government was making to ambulance fees, that they felt that they could not afford such a service.

What a sad day we've reached in this province, Mr. Speaker, when our seniors and when our residents fear using our ambulance service for fear of the bill which is going to come in the mail. We've heard all the stories about people being charged, people who went along for the ride to provide some comfort and some assistance to loved ones, getting a bill in the mail as a result of that. Clearly, these are not the priorities of Nova Scotians. This is not the Nova Scotia health care system that this government was elected to protect. These are not the changes that Nova Scotians voted in this government to do. This is clear that this is not a cost recovery system any more. This government, not only with ambulances, but in other areas, is moving towards taxing these fees in order to create revenue to be spent in other areas.

Mr. Speaker, there is no doubt that there are areas which do need revenue, but one has to seriously question, are ambulance fees what we should be targeting - targeting Nova Scotians to pay higher fees to cover that.

Mr. Speaker, one of the other very troubling decisions made by this government is the decision to make cuts to the Children's Dental Program. How interesting it is to hear the Minister of Health, the Premier and others talk about healthy lifestyles, healthy children and the importance of that. I fully agree with that. I don't think anyone disagrees with that. But one really has to question what the message is when you're talking about healthy lifestyles and all this healthiness for our children when we start cutting back on the Children's Dental Program. We're still left wondering what exactly this impact is going to have. The way it was explained to me was that if someone in a family has a private insurer, that private insurer will be expected to pay for the service rather than traditionally, through MSI. One really has to

[Page 9081]

question if the cuts have been made to the program through MSI, what data did they have which showed how many families have private insurance and how many don't have private insurance. Have they done a comparison of urban areas versus rural areas, all of those considerations.

Mr. Speaker, again, here's another area where there is certainly not enough information provided to us as members of the House, so that when we go home on the weekends and we're asked what about these cuts to the Children's Dental Program, it's quite clear that the minister has not properly explained what impact this change will have so that we can properly explain that.

Mr. Speaker, on the issue in the domain of Health, when it comes to Richmond County I think I've spoken a number of times on those concerns. Again, we see in Bill No. 109 a lack of providing some clear direction or a clear plan for our health care system, which is why an additional six months would give time to the Minister of Health to finally try to address the funding issue at the Strait Richmond Hospital, where once again we find ourselves without a daytime emergency room doctor. The situation has gotten even more critical because of the fact that the local physicians, frustrated at the inaction of this government, have decided to no longer provide weekend emergency room coverage at the hospital.

Mr. Speaker, that leaves the people in the Strait area, as far as the Strait Richmond Hospital is concerned, with emergency room services only starting at 8:00 p.m. on Monday night and going until Saturday morning at 8:00 a.m., and that's only during the night, I should say - it goes from 8:00 p.m. to 8:00 a.m. There is none during the day, and now there's none during the weekend. Is that the health care system that Nova Scotians were promised by this government? Local physicians, Dr. Laurie MacNeil and others have told the minister directly, you must change the funding at that institution or you will continually have the same problem of doctor retention.

I asked the Premier if they would address that. I asked the minister if they would address that. Again, their answer was, clearly showing a lack of knowledge on their part about the situation there, we'll help to try to recruit another doctor. Clearly, the doctors themselves are saying that's not good enough and that's not going to work, we need to do something else. We've seen, through numerous examples with different physicians who have come there, that the funding, clearly, is not adequate.

So, for the Premier to stand here and for the minister to stand and say, we will just help you recruit and find another doctor to go there - first of all, the last time they said that, it took 11 months. I don't mean to just be critical of that, but it shows that there's a severe problem when it takes the government 11 months to locate a doctor to come to a hospital located in the Strait area. There must be something more to it. The fact that the Premier and the minister don't seem to have caught on to that leads into why I agree giving them six months to look upon this bill, six months to review the issues that are being raised on behalf of our

[Page 9082]

constituents would give them ample opportunity to, hopefully, address some of these concerns, should they choose to do so.

Mr. Speaker, outside of Bill No. 109 but in the same idea with the health care system, we learned, without any sort of notice from the Minister of Health, that in certain communities, in rural communities mainly where there was the rural doctor incentive program, which was meant to be a five-year guaranteed salary with certain bonuses, which was meant to attract doctors to rural areas that had a problem with physician recruitment, without any notice, the Minister of Health chose, in certain communities, to either eliminate that program or to reduce it to a six-month incentive rather than a five-year incentive.

Mr. Speaker, when I found out about this, I clearly expressed concern because in Richmond County, we had tremendous success with the rural incentive program. It had brought in, I think at the last count, seven different physicians since 1998 that came into Richmond County as a result of that program, clearly showing its success. It had been very successful. So when I raise a concern saying why was this cut made, how interesting it was that a spokesperson from the Department of Health, Mr. Green, chose to call the media and say, well, no, no, Samson has it all wrong. What he is saying isn't correct. The minister never said that. The cuts haven't been made. Only at the end to find out that what he was saying was completely incorrect. What I had said from the start was, in reality, what the government had done. But it got even better. Mr. Green went so far as to say, well, the decision to go from five years to six months was a decision made by the district health authorities themselves who recommended it to the Minister of Health.

So I thought that was quite interesting because I couldn't see any district health authority wanting to cut back any of the incentives or services it had. It was interesting during debate that the minister stood in his place and said, no, no, I'm the one who made the decision to reduce that from five years to six months, therefore proving that his own communications person was either intentionally misleading or had not been bothered to even communicate with the minister about that program. Needless to say, the impact that this cut is going to have on our efforts to be able to recruit physicians is a very serious one and, again, with six months, one would hope that the minister would see the error of his ways and see to it that that program be fully reinstated, not only for Richmond County, Mr. Speaker, but there was one for Mulgrave, I believe, with the honourable member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury. There was one, I believe, in the riding for the Minister of Tourism and Culture and there are some, I believe, in the Digby area. There are some all around in rural parts of this province where the five-year incentive should be clearly reinstated.

Mr. Speaker, there is a whole host of other health concerns where this government certainly needs to do more thinking on the changes they have made. One of the ones that is most distressing is the change made to the Pharmacare Program for seniors. How interesting it was, not only for me, but I'm sure for a number of members of this House, that I got a phone call from one of my constituents. She was a retired lady. She had worked all her life,

[Page 9083]

as had her husband, and they are both enjoying their retirement. She had been a community leader. She had been elected a councillor and everything. She called me and she said, I just can't understand how you guys could let this go through the House of Assembly without debate and without opposing it. She said, what were you guys doing? How could you let them get away with this?

Mr. Speaker, it's clear, and I'm sure all members would agree that many times Nova Scotians aren't aware that we're here or what we're actually doing here. Unfortunately, as hard as we try, sometimes that message doesn't get out. But in this case, one could understand her confusion because the fact is, as you well know, the government chose to increase the co-pay and the premiums on Pharmacare without allowing for a debate here in this Chamber on behalf of seniors and on behalf of the constituents we represent. To add insult to injury, the increase was to take place on April 1st when the government knew the House would be resuming on April 2nd, 24 hours later. The least Nova Scotians should expect from a government is that if they are going to be taxed and they are going to be expected to pay more, the principles of our democracy are that at a minimum, there should be open debate on any taxation and any increase in fees.

