Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

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21 septembre 2017

HANSARD 03-7

DEBATES AND PROCEEDINGS

Speaker: Honourable Murray Scott

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

Available on INTERNET at http://nslegislature.ca/index.php/proceedings/hansard/

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Third Session

FRIDAY, APRIL 4, 2003

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS:
Gov't. (N.S.) - Cox Lake: Land Development - Block,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 525
TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS:
Anl. Rept. of the Nova Scotia Teachers College Foundation,
Hon. A. MacIsaac 526
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 28, Apprenticeship and Trades Qualifications Act, Hon. A. MacIsaac 526
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
GOVERNMENT MOTIONS:
Res. 1, Estimates: CWH on Supply - Referred, Hon. N. LeBlanc 527
Mr. K. Deveaux ~^527
Mr.M. Samson ~^^540
Referred 557
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Mon., Apr. 7th at 4:00 p.m. 557
NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3):
Res. 395, Transport. & Pub. Wks.: Catalone-Main-A-Dieu Hwy. -
Pave, Mr. R. MacKinnon 558
Res. 396, Transport. & Pub. Wks.: Marion Bridge Hwy. -
Capital Paving Prog. Include, Mr. R. MacKinnon 558
Res. 397, Sheppard, Kenzie: Can. Winter Games - Participation Congrats.,
Mr. R. MacKinnon 559
Res. 398, Chaisson, Ashley: Can. Winter Games - Participation Congrats.,
Mr. R. MacKinnon 559
Res. 399, Dormiedy, Dean: Karate Tournament - Gold Medal Congrats.,
The Speaker 560
Res. 400, Ells, Melinda: Wendy's Scholarship Prog. -
Nomination Congrats., The Speaker 560
Res. 401, Gogan, Robert A.: Peacekeeping Medal - Congrats.,
The Speaker 561
Res. 402, Flemming, Crystal/Green, Desiree: Oxford Reg. HS
Science Fair - Congrats., The Speaker 561
Res. 403, Briggs, Lawrence: Oxford Vol. FD Fireman of the Yr. -
Congrats., The Speaker 562
Res. 404, Emmerson, Dean: Queen's Jubilee Medal - Congrats.,
The Speaker 562
Res. 405, Embree, Katra/Girls @ The Junction: Prog. - Congrats.,
The Speaker 563
Res. 406, Emberly, John: UNB Dean's List - Congrats., The Speaker 563
Res. 407, Grant, Amber/Girls @ The Junction: Prog. - Congrats.,
The Speaker 564
Res. 408, Sabean, Samantha: Can. Winter Games - Congrats.,
Mr. B. Barnet 564
Res. 409, Schriver, Courtney: Can. Winter Games - Congrats.,
Mr. B. Barnet 565
Res. 410, Windsor Hockey Heritage Soc.: Dinner -
Organizing Comm. Congrats., Hon. R. Russell 565
Res. 411, Windsor: Anniv. (125th) - Congrats., Hon. R. Russell 566

[Page 525]

HALIFAX, FRIDAY, APRIL 4, 2003

Fifty-eighth General Assembly

Third Session

12:00 NOON

SPEAKER

Hon. Murray Scott

DEPUTY SPEAKERS

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

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

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Timberlea Prospect.

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to introduce a petition on behalf of the 58 residents of the Cox Lake area off the Hammonds Plains Road. The operative phrase is, ". . . residents of Cox Lake Rd and the Yankeetown Road have become aware of a proposed land development in the area." We would like to continue to enjoy this lake and we are asking for the assistance of this government to block this development. I have affixed my signature to this petition.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

525

[Page 526]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Education.

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table the Annual Report of the Nova Scotia Teachers College Foundation, dated February 2003.

MR. SPEAKER: The report is tabled.

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Education.

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, before I introduce this bill, I wonder if I might have the patience of the House to introduce some guests who have a very real interest in the contents of the bill. I'm looking for, I don't see him, Steve Vaslet, the Chairman of the Apprenticeship Training Board. He's not quite there yet; Peter Greer, who is past-Chairman of the Board; Bernie Larusick, who is a board member, who has just entered the Speaker's Gallery; Kevin Gerrior, a board member; and the two individuals who had a great deal to do with this legislation coming together, Carol MacCulloch and Jim Henley who are co-chairmen of the group that became affectionately known as the Group of 19, I believe. They did a tremendous amount of work and I'm very pleased to say that in my time as Minister of Labour, I attended and facilitated bringing together the group that eventually went out and did all of the work on this in my office, in the Labour Department.

