Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

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21 septembre 2017

HANSARD 03-6

DEBATES AND PROCEEDINGS

Speaker: Honourable Murray Scott

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

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Third Session

THURSDAY, APRIL 3, 2003

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
INTRODUCTION OF VISITORS 453
GOVERNMENT MOTIONS:^
Res. 1, Estimates: CWH on Supply - Referred, Hon. N. LeBlanc 453
Hon. N. LeBlanc 454
Mr. G. Steele 466
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 381, Wright, Don: Ostend Naval Mem. Monument -
Dedication Attendance, Mr. D. Dexter 470
Vote - Affirmative 471
Res. 382, Educ.: Loan Remission Prog. - Prem. Promises, Mr. D. Wilson 471
Res. 383, Cobequid Dist. Elem. Sch.: Principal/Staff/Students -
Math Fair Success, Mr. J. MacDonell 472
Vote - Affirmative 473
Res. 384, Fleury, Mark-Andre: QMJHL Awards - Congrats.,
Mr. Manning MacDonald 473
Vote - Affirmative 473
Res. 385, Sports: New Waterford Midget AA Sharks - Season Congrats.,
Mr. F Corbett 474
Vote - Affirmative 474
Res. 386, Educ.: Special Ed. Rept. - Dartmouth Cole Hbr. MLA Info.,
Mr. D. Wilson 474
Res. 387, Johnson, Kirk: WBO Intercontinental Heavyweight
Champ - Congrats., Mr. W. Estabrooks 475
Vote - Affirmative 476
Res. 388, Health: Nurse Recruitment Strategy - Efficacy, Dr. J. Smith 476
Res. 389, Sports: SEDMHA Tournament - Organizers Congrats.,
Dr. J. Smith 477
Vote - Affirmative 477
Res. 390, Eskasoni: Drug Dependency Reduction - Participants Congrats.,
Mr. R. MacKinnon 478
Vote - Affirmative 478
Res. 391, FOIPOP: Fees - Previous Rates Return, Mr. M. Samson 479
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 36, Fin.: Tax Cuts - Taxpayer Subsidization, Mr. D. Dexter 479
No. 37, Prem.: Election Promises - Changes Explain, Mr. M. Samson 481
No. 38, Health: Long-Term Care Access - Policy Unfairness,
Mr. D. Dexter 482
No. 39, Fin.: Fiscal Management - Justify, Mr. M. Samson 484
No. 40, Fin.: Budget - Tax Increases, Mr. G. Steele 485
No. 41, Prem.: Tax Cuts Cheque - Timing, Mr. G. Steele 487
No. 42, Commun. Serv.: Small Options Homes - Relocation Halt,
Mr. W. Gaudet 488
No. 43, Health Prom.: Child Poverty Eating Habits - Study, Mr. J. Pye 489
No. 44, Agric. & Fish.: Fishers - Capital Gains Tax Remove,
Mr. J. MacDonell 490
No. 45, Nat. Res.: Deer Herd Health - Statistics Table, Mr. K. MacAskill 492
No. 46, Educ.: Student Debt - Increases Explain, Mr. W. Estabrooks 493
No. 47, Health: Richmond Villa - Const. Timeframe, Mr. M. Samson 494
No. 48, Econ. Dev.: C.B. Co. Strip Mining - Permits Discuss,
Mr. F. Corbett 496
No. 49, Transport. & Pub. Wks.: Hwy. No. 4 (Richmond Co.) - Repave,
Mr. M. Samson 497
TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS:
Fin. - Supplement to the Public Accounts, Hon. N. LeBlanc 498
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
GOVERNMENT MOTIONS:
ADDRESS IN REPLY:
Mr. W. Estabrooks 499
Mr. K. MacAskill 507
Mr. J. Chataway 513
Adjourned debate 520
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Fri., Apr. 4th at 12:00 noon 521
NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3):
Res. 392, Kentville: EMO Preparedness - Rating Congrats.,
Mr. M. Parent 522
Res. 393, Kings Co. EMO: Emergency Preparedness - Grade Congrats.,
Mr. M. Parent 522
Res. 394, Johnson, Kirk: WBO Intercontinental Heavyweight Champ -
Congrats., Mr. D. Hendsbee 523

[Page 453]

HALIFAX, THURSDAY, APRIL 3, 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.

The honourable Minister of Finance.

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, before I begin today, it gives me great pride to introduce my family, they are in the east gallery. I have my wife, Grace; my two sons, Jordan and Shawn; and my daughter, Monique. You can't see her over the railing but she's there, ladies and gentlemen. I also have my sister, Charmaine. I would like for the House to welcome them as we do all our visitors. (Applause)

ORDERS OF THE DAY

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

GOVERNMENT MOTIONS

[Res. No. 1, Estimates: CWH on Supply - Referred - notice given Mar. 28/03 - (Hon. N. LeBlanc)]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance.

453

[Page 454]

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, pursuant to a notice of motion given by me on March 28, 2003, and the Rules and Forms of Procedure of the House of Assembly, I have the honour, by command, to present a message from Her Honour the Lieutenant Governor of the Province of Nova Scotia, relating to the Estimates of Sums required for the service of the province for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2004 which is:

"I hereby transmit Estimates of Sums required for the Public Service of the province, for the year ending March 31, 2004, and in accordance with the Constitution Act, 1867, recommend them together with the Budget Address of my Minister of Finance and any resolutions or bills necessary or advisable to approve the Estimates and implement the budget measures to the House of Assembly.

Signed,

Myra A. Freeman

Lieutenant Governor

April 3, 2003".

Please be seated.

Mr. Speaker, at this time I wish to table the message from Her Honour the Lieutenant Governor transmitting the Estimates for the consideration of this House, table the Estimates Book, table the Consolidated Fiscal Plan for the Government consisting of the Government Business Plan and other information contained in the budget, table the Crown Corporation Business Plans, table the Estimates and Crown Corporation Business Plans Resolutions, deliver my Budget Speech and move that the Estimates of Sums required for the service of the province for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2004, being Supply, to be granted to Her Majesty and the Crown Corporation Business Plans be referred to the Committee of the Whole House on Supply.

[MR. SPEAKER: The documents are tabled.]

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: M. le Président, Mr. Speaker, when Nova Scotians tune in to the supper hour news tonight, or pick up their morning newspaper tomorrow, I hope they will understand one thing: This is their budget. This is not some obscure fiscal treatise about balance sheets. This is about people. What we do here has impact on their lives, and their futures. This is about Nova Scotians who work hard to feed, clothe, and house their families. They pay their taxes and contribute to their communities. It's about children who have a right to grow up happy and healthy and, when they are ready, to find all the opportunity in the world, right here at home. It's about Nova Scotians, ill or well, who are concerned about health care.

[Page 455]

Mr. Speaker, this budget is for Nova Scotians who believe we can control our own destiny and, with that belief, have greater confidence in our future. This budget is for Nova Scotians who have weathered the years of deficits and cutbacks wondering when, if ever, it would all end. If the past has taught us anything, it is that government's first responsibility is to spend every tax dollar wisely. Taxpayers expect and deserve no less. We may not always succeed, but this government always tries.

Today in Nova Scotia, carefully controlled spending is no longer a symptom of financial weakness. It is an enduring commitment to our increasing financial strength. One year ago, I had the privilege of presenting a budget that was balanced. It was, and is, an all-in budget. There were no off-book boondoggles or Crown Corporations bleeding red ink on hidden balance sheets.

Today, I can report we are forecasting a budgetary surplus for the 2002-03 fiscal year, the year just ended, of $14.5 million. (Applause) Every dime goes against the debt. Program spending was just 1 per cent over the estimate presented a year ago. Mr. Speaker, that is controlled spending. That is financial performance. That record says this government met and will continue to meet its first responsibility. To spend every tax dollar wisely.

M. le Président, j'ai l'honneur de soumettre aux membres de cette grande assemblée et à la population de la Nouvelle-Écosse, le budget pour l'année financière 2003-04.

[Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present the 2003-04 budget, estimates, and supporting documents to you, to this Legislature, and to the people of Nova Scotia.]

This is an active government. I recommend to all members the Government Business Plan and Crown Corporations' business plans, which I will now lay on the table. I also beg leave to table the estimates and supplementary estimates for the year ahead. Additional budgetary detail is also provided in a series of budget background papers and bulletins. Taken together, Mr. Speaker, these volumes detail the revenues and the spending plans of the province for fiscal 2003-04. In the interest of time - if not as an act of mercy - I will not draw attention to each of those programs and plans.

I know that somewhere down the line, I will be chastised for failing to mention some vital sector or important aspect of Nova Scotian life. But honestly, Mr. Speaker, Budget Speeches have grown too long. Today, I intend to buck that trend and focus on the big picture.

M. le Président, vous avez devant vous un budget équilibré. [Mr. Speaker, the 2003-04 budget is balanced.] It anticipates a surplus of $2.8 million. (Applause) That surplus is based on revenues totalling $5.63 billion, an increase of $297 million over last year's budget estimate. The lion's share of that increase - $234 million - comes from provincial sources.

[Page 456]

That growth in own-source revenue is a clear indication of steady economic growth here in our Province of Nova Scotia.

I should add, Mr. Speaker, that tax reductions totalling some $96 million have been netted against that revenue estimate. The government is extending the Large Corporations Capital Tax for another two years, to March 31, 2006. This tax applies to about 1,040 of the largest of Nova Scotia's 24,000 corporations. It is expected to generate about $53 million in revenue for the province this year.

Mr. Speaker, growth in provincial source revenues far exceeds the increase in revenue from the federal government. Budget-to-budget estimates show a $62.5-million increase in revenues from federal sources. The only source of new federal funding is the First Ministers Agreement on Health Care. On behalf of Nova Scotians, I welcome the federal government back as a partner - albeit a minority partner - in health-care funding. We have missed them.

In 2002, Nova Scotia experienced real economic growth of 3.1 per cent, closely following the national growth rate, which was 3.4 per cent. Employment grew by 1.2 per cent, and unemployment remained at 9.7 per cent. Nova Scotians' personal income levels grew at a rate of 3.5 per cent, a half a point better than the 3 per cent rate of inflation. For the year ahead, in line with most other economic forecasters, we are projecting steady GDP and employment growth, of 2.9 per cent and 1.8 per cent respectively.

On the spending side, Mr. Speaker, the province's priorities remain consistent with those we set as a government on day one. The health of Nova Scotians. The education of our children. And the strength of our economy. Our goal is healthier, more prosperous Nova Scotians, living in an increasingly self-reliant province. Our spending decisions reflect those priorities and advance that goal. Year over year, spending to support the health and health care of Nova Scotians will increase by $140 million. Our investment in the education and training of our children and young people has also increased by $55 million.

In 2003-04 the province will invest more than $106 million in new highway construction and bridge replacements, and that represents a $16-million year-over-year increase in that budget. Investment is the appropriate word, Mr. Speaker. For a decade or more, the vital public works of this province were allowed to fall into disrepair. Roads, bridges, and ferries are essential elements of our economic infrastructure. But whether it's to get goods to market or our children to the doctor, Nova Scotians need reliable roads. It's the province's responsibility to provide those roads. We are meeting that responsibility.

Four years ago when this government came to office we faced two, equally debilitating, deficits. The fiscal deficit was eliminated last year and remains at bay with this second successive balanced budget. I fear, Mr. Speaker, that it will take longer to eliminate the infrastructure deficit - to put all the roads and schools in shape - but we're on the right track.

[Page 457]

The Nova Scotia Community College is an increasingly important part of Nova Scotia's economic infrastructure. This year the province has committed $9 million to begin an ambitious program of facility improvements and new campus construction at various college sites across Nova Scotia. Next year, an additional $29 million is earmarked for college expansion, which will take seven years and cost $123 million to complete.

Mr. Speaker, under this government, opportunities have steadily increased for Nova Scotians to train for good jobs in industries where the jobs are plentiful. We added 800 seats to our community college system. With the expansion I mentioned, those opportunities will increase for an additional 2,500 students. More young Nova Scotians, and some not so young, will be trained to take advantage of real prospects here at home.

After years of neglect, too many of our younger students, our children, still go off to schools that are inadequate or outdated. We have made great strides in just three years, but still have a way to go before parents in every community can rest assured that their children are in a quality facility.

[2:15 p.m.]

Des dépenses en capital totalisant près de 62 millions seront dirigées vers la construction de nouvelles écoles. 18,5 millions de plus serviront à la rénovation des écoles existantes. Ceci représente huit nouvelles écoles et quarante-cinq projets de rénovations.

[Our 2003-04 capital program includes almost $62 million for new public schools and another $18.5 million for school additions and alterations. That investment means eight new schools and 45 upgraded schools.]

To the critics of government's capital borrowing program, I offer no apologies, but rather an invitation. Take a drive to visit some of Nova Scotia's older schools. When you come back, and while you're getting the shocks fixed on your car, tell me again why we shouldn't borrow money for better roads and schools.

Mr. Speaker, the government is providing the tools people need to make the most of their lives. We are doing that within the confines of the province's ability to pay. All capital purchases are amortized, in keeping with generally accepted accounting principles.

Our surplus is applied to our debt. So too are the proceeds from the sale of Crown assets, like Sysco and Nova Scotia Resources Limited for which I have the responsibility. Under this government, the province's ability to manage its debt has improved. The debt to GDP ratio has fallen from more than 46 per cent to less than 42 per cent this last fiscal year. Under this government, foreign currency exposure has been reduced from more than 50 per cent to less than 20 per cent. We are no longer at the mercy of foreign bankers and international money traders. That, Mr. Speaker, is debt management.

[Page 458]

Yes, it could be, and it will become, more aggressive, as balanced budgets add up and our financial position gets stronger. But under this government, debt payments will not come at the expense of Nova Scotians' safety on our highways nor at the expense of children who have every right to attend healthy schools. Nor, Mr. Speaker, will those payments come at the expense of our ability to compete for jobs, investment, and homegrown talent. Debt payments won't come at the expense of our future.

If the first responsibility of government is to spend the taxpayers' money wisely, surely the second is to take no more than is necessary to meet the needs of the people.

The province's strengthening fiscal position provides an opportunity for government to lower taxes.

Mr. Speaker, lower taxes will enhance the competitive position of our province relative to other jurisdictions. Lower taxes will keep the momentum in our growing economy. Lower personal taxes will spur consumer spending, while lower business taxes will rev up the engine of economic growth.

Beginning this year and in each of the next three years, Nova Scotia will raise the annual business limit, under which the small business tax rate applies, by $25,000.

Mr. Speaker, when fully implemented, this measure will save qualifying businesses up to $11,000 a year. In the first year, 2003, we will raise the income threshold from $200,000 to $225,000, saving qualifying businesses up to $2,750. By 2006, the threshold will be $300,000. These increases match those announced by the federal government earlier this year.

That measure alone means $1.5 million to small businesses in Nova Scotia this year, and it will total more than $11 million over the next four years.

Mr. Speaker, while lower taxes are an incentive to growth, new investment is the gas that fuels the economic engine. In order to enhance access to capital for Nova Scotian businesses, and to provide Nova Scotians with an ongoing outlet to invest in their own province, our Equity Tax Credit will be extended to December 31, 2006. (Applause)

The credit has been significantly enhanced to draw more capital. The investment limit will be increased to $50,000 from $30,000, and investment will continue to attract a 30 per cent non-refundable provincial tax credit. The program and its hybrid, the Community Economic Development Investment Fund (CEDIF), have, since 1994, helped more than 300 businesses get started, raising more than $54 million from 5,000 investors.

[Page 459]

Mr. Speaker, lower taxes and tax credits for small business make good public policy. Lower taxes for individual taxpayers and their families is that and more. It is an expression of confidence in the future of our province.

Health care in Nova Scotia is dependable and accessible. Our investment in education is providing young Nova Scotians with the solid foundation they need for success. Our budget is balanced. The time for tax relief has arrived.

Today, I am announcing a reduction in Nova Scotia personal income taxes. Effective January 1, 2004, tax rates for all provincial income taxpayers will be lowered by approximately 10 per cent. The rate reduction will be greatest at the lower income levels. For example, a family of four earning $30,000 per year will see an 11.4 per cent tax savings. A family of four earning $70,000 will realize savings of 9.3 per cent. Overall, the reduction in provincial income tax rates will save Nova Scotian taxpayers $147 million - 10 per cent of the province's income tax revenue - in the full 2004 tax year. (Applause)

As a result of this tax reduction, Mr. Speaker, some 3,500 Nova Scotians at the low end of the income scale will no longer pay provincial income taxes at all.

