Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

Les travaux de la Chambre ont repris le
21 septembre 2017

HANSARD 03-5

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://nslegislature.ca/index.php/proceedings/hansard/

Annual subscriptions available from the Office of the Speaker.

Third Session

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 2, 2003

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
SPEAKER'S RULING: Advertisement of government policies as implemented.
(Pt. Of Priv. By Mr. Manning MacDonald [Hansard p. 31]) 360
SPEAKER'S RULING: Announcement outside the House of date of budget.
(Pt. Of Priv. By Mr. Manning MacDonald [Hansard p. 31]) 361
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS:
Transport. & Pub. Wks.: Route 289 - Concerns, Mr. B. Taylor 361
PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES:
Anl. Rept. of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 362
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 342, Nurses: Leadership Conf. - Good Wishes Extend,
Hon. J. Purves 362
Vote - Affirmative 363
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 23, Protection of Public Participation Act, Mr. G. Steele 363
No. 24, Public Services Protection Act, Ms. Maureen MacDonald 363
No. 25, Commissioner on Resources and Environment Act,
Mr. J. MacDonell 363
No. 26, Education Act, Mr. W. Estabrooks 363
No. 27, Education Act, Mr. K. Deveaux 363
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 343, CUPW: "Moving Mountains" - Publication Congrats.,
Mr. D. Dexter 363
Vote - Affirmative 364
Res. 344, Nat. Res.: Offshore Promises - Non-Delivery,
Mr. Manning MacDonald 364
Res. 345, Bowater Mersey: Wilderness Preservation - Gratitude Express,
Mr. K. Morash 365
Vote - Affirmative 365
Res. 346, Col. E. Hants Health Auth.: Diagnostic Imaging Equip. -
Provision Congrats., Mr. J. MacDonell 366
Vote - Affirmative 367
Res. 347, Bayers Rd. Baptist Church: Anniv. (50th) - Congrats.,
Mr. G. Steele 367
Vote - Affirmative 368
Res. 348, Storm (03/03): Emergency Workers - Congrats., Mr. D. Wilson 368
Vote - Affirmative 369
Res. 349, Westville Curling Club: Efforts - Applaud, Mr. J. DeWolfe 369
Vote - Affirmative 369
Res. 350, Nat. Res.: Tobeatic Wilderness Area - Supporters Welcome,
Mr. H. Epstein 369
Res. 351, Can. Games (2003): Participants - Congrats., Mr. D. Wilson 370
Vote - Affirmative 371
Res. 352, Cuckoo Moon Band: CD Release - Congrats., Mr. J. Carey 371
Vote - Affirmative 371
Res. 353, Sports: Truro Irving Timberwolves - Championship Congrats.,
Hon. J. Muir 372
Vote - Affirmative 372
Res. 354, Ackerman, Sarah: Can. Winter Games - Participation Congrats.,
Mr. Ronald Chisholm 372
Vote - Affirmative 373
Res. 355, Sports: Sackville Blazers - Championship Congrats.,
Mr. B. Barnet 373
Vote - Affirmative 374
Res. 356, Doucet, Nicole: Team N.S. Flag Bearer - Congrats.,
Hon. P. Christie 374
Vote - Affirmative 374
Res. 357, Cameron, John Allan: Order of Can. - Congrats.,
Hon. Rodney MacDonald 375
Vote - Affirmative 375
Res. 358, Kelly, Terry: Order of Can. - Congrats.,
Hon. Rodney MacDonald 375
Vote - Affirmative 376
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 16, Insurance: Seniors - Discrimination, Mr. D. Dexter 377
No. 17, Fin. - Prem.: Promises - Failure, Mr. M. Samson 378
No. 18, Insurance: Seniors - Discrimination, Mr. D. Dexter 379
No. 19, Fin. - Prem.: Borrowing - Promises, Mr. M. Samson 381
No. 20, Insurance: Plan/Consultation - Confirm, Mr. D. Dexter 382
No. 21, Prem.: Political Advertising - Funding Source, Mr. D. Wilson 383
No. 22, Fin.: Fuel Oil - HST Remove, Mr. G. Steele 385
No. 23, Health: CHST Supplement - Spending Explain,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 387
No. 24, Health: Nurse Recruitment Prog. - Efficacy, Dr. J. Smith 388
No. 25, EMO: Extreme Weather - Gov't. (N.S.) Preparedness,
Mr. H. Epstein 390
No. 26, Fin.: Prem. - Borrowings Explain, Mr. M. Samson 391
No. 27, Health: New Waterford Cons. Hosp. ER -
Service Reduction Explain, Mr. F. Corbett 393
No. 28, Fin.: Debt Growth - Prem. Justify, Mr. M. Samson 394
No. 29, Commun. Serv.: Gordon B. Isnor Manor - Elevator Problem,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 396
No. 30, Prem.: Treasury & Policy Bd. - Project List,
Mr. Manning MacDonald 397
No. 31, Environ. & Lbr.: Tobeatic Wilderness Area -
Black Bull Mine Halt, Mr. H. Epstein 399
No. 32, Environ. & Lbr.: N.S. Workers' Comp. Prog. Report -
Subsequent Action, Mr. P. MacEwan 400
No. 33, Health Prom.: Non-Smoking Regs. - Standards,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 401
No. 34, Commun. Serv.: Foster Parents - Per Diem Rates, Mr. W. Gaudet 402
No. 35, Transport. & Pub. Wks.: MacKay Bridge Access Roads -
Jurisdiction, Mr. J. Pye 403
OPPOSITION MEMBERS' BUSINESS:
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS:
Res. 289, Insurance: Premiums Reduction - Solutions,
Mr. F. Corbett 405
Mr. F. Corbett 405
Hon. R. Russell 408
Hon. M. Baker 411
Mr. Manning MacDonald 412
Mr. H. Epstein 415
PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 2, Workers' Compensation Act 419
Mr. F. Corbett 419
Hon. R. Russell 423
Mr. J. Carey 425
Mr. P. MacEwan 426^^
Mr. H. Epstein 429
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Gov't. (Can.): Gun Registry - Crime Reduction Effectiveness:
Mr. B. Taylor 434
Mr. J. MacDonell 437
Hon. J. Muir 439
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Thur., Apr. 3rd at 2:00 p.m. 440
NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3):
Res. 359, French, Tara: Team N.S. Flag Bearer - Congrats., Hon. J. Muir 441
Res. 360, Boudreau, Debbie: CNTA Award - Congrats.,
Hon. Rodney MacDonald 441
Res. 361, MacDonald, Derrick/Martin, Glenn: CNTA Award - Congrats.,
Hon. Rodney MacDonald 442
Res. 362, Hunter, Warden Keith: CNTA Award - Congrats.,
Hon. Rodney MacDonald 442
Res. 363, Kennedy, Toni: CNTA Award - Congrats.,
Hon. Rodney MacDonald 443
Res. 364, Snell, Darcy: CNTA Award - Congrats.,
Hon. Rodney MacDonald 443
Res. 365, Margolians Mar. Ltd.: CNTA Award - Congrats.,
Hon. Rodney MacDonald 444
Res. 366, Tate, Krista: CNTA Award - Congrats.,
Hon. Rodney MacDonald 444
Res. 367, Ski Wentworth: CNTA Award - Congrats.,
Hon. Rodney MacDonald 445
Res. 368, Truro Tulip Festival: CNTA Award - Congrats.,
Hon. Rodney MacDonald 445
Res. 369, Delmar Const.: BBB Award - Congrats., Mr. R. Hurlburt 446
Res. 370, Henwood, Alex: Springhill HS Winter Carnival King/
Mr. Congeniality - Congrats., The Speaker 446
Res. 371, Hart, Al - Women's ACAA Basketball -
Top Coach Congrats., The Speaker 447
Res. 372, Hunter, Stan: Springhill FD 25 Yr. Service Bar - Congrats.,
The Speaker 447
Res. 373, Cloney, Gene: Wilcox Fire Service Award - Congrats.,
The Speaker 448
Res. 374, Dobson, Jeremy: Nat'l. Star Cert. Exam - Congrats.,
The Speaker 448
Res. 375, Dickinson, Karen: Golden Jubilee Medal - Congrats.,
The Speaker 449
Res. 376, Curry, Alicia: Springhill HS Winter Carnival Princess -
Congrats., The Speaker 449
Res. 377, Colwell, Mary Jean: Girls @ The Junction -
Participation Congrats., The Speaker 450
Res. 378, Cole, Sgt. Dalena: Nat'l. Star Cert. Exam - Congrats.,
The Speaker 450
Res. 379, Colborne, Brenton: Oxford Town Service Plaque - Congrats.,
The Speaker 451
Res. 380, Morine, Jenelle: Cancer Research - Fundraising Congrats.,
Mr. M. Parent 451
Res. 341, Higgins, Kristin: Girls @ The Junction, Participation Congrats.,
The Speaker 452

[Page 359]

HALIFAX, WEDNESDAY, APRIL 2, 2003

Fifty-eighth General Assembly

Third Session

2:00 P.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Murray Scott

DEPUTY SPEAKERS

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

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Before we begin the daily routine, the three House Leaders have a copy of the lineup for Question Period for Opposition Days and for Tuesdays and Thursdays as a result of the change of seating in the House. Actually, what will happen for today is that House Leaders will follow along up until Question No. 6. The list will stay the same. In other words, the Official Opposition will get Question Nos. 5 and 6. Then, after that, we will alternate between the two Opposition Parties for today only. Tomorrow we will have a more permanent schedule to follow. Does everyone understand? Thank you.

The honourable member for Cape Breton South.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: While we agree to that today, I believe that our people in our office will have a look at this and report back to you and to the Leader of the NDP as to whether or not we are in agreement with this or we have some other suggestion to make.

MR. SPEAKER: As I explained to the House Leaders, I based this formula on an average of 50 questions per week but obviously if the Parties want to go back and look at the percentages of representation in the House versus the number of questions, that's certainly agreeable, yes.

359

[Page 360]

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, in keeping with that, of course, what we will be doing is looking at what the traditions have been in the way that questions have been divided up in previous sessions based on the composition of the House at that time. I think it's a very easy matter to get a listing, for example, of the order of questions when the House composition was similar but different.

MR. SPEAKER: The same thing but different.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I think the honourable member for Cape Breton Nova was probably going to rise on the same point as I'm going to make. The last time we had this situation in the House, I believe the person who was sitting as an Independent was only given one question a week.

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

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: If I might, I don't know if we need to get into a formalized liturgy here as to how many questions and in what order because it is the right of any member of the House to ask a question. In the British House, the Clerk picks a question out of a box and reads it out loud. The minister prepares a response to that and delivers it the following day, after which the Official Opposition, the Third Party, and the government each get an opportunity to ask a supplementary question. That's the practice of the British House. All three Parties get in on every question. There's no reason why that can't be done here if members on that side want to ask questions, and I would encourage them to do so. I think it is wrong to set up a formal Rule of the House, whereby the right to ask questions is limited to members of the Opposition and not to members of the government. (Interruptions)

SPEAKER'S RULING: Advertisement of government policies as implemented. (Pt. of privilege by Mr. Manning MacDonald [Hansard p.31])

MR. SPEAKER: Before we begin the daily routine, I wanted to rule on an issue that was brought forward by the honourable member for Cape Breton South. The honourable member for Cape Breton South rose on a point of privilege last Friday and the matter was taken under advisement by myself, and I would like to deal with the matter this afternoon.

The thrust of the honourable member's complaint was that an advertisement placed in a local newspaper was to the effect, that certain government policies were described as being implemented, rather than yet to be considered by this House. I believe the honourable member presented that case at that time. His complaint was that the advertisement was akin to the situation that presented itself in Ontario in 1997.

[Page 361]

I reviewed both the honourable member's complaint and as well, the decision of the Speaker in Ontario. I am satisfied at this point there was no prima facie breach of privilege based on that newspaper advertisement at the time. The advertisement was clearly for information purposes only and does not obstruct or impede either the House or its members from discharging their duties.

SPEAKER'S RULING: Announcement outside the House date of budget. (Pt. of privilege by Mr. Manning MacDonald [Hansard p.31])

MR. SPEAKER: The other point of privilege brought forward by the honourable member for Cape Breton South was to the effect that the Premier's announcement outside the House on the date for the delivery of the budget was in fact, again - in his estimation - a breach of privilege. Again, for the reasons I have stated earlier, I find the announcement to be in essence informational only, as opposed to being a prima facie breach of privilege. If any member would like a copy of this decision they are welcome to it.

[2:15 p.m.]

The honourable member for Cape Breton South.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank you very much for the quick response to my point of privilege. Needless to say, I don't agree with your decision but I will have to abide by it. (Laughter)

MR. SPEAKER: I thank the honourable member for Cape Breton South for that.

We will now begin the daily routine.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition on behalf of 600 residents. The prayer on the petition is basically, "We, the undersigned residents, citizens and commuters, are deeply concerned over the condition of Route 289, from Brookfield, west through Pleasant Valley to the Cement Plant, including the Fields' Road."

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

I might add, before we move along, the subject for this evening's late debate was submitted by the honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley:

[Page 362]

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House recognize the federal gun registry for what it is - an incredible waste of taxpayers' dollars for an ineffective method of curbing violent crime.

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

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

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

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, as the Chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, I beg leave to submit the Annual Report of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts 2001-2002.

MR. SPEAKER: The report is tabled.

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health.

RESOLUTION NO. 342

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

Whereas registered nurses and licensed practical nurses are a vital part of the health care system and continue to adopt and adapt to new roles to support their patients; and

Whereas Nova Scotia nurses, nurse educators, employers and unions have told us that leadership development is among their top three priorities; and

Whereas the Department of Health, through Nova Scotia's Nursing Strategy, is a major sponsor of a leadership conference for nurses, called 21st Century Leadership: New Rules, New Roles for Nurses, which begins tonight at the Holiday Inn in Dartmouth;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of the Legislature commend all nurses across Nova Scotia for their dedication to providing high-quality health care services, and extend good wishes to the 350 nurses and special guests who will be attending the leadership conference, which will set the stage for more nursing leadership opportunities in the future.

[Page 363]

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. 23 - Entitled an Act to Encourage Public Participation and Dissuade Persons from Bringing or Maintaining Legal Proceedings or Claims for an Improper Purpose and to Preserve Access to the Courts. (Mr. Graham Steele)

Bill No. 24 - Entitled an Act Respecting the Protection of Public Services in the Province. (Ms. Maureen MacDonald)

Bill No. 25 - Entitled an Act Respecting the Appointment and Duties of a Commissioner on Resources and Environment. (Mr. John MacDonell)

Bill No. 26 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 1 of the Acts of 1995-96. The Education Act, to Ensure Air and Water Quality in Schools. (Mr. William Estabrooks)

Bill No. 27 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 1 of the Acts of 1995-96. The Education Act. (Mr. Kevin Deveaux)

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. 343

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

[Page 364]

Whereas the Canadian Union of Postal Workers has produced a publication, entitled Moving Mountains: Work, Family and Children with Special Needs, about their Nova Scotia-based national program; and

Whereas this publication is intended to help people gain a new understanding of disability issues and spark ideas and action around everyone's shared responsibility to provide support to families with children with special needs; and

Whereas CUPW hopes the stories in this book will inspire other unions, employers and governments to find more concrete ways to help build a more caring and inclusive society;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate CUPW and its members for their innovative and important national program for families whose children have special needs and for the publication of Moving Mountains that pays tribute to a group of courageous and compassionate families.

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. 344

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

Whereas in Opposition the Leader of the Tory Party assailed the government of the day for not distributing gas to all Nova Scotians yet he has not promised to do the same while Premier; and

Whereas he attacked the Liberal Government for the royalty regime then embraced it when he came to office; and

[Page 365]

Whereas the only benefit from the offshore came as a result of a Liberal Government that allowed the Sable project to go forward;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize that the Premier has failed to deliver on the offshore promise and that he is letting Nova Scotians down by stalling growth in the industry.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Queens.

RESOLUTION NO. 345

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

Whereas Bowater Mersey Paper Company, the Nature Conservatory of Canada and the Province of Nova Scotia have joined together to protect $2.9 million worth of land in the southwest part of the province; and

Whereas these 1,500 hectares are home to endangered species, rare plants and 135-year-old forests that will now be protected from tree harvesting and other commercial activities; and

Whereas this project brings the amount of land Bowater has designated for conservation in Nova Scotia to 33,200 hectares;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join me in expressing their gratitude to the Bowater Mersey Paper Company for their continued efforts to preserve wilderness areas in Nova Scotia despite difficult economic times in the forest products industry.

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 366]

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto on an introduction.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I would like to draw the attention of the members of the House to the attendance in the east gallery today of a number of citizens who have travelled to visit us to express their concern about threats to the Tobeatic Wilderness Area. Sue Brown of the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Mark Dietrich of the Sierra Club, and I think about 12 or 15 others who are here to show us that they're concerned about the survival of wildlife in the Tobeatic. I'd ask the members of the House to extend a warm welcome to our visitors here today. Thank you very much. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. While we welcome all Nova Scotians to this House and to the gallery, I would ask our friends in the gallery to remove their paraphernalia if they would like to stay in the gallery, please. Thank you.

The honourable member for Hants East.

RESOLUTION NO. 346

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

Whereas health care in rural Nova Scotia needs innovative solutions to its problems of access to diagnostic facilities; and

Whereas breast cancer is the second leading cause of death among women after lung cancer; and

Whereas the Colchester East Hants Health Authority has spearheaded efforts and contributions by several groups and organizations to develop a program that will bring mobile sophisticated imaging equipment designed to detect breast cancer in its early stages to rural communities in Hants East and Colchester County;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate the Colchester East Hants Health Authority and all of the contributing groups for their efforts to provide rural residents similar access to diagnostic imaging equipment that urban residents enjoy.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 367]

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

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

Whereas in 1998 and 1999 the NDP took the attitude that it did not matter that we had just had an election in Nova Scotia, what Nova Scotia needed most of all was another election in hopes that this would somehow catapult the NDP into power; and

Whereas the NDP holds itself out as representing sound judgment and prudent protection for the public purse; and

Whereas Volume II of the 1999 Nova Scotia Election Returns shows the cost to the taxpayer of holding an election as in excess of $3 million for election administration alone, never mind the cost to the candidates running or to the political Parties;

Therefore be it resolved that we are surprised that the NDP has not yet introduced a bill to amend the Elections Act to make it possible to hold an election every day of the week, as that surely would be a great step towards their view of democracy.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The resolution is a bit long.

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

RESOLUTION NO. 347

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

Whereas the Bayers Road Baptist Church is celebrating its 50th Anniversary during the weekend of April 12 to 13, 2003; and

Whereas the church has been a pillar of the Bayers Road/ Fairview community since its founding, while drawing its congregation from around the Halifax Regional Municipality; and

Whereas the church's pastors, Reverend Dr. Leslie McCurdy and Reverent Carolyn King, lead the church in worship services, Christian education, and community outreach;

[Page 368]

Therefore be it resolved that the Nova Scotia House of Assembly congratulate the pastors and congregation of Bayers Road Baptist Church on the church's 50th Anniversary and wish them continuing success in the years to come.

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 Glace Bay.

[2:30 p.m.]

RESOLUTION NO. 348

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

Whereas rural Nova Scotia has faced some of the worst flooding in our history; and

Whereas many roads and bridges have been impassable, if not washed away, making it extremely difficult for emergency crews to do their jobs; and

Whereas once again the Nova Scotia emergency teams, whether they are police, fire or emergency health services, have risen to the occasion and performed at their very best;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Legislature congratulate those emergency workers in our province.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 369]

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Pictou East.

RESOLUTION NO. 349

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

Whereas the Westville Curling Club members are just completing their 102nd year of operation; and

Whereas a variety of tournaments, including provincial championships, have been held at the Westville Curling Club since it was incorporated in 1909; and

Whereas the Ship Hector Curling Bonspiel has been another prominent curling event for the past 100 years or more at the Westville Curling Club;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House applaud the dedicated efforts of members of the Westville Curling Club and wish them another century of success.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

RESOLUTION NO. 350

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

[Page 370]

Whereas this government is threatening the Tobeatic Wilderness Area and its population of endangered moose by allowing Black Bull Resources to mine on the border of this treasured area; and

Whereas a number of concerned citizens have come to the House today and donned moose antlers - somewhat in jest but also in full seriousness - to attract much-needed attention to the danger to the Tobeatic and its species; and

Whereas these individuals continue their fight to protect Nova Scotia's invaluable Tobeatic Wilderness Area;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly welcome all the supporters of the Tobeatic and offer whatever support we can with their fight to protect the Tobeatic Wilderness Area.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Glace Bay.

RESOLUTION NO. 351

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

Whereas the 2003 Canada Winter Games were held in Bathurst and Campbellton from February 22 to March 8, 2003; and

Whereas Team Nova Scotia represented our province with dignity and strength; and

Whereas these young athletes work extremely hard for many years developing their skills in their chosen sport;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Legislature congratulate the athletes who took part in the 2003 Canada Games and wish them every success in the future.

[Page 371]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Kings West.