I indicated earlier today, I feel a little bit like a father - I was there at the beginning and now I'm around to announce the happy event, but I have to give credit for all of the work to somebody else. Also in the audience is Joe Black, who is the Apprenticeship Training Division Director within my department, and Maureen O'Connell, who works with Mr. Black.

Bill No. 28 - Entitled an Act Respecting Apprenticeship and Trades Qualifications. (Hon. Angus MacIsaac).

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

NOTICES OF MOTION

ORDERS OF THE DAY

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

[Page 527]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

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

GOVERNMENT MOTIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Resolution No. 1.

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

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage. You have about 50 minutes.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I want to start by thanking the House for giving unanimous consent to allow me to complete our response to the budget of the Minister of Finance, as my colleague, the member for Halifax Fairview started it yesterday.

I am pleased to stand this morning to continue my Party's reply to yesterday's budget.

I'm sure the government side would like me to engage in a pitch battle with them this morning about a tax cut, or the cynical move to put a cheque in the hands of every Nova Scotian, just in time for an election. I know they would like nothing better than for us to debate the merits of their tax cut. All I will say is what my colleague said yesterday, the cynical timing of this cheque speaks for itself. All you had to do was look at the headlines in today's papers to see that most Nova Scotians don't believe that this is a legitimate means of government policy, but is instead nothing more than an election gimmick.

The money could have been much better spent for real benefits for all Nova Scotians trying to make ends meet and that's what our Party wants to focus on in our response, the fact that a cheque for $155 is their version of what they think needs to be done with regard to fiscal management and making a better Nova Scotia. Our Party has a very different vision of how we think Nova Scotians can benefit from government policy.

To start with - and I am reiterating what was said yesterday by our Leader of the Opposition and our Finance Critic, that 300,000 of the poorest Nova Scotians will not see that $155 cheque. They will get nothing from government policy in this budget, if it is passed, specifically because they do not pay tax in Nova Scotia. They may pay a federal tax and I want to make that distinction clear, but they do not pay tax to the Nova Scotia Government and, therefore, because they do not pay a tax, they do not get a cheque.

[Page 528]

That's 300,000 Nova Scotians, maybe some of them stayed at home to raise their children, many of them are seniors who are now on a fixed income, on old age security, maybe a Guaranteed Income Supplement, maybe a pension but they don't make enough to pay Nova Scotia tax and therefore they don't get a cheque either, which really makes me wonder, Mr. Speaker, when I look at Page 21 of the budget document presented by the Minister of Finance yesterday and I will quote, "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 the accomplishment."

I couldn't agree more with that statement, Mr. Speaker. The fact is, though, that this Minister of Finance is not rewarding every taxpaying Nova Scotian. He may be rewarding all the Nova Scotians paying income tax, but there are 300,000 extra Nova Scotians who are paying tax every day who will not receive any rewards from this budget. They're the ones who pay HST every time they heat their home, every time they fill up on a tank of gas in their car, every time they pay their electric bill. They're the seniors on fixed income who have to pay HST on their telephone bill or their cable bill. They're the parents who have to pay HST every time they buy a pay of jeans or a shirt for their children. They may not be making enough to actually have to pay income tax to this province, but every day they pay the HST, and yet this government has ignored them.

I could spend my time talking about this, Mr. Speaker, but instead I want to talk this morning about what this budget could have been about. There are many missed opportunities to truly create a better deal for today's working families in Nova Scotia, and this budget has failed on many counts to do that. I want to talk about who's been left out of this budget. After four years of a Tory Government and over $200 million in increased fees and taxes - let me repeat that, over $200 million in increased fees and taxes - on an annual basis, Nova Scotians certainly do deserve a break. A real break that would help them where it matters the most, on the ever-increasing bills that they are paying every day for the essentials of life.