Nova Scotia will have a more competitive tax environment and the lowest statutory tax rates in Atlantic Canada. Across Canada, only three provinces will have a lower marginal rate for high-income earners, and only two provinces will have a lower marginal rate for low-income earners.

In addition, Mr. Speaker, the province will provide a $155 Nova Scotia Taxpayer Refund to all Nova Scotians who pay provincial income taxes. The refund is based on an estimate of total tax relief that would have been provided through the tax system between July 1st and December 31st. This method of tax reduction will get tax relief into the hands of Nova Scotians as quickly as possible. As many as 438,000 Nova Scotians will receive this refund. It will put 68 million tax dollars directly back in the hands of Nova Scotians and into the Nova Scotian economy.

[2:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, every Nova Scotian taxpayer will benefit equally - with a one-time payment of $155 - regardless of income or taxes paid. This is equitable tax relief. Most taxpayers will receive the refund in June or early July of this year. (Applause)

The Conference Board of Canada has already stated that tax relief in the second half of 2003 is expected to boost consumer spending. This method of tax relief - a direct refund to taxpayers - will amplify the impact.

[Page 460]

Balanced budgets and lower taxes fulfil key commitments that we as a government made to Nova Scotians in 1999. We met those commitments, not out of stubbornness, nor even out of the pure motive of being true to our word. We met those commitments because they are right for Nova Scotia.

The economy is growing. Let's keep it growing. Our future, our children's future, is not assured by better health care. It is not assured by balanced budgets. Although both of those things make our future more secure.

Our future is only assured when Nova Scotia has an economy that offers opportunity to everyone. Lower taxes alone won't get us there. But they are part of the picture.

Lower taxes and investments in economic infrastructure are among the best ways government can support economic growth, but they are not the only ways.

This government has, from its first day in office, focused on easing the paper and regulatory burden imposed on our economy. Government's on-line business services have grown by leaps and bounds. Needlessly complicated licensing and application processes have been simplified.

And where we find innovation and creativity, our government will make direct investments. We are committing $8 million to the Nova Scotia First Fund, where experience shows every provincial dollar invested can be expected to lever another $10 in additional investment. The Nova Scotia First Fund and InNOVAcorp have been instrumental in turning innovative ideas and creative concepts into commercial success stories.

M. le Président, l'an prochain, notre province sera l'hôte du Congrès mondial acadien. 2004 marque aussi le 400e anniversaire de l'arrivée des Français en Nouvelle-Écosse et l'établissement d'une première colonie en Amérique du Nord.

Des dizaines de milliers de visiteurs sont attendus durant le CMA pour célébrer ce moment historique. Plusieurs seront de descendance acadienne et arriveront de partout en Amérique du Nord et de l'Europe. Nous avons appuyé et nous continuons toujours d'appuyer ce grand événement. Cette année, nous avons affecté plus d'un million à la promotion, à l'organisation et aux opérations du CMA. (Applause)

[Mr. Speaker, next year, our province will host the World Acadian Congress. 2004 also marks the 400th Anniversary of the arrival of the first European settlers in Nova Scotia, French settlers.

[Page 461]

The congress will attract tens of thousands of visitors, many of Acadian descent and heritage, from all across North America and Europe. The government will support this historic event in many ways. This budget dedicates more than $1 million to assist in its promotion, organization, and other features.]

Mr. Speaker, we have allocated another $750,000 to a potentially far-reaching initiative, called Brand Nova Scotia. Due in part to the success of our tourism advertising efforts, and our minister, Nova Scotia is viewed internationally as a largely rural, tranquil seaside community, with friendly folks and festivals galore. Nova Scotia is all that and more. The Brand Nova Scotia campaign will paint a more complete picture of Nova Scotia, as a centre of commerce, business, innovation, and academic excellence. A great place to work and live. There is a national and international business audience that needs to see that picture.

Mr. Speaker, in today's knowledge-based global economy, prosperity follows education. To some extent this has always been true. For decades, reliable statistics have indicated that on average, income earned is directly proportional to education attained.

Higher education must remain accessible to all young Nova Scotians so inclined and so gifted. Career and skills training must be expanded to meet demand. And public school education, where the foundation is laid for a lifetime of citizenship and contribution, must be relevant and invigorating.

Nova Scotia's universities play a vital role in the life of the province. Not only do they educate the leaders of tomorrow, but they contribute a billion dollars a year to the economy of our great province, employ 17,000 people, and are responsible for more than 60 per cent of the research and development so essential to our economic future.

Mr. Speaker, we recently added $6 million to universities' funding, bringing their total grant to $207 million. (Applause) This additional funding, paid in 2002-03 will be part of the base in determining university funding levels in 2004-05.

To provide debt relief to students who need it most, the province has committed $5.1 million. Some 9,500 Nova Scotians could see their student debt reduced as a result. The program is specifically designed for expansion in future years. All told, Mr. Speaker, this government will increase its investment in our universities and university students by more than $11 million.

Mr. Speaker, helping Nova Scotians get the right skills for jobs that are, or will be, available has become a significant effort of this government. The expansion of the Nova Scotia Community College proves that.

[Page 462]

We are enhancing partnerships with business and industry to provide more Nova Scotians with opportunities to learn new skills and land better jobs. A total of $1.5 million in new investments have been earmarked for these skills development programs.

As well, opportunities will be expanded for apprenticeship training, delivered in a more timely manner. Fees for a range of apprenticeship training services have been increased, to provide $326,000 in additional funding to support this valuable program.

Mr. Speaker, the province is increasing its investment in public education this year by $43 million. (Applause) There is no more important investment Nova Scotians can make than in the future of their children.

Teachers will be able to spend more time with children in the early, most impressionable school years; $2.5 million will be allocated to reduce class sizes. As detailed in Learning for Life, the government's plan to help children succeed in school and reach their full potential, we will dedicate additional resources, including more resource teachers, to help children with special needs. (Applause)

Enhanced testing and assessments and a renewed concentration on the essentials of learning - reading, writing, and mathematics - are added benefits of a growing investment in our classrooms.

Education resources are primarily for the benefit of the young. But, as a government, we recognized early on that expanding learning opportunities for adults was important at a time when traditional jobs were disappearing, and more knowledge jobs were emerging. We founded, with great pride, the Nova Scotia School for Adult Learning, and it was an immediate success. Some 4,000 Nova Scotians have benefited from this program. This year we are investing an additional $700,000, bringing the total budget for adult learning to more than $5 million. This increased investment will open enrolment, and opportunities, to many more Nova Scotians. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, by their own account, no public service is of greater importance or concern to Nova Scotians than health care. The budget I table today allocates an additional $140 million to health programs. The Department of Health's budget is now more than $2.111 billion.

[2:45 p.m.]

The budget of the new Office of Health Promotion, just entering its first year of operation, is approaching $15 million. The establishment of a ministry of health promotion is a significant event in the history of our province. Like most, our health-care system has increasingly become an illness and injury treatment system. The creation of the Ministry and Office of Health Promotion changes that.

[Page 463]

Since the government announced the Office of Health Promotion, critics have said, "Great idea, throw more money at it." Well, Mr. Speaker, that's not how this government operates, and Nova Scotians are glad of it. We love good ideas, but we fund solid business plans that clearly demonstrate the benefits to our great province.

Health promotion includes all the resources of the former Sport and Recreation Commission and a transfer of resources, including $7.4 million, from the Department of Health. To that, government has added $600,000 to develop new or enhance existing programs. New investments of $250,000 will be used to increase our very significant commitment to tobacco control. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, the government recognizes and acknowledges both the great sacrifice and contribution that family caregivers make in our society. Tax relief does not ease the pain, but it should help ease the financial burden many Nova Scotians experience when they care for family members who are sick or injured. Effective this year, the tax relief available to caregivers has been increased 75 per cent, from $223 to $408. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, the government has embarked on a broad range of initiatives to ensure and improve Nova Scotians' access to care and to ensure the delivery of dependable, well-planned health services right across our province.

Of the $44-million budget-to-budget increase in insured program services, $29 million will secure and enhance access to physician services. A $9.7-million increase in the Pharmacare budget will keep prescriptions affordable for seniors, by capping co-pay and holding premiums at last year's level. (Applause)

The home care and care coordination budget has increased $5.3 million, to $127 million. This increase will secure and extend home care services to more Nova Scotians, further reducing wait lists.

Mr. Speaker, the government's commitment to improved long-term care, and to a better deal for seniors in care, is absolute. An additional $18 million has been added, bringing the total long-term care expenditure to our province to $222.5 million; $8.5 million of that increase will reduce the financial contribution private-pay residents of nursing homes make for their care.

Mr. Speaker, the jury is now in. District health authorities are a marked improvement over the unruly and unwieldy regional health boards of four years ago. (Applause) Nova Scotians are telling us that the quality of care, the quality of service, and the quality of management in our hospitals are simply better than they were. And they will keep getting better.

[Page 464]

Overall, funding to district health authorities will increase by $43 million this year, to more than $1 billion. District health authorities, and the hospitals they operate, are now assured of annual funding increases of at least 7 per cent. In 2003-04, that means $19.6 million.

Multi-year funding will help DHAs plan program and service improvements over a three-year horizon. The resulting efficiencies will be passed along in terms of better care for our patients across this province. Some $5 million in additional funding has been provided to DHAs for programs that will improve access and shorten wait lists at hospitals across Nova Scotia. An additional $5 million will improve access and shorten wait lists for cardiac care at the QEII, which serves patients from our great province.

The Health Department's budget - now more than 44 per cent of all program spending - also includes funding to establish standards in the treatment of mental health and improve mental health services for children, $4 million; to provide eight additional seats at Dalhousie Medical School, $451,000; to increase the number of nurse training seats at St. F.X. and UCCB, $1.4 million; to expand medical technology, $7.2 million; and to purchase much-needed medical equipment, $15 million, across our province. (Applause)

Capital investments will total $30 million and will include IWK renovations, Phase II of the Yarmouth Regional Hospital, the Cobequid Multi-Service Centre, and a facility to house a new MRI at the Cape Breton Health Complex. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, the health care Nova Scotians need and depend on is in better shape today than it has been for years. Mr. Speaker, it is more dependable; Mr. Speaker, it is more accessible; and, Mr. Speaker, it is more secure. As the government moves forward, based on the principles and plans highlighted in the document Your Health Matters, both our health-care system and the health of Nova Scotians will continue to improve.

For too many years, provincial social assistance and municipal welfare were viewed solely as a way to support people who could not support themselves. And granted, for some in our society, that was and still remains the case. However, our government chose to also look at social assistance as a tool - to help people for a time and then, with other supports in place, allow them to move on. Since coming to office in 1999, more than 9,000 Nova Scotians have benefited from that opportunity. With ongoing support, like Pharmacare, child care, or income supplements, they moved beyond support, to greater self-reliance and the personal satisfaction that can bring. (Applause)

Income assistance payments are actually declining, year over year, due to a reduction in the caseloads. Meanwhile, the government continues to strengthen return-to-work initiatives. This year we will add $3.7 million to child-care and early-learning initiatives. Some of this investment will be used to open child-care resource and referral centres and to

[Page 465]

introduce an early language and learning program in more of our communities across our province.

Very soon, Mr. Speaker, the Wood Street Secure Care Facility in Truro will open for young clients who are experiencing severe difficulties, frequently as a result of neglect or abuse. Soon we will be able to give these young people the care they need and deserve, right here at home, rather than abroad. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, there is no more fundamental tenet of a free society than equality before the law. To continue to ensure that Nova Scotians in need have access to legal counsel, our government has increased funding to legal aid services in this budget by $3 million.

Mr. Speaker, today marks the fifth time in fewer than four years this House has afforded me the great privilege of presenting a budget. All indications are that this will be my last.

I hope my colleagues on both sides will permit me a brief personal digression. Ce fut un honneur et un privilège pour moi de siéger à l'Assemblée législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse comme représentant d'Argyle et de la communauté acadienne.

It has been an honour to serve in this place, to serve Nova Scotians, and to serve with all members of this House on all sides.

I thank my caucus colleagues for their understanding and support. I thank my Cabinet colleagues for their guidance and solidarity. Together, I believe we have achieved many things. Most of all, I want to thank my Premier, my Leader, for the trust he has shown in me, and for his unwavering friendship. I came to this place hoping to make a contribution to my province. Maybe to make a difference, a better future, for my own children and for the children of others. I believe the course set by this government, the course followed in this budget, will do that.

Mr. Speaker, in the days ahead there will be much debate in this House, and elsewhere, on the path this budget takes. But let us be clear on our destination.

This budget is the product of a government that is confident about the future, that shares the vision of a growing number of Nova Scotians. This province can continue to grow - stronger, smarter, healthier, and more prosperous.

Financially, we are stronger - with successive balanced budgets.

We have, and will continue to focus our investment in education where it belongs, helping young Nova Scotians achieve and succeed.

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More dollars have been directed to front-line health care, to nurses and doctors, and to providing stable, predictable funding to hospitals.

With a balanced budget and growing investments in health, education, and our economic infrastructure, it is time to lower taxes for Nova Scotians.

Every tax-paying Nova Scotian made a contribution to the financial recovery of this province, and every tax-paying Nova Scotian deserves to share in the rewards that come from that accomplishment. (Applause)

But more than that, our generation's greatest legacy to the next should be a province that holds all the promise, all the opportunity, that too many young Nova Scotians still look for somewhere down the road.

As I have said before, the future of this province rests in the hands and minds of working Nova Scotians. When those hands hold a few more dollars, our future is that much brighter.

Lower taxes, sound economic infrastructure, a growing investment in education, healthier Nova Scotians, confidence in our future. That is the direction of this government, and that is the direction of this budget. Thank you. Merci. (Prolonged Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview. (Applause)

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in my place to begin the address in reply to the budget as the Finance Critic for the Official Opposition. I think my own personal response to what we've heard can be summed up in one question, who do they think they're kidding? (Applause) Who do they think they're kidding that this is a fair budget?

Let me read a line that the minister just read to us. He says, "Every tax-paying Nova Scotian made a contribution to the financial recovery of this province, and every tax-paying Nova Scotian deserves to share in the rewards that come from that accomplishment." Mr. Speaker, who do they think they're kidding? There are 300,000 Nova Scotians who will not benefit from the tax refund the minister just announced and why won't they benefit from the tax cut? Because they're too poor. They don't earn enough money. 300,000 Nova Scotians who live in the ridings of every single one of the members on that side, and their pitch in the next election is going to depend on fooling those people into thinking they're going to get something. The only people who get the $155 bribe are the people who earn enough to pay provincial tax.

[Page 467]

[3:00 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member would know that to use that word in this House is unparliamentary and I would ask him to retract that, please.

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, I'll withdraw the word "bribe" but let's be very clear about what the government is doing - they're delivering a cheque, with the Premier's name on it, just in time for election day. Nova Scotians can choose their own word for that. I'll let Nova Scotians choose their own word for what that is, because what that crowd over there don't want people to realize is if 300,000 Nova Scotians don't make enough money to benefit from that tax refund, those same 300,000 people - who are mostly seniors, students, minimum wage earners, people who are unemployed and underemployed - are paying the HST windfall that the government's reaped.

They're paying the HST windfall on gasoline, on home heating fuel, on the Pharmacare increases this crowd has instituted, the $200 million-plus increase in taxes and user fees, those 300,000 people are paying and paying and paying and they're going to get nothing from this government, except they're going to get a government that is going to try to fool them into thinking that they're getting something, but as a matter of fact they're going to get nothing. Who do they think they're kidding?

Let me tell the House something else about this budget that I didn't hear in the minister's speech. Despite the much-vaunted tax refund - which will be delivered just in time for election day - the actual amount of money that this government is taking out of the pockets of individual Nova Scotians, is it going down? No, it's going up by $34.5 million because the taxes and fees that this crowd are instituting continue to go up. The tax on gasoline is going up, the tax on liquor is going up, the HST people are paying on their home heating oil is going up. Government is not doing a darn thing about insurance premiums going up, Registry of Motor Vehicle's fees are going up, and they're going up by $34.5 million more than the amount this crowd is going to try to claim they're giving back. So while they deliver their pre-election $155, they are going to be taking out of Nova Scotians' pockets the same, and more besides, with plenty left over. Who do they think they're kidding?

They want Nova Scotians to believe that this is a balanced budget. I don't know if the word "flim-flammery" is unparliamentary, but I'm going to use it. The only reason the minister can stand in his place and claim that this budget is balanced is the rankest kind of accounting flim-flammery. What they have done - and I don't remember the minister referring to this in his speech - is they have changed the method by which they are calculating the value of pensions: the Teacher's Pension Fund, and the Public Service Superannuation Fund.