RESOLUTION NO. 352

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

Whereas the Kings County band Cuckoo Moon has released its first CD entitled Live at Fundy Folk; and

Whereas band members Kate Adams, Cathy Arsenault, Carrie Harlow and Heather Holm have been making their original music since 1997; and

Whereas their CD is a mix of vocals, acoustic instruments and crowd reaction during the live recording last year at the 10th Fundy Folk Festival;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join me in expressing our congratulations to Cuckoo Moon on the release of its first CD and wish the band much success in its 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.

[Page 372]

The honourable Minister of Justice.

RESOLUTION NO. 353

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

Whereas the Truro Irving Timberwolves won the Bantam A Girls Championship at the 2003 Justin Coward Memorial Basketball Tournament; and

Whereas the Truro Irving Timberwolves defeated the Billerica 8th Grade team from Boston in a well-played, fast-paced and entertaining championship game; and

Whereas the Truro Irving Timberwolves players continually improved their basketball and life skills while members of the team;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the Truro Irving Timberwolves players and coaches on winning the Bantam A Girls Championship at the 2003 Justin Coward Memorial Basketball Tournament and for their outstanding season.

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 Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury.

RESOLUTION NO. 354

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

Whereas an idea in 1924, the Canada Games became reality in 1967 with the first-ever Canada Winter Games held in Quebec; and

[Page 373]

Whereas since that first event in 1967, more than 40,000 young Canadians have participated in the games with over 40 different sports being represented; and

Whereas Team Nova Scotia's first medalist at the 2003 Canada Winter Games was Sherbrooke's Sarah Ackermann, who received the bronze medal in the women's air pistol competition;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Sarah Ackermann for receiving the first medal for Team Nova Scotia and thank all of those who participated in the 2003 Canada Winter Games.

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. 355

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

Whereas the Sackville Blazers recently captured the Nova Scotia Junior B Hockey Championship, defeating the Strait Pirates in an exciting seven game series; and

Whereas this is the first championship in the team's 27-year history; and

Whereas the Blazers leave today to compete in the Don Johnson Cup Atlantic Co-operators Insurance Junior B Championship in Mount Pearl, Newfoundland;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the Blazers' staff, coaches and players on their victory, and wish them best of luck this weekend in Newfoundland.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 374]

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 Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations.

RESOLUTION NO. 356

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

Whereas Team Nova Scotia's flag bearer must be someone who shows a strong commitment to sport, to the team, and to Nova Scotia, and for the 2003 Canada Games opening ceremonies, that person was Bedford's Nicole Doucet; and

Whereas presently a Grade 12 student at C.P. Allen High School, Ms. Doucet plans to continue her sport at the university level where she will pursue a degree in kinesiology;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Nicole Doucet on being chosen to be flag bearer for Team Nova Scotia and wish her success 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 Minister of Tourism and Culture.

[Page 375]

RESOLUTION NO. 357

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

Whereas the Order of Canada recognizes Canadians who have made a positive impact on the lives of others and is our country's highest honour for lifetime achievement; and

Whereas John Allan Cameron of Glencoe Station is one of these exemplary Canadians being honoured; and

Whereas Mr. Cameron has been instrumental in the Cape Breton music industry for decades, blazing a trail for other Cape Breton artists, and he has also been credited with the growing revival of Celtic music in Canada;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate John Allan Cameron on the receipt of the prestigious Order of Canada and thank him for his contribution to the music industry, and wish him continued success in the future.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Tourism and Culture.

RESOLUTION NO. 358

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

Whereas the Order of Canada recognizes Canadians who have made a positive impact on the lives of others and is our country's highest honour for lifetime achievement; and

Whereas singer, songwriter and motivational speaker Terry Kelly of Cole Harbour is one of these exemplary Canadians being honoured; and

[Page 376]

Whereas Mr. Kelly, who has been blind since childhood, has won six East Coast Music Awards, an indication of the high regard in which his peers and the public hold his singing and song-writing ability;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Terry Kelly on the receipt of the prestigious Order of Canada, and wish him success in the future.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton South.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, obviously we are about to go into Question Period and we had been informed earlier today that the Premier won't be in his seat at the start of Question Period today. A number of our questions are dedicated to the Premier and his office today and I would ask maybe the Government House Leader to tell us if in fact the Premier is going to be here and if he is on his way, may we have a short recess until he gets here?

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the Premier is on his way. He is visiting some of the areas around the province that have been affected by the storm we had on Monday and Tuesday, and he is expected momentarily. However, I would suggest that we continue with Question Period. We have an hour and a half, and the Premier will certainly be here very shortly. In fact, I will make enquiries now as to how long he's going to be.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: Question Period will begin at 2:40 p.m. and end at 4:10 p.m.

The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

[Page 377]

INSURANCE: SENIORS - DISCRIMINATION

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to draw the attention of the minister responsible for insurance to Hattie Dyck who is sitting above him in the gallery. Hattie Dyck is 71 years old, in perfect health and has a clean driving record, yet her insurance company will not renew her policy until she releases her medical information. Hattie Dyck is convinced that she is being targeted because of her age. The release of medical information is an invasive, personal and confidential matter. Today, Mr. Minister, will you explain to Hattie Dyck why insurance companies are being allowed to discriminate against seniors?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I can assure the lady in the gallery that she's not alone. I share with her the problems that she's facing with insurance companies. This government is determined, within the next few weeks, to come forward with a plan that will hopefully at least stabilize rates and make them fairer to all applicants for insurance.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, it's no secret that insurance companies are looking for any and every excuse to raise rates. The demands for medical information are made randomly, no matter what the health status of the individual and based solely on age. Allowing insurance companies to demand private medical information has gone too far. The Hamm Government has demonstrated, of course, that they don't have any problem with pressing seniors to pay unfair bills, especially bills that other people don't have to pay. I would like to ask the minister for a full answer, not a half-answer. How do you plan to stop the discriminatory practices before the next election?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I can assure the Leader of the Opposition that his ranting is not going to solve the problem. This government is determined to resolve the problem, and they will resolve the problem.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, forcing seniors to provide private medical information that nobody else has to provide is discrimination. Hattie Dyck says insurance companies are grasping for ways to get seniors off the road and, in fact, this government is playing its silent partner. I want to ask the minister, what will it take for you to stop allowing insurance companies to discriminate against seniors?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition has asked the wrong person on this side that question, because I'm a senior, perhaps too senior. I am determined to continue to drive, my friend. I can assure the honourable member opposite that we have a plan, we have a program and we will have it in effect in the very near future.

[Page 378]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

FIN. - PREM.: PROMISES - FAILURE

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, yesterday we saw the real face of Premier Hamm, as during a media scrum he suffered from a sudden bout of fiscal amnesia. Not only did the Premier say he could not recall promising his government would live within its means, he also could not recall saying that he promised he would not add to the debt. Yet, on Page 1 of his blue book, in a letter to fellow Nova Scotians, the Premier stated, "I am absolutely committed to the principle that the Government of Nova Scotia must live within its means. Borrowing hundreds of millions of dollars and mortgaging our children's future without so much as a plan is simply wrong." My question to the Premier is, why have you failed to keep your word by continuing to mortgage our children and your grandchildren's future?

HON. JOHN HAMM (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, the member's question would have far more relevance if he was not a member of a government that reported surpluses when there were huge deficits.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, I will apologize for my eight months as a minister in a minority government when your Minister of Finance apologizes for having been a minister for years in the Buchanan Government that bankrupted this province. Not only did the Premier say he would not add to the debt, he also said he would not use taxpayers' money at election time to try to win votes, yet his government has announced $700 million in promises beyond their mandate, including $335 million that would go directly to the debt. My question to the Premier is at what point, sir, will you put your promises to Nova Scotians and your personal integrity ahead of the cynical attempts by your Party to get re-elected?

[2:45 p.m.]

THE PREMIER: Over the last four years this government has been doing exactly what the blue book says. It brought fiscal responsibility back to the province and has for the first time in 40 years tabled a balanced budget. Tomorrow the Minister of Finance will table another balanced budget. Mr. Speaker, this government has delivered on the blue book promises and for the remainder of its mandate will continue to do so. (Applause)

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, the legacy that this Premier and this Minister of Finance have left over the last four years is $521 million more to the debt of this province - something his grandchildren will pay for, all of our children will pay for and something, sir, that you said you would not do. Yesterday the Premier also said that the practice of adding $521 million to the debt for capital infrastructure costs was a practice used by respected reputable companies throughout Canada and throughout Nova Scotia. Therefore, my final supplementary to the Premier, sir, based on that, will the Premier name one company that

[Page 379]

adds money to its debt, such as this government, without a plan, vision or time frame as to when it's going to pay back that money? Name one company.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite fails to recognize that this government has done very significant things to improve the fiscal strength of the province. As a matter of fact, it has been reported by outside agencies that the biggest fiscal improvement in Canada has been recorded right here in Nova Scotia by this government. One of the initiatives taken by this government was to sell NSRL at the top of the market - putting $400 million of money against the debt of the Province of Nova Scotia.

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

INSURANCE: SENIORS - DISCRIMINATION

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, seniors across the province are being targeted with skyrocketing insurance rates. The Nova Scotia Federation of Seniors and Pensioners says people over 70 are seeing major increases in their auto insurance. The seniors council in Inverness and Victoria is hearing the same thing. The impact of sky-high rates is being discussed by seniors' clubs in Margaree. I would like to ask the minister responsible for insurance, how do you plan to address the concerns of so many seniors who are being unfairly targeted by the insurance companies?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, if the honourable Leader of the Opposition is going to continue asking the same question, I will continue to give him the same answer. We have a plan. Do you understand a plan? The plan is just not going out and talking to some NDP members around the province and then coming back and saying the solution to this problem is to privatize the insurance industry in Nova Scotia. That's not the answer. We want to have a plan to put in place, an insurance scheme, that will meet the requirements of the people of this province whether they're young, middle-aged or old, whether they drive a car that's 20 years old or two months old. We want to put in place a plan that will take care of all those differences in age whether in people or automobiles.

MR. DEXTER: The minister responsible for insurance had it right. He wants to put in place a scheme, a scheme that will continue to gouge seniors and others in this province. That's what they want to do, Mr. Speaker, that's what they want to do. This government is allowing insurance companies to target seniors like Ernie Weedon. He has a new car. He is 75 years old with a clean driving record and yet his insurance has doubled this year. He has been forced to release his medical information. I would like to table a copy of the medical form now. I'm sure that the Premier can give you advice about the confidentiality of patients' records. My question to the minister responsible for insurance is this, how many more stories, just like this, do you have to hear before you will start protecting the rights of the seniors of this province?

[Page 380]

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I don't know how often we have to go through this. I've told the honourable member we have a plan. We are working on the plan. Their plan is public ownership of the insurance industry in this province. We've had experience with Sydney Steel, we've had experience with other adventures by government. We don't want any part of that. We are a Party which will come up with solutions. We have in the past and we will in the future.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the minister responsible for insurance doesn't seem to realize that the lowest insurance premiums in the country are all administered by public auto insurance companies. My office learned today that another senior in Inverness has been forced to stop driving because she can't afford the increase in her insurance. In rural communities, driving a car is not a luxury, it is a necessity and the minister is engaged in pre-election stalling and it just won't do.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. DEXTER: How does the minister plan to lower auto insurance rates in this province before the next election?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, we do not intend to take the action as suggested by the New Democratic Party. I can tell you that off hand. To compare the system that they have in Saskatchewan and Manitoba to the system we have in Nova Scotia is comparing apples and oranges because the benefits are different. If that honourable member had lived in that province at any time (Interruptions)

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

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, if the honourable member had lived in Manitoba at any time, he would know that driving conditions are far different in Manitoba than they are out here on the East Coast. They have straight roads, they have flat roads and that makes a difference to premiums. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. RUSSELL: The benefits paid by the insurance (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please.

The honourable member for Richmond.

[Page 381]

FIN. - PREM.: BORROWING - PROMISES

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, it's amazing how the Premier's words are coming back to haunt him here in this House and to help him with his memory lapse that he has lately, I want to remind him of his statements in an article in The Chronicle-Herald in which the Premier said on March 25, 2002, that forty years of borrowing and deficit financing has grown into an $11.6 billion debt. That's what we are leaving our children and grandchildren. The Premier made that statement just a little over a year ago, making it 41 years of continued borrowing. My question to the Premier is, after four years in government, four years of being able to do what you promised Nova Scotians, why are you entering this province into its 42nd year of borrowing?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite obviously has a burr in his saddle because this government has accomplished something that the government of which he was a part could never do and that is bring in a balanced budget. Simply put, what this government is doing step by step by step is solving problems, solving problems in finance, solving problems in health care, solving problems in education, solving problems in road infrastructure. We never did say that we could fix everything all at once. All we said we would be is better than the previous government and we've proved that.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, it is this Premier - you, sir - who told Nova Scotians you would not add 1 cent to the debt of this province under your administration and you, sir, have failed in that promise to Nova Scotians. In the same Herald article the Premier said that to be sure, there are some people who suggest that government should continue borrowing on its debt and spending beyond its means. I don't believe there is merit to this argument. Such an approach might feel good today, however, we need to ask ourselves, who pays for it tomorrow? My question to the Premier is, why does the Premier now feel that there is merit in a government that continues to spend beyond its means, year in, year out?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I know in his zeal to excite his colleagues in his caucus, the member opposite has actually gone a little bit beyond what is in fact the case. The government never said from day one that we would have a balanced budget - we said we'd have a balanced budget in year three. Obviously, the first step in dealing with the financials of the province is to deliver a balanced budget. We didn't say we would do that the first year or the second year. We did it in the third year and we'll do it again in the fourth year. The current expenditures of the government in terms of capital expenditures are all looked after in Generally Accepted Accounting Principles in that they are amortized so the true debt - which we inherited - is something that we will look after with surpluses, but the amortized debt is something we look after each and every year according to Generally Accepted Accounting Principles. (Applause)

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Premier, this is your picture. This is your picture where you told Nova Scotians you would live within your means.

[Page 382]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member knows he can table any document he wishes, but not to hold it up in the House as a prop. Thank you. The honourable member for Richmond has the floor.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, it is you Premier. It is your face that is on the blue book that says that you would live within your means. It is you, sir, that after four years have added $521 million onto the debt of this province. Tomorrow, your Minister of Finance will stand in this place and try to fool Nova Scotians into believing he has a surplus without telling them that he is still borrowing another $100 million in his next budget. That is the reality and that is where you have failed to keep up your commitment to Nova Scotians. My final supplementary is, why has the Premier set aside his own principles and his own integrity and now he believes it is okay to continue to run a government that lives beyond its means and will leave the burden to his grandchildren and our children for years to come?

THE PREMIER: The member opposite is aware that outside agencies have examined the financial structure that this government has brought to the Province of Nova Scotia. They have indicated the budget is balanced. They have indicated very clearly that the biggest financial improvement in all of Canada has occurred recently in Nova Scotia, under this particular government and we will continue to make improvements. We will continue to be fiscally responsible and we will continue to build a future here for the young people of Nova Scotia - something that member should support.

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

INSURANCE: PLAN/CONSULTATION - CONFIRM

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, while the minister responsible for insurance sits on his hands, the cost of auto insurance in this province to seniors continues to rise. The number of uninsured drivers on our highways continues to rise. Worse, the minister responsible for insurance, instead of speaking up on behalf of Nova Scotia, takes it upon himself to defend dividends paid to people outside of this country. It's shameful. My question for him is this, you said today that you have a plan. Two weeks ago you said you were consulting people. Which is it?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, insurance 101 for dummies would say that you're out there consulting to develop your plan.

MR. DEXTER: That must be the name of the book that the minister's the author of, is all I can say, Mr. Speaker. He's the one who put forward the so-called "road ahead", the road ahead which severely limits the options that Nova Scotians will have. It's all about restricting benefits. So I want to ask the minister responsible for insurance, is it your plan to do what they have done in New Brunswick and to restrict the benefits the people in Nova Scotia can receive under their insurance policies?

[Page 383]

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, it's passing strange that this same member is advocating a publicly-owned, publicly-operated insurance system, which does have caps, which does restrict the amount a person can claim for damages after an accident. Which is he in favour of? Is he in favour of tort restrictions or is he in favour of no tort restrictions?

[3:00 p.m.]

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the minister seems to forget how this works. We ask the questions, they answer them. I want to tell the minister that what he ought to do is actually go and have a look at public auto insurance companies, like the ones in B.C., which don't have limits or caps. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. DEXTER: He should have a look at them. I have one simple question for the minister, if he has a plan, table it.

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, we will have a plan. We will make that plan available to the New Democratic Party so they can go around the province and demonstrate to the people around the province that indeed the government does have a plan.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

PREM.: POLITICAL ADVERTISING - FUNDING SOURCE

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. Yesterday the Premier couldn't remember the promises in his own blue book, so I'm hoping that last night he did some bedtime reading because I have a question today on a promise that's contained in that book. On Page 7 of the blue book, and I will table Page 7 as a reminder for the Premier, it states that during its first mandate, a PC Government will "Stop spending taxpayers money on politically-motivated advertising;" This government has spent more than $50,000 in the past few weeks trying to buy votes by promoting the Tories' tax and health promises, and printing some glossy publications, trying to convince Nova Scotians that after four years they finally really care about things such as high insurance rates. My question to the Premier is, why is the Premier breaking this promise to not spend taxpayers' dollars on politically-motivated advertising?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, one of the criticisms by many directed towards the previous government is that they had no plans. Clearly put, when we came into office, we did find, in fact, there were no plans. Over the course of the last three and a half years, the government has put forward a plan for health care, Your Health Matters. It put forward a plan for education, Lifelong Learning. It put forward a plan for energy development, it put forward a plan for opportunities to develop the economy. Clearly put, Nova Scotians are

[Page 384]

interested in these plans. For example, the lifetime learning plan, in addition to the 2,500 copies that we had made, we had over 33,000 hits on the Internet, people wanting to know what these plans are. When governments make plans, something previous governments often failed to do, people want to know about them, and we're going to make sure that people do know about them.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, the Premier knows that is not what he said when he was in Opposition. The Premier knows he has broken a promise to the people of Nova Scotia. This government and this Premier have tried to convince us that advertising is about informing Nova Scotians about the business of government. We know that that advertising is about the Tories attempting to buy votes. How can you spend over $11,000 on promoting the Tories' tax cut promise? How can that be about informing Nova Scotians when the tax cut hasn't even been introduced, when the tax cut hasn't even been voted on, and when the tax cut won't come into effect until the next government is formed? My question, again to the Premier, is, why is he insulting the intelligence of Nova Scotians by trying to lead them to believe that this advertising is about anything more than just Tory vote-buying?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite knows that the people of Nova Scotia have a right to know what it is government is doing; they have a right to know what it is government is planning; they have a right to know how the actions of government will affect their day-to-day lives. People have to know these things and we will let people know these things. Now, if the member opposite thinks that this is somehow influencing the people of Nova Scotia, I certainly hope it is because we want the people of Nova Scotia to know what this government is doing.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, the Premier knows that Nova Scotians are not being fooled by this. They know this pre-election advertising campaign is at their expense and they know that the Premier has broken his word. They also know that the Premier is not the man of integrity that he pretends to be. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. Every member in this House is considered to be an honourable member and I would ask the honourable member to retract that because that was unparliamentary.

MR. WILSON: I will retract that comment, Mr. Speaker . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you. The honourable member for Glace Bay on your final question, please.

AN HON. MEMBER: You ought to be ashamed of yourself.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. The honourable member for Glace Bay on your final question.

[Page 385]

MR. WILSON: I'm ashamed of your government, not myself. Ashamed of your government. I'm not apologizing for your government . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. WILSON: You should be ashamed of your government.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Glace Bay on a final question, or I will call for another questioner.

MR. WILSON: My final question to the Premier is, I'm asking him to commit here today, right now, to instruct the Tory Party of Nova Scotia to pay for that election propaganda and not the Nova Scotia taxpayers?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, is the member opposite complaining that we have an economic development plan? Is he complaining that we have an energy strategy? Is he complaining that we have a health plan? Is he complaining that we have a plan for education to make this the best educator in Canada? If these are the things that the member is complaining about, then what does he have in mind if he ever returns to this side of the House?

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

FIN.: FUEL OIL - HST REMOVE

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Finance. This winter Nova Scotia families felt the government's hand in their wallets more than ever from the windfalls on the insurance premium tax, the HST on home heating fuel, the increase in gas tax or any of the other $200 million-plus in Tory taxes and fees. Nova Scotia families now have a harder time making ends meet than ever before. In the lead up to their provincial budget this Thursday the government has talked a lot about helping out "working families". The Department of Finance told our office that this government will shortly be amending the revenue allocation formula for the HST. So my question for the minister is simple. When will the minister do the only reasonable thing - give today's families a break and take the HST off fuel oil?