Quite frankly, many of those bills are higher because of this government. Every time someone picks up their telephone bill and sees that 911 fee that this government imposed, they're paying HST on top of that as well. Every time they get their electricity bill that just went up because this government was not willing to fight to keep electricity rates down and then they have to pay HST on that increased bill, they can thank this government.

Mr. Speaker, let me be clear, a 10 per cent tax cut will not even be noticed by most Nova Scotians. Based on the documents presented by the Minister of Finance yesterday, for example, someone in Nova Scotia making $40,000 a year, it will amount to an extra $10 on their biweekly paycheque - $10, that's all that it will be. If someone makes $60,000 a year, that will be $20 extra on each paycheque. Compare that to what Nova Scotians are paying every day for the cost of living in this province. One tank of home heating fuel has $60 added to it in HST. Compare that to $10 off your paycheque. One tank of gas in the car is an extra $4 in HST. One month of electricity for a home heated with electricity has $30 added to it

[Page 529]

in HST. Compare that to $10 off your paycheque. These are the costs that are affecting Nova Scotians every day and these are the costs that this government should have addressed.

[12:15 p.m.]

In total, this government expects to bring in $37 million in HST taxes more this year. In total there will be $75 million in extra taxes raised by this government and collected from the pockets of Nova Scotians this year - Mr. Speaker, a full $34 million more than this government is giving back in their election cheques. One more example, this government has not done a thing to stop increases in tuition fees in universities and a 5 per cent increase in tuition - which is a reasonable rate from what we're hearing from the universities as to how much they're going to increase tuition - would mean an extra $250 a year for students and their families.

These are the costs that are affecting Nova Scotians on a daily basis, and this government has done nothing to address those costs. Nova Scotians do deserve a break, Mr. Speaker, and this government has failed to provide them with one yet again. All Nova Scotians deserve a break from this government, but the break they deserve is in the higher and higher cost of the essentials of living - electricity, heating oil, childrens' medication - and this budget does nothing to give them a real break.

Mr. Speaker, I want to talk for a moment about some of the specific areas of this budget that I think are specifically appalling. There are few, if any, groups who have been more ignored and taken for granted by this government than Nova Scotia seniors. This budget is no exception and nowhere is this more noticeable than its treatment of seniors in nursing homes. The Premier likes to talk about his government's approach on this issue as step by step, eventually we will get to where the people of Nova Scotia want them to be.

Let me be clear, Mr. Speaker, that means that Nova Scotians want this government to provide a long-term care system in which their assets are not taken from their hands in order to pay a bill for health care that every other Nova Scotian gets for free.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. There's too much noise in the Chamber and I would ask members to take their conversations outside, please. The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

MR. DEVEAUX: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. It's step by step - that's what this government likes to say. Well, in this budget, those steps are unfortunately either very tiny or, in some cases, they're even backwards. The changes announced will amount to about $3 million extra being put into the system for a full year. That's considerably less than what this government promised in November 2002.

[Page 530]

The other announced change in this budget will reduce the invoice going out to seniors for their nursing home care every month. All that does is slow down the process by which this government is continuing to take money out of the pockets of seniors. In other words, it's a slow bleed of their assets instead of a fast bleed. Nova Scotians have been very clear on this issue. They do not want half measures. They want health care costs for seniors and long-term care covered by this government as they're covered for every other Nova Scotian. They've told our Party that in the thousands, we've presented petitions in this House by over 20,000 Nova Scotians who are demanding this. I know that government knows that's what Nova Scotians want and yet again they've ignored them. That's a choice they've made in this budget.

I want to talk about health care generally. The failure to create a better deal for seniors is not the only problem this government has created in the health care system. I want to quote from the Premier's blue book in 1999. He says on health care, " . . . my first priority will be to fix the health care system. We will make sure that when individual Nova Scotians need health care, it will be there for them."

That's a noble goal, one I think every Nova Scotian can say they would agree with, but let's talk about this government's record over the last four years. Closure of rural hospital beds. The frequent loss of emergency room services in several communities - Glace Bay, on a regular basis we hear in the news how their ER is shut. The Strait-Richmond Hospital for months and years couldn't find an emergency room doctor because of the lack of attention from this government. Springhill, Mr. Speaker, a hospital I know you're very familiar with, has had its emergency room shut on a regular basis.