[Page 468]

Let's have a little history lesson here, Mr. Speaker. They changed the method once already; they changed it when they came into office in order to make this crowd in the Third Party look bad. So in order to make this crowd look as bad as possible, they changed the method of pension accounting and, this year, when it would dump them into deficit, they've changed it again. They changed it back to the way it was in order to make themselves look good.

Officials from the Department of Finance have promised to get a figure for us about what the true state of this budget would be if they hadn't changed the accounting method. Mr. Speaker, the minister just snapped his fingers and took probably at least $30 million off his bottom line, just by snapping his fingers and saying, I'm going to account for this differently. Who do they think they're kidding? This crowd wants you to believe that the fiscal year just passed is being finished with a balanced budget. Mr. Speaker, guess what? They had to resort to flim-flammery.

Mr. Speaker, again, let me tell you what this crowd has done in order to pretend that last year's budget was balanced, something I don't remember the Minister of Finance stating in his speech.

Two years ago, they recorded a liability on their books of $35 million, which was an amount they might possibly have to refund to the federal government because of a tax collection error. That's fine, there's nothing wrong with that, these things happen. But, now that the federal government has said that they're not going to collect the money, they put the money back on the books. But did they put it on the books in the year in which they recorded the liability? No, they recorded it in a different year so that they could pretend they finished the year with a surplus. The truth is that for the 2002-03 fiscal year, this crowd is running a deficit of $21 million and they're only able to claim a surplus because of accounting flim-flammery. Who do they think they're kidding?

Let me talk for a moment now about seniors in long-term care because, Mr. Speaker, this crowd wants everybody in Nova Scotia to believe that they've taken another step in the road of solving the problem of taking money from seniors in order to pay for their health care. The budget appears to show an allocation of a number of millions of dollars to that end. But guess what. It's flim-flammery. Do you know why? Because they haven't solved the problem, they haven't changed the assessment method, they haven't cut the list of things they are going to take into account. What this crowd is going to do is they are going to take the same stuff a little more slowly than they were before. So instead of bleeding a senior dry in 12 months, it's now going to take them maybe 14 months. Nothing else has changed, not one thing has changed in their long-term care policy. Who do they think they're kidding?

Mr. Speaker, I have a long list here of example after example of how this crowd is trying to pull the wool over the eyes of Nova Scotians. They want to deliver a cheque to them just before election day with the Premier's signature on it, completely forgetting that 300,000

[Page 469]

Nova Scotians aren't going to get a darn thing. I will look forward to having my caucus colleagues spend the next several weeks explaining to that crowd and to Nova Scotians why that is such a wrong way to go about budgeting in Nova Scotia because we are going to try to convince Nova Scotians that there is a better way. We have a better plan. We are going to deliver real relief for today's Nova Scotia families and we will do it without the flim-flammery. With those words, I move that the debate and reply to the budget be adjourned.

MR. SPEAKER: Before we begin the daily routine, I have a couple of requests for introductions.

The honourable Minister of Transportation and Public Works.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, it is my great honour to acknowledge the presence in the gallery today of a group of students and their teacher from my alma mater - Lunenburg High School. Present in the gallery today we have got Miss Kim Hebert, who is the teacher, and we also have a number of students. Their project by the way has been to role - play members of this House. (Interruptions) I'm sorry to report to the honourable members that apparently I'm away today playing in a badminton tournament. However, there are a number of students present here who are members of this House and one has the honour of being the Lieutenant Governor.

I will introduce them now, if they could stand, Nicole Oldieve, who is the honourable Leader of the Opposition; Mark Feener who is the Minister of Health; Robert Risser who is the Attorney General and Minister of Justice; Jessica MacIntosh who is the Minister of Education; Taylor Knickle who is the Premier; Arthur Delaney who is the Minister of Tourism and Culture; and Kevin Romkey who is the Lieutenant Governor. Missing from today, just for the benefit of members to see that it was very balanced, besides myself missing today we have another badminton player who's the honourable Leader of the Liberal Party who is away playing. Anyway, thank you very much, honourable members, if we could give a warm welcome to the members. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: I certainly want to welcome our special guests in the gallery today and I have to say that they are a fine looking Cabinet.

The honourable Minister of Tourism and Culture on an introduction.

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I draw your attention to the Speaker's Gallery. In the Speaker's Gallery we have with us today, joining the MLA for Eastern Shore's spouse, Collette Dooks in the Speaker's Gallery is my father, Alex Angus MacDonald, as well as two people who work with me in my Inverness office - Brenda and Willana MacDonald, and I would ask the House to welcome them. (Applause)

[Page 470]

MR. SPEAKER: We would welcome our guests to the gallery. Any further introductions?

The honourable Minister of Transportation and Public Works.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I also have another introduction to do. Present in the gallery today are two people who work in my constituency office and who are a great deal of assistance to me and that's Ms. Virginia Penny and Ms. Dale Keddy, if they could stand and receive the warm welcome of the House. Ms. Keddy would be, I believe, a descendant of the very first member for Lunenburg. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Just before we go into the daily routine, I think both Opposition caucuses have a copy of the lineup for Question Period that I handed out yesterday. The other thing is I just got a note for all the members who are planning on attending a funeral tomorrow morning, they requested all members arrive at the church by no later than 9:30 a.m.

[3:15 p.m.]

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition

RESOLUTION NO. 381

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

Whereas on St. Valentine's Day, February 14, 1945, 26 sailors of the Royal Canadian Navy Volunteer Reserve and 35 British seamen lost their lives when an accidental fire and explosions destroyed their boats in berth at Ostend, Belgium; and

[Page 471]

Whereas the Royal Canadian Naval Association's Ostend Memorial Task Force has worked with the good people of Ostend to have a memorial erected to the fallen sailors; and

Whereas Don Wright of Dartmouth, whose brother James perished there, will be attending the dedication of the Ostend Naval Memorial Monument on May 8, 2003;

Therefore be it resolved that this House remember the brave sailors who died in the Ostend, Belgium disaster of February 14, 1945, including AB James B. Wright, DSN and send best wishes to the people of Ostend through his brother, Don Wright of Dartmouth who will be attending the dedication of the Ostend Naval Memorial Monument.

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.

RESOLUTION NO. 382

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

Whereas during the last election, the Premier, on Page 24 of his blue book stated, "The pursuit of post-secondary education should not leave Nova Scotians mired in debt."; and

Whereas despite that promise, after four years of this government pocketing student aid money, the pursuit of a post-secondary education has left thousands of Nova Scotia students mired in debt; and

Whereas on the eve of an election, the Hamm Government last week, feeling guilty and hoping to gain votes, announced a scaled-back, greatly-reduced loan remission program to replace the one his government cut four years ago;

[Page 472]

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier reflect on his promise and tell the students of Nova Scotia who will soon be graduating why he has failed so miserably to live up to his word.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Hants East.

RESOLUTION NO. 383

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

Whereas a solid grasp of mathematics is essential for success in many kinds of careers; and

Whereas poor math scores have been identified as a cause for attention in the education of Nova Scotia children; and

Whereas last January the Cobequid District Elementary School in Noel put on a mathematics fair designed to raise awareness in parents of the progress their children were making in mathematics;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate Ms. Grace Beattie, Principal of the Cobequid District Elementary School, and her staff and students for hosting January's successful mathematics fair.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 473]

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. 384

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

Whereas the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League has recently honoured their top players at their annual awards banquet in Montreal. Mark-Andre Fluery has been named the top defensive player, best pro prospect and a second team all-star; and

Whereas Canadians from coast to coast cheered Mark-Andre Fluery of the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles as the goaltender for Team Canada in the 2003 World Junior Hockey Tournament hosted by Halifax and Sydney; and

Whereas the fans of the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles have had the pleasure of watching Mark-Andre develop his skills as a goaltender and as a role model for young hockey players;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Legislature congratulate Mark-Andre Fluery for receiving these honours and the contributions he has made to junior hockey.

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 Centre.

[Page 474]

RESOLUTION NO. 385

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

Whereas the New Waterford Midget AA Sharks had a dominating season in which they recorded a record of 33 wins, 2 losses and 2 ties; and

Whereas the Sharks won their own annual Christmas tournament and went on to win the Cape Breton County hockey title; and

Whereas the Sharks acquitted themselves well at last weekend's Nova Scotia playdowns in Tatamagouche;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the New Waterford Midget AA Sharks, the players, coaches and families on a very successful hockey season and wish them well in future years.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Glace Bay.

RESOLUTION NO. 386

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 member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour brought to the attention of this House that the report of the Special Education Implementation Review Committee has failed to be implemented by this government; and

Whereas this report was presented to the Minister of Education in June 2001; and

[Page 475]

Whereas the honourable member still felt compelled to imply that members of our Party joined in the failure of this government to implement this report;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize that the member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour is in bad need of a history or math lesson because this special education report was released nearly two years into this current government's mandate.

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 Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 387

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

Whereas Kirk Johnson, who hails from North Preston, won the WBO intercontinental heavyweight title Saturday, March 15th in Dallas, Texas; and

Whereas Kirk beat Lou Savarese in four rounds after landing a strong right hook and an uppercut to knock his opponent down to win the fight; and

Whereas Kirk Johnson's record is now 34-1-1 with 25 KO's and this ranks him number eight in the World Boxing Organization and warranted an offer to fight WBC champ and World No. 1 Lennox Lewis;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Kirk Johnson on winning the prestigious WBO heavyweight title for Canada and his hometown of North Preston and wish him well in his quest to fight for the World No. 1 WBC championship title.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 476]

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition on an introduction.

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, it's my pleasure to make this introduction today. Members of the NSGEU Local 66 with the Regional Residential Society Services are here to watch the proceedings today. They are: Tracey Best; Mayu Samstrom; Mark Wells; Stephanie Howell; Larry Stewart, who was the strike co-ordinator; and, of course, Linda Power who is also with them. They are here to make it known that they are having difficulty with negotiations with the Department of Community Services. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We certainly welcome our special guests to the gallery today.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

RESOLUTION NO. 388

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

Whereas there are 1,200 less licensed registered nurses in Nova Scotia than there were under the former Liberal Government in 1999; and

Whereas there are currently 18 unfilled nursing positions at the Valley Regional Hospital alone because not one registered nurse applied; and

Whereas the Tory Government continually tells Nova Scotians that its nurse recruitment and retention strategy is working;

Therefore be it resolved that the Tory Government finally admit that having 1,200 less nurses leads to cancelled surgeries and increased wait times and means the Tories nurse recruitment and retention strategy is not working for Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 477]

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

RESOLUTION NO. 389

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

Whereas for the 26th year, SEDMHA welcomes thousands of young hockey players to participate in the SEDMHA Honda International Minor Hockey Tournament; and

Whereas 243 teams hosted by the Dartmouth Whalers Minor Hockey Association will represent the four Atlantic Provinces, Ontario, Quebec, the United States, as well as the Czech Republic; and

Whereas the great success of this tournament is due to the continued support of the Dartmouth Whalers Minor Hockey Association, the phenomenal team of volunteers who work tirelessly to organize this tournament, and the commitment from coaches, parents and team players;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this Legislature congratulate the SEDMHA Honda International Minor Hockey Tournament organizers and welcome the teams from away while wishing everyone involved an enjoyable, successful and safe tournament this weekend.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Education on an introduction.

[Page 478]

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I would like to draw to the attention of members of the House an individual in the west gallery. I expect he's sitting in the west gallery hoping that I wouldn't see him so I wouldn't do this today. He's a very good friend of mine. He's a retired educator, highly respected in the community of Antigonish, does a tremendous amount of work on behalf of adult literacy, and he's totally dedicated to that cause. He takes time out to act as my campaign manager, Mr. Walter Proctor from Antigonish. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We welcome Mr. Proctor to the gallery today.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

RESOLUTION NO. 390

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

Whereas drug abuse is a major concern throughout Nova Scotia; and

Whereas community leaders in Eskasoni are taking aggressive action to reduce drug dependency, particularly prescription drug dependency in their community;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Chief Blair Francis, Eskasoni Band Council, staff at the Eskasoni Health Clinic and Rehab Centre, and all other stakeholders for their commitment to making Eskasoni a healthier place to live.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Richmond.

[Page 479]

RESOLUTION NO. 391

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

Whereas tomorrow, April 4, 2003, the John Hamm Government will mark the one-year anniversary of dramatically imposing onerous FOIPOP fee increases, which has allowed it to hide in the shadows of secrecy; and

Whereas by imposing these onerous fees, the only privacy the Hamm Government has protected is its own; and

Whereas such an action of denying Nova Scotians access to government information clearly demonstrates yet another example of this government's failure to honour its own blue book promise of allowing for much greater disclosure of government information;

Therefore be it resolved that as the Hamm Government reflects tomorrow on how these fees have fostered secrecy and undermined public scrutiny of his government, that he remember his promise to Nova Scotians and return the fees to their previous rates.

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.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: Question Period will begin at 3:28 p.m. and end at 4:28 p.m.

The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

FIN.: TAX CUTS - TAXPAYER SUBSIDIZATION

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the irony of today's budget announcement is that the same people who won't get a dime will pay millions of dollars in HST on fuel oil, they will pay millions more in gasoline taxes, they will pay millions more in car insurance

[Page 480]

taxes, and the reality is, these hardworking Nova Scotians will pay more than their share of the $74.6 million in higher taxes and fees outlined in the budget but they will get nothing in return. My question for the Premier is this, why do you force hundreds of thousands of Nova Scotians to pay millions to subsidize tax cuts for others while they will get absolutely nothing?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, if I may quote from a document that's been tabled in this House many times, the blue book, if you turn the cover, on the very first page it says, "My government will do this by reducing income taxes by 10 % in our first mandate." This government believes that we have a covenant with the people of Nova Scotia to reduce taxes by 10 per cent. Today we have done it. (Applause)

[3:30 p.m.]

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, seniors who are stripped of their assets by this government will not get a dime. Students, who this government is forcing into record debt, will not get a dime. Hard-working Nova Scotians on minimum wage will not get a penny. Parents who stay home to look after their children or caregivers who stay at home to look after a sick loved one will not get a cent under this budget. My question to the Premier is, why is your tax cut designed so that seniors, students and hard-working people in this province get absolutely nothing?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite perhaps wasn't listening when the Minister of Finance read the Budget Address. Among other things, 3,500 working families are eliminated from the tax rolls of this province by the steps that we have taken today - 3,500 families. (Applause)

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the Premier misses the point, they weren't on the tax rolls to begin with. There is absolutely nothing - no, they didn't make enough to pay tax and he knows it, and he knows that they will get absolutely nothing from this budget. There is absolutely nothing subtle about what the Premier has done today, he has divided Nova Scotians according to the amount of their paycheque. He has told Nova Scotians he values them according to their income.

The Premier's tax cut cheque will not go to the people this government has hit the hardest in the past three years: seniors who are forced to pay for their health care; students with crippling debt; and Nova Scotians on minimum wage. My question to the Premier is, why have you decided that 300,000 hard-working Nova Scotians don't deserve tax relief?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, let me remind the member opposite that lower taxes help working families - lower taxes help working families. Let me remind the member opposite as well because apparently he missed another part of the speech in which we announced $5.1 million of student debt relief to students here in Nova Scotia. (Applause)

[Page 481]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

PREM.: ELECTION PROMISES - CHANGES EXPLAIN

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, with today's budget the veil has lifted and real face of the Premier of this province has now shown through. This is a Premier that in the first page of his blue book said that he would not try to buy votes of Nova Scotians at election time. It is the same Premier who said he would live within his means, the same Premier who said he would no longer mortgage the future of his children, in order to provide election promises, and the same Premier who said he would respect voters. Well my, how things have changed after four years of the Hamm Administration.

We're going back to the old Tory days of electioneering here in Nova Scotia except, don't mind the bottle of rum today, because the bottle of rum and the chocolate bars have been replaced with a $155 cheque. That is what we have seen today under this Tory Administration.

Before the last election the Premier preached to Nova Scotians about how he would provide good government, honest government and respect Nova Scotians. My question to the Premier is, after four years, sir, what has changed?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, in response to the member opposite from Richmond, first of all, I have in front of me the first page of the blue book from which he quoted. I would ask him before he quotes from the blue book again, perhaps he had better read it because his quotes are inaccurate. I would also remind the member opposite that if reads the blue book, the commitment that we kept today has nothing to do with the next election, it is about the last election. We were elected to reduce taxes by 10 per cent, and today we've done it. (Applause)

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, the fact is, and the Premier knows himself, he gave his word to Nova Scotians. He put his own integrity on the line and said that I will live within my means, I will respect voters, I will not mortgage the future of our children.