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, in regard to the HST, it is an agreement that was entered with the Government of Canada along with two other provinces outside of Nova Scotia - Newfoundland and Labrador, and also New Brunswick. The terms and conditions of the HST being applied is that it's applied in the same manner as the GST. The member is well aware of that, and the situation is that HST now applies to things such as fuel oil, which it didn't in the past, but obviously overall the percentage has gone down because it used to be GST plus PST, which is about 18.8 per cent. Overall it has gone down to 15 per

[Page 386]

cent. It does apply to items that weren't there before, but there are also some refunds that are mailed to every household in Nova Scotia if their income level is below a certain amount.

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, it continues to amaze me that a government that has shown tremendous ingenuity in raising hundreds of millions of dollars in new taxes and user fees can't find a way to put money back in the pockets of Nova Scotians who have had to choose sometimes between eating and heating their homes. The province collects HST on every litre of heating fuel sold and it is reaping a significant windfall; it did reap a significant windfall this winter of at least $1 million per month. That is money for which they did not budget, but which they got simply because of the outrageously high price of fuel . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. STEELE: . . . yet when they had a chance to give it back to Nova Scotians, they gave them $50. Mr. Minister, when will you admit that the only reason your government will present a year-end forecast update tomorrow showing a $14 million surplus is because this government is keeping the tax windfalls from the HST and the tax on insurance premiums?

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, with regard to the HST, we've had this debate before. HST is a consumer tax on consumable goods. Many people in Nova Scotia are in a situation that they have discretionary spending. They spend it on many different items. Obviously things such as heating oil are things that they have to have. I don't argue that. Overall, the situation is one that HST, if we didn't have a windfall with regard to the price increase in fuel oil, the fact of the matter is that I do appreciate that many Nova Scotians have spent more on fuel oil this winter. That is a fact of world oil prices rather than HST policy.

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, what the minister and this government don't seem to recognize is that when heating costs go up 68 per cent as they did this winter, you can't cut your heating costs by 68 per cent. Most families can only afford heating fuel by cutting back somewhere else, going into debt, dipping into their savings, buying less food. Will you lift the burden off Nova Scotia families by giving them a badly needed break on the HST on fuel oil? Will you make that commitment?

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, with regard to the HST policy of this government, HST has been in place now, I believe, since 1996. It is a policy that was put in place before. It's going to continue. I should point out also that one of the reasons that the provincial government gives an HST rebate to our citizens is to compensate for things such as that but I will point out the member opposite is correct and this year has been an abnormal year for people buying fuel oil. It has put pressure on them. I don't disagree with that. That's one of the reasons why we put forward a policy of giving a rebate to people who have lower incomes and because of that, we felt that that program was necessary.

[Page 387]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

HEALTH: CHST SUPPLEMENT - SPENDING EXPLAIN

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question, through you, is for the Minister of Health. The Department of Health recently released a timeline for how it will spend new federal funding for health care. According to the document, the minister intends to spend the entire $75 million CHST supplement in the coming 2003-04 budget year. My question to the minister is, would she please explain how spending the entire federal CHST health care supplement in year one, an election year, will contribute to a sustainable health care system?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I believe that is a budget question and I refer that question (Interruption)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable minister, in terms of it being a budget question, will not have to answer it.

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, then I will refer that question to the Minister of Finance.

MR. SPEAKER: If it's a budget question, or a question directly related to the budget, which will be released tomorrow, the honourable Minister of Finance does not have to answer it and we will ask for the supplementary question. (Interruption) That's up to the minister. (Interruption) Order, please.

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, with regard to the question from the honourable member opposite, I do believe that that is a question that is pertaining (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. Order! Obviously honourable members are questioning whether the Speaker would interpret as to whether or not any minister can get up in the House and not answer any question if he doesn't want to. (Interruptions) So I have listened to the question. If the honourable Minister of Finance wants to attempt to answer without answering directly related to budget, he can. If not, I'll ask for the supplementary question.

The honourable Minister of Finance.

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, in my opinion, that is a budget question and that budget will be tabled tomorrow. I will answer the questions then.

[Page 388]

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Not a problem, Mr. Speaker. It's no wonder the health care system is in such a state in this province. That bunch over there can't tell a health care question from a financial question. That's precisely the problem with health care in this province. Commissioner Romanow made it clear that investing more money in health care without reforming the system is not going to help stabilize health care in this country. Sustainability of health care was the question and it's the number one issue on the minds of Nova Scotians. The federal budget allows provinces to spread out the $75 million over three years. My question to the minister is, can she assure Nova Scotian families that every cent of the additional federal money for health care is going to go towards front-line health care and not to pay for Tory tax cuts?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the answer to that question is yes.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, by front-loading the $75 million in the health care system in this budget period this government is going to create a dramatic $44 million drop in federal funding for health care in the year 2004-05. I want to ask the Minister of Health, when will you admit your government is using the Romanow funding for a Conservative election campaign, instead of investing in a sustainable health care system?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I'm glad the member opposite brought up the Romanow report, because the Romanow report and the Kirby report and all the other health reports done for governments across Canada point out that health care is very much about money, and it's very much about sustainability. That's exactly what this government is interested in.

[3:15 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

HEALTH: NURSE RECRUITMENT PROG. - EFFICACY

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. Last week the Valley Regional Hospital cancelled 62 surgeries for a variety of reasons. Twenty-three beds in the hospital are being occupied by patients for nursing home beds or there was a lack of nurses who were there to care for them. It's very clear to us on this side of the House that the government and this Premier have failed to manage the health care system, and Nova Scotians are paying for it with their health. My question to the Premier is, given that his government likes to talk about his successes in nurse recruitment, could the Premier explain to the House today how a recruitment process for nurses can be deemed successful if 18 positions at the Valley Regional Hospital failed to yield one single application? There's 18 vacant positions, no applications. Can the Premier explain to the House the success of his recruitment of nurses?

[Page 389]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I refer that to the Minister of Health.

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, overall, the member for Dartmouth East knows full well that we are retaining more nurses every year since we came to government. The member opposite knows also that every hospital in every district will have its problems from time to time. I'm glad to say the Valley is taking concrete steps there by forming a nursing council on their own to try to solve some of those problems. The positions are funded, and we are working together to try to solve that issue.

DR. SMITH: They will work on their problems, Mr. Speaker. I think she got the last part of that right. The public will judge and they will judge on the facts. The Valley Regional has indicated that the lack of nurses has forced the cancellations in surgery. We hear about and read with interest the Health Matters document where it states that we are hiring more nurses, like the minister has just said. To the Premier I will ask again, there are 18 positions at the Valley Regional Hospital for which there is not a single application, how can the Premier speak for his government and say that we are hiring more nurses? How can he support his minister in her statement?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I refer that to the Minister of Health.

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, we are hiring more nurses. The numbers are up. I repeat, that doesn't mean there won't be individual situations where there are difficulties hiring nurses or hiring doctors, for that matter. I regret that at the moment those positions are unfilled, but they will be filled.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, again I say the facts will speak for themselves. I'm not saying she's misleading the House, but she's not being forthright with the House here today. I will table statistics from the College of Registered Nurses that prove that nurses have left Nova Scotia. I would like to table the statistics from the college. Like them or not, Mr. Premier, these are the facts and we have 1,199 fewer nurses in 2003 licensed to practise in Nova Scotia than in 1999. Bill No. 68 alone saw a reduction of 1,230 nurses. Mr. Speaker, my question to the Premier is, given that this government publicly repeats on a regular basis that we have more nurses in Nova Scotia today than in 1999 - that is simply not true - can the Premier please explain to me when the number 8,439 became greater than 9,638 when you compare the year 1999 with 2003?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I refer that to the Minister of Health.

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, retaining and attracting nurses is a priority of this government. We've announced new nursing seats. We are providing monies and bursaries for students to stay in this province. We have a nursing strategy and that strategy is working.

[Page 390]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

EMO: EXTREME WEATHER - GOV'T. (N.S.) PREPAREDNESS

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the minister responsible for the Emergency Measures Organization. Monday's flood was a textbook example of the type of extreme weather event scientists are predicting as a result of climate change. It is very typical of the type of extreme weather event which will become increasingly more common in Nova Scotia. The devastating effect of this can be seen in the damage that was done in places like Prospect, Truro, Dartmouth, Lunenburg, in fact, pretty well all over Nova Scotia. Yet, yesterday, what the minister said was that the damage is possibly unprecedented in our history and yet this is exactly the kind of event that scientists have been telling us for decades is about to occur. Will the minister admit that his government has not adequately prepared Nova Scotians for the regular occurrence of this type of extreme weather event?

HON. TIMOTHY OLIVE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for the question. The Emergency Measures Organization in Nova Scotia has made some giant steps in providing services to the municipalities throughout Nova Scotia over the past number of years in preparing them for any disasters. We cannot predict a disaster. If only we could, but we can't. All we can do is be as prepared as we can be not knowing the disaster that's coming. We are very confident that the Emergency Measures Organizations throughout Nova Scotia, managed through the municipal units, are managing this disaster as well as could be expected given the fact that they didn't know it was coming in the first place.

MR. EPSTEIN: The point is that we all do know these extreme weather events are coming and it's something that's the responsibility of the whole of that government. I'd like to turn to another minister, the minister responsible for Municipal Relations. What the ministers have to understand is that climate change means that this type of severe weather event will occur more often. Flood plains can no longer be determined based purely on historical data. We must now include in our calculations the impact of climate change. This has a significant impact for people living in areas like the flood plain around Truro, it has a significant impact on people who today were evacuated from the banks of the Tusket River. So I would like to ask the minster, what is he going to do about land-use planning in this province to avoid exposure of homes and businesses to the damage from the next bad storm?

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member does raise a very valid concern that I'm sure all the municipalities across this province have. What we will be doing is working with UNSM, working with the planning areas to develop those strategies so that we can try to mitigate these problems in the future.

[Page 391]

MR. EPSTEIN: Of course my point is that this should have been anticipated. This, as I said, is a matter that affects several government departments. My last question is for the Minister of Environment. This week's flood illustrates very dramatically just how real global climate change is and how terrible its effects can be on all of us in Nova Scotia. In provinces like Manitoba, they have established a climate change action fund under a program they recently adopted called Kyoto and Beyond. Will the Minister of Environment and Labour commit now to take this problem seriously and work to revisit this province's inadequate energy strategy so that the timetable for effective action is moved up very seriously?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I know that in the middle of winter I certainly wish that global warming would hurry up and come along. However, the honourable member has raised a serious question that deserves a serious answer and I will take the matter under advisement and have a departmental official contact him to discuss the matter with him.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

FIN.: PREM. - BORROWINGS EXPLAIN

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Premier forgot about his fiscal policies and today he's changing his agenda of fiscal management in this province as he goes along. He has failed to give us the name of one company that uses the practices that have been used by this government of adding to the debt without a plan on paying it back. He has also made mention of third parties who have endorsed the accounting procedures of this government. There is one that he didn't mention, it is the Dominion Bond Rating Service which, in its last report, May 31, 2002, said: Fuelled by continued DBRS adjusted deficits and capital advances to Crown Corporations, however, total debt should resume its upward trend in 2002-03, ending the year at an estimated $12.8 billion or 50.7 per cent of the provincial GDP. Growth in the province's debt level is expected to continue at a rate of $100 million to $200 million per year for at least the next three years, which suggests that debt charges will continue to consume a significant portion of fiscal revenues in the foreseeable future.

Mr. Premier, you said in 1999 you would live within your means, you would not add to the debt, you would not mortgage the future of your grandchildren or our children. I ask you again today, why are you continuing the Tory legacy of borrowed money that will be left for our children and your grandchildren to pay?

THE PREMIER: I refer that to the Minister of Finance.

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, in regard to our debt-GDP ratio, obviously that is something the member opposite has brought up which is something that's very important because since we have taken office to the end of the fiscal year that has just ended, there has

[Page 392]

been a marked improvement in that. If I remember correctly, it's 46.4 per cent to about 42.5 per cent that that has gone down. That reflects the province's capability to repay that debt. I should point out that under that member and the previous administrations that that percentage was going up year over year over year. Since this government has come to power, every year of its mandate that percentage has gone down, and that speaks about our commitment to the people. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would just remind the honourable members to keep their questions and answers a little bit shorter, please, for the sake of other members.

The honourable member for Richmond on your first supplementary.

MR. SAMSON: I would remind you, Mr. Premier, the question was to you, sir. You know your Minister of Finance has made a personal decision not to be here after the next budget and not to be here to be held accountable for the decisions to be made in that budget. Therefore, sir, I would put to you that it is your responsibility to answer the questions about the finances of this province and the commitments that you have made.

Mr. Speaker, one of the other third parties that have looked at this government's accounting that the Premier did not mention was the Halifax Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber of Commerce, in fact, started its own program of a debt watch because of this government's inability to control the debt of this province, and it chastised the minister for not having a plan to pay the debt of this province.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, they also said that the debt of this province was scaring away investors. My question to the Premier, why is he chasing away potential investors, as the Halifax Chamber of Commerce has said, by continuing the uncertainty of more borrowed money in this province?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite indicated that this province has been chasing away investment. Over the last three and a half years we have created a net increase of 26,000 new jobs in Nova Scotia. Family incomes are increasing monthly. There are more people working today in the Province of Nova Scotia than ever before in our history. We are not chasing away investment. We are attracting investment.

[3:30 p.m.]

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, the Halifax Chamber of Commerce clearly chastised this government for its inability to live within its means and its inability to stop growing the debt of this province. It is they, sir, who said this about your government, not us. The Premier clearly made a commitment in 1999 when he was elected. Yet, after being chastised by the

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Chamber of Commerce for not having a debt management plan, we are told that the Premier has instructed his political staff to come up with some sort of strategy to try to convince Nova Scotians that they have a plan when there is none in place. My final supplementary to the Premier, sir, today, will you tell the members of this House and Nova Scotians, does your Party and your government actually have a plan to start paying down the debt of this province this year, and if you do, will you table it here today?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I'm glad the member continues to allow me to speak on the fiscal success that we've achieved here in Nova Scotia. The Minister of Finance has indicated the very significant improvement we've made in debt-GDP ratio. The Minister of Finance failed, however, to remind members of the House that in fact we have reduced the foreign exposure of our debt from 50 per cent to 20 per cent. In keeping the commitment that we made in the blue book, before the election is called, before summer really sets in in Nova Scotia, the government will be tabling, for the people of Nova Scotia, a practical debt reduction plan.

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

HEALTH: NEW WATERFORD CONS. HOSP. ER -

SERVICE REDUCTION EXPLAIN

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health. There's probably no other community in this province that gave more to the industrial or the energy sector in this whole province than my Town of New Waterford. They've provided coal mines upon coal mines. They are home to the largest generating station in this province and because of that saw one of the greatest beaches in industrial Cape Breton torn apart. But more than that, what we've seen because of that type of work in the coal mines and the steel mills is people who have been badly done by. We've seen chronic illnesses. Now we see another problem facing those people after years of sacrifice for this province. We see the reduction in hours of their emergency room and their hospital. I want to ask a very clear question to the minister, why are you allowing the DHA to reduce hours in the emergency room in the New Waterford Consolidated Hospital? Why are doing that to the people who served this province so well?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, we are not doing any such thing. The ER in New Waterford is staying open.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, the minister knows that's just a short-term solution, it's a get-by-an-election solution. I want to give her some idea of how she can support 24/7. There are 24 acute beds at the New Waterford Consolidated Hospital that were transformed into Level 2 care. Families in that area pay $137.60 per day to stay there. Upstairs, the long-term care beds are bringing in over $3,000 a day to the DHA. Downstairs, the emergency room may or may not be open after the end of September. If residents upstairs get sick at the

[Page 394]

wrong time of day, they will be taken to Sydney. I want to ask the minister, how can you support the lunacy of long-term care residents living over an emergency room being shipped 20 miles away for 20 minutes in an ambulance that may or may not be in the community?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the recommendation on closing the New Waterford ER was made by a consultant, and obviously the local health authority had a problem with that and so did we, which is why we provided funding to keep it open while they looked at longer-term solutions.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, that's why I'm here today, because I'm giving her a solution. They get over $1 million a year from the seniors in long-term care in that hospital, money that this government readily takes from seniors in this province. When will the minister step in and ensure the Cape Breton DHA invests some of that money to keep around-the-clock emergency services to the residents of New Waterford?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, we are very interested in working with the DHAs and supporting them and providing health care in their areas. That is why we provided them with multi-year funding for the next three years.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

FIN.: DEBT GROWTH - PREM. JUSTIFY

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, as the Premier's fiscal policies get foggier all the time, the Premier now tells us, as we suspected, that his political staff will have some sort of debt reduction policy on the fly, as I like to describe it, that we will probably have after the House rises. I want to remind the Premier again of some of the statements that he made in response to a question on April 17, 2001, the Premier said, "Mr. Speaker, what I will confirm is that a year from now this government will introduce a balanced budget, and from that day onward the debt of this province will no longer grow." Mr. Speaker, the debt of this province under Premier Hamm and his Tory Government has grown $521 million. Tomorrow it will grow by another $100 million and the Premier clearly does not intend to hold to the promise that he has given. Therefore, my question to the Premier is, how can you, sir, justify continuing to grow the debt when you said two years ago here in this House that the debt would stop growing under your administration, under your balanced budget?

THE PREMIER: I refer that to the Minister of Finance.

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: I've been listening to the questions from the member opposite. The member opposite in his earlier questions was indicating that this government had said that we would not add a dime to the debt. The member opposite clearly forgets that when we took office we inherited a $500 million deficit that that bunch across the floor had prepared a budget. The situation, for the member opposite to indicate that we would not add

[Page 395]

to the debt, obviously is a misrepresentation of the facts. We indicated that we would balance the budget in three years, but I would point out there are two deficits we inherited, one of which was the fiscal deficit. There was another one called the infrastructure deficit - our schools, our hospitals and our bridges - which have to be addressed and that is why we are borrowing. Not for something frivolous, but for the future of our province and its people and its economy.

MR. SAMSON: Well, once again the Premier hides behind his Minister of Finance rather than holding himself accountable to the people of Nova Scotia for the promises he has made about the fiscal management of this province. Yet, I would remind the Premier, it is you, sir, on Page 1 of your blue book who said borrowing hundreds of millions of dollars and mortgaging our children's future without so much as a plan is simply wrong. You said you would no longer do that. On December 31, 2001, the Premier wrote in his article in The Chronicle-Herald, "The Conservative caucus voted against a budget with a $600 million deficit. I told Nova Scotians that in good conscience I could not support more debt."

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, my question to the Premier is, after $521 million added to our debt, another $100 million, Mr. Premier, where did your conscience go?

THE PREMIER: I refer that to the Minister of Finance.

MR. LEBLANC: I find this line of questioning amazing. We have borrowed in last year's budget and we will borrow in this year's budget. We will borrow for something that is a legacy to the people of our province - schools and hospitals. When the previous government stood up in this House, the former member for Lunenburg West was the Minister of Finance. He stood up in this House and he had the audacity to say that they had a balanced budget. He said they were going to borrow $600 million and it was going to come from somewhere - I had no idea, but it wasn't going to build any roads, it wasn't going to build any hospitals and it wasn't going to build any schools for our children. We will borrow money, the answer is yes. We will put it to good use for the future of this province and I make no apologies. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. The honourable member for Richmond on your final supplementary.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, if you want to see hypocrisy, you will witness it tomorrow and see a Minister of Finance and a Premier who will stand before this House and stand before Nova Scotians and tell them that they have a surplus while at the same time they are borrowing $100 million on top of the debt, on top of the $521 million that they have borrowed since they have been in office. That is true hypocrisy.

[Page 396]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The Chair is getting a little tired of the long, drawn-out questions, the long, drawn-out answers and some of the words being used in the House from both sides of the House. (Interruptions) Order, please.

The honourable member just used a word twice that I take as being unparliamentary, the word hypocrisy. I would ask him to retract that. Please put the final supplementary question while there is still time left in this Question Period.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, I will retract that question. My question to the Premier is, you said in your blue book, under the term Finance, Page 28, that during its first mandate a PC Government will commit to allocating a minimum of one-third of all annual surpluses to debt reduction. My final question to you, sir, is, will you commit here today, based on the promise made in the blue book, that the surplus you've indicated of $14 million approximately that will be in the budget tomorrow, one-third of that will go directly to reducing the debt of this province?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I will do one better than that commitment. Tomorrow the Minister of Finance will be telling us that there is a very significant surplus in the year 2002-03 and all of it will go to the debt.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

COMMUN. SERV.: GORDON B. ISNOR MANOR -

ELEVATOR PROBLEM

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is for the Minister of Community Services and housing services. The Department of Community Services and housing services are responsible for numerous housing authorities across the province. Gordon B. Isnor Manor, a 16-storey building, is one of these. It's a seniors' housing complex. Many of the people who live there use wheelchairs, walkers and portable oxygen. Recently the only two elevators in the building were out of service at the same time for more than 24 hours, stranding people in their apartments if they could not manage up to 16 flights of stairs. I want to ask the minister, how could he have allowed seniors with limited mobility in a 16-storey building to be left without one working elevator for such a long period of time?