What about the loss of obstetric services in Middleton, Queens and Northside hospitals? What about the fact that there have been consistent surgery cancellations throughout this province and particularly at the QE II Hospital in Halifax? Inadequate home care services, this is the crux of the matter as far as I'm concerned. Nova Scotians I think can support home care if they know the funding is there to allow them to have it. Unfortunately, this government continues to put more burden on the caregivers themselves. In fact, this budget cuts the amount of money available for home care in two of the district health authorities. All this when considering the government - the federal government - in part of its accord earlier this year with the provinces provided more money for home care funding. As everybody here knows, an enhanced home care system, not reduced home care, is needed to meet the growing need and take the pressure off our nursing home system.

The government continues to make claims about the work it has done to recruit and retain nurses. As the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union pointed out yesterday, the money contained in this budget to get and keep nurses is simply not adequate.

[Page 531]

I want to read, Mr. Speaker, and I will table, a letter that was passed on to me from a fourth-year Dalhousie University nursing student who is graduating in a few short months. She says specifically, "I have taken a poll in my class to find out what the job situation is looking like for new graduates. Of my class of 115 graduates . . .", at Dalhousie, ". . . seven per cent have jobs in Nova Scotia . . .", I would take it that means about eight students, ". . . 39 per cent have jobs outside of Nova Scotia; and 54 per cent of the class, who would desperately like to stay . . .", in Nova Scotia, ". . . and work as professional nurses in their home province, cannot find a job in Nova Scotia!" I will table that letter.

Clearly, this government has continued to do nothing or very little with regard to recruiting nurses, if we have a graduating class of 115, graduating in a matter of weeks and only eight of them have jobs in Nova Scotia. That's what's happening in our health care system because of the neglect of this government over the last four years.

I want to talk for a minute about waiting times. This government also promises to reduce waiting times but did so poorly that there are 2.5-year waiting lists for hip and knee replacements in this province, Mr. Speaker. Nova Scotia families have seen up to 12 hours of waiting in an emergency room. There are specific stories from the Queen Elizabeth II Hospital with regard to that. There is a six-month wait to see a psychiatrist and long waits to access public physiotherapy. There is an 11-month wait to get an MRI in this province and this budget does nothing to reduce those waiting lists. In fact, this government's inaction over the last year has resulted in a private-for-profit MRI clinic opening up and the only response from this government is to throw up its hands and say, what can we do? That's the kind of vision we have expected from this Tory Government but its not the kind of vision the people of Nova Scotia expect from a government.

Let's talk about tobacco taxes. There doesn't seem to be a day that goes by that smoking in public places doesn't come up as an issue. Frankly, it's a public concern in which the government has followed, not led. That's despite a promise in 1999, Mr. Speaker, to dedicate a portion of the tobacco tax to fund new health promotion and disease prevention initiatives, including programs designed to encourage tobacco and other substance abuse reduction amongst youth. Their promise is one thing but their record is another.

In its four-year mandate this government has raised tobacco taxes five times. Yet, the vast majority of those revenues do not go into smoking cessation programs or education programs, they go into general revenues. That includes a tax increase last year that saw every cent of the windfall go into general revenues, Mr. Speaker, to support its pre-election promise spree.

Mr. Speaker, this budget could have made a real difference for the smokers trapped by their addictions in this province but instead we see a $600,000 increase in spending in this area after literally millions of dollars in increased tax revenue that this government has grabbed from those smokers.

[Page 532]

I want to talk for a minute about the Avalon Sexual Assault Centre, Mr. Speaker. An issue that I think maybe most Nova Scotians don't know about but I think is indicative of some of the concerns that people have with this government. I am sure nobody here forgets - even though I am sure the government benches would like to - the outrage last year when this government cut $1 million from transition houses for women and children in their budget. Well, this year they're doing it again, except this time it's the Avalon Sexual Assault Centre, a vitally important service, quite frankly, a service that is not provided practically by anybody else, if anyone else in this province, for counselling and support for victims of sexual assault, and they find themselves on the receiving end of an unthinking budget decision.

This budget contains no new funding for the Avalon Centre, Mr. Speaker, which will create serious budget problems this government is well aware of and yet, again, they do nothing. The people of Nova Scotia who have had the incredibly unfortunate circumstance of being sexually abused or sexually assaulted could very well lose a service that no one else in this province is providing and yet this government does nothing.