Mr. Speaker, the Premier has failed. His government has failed, and it presented a budget today where they are saying not only have we added $521 million to the debt, we propose to add an additional $120 million to the debt next year. Mr. Premier, you gave your word to Nova Scotians that you would live within your means and provide good government. I ask you again, sir, why have you failed to live up to that commitment?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, again, if you will allow me to quote from the blue book, we will "Establish practical targets for reducing the provincial debt which has increased by almost $3.6 billion during six years of Liberal Government." We will establish

[Page 482]

those targets as the fifth and last commitment of our commitment to the people of Nova Scotia of good fiscal management.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, this Premier gave his word that he would live within his means. The fact that he now justifies continuing to add to the debt of this province is reprehensible and is a true reflection of what type of government he intends to provide the people of Nova Scotia, that he now stands and says it's okay to add to the debt, pay no attention. His Minister of Finance stands and not only am I borrowing this year, I'm going to continue to borrow and I make no apologies to it. Well, Mr. Premier, your Minister of Finance should apologize to your grandchildren who you said you would not make responsible for your spending that you are doing here in this budget.

My question finally, again to the Premier, is at what point, Mr. Premier, will you finally keep your word, stop spending more than the revenues that you're bringing in, and respect the voters, rather than sending them a $155 cheque asking for their vote at election time?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the fifth commitment answers that question very, very clearly, "Establish practical targets for reducing the provincial debt which has increased by almost $3.6 billion during six years of Liberal Government." We will establish those practical targets before we go back to the people of Nova Scotia. Our fifth and final commitment will have been kept.

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

HEALTH: LONG-TERM CARE ACCESS - POLICY UNFAIRNESS

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: I'm sure, Mr. Speaker, that they think that's very amusing, but it's just entrenching on our time. (Interruptions) Well, it's true, you know, we've had enough of your silly rhetoric.

Mr. Speaker, budgets are about choices. The Premier and his colleagues have made their choice when it comes to seniors and nursing homes who pay for health care that is free for everyone else . . .

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

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives have decided to keep squeezing every cent they can get from seniors. The so-called improvements they made last November cost far less than they promised. They under-spent their budget for long-term care, and instead of keeping their word and using money to ease the burden of the Tory financial assessment, they now have a scheme ensuring that seniors will be driven into poverty. Will the Premier

[Page 483]

tell Nova Scotia families why he decided to keep the unfair and intolerable financial assessment process for people entering long-term care facilities?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, that is a question for the Minister of Health.

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, last Fall we did make improvements to the system, and within a very few days we will be announcing our plan to make further improvements to the system.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the government claims they have an extra $68 million to hand out this year and an extra $147 million next year. The Premier's hands are full of cash, according to the Budget Speech that we have just heard. Yet, the Conservatives look seniors in the eyes, seniors whose life savings have been seized by Tory hands and they say, we're sorry, there's not very much for you. Yes, you need health care. Yes, you're families have done everything thing possible to care for you but, no, the Conservatives will not treat you fairly. My question is this, why is the Premier expecting people in nursing homes and their families to pay through ongoing financial assessment for the election Tory handouts?

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

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition knows well, as does every member in this House, that huge amounts of money have been put into nursing homes and home care since we came to office. We do have a plan to help with nursing home costs, as well we have kept Pharmacare costs at a premium, costing the Nova Scotia taxpayer another $10 million because we do care about seniors.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Health doesn't get it. They're stripping seniors of everything they own, everything they have worked a lifetime for, and they do it unashamedly. They don't care. (Interruptions) Yes, that's true, Mr. Speaker, they won't admit it but its true. I know why the Premier wants to give people a cheque at election time - unless they actually get it into their hands, Nova Scotians won't believe promises of tax relief from this government that is taking more than $1,000 a year in higher fees and taxes from every family in this province. But the Premier is avoiding the question, a question that tens of thousands of people want him to answer, why did this government break yet another promise by keeping harsh financial assessments for seniors in nursing homes?

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

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, we are doing something in this mandate about a situation that has taken years and years and years to develop in Nova Scotia. We are not just talking about an issue, we are doing something about it.

[Page 484]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

FIN.: FISCAL MANAGEMENT - JUSTIFY

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, this is clearly a sad day for Nova Scotians. We are seeing here today a Premier who is trying to rewrite history and to review the financial commitments that he made to Nova Scotians in 1999 in order to justify a budget which is clearly meant to buy votes from Nova Scotians. The budget presented today is clearly a platform that is all about borrowed money and broken promises; as borrowed money that will be taken from the Premier's grandchildren and the children of this province. Mr. Speaker, governments since the early 1990s have tried to bring fiscal sanity to this province. Now, we have a Premier who has suddenly cast aside his principles when it comes to fiscal management and has brought this province 20 years back into the past.

My question to the Premier is, how can you, sir, justify sending this province on a road to both fiscal and moral bankruptcy?

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

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I have been listening to the member opposite ramble on - and ramble is the operative clause. The member opposite has stated so many facts that are wrong, I am not even sure with which one to start.

The first one is, Mr. Speaker, is that in this budget we have put forward a plan which brings about a surplus, albeit a small one, of $2.8 million. At the same time we are spending $250 million in capital projects across this province. A lot of that money, Mr. Speaker, is to build schools for children who require them. A lot of that money is to go into building hospitals that are required across this provide. A lot of that money is going into roads. When that bunch across the floor was in office their last year, they spent $30 million on capital and road. Since then, we have done a great deal in repairing our roads. That's required for growing an economy, and that's what that bunch doesn't understand anything about.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, I can clearly understand why the Premier doesn't want to answer these questions, because I can certainly appreciate that if I was going back on the commitments made to Nova Scotians, I wouldn't really want to answer those questions either. Instead, he passes it to a minister who is on his way out of here and leaves a legacy that we will be paying for for years to come.

[3:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, the fact is, this Premier said that he would be able to build roads, he would be able to fix bridges, he would be able to fix health care, he would be able to fix the fiscal situation in this province without borrowing one cent. You, sir, have failed in that and

[Page 485]

I ask you again today, at what point will you finally tell Nova Scotians that you will stop borrowing money, stop adding to this debt and stop leaving a legacy of fiscal mismanagement in this province?

THE PREMIER: This government made five commitments: one, balance the budget; two, put surpluses towards the debt, which the Minister of Finance did today; three, reduce the debt-GDP ratio; four, reduce the foreign exposure in our debt, and we have done that from 50 per cent to 20 per cent and I will again remind the minister that the debt reduction targets that we promised in step five will be introduced, will be made public, before we go to the polls.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, do you realize in the five promises that he just listed, respecting Nova Scotians was conveniently left out. Remember in 1999 how he would respect voters? Now it's not even on his list of things he intends to do because he realizes he has not done that. Who does the Premier believe in this province is going to accept that sending out $155 cheque on the eve or during an election is not a cynical attempt to try to curry favour with Nova Scotians at election time with their own tax money, which ironically is part of what they are continuing to borrow. I ask the Premier once again, will you stand in your place, sir, and say that you have maintained your commitment to respect the people of Nova Scotia with your budget today that would send these cheques out prior to an election or during the election?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I would point out to the member opposite and to all members of the House that in the blue book, Page 30, the fourth line from the bottom, our commitment was a 10 per cent cut in income taxes and that would be in the fourth year of our mandate. Today, in the fourth year of our mandate, we delivered the 10 per cent tax cut.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

FIN.: BUDGET - TAX INCREASES

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Finance. I'm now going to read a list of the tax increases in this budget and I'm going to take a deep breath: Bracket creep and freezing of exemption levels, $28 million up; corporate income taxes, $65 million up; sales tax, $37 million up; tobacco tax, $21 million up; gas tax, $8.5 million; Liquor Corporation tax, $6.5 million; Registry of Motor Vehicle fees, up $1.1 million; a grand total in this budget of an increase in taxes of $74.6 million and even if you net out the reduction of income tax, taxes are going up after this budget, they're going up $34.5 million. My question to the minister is, who do you think you're kidding?

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, the question that was asked by the member opposite shows the difference between this Party and that Party because what the member opposite has shown, that taxes have increased, fuel taxes have increased and many other

[Page 486]

areas. Do you know why they've increased? Because the economy has improved. What we have witnessed here today is a complete lack of understanding by the NDP of what makes the world go round. In their estimation money comes from nowhere, or probably the federal government. That isn't the way that it works. Our economy is doing well, and with the changes we have initiated today they will continue. That's why we're doing it. The member opposite doesn't understand that, but in all fairness I probably didn't expect him to do so.

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, I know some seniors in Fairview who have paid more money to that minister because they had to heat their homes this winter, and I want that minister to come out to Fairview and tell them that they're paying more because their incomes went up. The reason, the only reason, that this minister can claim that he has a surplus last year is because with a snap of his fingers he has put $35 million of pretend revenue on the accounts, something that first came off in 2001-02, and any reasonable person would have made the adjustment in 2001-02 instead of in 2002-03. The real deficit last year is $21 million. My question to the Minister of Finance is, who do you think you're kidding?

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite would like us to believe that somehow we've manipulated the statements of the province. These statements are in order by the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles and they are balanced. The member opposite continues to try to make the case that they are not balanced. The reality is they are, and for that I make no apologies. That was the commitment that our Premier and our Party made, and today we have delivered on that and we will deliver on the next one.

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, when that minister came in he changed the valuation of pensions to make that crowd look bad and, as soon as it's going to start making him look bad, he's changing the method of accounting back again, and that's the only reason that he's showing his razor-thin surplus again this year - by snapping his fingers and changing the accounting rules. That's the kind of flim-flammery that we expect from the Liberals. My question for the minister is, after snapping your fingers and changing the method of accounting for pensions, who do you think you're kidding?

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I know one thing, the people that I'm not kidding are the taxpayers of this province. We have dealt with the problems that we faced as a province. We balanced our budget last year and we have balanced our budget this year; that is what we said we would do. The member opposite is obviously trying to mis-portray the facts. The facts speak for themselves.

[Page 487]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

PREM.: TAX CUTS CHEQUE - TIMING

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. Rum bottle politics is back with a vengeance in Nova Scotia. It's like the days of politicians doling out favours from the back of a station wagon at election time. The government . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. (Interruptions) Whatever he's talking about, the honourable member is suggesting that there is some wrongdoing, or imputing motive, and I would ask him to change his line of questioning if he wants to continue.

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview has the floor.

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, just before this crowd is going to go out and ask for votes of Nova Scotians, they're going to cut them a cheque - some of them, not all of them - for $155 with the Premier's name on it. That has to be a new definition of cynical, even for Nova Scotia politics. My question for the Premier - the same question that I think he just got outside - which one comes first, the cheque or the vote?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite doesn't feel that government should keep its commitments. Today the government kept a very significant commitment it made to the people of Nova Scotia in 1999. So, if that is the accusation, that we have kept our word to Nova Scotians, then I plead guilty.

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, there are some ghosts in the attic of Province House just laughing their heads off today, and one of them sounds a lot like John Buchanan. This government had choices: they could have given back their HST windfall; they could have made it easier for Nova Scotians to heat their homes; they could have lowered Pharmacare co-pays; they could have solved the ongoing tragedy of long-term care assessments; and they could have made choices to help Nova Scotia families. My question to the Premier is, will he just save us some time and money and deliver the cheques to Tory candidates before the next election?

THE PREMIER: Lower taxes help working families. Lower taxes create jobs and revenues. Lower taxes increase our competitiveness in this country. This will make us stronger, better, this will make us more prosperous.

MR. STEELE: I will tell you what I'm going to do. I'm going to call my sister, the nurse who works in North Carolina, the Canadian nurse who works in North Carolina and I'm going to ask her if she's going to move back for $155. My question for the Premier is simply this, this is the modern day version of rum, silk stockings and chocolates - very

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familiar Nova Scotia politics. What does the Premier suggest that we all say, that his candidates say, to the 300,000 Nova Scotians who are going to get nothing?

THE PREMIER: Our government has worked very hard in growing revenues and we've been very successful because the minister reported today the dramatic increase in provincial revenues due to a growing economy. The easiest way to bring prosperity to all Nova Scotians, regardless of income, is to grow the economy and everything we do is directed towards that very item - growing the economy.

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

COMMUN. SERV.: SMALL OPTIONS HOMES -

RELOCATION HALT

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Community Services. Last night we learned that the minister has a plan for the residents of small options homes being operated by the Regional Residential Services Society. He's going to place 35 of them on the 7th floor of the Nova Scotia Hospital. If you're not aware, this is the old forensic unit of the Nova Scotia Hospital. My question to the minister is, why is this minister regressing back to the days of institutionalization instead of assuring that the needs of these clients will be made available in surroundings that they are familiar with?

HON. DAVID MORSE: I am very pleased to be able to straighten some things out for the member opposite. First of all, I'd like to point out that there's a very dedicated board of the Regional Residential Services Society who have been working hard to care for these residents. I would also like to point out that they're the ones who are charged with having a contingency plan. They've worked hard on this. The last point that I would like to make is that is not the case - they're considering the Nurses' Residence on that property. Thank you.

MR. GAUDET: I am going to table this for the minister because maybe the minister hasn't seen this bulletin that came out last night. This minister is responsible for the residents, regardless of how he cuts it. He's responsible for those residents. Maybe the minister should spend a day in a small options home. These are very special people with very special challenges. Why the minister would even accept this happening is beyond me. My question again to the minister is, why won't this minister provide the necessary support so that these residents are cared for in familiar surroundings?

MR. MORSE: I appreciate the member opposite again giving me a chance to speak about the wonderful care that's being provided by the RRSS. I'd also like to start by saying how they've made it a point to be in constant contact with the families throughout this just in case there was an interruption in services. They have been in constant contact and, in fact, part of this plan that they've come up with involves having the families take some of the

[Page 489]

people back. There are very few of the residents, in fact, who will be moved from their existing premises. Thank you.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, it's obvious that this minister doesn't care - doesn't care at all. He doesn't care, the residents mean nothing to him after all. If they mean something to him, you would think the minister would be a bit more proactive rather than sending these residents back to their parents. My question to the minister is, given that this minister has an option before him that could avoid a strike, why won't the minister support management and use this option of institutionalizing the residents?

[4:00 p.m.]

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, again I would like to point out to the member opposite that the RRSS has been in contact with the families and, in fact, the breakdown according to their contingency plan to care for them would actually leave 113 of 178 residents in their present facilities; 39 on a temporary basis will be taken back with the families and, of course, the RRSS will be working to assist the families in caring for them. There are only 26 that, in fact, are contemplating a short-term move, we hope.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

HEALTH PROM.: CHILD POVERTY EATING HABITS - STUDY

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health Promotion. Recently the Department of Health Promotion announced that it would be studying food choices available to students at our provincial schools. At the announcement Dr. Tom Ward, the CEO of the Halifax Health Promotion, indicated it is a myth that low income families cannot afford to eat healthy. He went on to say that there are tons of choices out there; the healthy choice is not the most expensive choice. I ask the Minister of Health Promotion, will his department be studying the eating habits of 38,000 children in this province living in poverty?

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Indeed, Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for the question. The healthy choices I think is a great initiative and I applaud the government for doing so. In fact, the surveys are taking place this Spring and I think it's important that students in our schools and our communities across this province have a choice when they go to their schools. I think that's important. I think all children deserve to have that choice in our schools.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, the CEO of the Office of Health Promotion has a lot of choices. Billing meals worth hundreds of dollars to his government credit card is one. For all too many families in this province who rely on food banks, however, the only choice is not always so healthy. Canned foods are often high in fat, salt and additives. Few food banks

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can offer families fresh fruit and vegetables year-round. I ask the minister, when is the last time he took a good look at the choices on a food bank shelf?

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, indeed, one of the jobs as Minister of the Office of Health Promotion, along with my colleagues, will be to work closely with Community Services, will be to work closely with the Department of Health, with the Department of Education and many of the departments. That is why this government set up the Office of Health Promotion to begin with. We believe in a healthier Nova Scotia. We believe in a healthier economy and I can tell you one thing, I feel a lot healthier after that budget we just delivered.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, that's a sad commentary, as our Finance Critic has said, of the 300,000 Nova Scotians who will not receive that $155 cheque and of those 300,000 families, 38,000 of those children in this province are living in poverty. Their mothers would love to send them to school with a full belly and a healthy lunch, but most of the time that's just a dream. I ask the Minister of Health Promotion, when will your government take the meaningful action to ensure that all children in this province have access to adequate and healthy food?