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for her question. What she points out is that in fact we do provide accommodation for many Nova Scotians through our public housing program. Through that, as she has pointed out, it is managed by seven regional housing authorities. They do take responsibility for property management, and part of that would include having contract service for their elevators. I would expect them to be working with the service provider to make sure that the elevators are in working

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condition. Sometimes things break down, and I understand that they have rectified the problem.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: That's quite a cavalier attitude for the minister to have, Mr. Speaker, of the people, the senior citizens when he's responsible for these issues. Elevator problems at Gordon B. Isnor are not an isolated incident in seniors' manors. Seniors and other residents living at Sunrise Manor have told me of several incidents of having non- working elevators in their facility as well. These elevators are constantly breaking down. This is a 10-storey building where seniors are routinely without these kinds of services. I want to ask the minister, what is his department's contingency plan to ensure the safety of seniors in these high-rise buildings in the event of an emergency, given that elevator service is such a problem?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for giving me the opportunity to point out that in Nova Scotia anybody who operates an elevator needs to have a permit from the Department of Environment and Labour. In order to have that permit, you have to have a service contract with the people who are professional in that area. Clearly, any public housing units that have elevators would have such a contract, and the appropriate people are in place to service those elevators.

[3:45 p.m.]

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, it's not about whether or not there are contracts, it's about whether or not he is ensuring that business is occurring with these contracts to ensure that people aren't left without vital emergency services when they require them, that's the point, and I haven't heard the minister guarantee that there is any plan. Residents of Joseph Howe Manor, another 10-storey seniors' complex, have also indicated to me that their elevators are unreliable. So I want to ask the minister, will he guarantee that this dangerous situation will not be allowed to occur again at any of the province's seniors' housing buildings in my constituency or elsewhere?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I can assure the member opposite that the local housing authority, which does wonderful work for helping seniors and other low-income Nova Scotians, has not only safe but affordable, appropriate, and sustainable housing, it is a wonderful program and it is run by wonderful people. I really appreciate what they do for those Nova Scotians whom they serve.

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

PREM.: TREASURY & POLICY BD. - PROJECT LIST

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question today is to the Premier. I doubt that many average Nova Scotians, or perhaps even the Premier, know that the

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Treasury and Policy Board, also known as a political agency for the Cabinet, is responsible for recommending what schools, roads and bridges are brought forward to Cabinet. All departmental requests for capital spending, except for hospitals, go through the tangible capital asset prioritization committee led by the Treasury and Policy Board.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask the Premier, could the Premier table to this House today a list of projects that were submitted to this committee since it was formed and which specific projects were approved?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I refer that to the Chairman of the Treasury and Policy Board.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for the question. Yes, in fact, Treasury and Policy Board do analyses and make recommendations to Cabinet. I will take the matter under advisement.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I believe that Nova Scotians would like to know today, or at least as soon as possible, exactly where their spending is going. On June 17, 1999, the Leader of the Tory Party said that in the final analysis this decision is based on his belief the successful element in politics is being honest with the people and telling them the truth. The Premier should demonstrate that honesty here today. The government has already announced $335 million in promises, yet nobody knows which of the capital projects were actually approved by this committee and which ones were made on the basis of politics.

Even worse, Mr. Speaker, residents in places like Barrington, or Dominion, might have been entitled to a new school but were overlooked because a Cabinet Minister might have wanted a school in his own area. If this government is truly honest, why won't the Premier simply table a list of what projects were submitted to the TCA committee and which ones were recommended by the committee?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite, if he has any concern about the projects we have announced - does he think that the schools we have announced are the wrong schools? Does he think the roads we paved are the wrong roads? Does he think that the improvements we made in hospitals weren't appropriate? - if he has specific concerns about the action of the government, let him ask those questions.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I am concerned because we believe they're politically motivated and I'm asking him to tell this House whether or not the list is going to be sent to this House so that Nova Scotians will know as soon as possible exactly what the capital projects are. I quote the Premier again on this. This is the Premier saying: I believe Nova Scotians are looking for that kind of leadership, a dedication to place the public interest before any partisan considerations. And he states: Elections are a time for

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politics, but there is no place for it in the daily operation of the government. It costs money and creates chaos. Therefore, Nova Scotians have a right to know whether road and school projects are approved on a non-partisan basis or a political basis. My question to the Premier is, why is the Premier trying to hide this information from Nova Scotians' right to know?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite should know, ought to know, that in fact the priorities of schools are set by the school boards. If he has an argument with those priorities, let him address the school boards.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

ENVIRON. & LBR.: TOBEATIC WILDERNESS AREA -

BLACK BULL MINE HALT

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Environment and Labour. That minister and his officials have insisted that the Black Bull Mine will not threaten the Tobeatic Wilderness Area. They have claimed that by monitoring the Black Bull, his department can stop any potential harm before it starts.

Mr. Speaker, this week's storm provides an important lesson. Rain like that would overflow the capacity of any such mine's settling ponds; nearby watersheds would have been contaminated. There are 20 people here today as representatives of those who are concerned about the future of this invaluable area. What will it take for you and your department to stop this mine and truly weigh up all the facts?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, while in this province we welcome industrial ventures coming into the province, we must always measure the advantages of that industrial development with damage to the environment. We have done so in the case of the Black Bull Mine and the Tobeatic reserve.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, many of us are not convinced and here's why. Black Bull Resources wants to mine kaolin. Obtaining an approval to mine kaolin directly has proved incredibly difficult because it is so dangerous. What Black Bull has done is they managed to get an approval to mine quartz and they will get kaolin as a by-product. Kaolin is an incredibly fine substance; it can contaminate water sources; it kills wildlife. Kaolin is going to be stored on-site. It is going to be suspended in water, pumped into settling ponds. Remember those storms. Extreme weather conditions will continue. How can the minister and his department guarantee that this mine will not damage the Tobeatic Wilderness Area?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, we have put in place an environmental effects monitoring program. We have in effect a community liaison committee. We are doing everything we can and there is a constant monitoring for that mine when it gets into production but it is not into production at the present time.

[Page 400]

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, in case his officials have not drawn it to the minister's attention, let me remind him that this province has not undertaken a Class II environmental assessment for about five years and certainly not for that project so immediately adjacent to the Tobeatic. Environmental groups across this province have been struggling to protect the Tobeatic Wilderness Area in its entirety for decades. More than 20 people are sitting in the gallery today convinced that decisions by this government will put this internationally unique area at risk. The destruction of that area will have vast economic and social implications. Why will the minister not weigh up all the facts and act accordingly? That's what I would like to know from the minister.

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I am convinced that we have in place the necessary arrangements that will ensure that the Tobeatic reserve is not contaminated, is not violated, by this particular mine.

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

ENVIRON. & LBR.: N.S. WORKERS' COMP. PROG. REPORT -

SUBSEQUENT ACTION

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the honourable Minister of Environment and Labour concerning this large book. It is 390 pages long, it contains 197 footnotes and was prepared by eight authors and was released 13 months ago. It is entitled The Nova Scotia Workers' Compensation Program, a Focused Review. I wonder if I might ask the minister through you, has the government, now given 13 months to focus its review on workers' compensation, come up with any action other than the one bill that we passed last Fall concerning supplementary benefits?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Yes, Mr. Speaker, we are indeed continuing to review the report and there will probably be legislation coming forward later this year to implement some of those recommendations.

MR. MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, later this year could well mean after the election. I think it might be more credible if the legislation were to come forward now and be passed by the House, and then they could take their case to the people saying look what we've done, rather than these future expectations. In any event, I would like to ask the Minister of Environment and Labour, with respect to the bill we passed last Fall on supplementary benefits, is the minister aware of the great difficulty that new entrants, new applicants have in applying for those supplementary benefits? My understanding is that the new applicant now cannot be paid until October 1st minimum, or later, depending on how long it takes for the paperwork to be done.

[Page 401]

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, there are a couple of things with reference to what the honourable member for Cape Breton Nova has been speaking of. Number one, when I said there will be legislation coming forward possibly in the Fall, it will be brought forward by this government, and secondly, if he has some particular knowledge of delays for people lasting until October, I wish he would bring them to my attention.

MR. MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, over the years I have avoided making political promises, but I can promise you this, that I shall do as the minister requests, because I have an abundance of evidence, very thick, I have two files right here. I'm not going to table them because I don't intend to read from them, but there is lots of evidence right there as well as the content of this report that there's plenty wrong with workers' compensation. Since it has taken the government 13 months to deal with one of the many recommendations contained in this report, would the minister, with his ability to foretell the future, give us some idea of how long it might take before perhaps Recommendation No. 2 might be acted on?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I'm receiving advice from behind me which says soon, very soon, but I would suggest that there will be legislation forthcoming in the Fall.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

HEALTH PROM.: NON-SMOKING REGS. - STANDARDS

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Health Promotion. The regulations under the Smoke-free Places Act refer to ventilation standards of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers. I will table a press release from that organization dated February of this year. The society has removed smoking areas from its standards for ventilation, and now applies those standards only to non-smoking buildings. My question to the Minister of Health Promotion is, how can his department allow its regulations to be based on non-existent standards?

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, actually it is for the purposes of designing the systems. The numbers with respect to the inflow and outflow are designated in the regulations.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: I would recommend that the minister read the press release because the society makes it quite clear that the standards are based on ventilation for non-smoking areas now. It also makes it clear that the ventilation of smoking areas is only to address odour. It does nothing to protect workers who must enter that area from the health hazards of second-hand smoke - workers like Heather Crowe who is paying for her years of exposure to second-hand smoke with her life. So I want to ask the Minister of Health Promotion, when will he admit that ventilating smoking areas does nothing to protect the people who use them from the hazards of second-hand smoke? You can hardly die from odour, it's the carcinogenic that we need to be worried about.

[Page 402]

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, indeed the tobacco strategy, which is a comprehensive strategy which takes into account the legislation, is geared towards protecting Nova Scotians. Over 60,000 Nova Scotians have decided in the last three years - a drop from 30 per cent down to 21 per cent of Nova Scotians - have quit the habit of tobacco use and I think that is something that this government can be very proud of.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the strategy is not comprehensive enough when workers in the hospitality industry have to pay for working in that industry with their lives. Death from second-hand smoke should not be a condition of employment here or anywhere. When will the Minister of Health Promotion finally listen to reason and change the Smoke-free Places Act so that all Nova Scotians are protected from second-hand smoke?

[4:00 p.m.]

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, what I can say to the member is that this government has taken greater steps than any government before it here in the Province of Nova Scotia, has been more progressive, perhaps, than almost any other jurisdiction in Canada, although there have been other jurisdictions which have taken positive steps. We will continue on with our tobacco strategy which includes many other aspects, including the legislation. We want this to go from worst to first.

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

COMMUN. SERV.: FOSTER PARENTS - PER DIEM RATES

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Community Services. Last week, I understand you met with some representatives and some foster parents. They have indicated that you made a commitment to do whatever you can to support them. One of the key issues with foster parents is the per diem rate. In many areas of the province foster parents receive a per diem that works out to be less than that of a babysitter, despite the fact that they carry greater responsibilities and face very difficult challenges. My question to the minister is, has the minister ever considered the issue of per diem rates for foster parents with the view that it may not be sufficient?

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I think the member opposite and I share something in common here and that is tremendous appreciation for those wonderful people who take children into their homes and care for them. It is really a special person and, of course, they are blessed as well by the presence of the children. There is no question that we are working in that area, we are moving ahead with it. We are working with the Federation of Foster Parents, and during my meeting with them there was an acknowledgement that there's more to do and there was an acknowledgement on their part that we are making progress.

[Page 403]

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, this is all great stuff, but there are certain parts of this province where recruitment of new foster parents is becoming increasingly difficult. Given that the minister is a member of a government that came forward with a plan for Nova Scotians, my question to the minister is, could he please indicate, specifically, his plan for recruiting new foster parents?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite does point out something which is a concern. There has been a drop in the number of foster parents as they age and the baby boom moves forward. Not all foster parents are continuing to take in new children. The member opposite is quite right. We are working with the federation and we will continue to work with the federation to encourage more people to take on this wonderful gift that they give to the children in the care of the minister.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, this minister is responsible for children in care. He's responsible for ensuring that foster parents are supported. My final question to the minister is, will the minister assure all members of this House that he's committed to the increasing pressures being placed on foster parents and that he will ensure that these pressures will be addressed in the near future?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I would point out that in my first answer I indicated that we are working with the Federation of Foster Parents. There is no question that this is in everybody's best interest to encourage people to be foster parents. It's good, first and foremost, for the children. I think it's a rewarding experience for the foster parents, and it's also a good thing for the Government of Nova Scotia. I would assure you, Mr. Speaker, that where it is appropriate it is certainly my preference to see children in the care of the minister, being with foster parents subject to their being able to be put up for adoption.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

TRANSPORT. & PUB. WKS.:

MACKAY BRIDGE ACCESS ROADS - JURISDICTION

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Transportation. I'm sure the minister is aware that a long-standing concern in my riding is the poor condition of the access roads leading to the A. Murray MacKay Bridge. These roads and the landscaping are not well kept by the department. The minister is aware that the Halifax-Dartmouth Bridge Commission may be interested in taking the responsibility for these roads from the department's hands. My question to the minister is, has your department met with the Bridge Commission and are you prepared to turn the access roads over to the control of the Bridge Commission?

[Page 404]

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: I thank the honourable member for his question. As the honourable member is aware, the Government of Nova Scotia has in the Throne Speech committed to pursuing the idea of a capital area transportation authority. We are engaged in the process of discussions with the Halifax Regional Municipality about that concept and, at the moment, I think it's fair to say that we would like to withhold any decision about what may happen until those discussions are further advanced.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, my concern is that the capital regional transportation authority may not include the bridge within the plans of that; that's the concern that I have. The minister is aware that the state of disrepair of these roads is a concern in my riding as they are the entranceway to our community and it is a concern to the Bridge Commission. The Bridge Commission seems willing to do what is necessary to make this one more attractive area, much like they've done on the Halifax side of the bridge. My question to the minister is, I wonder will the minister commit to have his staff meet with the councillor for the area, the Bridge Commission and myself so that we can resolve this matter immediately?

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I want to tell the honourable member that I share his interest and his concern about making sure that all the roads - including the roads he's referred to - in the province are properly maintained, that they have the proper appearance and so forth. I want to tell the honourable member that that's why we in this government have the commitment to working with the HRM, to work with the municipal unit to make sure that all of the people of HRM, including the people in his own riding, have the very, very best transportation system of any city in this country.

MR. PYE: I believe it is best for the people of Dartmouth North that this network of roads be maintained by the Bridge Commission. This organization has a greater stake in the appearance and upkeep of that area, therefore I ask the minister if his staff agrees that these roads are best kept by the Bridge Commission and will he agree to hand them over in time for the upkeep and repairs this Spring?

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I want to use my time to tell the honourable member how important I believe these roads are, as well as other roads are. I want to assure the honourable member that we will move the discussions forward as quickly as we possibly can. I'd be interested in discussing with the honourable member any constructive ideas that he or any other member of this House has with respect to those roads, and we look forward to working co-operatively on a real solution.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Victoria.

MR. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Natural Resources and it's dealing with the deer herd. The minister recently announced that there would be a one-week moose hunting season in place for this Fall and a single, two-week season with extra licence. I told the minister when he released the statement that I

[Page 405]

thought it was a good idea because I believe it relieves the stress on the herd because law-abiding hunters have played a key role in conservation of both deer and moose herds. (Interruptions) I'll ask the question the next day, Mr. Speaker.

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

OPPOSITION MEMBERS' BUSINESS

MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Opposition House Leader.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I have provided you and the other House Leaders with the schedule for this afternoon, the two items to be called and the time limits. Would you please call Resolution No. 289.

Res. 289, Insurance: Premiums Reduction - Solutions (Mr. F. Corbett) - Mar. 31/03

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

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, Resolution No. 289 is being called to the attention of the House today for various reasons, but one of the major reasons why it's in front of us today is because consumers in this province are being hit with escalating auto insurance premiums like at no other time in history.

Now we can all say this is the problem or that's the problem. We can look at, in isolation, one or two minor areas and say this is what's causing increases, in Nova Scotia from February 2002 to February 2003, to escalate over 66 per cent. That's on average. We're seeing consumers in this province being hit with much larger increases than that. When we look at Resolution No. 289, what we speak about in many ways is what New Brunswick has done. We're saying to the province, do not fall into that trap. Do not fall into the trap of saying, if you cap awards, you solve the problem. Well, you don't. You do not solve the problem. There is no way insurance companies are saying we will roll back our prices if you give us a cap. They are just not saying that. There's no guarantee.

But there's another problem here too. The fact that what we're talking about here is to find a way to not only stop the escalating cost of auto insurance but indeed to roll it back. This is not doing it. Let's look and see who is saying cap these awards and insurance will be all right. Who is saying that? Is it the consumers, by and large? No. Who's saying it is the industry. The Insurance Bureau of Canada is telling people that's your problem. Your problem is soft tissue injury. If you limit the damages paid through soft tissue injury, problem solved. It goes away, everybody is happy, and we hear no more. Well, we can only wish it

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would be that easy. We only wish that the integrity of the IBC was such that we could take that to the bank.

Mr. Speaker, when we talk to consumers, we find that that's not factual. We're talking to many seniors in this province who are saying, I've seen my rates go up, not because I've had an accident, not because I've bought this souped-up race car that I want to tear around the back roads with. That's not what they see. The thing that is firing up their rates is their age. These are not the people who are out there with large amounts of soft tissue injuries. We see insurance companies being more and more intrusive, in the private lives of the citizens of this province, wanting to know the very intimate details of their medical reports with their doctors. They want us to say, oh, do that and it will go down. These are not the only factors.

Mr. Speaker, are there people out there who are trying to get awards they're not entitled to? I would suspect there's a small portion in this province who act like that. Every section of society within this province has a criminal element. There are certain ways in which we control that. But to merely give the insurance company blanket coverage and say, that's it, we're going to minimize awards and therefore we're going to right this ship is not proper.

I will show you another example, the fact that it's not only automobile insurance rates that are escalating here like mad. Homeowners insurance is, if you pardon the pun, going through the roof. What does that have to do with soft tissue injuries? No one is driving their home down the road, running into people. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure that one out. Yet, the Insurance Bureau of Canada will have us believe that that's what the problem is. Why is it? Why is it that when people magically turn 70 or 71 that their rates go up? Isn't that what government should be asking? Not capitulating to the insurance industry and saying, oh, we've got it, sorry, we should have gone to you for the first section here, you got it right.

[4:15 p.m.]

There are other factors in here, Mr. Speaker, you could quite easily look at. I think we can all share some of these thoughts. People have come to us when we've been touring the province asking them their concerns about insurance. One guy asked me, why is it when I have a cracked windshield and I go and ask the shop, will you repair this window they say yes - we'll make up a figure but it will be generally the same - $400, but through insurance it's $950. Why is it? Why aren't the insurance companies themselves policing that? Why aren't the insurance companies themselves policing the cost of repairs that are affecting them? Why is it that if insurance companies themselves believe that there are many bogus claims out there, why aren't they litigating? They're asking the province to take the burden off them when they won't do their own heavy lifting. Why don't they go out and say to the

[Page 407]

people, I don't believe that you sustained the injury you're claiming for. Why wouldn't they do that? Why wouldn't they go and claim that?

No, Mr. Speaker, because they're finding governments willing to do their work for them by limiting benefits to the injured. To use a comparison, what we see as the supreme no-fault, and I'm sure the minister understands this, is WCB here in this province. How we've gone from an old system, the clinical rating system, to the wage loss system and so on, with an understanding of what happens there. If you take the old clinical rating system, which I believe is what the insurance industry wants to adopt, it's really erroneous too. If leaving here I'm in a car accident, we'll say my shoulder is injured. Well, as a politician, the limitations on me aren't that great, but if I'm a welder or a carpenter or an electrician where you actually have to do work for a living, then it's different. The economic impact on their job is much greater.

Mr. Speaker, yes, indeed, my friend, the member for Sackville-Cobequid said, cameraman. I can tell you I sustained injuries in that old job, but I've never applied for insurance over them. The fact of the matter is that we cannot rectify the problems in insurance in this province by adopting the New Brunswick model of saying, here's the quick fix, the one and only fix. It's a multi-faceted problem that we have to look at. If we start looking at - and I lay it out - public ownership. If we look at all the models, if we look at how rates have increased and how in this province, in particular, rate increases are regulated - because they're really not regulated in this province, it's primarily the insurance company sending a note over to the Utility and Review Board that says something like, look, we've got an increase coming up in 90 days, it's 30 per cent for rewrites and maybe 35 per cent for new writes. That's all they have to do. They do not have to explain one iota of what this is all about. So there's a problem.

Did insurance companies ever look down and seriously look at the impact of what they do around auto repairs and how auto shops are doing their work and how the cost is factored in? No, they have not. At no time do they ever go back to those people and say, so here we are, we are at a point with the insurance industry of one thing on their mind, and no- fault is it. They don't want to talk to you about anything else but no-fault. They've hidden behind it for these two years now, Mr. Speaker. They hid behind the fact and say, well, we have to do something, we have to explore other options. When presented with other options they quickly start eliminating each and every one of them until you get back to no-fault.