With regard to mental health, Mr. Speaker, again, this government considers it a low priority. Hard-working men and women providing services to families all over this province, including mental health services. Unfortunately this government doesn't see mental health services as a priority. Services that are so necessary for the well-being of so many individuals and families, yet this government's attitude seems to harken back to an era when it was better to simply not talk about mental health concerns. Mental health is such a low priority for this government that it's barely mentioned in its government blue book back in 1999. I must say at least this government has remained consistent over the last four years because it still has barely mentioned mental health as an issue in this province.

Indeed, until this budget, mental health funding made up 8 per cent of the overall district health authority budgets; as of this budget, that's been reduced to 7 per cent. After years of waiting by families who desperately needed help for their children, the Tories have created a 12-bed residential facility in Truro for youth treatment but, let us be clear, 12 beds is simply too little. Last year, more than 25 youths in this province with serious problems and in need of serious treatment were sent out of this province for help. A 12-bed facility does not cover 25 children, 25 youths.

After years of delay, this government also promised new community treatment teams for youth. That will leave 30 per cent of the children in need, Mr. Speaker, out of luck because of where they live. That's not a choice of a government that makes mental health a priority, and particularly children's and youth's mental health a priority for Nova Scotians.

I want to talk for a moment, Mr. Speaker, with regard to education. Let me paint you a picture of our schools. I had the opportunity recently to hold town halls in my riding with regard to education - I hold three of them every year. I know many of you also have education issues, particularly, though, I will say for those of us who represent suburban

[Page 533]

ridings in the Halifax area, it is a particularly important issue because we have a lot of young families. Indeed, I would say it's probably the most important issue in my riding and I suggest it's a very important issue in many other ridings, particularly suburban Halifax ridings.

The picture I see every year when I hold these town halls really hasn't changed. I have parents, I have teachers, I have administrators, Mr. Speaker, and they talk about the system as it stands now. They talk about the fact that when our children go to school, they are going into overcrowded classrooms. The teacher-to-student ratio needs to be reduced in this province and yet this government has done nothing in this budget - except for children starting school in the Fall in Primary - to address overcrowding. There are some who would argue that by trying to address Primary overcrowding what's going to happen is some split classes, which will mean more crowding, less resources into the higher grades, and therefore more overcrowded classes in those areas.

Children with behavioural problems, like ADD and ADHD, Mr. Speaker, or with special needs, are neglected and there's a lack of support that they need to ensure that they are able to be successful in school and in life. I hear on a regular basis, as I'm sure every member of this Assembly hears, from parents of children with ADD or ADHD who are finding their children are not getting the support they need in the classroom or in the school. (Interruption) With a learning centre, without a learning centre, these are debates that can be held but the fact is that these children are not getting the support. They are falling through the cracks. They don't get EPAs, they don't get assistants to help them. In many cases, they don't even get an IPP until they are two years behind in their reading and their skill level - two grades behind.

Well, by that time, many of those children are in desperate need and indeed the irony of this is, having talked to some administrators, it's particularly girls and women who are affected. Because they usually enter school at a higher maturity rate, their problems aren't noticed until a little later in life and, therefore, they're the ones that, when they're 15 and 16 or 13 and 14 when the problems really develop and they're not able to keep up, it's very difficult at that point to try to address them. But overall, Mr. Speaker, with ADD, ADHD and other behavioural issues and learning disabilities, we have problems and this government has done nothing to address those either.

[12:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, if you go to a school, and I'm sure many of us have, we will know that - and parents have talked about this - there are many who leave Grade 3 who cannot even read, not because of some learning disability that may prevent them, but because we do not have the resources to identify and support them in a way that ensures by the end of Grade 3 they are able to read at a Grade 3 level. Study after study has shown that these children, if children can read by the end of Grade 3, they are much less likely to have educational problems,

[Page 534]

development problems later in school, and they are much more likely to graduate Grade 12 and, of course, go on to post-secondary education if they wish. Yet this government has done nothing to fulfill a commitment that they should be making to ensure that all children who can read, can read by Grade 3.