Now when I spoke back home, Mr. Speaker, I tried to remind the government - and I believe when I spoke here in this House - that there was a little incident that happened before it was called the United States where there was a little problem down in Boston where the colonials were starting to get very upset at the fact that back in Britain they were taxing them and yet those living in the colony had no sort of representation or say on the taxation that were taking place. I believe the term used, of the day, was taxation without representation. Shortly afterward we had the famous incident known as the Boston Tea Party, where finally they wanted to send a message to Britain that they had enough and they were not going to continue to be taxed with their money going away without anyone representing them or being able to speak for them.

[8:15 p.m.]

How ironic that we've got our own modern-day version of that same situation here in this province when it comes to Seniors' Pharmacare, that we have again taxation without representation. When the government chose intentionally not to allow the elected members of this House who have been duly elected by the residents of Nova Scotia to be able to debate this most important increase which again is a serious blow to those seniors on fixed incomes here in this province enjoying their retirement. This is the same government that when the Premier was Leader of the Third Party, he stood in this place on this side of the House - in fact a little further ahead than where I'm standing now - and was calling upon the minister of the day and the government of the day to remove any premiums from the Pharmacare Program. It should be free. What a horrible thing it was for the government of the day to be charging premiums to seniors for Pharmacare.

[Page 9084]

That leaves us with two options now: either the Premier, as Leader of the Third Party, was ignorant on the issue, he did not have the information, he was not aware of the costs, didn't really know what he was talking about, looking to score cheap political points; or the other scenario is he knew what he was talking about, he knew what the costs were, he knew the government had no choice but to charge premiums, yet as part of his effort to say whatever he thought Nova Scotians would hold on to to get elected, he came out and took this position there should be no premiums. Shortly after the Premier gets elected, not only does he not remove the premiums, he increases the premiums and, on April 1st we see the second increase; within three years the government has managed to increase the Pharmacare for seniors twice in a mere three years, under the direction of a Premier who, three years ago said there should be no premiums at all.

The government should be thanking the Opposition for being willing to give them six months to be able to reassess their position when one looks at such examples where the Premier has been caught in what he said he would do, what his principles were, what his convictions were, and what we're seeing here today from the Premier and what he's giving us through his government.

What we have seen in different areas of this bill - like I said there are so many it's hard to talk about them all - one looks at what this government has done with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. This is a government, I don't think there's any other government since freedom of information was brought in that's been embarrassed as many times as this government through the use of the freedom of information system. Rather than be open with Nova Scotians, be open with the Opposition, be open with themselves, they've tried to hide things. They haven't been forthright, they've tried to do things hoping no one would notice. Unfortunately, the whole time they weren't aware that as they're doing this, they're leaving their rabbit tracks behind that could easily be accessed through simple freedom of information requests. Time and time again the government has been embarrassed by the Opposition, by different groups being able to access information they were hoping to hide what their real intentions were, what the real rationale was behind some of their decisions.

So now they are left with two approaches. Very simply, they could have said we have to smarten up here, we have to be more open and accountable, as we promised, we can't be hiding these things. When we're making decisions, we better explain ourselves. We better lift the veil right away so we can avoid these embarrassing situations. One would argue - I don't think it's too far-fetched to argue - that would have been the responsible thing to do. Or the second option would have been to say we better increase the fees on this FOIPOP system and we better try to discourage people as much as possible from putting in these applications that are bothering us and embarrassing us and see what we can do to try to diminish the embarrassing impact the system is having on us. We're a majority government, yet the freedom of information system is continually causing embarrassment for us, which we've created. Rather than be responsible, the Minister of Justice - no surprise - chooses the

[Page 9085]

latter and says I'm going to increase the fees on the freedom of information from $5.00 to $25. Naturally we asked, what is your justification? So right away he pulls numbers out of a hat and says, well it costs - and I believe even the Deputy Premier went on record saying it cost $700,000 or $800,000 a year. When asked, well, show us how you arrive at that number, once again we're still waiting for that to come out showing where they've reached that figure.

Mr. Speaker, through this Bill No. 109, there used to be a provision which said that you could get two free hours in a freedom of information request that you would not be billed for. So not only have they raised the fee to $25, now they've said we're eliminating the two free hours. To make it even better, before one could appeal a decision made on a freedom of information request at no charge. So, again, in order to encourage appeals and to encourage more access to the system the government said we're now going to start charging people if they choose to appeal a decision.

Again, Mr. Speaker, the message is not that we are an open province, we're an open government, we're open for business, we're open for information, we're transparent, the message is this government is a closed shop and we don't want any more people finding out what happens behind the veil of government than necessary and we're going to put as many protections in there as possible. Is it only the member for Richmond who is saying this; is it only the Liberal caucus or the NDP caucus? No, it's Nova Scotians themselves, it's the Canadian Association of Journalists which, last week, came out and condemned this government for what they are doing with the freedom of information system.

So this government is left with few options, Mr. Speaker. They can no longer just say it is the Opposition criticizing us, pay no attention to them, Nova Scotians, in the end, support what we're doing. The polls don't show that. The polls show just the opposite. Now you've got the independence of the media which is now stepping in and saying that this government needs to change the direction it's going when it comes to access to information, to lift the veil of what is going on.

Mr. Speaker, trying to mix the positive with the negative, one of the things that I'm pleased to see, through this bill, is that the government decided to extend the film tax credit for three years. Now, that's a good thing because, Mr. Speaker, as you're well aware, it was the previous Liberal Administration that brought in the film tax credit to try to encourage the film industry developing here in this province. A sound stage was built down in Cape Breton, in the Sydney area. Another sound stage was built in the Shelburne area - I was going to say Lunenburg, but the Shelburne area - and there was a lot of investment being made.

Now, clearly, Mr. Speaker, one could see very rapidly what the benefits of this tax credit were. We were seeing more and more movies and more and more productions coming to this province but, now, for some reason, that success has started to decline. We used to see a lot of production and a lot of activity going on around the sound stage down in Cape

[Page 9086]

Breton, now, mysteriously, there's none. The Minister of Economic Development was questioned on a number of occasions by our House Leader and our Critic for Economic Development as to what their intentions were, what they were doing around that sound stage, and never would we get any sort of clear answer. So, in a sense, it's good that they've extended the film tax credit, but if they're not going to put the necessary dedication, the manpower and the desire behind it to make it work then, again, it would appear that it's more than just empty words.