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, as I said in my earlier comments, we will be working closely with Community Services. We will be working closely with the Department of Health. We are working closely with our schools on healthy choices and a number of other initiatives - Active Kids, Healthy Kids, just to name one other. In fact, that member will be glad to see many of the initiatives we will take forward in the upcoming months and years as a government.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

AGRIC. & FISH.: FISHERS - CAPITAL GAINS TAX REMOVE

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, my question will be for the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries. The fishing industry is very important to this province, representing not only one of our largest exports but also a way of life and foundation for many of our rural communities. Unfortunately the fishing industry in Nova Scotia is in a precarious state. The former minister committed to address some of these challenges last Spring. Specifically, he said he would lobby for an exemption for fishermen in the capital gains tax, otherwise they're forced to pay an exit tax just to retire. Unfortunately this exemption was not included in the federal budget last month. Can the minister tell this House why his government failed to do what they committed to do, get an exemption for retiring fishermen in the capital gains tax?

[Page 491]

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for the question. He's absolutely right, the transition from one generation to another or finding new fishermen to enter the market is a complex problem. In the blue book, we looked at the potential of seeing how we could deal with licence transfer. We're also looking at the capital gains exemption - it involves the federal government, it involves the provincial government - in terms of finance and what it means to the bottom line. I met with fishing groups very recently in Truro and talked about this issue, and they accepted the fact that we are committed to working through this and we are making progress.

MR. MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, fishermen cannot afford to wait until this government takes a notion to do something about this. Those who are retiring next month will be saddled with tens of thousands of dollars in taxes that they have to pay just to retire. The fishermen who will be setting out for the first time will do so without any support from this government, and there's no substantive support or financing programs in place. Mr. Minister, when will you recognize the importance of this industry to rural communities across this province and do something to help new entrants get into this industry successfully?

MR. BALSER: Again, perhaps the member opposite wasn't listening to my answer. We recognize this as a problem, the transfer to a new generation of farmers or fishermen is a challenge not just in Nova Scotia but right straight around the globe. I met recently with a group of farmers from Australia who were talking about exactly the same challenge. In fact, we're committing to working with our colleagues in other provinces and in other sectors to try to find a solution that can work. It's not a quick band-aid solution; it's going to take time, effort and energy. As I said in my first answer, we've committed to do that and we are working towards a solution.

MR. MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I hope the minister is committed to working with the federal government on this, because I see them as a key component to a solution. Considering the greying of this industry, this issue cannot be put off for long. The Canadian Council of Professional Fish Harvesters estimates that 35 per cent of the country's fish harvesters will reach retirement age in the next 10 years to 15 years. An exemption exists in the capital gains for farmers, which the minister should know as he is the Minister of Agriculture as well. Mr. Minister, since your predecessor didn't have much success in the past year, can you tell this House what your new strategy will be to get the federal government to make this exemption?

MR. BALSER: Again, we've been working very closely. I had meetings with the federal minister and my other colleagues around the country. We've put it on the table for his consideration. Everyone recognizes that we have a real challenge here in Nova Scotia and, in fact, across Canada in terms of finding ways to have new farmers and new fishermen enter the industries.

[Page 492]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Victoria.

NAT. RES.: DEER HERD HEALTH - STATISTICS TABLE

MR. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, since I started my preamble yesterday, I hope the Minister of Natural Resources will have a good answer for me since he has had 24 hours to work on it. The minister recently announced there will be two one-week moose hunting seasons in place of the single . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. It's very difficult to hear the honourable member.

The honourable member for Victoria has the floor.

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, to the Minister of Natural Resources, the minister recently announced there will be two one-week moose hunting seasons in place of the single two-week season which took place other years with extra licences being issued. I think it's a good measure because it relieves the stress on the herd. Many law abiding hunters have played a key role in the conservation of both the deer and moose herds. My question to the minister is, will the minister table in the House statistics which show the deer herd is healthy and does not require further conservation measures?

HON. TIMOTHY OLIVE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for the question. I know the honourable member who served in the capacity of Natural Resources as minister has the same concerns for the deer population as all Nova Scotians and certainly as this government. Historically, the honourable member knows that the deer herds do fluctuate periodically. Mild winters or tough winters have a direct bearing on the herd itself. The antlerless deer permits that will be issued this year will be based on research from the effects the past winters had on the deer herds. Statistics, yes, I can provide the statistics that the member wants. I will take that as notice and provide it but it is important to know that every year the amount of permits are directly related to the condition of the herd which is done as a result of a survey in the Spring.

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, particularly in Victoria County, the deer herd faces severe pressures from a variety of reasons, disease and predators, particularly predators. Can the minister assure the House that the deer population is healthy and that the herd will continue as part of our natural resources?

MR. OLIVE: Mr. Speaker, I would love to stand in my place and tell the honourable member and other members of the House that the deer herd is healthy but the real numbers tell the tale. Back in the 1980s, there were 124,000 deer and between then and 1995 it dropped to 42,000. So obviously the deer herd is not as healthy as we would like to have it. However, the deer herd population in June, the exit after the hunting season, while higher than the 42,000 in 1995, did finish off at about 52,000. (Interruption) No, the deer herd

[Page 493]

population does fluctuate, given the conditions during the winter. It is in healthy condition but not as healthy as it was in the mid-1980s.

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, the minister is right but there are areas of . . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. There is too much noise in the Chamber. The honourable member for Victoria has the floor.

MR. MACASKILL: . . . Victoria County where the deer herd is not healthy. We had 16 deer bagged in Victoria County last hunting season. Mr. Speaker, that's not a very healthy herd. Could the minister give his personal assurance today in this Chamber that he will do everything in his power to see that this deer population, right across the province, will remain healthy?

MR. OLIVE: Mr. Speaker, our department will continue to work with the hunters of this province and with all those interested in a successful deer hunt on a yearly basis. I can't give the guarantees that the deer herd will be healthy. I can give you guarantees that we will continually monitor the health of the deer herds and act accordingly in the distribution of hunting licences in Nova Scotia.

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

EDUC.: STUDENT DEBT - INCREASES EXPLAIN

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, my question, through you, is to the Minister of Education. Today's budget talks a lot about winners and about focusing on helping people like students who sacrificed to help balance this budget. Well, that would be nice if it were true. I can tell you, as the parent of a university-aged student, that young woman is frustrated with a problem that I'm going to bring to the minister's attention.

University students in this province have sacrificed more than most and today they really didn't hear anything that should make them happy about this budget. This government will have taken nearly $45 million from the pockets of students by the Spring of next year. Mr. Minister, I want you to tell his House, I want you to tell my daughter, I want you to tell university students why your government's policy has been to allow student debt to spiral higher and higher while accessibility gets even more limited?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I can tell the honourable member that as a result of today's budget and the actions taken by this government that we will, in fact, be providing debt reduction to students in the amount of $5.1 million and that is going to make a great deal of difference to those students who are successful in graduating from post-secondary programs in this province.

[Page 494]

[4:15 p.m.]

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, university students, this MLA and this father, we know a platitude when we hear one. The fact is that this government will not even be using all of its own money to pay for this student debt replacement program. The Deputy Education Minister told reporters that the savings from the Millennium scholarship will be used to help fund this program. My question to the minister is, will you tell this House how much of the $5.1 million will actually be from the provincial coffers and how much is coming from the Millennium fund?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I can tell the honourable member and other members of this House that the money that we are putting toward debt reduction appears on the bottom line of this budget. It's part of this government's commitment to students.

MR. ESTABROOKS: I think this minister must have had some kind of inventory in the past - perhaps he did invent the shell game down in Antigonish because he's becoming a quick expert at it. Students aren't going to be fooled by this. Mr. Minister, your government has forced tuition up by well over 25 per cent in the last four years and next year it will continue to grow. You live in a university town, you represent the number-one ranked small university in this country. Surely, you will come clean with the goods here. Just how high are you prepared to allow tuition to increase in this province?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the honourable member for the question because we have provided an additional $6 million to universities this year. That brings us very close to restoring total funding to universities that was cut by the previous government. I can say that the debt reduction program that we brought forward for students - a student who graduates from a university in this province and takes full advantage of the program will be able to reduce their provincial debt by an amount of 45.5 per cent. That is a very significant contribution.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

HEALTH: RICHMOND VILLA - CONST. TIMEFRAME

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, my question is to our new Minister of Health. Two years ago the Richmond Villa was assessed and it was determined that the facility was unsafe, both from a health perspective and from the perspective of the fire marshal. Clearly this has caused a great deal of stress and anxiety for both the residents, the staff and the family members of those very residents. Immediately after this, the board of the villa, along with the Municipality of Richmond, proposed to the Department of Health that they would build a new villa, operate a new villa and that they would start immediately undertaking that process. Instead, the Department of Health said no, let us negotiate with the Department of Housing and that we will build a villa, the Department of Housing will be

[Page 495]

responsible for it, yet you will continue administration of the facility. In fact, construction was slated to start back in October of last year.

Mr. Speaker, my question to the minister is, can the minister please explain to the residents of Richmond County and the residents of the Richmond Villa as to why construction has not begun on the new Richmond Villa as your government promised last Fall?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I can assure the member opposite that we are working on the issue of Richmond Villa.

MR. SAMSON: Hopefully, the minister will have an opportunity to look through her briefing notes and actually read up on what I'm actually talking about, but I will give her the situation. The Department of Health said, we'll negotiate with the Department of Housing to get them to build a facility. This goes on and it goes on - keep in mind, this is the government that's really good at negotiating because they did really well with our paramedics and they did really well with our nurses, but to make it even better, would you believe that this Spring the Department of Health has announced that discussions with the Department of Housing have fallen apart and they failed to reach an agreement within their own government . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. SAMSON: . . . as to how they would build and run the Richmond Villa. My question, again, to the minister is how do you explain the fact that your government's own bungling of this file has caused the result that the villa will not be built anytime in the foreseeable future due to your government's bungling?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I'd like to remind the member opposite that we have a great many health care priorities in this province. I find it ironic that the member, who spends all his time saying we should pay down our debt and not spend on health care, now wants us to spend on health care in his own riding. (Interruptions)

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

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, what the minister doesn't realize is that the Municipality of Richmond said, we will build a facility, we will pay for the facility, we will run the facility. Yet your government stuck its nose in there and said, no, no, we can do it, we can build it and you have failed to do that. So, Minister, had you stayed out of this in the first place, the county would have built the facility, they would run the facility and the health and safety of the residents of Richmond Villa and the staff would now be safe and not be in question. I ask again to the minister, will you commit today that the construction of the

[Page 496]

Richmond Villa will begin immediately so that the health and safety of the residents and the staff can be put to rest as soon as possible?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I will commit that we will be as fair to the residents of Richmond County in spending of health care dollars as we are in every other county in Nova Scotia.

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

ECON. DEV.: C.B. CO. STRIP MINING - PERMITS DISCUSS

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Economic Development. Recently he was quoted in the media saying that the province was targeting 11 million tons of coal to be strip-mined for the next 10 years to scurry up business for the Cape Breton Central Railway. We all realize in Cape Breton the viability of that railway and the infrastructures needed for the economy of that area, but I want to know from the Minister of Economic Development, would he tell the House the arrangements his government has made to permit massive strip-mining in Cape Breton County?

HON. CECIL CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Cape Breton Centre for the question. Obviously, I want to note one thing we've heard loud and clear around Cape Breton is the thanks and appreciation of people who have heard loud and clear the train blowing as it's bringing coal into the area as a result of our commitment and deal. We have said that surface mining is a component of that and for the specifics of that and the regulatory process, obviously it was with Natural Resources, I would defer to the minister for that response.

HON. TIMOTHY OLIVE: Mr. Speaker, just to echo what the honourable Minister of Economic Development stated, our concern is, of course, to get the coal mining up and active back in Cape Breton. There are, in fact, millions of tons of surface-mined coal that can be mined. We are currently in negotiations with Devco to bring that to fruition and we're quite confident that that is going to happen in the near future.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, as the minister said, those leases indeed are owned by the federal government through Devco and the minister knows the current strip-mining operations that are going on there now are near exhaustion. A number of potential new sites cited by the Minister of Economic Development were in Florence, and indeed Point Aconi, and in my riding in Reserve Mines and in the Gardiner area and we know full well the ravages that have been done in those communities by strip-mining. So I want to ask the minister, what guarantees can he give the people of Cape Breton County that they can participate in a full environmental class B hearings to make sure that every possible thing is done to protect the residents of industrial Cape Breton?

[Page 497]

MR. CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, I know of the media report the member refers to and that did refer to sites at that time. They're not sites that I referenced. They were sites that the media referred to. However, to his point about the process and regulatory, one of the discussion points of the Minister of Natural Resources is that the full process for any development will be adhered to and any further commentary I would ask the member to address to the minister.

MR. CORBETT: He will answer reporters, but he won't answer to members in the House I guess. That's what I take from that.

Mr. Speaker, the minister made it clear there would be no public money spent on underground coal mining but said nothing about subsidizing strip-mining. Nova Scotians know all too well about the devastation to their land from strip mining, most recently by their good friend, John Chisholm. The strip miner, by the way, is a major financial contributor to his political Party. What dealings has your government had with John Chisholm or his company which might bring his style of strip mining to Cape Breton?

MR. CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, I find some irony in the member's commentary in one way. It was clear, we've heard across Cape Breton that people wanted the retention of the railway, they wanted to see a future for coal mining in the area - it's keep the trains but don't have development. (Interruptions) There isn't either way. To the point of that member, I've had no discussions with John Chisholm or his operations.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

TRANSPORT. & PUB. WKS.:

HWY. NO. 4 (RICHMOND CO.) - REPAVE

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier. As almost every member in this House will know, the state of our roads right now are in disastrous shape. In four years under the Tory Government, we have seen little to absolutely no road work undertaken. Little to no work. (Interruptions) We've seen little to no work being undertaken by this government. The roads through Arichat, Rocky Bay . . .

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

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, roads through Arichat, Rocky Bay, Little Harbour Road in L'Ardoise where people fear for their cars getting stuck in the mud, throughout Cleveland, throughout Roberta, all of those communities are very concerned. I understand that the Premier will be visiting Richmond County on Saturday. I would ask the Premier right now, you know that the No. 4 Highway from Grand Anse to River Tillard has been my number one priority, your government indicated it was your number one priority, my

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challenge to you, Premier, on Saturday will you commit that the No. 4 Highway from Grand Anse to River Tillard will be repaved and resurfaced this year?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member for Richmond started off Question Period accusing the government of spending too much, and now he's accusing the government of not spending enough. I have a message for the people of Richmond County that I hope the member opposite will deliver to the people of Richmond County, this government will look after Richmond County. (Interruptions)

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

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, prior to Government Business, could we revert to (Interruptions)

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, could we revert back to the order of business, Tabling Reports, Regulations and Other Papers.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance.

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the members opposite. I do want to table the Supplement (Interruptions) It's not very often I'm at a loss for words. This is one of those times.

I want to table the Supplement to the Public Accounts of the Province of Nova Scotia for the fiscal year ended March 31, 2002, and I want to thank the members opposite for agreeing to revert back.

MR. SPEAKER: The document is tabled.

[Page 499]

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call the order of business, Government Motions.

GOVERNMENT MOTIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move that the adjourned debate on the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne be now resumed.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect. You have 46 minutes.

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I would (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Are you going to allow the honourable member for Cape Breton South - order, please.

The honourable member for Cape Breton South has the floor.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, in the gallery today we have with us a distinguished Nova Scotian, a former member of the Legislature here in our Party, and a person who has contributed much to life in his own community and also contributed much to the Legislature when he was a member as some members of the New Democratic Party will attest. I refer, of course, to Charlie MacDonald, who is visiting with us here today from Inverness. (Applause)

[4:30 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: We certainly welcome our former colleague to the Legislature today.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect. You have about 46 minutes.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Forty-six minutes. Well, it's great to see you, Charlie, and I can tell for the next 46 minutes I will have your rapt attention - like I used to have when you sat there. It's great to see you and if you stick around for 15 minutes I'll have to have a few stories with you for sure. It's great to have you back in the gallery, not necessarily in the House though.

[Page 500]

Mr. Speaker, I know that members opposite and the members of the Third Party are always concerned about the negativity of the member for Timberlea-Prospect. The earlier comments that I had made, I wanted to bring to the particular minister's attention a couple of concerns of my constituents, and after I get rid of these concerns I'll turn to something positive. So I just want members to stay tuned for a few moments anyway.