What's the effect on our communities? Well, I'll tell you, Mr. Speaker, what the effect is that insurance companies are having in communities I know. Right where I have my office in the Town of New Waterford there was a small brokerage firm that was put out of business by the fact that insurance companies would say, okay, we are going to redline communities. They'll deny to the nines that they redline communities. Now the term redline is saying, we're not going to allow you to rewrite or renew or write new policies for certain

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areas by either postal codes or by phone numbers. Now, my community is one of those affected by that. People were being told, no, we are told not to write in that area.

I'm afraid that if you look at something like the New Brunswick model and if you believe them, insurance companies will tell you that they will stay here and they will continue to write, but there are no guarantees, there are no guarantees whatsoever. Once they get what they want from government, which is limitation, which is no-fault, there is no protection for the consumers in real terms.

One of the few things the minister and I will agree on over this, probably, is that it has to be a multi-faceted approach. As he may fully disagree with us, we have been going around the province and talking to many consumers, not maybe as many as talked about earlier in Question Period, of just members of a certain Party. We have talked to people from one end of this province to the other and I would tell you, Mr. Speaker, that some of those people are anything but friendly to the New Democrats, but they understand value for their dollar. They understand that when they live in rural Nova Scotia they can't hop on a bus and go see a doctor, you need your automobile; that when you go and get your groceries there isn't a large mall across the way from you, you need transportation.

Mr. Speaker, what we need here is a reasoned, full-measured approach to auto insurance in this province. We don't need the half measure that just gave in to the Insurance Bureau of Canada as New Brunswick did, gave them exactly what they wanted with very little protection for the consumers. Whether they be 16 or 76, I think we need a multi-faceted approach and I hope that's the way this government sees it. Thank you very much.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Deputy Premier, Minister of Environment and Labour and MLA for Hants West.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I'm glad that we are discussing this particular matter today. It's a serious matter, and during Question Period you do get maybe a little carried away and become a little glib (Interruption) Yes, you do. However, this is a problem that's affecting all Nova Scotians. When I say all Nova Scotians, I'm speaking of about 600,000 of our total population, and that is mainly the adult population of this province. We are all affected by insurance. The reason we are all affected by insurance is because we all must carry insurance, by law, on our vehicles.

Mr. Speaker, this is, if you will, a predicament that we face. On the one hand we are saying everybody must have insurance to drive, but on the other hand we are saying we have no control over the costs of obtaining that insurance and we are sometimes stuck with the problem that some people cannot get insurance.

[Page 409]

Mr. Speaker, we recognized this problem quite some time ago. Actually it was early last year, in January of last year, that we recognized that there was indeed a real, severe problem with regard to insurance rates steadily increasing, making it very difficult for certain sectors of the population to obtain insurance. So the plan we came forward with was, first of all, to determine whether or not the rates being charged by the insurance companies were indeed valid rates that indeed were substantiated by the costs of providing that insurance.

To take a look at that problem, we called upon the URB to hold hearings insofar as rates are concerned. Mr. Speaker, last year they did that, commencing in February and concluding sometime in November. Since November, we in government have been awaiting the report from the URB. It has taken them sometime but you can actually understand that because it is a very, very complex matter. It is a very complex matter.

So, Mr. Speaker, we are awaiting that report from the URB but the second leg on our stool of a plan for automobile insurance was to come forward with a guide, a consumer's guide to buying auto insurance. This essentially told consumers what they should be looking for when they are purchasing insurance. I would be willing to bet - I can't say that in the House - I would be willing to assume that of the 52 members in this House who all drive automobiles and all, I suspect, have insurance, that probably only one, if that, has ever read their insurance policy through and understood what they were reading.

So, Mr. Speaker, we are hoping with this document to make people more aware of what it is they should be asking their insurance agent or their broker, before they buy their insurance. This particular document has been very popular. I think we've had something in the order of about 20,000, either hits on the website or actual distribution of the document.

The third leg of the stool, Mr. Speaker, was coming up with a solution and we decided that we should do something similar to what perhaps the New Democratic Party did, but, however, having a different end to the task. That is, we were not going to go out with a task force from the Legislature or from a select committee to examine the problem. That is being done in other provinces. I know for instance Newfoundland completed one, I think it was early last year; New Brunswick completed a Select Committee of the House, I believe, early this year; and the Province of Ontario had a select committee out on insurance, I think approximately 18 months ago, two years ago, and right across this country, they have used that approach.

But unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, I believe that the approach that was taken by one of the Parties in this House, to go out and elicit opinions from folks, probably did not get the kind of information that is necessary to develop a plan of where to go with regard to insurance. I say that without prejudice because they came back, after speaking to a number of people around the province evidently, they came back and just blandly suggested that we go for a public insurance process. We are told that a public system is the answer because they have cheaper rates in Manitoba, in Saskatchewan and in British Columbia.

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Now, Mr. Speaker, it depends, of course, on what you look at when you make that claim. They have some numbers, everybody has numbers. I have a document here which is a cross-Canada rate comparison. The standard criteria used right across the country, was a Ford Taurus with a principal operator 25 years of age, accident-conviction free, $1 million third party, $500 comprehensive and a deductible of $300 upon collision.

[4:30 p.m.]

I have this available if people would like to get a copy, for every province across the country. Yes, Winnipeg is lowest at $1,152 for this particular gentleman; Saskatchewan is second at $1,230. Surprisingly, Halifax is $1,340, it's more expensive, but not very much. There's a big difference between what your basic insurance policy gets you in Winnipeg or in Regina than what you get in downtown Halifax because they have a capped process, a tort process. I should have mentioned, Mr. Speaker, that I previously agreed to share my time with the Minister of Transportation and Public Works. He'll take over when I stop.

We have gone out with this document and we're asking the people to help us and tell us what it is they expect from their insurance company. I think that is the democratic way of establishing a Nova Scotia solution. As the member for Cape Breton Centre said, I don't think the solution they have in New Brunswick is suitable for the Province of Nova Scotia. I don't think that the solution that they've come up with - in fact, they haven't really come to a solution yet. The solution they're drifting towards in the Province of Newfoundland, I don't think it's one that we particularly want in this province. I don't think that the one of public ownership of the insurance business as they have in Saskatchewan or Manitoba is suitable for this province so we have to come up with our own solutions and I believe that we can.

Some of the things that we're going to have to solve are going to have to be done by regulation and by legislation. When I say regulation, I mean not only do we have to look at the cost of insurance, but we have to look at what the insurance companies are doing to people who ask for insurance.

The Leader of the Official Opposition brought up the case of a gentleman or a lady who was sitting up in the gallery today who was a senior citizen and was having difficulty getting insurance. The age factor should not be measured when you buy insurance, whether you're a young person aged 17 just starting to drive, or you're 80 years of age and you're out on the highway, it shouldn't matter. What should matter is your record. You've been driving for 50 years and you haven't had an accident or a claim, you've been driving for 60 years and you haven't had an accident or a claim, but now you're 90 years of age, I would say that you should still be able to drive providing you're still competent, providing you still have your senses and your health, et cetera. The age should not be a criteria in depending on whether a person should get insurance or not.

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The second thing is that I don't think it should matter how old your vehicle is. I know some people who have vehicles that are worth far more than a vehicle just coming off the lot and they'd be horrified if they were told that their vehicle was not road-ready and capable of being driven on the roads. I think the main thing is that the vehicle must pass the compulsory highway test that we have in the Province of Nova Scotia. If it does that, I don't think it should matter - I don't think it should matter at all, I really and truly don't.

The third thing is, if I move from Yarmouth to Cape Breton or to Glace Bay or somewhere and I have to give up my insurance policy down in Yarmouth and I go up to Glace Bay and I go to an insurance agent who I've never spoken to before and he treats me as though I've never driven before, as though I've never had insurance before - when you go from one insurance company to another, the only thing that should matter is your driving record and how many claims you've had, and whether or not those claims have been because

of your particular driving habits, not because somebody happened to rear-end you at a stop sign.

Mr. Speaker, I think that in conclusion I will simply say we do have a plan, we do hope to come forward by the end of June certainly, but hopefully sooner, with our plan. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Transportation and Public Works has approximately two minutes.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, brevity has never been my virtue, but I do want to address two particular points - there are two points. Firstly, the NDP plan is not a plan - I know the "h" word has been a problem today, so I won't use it - but it's strikingly inconsistent that the Party that argues for a regulated insurance scheme, the insurance scheme which in all the provinces that have it limits benefits and payments to people, should also be the Party that advocates for no reduction in the amount of what people can claim and pain and suffering and soft tissue injuries and that kind of thing.

Mr. Speaker, we've lived through the nightmare of Sydney Steel. We've lived through that nightmare in Nova Scotia about government trying to run private operations. It has failed miserably. I do believe in regulation. I do believe that there is a necessity to make sure that the public is protected, and there are some real fundamental choices that the Minister of Environment and Labour referred to. It is the benefits that you pay out on your policy. Nova Scotians have to make a choice about those kinds of benefits, what they want and what they don't want.

There's a thing called "Section B" in your insurance policy, Mr. Speaker, and that gives the benefits in case of an accident on a no-fault basis. If you raise those benefits, it costs more as premiums; if you lower those benefits, it costs less. It's a simple choice and that is one of the things that Nova Scotians have to address. So what we have to avoid is

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political rhetoric designed to create public boondoggles through publicly organized insurance companies. What we have to do is protect seniors, small-business people, and people with good driving records to make sure that Nova Scotians are protected from profiteering - and that I do believe in and our government does believe in and we have a plan.

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

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to rise in my place today to join this debate on an issue involving insurance in this province, an issue that touches most, if not every home, from one end of this province to another. Also it's coupled as an issue that is of equal importance with other issues that are very troublesome to Nova Scotians today, such as the increase in home heating oil and also gasoline, all of which are related to monies coming directly out of the pockets of consumers of this province, some of whom can't afford anything more than they've been paying now or paying at least in the past couple of years and now, are forced to pay considerably more.

I just want to touch a bit on the home heating oil part of it because it does affect the same type of people we're talking about here - those with the least ability to pay are the same people who are getting a triple-whammy, if you will, Mr. Speaker. They're getting hit with increased costs in auto insurance, those who still can afford to drive a car because of the gasoline at the pumps, thanks to the Premier's 2-cents-a-litre increase a couple years ago, which he said he wasn't going to do but did anyway, and that 2 cents a litre I think is a bogus tax and should be returned to the consumers of this province post-haste. That would relieve some of the burden. If you're asking how that can be done, what I think is it should be rolled back and perhaps should be rolled back 3 cents or 4 cents a litre to compensate for the increased costs in the past couple of years that Nova Scotians have had to pay for that.

It has gotten to a stage now where people can't afford housing insurance, car insurance, and to drive a car. It's an issue that's very troublesome; it's an issue that has to be resolved.

Mr. Speaker, we're all aware of the horror stories about home insurance in particular, where people have been denied insurance by carriers in this province because they either consider them a risk or they've said to them either you improve your housing stock substantially, the house you're living in now, or you, for example, put a new oil tank in. I don't know what they consider an old tank versus a new tank, but if you don't put one in, they're going to cancel your insurance. Where are the people on low income, senior citizens going to get the money to buy the new tank? Or re-shingle a roof, there are all kinds of issues here.

Nova Scotia law requires that all Nova Scotians must carry insurance to drive a car. In other words, if you're in a car in this province and you don't have insurance, you're driving that car illegally if you own the car. I think for that reason government has an

[Page 413]

obligation to ensure that the rates are reasonable and affordable to all Nova Scotians. I think Nova Scotians should expect nothing less.

Briefly I touched on the other two issues that are of great concern, because like auto insurance, home insurance and gasoline taxes and the price of it today, affect the same group of people. Again, there's this triple-whammy that people are getting hit with. To the point where last winter some people in my area had to decide whether or not they were going to be able to put gas in the tank of the car, or leave the car in the driveway because they couldn't afford the insurance, or whether or not they were going to freeze by not being able to buy home heating oil.

You have all of these problems, Mr. Speaker, hitting Nova Scotians at the same time. I believe the government's addressing of these problems has been less than satisfactory. Clearly the issue of insurance rates is a complex issue, I will agree with that, it's a complex issue in this province. But it's an important political issue with debate on various solutions available to consumers. Huge rate increases have made it impossible for many Nova Scotians to drive legally. You know what happens when that happens. People decide they're either going to do one of two things, leave the car home or try to drive a vehicle in this province without insurance and pray to heaven they don't get caught. Worse than that, they pray they don't have an accident.

I think Nova Scotia needs solutions that will address their auto insurance premiums, but it's also important to remember, Mr. Speaker, that in this discussion there is a balance to maintain between everybody who is concerned here. It goes without saying that people want good insurance coverage, but they also want reasonable premiums. I think everybody, every member of this House would agree that the premiums today are getting beyond what you would term to be reasonable in this province.

Again, that goes for the triple-whammy, gasoline, home heating oil and car insurance, all hitting to a greater or lesser extent the same people in this province, consumers. It's not discriminatory upon whether you have a low income or a high income, you're still getting hit with it. The person who can least afford to pay still has to pay the same rates as those who could just write the cheque. It's the former group that I'm talking about who are hurting here, the group of Nova Scotians, seniors, people on fixed incomes, people on disability pensions. The list goes on. Young people who are just starting out in life, in the working environment in this province, all of them have a great deal of difficulty even surviving let alone having to pay out exorbitant fees for the triple-whammy that I just talked about. Some are getting hit with all three.

Mr. Speaker, I believe that we have to have diligent efforts by all parties to minimize costs to the system, and that will assist in providing some solutions. But there's one thing about this issue that needs to be stated. This issue has been before this House many times because Nova Scotians expected their governments to address this issue earlier - not before

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an election, not after an election and not during an election. This isn't a new issue, this issue hit many rural residents last year, who were telling government that something must be done. As you know, rural residents rely on their vehicles for transportation so this issue has a dramatic impact on them, particularly in areas where there is no public transportation.

[4:45 p.m.]

It's an issue that also affects many other residents who have good driving records and who now must be forced to either pay the rates or decide to sell their cars. Clearly this important issue in the lives of people was as much alive last year as it is today. I cannot stress it strongly enough that we would not be here today debating this issue if the other two Parties in this House agreed with our request last year; that request, a year ago, 13 months ago, by the Leader of our Party, Danny Graham and our caucus, that we would have an all-Party committee in this House to sit down and hammer out a solution to this problem. That request by our Party was denied by the government and by the Official Opposition.

So here we are, a year later, still no closer to a solution. Here we are, a year later, debating this issue again as we move steadily towards an election. Here we are still talking about something that should have been settled long ago. When this issue first came up last year, we came forward with an idea that would have involved all the political Parties, the insurance companies and the legal community in this province in the process. Now it's only during the pre-election stage that both the Conservative Government and the NDP have decided to address the skyrocketing costs of insurance. On the eve of an election. Where were they last year when this problem was just as important then as it is today? They were nowhere. They were nowhere.

New Brunswick did what they proposed, they called an all-Party committee to come up with solutions. If it was good enough for New Brunswick, why wasn't it good enough for Nova Scotia a year ago? I would suggest that the government didn't want to get involved with the other two Parties in any kind of a discussion on anything. They felt they know what's best for Nova Scotians - do nothing until an election is called. The NDP didn't want to get involved in a solution at that time because it wasn't their idea. It's as simple as that - that's the way they operate. If it's not their idea, it can't be good for Nova Scotians.

We're in the pre-election stage now so suddenly it's a matter of great urgency. And what does the government do now? Well, the government's going to start a debate in motion. That debate is going to go from Yarmouth to Glace Bay to Cape North, everywhere in between and it's going to ask people what's wrong. They don't have to ask people what's wrong, you know what's wrong - the rates are exorbitant in this province, they're too high and people can't afford to pay them. But the government is going to go around this province and solicit opinion and that is going to bridge them past the next election.

[Page 415]

In other words, there will be nothing done about this issue until after the writ is dropped and it will be much talked about during the campaign and then forgotten about if this government happens to be lucky enough to get re-elected. It will be another four years before they decide to raise the matter again and people will still pay too much for insurance in this province.

It took 11 months for New Brunswickers to have a committee report and some solutions. They weren't perfect solutions, but they were solutions to move forward with. If we had established an all-Party committee 13 months ago, this issue would have been decided and dealt with, hopefully in the best interests of the consumers in Nova Scotia, long before now. But here we are, the spectacle of standing in this House and out there in that hall telling Nova Scotians we're going to consult with them on the eve of an election on an issue that's literally breaking their pocketbooks in this province; forcing people off the road because they can't get car insurance any more and here we are, we're going to debate it with Nova Scotians to get us through the election.

Mr. Speaker, if we had established an all-Party Committee I believe that we could have come to a consensus from all Parties on a solution to this problem, but that wasn't to be. All I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, is that the Liberal Party wanted that committee. We wanted to sit down, we wanted to get together in a non-partisan way with the other two Parties in this House and hammer out a non-political agreement here to do something about auto insurance in this province, and that initiative on behalf of Danny Graham failed because the other two Parties would have nothing to do with anything that was going to eventually provide a solution to the consumers in this province who have to buy auto insurance.

Mr. Speaker, I will tell you why. Because if we had a solution, it wouldn't be an issue during the election. It wouldn't be an issue for the government to use, the carrot on the stick to consumers in this province, we're going to consult, or it wouldn't be another issue for the NDP to complain about with no solutions, because they know they're never going to have to come up with a solution for anything because they're never going to form government in this province. They know that, so they can promise whatever they want, but one thing they wouldn't do was to sit down with the government and the Liberal Party and hammer out a solution to this. I think the consumers of this province have been denied the opportunity for better insurance rates in this province because of the inability of the three Parties in this House to come together. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, this is the second day in a row in which this House has chosen to engage on the issue of automobile insurance. We're doing this very appropriately; this is exactly the kind of issue that we ought to be engaged in debating because this is an important pocketbook issue. It's the kind of thing that Nova Scotians are struggling to deal with. It's in the same category of their struggles to deal with high tuition

[Page 416]

fees at university for their children; it's in the same category of the high cost of heating fuel; it's in the same category of the low rate of minimum wage; it's in the same category of the excessive user fees that have been brought in by this government over the last few years; it's in the same category as Pharmacare fees; it's exactly the kind of struggle that people have to make ends meet. Automobile insurance, the high cost of automobile insurance, is in that range of issues, so it's exactly the kind of thing that we ought to be debating and struggling with.

This is an issue which is complex and we have to be careful. If there are to be major changes in how automobile insurance is rated and/or delivered in Nova Scotia, then we have to be careful and measured in the decisions that we make about changes that are to come.

Mr. Speaker, in today's Chronicle-Herald and Mail-Star there appeared quite a fascinating editorial directly on point. I will table the editorial by the chief editor, Mr. Bob Howse, and I will table it because I wish to quote from it. Here are the key passages from this editorial: "The Hamm government faces a lot of voters fed up that it can't do a better job of regulating the soaring cost of insurance it requires them to buy. The issue is not whether it needs fixing but how to do it. Clearly the government doesn't know."

Now, I will just pause at this point in my quoting from Mr. Howse's editorial to say that what he does then is he points out that the government asked the URB to examine the rates this year. I would like to add a gloss on that which is, of course, this is exactly what my Party pushed for, that the matter be sent to the URB, and so it was, but here is what Mr. Howse continues to say: "Getting the UARB's advice was sensible. But while we've waited for its report, due soon, months have passed in which the government has been conspicuously doing nothing while thousands more motorists have been hit with stiff premium hikes in their renewal notices."

Now, Mr. Speaker, throughout that whole editorial the word "Liberal" doesn't appear. It's clear that, in the analysis of our main daily newspaper in this province, this is an issue which has been brought to the fore by this Party, and that there is a wide expectation that the government will actually do something, and furthermore there is the expectation and the view that sending the matter to the URB and doing nothing in the meantime wasn't good enough. We would have frozen the rates while the matter was being examined. We have started our own examination. This is a problem that is being wrestled with all across the country and the motion in front of us today looks specifically at what it is that New Brunswick is thinking of doing. This motion urges us to recognize that what New Brunswick is thinking of doing is not adequate.

So far in the study that we have done on the high cost of automobile insurance, what we've discovered when we've compared the systems that are in place across Canada, is that there are three provinces where outstandingly the rates are lower and have been lower for many years. Those three provinces are British Columbia, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan. In

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those three provinces, there are publicly-owned automobile insurance schemes also known as driver-owned automobile insurance schemes. We, I ought to be clear, are not yet by any means at the point of saying to the members of this House and the public that turning to a publicly-owned automobile insurance scheme is the right conclusion to reach. The information we have discovered is that in those three provinces they have the lowest rates, and have had the lowest rates for years. That is a very striking fact and one we have to take seriously.

It is a striking fact that all members of the public in Nova Scotia have to think about. Would there be an advantage in moving to that scheme? If so, how do we do it; if so, how exactly would it work? I started off saying that insurance is a matter that is complex and we have to be careful. That, indeed, is the case. But we also have to be very skeptical about what it is that the competing claims are all about. The chief competing claim that we've heard from the private automobile insurers, through the Insurance Bureau of Canada, their organization, is that they lose money on the writing of policies in Nova Scotia.