Mr. Speaker, I'm not going to speak too much at length on the decision to eliminate the Arts Council. I believe there have been many of my colleagues on this side of the House who have spoken at length on the impacts, but I would be remiss if I did not say a few words. Coming from a rural area such as Richmond County, we have been blessed with a number of different artists who have flourished in our community in the area of painting, writing, singing, displays, a whole host of areas. The artistic community is one which is a relatively quiet community. You don't hear from them too much. Usually it's different events that we all have the privilege of going to where we enjoy and we celebrate our arts, but this government certainly found a way to wake the sleeping beasts in this case, because the outcry and the outrage that we have seen from the arts community and their supporters over a decision made by this government, not only by this government but, how ironically, made by a minister who is an artist himself, which is what seems to have really aggravated the arts community.

I, along with many other members of this House, received numerous e-mails and letters, and I have to tell you, knowing a number of these artists and knowing them to be mostly passive, community-minded people, pleasant people, the reaction that this cut has elicited from them, well, I intentionally chose not to bring the e-mails or the letters with me because I know that I would be ruled out of order if I tried to read them here in this House. This is coming from people who are generally very passive people, and I don't think the arts community has ever really been known to be radicals or out in the streets fighting too much, at least that's certainly not what I've seen in my own backyard. They certainly haven't been an aggressive group on too many issues in the most recent past.

The reaction that we've gotten out of them over this, on a daily basis, is one of simple outrage. Again, here's another example of where, with six months, the minister could go out and see his colleagues in the artistic community who he has met over the years and explain to them, because, clearly, I noticed on the weekend he had another letter to the editor trying to explain himself and explain his savings, but for some reason no one's buying it. Whether he's not expressing himself well enough or, the other option is, the savings that he's trying to say are there aren't really there in the first place and that, as the artistic community has feared, this is more a means of politicizing the process, and the government itself will be able to control where money is spent in the arts community of this province, that is in fact what is being done. Clearly, as I said, an additional six months would give the minister much more time to be able to explain that and to be able to explain exactly what he is doing there, and

[Page 9087]

be able to get, one would think, the support of the arts community for the changes that are being proposed.

Mr. Speaker, one of the other issues that is dealt with in this legislation is the issue of municipal equalization. Now, we've been speaking about municipal equalization for quite some time here in this province. We've watched as there has been a back-and-forth game between the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations and the municipal units, coming up with different ideas; one minute the government is going to accept it, the next minute they weren't going to accept it, then they thought about it, maybe, and then again no. We've seen three or four different proposals come forward, each one of them being rejected in the end by the government.

I have to tell you, one of the most recent ones, which I certainly would have been supportive of, was the idea of the deed transfer tax being used for equalization. In Richmond County, like many other areas, we already have a deed transfer tax. It's not the 1.5 per cent that would have been required, but there is already a deed transfer tax there. By the minister saying he was not going to accept this, the reason was, the minister, said, well, for those areas that don't have a deed transfer tax, if they're forced to put in the 1.5 per cent then the minister will get the blame and the government will get the blame for a tax increase, and we don't want to do that, we don't want to be seen as doing that because we said we wouldn't increase taxes.

Mr. Speaker, the budget that we have before us has increased gasoline tax by 2 cents, so I don't know where they were getting this concern about being seen to increase taxes. They did it very well on their own. I can't see how they were concerned that through the municipalities they, in the end, would be blamed. To show how much an extra six months would help them in determining what their logic is, they said no to the deed transfer tax, we will get the blame in the end, and instead, we're going to go after Nova Scotia Power, which we failed to do in the three years we've been here, but we're now going to go after them, force them to pay more into the equalization, and we will never get the blame.

Power rates are going to increase, naturally, as a result of this. People are going to be laid off, who worked at Nova Scotia Power. Yet, for some reason the government believes it won't be blamed for this. Nova Scotians all know, and members of this House know, that if there is any increase in power rates in this province, Nova Scotians will be able to thank this Conservative Government and the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations for that increase. Again, the logic they are using just baffles me, to say the least.

[8:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, on a local issue, which you have heard me speak on before, six months would give the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations the opportunity to go visit StoraEnso and meet with the workforce and explain to the workforce how his

[Page 9088]

equalization plan in his view will not hurt their employment opportunities for the future. He hasn't done that, as I've pointed out in this House.

StoraEnso and other industrial users have made it quite clear, if this equalization scheme, as included in this bill, goes through, more than likely power rates are going to increase in this province and companies such as Stora have made it clear if power goes up any higher than what they are paying now - in Stora's case $66.7 million annually - they will have no choice but to cut jobs and to close down part of their operation.

Mr. Speaker, there's a sense of alarm in the Strait area. I was talking to different business people the other day and they said no one's spending money. Everyone is in a holding mode. They don't want to spend money because they don't know what's going to happen. Morale is not good at the mill. Now that's not a good thing for our economy when you've got employees at one company that pumps in - between their wages and their wood costs - $120 million annually in the Strait area economy and these people aren't spending money. Well, that should be a concern to this government. It should put them in a state of alarm to see what they can do to address this. Yet, we hear nothing from the government side as to how they intend to address the concerns of companies such as StoraEnso.

If this hoist was allowed, six months would give them ample opportunity. Not only for the minister from Antigonish, but also for his colleague, the member for Inverness - the Minister of Tourism and Culture - and the member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury; all three of them government members who represent the workers who work at this plant, who have yet to meet with management directly, with the rest of the municipal leaders and elected officials, or to meet with the workforce.

Mr. Speaker, I can tell you, just to give you an example of how serious this is, at the URB hearings that took place at Pier 21 here in Halifax last Thursday night, out of the 19 presenters that were on for that evening, there was the Warden of Richmond County, Richie Cotton, and Councillor Steve Sampson; there was the Mayor of Port Hawkesbury; there was the Warden of Inverness County; there was the Warden of Antigonish County; and then I made a presentation as the MLA for Richmond. All five of us spoke about the importance of StoraEnso to our communities, to our economy, to our future and how devastating it would be if this power rate application put forward by Nova Scotia Power to the URB was approved. What was sad was that not one elected government representative from either the Strait area or from this government was there to echo those same concerns. (Interruption)

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations says that I've played politics, but their silence makes you wonder what their position is on this. What do they plan on doing?

[Page 9089]

When I spoke last week here in the House I raised three or four different constructive solutions that this government could implement to address some of the concerns of Stora. Haven't heard a thing from them yet. One of them was with the energy strategy. It was appointing members to a committee that this government said they were going to create, yet they have done nothing. It's not asking them to do the impossible, we're asking them to actually appoint members to a committee they said they were going to create. Yet, nothing has been done. So again, as I said, it's obvious this government needs more time to be able to get its act in order.

When we voted against the budget we said quite clearly it was because this government did not have a plan. They were not living within their own means, they were not fixing health care as they said they would, and they certainly did not have a plan for the future development and for the future prosperity of this province; which is why we certainly could not support this budget.