I think the number-one way to get the attention of a minister in this government is to show him some pictures and so, again, Mr. Speaker, I'm going to table these, if I may. These picture are, of course, of a number of vehicles that are stuck, buried to the axles, in the growing subdivision of MacDonald Lake Road where these people who live in this growing subdivision continue to have to put up with these terrible roads. I would like to thank Ray Bowie for those pictures. If a picture is worth 1,000 words, Ray, maybe we will eventually get around to some kind of clear priority list when it comes to paving projects within the HRM and within this province.

However, I also want to point out to you, Mr. Speaker, that I have a wonderful piece of correspondence from Arlene Viscount. Arlene has sent me an e-mail and she poses this question that she wants me to bring to this government's attention. She writes - and I will be tabling this for you - does this government deserve to receive my payment for what? I have no services for the taxes that I pay. In fact there are some days - Arlene can point out - the garbage truck can't get in. The school bus cannot get in, but more specifically, she points out: Services? I've lost two milkmen over the past three years due to damage to their vans. Now I assume she hasn't lost the milkmen in the roads, she's lost the fact that they've caused damage to the vans and that she no longer has that valuable service to her home that's about 15 minutes away from this historic House.

The last piece of correspondence that I'm going to table for the minister's attention and for your attention, Mr. Speaker, is a wonderful e-mail from Karen Brunt. Karen lives in the Lake of the Woods Subdivision and she has listed her concerns here. It revolves about the fact that her assessments continue to go up and I know that's a topic that you're always paying close attention to, assessments. In the Lake of the Woods her assessment has continued to go up and the services, under no circumstances, have matched it in any way. Karen lays out her concerns here for the Premier and for the ministers, particularly the Minister of Transportation and Public Works. I think it would be some good reading that could be brought to that particular Cabinet member's attention.

However I know how privileged I am to stand in this House, Mr. Speaker, because of the opportunity to represent the growing community that I am fortunate enough to have been elected twice for. I want members opposite to know that if you are fortunate enough to return to this House, I, too, have offered my services again to the people of Timberlea-Prospect and I will allow them to be the judge on that day that's forthcoming when they will make their decision. I think it's of real consequence that the public, that people know the sacrifices that we have to make to be in this job. We're not going to get any sympathy, but

[Page 501]

when you are on the front line, we get our calls. What do they call us about? I think that's very clear to understand. They call us because they know we're there. I know there are municipal councillors over there and municipal councillors who perhaps are over here, the other side of the Parade Square, who are quite frustrated with the fact of why they always call me about a particular concern.

So let's turn to that concern now. Let's get it out. I see the member for Preston, and I know he'll have a comment about this. Why do the people of Timberlea-Prospect call their provincial MLA about the landfill site? Now, it's a municipal issue. It's a state-of-the-art facility. People come from throughout North America to come to see this landfill site. The member for Sackville-Beaver Bank, the member for Sackville-Cobequid, they know some of the difficulties associated with the landfill problem, but the councillors in my area continue to be aware of a major problem with the landfill site that has been located for the HRM up the garbage expressway, as we call it, twinned as far as the Otter Lake landfill site, Highway No. 103 that is, so the garbage can get to that landfill site. State-of-the-art, my foot! - or another part of my body that I'm not allowed to use here - the landfill site stinks.

Now, everybody is in "covering your you know what" mode here. Oh, there's not really a problem with the landfill site. The problem is there and its in the middle of winter. I'm sure that the members who drive up the South Shore, when they come up towards Exit 3, it hits them some mornings. I have complaints from constituents who call me constantly about this. It is important that the issue be addressed. Mr. Speaker, you know that as a front-line person in politics, we receive calls and, therefore, we then deal with them.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I want to bring to you some other concerns that have been brought to my attention. Last night I had the opportunity to attend a recreation meeting. Now, I know members opposite will say, municipalities take care of that stuff, but when you're invited to go - as I know in your situation with the town halls that you hold throughout your constituency - to a recreation meeting and the issue is school access and it involves volunteers such as Kelly Morrissey and Barb Allen and Eddie Andrews who have concerns about the fact that we can't get into our schools, they call the MLA to attend. The frustrations of people for what they have to pay to go into schools, that come from our taxes, is growing. People are concerned about the fact that these schools sit there and we can't get in them at a reasonable rate. Impossible to get into P3 schools because of the exorbitant contracts that were signed in such a hurry by previous members of the Third Party, but I'm talking about the fact that the people in the recreation communities that I represent continue to have major concerns, a growing community with schools spread throughout it, yet we cannot get into them.

Last night we had a meeting at Prospect Road Elementary. We had the meeting, it lasted an hour and a half. We were charged $20; 15 people met and discussed the problem with recreation. All adults, all volunteers. Now, I know there are members opposite over there saying, why do they do that with the Halifax Regional School Board? The way it should

[Page 502]

be working, is you give the key to Kelly Morrissey, you allow Kelly to go into the school to turn the lights on in the library and when the meeting is over after an hour and a half, Kelly turns the lights off, locks the door and leaves. That makes common sense, Mr. Speaker. But in the midst of all the frustration and all the concerns, the people in my community want to know where is their tax dollar in return for recreation?

As you know, Mr. Speaker, my office is located in the Beechville-Lakeside-Timberlea Recreation Centre. It is a busy area. It's a busy area because it's an old school that we can have access to at reasonable rates. Whether it's the Citizens on Patrol group, whether it's the recreation society, whether it's volunteers such as Cathy Melanson. Cathy, who is involved in so many things, that part of our community is well-served by the rec centre. But how many communities that I'm fortunate enough to represent have a recreation centre? Our recreation capabilities are strained to the limit. We do not have the opportunity to go into and have a gym. We do not have the opportunity to go in and go to a part of the community where we can have a meeting at a reasonable rate. That's terribly unfair.

I want to point out to you, Mr. Speaker, that there are people who I hear from on a regular basis about their concerns. I want to draw your attention, if I can, to an involved community activist and a wonderful - I was going to say young woman, so I'll use that in a non-sexist term of Golda Merlin-Walsh.

I know the Minster of Community Services, when he previously was the Minister of Environment, had heard from Ms. Merlin-Walsh on a number of occasions. Because we just don't have the landfill site in Timberlea-Prospect, we have the compost facility also. It was Golda who constantly and continuously brought these concerns about why this site was on the Prospect Road and the resulting effects of it. Golda Merlin-Walsh is the type of person that I can say that I am proud to be able to represent.

Mr. Speaker, recently, and I know you follow these things closely and I know the Minister of Natural Resources paid attention to this, as did his staff, volunteers in my community were involved in a rather healthy, and at times heated, debate on the possible transfer of Crown land adjoining the Three Brooks development - another growing subdivision in the area of Timberlea-Prospect. I want to thank and draw the attention of the House to the members of the Woodens River Watershed Environmental Organization and the Five Bridge Wilderness Heritage Trust. Those two organizations, along with Mr. David Bryden, held a community meeting that was overwhelmingly attended. It was decided that this project would not go ahead by the members of this environmental group that I mentioned.

Mr. Bryden, to his credit, has been up front and open about why and when he wanted these plans to go ahead. That's a concern we always hear about in our growing communities, Mr. Speaker, as you know. Developers come, developers go, but do they have a vested interest in the community? The houses pop up like mushrooms in the middle of the night, the

[Page 503]

services are not there in place. The schools are certainly not there in place. It is not my time however to point out in a negative way developers who have taken and run. In return, I want to acknowledge Mr. Bryden. I also want to acknowledge Cameron Sleep, who is the developer for Haliburton Hills and Haliburton Heights.

Mr. Sleep - and I know you know that's a famous name in boxing circles in this community - is a developer who lives in that growing community of Haliburton Hills. I want members opposite to know that there are over 650 homes in that development - 650 homes in one development. The concerns? Let me bring a concern to your attention. You go into the front part of Haliburton Hills, of course there are two entrances, for safety reasons, and you come in through the paved section. As you continue to go into the part that was recently added, it turns to gravel. Yet, because after amalgamation, you drive on into the subdivision and if you're thinking of the geography, you're coming off the Hammonds Plains Road on the right and you're headed back to Timberlea parallel to Highway No. 103.

By this time you think you're probably back in Timberlea. You're close. But now you're on paved roads again. So you think of the continuity of the service of the men and women who drive the equipment in the Department of Transportation and Public Works. They come in there, they have to because of the type of gear that they use, they plow the first part of Haliburton Hills. When they come to the gravel part, they lift the plow because they don't have the right gear with them, they don't have the grader, they lift the plow and go further in to the paved part where they drop the plow and go again.

If there is any kind of common sense decision to determine priority lists for paving within the constituency of Timberlea-Prospect, it has to be in growing subdivisions such as Haliburton Hills. Growing subdivisions that I've mentioned before of MacDonald Lake. Growing subdivisions like as you come into Three Brooks Drive. That's the concern that the residents of my growing communities have. They're willing to pay their share when it comes to taxes. They're willing to pay based upon the fact that their assessments have increased by various huge percentages year after year. In return, they want the basic services of plowed roads, safe roads and roads that they can use year-round.

[4:45 p.m.]

I brought to your attention earlier, and I was just bringing it to your attention at the hour of interruption earlier, the airline pilot, Jim McMullin. Mr. McMullin flies these airplanes all over this continent and all over this world. He returns in the middle of the night some evenings to return to his home in Haliburton Hills. If there has been a snowstorm, he can get as far as the subdivision. This is the same subdivision that has 650 homes, but he can't get in the subdivision because there hasn't been a plow there.

[Page 504]

Mr. Speaker, I want to make something clear, under no circumstances am I pointing a finger in an accusatory way at the operators of the Department of Transportation and Public Works equipment. They don't have the equipment. They don't have the gear. They don't have the resources. Year after year, new kilometre after new kilometre continues to have new homes after new homes built upon them or built beside them in the constituency of Timberlea-Prospect, and in return we have the same number of plows, we have one grader. I know the member for Halifax Atlantic has brought this concern to the Department of Transportation and Public Works. I know the member for Chester-St. Margaret's has brought the same concern forward also. We have one grader that will cover everything from Hubbards to Sambro.

Mr. Speaker, I want you to know, people are frustrated with that level of service. On the topic of frustration and I see the past Minister of Education here, and as I said earlier, I think she actually received a bit of a standing ovation when I said this before, I already miss that member as the Minister of Education. I want you to know there have been certain frustrations with Education within the school system that I am fortunate enough to represent. I know that that minister has heard me speak at length about teachers and their contribution, and I know she's also said to me - I don't want to get into a private conversation - I gave up all the positives of being a school teacher and an athletic coach to be the MLA for the area. Well, you take a little, you give a little, it's a positive experience one way or the other.

I want members opposite to know that in a growing community, how the parents, the high school students and, of course, younger children, but I want you to know it's mainly high school students that I hear from and past students who are current parents in the community, the level of frustration that they have with getting a straight answer from anybody on the Halifax Regional School Board. We saw it last night.

We wanted to know - at the recreation meeting on the Prospect Road, Mr. Speaker - exactly how much money was taken in by rent in these schools. Haven't got that answer. Can you get that answer? I'm new at the job, I will have to get back to you. We are going to make sure that that information is forthcoming. The one thing that parents want to have, parents want the clear goods, they want the clean goods, they want the truth. They want a level of service, whether it comes to early immersion, whether it comes to having the ability to be able to take your kids on field trips, that is across the system.

Mr. Speaker, as you might know, we live within the HRM, but people don't understand and I have never understood, as a school principal, why there are different levels of service. Oh, the response is, you live or teach school in the old county. What's this old county stuff? I live within the HRM. Therefore, if my children were of an age, how come there isn't early French immersion in every community, in every part of the system? Why is there that different level of service?

[Page 505]

I can tell the previous Minister of Education, and she is well aware of it, that it's of real importance that the school boards across this province continue to deliver a level of service that's acceptable, however - and of course there's a however, and I know the MLA for Halifax Citadel is paying rapt attention to this - I also know what each level of donation from the provincial government is across this system. I know that within the HRM we receive much less per student, much less per student than other parts of this province.

Now, I'm under the impression there are members opposite over there, the member for Queens particularly gets concerned on occasion with some of my comments, that old "divide and conquer mentality" of, Halifax gets everything. Well, let me tell you Timberlea-Prospect is not Halifax. Peninsular Halifax-Dartmouth, we are talking a different set of rules when it comes to road maintenance, to school delivery, to recreation. It has been said many times that if you live in the old county, well, you live out there, you expect that different level of service. There is one taxpayer and one taxpayer knows that when he or she calls and wants answers, whether they're talking to a school board member, whether they're talking to a regional councillor, the MLA, they want to know where their tax dollars are being spent.

Mr. Speaker, I have a few more comments and then I'm going to wrap up my comments because I know that members opposite get a little concerned with some of my rhetoric on occasion. However, there's a concern that I always hear about - there is a priority list. I have heard so many excuses about priority lists. Is there one or not? Recently in front of the Public Accounts Committee, I wasn't in the Chair at this time, and I had the opportunity to ask some very direct questions to the members of Sport and Recreation.

I can tell you honestly, I feel sorry for the people in Sport and Recreation. They've been downsized. They've lost staff. They're going to get swallowed up by Health Promotion. They don't have any answers. Basically, they don't have any budget. They're not even players at the table. They're not players at the table when it comes to such things as whether we will ever have a stadium. The question was, well, you know, that was the answer, it couldn't really be answered that day in front of the Public Accounts Committee because they are not players at the table. Is there a priority list when it comes to recreation facilities? Is there a priority list? Does Sport and Recreation have any say on it?

The people on the Prospect Road are looking for recreation. They're looking for an arena. The people in St. Margarets Bay are looking for an expansion to their arena. Do you know that in ice surfaces in the riding of Timberlea-Prospect, Mr. Speaker, there are children who play minor hockey in that organization, TASA, they have never played in their home rink which is St. Margarets Arena in Upper Tantallon. They have never played in it. They play at Saint Mary's, they play in Chester, but they do not play in their own rink. So you say to the people involved in the decision that you would hope that members of the Sport and Recreation Commission would be consulted. You would hope. Tell us about the priority list. Well, is there a priority list? Well, no answer is forthcoming. So there's your first priority when it comes to any kind of concerns about priority lists.

[Page 506]

So let's talk about a second priority list. Let's talk about the priority list for school construction. Now, I think I understand this one. As a school teacher, I was aware of the fact that the regional school boards put a priority list in to the department and based upon those priority lists, certain work was done whether it's new schools or renovations, but certain money is made available.

Mr. Speaker, Monday evening I will be unable to attend part of the session of this Legislature because on Monday evening the active, involved parents of Sir John A. Macdonald High School are having an important meeting. Our students are back at Sir John A. Macdonald. It's healthy, it's clean, it has improved, but in back of that school are three portables, three portables, and it's growing. It is overcrowded. The concern is does Sir John A. Macdonald still have priority or are we going to be nickeled and dimed? Are we going to be, excuse the expression, and you can rule me out of order, bought off because there's an election forthcoming? Are we going to be bought off by the fact, well, you're back and the place is clean, it's $4 million, that should keep them quiet until after the election. I want you to know that the school advisory council at Sir John A. Macdonald aren't going to take that. We expect the 15 new classes that were promised. We expect the new gymnasium and if any member over there thinks that a new gymnasium isn't important and you have been in any of the new schools recently, when you have 1,200 kids who attend a school, they deserve a proper gymnasium. They deserve a proper gymnasium if the Minister of Health Promotion feels it's of such top priority, but the answer where is Sir John A. on the priority list?

The member for Sackville-Beaver Bank and I attended a press conference where the Minister of Education and the Premier announced a new school for Hammonds Plains, and it was richly deserved, richly deserved; a growing community that has had portables around their school or in back of their school forever. However, tell us the priority list. Well, there will be some announcements over the next couple of months. We're expecting - I was told at that meeting and I know the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank was listening - about nine more announcements of schools across this province. Well, tell us what those are. Why are we going to turn them out like gems at election time? Is that how we deal with priority lists across this province? We're not talking about paving roads here, according to these fictitious priority lists. We're not talking about building arenas and recreational facilities. We're talking about the education of our children.