Well, that is an interesting fact. Let's just look at that for a moment. They are saying they lose money on the writing of policies. Well, do you know what, that is not surprising. I want to table a second document, if I may, Mr. Speaker. It is an extract from the Web site that is maintained by the Department of Finance of the Government of Canada. In this Web site, one of the things that they do is they examine all of the financial institutions in Canada, the banks, the trust companies, the insurance companies, the credit unions, the stockbrokers. They have profiles of those industries because, of course, most of those financial institutions are federally regulated. When it comes to insurance, there is federal regulation; there is also provincial regulation.

Part of their profile of the insurance industry has to do with what is called property and casualty insurance companies. These are not the life insurance companies, these are the property and casualty insurance companies of which more than half of the business is automobile insurance. I wish now to quote from the federal Department of Finance's review of these financial institutions, that is, primarily of the automobile insurance companies. Here is what they say: ". . . P & C insurance activities in Canada normally result in underwriting losses for most major product lines. This means that premiums paid for policies each year do not generate enough revenues to cover outgoing claims and expenses. However, these underwriting losses are normally more than offset by the investment income generated from assets held by the industry."

Mr. Speaker, what that means is that it is normal business for automobile insurance companies not to take in as much as they pay out each year if you purely look at their premiums and the claims paid and include in it their administrative costs. The key word there is normally, normally result in underwriting losses. That is what the federal Department of Finance says. This has to be taken as standard industry business.

[Page 418]

[5:00 p.m.]

So why is it that we are hearing suddenly that there's a problem from the automobile insurance companies, and that they're losing money on their premiums in Nova Scotia? That's normal business. That's what the federal Department of Finance tells us is normal for P & C insurance companies. Well, if it's normal, then we have to look at the other part of what the federal Department of Finance directs our attention to, which is the investment income. They correctly say that normally the way insurance companies make their money is through their investments. We know from a review of all the financial papers that are generated by the insurance companies themselves, that they recognize that their true problem, their true problem has been in their financial investments. In other words, the stock market and the bond market hasn't performed at such a rate as gives them the kind of rate of return on their investment that they're happy with.

Well, when it comes to investments in the bond market and the stock market, they fluctuate. Returns fluctuate. They go up and down. There is no reason why the premium-paying public in Canada anywhere should have to strain to make up that difference. What exactly is the difference? Well, further on in this federal Department of Finance analysis of the industry we see a comparison of rate of return on investment between banks, as one category of financial institution, and insurance companies. Banks make about 12 per cent return on investment, we're told; insurance companies have fluctuated a bit, they've been in the 8 per cent to 10 per cent range, and generally they're around 8 per cent now, the Department of Finance tell us. This is not a disaster. What they do tell us is that these companies, their profitability, not whether they're profitable but how much they're profitable, is sensitive to small changes in the marketplace. This is not something that should drive public policy here or should drive the huge increases in rates that we've seen here.

We are not yet, as I said, by any means at the point of suggesting that the way out from underneath this kind of pressure is to go to a completely public scheme, but we have to take that seriously as an option. We are saying that simply leaving the matter unregulated or regulated in a minimum way is not good enough. We are saying, furthermore, that to cap the benefits that people can claim when it comes to their injuries should be looked at very skeptically, and to the extent that this is part of what's being proposed in New Brunswick, Mr. Speaker, we are extremely skeptical. The trouble is that the rates will stay high for the companies but the benefits for those who are insured will be limited. Is that a desirable state of affairs? I don't think so.

It is not the case, I have to emphasize this, Mr. Speaker, to you and to all the public listening at home, it is not the case that it is inherent in a publicly-owned automobile scheme that there is a limitation on the claims that can be made. There is, in fact, a different system in Saskatchewan, there is, in fact, a different system, I believe, in British Columbia. That limitation is not inherent. Our feeling so far is that there's no benefit to the public in limiting that. We're continuing to look at that question. If there's hard evidence on it, we'll continue

[Page 419]

to look at it, but we have to bear in mind that in Nova Scotia the awards made by the courts for tissue claims, soft tissue claims are notoriously quite low. Those of us who have practised law and dealt with injuries and read the court's decisions here and compared them with the decisions and awards in other provinces in Canada are frequently scandalized by the low level of awards that are made here. We don't want to see that, but we certainly don't want to see the ability of citizens to have access to the courts to be eliminated.

I've heard a lot of skepticism about the possibility of moving to a public scheme. I've heard it expressed in yesterday's debate by the minister and perhaps I've heard it again somewhat today. The minister made the claim yesterday that this Party would be running the risk of bankrupting the province, he said. Bankrupting the province were his words. Mr. Speaker, in the provinces in Canada in which there have been public automobile schemes they have never had to turn to the public purse for supplements. When they started, of course, they were given start-up cash which was repaid. If the minister has different information, as he intimates he might, I'd be interested to hear it.

At the moment we are having an honest look, a tough look at a complex area and we are looking to make an informed decision about the way we ought to move to deal with high rates of automobile insurance in Nova Scotia. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable Opposition House Leader.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, would you please call the order of business, Private Members' Public Bills For Second Reading.

PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Opposition House Leader.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 2.

Bill No. 2 - Workers' Compensation Act.

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

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, I want to speak on this bill and the reason we have called this bill today is because automatic assumption is not a new concept in the Province of Nova Scotia. We know that we have had automatic assumption for some time in this province as it relates to mine workers and respiratory illness. So this province has, indeed, realized the perils of certain industries and what they can do to you. We've bought into that and so we know the idea of automatic assumption is not a new one.

[Page 420]

Another thing I want to talk about before I get too much into the depth of my text, Mr. Speaker, is that what we did with this bill and our moving forward with it was advise the government and the Third Party that we were going to bring something forward. This was not kind of a bushwhack thing, we didn't want to come here one day and put it in front of the government and not have anything. We certainly laid our cards out on the table, if you will. In the context of that you expose yourselves to certain things and one of them was that the government brought their own legislation forward. Legislation that I would say doesn't go as far as ours and doesn't really deal with the intricacies of what goes on with the illness as it pertains to firefighters. Not the least of which is, I guess the saying goes, the devil is in the details, or in this way you could say the devil is in the regulations because it goes back for a lot of the regulations.

Mr. Speaker, I want to say that that's why we're here. I believe the importance of bringing our bill forward to explain it, to put it on the record and to allow, if you will, a comparison of both bills. Now, let's talk about the good features of Bill No. 2. This bill is specific, it addresses the well-researched concerns raised by full time and volunteer firefighters. There are a number of elements of this bill which I would like to mention, but first, let me briefly say why we brought this bill forward.

Studies have shown that firefighters are at an increased risk for cancers as a result of exposure to chemicals and other work-related injuries, Mr. Speaker. In 1994 the Ontario Industrial Disease Standards Panel reports, "it is estimated that 80 per cent of firefighters' injuries are due to smoke inhalation or oxygen deficiency and that over 50 per cent of line-of-duty deaths are due to smoke exposures." Mr. Speaker, there is also evidence from the International Association for Research on Cancer, which is part of the World Health Organization, the 1994 Ontario Industrial Disease Standards Panel, a report done by Drs. Guidotti and Goldsmith for the Manitoba Workers' Compensation Board and many local studies in the U.S. that establish links between exposure to various chemicals and primary site cancers over certain periods of time.

The most recent report done by these two doctors says that it is reasonable, given the available scientific evidence, to adopt a policy of presumption. Well, presumption is automatic assumption and such a policy is, like I say, not new to this province, it was brought in by a former Tory Government. As a matter of fact I think, if memory serves me correct, that government worked in conjunction with the Opposition Parties and that was passed basically in a day. (Interruptions) Okay, but very timely.

In our look, there were five forms of cancer that may have been established in the Manitoba and Alberta legislation. In May 2002, the Manitoba Government committed full compensation for full-time firefighters through their Bill No. 5, and Manitoba is the first jurisdiction in Canada to do so. There are some 21 states in the United States that have also done this through their WCB, or similar workers' compensation schemes. Those five diseases are primary site: brain cancer, bladder cancer, kidney cancer, non-Hodgkins

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lymphoma, and leukemia. These are cancers as also outlined in our bill, but government, unfortunately, would not outline their diseases in their bill.

We have outlined the latency periods, or minimum employment periods if you will, again the government has not. Our bill states the periods are as follows: primary site brain cancer, 10 years; primary site bladder cancer, 15 years; primary site kidney cancer, 20 years; primary site non-Hodgkins lymphoma 20 years; primary site leukemia 5 years. In the Alberta legislation that's proposed by a backbencher, not by its government, it also includes colon cancer, which in the Guidotti and the Goldsmith reports, I think they caution and say more study is needed. While the presumption is certainly that it could be looked at, it's not there.

Mr. Speaker, our bill makes it mandatory that the issue of colon cancer be tracked, and be tracked by the board and that the board brings back to this House, within two years, to determine whether this disease needs to be added to the list or not. That is taking a responsible approach to this very serious disease that affects, primarily - not primarily, I should say more, in fact, than most working people, firefighters.

Another example of the importance of what we have in our bill, which is not in the government's bill, is a retroactive period. The government is not, and the minister said last week that the regulations will not make that inclusion either. That's very important. I believe this is not just an oversight, it's discriminatory, and it's an omission that should be corrected. It's in our bill, we bring this forth. That's why - the good aspects of Bill No. 2 - we're here today.

Mr. Speaker, this omission will hurt Nova Scotians, Nova Scotians like Gary Harris or Moe Cannon, two retired firefighters stricken with cancer, or Don Snider, the head of a group of retired firefighters who knows many firefighters who have cancer and have died from cancer, presumably caused by the work they did in the service of Nova Scotians. Why should they be discriminated against because their cancer chose to strike them before the government decided to act? We have to look after those people, and that's why our bill goes in that direction.

Our bill certainly goes on to talk about who they cover. In the Province of Nova Scotia there are roughly 560 to 570 full-time firefighters who are members of the International Association of Firefighters, and somewhere in the vicinity of 150 firefighters that our bill would attract; we also have between 7,500 and 9,000 volunteer firefighters that our bill would also take in. Of those 560 active firefighters, they break down as approximately 400 in the HRM who are presently privately insured, which means outside of WCB there are approximately 130 in Sydney, 20 in Yarmouth and 9 in Truro.

Part of the retroactivity here - I think we have to go there - is the fact that pre-amalgamation there were members of HRM, some of the former municipalities, covered by WCB, but some weren't. I think five of the six were insured through WCB prior to

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amalgamation, and one was out - at the point of amalgamation, when they got together they decided to opt out of WCB and carry private coverage, if you will.

Mr. Speaker, there are some really vital items in Bill No. 2 compared to the bill brought before the House by the minister. These are ones that I think we have seen time and time again that when items go back to a regulatory body to be looked at they get lost in the bureaucracy. That's part of the reason why we gave both Parties a heads-up in this bill. We thought there was a level of urgency to this bill, one that if all Parties could get together and support that we could move it forward, that workers could be covered in this province.

[5:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, that's what this bill is all about. This bill is not about trumping another Party. This bill is not about anything other than seeing a need to protect workers. Indeed, last week when the minister put his own bill forward, as much as there are many things in there I disagree with, any time a government brings something forward that protects workers, I fundamentally agree with it. That does not mean that within that bill there shouldn't be changes. That's why we stayed on course with our bill. Our bill is here today because, quite frankly, it's a good bill. It's a bill that helps people who are suffering from cancer in this province. It mirrors a bill in a province that has similar population, similar members of full-time and volunteer firefighters. It has many of the same comparisons that hold up.

So I ask the minister to look at our bill. If, at the end of the day he says I can't live with Bill No. 2, then I would take him for some wisdom and say, look, how can we put the two bills together to make one good bill then. Talk to us and try to bring some factors in here, especially as they relate to retroactivity, to talk about the latency periods. I don't think these items should be left out to another body to decide, Mr. Speaker. These are items that I think there's proof. It's not foreign. We have independent medical opinions on these cancers, that we could bring forward. The minister has them available to him. It's not just one province in Canada, it's another province looking at it now. It is 21 states in the United States that have brought in the similar legislation that recognizes what's going on here to these workers in our province.

Mr. Speaker, I think, fundamentally, Bill No. 2 is the way to go. I would ask the minister to take a second look at it, to help us ferry this through the House, to get you to support this bill. It's not supporting my Party, it's supporting firefighters from Yarmouth to Cape North, helping people who help us every day when we're in need. Indeed, we saw this no clearer than earlier this week on Monday and Tuesday. I ask you, minister, to look at it and I think bring it forward and we can do changes in this province.

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MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Environment and Labour.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, this is the second debate of the day, and both of the subjects we have covered this afternoon - insurance and coverage for firefighters - are subjects that are of great serious interest I think to every member within this House. When we speak about firefighters, we're talking about - I was going to say a trade but I won't use that word, perhaps - an occupation, a professional occupation, actually, that has great endearment with the public. So things that affect firefighters are of great importance to members who actually represent people within this Chamber.

The New Democratic Party - and I will confess to this - came forward quite early in this year with the proposal that they were going to bring forward a bill for protection of firefighters from certain types of cancer which were incurred by firefighters at a much higher rate than the normal population. That came forward in Bill No. 2.

We are not just new boys on the block. We were looking at firefighter benefits back in the 1980s. In fact, I don't think anybody in this House except perhaps the member for Cape Breton Nova might remember the select committee that we had on - you were on it, okay, I think I was on it as well, so we toured the province together. We went around the province and we spoke to volunteer firefighters, we spoke to municipal councils, we spoke to professional firefighters and we spoke to the general public. We said, it is imperative in this province that we have a volunteer fire service across our rural areas because in the rural areas you cannot afford to maintain a high-cost, professional firefighting service.

Volunteer firefighters are very, very important in every community within Nova Scotia, even within parts of HRM. The truth of the matter is that at the present time it's becoming more and more difficult to recruit people who are prepared to put forth the amount of time that is required to become a volunteer firefighter. Every weekend they're out there training and on top of that, of course, during the balance of the time when they're not training, they're on call. They have to leave their place of employment and go out and perform this very essential duty.

Employers are becoming less likely to permit - for instance if they only have one person who is working for them - that person to go off and fight a fire and pay them for that period of time, naturally, while they're away. You can't blame the employers because the employers have to earn their living, they have to have their labour available. For instance, I know of one firm in particular where they have, I think, a staff of about 12 or 13 people and they have four volunteer firefighters on their roster. If they all vanished to fight a fire, virtually the business has to shut down. It's important that we look after the volunteer firefighters that we have, to encourage them to remain on and to further go out and recruit other members.

[Page 424]

This select committee of the House went around and it asked the question, what should we be doing to make life better for the volunteer firefighters? And it was a very good committee. It was an all-Party Committee and we came back with a whole roster of things that could be done. They weren't all attainable because, quite frankly, the government didn't have the money and it just couldn't be done. They were sort of put in a hopper and looked at and looked at and reviewed and those things that go on with committee reports, Mr. Speaker, as you well know. So they sat around for a long, long time and finally, I think in 1999, we asked the volunteer firefighters association - I may have the wrong name of the association, but it's an association of volunteer firefighters; the honourable member that's going to be speaking after me with the rest of my time is a former chief so he can perhaps tell you exactly what the name of that committee is.

Anyway, we said, this is what the people that we've spoken to around the province suggest we should be doing for volunteer firefighters. What do you think we should be doing? For instance, would it be advantageous if we gave a provincial tax advantage to firefighters? For instance, we could give them a $500 deduction on income tax. The firefighters looked at that and said, no, that wouldn't be fair. Do you know why it wouldn't be fair? Because a lot of our members don't pay $500 a year in provincial income tax. This would be a rebate on taxes paid. So they went through the whole thing and they came up and said what we would like to see most of all is registration paid for the motor vehicles of firemen. So we enacted that. There was also talk about some kind of automatic insurance coverage for a firefighter who is killed while on duty, while putting out a fire or else reacting to some other emergency. We put in place a $100,000 benefit for firefighters' families for a firefighter who was killed on the job.

Mr. Speaker, we did these things as we went along, and the thing that we still hadn't done was the one on that list which was automatic assumption for firefighters who suffered from emphysema or from some cancers, et cetera, associated with their task. This was in the hopper, in our hopper as well as yours, I shouldn't say yours, as well as in the Opposition's. We took a look at it and we said, there are approximately 8,000 firefighters in Nova Scotia, about 500 of them, roughly, are professional firefighters and about 7,500 are volunteers; we should cover the whole gambit. That was our starting point. We're going to cover all firefighters, both volunteer and full-time for cancers induced by their occupation.

But rather than going in the direction that the member for Cape Breton Centre was suggesting, where we take the bill and name the cancers and go into periods of time that a person must have had that particular disease, we said we'll leave that to regulations. Then we can change it as new evidence and new research comes available, and it's flexible. Mr. Speaker, I will take my place and allow the member for Kings West to say a few words. (Applause)

[Page 425]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.

MR. JON CAREY: Mr. Speaker, it's certainly a pleasure to take this opportunity to stand in my place and speak about this debate on Bill No. 2. As a former firefighter and fire chief - I had the pleasure of serving 10 years as a firefighter and 21 as a fire chief - I know the importance of supporting our firefighters. We need to support both those who are paid and those who are volunteers in this great province. No one has a problem supporting firefighters with our praise for their heroic efforts of 24 hour a day service 7 days a week.

What our government has done is to show our support for our fire service personnel through a tangible initiative. It's something we've been waiting for for a long time. Bill No. 1, introduced by the Minister of Environment and Labour on the second of the House, An Act to Provide Compensation for Full-time and Volunteer Firefighters Who Suffer from an Occupational Disease is another way to ensure that our firefighters know that we will be there when they need us, just as we have come to rely on them when we need them. (Applause)

The Opposition brought in this bill. It appears that our government introduced the bill first, but this isn't something that should be political, as to who gets the bill in first, it's something that should be one that we work together on to provide the very best that we can for our firefighters and for these people who give their time. Our firefighters are such a valued group of individuals they're often taken for granted. They think nothing of their own safety and only for the safety of others when faced with an emergency situation. To say we are thankful for them is certainly an understatement. During our last emergency that we had here in this province in the last few days, there wasn't a fire department certainly in the Valley that wasn't out pumping out an individual's basement or helping people to get through roads that were blocked; continual effort by all of these people. We never want to forget that their service in almost every situation is totally volunteer, with no pay of any kind. Such a service as this you just can't come by every day. This province realizes and this government realizes that we have a tremendous fire service and particularly the volunteer aspect provides us with something that we never could afford to pay for.

[5:30 p.m.]

To say that we're thankful for them certainly is an understatement and if anything can come from the tragic event that took place on September 11th, it is the heightened respect that we have for the work that firefighters do. These are courageous men and women who offer assistance to you and your neighbours, often in dangerous and life-threatening situations, at all hours of the day and night and yet there are almost 9,000 Nova Scotians and 314 volunteer fire departments that willingly spring to action when the pager goes and many volunteer for this, as I have stated, without any desire for any type of pay. I see my time is running out. (Interruptions) But what I really do want to impress upon everyone is these people deserve something good. We will provide something good for them and the

[Page 426]

regulations that need to be worked are ones that are flexible, that will meet the needs, and not something rigid that cannot, or be impossible to, implement. I thank you, Mr. Speaker, for this time and the privilege of discussing this important issue. (Applause)

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

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, I have 13 minutes to address this bill and all subjects that relate thereto so I haven't got much time to get started, but I will tell you I did take an interest in this bill. In fact, I downloaded it off the Internet and then made 10 copies of it here. So if anybody wants to see the bill and can't find it in their Bill Book, they can have one of these nice copies here, but it's Bill No. 2 so you don't have to be able to count very high to find it.

Now, I want to commend and congratulate the honourable member for Cape Breton Centre for introducing this bill and indicate my support for it. I have no difficulty in supporting it. I agree with the last speaker, it should be approached in a non-partisan way. This is not an issue that involves partisanship or the vision of the new democracy or the vision of the Liberal, whatever that is, or the PC (Interruption) No, the Liberal vision of a securer future or the PC version of disaster. It doesn't involve that stuff. It just involves whether or not you're for the proposition stated in the bill.

I find this bill in concept very similar to the automatic assumption bill that was passed by this House some 22, 23 years ago which provided for the same type of coverage for coal miners. If you had been a coal miner and been at the face, or equivalent conditions for 20 years or more, you qualified then for an automatic assumption test. It didn't mean you got a pension, it meant that you could go and take the test. I took the test myself to see what it was like. I wasn't a coal miner for 20 years, I actually was in one day, but that's another story. I took the test to see what it was like so to make sure that anybody who I encouraged to apply for this benefit would not be suffocated or otherwise harmed by the test.

This bill provides for the same type of automatic assumption provisions for firefighters. It's a somewhat strange mix because they're providing for a certain minimum of time for various ailments and it's kind of linked to the ailment so that if it's this, you only have to have been 10 years a firefighter, but if it's that, well, you have to be 15 years a firefighter and if it's another condition, 20 years, and then still another condition, five years, and that is a rather peculiar inconsistency. It would seem to me that if there's one uniform standard for everybody, like the Old Age Pension effective at age 65, that that makes more sense than to say, well, males will get it at 67, females at 62, and those that don't know one way or the other, at 78. I don't know that that's necessarily better legislation than what we have now.