Mr. Speaker, we've seen an increase in tobacco fees through this Bill No. 109. While we were in government, while I was a member of the previous Liberal Government, I was pleased to see and always supported the increase in tobacco in this province to do whatever we could to try to have a deterrent for people smoking in this province, especially our younger generation.

Mr. Speaker, we have a bill that was brought before us, after much anticipation, we waited. As elected members, we've all gotten the letters from our community groups saying we want a 100 per cent ban on smoking in public areas. We supported the government when they said they were going to increase tobacco taxes. Yet on Friday, the minister who could have finally gone all the way and done exactly what Nova Scotians were asking for, once again caved in and refused to put in the 100 per cent total ban on smoking in public places.

Mr. Speaker, once again, that raises another issue which would lead me to say that the government needs a bit more time. We find out again today that the government is still not ready to put in their lobbyist registration bill, something which could have clearly been very useful to Nova Scotians to be able to lift the veil and see who was lobbying the Minister of Health, who was lobbying the Premier, who was lobbying this government to convince them not to have 100 per cent total ban on smoking in public places. This government has chosen to continually delay the implementation and the regulations of the lobbyist registration bill. Why? Very simply, as I said before, the freedom of information process provided great embarrassment for this government. The last thing they wanted to do was to bring in another system which would allow the public to lift the veil and to expose them to further embarrassment where the average Nova Scotian and the Opposition would be able to see who really was behind the decision-making process that this government is using.

[Page 9090]

Mr. Speaker, one of the other issues which I have spoken about that's included in this bill, as was noted just before debate even started on Bill No. 109, there was a point of order raised that the bill, as it was structured, was not an appropriate bill for debate here in this House. One of the items in this bill which clearly, I believe, as a member, should never have been included in this bill, which should have been open for a full public debate in a separate forum, are the provisions changing the Education Act. For this government to say those changes are included in Bill No. 109, the Financial Measures (2002) Act because there's a financial spin to them is drawing a pretty long bow, to say the least. It is clear that the decision to put this in this bill is once again a step in this government's attempt to either shield the Minister of Education from criticism or even worse, to not even allow her to be able to get up and defend her government's decision to bring in these changes.

Now, Mr. Speaker, you would ask, why honourable member for Richmond, why would you say such a thing? On what basis would say such a thing? Well let's look at a few examples. This is the Minister of Education who, when financial irregularities came out with the school boards, said that she was going to act tough and everything and after the Strait Regional School Board said we want a forensic audit, she came out and said, oh yes, I am going to order a forensic audit from the board, although the board had already requested it. I'm going to put in all sorts of financial reporting changes, although the fact was that the board had already put in those changes.

What was most interesting is that when this government chose to release the findings of the forensic report, which wasn't really a release because everything was blacked out, they chose to do so when the Minister of Education was away on vacation. Now why didn't they just wait until the week she returned so that this minister could have stood and said, I am the Minister of Education? Hello, I'm the minister. I'm going to address this. I'm going to stand up and I'm going to say what we're going to do about this. But while the minister is away, the Minister of Finance, what a wonderful opportunity for him to stand in front of all the cameras, say absolutely nothing of any substance, yet be able to pound his chest and say, what a horrible thing. I'm the big bad Minister of Finance. This is terrible and I will never allow this to take place, almost talking as if he was the Premier of this province. Maybe he is practising for a future day, in his own eyes.

It was interesting because when I went back home, I spoke to the chair of the school board, a gentleman I have a tremendous amount of respect for. I said, what do you think of the performance of the Minister of Finance with his news conference the other day when he released nothing yet pounded his chest? What did you think of that? I will never forget his answer because he said, my suggestion to the Minister of Finance is to get better acting lessons because the performance I saw certainly was a B grade movie, to say the least.

Now, Mr. Speaker, it gets even better than that. When the government decides that they are going to take the step of assuming financial control of the Strait Regional School Board here's how they set it up. One would think the minister would have stood in her place here

[Page 9091]

in this House, made her ministerial statement, said I am the Minister of Education, here is what I'm going to do, and I will stand and I will defend my decision and then go down and meet with the board. Rather than doing that - how convenient - they choose to send her down to Antigonish to meet with the board while, ironically, I'm sure just by chance, the Minister of Finance gets to stand in his place, gives the minister's statement and, once again, be the tough guy for the Progressive Conservative Party here in this House.

So as a result of those two actions where clearly the minister - I would have to conclude that she was intentionally being kept away from the limelight in this and being hidden away when these important decisions were being made - now rather than give her her own Act to Amend the Education Act with these changes, the Minister of Finance, how ironic, says no, no, that's fine, minister, I will put them in my Financial Measures (2002) Act and I will stand and defend it.

A very simple question, Mr. Speaker, will the real Minister of Education please stand up? That is what Nova Scotians are saying. How can the minister claim to have any credibility left in the eyes of students, teachers, parents and Nova Scotians when you see repeated examples of where her power has been subverted by the Minister of Finance?

Six months would give her an opportunity to go and tell the Minister of Finance, I'm the Minister of Education, not you. If I'm going to take accountability, I'm going to take the heat in Oral Question Period then, by God, I'm going to be the one who is going to make the announcements and is going to set the clear direction on what we're going to do for the education system, not you, Mr. Minister of Finance. But again, unfortunately, the minister has chosen to sit back. I don't know if it would be appropriate to use the word become a lame duck minister, but one really has to question how the Minister of Education can allow the Minister of Finance to continually usurp her powers and these public displays of chest pounding and what a tough guy and what a tough government we are, when all along everyone in the Strait area knows it's the elected board members who have been the ones who have led the charge in making the necessary changes to the finances and to the accounting and everything else.

I think the Minister of Education has admitted this herself. We know ourselves, as elected officials, the difficulties there are in being an elected official, some of the different concerns that are brought to us about our profession, the recent polls we see and everything, and as tough as it is for us I can only question what motivates someone to run for elected office on a school board. I don't know if they're saints going straight to heaven or not, but, my God, Mr. Speaker, it's certainly not for the money, that we certainly know. There's not even close to reimbursing them for their expenses. These people are clearly dedicated individuals who want to make a difference, want to be there as voices to represent the concerns of their children, teachers, parents, of the community. Yet after all of the hard work done by the elected board at the Strait Regional School Board, to try to address and to bring forward the necessary changes to the accounting, to make sure it was transparent, the

[Page 9092]

contracts, everything else, what was their reward from this Minister of Education? Was it to say, look, you've done a great job under difficult circumstances, we want to work with you?

She has done her best to undermine them at every single opportunity. As I pointed out before, a forensic audit was requested by the elected board even before the minister requested it. The changes to the accounting procedures were put in place even before the minister suggested it. A whole host of changes were being done by the board, yet the average Nova Scotian thinks it was this Minister of Education because that is what she tried to sell them on. She did everything she could to undermine this elected board and I say shame on the minister for what she has done to those hard-working elected people who, once again as I have said, are there to try to represent the concerns of the parents, teachers and the students in very difficult circumstances.