I want you to know you cannot sacrifice the education of young people by having them in schools that do not have the facilities, schools that do not have the ability to be able to deliver the curriculum in year 2003. Mr. Speaker, those are concerns when it comes to priority lists. That excuse of whether there is a list or if priorities are of importance to this government, the people of this province, the people of Timberlea-Prospect, they want to know. If you would tell them, the Minister of Transportation and Public Works - the previous Minister of Transportation of Public Works was infamous for the fact, it's on the list. What list? When will the road receive the attention? That's the sort of clear answer.

[Page 507]

If people knew that next Fall a certain portion of whatever road was being paved or upgraded or would receive the equipment that was needed to gravel it and ditch, people would be up front with that, but it's that cloak-and-dagger, it's that peekaboo approach to government when it comes to priority lists, that's what frustrates Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, I have heard members talk about stable government. I've heard them talk about stable government all the time. I want to use that terminology and tell you what Tommy Douglas said about stable government. I keep hearing talk about a stable government, Tommy Douglas said, but we never know how bad the stable is going to smell. Let me tell you, we're looking forward to seeing exactly where this government takes our priority lists, because the people of Timberlea-Prospect are looking forward to an election to allow me to return to this Legislature.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Victoria.

MR. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, I won't take up much time of the House this afternoon, but I do feel that I should stand in my place and make some remarks as it will no doubt be my last time to speak on the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne. My honourable colleague to my right said that he was retiring, but who knows, he may be back. I doubt I will be back unless the (Interruptions) My left, I'm sorry. Right or left doesn't make any difference in here, because very few know the difference, including myself, lots of times. The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova referred to the fact that who knows what will happen in the years ahead, he may be back. Well, I don't think I will be back, at least I don't plan to, unless, of course, the Department of Health comes up with some way to turn your biological clock backwards. If that happens, who knows. I rather doubt it.

I want to take this opportunity to say a few words and thank many people who have given me an opportunity to come to this House, to this great House, a House that I have enjoyed greatly in my years representing Victoria. Mr. Speaker, there are many people who I would like to thank, many people I would like to mention and offer my sincere appreciation. Victoria County, or the riding of Victoria.

[5:00 p.m.]

The history of Victoria dates back to 1497, as you recall, when the expedition led by John Cabot landed on the northern tip of the county. Of course, the abundance of fish brought fleets from many European countries in the early part of the 16th century. After 1746 the Highland Scots began to settle in the county and by 1871 there were 11,000 settlers in Victoria County. Fishing was, by far, the most prevalent occupation, although there was some farming, but fishing was what brought many Europeans to the county.

[Page 508]

When I was first elected in 1988 I was elected as the member for Victoria County and of course I was the last member to represent that riding as Victoria County. In 1993 it was known as the riding of Victoria. Then what happened last year due to the reviews of the boundary commission, Victoria County was, indeed, chopped up drastically.

Back in 1988 to 1993, the little village of Meat Cove which is situated on the farthest, northernmost tip of Victoria County, was part of that riding. I'm sure the member for Inverness would know how difficult it is to get to Meat Cove from Inverness County, but that has been changed and the northern part of Cape Breton Island is now in Inverness County. It's a wonderful riding to represent, wonderful people and indeed I will miss that when the election is called and I will move on to other things.

There are many people I want to thank for my success, I guess many people would call it a success and indeed I consider it a huge success. I think first of all you have to consider and think about what your family goes through, particularly my wife who was a partner for the full 15 years that I've been here. Of course, all of your family and everyone's family plays an important part of the success of any member.

Again, when I make reference to the member sitting on my left, he made mention of several people on both sides of the House and he did mention the member for Hants East who I agree is just a super individual. I don't single him out any more than anyone else from that Party. The reason I say that I know John so well is that we went on a couple of trips together to the Parliamentary association and - I think we went on two occasions - and probably if there were other members of that Party with me, probably I would have appreciated their company as much, but Mr. MacDonell was a super individual.

There are many, many members that I recall who I have enjoyed their company so much. A few of them that come to my mind very quickly are Jack MacIsaac from - I think - Pictou Centre. There was never a dull day in the House when Mr. MacIsaac was in his jovial mode as he was most days. Of course, Jerry Lawrence was also a great entertainer. Some people too, Mr. Speaker, on our side and I recall the great friendship I shared with the late Ross Bragg, the member for Cumberland South who passed away at an early age.

So reflecting on my years here I will have many fond memories of those years in the House and, no doubt, to some degree it will be missed, Mr. Speaker, but there comes a time when all of us must look at our past and look at the future and decide what is best for your and your family.

Mr. Speaker, we listened to the Throne Speech delivered by Her Honour Myra Freeman, which she did very eloquently, done so in a great manner, and even if she didn't have much to work with, it was very well delivered. I recall being at the Christmas party sponsored by Her Honour Myra Freeman. It was a great event and she is a gracious lady and a gracious host.

[Page 509]

Another individual whom I want to thank today is former Premier Russell MacLellan who gave me an opportunity to serve in Cabinet for a short time. Mr. Speaker, those few years that I spent in Natural Resources were years that I will always remember. I worked with wonderful staff and I'm sure the minister from Cumberland North will attest to that, that there are great staff people over there and it was a delight to work with them. I understand that Mary Stevens, the minister's secretary, is talking of retiring at the middle of the year - probably a month or two away - and if there was ever a secretary that I think a minister would dream of having it would be Mary Stevens. She was just a super individual. I think she was just a tower of strength to the minister. So I'm sure Mary will be missed from that department when she moves into retirement.

Mr. Speaker, I will talk for a few moments about the budget that was tabled today. I think the member for Halifax Fairview used a good line when he said who do they think they are kidding or who do they think they're fooling, but we will see as time moves on and we will, I suppose sometime in the summer, move into an election. I think it would appear that they are in an election mode and I think we will see something happen, something come forward sooner rather than later.

Mr. Speaker, we all remember back in 1999 when this government was elected, and elected with great fanfare. Indeed, I will be no different, I will have to refer to the blue book to lead into a few statements I want to make relative to the budget, but I want to read from a copy of the blue book a few lines I want to bring to the attention of the House. This is the Premier, what he tells us in the copy of the blue book: "I believe Leadership is about setting a clear course. It is about offering hope and optimism. Leadership is having faith in Nova Scotians and a plan to lead our province into the next century."

It's fine so far, Mr. Speaker. "Leadership is about building on the history, the people and the strengths of our province, about providing a better tomorrow for young Nova Scotians, security and respect for our seniors. It's about all Nova Scotians having opportunities, if they are prepared to take advantage of them. I believe that political leaders must be honest with people about what they can and cannot do. They must see government as a responsibility and an opportunity to serve their province. The current government has shown, time and time again, that it's not competent to govern. Clearly, it has lost the confidence of Nova Scotians. The Liberals have shown they do not trust Nova Scotians with the truth."

Now this is the line I like, Mr. Speaker, "Last year the Liberals said the budget was balanced, and that health care was in good shape. Now, they want to mortgage our children's future . . ." now this is what the Premier is saying about the former government - they want to mortgage our children's future. Now that's quite a line, because ever since 1988 when I first came here, back to the same promises, and I think if there was ever a time, it's today when the future of our children is put in jeopardy.

[Page 510]

In health care, in 1999, John Hamm said that $1.5 billion was enough to deliver high-quality health care in Nova Scotia, $1.5 billion was enough. Today, what does the health care budget stand at, $2.2 billion and rising, and the quality of care is worse than it was five years ago. Nova Scotians have longer waits for diagnostic services and for surgeries. Today Nova Scotians lie on stretchers outside crowded emergency rooms. In New Waterford, Nova Scotians worry that they might lose their emergency room altogether. Many places in Nova Scotia, many communities can't find family doctors, and indeed Richmond is one example.

We have seen continued failures in attracting doctors to rural areas such as the Strait-Richmond Hospital. Graduating medical students are facing a debtload of up to a staggering $100,000. There are more than 1,000 fewer nurses in Nova Scotia now than there were in 1999. Between 2001 and 2002, after Bill No. 68, 1,230 fewer nurses registered to work in Nova Scotia. This government's policies have driven nurses out of the profession in Nova Scotia. Wait times have increased for general surgery, neurosurgery. People needing orthopaedic surgery have had their wait times increased by more 14 weeks, up to 29.5 weeks, some more than seven months, from 2000 to 2001.

Mr. Speaker, now we see the government preparing to spend $871 million that has been sent from Ottawa under the federal-provincial Health Accord over the next five years. The Minister of Health went to Ottawa to mandate for Nova Scotians to fight for more money, needs-based rather than per capita funding. But she didn't speak up at the table with the other Premiers. The territorial representatives spoke up, stood up, and they got more funding, but our minister came back with exactly what the federal government chose to let her have not what Nova Scotians needed.

We saw in the last session, in the Rumsfeld document that they will cobble together their actions and pretend they have a plan. Mr. Speaker, they have no plan. We haven't seen a plan, and I doubt that we will see a plan. We will see an election document come out at some time in the middle of the summer, but this government never had a plan. In December the government established an Office of Health Promotion with no money, no new staff, again, no new plan. Over the past year, they've increased tobacco tax by $50 million per year. Of that they put $1 million back to support Nova Scotians who want to quit smoking.

[5:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, in this province, we have the highest rate of death from respiratory diseases. We have the highest rate of death from cancer. The highest rate of arthritis and rheumatism and the highest reported use of disability days. We have the second-highest rate of death from lung cancer and the second-highest rate of hospitalization for psychiatric care and the second-lowest rate of life expectancy.

[Page 511]

Mr. Speaker, young people in Nova Scotia are half as likely to be involved in physical activity as those in Saskatchewan, and Saskatchewan spends five times as much on physical activity programs as we do in this province. There has been no real action on establishing community-based health centres which would help Nova Scotians manage their health better.

Mr. Speaker, I just want to briefly touch on the health care system in Nova Scotia and how it's failing our students. Students are failing math and language. In 2001 Nova Scotia students ranked 13th out of 13 jurisdictions in junior high mathematics. We feel that we're not preparing young Nova Scotians to compete in the economy and the labour market or to participate fully as we would expect them to as citizens of our province.

Government has announced plans for new schools, but children in Dominion are watching their school sink. Children in Barrington are coming home sick, and on the Eastern Shore the high school doesn't meet the minimum standards of the fire code. Overall, the province's schools have a maintenance requirement of $500 million. In the HRM, students fear the loss of the music program because the school board doesn't have enough money to ensure they can meet program needs.

Mr. Speaker, in 2001, an expert's Special Education Implementation Review Committee recommended an immediate infusion of $20 million to provide a base level of core services to ensure that classroom teachers and students have a productive learning environment. The government has responded with a promise of $17.5 million over three years.

Mr. Speaker, in our post-secondary education, Nova Scotia students have the highest tuition in the country. Conservatives used the Millennium Scholarship Fund to replace the Loan Remission Program that they cancelled. The new Loan Remission Program offers only $5.1 million, compared to the $10 million that they took from the students. Our Leader has been on record since December stating that he would replace the full $10 million program with incentives to encourage students to stay and work in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, we face even more difficult situations in rural parts of Nova Scotia where we have declining enrolments. No one student who has incurred the debt this year will benefit from this plan. The $123 million announcement for the community colleges is based on a plan started by the former government in 1999, and that is announced with a credit card or a post-dated cheque. There will be no construction started on any new campus until 2004.

Mr. Speaker, the education system in the province is facing a crisis. It's facing difficult times and, as I stated earlier, in rural Nova Scotia, like the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board, they're facing a steadily declining enrolment of students. As long as the funding formula is based per student, they will continue to suffer. They will see many shortcomings in education as they expect. They should have equal opportunities. Regardless

[Page 512]

of where you live in Nova Scotia, everyone should be entitled to equal opportunities when it comes to education.

Mr. Speaker, we heard the Premier and the Minister of Finance boast about the great things they're going to do for our highway infrastructure, but look at New Brunswick. They were able to negotiate a $309 million highway agreement. Our government was successful in securing $62 million which will take you from where - probably Halifax to Brookfield. Yet they talked about twinning Highway No. 104, Highway No. 103 and the addition to the deadly Highway No. 101. So we're not sure what their priorities are. The world-famous Cabot Trail is deteriorating. Very little is done on our rural and secondary roads. Our bridges are falling in all areas of the province and where is the bridge plan? We are facing difficult consequences and difficult times when it comes to our infrastructure - roads and bridges.

Mr. Speaker, for a few moments I want to refer to a document I have here. We are talking again about leadership. This is a copy from an article in The Halifax Chronicle-Herald on December 31, 1998. It says: Tories Waffle on Hamm. This is quite an interesting article, Taylor lone MLA to support leader in the poll. This was a former poll conducted by The Halifax Chronicle-Herald back on December 31, 1998. It says, an informal poll by this newspaper reveal few Progressive Conservative MLAs would go out on a limb for Mr. Hamm who has asked for a leadership review during the Party's annual meeting.

Let me tell you what the honourable member for Digby-Annapolis answered when asked if Mr. Hamm should remain Leader. Mr. Balser wasn't the only Tory member to shy away from publicly endorsing Mr. Hamm. These MLAs refused to say if they were backing their Leader: Kings North, George Archibald; Pictou East MLA, James DeWolfe; Cumberland North MLA, Ernest Fage; Argyle MLA, Neil LeBlanc; Kings West MLA, George Moody; Queens MLA, John Leefe; and Hants West MLA, Ronald Russell. I won't be out there campaigning for or against it, said Mr. Moody, who supports Mr. Hamm's request for a review, but I like the next line, the only Tory member to immediately voice his support was maverick Brooke Taylor, MLA for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

I'm not sure, Mr. Speaker, if that was before or after the telephone conversation, but I do want to give the honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley credit. He's a great MLA; he represents his constituents well. He speaks his mind - that's one thing we can say about the honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

With that, I will bring my few remarks to a close. I went longer than I expected to. I don't think I will read any more from this; I don't think it's the time and place. I thank you for the opportunity to say a few words in the Address in Reply to the Speech from the Throne. I might be back another day during the estimates on a number of departments. With that, I will take my seat and turn the floor over to another member. (Prolonged applause)

[Page 513]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Chester-St. Margaret's.

MR. JOHN CHATAWAY: Mr. Speaker, it certainly has been a milestone today, and it's very nice to hear the member for Cape Breton-Victoria, possibly it may be his last speech on the Throne Speech in this House. I certainly wish him all the best.

I feel honoured to rise today in support of the achievements of this government and to share a few thoughts about my constituency, the riding of Chester-St. Margaret's. Certainly, it's very much a milestone, what's happened today, and I very much appreciate the remarks made by the Premier. Of course, needless to say, many people talk about this book, the blue book. (Interruptions) Maybe this is a naive opinion, but in 1999 we were the Third Party and one of the things that we wanted to tell all Nova Scotians was what we intended to do were we elected and were we to be government.

Politicians sometimes just jabber, jabber, jabber, and they don't want to be quoted on everything they say. This Party wrote down many commitments. We did that, and basically, from Third Party we became the Government of Nova Scotia. Most Nova Scotians, the majority of Nova Scotians heard us and they said hey, we like those ideas. One of the things today - this is a milestone - we've balanced the budget . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Twice.

MR. CHATAWAY: Twice, we've balanced it twice, you're darn right we did. That's what we said in 1999. We said, never mind - I very much appreciate what the Premier said today. He said it's not the next election, some people opposite said, oh, we're talking the next election, no, no, we said that. We said in 1999 we would have a balanced budget, and basically we've done it twice and we're going to do it. We put it down in writing and indeed we did.

Of course the other thing is that - it's amazing, some people opposite, hearing what I've heard today, some people said, oh, we should lower the rates and we should lower the debt and then we want all this long list of things, all over the place. I'm sure they don't want to have all their quotations, if they put it in a blue book or a red book or an orange book or whatever, I'm sure they wouldn't want that. They would have to take it seriously, consider it.

The main thing is, we in this Party trust Nova Scotians with their money. The Opposition doesn't seem to. We're lowering taxes because we're going to say, okay, if you have more money, you the Nova Scotians, if you have more money, then you will wisely do the best thing you can with it. We certainly trust Nova Scotians in that area and I will have a bit more to say about that.

[Page 514]

[5:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, it's certainly a great honour to represent Chester-St. Margaret's. I would like to talk for a few minutes about Chester-St. Margaret's. It is certainly a wonderful area with tremendous coastlines and breathtaking countryside, but most of all it's an area made up of wonderful people. Chester-St. Margaret's, of course, is made up of wonderful people and it's certainly my privilege to represent that area. Write that down, quote me on that, because I sincerely believe it. Of course, Chester-St. Margaret's is bound by two remarkable landmarks. One part of the riding - the start of one riding - Peggy's Cove, is on the east and Oak Island is on the west. Of course, Peggy's Cove is world famous. Many, many Nova Scotians when they see Peggy's Cove, they think of Nova Scotia. Of course, it's known for its lighthouse, its majestic rocks, the rough surf and the quaint village. Certainly, in many people's minds, that picture of Peggy's Cove represents Nova Scotia.