[Page 427]

But in any case that's the standard employed here and there may be justification for it. I haven't done the research to know and I see that the sponsor of the bill, who would want to see this bill shepherded through the House, is now - oh, I'm not allowed to say it, but you know what I'm thinking, Mr. Speaker, you know what I'm thinking.

Now, in any event, yes, the bill should be supported. I see no harm in it. If there was any reason not to support the bill, I would have thought we would have heard from the government, either from the minister or from the private member who spoke on the bill. I don't know if they spoke for the bill or against the bill. I know they spoke, but was there any message there, was there any intent? They didn't indicate, but they did take up the number of minutes that were allocated for their time in discussing the bill.

Now, there is an awful lot that could be done with workers' compensation, Mr. Speaker. I have here this book, 147 footnotes, eight authors, 390 pages, released 13 months ago, the Nova Scotia Workers' Compensation Program: A Focused Review. It finds a great deal of things wrong with the current Workers' Compensation Act and the program that is run under that Act. I suppose if I were properly doing my job as Liberal Labour Critic, then I'd get to work and draft up a bill - it would probably be about as long as that book, 390 pages in length - and introduce it here in the House under the heading of an Act to amend the Workers' Compensation Act, and do all these things that the Dorsey Report proposes.

But, Mr. Speaker, I find it would take an awful lot of time to introduce such a bill, and knowing the government's attitude to bills sponsored by private members of the House from this side, I don't think such a bill would have much chance of getting passed. Probably it would never even get discussed except on Opposition Day. So the time and the energy and the effort you would put into the composition of such a bill would appear to me at this point in time to be wasted because the report I got today was that the election would be called on May 15th and held on June 24th. I got that from my colleague, the honourable member for Cape Breton South and he should know. Just like the Minister of Environment and Labour over there who can tell the future, so can the member for Cape Breton South. We have several members of the House who have that talent. That's the report that I got this morning.

So instead of spending the time today composing a bill to introduce the contents of that report, I had to spend the day today on Grand Lake Road sign locations, financial contributors, fundraisers, headquarters and workers, poll workers. That's what I had to spend the day at. I didn't get down to sharpening stakes yet, but that will come. I did make up an order for 20 pounds of galvanized nails with large heads and with washers to cover so as to make the signs more resistant to - what is it that the NDP do to Liberal signs at election time, do they tear them down? I merely ask the question, I do not answer it. We want to make sure that all our signs are secure against that type of attack from the far right, Mr. Speaker. (Interruption) Yes, very much to my right, you can just see. Right is . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: I thought you weren't running.

[Page 428]

MR. MACEWAN: Yes, I'll be running, I will be campaign chairman in my constituency and see to it that the right side wins. (Interruption) Yes, I mean, the people's Party wins. How's that?

Mr. Speaker, in this pre-election season, it is not a very good time to draft 400-page bills to be introduced in the House because of the amount of time and effort that goes into drafting that bill is very great and it's just like this report that these eight people went to work and worked months and months to prepare, but they couldn't do any of it. It was a recommendation to the government, the government that is now in power. They have had 13 months to act on the contents of the report, and they have implemented one feature, one only, and that was supplementary benefits.

Now the minister has told me in Question Period that if I drew it to his attention that the supplementary benefits new applicants were having a hard time getting processed and would have to wait at least until October 1st, he said he would look into it. Well, in the meantime, Mr. Speaker, I checked my past correspondence and I find that I sent him a letter, I think about 14 days ago, with reference to workers' compensation application for supplementary benefits paid by Mr. Donald McMullin of 648 Atlantic Drive, Reserve Mines. That is in Cape Breton Centre. About half the work I get is from Cape Breton Centre, anyway, so I won't get into that.

Mr. Speaker, the fact is that I have drawn it to the minister's attention with a lengthy composition, maybe not as long as that report, but I think it was more than a page or two in length with all kinds of attached exhibits and evidence to show how McMullin was having such a hard time getting the supplementary benefits that we passed here in this House last Fall. We were told at that time that everybody who is now on supplementary benefits will get their back-time pay before Christmas, and they did. But what the government didn't tell us was that by elevating the income ceiling to $15,008 from where it was before, we are also going to create roadblocks by which any new applicants who want to get on to this benefit are going to have a very hard time getting into the system.

Now, because they did that, they didn't put it into the bill, but just did it, people like Donald McMullin who are trying to get by on some terribly small income - I'm not going to say how large it is because I didn't bring this correspondence over here with me - but I know that it's less than $200 a month - a permanent partial disability benefit from the Workers' Compensation Board, not getting Canada Pension disability. Perhaps he now is, I don't know about that - but at least I can truthfully say that he wasn't getting Canada Pension disability. The overall income on which he is living is far less than $15,008 a year but that man can't get his supplementary benefits because, well, we went to Ann Link, who's the head of the extended benefits unit of the Workers' Compensation Board and she wrote me a lengthy, three-page letter explaining why it can't be done under the regulations.

[Page 429]

Now, I don't know if they are internal regulations of the Workers' Compensation Board or if they are regulations of the Department of Labour. I'll have to do further research on this to find out for the minister just where the roadblock is, but there is a roadblock. I suggest that even if we pass this fine bill now before us, that this government, if they remain in office, would create new roadblocks so the firefighters would think they had this protection but to actually try and get it would become almost as difficult, perhaps even more difficult for them, as it has been for Donald McMullin of Reserve Mines.

I think I have only three minutes left so I'm going to have to wind it up, Mr. Speaker. The fact is that there is a great need for reform for workers' compensation in Nova Scotia. This report, some may say it's overkill, it's too heavy on the system, it's not really all that bad, lots of people are getting workers' compensation benefits and they're happy to receive them. I agree with that, but surely you can't come up with a government-funded, government-appointed board of inquiry that finds that much wrong with the Workers' Compensation Board and Act and then walk away from the subject saying, there's really nothing wrong with workers' compensation, we'll introduced this one bill and that will be it for this year. That was the year 2002, maybe in 2003, in the Fall if we get re-elected, which I hope they won't, but if we get re-elected we have some legislation in the back pocket. (Interruptions)

I'm not for the NDP, so don't be booing me. I'm just saying we hope they won't be re-elected. Perhaps they do hope they'll be re-elected, but I don't. I rest my case on that note.

Now, Mr. Speaker, if there is another session of the House in which I happen to be a member, and if they want a bill to implement this report but they won't do so themselves, I'm sure I could find the time and the effort to go through this page by page and come up with a bill probably that big or bigger, that would put it on the floor of the House for discussion and then we would see. My feeling, based on this government's record in office, is that they are not very keen on reforming workers' compensation. They like select committees, yes. They like consultation, yes. They like discussion, of course, but action, what the injured workers of Nova Scotia are looking for, action, these people just can't seem to find. When they're in that frame of mind, as they tend to be chronically, doctor, chronically, I think I over here have to remind them from time to time to wake up and look at what's needed, read the report, take some action.

I commend the member for Cape Breton Centre for introducing his bill on the firefighters, I wish there was an awful lot more that could be done for the injured workers of Nova Scotia, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, it's something of a pleasure to be dealing with a piece of legislation on which there isn't a huge division or controversy as to the objectives. If there's any difference it's really a question of . . .

[Page 430]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Thank you. The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I was wanting to say that it's a pleasure to be dealing with a subject matter on which there seems to be unanimity among the three Parties as to the appropriate objective. If there's any difference it's only a difference in how we approach the matter and what particular methods we choose. The House has in front of it two bills - Bill No. 1 and Bill No. 2 - that deal with the question of automatic assumption for firefighters with respect to certain occupational diseases.

[5:45 p.m.]

Before I embark upon a bit more of a detailed examination, I want to say something with respect to the remarks of the last speaker. I don't find myself saying this very often with respect to that honourable member, but I have to say that he made a point that I agree with. He did observe that it's unfortunate that we don't have in front of us a bill that implements the Dorsey report. The Dorsey report, which he was referring to as the 400-page document and that he had in his hand, is a full-scale study of our workers' compensation system.

Jim Dorsey, the author, was a classmate of mine at law school. He was a bridge partner of mine while we were at law school; we spent a lot of time doing that. I haven't seen a lot of Jim Dorsey in the last 30 years, but I have followed his very distinguished career. I followed it when he was at the Canada Labour Relations Board and I followed it when he was with the British Columbia Labour Relations Board and at the Workers' Compensation Board of British Columbia. I met with him very briefly when he was working on his study. It's a very fine study; it is of high quality; and it contains many good recommendations that ought to be before us in the form of legislation.

Nonetheless, what we do have in front of us is a specific aspect of workers' compensation that we should pay attention to - it's this question of automatic assumption. This is a small byway of the workers' compensation system. Everyone knows that the system, when it comes to disease or even sometimes when it comes to accident, is beset frequently by medical controversy. The difficulty is that a claimant has to show that the disease that they have was caused by their workplace activities, and this isn't always easy for them to show. A number of decades ago, a little over two decades ago, this House adopted what's called automatic assumption with respect to coal miners who come down with pneumoconiosis. Pneumoconiosis is black lung disease, but even to qualify for automatic assumption there the individual has to have been at work for 20 years. Even then it's a reputable presumption. This is a byway of epidemiology.

Work-related diseases have been identified for 1,000 years. A thousand years ago workers in tin and lead mines were observed by their colleagues and by the population at large to suffer particular kinds of brain injury, brain damage. Three hundred years ago we knew

[Page 431]

about black lung disease for coal miners. The evidence was obvious, and yet it's only 20 years ago that we finally moved to have automatic assumption, that we finally moved to say let's act on the scientific evidence and do the right thing when it comes to automatic assumption for this particular disease, and now in Nova Scotia we're proposing to take a second step with respect to automatic assumption and write into our legislation - and that's what our bill is about - writing into our legislation automatic assumption with respect to a number of well-identified, epidemiologically-identified, scientifically-identified diseases that firefighters come down with as a result of their occupation.

There is no doubt by any reasonable standard, certainly by any scientific standard, that the diseases listed by us in our Bill No. 2 are occupation-related. This is a small step forward. There are many other occupational diseases for which there ought to be automatic assumption, but if we just focus on this one, why is it that our bill should be preferred over Bill No. 1, or should there perhaps be some melding, as was suggested by my friend, the honourable member for Cape Breton Centre, a sensible suggestion? The essential difference between our bill and Bill No. 1 is on this question of reliance on regulations as over against putting things definitely into the bill. Reliance on regulations was characterized by the minister as being flexibility. I have a problem with that. The worry is that allowing things to be dealt with in regulation could be too flexible. It's not that regulations have no place in modern legislation, of course they do. But is this the place, is this the time? I think not.

Look at the essence of what the bill is about that we present to you, Bill No. 2. It contains a start date, 1993. In other words, we're proposing to be retroactive because we're proposing to go back to the point at which the studies were done and at which we know that there is a reasonable presumption period, a reasonable latency period and a reasonable period that will not be financially problematic even for our workers' compensation fund, which is not, as we know, 100 per cent funded. The other part is that we list the diseases. We specify the five diseases for which the evidence is clear. The third thing our bill does is it lists the latency periods.

Now, if any of these matters were to be dealt with by regulation, what would we want to see? Well, with respect to the start date, I wouldn't want to see it dealt with by regulation at all. I would want that specified in the Statute, no change. With respect to the list of diseases, what a combined bill might do is list the five diseases in the bill so that they're in the Statute, so that they couldn't be reduced by regulation but the list might be expanded by regulation. Now that would be an appropriate flexibility, to expand, not to have the option of reducing, and indeed the scientific evidence is now mounting with respect to colon cancer for firefighters, and we would expect that at some point that disease would be added to the list. But the appropriate use of regulation in this circumstance would be to expand the list of diseases. In no way should it be allowed to set the list of diseases and certainly not to take away from the list of diseases.

[Page 432]

What about the latency period? Well, I would be prepared to see the latency period reduced by regulation. Minimums could be set in the Statute but they might be changed in order to favour the worker if it turns out that the scientific research indicates that there is better evidence to be relied upon. Again, that is the appropriate form of use of the flexible tool of regulation. I don't think there should be a firefighter in this province who should worry that their opportunity to claim automatic assumption for these well-recognized diseases is going to be in the hands of a government that might be hostile or a government that might take a different view of the science, conveniently, or a government that might be worried about the extent of the expenses associated with paying the workers' compensation. I wouldn't want that to happen.

We know that this question of the extent of the unfunded liability of the workers' compensation fund has been a big preoccupation by all lawmakers, but there's been progress. The workers' compensation fund, which is now at 75 per cent funded, has been progressing. It was much less a number of years ago. The trend is up in terms of the percentage that's funded. This government shouldn't be worried about money. It hasn't said it is, but I'm trying to think about what it is that could make it hesitate in this small regard about the small number of people who would benefit and be put fairly in a position to benefit from this particular aspect of workers' compensation.

If it's not the money, then presumably it's control. If it's not control, then maybe it's a disagreement with the science, but I haven't heard a disagreement with the science, I haven't heard anyone who is criticizing this bill on the government side saying that they disagree with the studies that have been done. They haven't said to us in any way in any of these debates that the five diseases are ones they think have not had adequate study. If that's the view, they should be saying that. We should be debating that. But they haven't suggested that and if they haven't suggested that, then presumably they've accepted the scientific research and they've accepted what's inherent in our Bill No. 2.

I see an opportunity here for the melding of our legislation with Bill No. 1 if they're not prepared to accept our bill as it's been put in front of the House at the moment. Why is there a fight about this? We've agreed, as I understand it, all Parties have agreed that this is the right thing to do. The only difference is on the choice of tools for going forward. I urge the minister and his colleagues in the Cabinet to think carefully about whether it's not sending the wrong signal to the firefighters of this province and to other workers - injured or potentially injured - about their attitude to industrial disease.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre has brought forward for us a bill that I think embodies the right message to workers who are exposed to occupational health hazards. The right message is that we care about them, the right message is that given the extent of common sense, observation and scientific study combined together, we can safely arrive at the conclusion that they have been exposed and done damage through their work

[Page 433]

which is done on our behalf. We are prepared, this bill says, to live up to our obligations and pay where it's appropriate. That's the right thing.

Our Party is not prepared to approach this through the half measure of so-called flexibility. Our Party wants to approach it through the full measure of a guarantee in the legislation that there will be automatic assumption. Bills can be changed even after adopted in this House, but it's much harder to change them and they have to be debated on the floor of this House - unlike regulations.

That's the essential difference between our bill and Bill No. 1. Ours is to be preferred if there are small other differences in the drafting, they could be melded together. For all of those reasons, I urge all members of this House to adopt this legislation. Thank you for the opportunity to give you my thoughts.

MR. SPEAKER: Time has expired on Bill No. 2. I call upon the Government House Leader for tomorrow's hours and order of business.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, tomorrow the House will meet at 2:00 p.m. and sit until 6:00 p.m. The order of business for tomorrow, seeing as it's the day of the introduction of the budget, when the House comes in at 2:00 p.m., we will immediately go into the delivery of the budget. Upon conclusion of the budget, the Finance Critic from the Official Opposition will speak for whatever time - normally about 15 minutes or so and then adjourn the debate. At that time we will then go into the daily routine, Question Period and Government Business. The Government Business tomorrow - it will be a very short period of time so perhaps we will just resume the Throne Speech debate until such time as it's time to rise.

On Friday, we will be meeting at 12:00 noon and sitting until 2:00 p.m. The order of business will be a very abbreviated number of items. Then we will move into the continuation of the reply from the Official Opposition Finance Critic, then from the Third Party. At the conclusion of that we will go home. We should be out of here by about 1:30 p.m., I would imagine, or earlier on Friday for those who wish to depart the city. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is the House adjourn until 2:00 p.m. tomorrow.

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 434]

The House is adjourned until 2:00 p.m. tomorrow.

We have now reached the moment of interruption.

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

[6:00 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

GOV'T. (CAN.): GUN REGISTRY -

CRIME REDUCTION EFFECTIVENESS

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: "Therefore be it resolved that members of this House recognize the federal gun registry for what it is - an incredible waste of taxpayers' dollars for an ineffective method of curbing violent crime."

AN HON. MEMBER: How much? How much?

MR. TAYLOR: My colleague to the left is asking me how much, it's anybody guess. The federal Auditor General, Sheila Fraser says it's going to cost at least $1 billion. I believe that the federal gun registry clearly illustrates what's wrong with the federal Liberals in Ottawa. The $1 billion boondoggle has and continues to be misguided, mismanaged, miscalculated, misleading, a misfeasance and certainly misspent. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, former Justice Minister Allan Rock, Anne McLellan, Martin Couchon, Wayne Easter from Easter Island or P.E.I., whatever it's called, Prime Minister Chretien and Paul Martin, the former Finance Minister should all be ashamed of themselves. Every single one of them. Last week I was congratulating and commending the three Parties in Ottawa that had the courage, the intestinal fortitude to vote against another $59 million to add to an already $1 billion boondoggle. Those three Parties were the federal PCS, the Canadian Alliance and the NDP.

I know the NDP has a new Leader, but having said that, one has to wonder about the NDP's new-found interest and, now in certain areas, their new-found support for those who are against the federal Firearms Act. Mr. Speaker, it should be noted, and a number of concerns regarding the Firearms Act have been clearly articulated in provincial Legislatures across this country, sometimes the Liberal caucus will say, well, why do the provincial Tories speak about the federal Firearms Act? Well, the fact of the matter is all you have to do is look opposite to find out why we're speaking against it. All you have to do is look across the way to find out.

[Page 435]

Mr. Speaker, there's a muzzle order, there's a gag order or something is happening, they can't be hearing well because they're not standing up for rural Nova Scotia. That's why the Tories are speaking up. Now, Dr. Ted Morton, of the University of Calgary, a professor of political science, in the summer of 2002, prepared a paper entitled, How the Firearms Act, (Bill C-68) Violates The Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Dr. Morton's paper goes on to explain that the right to security of person has been violated by this very Act. He goes on at great detail as to how one's right to security of person has been violated.

Mr. Speaker, the other day I had an opportunity during my response to the Throne Speech to indicate that Dr. Morton had concerns that our right to bear arms has been violated by the federal firearms registration. Now, a member opposite, unofficially, so to speak, asked about the right to bear arms. Do you mean that we, as Canadians, have a right to bear arms and we're afraid to stand up and say that we have that right?

Mr. Speaker, I would like to quote, and I can table this document that was prepared by Dr. Morton from the University of Calgary, "The right to bear arms has existed in English common law for at least 300 years and is imported into Canadian law by the preamble of the BNA Act, 1867 and Section 26 of the Charter. Section 26 declares that traditional rights not listed in the Charter continue to have force and effect in Canada. The first explicit recognition of the right to bear arms in British-Canadian law occurs in the 1689 Bill of Rights. It is re-affirmed by the celebrated Blackstone in his Commentaries as one of the five most important rights of British subjects . . ."

Mr. Speaker, I find it reprehensible that so many of our rights and freedoms, the right to the freedom of expression, according to Dr. Morton, has been violated. "Section 2(b) of the Charter protects the freedom of expression. The courts have interpreted this to protect not just written or spoken words, but also "expressive" activity such as marching in a protest rally." Mr. Speaker, and Lord knows there's lots of protests for and against different issues, especially with the events that are happening today in the world.

This is a professor, a highly respected professor, I might add, who has big, major concerns about the federal Firearms Act and I am so pleased that the Justice Minister and Attorney General of this province is going to travel to Ottawa, I believe it's next Monday, along with a couple of colleagues - my colleague from the Eastern Shore and you, Mr. Speaker, I believe, Cumberland South MLA - are going to present a case again stating the position of the Nova Scotia Government, the Progressive Conservative Government. (Applause) I'm so pleased to be part of a government and a team and surrounded by colleagues who feel strongly about an issue that violates the rights of rural Nova Scotians. There are people, yes, all Nova Scotians have concerns about this piece of legislation but we have the courage to stand up and say what we believe.

[Page 436]

Now, I want to quickly clear up a misconception, Mr. Speaker, if you will. I have had an opportunity, along with some of my colleagues, to speak to the Nova Scotia Firearms Office and some people have concerns, especially those who are advocating non-compliance, that we should somehow shut down the Nova Scotia Firearms Office. Well, I want to tell you that I have referred many of my constituents - just two weeks ago a lady from the Middle Stewiacke area called me and said, look, I've got three firearms, long rifles, I can't find a serial number on those rifles. I referred her to Mr. Maarten Kramers and his staff and you know what? I was so pleased that the Nova Scotia Firearms Office and not some cold-hearted bureaucrat from Ottawa was on the other end of the telephone answering and telling the lady how she could go about registering her firearms.

So don't tell me, you know people who are advocating non-compliance, that we should somehow pull out and bring in the feds and say, it's your baby, you do what you want with it. I don't think anybody in Nova Scotia wants the federal government to come in here and mess it up any more than they already have. It's a bad law and it should be abolished. It should be squashed, especially the registration of long rifles.