[8:45 p.m.]

Now the minister says they still have control, it's just they can't make any financial decisions. We all know, in reality, what they are left with at the end of the day because of these changes. Again, what consultation took place with the people of the Strait area? Did the minister ask, do you have confidence in your elected board or do you wish me to assume control over the finances of your board? Six months would give her an opportunity to revisit that decision. I think she did about as much consultation with people in the Strait before making her move as the Minister of Community Services did with transition houses and women's shelters before he announced their cut. No consultation. Yet, we are being asked here as responsible, elected members of this House to vote in support of Bill No. 109 which would make these changes which I've clearly highlighted, and would have a serious negative impact on Nova Scotians, whether they be children, students, middle-aged, in the work force or whether they be seniors.

As I said, in the media locally there is not one Nova Scotian who can stand in their place and say I have not been affected in any way, shape or form by the Tory budget or by the Financial Measures (2002) Act. I would challenge any of the government members to point out one person who is not affected by these changes, which again shows the importance that this bill clearly did not have the necessary thinking, the forethought necessary before bringing it forward.

One of the interesting issues which does rise again on the issue of education and the changes being made in this bill. We have a Minister of Education who, when she was first elected especially, said any issues that came about school boards - no, no, school boards are elected, they've been elected by the people just as our government was elected, we're going to respect them and we are not going to interfere in their decisions. That was her original position. Then, she decided to go with the Southwest pilot where she would have a CEO reporting directly to her usurping the power of the elected board members. That was the first shot. Then she continued to say, look they're elected board members, she can't get into day

[Page 9093]

to day decisions or changes or school closures or anything of that nature. Then, she gets involved in the Strait Regional School Board and again assumes financial control of that board. Once again saying, look, I can't get involved in any school board decisions - they're an elected board, I must respect them.

Now, last Friday, again, in a very difficult situation, one which I think all members of this House recognize the seriousness and the need to take action, the minister decided on her own to use the Education Act to step into a specific situation and to withdraw a teacher's licence. Regardless of the scenario, the action itself shows that the minister clearly is willing to step into the day to day decisions made by a school board. The reason I've drawn this and tried to explain this is that how, after she's done this, can the minister who's also the MLA for Halifax Citadel say - in good conscience - that she does not have the authority, the ability, or the will to step in and examine the decision made by the Halifax Regional School Board to close Halifax's only single track immersion school, École Beaufort. The parents, the students have highlighted several examples of where the board, in making that decision, contravened the Education Act. Yet, the minister, day in, day out, has refused to represent her constituents.

It came to the point and I have to give it to the parents in the support of École Beaufort are very clever. When the minister said, I'm your MLA, yes, but I can't do anything, I'm the Minister of Education and I don't have the authority, they were quite clever and immediately offered a way out for the minister by saying, step down as the Minister of Education and then you can represent us as the MLA for Halifax Citadel. The opportunity was open to her to do that. She could have gone to see the Premier and say Mr. Premier, the Minister of Finance isn't tired of sticking his nose in my business, if he wants Education that bad why don't you give him Education and give me Finance? That way as the MLA for Halifax Citadel, I can represent my constituents and I can demand that École Beaufort not be closed and that there be a full examination of the decision made by the Halifax Regional School Board in closing that school. Mr. Speaker, as I said in this House, the attack by the Halifax Regional School Board on the immersion program is one that has never been seen before in this province.

There are very dangerous tones around the debate and the decision-making by that school board. One can only hope that there is actually a reason that has not been made available to us that shows logic in why that decision was made. But closing the one immersion school that has had so much success and a full enrolment, and choosing to take that student population and basically, as one parent told me, use those students as seat-fillers - that is how they described the actions of the Halifax Regional School Board. They said, they want to take our immersion students and use them as seat-fillers for other schools that do not have enough enrolment. So the one little school, École Beaufort, will see its students, from Primary to Grade Six, split into three different schools, Mr. Speaker. How can you possibly say that this government believes in immersion and the immersion program when it allows the board to take an immersion-only population and split it amongst three separate

[Page 9094]

schools? These are not high school students. These are elementary students, from Primary to Grade Six.

Again, the Minister of Education is willing to sit back and allow litigation to take place to determine issues of education rather than for her and her government to show leadership and responsibility. This is government by litigation. They are more than happy to sit back, hands in their pockets, and say, aw shucks, there is nothing I can do; I will just sit back and wait to see what the courts are going to say on the decisions rather than show responsibility and leadership and take direct involvement in this.

Well, Mr. Speaker, it is the Minister of Education herself who will have to answer to the parents at École Beaufort, the students, and her own constituents. When she comes knocking at the next election, they will say, where were you when the board contravened the Education Act in so many ways in closing l'École Beaufort? She will be the one who will have to answer for that.

How interesting that the minister has decided to strike up a committee to review French immersion education in the Halifax Regional School Board. Keep in mind that this is the same government that got caught, a mere couple of years ago, taking dollars coming from Ottawa for French-language education and spending that money for different programs. Now, it's interesting; the Minister of Finance, in his Budget Speech, made a passing reference saying that there had been an investigation into the spending of French dollars coming from Ottawa for French-language education. He said that they had been exonerated, that everything had been cleared up and that they had done nothing wrong. Mr. Speaker, he has never tabled a report in this House; he has never tabled documents showing how the decision was reached to say that they were exonerated from this. In mere passing in his Budget Speech, saying we did not misspend federal dollars meant for French-language education, I don't think Nova Scotians should be expected to accept such an answer from the minister, nor would Nova Scotians expect elected members of the Opposition to accept such an excuse for what was done.

M. le Président, je voulais juste prendre quelques minutes pour dire quelques mots sur le projet de loi numéro 109 et l'amendement qui a été introduit pour voir que cette loi ne sera pas présentée et appuyée pour au moins six mois. Je pense que j'ai soulevé plusieurs points, soit des services communautaires, soit du secteur de la santé, soit du secteur des conseils scolaires, soit du conseil des arts de la province, ou même sur les impôts qui ont été mis sur le tabac. On voit plusieurs exemples où les changements qui sont proposés par le gouvernement d'aujourd'hui sont des changements, c'est clair, qu'il n'a pas pris le temps pour vouloir examiner quels effets que ces changements vont avoir sur la population de la Nouvelle-Écosse et sur les fonctions des gens de cette province chaque journée.

[Page 9095]

Comme je l'ai dit, il n'y a pas une personne, et je donne le défi aux membres du gouvernement, s'ils peuvent identifier une personne dans cette province, une personne de la Nouvelle-Écosse. qui peut dire ou, qui jure qu'il n'y aura aucun impact de ce budget ou du projet de loi no. 109 sur ma vie ou même, plus important, sur ma poche et mon portefeuille. C'est très clair que ce gouvernement-ci n'a pas présenté un plan pour cette province, un plan pour le futur, ou un plan pour aujourd'hui. À la place, ils ont choisi de vouloir élever les impôts, prendre d'autre argent des poches des gens de cette province et de ne pas être capable de vivre dans leurs propres moyens, avec l'argent qu'ils ont.