Of course, Peggy's Cove and many other coastal communities in the riding are also known for the tremendous response of local residents after the Swissair tragedy. Many of the people were there to help out and many of them went to help the people, to look and assist the authorities in trying to recover the plane. It was a very, very tough time, but what amazed me with Swissair was, often, when somebody did a good job, they certainly thanked them for their efforts. The whole Town of Blandford and area, Bayswater, and Peggy's Cove, the whole area got a thank you for all the dedicated work they put in in that tragedy and, certainly, I think they aptly did that because it wasn't just one person, people got together and helped out in this terrible tragedy.

The main thing is, of course, I think many, many people in Chester-St. Margaret's, and I think many, many people in Nova Scotia realized that if we work together, we have a better chance of accomplishing something, not doing things, sort of voluntary, everybody works together.

Of course, I did mention that at the other end of Chester-St. Margaret's is Oak Island. Oak Island has been shrouded in mystery since 1795.

AN HON. MEMBER: Where is the treasure?

MR. CHATAWAY: Exactly, where is the treasure? They're still looking. The small island is just off the coast of the Western Shore and, according to one theory, of course, the place that Captain Kidd buried his treasure. I don't want to say there's only one theory. There are many, many theories and things like that and they're still looking at them. (Interruption) Well, here I will tell you in a minute. My friend just asked have I looked for the treasure. I have been on the island and certainly many, many people have.

[Page 515]

In fact, it's very interesting. If you did a survey of all the tourists coming to Nova Scotia or already in Nova Scotia, that is Nova Scotians or people coming into the province, if you questioned them about their knowledge of what's nice about Nova Scotia, I would think about at least 20 per cent to 25 per cent know something about Oak Island; it's just amazing. I would certainly compliment the people from the Oak Island tourist society, it's a non-profit association. Those people would like to see an interpretation centre built on the island or near the island so that people could go in and become far more knowledgeable about the long history.

I mentioned it started in 1795. Franklin Delano Roosevelt came up before he got polio. It was in 1909. He spent the summer on Oak Island, or came up that summer. So there have been many, many interesting stories told about the island and it could certainly be developed.

Between Peggy's Cove at one end and Oak Island at the other - between these remarkable landmarks are many, many coves, inlets and beaches. It would be remiss of me not to mention that we have Big and Little Tancook. The longest ferry ride in Nova Scotia is out to Big Tancook. It's well worth going out on and of course, Little Tancook, they go out there as well. Part of the riding doesn't all sit on the coast, New Ross and area form wonderful assets to the riding of Chester-St. Margaret's. It doesn't matter where the people live, it's very important because they all are wonderful people and it's certainly getting ahead in that regard.

I very much appreciate this opportunity to speak on the Throne Speech debate because I was very positive about that speech. Basically, I'd like to say some of the most important things in my mind, what made it very positive, were actions we're going to take. I don't think any government is perfect, but the main thing is that we are going in the right direction and the other thing is we tell people what we're doing and invite people to come along with us. We don't just rattle out, but we put it down in a book. I very much appreciate the Premier being very proud of what he has quoted in here and that's what we've got. We put it down.(Interruption) That's right, it's the courage we have to put it down and we will tell people what we're doing and then try to do it. We certainly have a very good record in that regard.

In this book before the last election, I've mentioned we were setting out a clear course, indeed we were. They set down the intentions and the plans we would have and we didn't just talk about it, we put it on paper and that's what we've done. If you read in the book, it identified four areas right off that required urgent attention - health care, financial accountability, the economy and education. That's what we have done in this regard. Not only. These were areas we promised to pursue before the election in 1999. That is, if we get elected, we will work in this regard. Indeed, we were elected as government and we have pursued them and that's why today is a milestone, we've balanced the budget twice now and we're going in the right direction.

[Page 516]

I think everybody would appreciate the speech the Minster of Finance gave us today. He just talked to the basics of it and we very much appreciate it. We've been successful. We're not perfect, necessarily, but we're certainly going in the right direction and one of the greatest strengths we have is when we said what we'd do, we have done it. We have done it. This government certainly has been - I underline the words has been - responsive to the people, certainly in Chester-St. Margaret's, many, many people know that locally.

I'll tell you about something very important to many people in Chester-St. Margaret's and that was, of course, the Municipal Government Act was amended by this House to provide the people of Chester - and basically all the communities in the province - the opportunity to have a democratic vote to decide whether or not to be a town. We did have a law on the books that said, okay, if you want to be a town, about 100 people could come forward and they'd have a hearing and that did happen. So, the three adjudicators came to Chester and they stayed - I think - 10 days and then they took a year and a half to write a report and they said, okay, you people be a town.

Needless to say many people in the Chester Municipality, especially in District 3, have lived in Chester more than two weeks. So they said they would like a vote on this, they wanted legislation. Before that they had had the hearing in the last municipal election, before this hearing. Only 60 per cent of the people voted there - well 80 per cent of the people who did vote were against it. Anyway, the hearing had to go on, that's a legitimate thing. They had the hearing and the three adjudicators said, okay, you guys be a town, but the people wanted a vote.

I very much appreciate, and I'm only speaking for many people in Chester-St. Margaret's, we're very glad everybody in this House, all three Parties said okay, give the people a vote, and we did. I very much appreciate doing that, my goodness, the people have to be consulted. This government - we have another milestone today - we're saying here's what we're going to do and here's why we're going to do it. Please support us. Last time we were Third Party, then we were elected because we put down in a book what we would do. Certainly, I very much appreciate that the Minister of Municipal Affairs got up and passed the bill, and everybody agreed with it. It's certainly a very good thing. My goodness. Oh by the way, of course . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: How did the vote go?

MR. CHATAWAY: How did the vote go, in fact I was just going to mention that.

Mr. Speaker, it's very moving. I think everybody feels very proud to be a member in this building. I may be naive. I did certainly have many good friends in the people around, they've been very, very good friends. Oh my goodness, I could go on for hours; I wanted to say some other things. My illness - you know when you get sick and you lose your health and you get it back, of course you certainly have a different opinion on it. The other thing is when

[Page 517]

I did lose my health - I very much appreciated all the people who did represent my riding as best they could. The responsibilities, other people in the Cabinet took on the job. Not only did they have enough, they took on the responsibilities that Chataway was responsible for. I very much appreciate it, because we're a darn good team on this side of the House. I don't know if there's as good a team on the other side, I'm not so familiar with them, but we certainly have a very fine team on this side of the House.

I was asked and maybe many people would like to know what did happen, the plebiscite that did happen because the House had changed the law to let everybody vote, 80 per cent, and I certainly would give congratulations to the people in District 3, the Municipality of Chester, 80 per cent of the people got out to vote and, of the 80 per cent who voted, 75 per cent of the people said no we don't want a change, we're just happy the way we are. They should be congratulated for, first, getting out to vote and then for having a clear decisive statement. That's exactly what they did, they had a clear decisive statement. A good law - the amendments passed by this House. Basically the people wanted to express their opinion. Not everybody agreed with each other, but the main thing is that's what democracy is all about. We certainly appreciate that.

The Throne Speech was a very positive thing. As we said in the blue book, one of the urgent concerns we had in 1999 was health. Here are some accomplishments of this government in health care, et cetera, in Nova Scotia. One - I think most people realize or should realize that Nova Scotia now has the second-highest doctor-to-patient ratio in Canada. Another fact of health care - last year we recruited more than 100 nurses from outside Nova Scotia. Fact number three - are we worried about health care? Yes. Last year, 82 per cent of the graduating nurses stayed in Nova Scotia; the year before it was 51 per cent. Last year 82 per cent were going to work in Nova Scotia. Fact number four, in Nova Scotia, acute health care facilities will receive a 7 per cent increase for each of the next three years. My, that's a very great step forward. I think we are the first province in Canada to give them three-year budgeting.

[5:45 p.m.]

AN HON. MEMBER: Multi-year funding.

MR. CHATAWAY: Multi-year budgeting, yes, three years, and that's a great step forward. (Interruptions) I think I am. My friend says am I going to vote Conservative? I think I will.

Of course, the budget just proves it today that we've made significant investments in new diagnostic equipment, more CAT scans, MRIs, and that, indeed, will shorten waiting lists and improve patient care. We're going in the right direction. We're not in paradise, no, but we're going in the right direction. Certainly it's very, very important to a person who has lost his health and then got it back, then you really appreciate health care and health

[Page 518]

promotion. So we've created the Office of Health Promotion to increase the focus and the attention on helping people stay healthy. It's a very wise move, my, oh my.

Another point that we said in 1999, and we're going to do work in this area, was education. I do know a bit more about education, because before I had the honour of representing Chester-St. Margaret's, being voted in that regard, I was a school teacher for a mere 29 years. So, basically, we've certainly gone forward in that regard, too.

Here are some of the things that I think we should all feel proud of, because we could all share pride in our accomplishments. One is certainly the government's plan, Learning For Life, back to the basics plan, focused on the classroom. Certainly the government has re-established the three r's. Another thing, of course, it has provided new books - over 700,000 books in classrooms since 1999. Notice I repeat classroom, classroom, classroom, because that's where we're going. We're getting work and doing all sorts in the classroom itself. We've put more computers in classrooms, and we have goals to have more put in. Certainly classroom sizes are smaller and will become smaller for the youngest grades. That's a very good point to go forward with too.

The other thing is that negotiations with the teachers has come to a successful conclusion without disruption to the classroom and thus the government has averted a strike that would never have helped any classroom, or anything like that. The strike was averted and, obviously, that would be good news for students and parents. We did have the money to do it with too, and it's very good thinking ahead. That was all decided, so classrooms are going to do the good job.

Of course, this budget pointed out today, too, that we have supported and are expanding the Nova Scotia Community College system. Oh, my goodness, we've gone very much the right way. From what I understand, there will be 2,500 new seats in the community college system. So they're going to be able to give more instruction and technical instruction. We're certainly going in the right way. Well, my goodness, because it may be naive, Nova Scotia is sort of getting up-to-date and things like this, but you have to go to school. Many of the things that our students are facing is they have to have the technical ability, and this will allow them to get those options. That's certainly a step in the right direction.

The last thing about education is that we are now addressing student debt, because nobody wants a debt. Basically, this year, we're helping students pay off their student loans when they graduate. It's just amazing to me. Some people across there say, what did you do before? Well, we have improved it. You're darn right we have, it's $5.1 million to help out student debt and that's one year for the good students of Nova Scotia. Yes, we would do more, but we have to have them do as well as they can.

[Page 519]

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, I'm just wondering if the member who is speaking knows that it used to be $10 million before they cut it and now the students are going to have half the amount that they had before.

MR. SPEAKER: It's not a point of order. The honourable member for Chester-St. Margaret's has the floor.

MR. CHATAWAY: I very much appreciate this opportunity, thank you. Long story short. Let's talk about the economy. The economy of Nova Scotia. The economy of Nova Scotia, by the way, correct me if I'm wrong, but I understand that Nova Scotia last year had the second best economic development of all the Canadian provinces. We are the second best. Okay, we ain't number one, but we're not number last either. We're going in the right direction. My oh my. That's why many Nova Scotians feel very positive about staying in Nova Scotia.

My first job ever was in Lunenburg County, et cetera. I inevitably saw people grow up and then go West and to Ontario. They'd go out West, they'd go to the States and then they'd often come back here to retire because it's cheaper and stuff like this. More and more people are saying, yes, I want to stay in Nova Scotia. We are giving them the opportunity to get good training and enticing them and hopefully, they will stay in Nova Scotia. We have to do things to make that easier for them and that's certainly the way it's going.

The other thing too, correct me if I'm wrong, since we became the government in 1999, there have been 26,000 more jobs in Nova Scotia. That's 26,000 more jobs than when we started, so we're going in the right direction. My friend has just given me some lessons too, that now in Nova Scotia, 435,000 people are working. That's the most Nova Scotians working at one time, so many people think very positively that we're going in the right directions. Albertans are coming home.

The other interesting thing, too, is last year Nova Scotia recorded a trade surplus for this province. This province has a trade surplus because many people doing jobs in Ontario - sorry, pardon me, I don't speak, practice makes perfect, I'm getting better all the time - basically Nova Scotia had a trade surplus so many people working on jobs, et cetera, our economy is certainly based on what we sell outside the province. This is the first trade surplus in a generation so that's a good sign too.

Also, of course, I think every year we notice that tourism is a growing activity all over Nova Scotia. Every year, the number of visitors is usually improved over the year before. I certainly would like to wish everybody in that business - keep up the good work. You're proof positive that you're telling people from inside Nova Scotia, outside Nova Scotia, what a beautiful province it is to relax in and have fun. Keep up the good work. It's a positive thing.

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Our commitment is to a strong economy and to a sound fiscal management as a basis for a healthy society - a society that can meet the needs and supply the services that Nova Scotians want. To do that, of course, we've had to get our financial house in order. Well, we did that. The second balanced budget. The first one in one year, but before that 40 years, we were always in deficit, deficit. Now we're balancing the books, but still wisely spending money to improve some of the services in Nova Scotia. It's a balanced thing, it's going forward, and we're thinking about but we're going in the right direction. We certainly produced the first balanced budget in Nova Scotia, as I mentioned, in 40 years. This speech, I put these thoughts down before today.

We've certainly gone a long way. My oh my. The other interesting thing is not only have we balanced the budget, we will lower taxes for working families. Lowering taxes makes Nova Scotia's economy stronger. That's basically the line of it. That's what anybody would say. Lowering taxes gives people more money, and that makes the economy stronger. Lowering taxes will create jobs. It will be living proof positive that Nova Scotians can spend their - I underline their - money better than governments can. Most people say okay, if I had this money I would do this. You can't take all the money and say, oh, you be happy. We're taking all your money, you be happy.

It's proof positive that they can spend their money better than governments can. Of course we have all shared in the sacrifices coming to this point, but now we can all share in some of the gains. People best understand their needs. They best know how to use their money.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Would the honourable member like to move adjournment of debate?

MR. CHATAWAY: Yes, I would.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[The motion is carried.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader on tomorrow's hours and the order of business.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now rise to meet again on the morrow at the hour of 12:01 p.m. The House will sit until 2:00 p.m. or until the conclusion of the referral of the estimates to committee.

[Page 521]

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that the House adjourn until tomorrow at 12:00 p.m., noon hour.

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 House is adjourned until noon hour tomorrow.

[The House rose at 5:57 p.m.]

[Page 522]

NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)

RESOLUTION NO. 392

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 our Emergency Measures Organizations play instrumental roles in our communities during times of emergency and disaster; and

Whereas the circumstances of the past few days, with flood waters devastating many of our communities, EMOs have risen to the challenges presented to them; and

Whereas the Town of Kentville received the highest grade in the entire province during a recent assessment of emergency preparedness;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join me in congratulating the Town of Kentville for receiving the highest grade in the province for emergency preparedness, and express our gratitude for their very important efforts.

RESOLUTION NO. 393

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 our Emergency Measures Organizations play instrumental roles in our communities during times of emergency and disaster; and

Whereas the circumstances of the past few days, with flood waters devastating many of our communities, EMOs have risen to the challenges presented to them; and

Whereas the County of Kings Emergency Measures Organization received a grade of excellent during a recent assessment of emergency preparedness;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join me in congratulating the County of Kings Emergency Measures Organization for receiving a grade of excellent for emergency preparedness, and express our gratitude for their very important efforts.

[Page 523]

RESOLUTION NO. 394

By: Mr. David Hendsbee (Preston)

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

Whereas the World Boxing Organization Intercontinental Heavyweight contest was held last month in Texas, and North Preston's own Kirk Johnson won the title; and

Whereas in this match, Mr. Johnson knocked his opponent, Lou Savarese, down with a right hook and an uppercut, taking the championship in only four rounds; and

Whereas thanks to a very impressive record of 34 -1-1 and an impressive 25 KO's, Kirk Johnson ranks 8th in the WBO, justifying an offer for the North Preston native to fight the world's top-ranking heavyweight, Lennox Lewis;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Legislature join me and all constituents of Preston in congratulating Mr. Johnson on becoming the World Boxing Organization Intercontinental Heavyweight champ and for bringing the title home to North Preston, and wish him continued success in all his future matches on the road to becoming number one in the world.