Incidentally, I think hand guns had to have been registered, well it seems like forever, certainly before my time, and 90 per cent of crimes that are committed with a firearm are committed with a hand gun. So does registration work? No, clearly it doesn't, Mr. Speaker. I know you know that as a former policeman and I know you've taken a strong stand in Cumberland South, in your own constituency on behalf of your constituents. I know my colleague from the Eastern Shore (Applause). Yes, and the Speaker does deserve a round of applause because he has been proactive and he's going to Ottawa.

What a shell game the federal government is playing - well look, we had it in Justice, let's move it over to the Office of the Solicitor General - and they've changed Finance Ministers like we change our socks, Mr. Speaker - or, pardon me, Justice Ministers and Solicitors General and so on and so on it goes. It's really a shame that nobody up there is listening but I have to say right here and now that the federal Progressive Conservatives, and there is a leadership contest taking place now, but all the candidates to my knowledge, the seven that are in that race, have stated emphatically that they are for the revocation of this piece of legislation. I'm telling you, based on the national demographics politically in this country, that the federal Progressive Conservatives and the Canadian Alliance, if they would partner up, form a coalition, Mr. Speaker, we can quash this thing and tell Ottawa Liberals where they can go. I know people right here would like to tell Ottawa where they can go.

Yes, health, education, transportation are very important issues, Mr. Speaker, there's no question about it, but this is an important issue to rural Nova Scotia. It's very important. It's a big, big mess, it's a boondoggle and all we're saying to Ottawa is, look, cut the funding. Every other day they're looking for $50 million here, $50 million there and administration costs only - Sheila Fraser has no idea, the federal Auditor General, what the enforcement costs are going to be of this federal piece of legislation. So obviously my colleagues, myself, and

[Page 437]

this government and now, I understand, I'm very pleased that the NDP has stayed around for this debate - you can't mention, that a member isn't present in the House or perhaps members - but, what about a whole caucus, Mr. Speaker? You can't even say that, can you? No, so I won't say that. It's really a shame that the Liberals haven't got enough interest to stand up for their constituents.

AN HON. MEMBER: Let's hear from them.

MR. TAYLOR: They haven't got a - yes let's hear from them, let's give the floor to the Liberals. Thank you, Mr. Speaker, I really appreciate your indulgence.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I'm not sure I can carry this debate with the passion that the honourable member for the beautiful Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley did, but there are some points he made that I definitely agree with, that this is, even if you consider nothing else you have to consider if this is a good way to spend taxpayers' dollars. The concern for me is when there are so many other more serious problems in this country - and I think of health care and education as one and two - that we would be putting the type of dollars that we're hearing now, which is going to be in the range of $1 billion, and possibly $2 billion in another few years, that we shouldn't be taking that money and really putting it to use in a way that would really benefit the lives of Canadians.

I think it's important for all of us to remember what the reason was for anybody approaching the federal government for this legislation. On December 6, 1989, 14 women were killed at the Ecolé Polytechnique in Quebec, and although that violent act was committed by a madman with a weapon that would not be registered . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: An assault rifle.

MR. MACDONELL: It was an assault rifle, an illegal weapon anyway that would not be registered under this registration plan, so therefore anybody carrying one of those weapons, again it wouldn't be traced under this plan. That seems to be the ridiculousness of it all, but you have to think a little bit about the families who lost loved ones on that day and their need to come up with a solution or come up with something that means that those lives weren't taken in vain.

That's something that Canadians have to think about. This is not the solution for that. I mean I think even to lose a loved one, you know, on the street by an accident, hit by an automobile, anything like that, is tragic enough, but to have someone come and in a deliberate act of violence take their life would be something that even I may be looking for some type of reason to say they didn't die in vain. So I can appreciate, I think, the fervour with which

[Page 438]

these families are looking for some measure, for someone to account, and try to ensure that this never happens again to anybody else in this country.

We do not have a culture of guns like they do in the United States, and actually we paid tribute yesterday to Mr. Donovan for his movie Bowling for Columbine which is a documentary based on that very subject. I don't believe that knowing that somebody breaking into my house has a registered weapon brings me any comfort, and I want to say certainly in the 40 years or so that we've been registering handguns it really hasn't impacted on the use of those guns in terms of reducing the crimes with those guns, and in case of the Registry of Shotguns and Rifles, which is my concern - actually I would support the registration of handguns, but I can't support the registration of shotguns and rifles, or long guns as some people refer to them, simply because I don't see any mechanism here that will reduce the number of deaths, and there's statistical evidence which indicates that violent crimes are on the decline in this country, not on the rise.

I want people to think that it seems unfair to make people who are law-abiding bear the brunt of this cost and that's what's going to happen. I want members to know, I think as they should know that I certainly have registered my shotguns and rifles. Being an elected official, someone who sits in the House of Assembly with the knowledge of trying to support or pass legislation and pass laws in this House of Assembly, and even though I disagree with this one by the federal government I think I have an obligation to register my weapons.

[6:15 p.m.]

The other day the Minister of Natural Resources made a statement regarding the moose licences and the moose hunt. In his statement it acknowledged that every year there are about 11,000 applications for moose licences. That would have to indicate that there are at least 11,000 people with long rifles, rifles or shotguns, who want to go hunting. I am assuming each one of them (Interruptions) Pretty reasonable, pretty logical thought, I think. If we assume that some of them would have two or that there are a lot of people in this province who don't apply, they wouldn't be part of that 11,000.

So we know we have 11,000-plus rifles or shotguns in this province. I asked my honourable colleague, the member for Halifax Chebucto, if he could tell me roughly how many homicides are committed in Nova Scotia in a year, and he thought - he wasn't sure, but he thought - it was less than 100. Although it never occurred to me to research this prior, I would be curious to know how many of those would be committed by hunting rifles or shotguns.

Considering over 11,000 people with rifles, somewhere less than 100 homicides and certainly somewhere less than that would be committed with shotguns and rifles, if the federal government was interested in actually attacking this problem, I think what they should do is look at what are the inherent causes of violent acts in society. We should be spending money,

[Page 439]

I think, to make the quality of life of people who were raised in situations which generates individuals who are violent offenders to try to reduce those numbers or those impacts on people's lives, so they can reduce the number of violent offenders.

I think, as well, there are those individuals in society that we already have been given a clue to a possible violent act, in other words there's a peace bond issued against them, against their spouse or their mate or their partner, and in these cases, for anyone I think we can identify, then to me that should be a reason for a right of search and seizure to remove any weapons from that home. Also, if that person goes to their brother-in-law or their brother or whoever, their cousin, and gets a weapon, that they're implicated as well in any violent act that this person commits. I say that with very little legal background in the sense that I'm not sure, under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, whether or not you're actually allowed to impose any act - I'm concerned about the right to search and seizure. I'm not sure whether you are able to do that in this country or what changes it would take.

I'm not sure that I necessarily agree and if I say I don't necessarily agree with my honourable colleague across the floor in the case of Dr. Morton's assertion, and I'm going to say I certainly believe Dr. Morton is probably no slouch on this subject, but I think it might be a bit of a stretch to say that the right to security of persons under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms has been violated if you don't register your weapon. I think that all Canadians are entitled to self-defence. I think it's been an argument in the courts that has stood the test of time, and it stands in the courts. I think if you were to defend yourself with a weapon that wasn't registered, I think the courts would probably consider that fairly favourably. We don't want people hindered in their ability to secure themselves.

I don't know if I necessarily agree that forcing people to register their weapons takes away their right of security. What I would be looking for and I think my caucus colleagues and I think the federal caucus as well - actually, when this bill came through the House of Commons, I think all members but one in the NDP caucus voted against it, originally. There are good things in gun control. I have to say I think locking your gun away, I think keeping your ammunition separate, these are all important initiatives, but I don't see that registering of shotguns or rifles will actually address the problem of violence against anyone. I would like to see these dollars, if they're going to be used anywhere, used to put programs in place that help prevent violence. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. JAMES MUIR: I would defer to the Liberal member, if one of them wished to speak.

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

[Page 440]

MR. MUIR: I just want to make a very few abbreviated comments, and I want to associate myself with a couple of things that my two colleagues on either side of the House said. One is the exorbitant cost of this program and, secondly, the fact that there was a lot better way to spend that money if we're interested in public safety.

Secondly, I have received as Minister of Justice and Attorney General petitions from large numbers of people protesting against that Act. Indeed, there is no question, it's not an Act that is acceptable in Nova Scotia but I want to make the point that people, as the honourable member for Hants East said when talking about safe storage and appropriate use and training, if you're going to use a long rifle, that is not part of what they really object to. Everybody says, if you're going to use something, it's like driving a car, you should be able to do it properly. People are not arguing about safety.

What they do resent very greatly is having to register a .22 or a shotgun or something like this and if you just can't make the case for public safety in that, as far as I can see. With those few comments, I will sit down.

MR. SPEAKER: I would like to thank the honourable members for taking part in this debate this evening. We're adjourned until 2:00 p.m. tomorrow.

[The House rose at 6:22 p.m.]

[Page 441]

NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)

RESOLUTION NO. 359

By: Hon. James Muir (Attorney General)

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

Whereas Team Nova Scotia's flag-bearer must be someone who shows a strong commitment to sport, to the team, and to Nova Scotia; and

Whereas for the 2003 Canada Games, one of those exemplary people is Truro's 17-year-old Tara French; and

Whereas Ms. French, who was the second week flag-bearer, played defence for our women's hockey team;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Tara French on being chosen to be the flag-bearer for Team Nova Scotia and wish her success in all her future endeavours.

RESOLUTION NO. 360

By: Hon. Rodney MacDonald (Tourism and Culture)

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

Whereas the Central Nova Tourist Association recognized the area's leaders in tourism at a banquet held in February; and

Whereas the banquet was the grand finale of the CNTA's conference for tourism promoters and operators in Colchester, Cumberland, and East Hants; and

Whereas Debbie Boudreau, manager of Heritage Models Centre, received a super host customer service award;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Debbie Boudreau and the other recipients of the Central Nova Tourist Association awards and wish them continued success.

[Page 442]

RESOLUTION NO. 361

By: Hon. Rodney MacDonald (Tourism and Culture)

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

Whereas the Central Nova Tourist Association recognized the area's leaders in tourism at a banquet in February; and

Whereas the banquet was the grand finale of the CNTA's conference for tourism promoters and operators in Colchester, Cumberland, and East Hants; and

Whereas Derrick MacDonald and Glenn Martin, both of Cresthaven by the Sea, received the campground/innkeeper award;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Derrick MacDonald, Glenn Martin, and the other recipients of the Central Nova Tourist Association awards and wish them successful futures.

RESOLUTION NO. 362

By: Hon. Rodney MacDonald (Tourism and Culture)

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

Whereas the Central Nova Tourist Association recognized the area's leaders in tourism at a banquet held in February; and

Whereas the banquet was the grand finale of the CNTA's conference for tourism promoters and operators in Colchester, Cumberland, and East Hants; and

Whereas Cumberland County Warden Keith Hunter received the president's award for his efforts to increase tourism in central Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Warden Keith Hunter and the other recipients of the Central Nova Tourist Association awards and wish them successful futures.

[Page 443]

RESOLUTION NO. 363

By: Hon. Rodney MacDonald (Tourism and Culture)

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

Whereas the Central Nova Tourist Association recognized the area's leaders in tourism at a banquet held in February; and

Whereas the banquet was the grand finale of the CNTA's conference for tourism promoters and operators in Colchester, Cumberland, and East Hants; and

Whereas Toni Kennedy of Irwin Lake Chalets received the individual ambassador award;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Toni Kennedy and the other recipients of the Central Nova Tourist Association awards and wish them successful futures.

RESOLUTION NO. 364

By: Hon. Rodney MacDonald (Tourism and Culture)

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

Whereas the Central Nova Tourist Association recognized the area's leaders in tourism at a banquet held in February; and

Whereas the banquet was the grand finale of the CNTA's conference for tourism promoters and operators in Colchester, Cumberland, and East Hants; and

Whereas Darcy Snell of Lightkeeper's Kitchen and Guesthouse received the food and beverage award;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Darcy Snell and the other recipients of the Central Nova Tourist Association awards and wish them successful futures.

[Page 444]

RESOLUTION NO. 365

By: Hon. Rodney MacDonald (Tourism and Culture)

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

Whereas the Central Nova Tourist Association recognized the area's leaders in tourism at a banquet held in February; and

Whereas the banquet was the grand finale of the CNTA's conference for tourism promoters and operators in Colchester, Cumberland, and East Hants; and

Whereas Margolians Maritime Ltd. received the gift shop of the year award;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Margolians Maritime Ltd. and the other recipients of the Central Nova Tourist Association awards and wish them successful futures.

RESOLUTION NO. 366

By: Hon. Rodney MacDonald (Tourism and Culture)

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

Whereas the Central Nova Tourist Association recognized the area's leaders in tourism at a banquet held in February; and

Whereas the banquet was the grand finale of the CNTA's conference for tourism promoters and operators in Colchester, Cumberland, and East Hants; and

Whereas Krista Tate of Irwin Lake Chalets received a super host customer service award;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Krista Tate and the other recipients of the Central Nova Tourist Association awards and wish them successful futures.

[Page 445]

RESOLUTION NO. 367

By: Hon. Rodney MacDonald (Tourism and Culture)

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

Whereas the Central Nova Tourist Association recognized the area's leaders in tourism at a banquet held in February; and

Whereas the banquet was the grand finale of the CNTA's conference for tourism promoters and operators in Colchester, Cumberland, and East Hants; and

Whereas Ski Wentworth received the attraction of the year award;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Ski Wentworth and the other recipients of the Central Nova Tourist Association awards and wish them successful futures.

RESOLUTION NO. 368

By: Hon. Rodney MacDonald (Tourism and Culture)

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

Whereas the Central Nova Tourist Association recognized the area's leaders in tourism at a banquet held in February; and

Whereas the banquet was the grand finale of the CNTA's conference for tourism promoters and operators in Colchester, Cumberland, and East Hants; and

Whereas the Truro Tulip Festival received the award for festival and events;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate those involved in putting on the Truro Tulip Festival and the other recipients of the Central Nova Tourist Association awards and wish them successful futures.

[Page 446]

RESOLUTION NO. 369

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 Better Business Bureau annually recognizes companies making contributions to charitable and non-profit organizations in their community; and

Whereas the award winners are chosen based on their long-term commitment to the Better Business Bureau and the level of community activity performed by the company; and

Whereas Delmar Construction Ltd. of Yarmouth has received the Better Business Bureau community achievement award;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the owners and staff of Delmar Construction Ltd. on the receipt of their Better Business Bureau award and wish them continued success for the future.

RESOLUTION NO. 370

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Alex Henwood of Springhill, Nova Scotia was chosen to represent his class in the Winter Carnival festivities in Springhill in March 2003; and

Whereas Alex was chosen as King and as Mr. Congeniality in the Springhill High School Winter Carnival Royal Court; and

Whereas Alex's friends and family congratulate him on this honour of being crowned King and Mr. Congeniality of the Winter Carnival;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Alex Henwood on being crowned King and Mr. Congeniality of the Springhill High School Winter Carnival and wish him the best of luck in the future.

[Page 447]

RESOLUTION NO. 371

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Al Hart, from Little River, former Oxford Regional High School coach was recently honoured as the top coach in the women's ACAA basketball conference; and

Whereas Hart is the head basketball coach for the Mount Allison Mounties, now with seven years at the helm; and

Whereas Al Hart's teams have been conference champions three different times since 1996 and during his tenure he has produced nine all stars, an All-Canadian and six Academic All-Canadians;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Mr. Al Hart on being named Top Coach and we wish him continued success in the future.

RESOLUTION NO. 372

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Mr. Stan Hunter of Springhill, Nova Scotia was honoured in January for his 25 years of service with the Springhill Fire Department; and

Whereas Stan Hunter was honoured to be recognized, as the town and department presented him with his 25-year service pin; and

Whereas Stan Hunter was thanked by the town and fire department for his dedication and service for the years that he has given to the department;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Stan Hunter on receiving his 25-year service bar and thank him for his years of service. We wish him all the best in the future.

[Page 448]

RESOLUTION NO. 373

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Mr. Gene Cloney was awarded the Wilcox Fire Service Award in recognition of outstanding and long-term contributions to fire management in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas Mr. Cloney was honoured with this award at the Department of Natural Resources held in Truro in February 2003; and

Whereas Mr. Cloney has given many years of service and dedication to the Department of Natural Resources;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Gene Cloney on being awarded the Wilcox Fire Service Award and thank him for his dedication and service.

RESOLUTION NO. 374

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Warrant Officer Jeremy Dobson, a member of the Oxford Cadet Corps, was in Halifax in March 2003 writing and passing the National Star Certification exam; and

Whereas Warrant Officer Jeremy Dobson spent a lot of time and effort training and preparing for his exam; and

Whereas the Oxford Cadet Corps is very proud of Warrant Officer Jeremy Dobson for his accomplishment and congratulate him on his success with the National Star Certification exam;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Warrant Officer Jeremy Dobson on passing the certification exam, and wish him continued success in the future.

[Page 449]

RESOLUTION NO. 375

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Karen Dickinson of Southampton has been awarded the Commemorative Golden Jubilee Medal of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II - part of the Canadian Honours System established in 1967; and

Whereas medals are being awarded to Canadians who have made a significant contribution to their fellow citizens, their communities or to their country; and

Whereas the Governor General gave a fitting tribute to earlier recipients saying the medal recipients ". . . reflect the complexity and diversity which is Canada in 2002 and they have helped contribute to the Canada we know, the Canada we have made and the Canada that we will be in the future";

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate and commend Karen Dickinson on being awarded the Golden Jubilee Medal for exceptional service to community and country.

RESOLUTION NO. 376

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Alicia Curry of Springhill, Nova Scotia was chosen to represent her class in the Winter Carnival festivities in Springhill in March 2003; and

Whereas Alicia was chosen as first princess in the Springhill High School Winter Carnival Royal Court; and

Whereas Alicia's friends and family congratulate her on this honour of being crowned first princess;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Alicia Curry on being crowned first princess of the Springhill High School Winter Carnival, and wish her the best of luck in the future.

[Page 450]

RESOLUTION NO. 377

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Mary Jean Colwell along with a group of girls from West End Memorial and Junction Road Schools received a lesson in empowerment when she and the others participated in the Girls @ The Junction program; and

Whereas The Junction included topics ranging from drugs and alcohol to peer pressure and dating; and

Whereas Mary Jean Colwell and the Girls @ The Junction group celebrated their participation in the program by completing a mural and donated it to the Springhill Library;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Mary Jean Colwell and the Girls @ The Junction group on participating in such a great program and completing and donating the "Celebrate You" mural, and wish her all the best in the future.

RESOLUTION NO. 378

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Sergeant Dalena Cole, a member of the Oxford Cadet Corps, was in Halifax in March 2003, writing and passing the National Star Certification exam; and

Whereas Sergeant Dalena Cole placed third in the Province of Nova Scotia; and

Whereas the Oxford Cadet Corps is very proud of Sergeant Dalena Cole for her accomplishment and congratulate her on her success with the National Star Certification exam;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Sergeant Dalena Cole on passing her certification exam and for placing third in the Province of Nova Scotia, and wish her continued success in the future.

[Page 451]

RESOLUTION NO. 379

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas on December 5, 2002, the Town of Oxford held a banquet where it honoured some of its citizens; and

Whereas each honoured citizen was presented with a plaque for the service that they had given to the Town of Oxford; and

Whereas Brenton Colborne was presented with a plaque thanking him for his 23 years of service to the Town of Oxford;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Brenton Colborne on receiving this honour and wish him the best of luck in the future.

RESOLUTION NO. 380

By: Mr. Mark Parent (Kings North)

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

Whereas 10-year-old Jenelle Morine, who had never cut her waist-long blond hair before, has done just that and raised $1,500 in support of the Canadian Cancer Society; and

Whereas Ms. Morine, who lived with her grandparents in Port Williams, never cut her hair because her grandfather, Ron Hamm - who has recently succumbed to cancer after a five year battle - loved his granddaughter's long hair; and

Whereas Ms. Morine collected pledges at school and throughout the community, and many citizens came out to watch tearfully as she got her hair washed, straightened, cut and then sent to the Wigs for Kids program;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House commend young Jenelle Morine for doing her part to further cancer research and helping kids her own age with the disease and wish her success in her future endeavours.

[Page 452]

RESOLUTION NO. 341

(Tabled April 1, 2003)

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Kristin Higgins, along with a group of girls from West End Memorial and Junction Road Schools, received a lesson in empowerment when she and the others participated in the Girls @ The Junction program; and

Whereas the Junction included topics ranging from drugs and alcohol to peer pressure and dating; and

Whereas Kristin Higgins and the Girls @ The Junction group celebrated their participation in the program by completing a mural and donated it to the Springhill Library;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Kristin Higgins and the Girls @ The Junction group on participating in such a great program and completing and donating the "Celebrate You" mural, and wish them all the best in the future.