Le Ministre des Finances le connaît bien. Il sait très bien. Il a bien appris lui-même dans ces années passées; sous la direction du Premier ministre Buchanan, il a bien appris que quand ce n'est pas possible de vouloir vivre entre nos propres moyens, là c'est le temps d'aller chercher l'argent dans les poches des gens de la Nouvelle-Écosse. Il l'a bien appris; c'est encore quelque chose qu'il est en train de faire aujourd'hui, et c'est sans question que les gens de la Nouvelle-Écosse vont se rappeler - spécialement les acadiens et acadiennes, les Français, vont bien se rappeler du ministre pour cela qu'il a fait comme Ministre des Finances, de vouloir voler de l'argent de nos poches, de vouloir de pas être possible de vivre entre les moyens.

Mr. Speaker, in closing, I would move that we now adjourn the debate, to be resumed at another time.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is to adjourn debate.

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member opposite said in French that I had stolen money out of people's pockets. He stated that I had stolen money out of people's pockets - il a volé de l'argent de leurs poches.

Mr. Speaker, if the honourable member wants to speak French in this House, he has the right to do so. He has no authority under the House to state such things, hoping that the Speaker and the members opposite will not understand what's going on. I deserve an apology and the House deserves an apology from the member opposite.

MR. SPEAKER: Obviously, the Speaker is not able to interpret those last few words that the honourable member for Richmond said, but if the honourable member for Richmond did in fact say what the honourable Minister of Finance is saying, I would ask that the honourable member would stand and - if that is in fact the case - retract and make apology for those statements. If he says he didn't, then I will have someone interpret it for me tomorrow and come back to the House. If it is in fact that way, then I will be demanding an apology.

I will leave it up to the honourable member for Richmond, at his discretion.

[Page 9096]

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, the explanation given by the Minister of Finance is not an accurate reflection of the comments made by me, and as a result, the way he's explained it - I do not believe that, as he has explained it, it was out of order. I will certainly defer to your ruling on that.

MR. SPEAKER: I will report back to the House tomorrow after the matter is interpreted for me.

The honourable member for Richmond has moved to adjourn the debate.

AN HON. MEMBER: Do a recorded vote.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed? (Interruption)

Well, it depends. The only way it is a recorded vote is if there's not an agreement. Is it agreed?

There is a No? (Interruption)

Order, please. There has been a request to adjourn the debate.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

The motion is carried.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RON RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move that we call another bill on second reading. Would you please call Bill No. 104, the Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission Act.

Bill No. 104 - Maritime Provinces Higher Education Commission Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Education.

[9:00 p.m.]

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, this is not a complicated bill. What it does is it helps us to maintain the quality of our university programs. There are four main components to this. One is the body that evaluates proposed new programs for Maritime universities; only programs that will give students a quality education are approved. The same evaluation is

[Page 9097]

done for existing programs. Every 10 years existing programs are reviewed to ensure that they are current, relevant and still offering quality education for our students. The MPHEC also collects data from our institutions that helps us plan for the future. For example, information on tuition levels and enrollment help both the universities and governments to see trends and make plans for improving the post-secondary sector. Also, the information gathered by the commission is often used by Stats Canada for national research, so the MPHEC makes a contribution on our behalf to the national picture of post-secondary education.

As well as a member of MPHEC, Nova Scotia can commission specific research to be done about our institutions. The commission has conducted studies of graduate success, accessibility of university education and research at our post-secondary institutions. All the research conducted by the MPHEC helps us to track changes that affect the post-secondary system and help us to make strategic improvements that enhance the quality of university education in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, in Nova Scotia we offer the only medical and dentistry programs in the Maritimes; Prince Edward Island is the only vet college; New Brunswick specializes in forestry. Each of these provinces buys seats in the other provinces' institutions to ensure their students have access to these regional programs. The MPHEC facilitates the transfer of funds from one province to another for these seats.

In the past the commission often focused on providing advice on university funding. It hasn't been doing this since the early 1990s. We now get this kind of advice from the Nova Scotia Advisory Board on Colleges and Universities. Quality checks of university programs, collecting statistics, conducting research and facilitating funds transfers, these are the core functions the MPHEC is currently performing. After thorough consultation with our education partners, these functions were agreed upon by the three Maritime Provinces in 1997.

Mr. Speaker, we are the first of the Maritime Provinces to put our legislation forward. We expect New Brunswick and P.E.I. to follow soon. The legislation we're proposing reflects the role the MPHEC is actually playing today and that we want it to play in the future. The legislation is designed to ensure that students continue to enjoy the highest-quality education for which our institutions are known. Thank you.

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

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I'm glad to have an opportunity to speak on Bill No. 104 for a few minutes. What should be put on the record, I think, is that this is the end of an era in post-secondary education in Atlantic Canada or in the Maritime Provinces. My understanding is that 20 years ago this was a thriving body, the Maritime commission on higher education, that provided independent recommendations on funding of our

[Page 9098]

university system. Not unlike a few years back, we had the Committee on Education Funding for Public Education, which eventually was gutted by this government. Twenty years ago, this commission used to provide independent assessments of how much money the provinces should be providing to fund universities in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.

I also understand that back then - and maybe the Minister of Transportation and Public Works, the Government House Leader may recall - it was a real thorn in the side of the Buchanan Government because on an annual basis there used to be constant reminders of the lack of funding being provided to our universities and how the government was not providing the money that was required to ensure that post-secondary education was properly funded.

Unfortunately, some 10 years ago or so, and my dates may be off, roughly, in a de facto manner the commission was gutted. It was removed of any power, basically, to provide recommendations of funding and in the last 10 years it has become a commission with a very different mandate. This legislation just, in law, confirms what the Tories were able to do 10 years ago, which was gut this commission of any independence and an ability to provide real independent advice on how much money should be provided in our post-secondary education system. This is why this legislation is the end of an era, because we see at the same time and on the same night we're debating a financial measures bill, in the same session we're passing a budget in which this government has dramatically cut spending and funding of our post secondary system, we have the government finalizing in law the end of any independent recommendations on funding for a post-secondary system.

The government has eliminated any voice, and this legislation will eliminate the last legislated independent voice that can say this government should provide this amount of money to ensure our students, our youth, get a decent university education. In fact, it has not had this voice. It has been neutered for some dozen years or 10 years, Mr. Speaker, but the fact is that we are finally putting to rest any opportunity for this independent body, in law, to be able to provide any form of independent suggestions as to funding. At the same time, we see our post-secondary schools being horribly underfunded. This government, this year, has decided that it will actually cut funding for our universities in real dollars. With inflation going up, with no new money going in, that means a real dollar cut in post-secondary education. Our universities, I can't even imagine what the tuition's going to be this year, how much it will go up.

We just heard Université de Moncton went up 9 per cent, I believe. I suspect in this province we're going to see double digit increases in tuition rates. That is the problem, Mr. Speaker, that is the dilemma we face with a government that is unwilling to properly fund post-secondary education. I talked to, only a couple of hours ago or even a little over an hour ago, how they are horribly underfunding our public school system, it's even worse in our post-secondary system. Our universities are literally withering away, rotting away, the

[Page 9099]

buildings are falling apart, teachers and staff and professors are leaving for greener pastures, our students are paying $1,500 per year more in tuition than the average Canadian student and yet this government does nothing except try to move legislation that entrenches in law what they have already done for 10 years - stop any independent voice from being heard with regard to how we should fund our universities.

The debate has been stifled, the ability to have specific professionals with an idea as to how much should be put into funding has been gone for 10 years now and this government, with this legislation, puts the final nail in the coffin of that opportunity. You can see it in the legislation, it's very, very limited in its ability to provide advice on financial issues, if any, without the request of the ministers being able to ask them for it. We all know this government is not about to ask an independent body how much it should be spending on education because they know full well what the anser will be - a lot more than they are. Our education system is suffering, our post-secondary education is suffering.

Here's the crux of the matter. I remember when post-secondary education, and education generally, was the great equalizer, it was an opportunity for all Nova Scotians to get the education, to be able to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, to get a decent job and to be able to move on with their lives. Well, Mr. Speaker, that's gone. For the vast majority of Nova Scotians at their income level, at their parents income levels, they cannot afford to go to university. Only the elite can go, only the elite can afford it. This isn't just some sort of class-bashing comment I'm making, this is an issue that affects middle class as well. I see it in my riding on a daily basis. Parents call me who are hoping their children can go to university, who haven't been able to save enough money to send them, are thinking that student loans may be something that they could use, and the system doesn't allow them to get student loans.

I call them asset-rich and cash-poor families. Where they may have a house that's valued at a certain amount - and at the rate in which assessments are going up with the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations at the helm they're going to keep going up, they're going to be paying taxes and taxes on that but the fact is they don't have the cash to send their children to university but, because they have an asset, primarily a house that is quite highly valued, they are unable to get loans and their children are in a quandary. They are stuck between a rock and a hard place, they're not able to get the loans to be able to go to university, their parents are struggling to be able to find the money to put them through university and, in many cases these are families who assume, from the day their child was born, from the first time they picked up their child they said, I will ensure you will go to university.

I just remember seeing this commercial on television yesterday on this very issue, Mr. Speaker. It's one of those things that parents are so hopeful of. It's one of those things that parents imagine from the day their children are born, from the day they first start school to the day they graduate from high school, that their child will go to university. Bill No. 104

[Page 9100]

puts the nail in the coffin of the last group that was able to provide independent advice to ensure that families in Nova Scotia did have an opportunity to go to university, have their children better themselves and be able to carry on with a fuller and richer life. That's what it's all about. We have backbenchers that don't understand this. We have a Minister of Education that does not understand this. This is the problem with this government. They will dot the i's and cross the t's to put the nail in the coffin of an organization that once was a proud, independent voice for proper funding of our universities and instead we have a government that only wants to stifle debate, only wants to kill any discussion on our post-secondary education system and to prevent any real opportunities for our children.

That one little tiny thing, Mr. Speaker, that was there - the Loan Remission Program - is gone. If you used to have a $10,000 loan, maybe $3,000 of that would be deferred and you wouldn't have to pay it. It was a small amount to allow those children to have an opportunity to be able to have that education. They eliminated that two years ago and they promised it would come in. What a coincidence, it may come in in an election year. Well, you know what? The people of Nova Scotia are not stupid. They understand that this government has dropped the ball with regard to post-secondary education. They have not ensured that there has been proper funding. They know that tuition is already $1,500 higher than the national average and when we start to hear in the summer, after we have more tuition increases, most likely in the double digits, they will know that it's government's fault.

This government has little ticking time bombs throughout it's budget. It's district health authorities all have to make cuts after the House closes. It has post-secondary institutions that will have to raise tuition after the House closes. It has all kinds of things it hopes, once they shut the door to this House and go away for the summer that people won't blame them, Mr. Speaker. Well, the fact is, they will. They will not forget what this government has done time after time and what it has done is make choices in the favour of its friends and of the elite and not in favour of those people in Nova Scotia that are desperately trying to make their lives better and make the lives of their children better. For that reason, I will not be supporting this bill.

Before I go on, I move the adjournment of the debate.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is to adjourn the debate.

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

A recorded vote is being called for.

The honourable Government House Leader.

[Page 9101]

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Before the recorded vote, Mr. Speaker, I would like to advise the House of the hours for tomorrow. The House will meet at 12:00 a.m. and sit until 10:00 p.m. and the order of business will be Public Bills for Second Reading, following Question Period.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Noon hour? Twelve noon until 8:00 p.m.?

MR. RUSSELL: Yes.

AN HON. MEMBER: He said 10:00 p.m.

MR. RUSSELL: Twelve to 10. Noon until 10. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Ring the bells. Call in the members.

[9: 14 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The motion was to adjourn the debate.

A recorded vote has been called for.

The Clerk will call the roll.

[The Clerk calls the roll.]

[10:14 p.m.]

YEAS NAYS

Mr. Baker

Mr. Russell

Mr. LeBlanc

Miss Purves

Mr. Fage

Mr. Balser

Ms. McGrath

Mr. Olive

Mr. Morse

Mr. MacIsaac

Mr. DeWolfe

Mr. Chataway

Mr. Hendsbee

Mrs. Baillie

[Page 9102]

Mr. Morash

Mr. Barnet

Mr. Gaudet

Dr. Smith

THE CLERK: All those present voting, voted in favour. None opposed.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.

The honourable Government House Leader on tomorrow's hours and business, please.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the House will convene again at 12:00 noon tomorrow until 8:00 p.m. The order of business will be Public Bills for Second Reading following Oral Question Period.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that the House adjourn until tomorrow. The hours will be 12:00 noon until 8:00 p.m.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

The House is adjourned until 12:00 noon tomorrow.

[The House rose at 10:15 p.m.]

[Page 9103]

NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)

RESOLUTION NO. 3520

By: Mr. Richard Hurlburt (Yarmouth)

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

Whereas the Carleton Fire Department in Yarmouth County is in dire need of a new fire hall; and

Whereas the Carleton Fire Department has already managed to raise about $160,000 through fundraising for this special project; and

Whereas firefighters are the heart and soul of each and every community across Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly applaud the efforts of the Carleton, Yarmouth County Fire Department, as they strive toward the construction and continued financing of a new fire hall.

RESOLUTION NO. 3521

By: Mr. Cecil Clarke (Cape Breton North)

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

Whereas the Mi'kmaq band, Membertou from Cape Breton, has been honoured with recognition from the International Organization for Standardization for achieving high product quality and exceptional service; and

Whereas Membertou is the first native government in North America to meet the demanding standards for international business set up by the ISO; and

Whereas last year alone, Membertou signed deals with Clearwater Fine Foods, SNC-Lavalin, Marriott and Sodexho, and are trying to land contracts to clean up the Sydney tar ponds, as well as move into the construction business;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the Membertou of Cape Breton on the economic development achievements of their band over the past year and wish them continued success in the future.

[Page 9104]

RESOLUTION NO. 3522

By: Mr. Cecil Clarke (Cape Breton North)

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

Whereas 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 made a significant contribution to women's health issues in Atlantic Canada; and

Whereas the Cape Breton Wellness Centre was one of the organizations that had the honour of receiving an award;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the Cape Breton Wellness Centre and the other nine award recipients for their hard work and dedication to forward women's health issues.

RESOLUTION NO. 3523

By: Mr. Cecil Clarke (Cape Breton North)

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

Whereas Melissa Hall has received the Governor General of Canada's Medal of Bravery in recognition of putting herself at risk to save the life of a drowning man; and

Whereas without concern for her own safety, Melissa instinctively swam to rescue the panicking man, putting her own young life at risk; and

Whereas many heroes do not believe that their courageousness is remarkable, Melissa's instinct and actions demonstrate a special character which everyone can admire; and

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Melissa Hall on her Medal of Bravery and applaud her heroic efforts and concern for another's safety.

[Page 9105]

RESOLUTION NO. 3524

By: Mr. James DeWolfe (Pictou East)

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

Whereas two members of the Pictou County running community, Charlie MacDonald and Lawson Breen, volunteered a Saturday to help out a friend; and

Whereas the two men helped to do some springtime yard work for Fred Lays of Foxbrook, a long-time runner and triathlete; and

Whereas Mr. Lays is recovering from cancer and was deeply touched by the efforts and support of his friends;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House commend Charlie MacDonald and Lawson Breen for their willingness to give aid to a friend in need and wish Mr. Lays all the best as he recuperates.

RESOLUTION NO. 3525

By: Mr. James DeWolfe (Pictou East)

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

Whereas 17-year-old Tennile Bowen of 87 Admiral Murray Sea Cadet Corps in Westville, was recently named national sea cadet of the year, out of 10,000 fellow cadets, from the Navy League of Canada; and

Whereas Ms. Bowen, in addition to her cadet duties, is Westville High School's student council president, captain of the senior girls basketball team and sits on the school advisory committee, all while maintaining an academic average of 90; and

Whereas Ms. Bowen has also received the prestigious position of chief of the corps and has been honoured with many citizenship awards;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Tennile Bowen on the honour she has received in being named national sea cadet of the year, commend Ms. Bowen for all of her accomplishments, military and academic, and wish her tremendous success in her future endeavours.

[Page 9106]

RESOLUTION NO. 3526

By: Mr. James DeWolfe (Pictou East)

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

Whereas the We Care Society has recently held their annual telethon at the Glasgow Square amphitheatre; and

Whereas this year's telethon took place in front of a live audience for the first time and was attended by at least 500 citizens; and

Whereas the telethon raised $40,000 this year which will go to help with medical- related expenses for local families;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate and thank the We Care Society on its successful fundraiser for such a worthy cause.

RESOLUTION NO. 3527

By: Mr. James DeWolfe (Pictou East)

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

Whereas over 250 years ago the Battle of Culloden took place which led to the immigration of many Scots into Nova Scotia; and

Whereas residents in the community of Lismore hold an annual memorial to commemorate the battle and remember those lost, at the burial site of three Culloden veterans who had emigrated to our province; and

Whereas people gather from all over Nova Scotia and some from Prince Edward Island in honour of those lost at the Battle of Culloden;

Therefore be it resolved that this House commend the efforts of the residents of Lismore in keeping the memory of the Battle of Culloden alive in the hearts of Nova Scotians.

[Page 9107]

RESOLUTION NO. 3528

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas behind every organization or group stands a committed and dedicated leader; and

Whereas Cumberland County has recently held its volunteer luncheon to honour these leaders in many categories including Family Volunteer of the Year, Youth Volunteer of the Year and County Volunteers; and

Whereas Darlene Montrose was presented with the award of District 6 Volunteer of the Year for her contributions as the secretary of the Westchester Fireman's Ladies Auxiliary and as an executive member on the Westchester Elementary School Board of Directors;

Therefore be it resolved that this House applaud the efforts put forward by Darlene Montrose and the other outstanding volunteers honoured at the luncheon for their constant and unwavering commitment to their community.

RESOLUTION NO. 3529

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas behind every organization or group stands a committed and dedicated leader; and

Whereas Cumberland County has recently held its volunteer luncheon to honour these leaders in many categories including Family Volunteer of the Year, Youth Volunteer of the Year and County Volunteers; and

Whereas Courtney Bragg was presented with the award of Youth Volunteer of the Year for her contributions to various community functions, assisting firemen and the Masons with their dinners;

Therefore be it resolved that this House applaud the efforts put forward by Courtney Bragg and the other outstanding volunteers honoured at the luncheon for their constant and unwavering commitment to their community.

[Page 9108]

RESOLUTION NO. 3530

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas behind every organization or group stands a committed and dedicated leader; and

Whereas Cumberland County has recently held its volunteer luncheon to honour these leaders in many categories including Family Volunteer of the Year, Youth Volunteer of the Year and County Volunteers; and

Whereas the Sprague family was presented with the award of Family Volunteer of the Year for their contribution to the local volunteer fire department, their community's United Church, as well as the recreation centre;

Therefore be it resolved that this House applaud the efforts of the Sprague family and the other outstanding volunteers honoured at the luncheon for their constant and unwavering commitment to their community.

RESOLUTION NO. 3531

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Crystal Roberts, a Grade 11 student at Parrsboro Regional High School, has been named one of Parrsboro's Volunteer of the Year awards; and

Whereas Ms. Roberts is the President of Parrsboro's Youth Town Council, a representative of the PRHS student council, plays on the senior girls soccer team and is a member of the Food Bank Committee; and

Whereas the awards will be presented at a ceremony in Halifax which Ms. Roberts will attend;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Crystal Roberts on the honour of being named Volunteer of the Year and wish her best of luck in her future endeavours.

[Page 9109]

NOTICE OF QUESTION FOR WRITTEN ANSWER

Given on April 26, 2002

(Pursuant to Rule 30)

QUESTION NO. 7

By: Mr. Graham Steele (Halifax Fairview)

To: Hon. Rodney MacDonald (Minister assigned the supervision of the administration of the Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation)

(1) On April 25, 2002, the minister tabled the documents (one from the Treasury and Policy Board and one from the minister) requested in Written Question No. 6. Under the specific statutory authority did the minister and the Treasury and Policy Board issue these directives to the Liquor Corporation?