Mr. Speaker, teachers have talked to me about the fact there is a lack of professional development in the classroom to allow them to address new curriculum. This government continues to provide new curriculum, new textbooks, new math, new grammar, yet it doesn't provide the support, the professional development to allow our teachers to be able to keep up and ensure they're teaching properly. We have schools in this province that are very unhealthy, indeed sick, environmental and safety problems abound. We've seen the difficulties that were created because of the lack of preventative maintenance in schools like Graham Creighton, Sir John A. Macdonald, Halifax West. We continue to see problems in Barrington Passage.

Mr. Speaker, we also see the emergency problems that crop up with schools like those in Dominion, but this government has done nothing in this budget to address preventative maintenance issues and it has done nothing in this budget to ensure our schools are healthy and safe for our children. None of the issues I've talked about just now have been addressed in this budget.

Let me be clear, Mr. Speaker, school boards are not getting one single new dime from this government this year to improve the teaching of our children. The $42-million increase in grants to school boards from this government are all going to cost-of-living increases, whether it be salaries or the increase in heating oil or whatever other cost-of-living increases these school boards have to deal with. This is nothing more than a cost-of-living increase. (Interruption)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage has the floor.

MR. DEVEAUX: As I noted, Mr. Speaker, unless your child is starting Primary this year, this government is doing nothing to address overcrowding. Indeed, this government is actually clawing back $6 million from the school boards. Why? I don't think the Minister of Finance, he must have forgotten to mention that yesterday, why are we clawing back $6 million - because, as they would claim, of declining enrolment. Everything is based on a per student grant to the school boards. Yet at the same time we have a problem where they're clawing back $6 million. What does that mean? Well, some are saying it's going to mean 132 full-time equivalent teaching positions eliminated throughout Nova Scotia. The Halifax Regional School Board is saying it could be 100 full-time positions having to be cut from their school board alone. The bottom line is classes are going to get bigger. There will be more overcrowding, not less, because of this budget.

[Page 535]

Mr. Speaker, with regard to special needs, the SEIRC report that came out about a year and a half ago stated that the system, in order to continue to maintain a credible level of support for special needs children, needed $20 million in the first year alone to be invested. The government's response, it's first full budget that has been able to address this issue, $2.5 million, that's it. Not $20 million, no clear vision on how they will provide the support. Will it be in learning centres? Will it be complete, 100 per cent inclusion? Will it all be resource teachers or will there be school psychologists? Will there be social workers? What is the role of EPAs in that program? We don't know.

This government hasn't laid out a vision on how special needs will be addressed, and let's be clear, it's not just children with intellectual disabilities who are affected by special needs funding, every child in the classroom is affected by the lack of support by this government for special needs. Every child, in some way or other, suffers, their education suffers because this government hasn't provided the support that these students need.

As I noted above, Mr. Speaker, this government has not provided any funding to ensure all children can read by Grade 3. We've talked about the Reading Recovery program, that's something this government did, yet at the same time it created a program and never properly funded it. I remember a couple of years ago, going to schools and many schools are very eager to try Reading Recovery. They thought it was a great program. You go back to many of those schools now, and they've dropped it because funding was limited and the funding is no longer available.

To see those children who were having trouble reading in Grade 1 and Grade 2, and to see them in the Reading Recovery program with one-on-one intense support from a resource teacher and to see them beginning to read in the hopes that by the end of Grade 3 they could read at the level of the other students in their classes, that was a good thing. Yet that program has been shelved by many schools because of a lack of funding.

This government likes to create programs but it doesn't want to provide the funding to ensure those programs are effective, Mr. Speaker. Literacy is tied to so many other issues, health, education, justice. These are all issues tied to literacy. It's so easy and so reasonable to try to address it at the younger ages, and yet this government has done nothing.

Mr. Speaker, our Party has demanded more testing on air and water conditions in our schools. We've introduced a bill, my colleague, the member for Timberlea-Prospect, introduced it last year and with the new session this year has re-introduced it because we think it's important and vital that there be regular testing of air and water quality in our schools. We've seen the problems of lead in the water, of air quality problems, of sick buildings that have caused serious problems for staff and students. And what has this government done? It has provided no new money for testing.

[Page 536]

The Auditor General recently noted that in order to address all of the maintenance problems in our schools, $500 million would have to be put into the system for preventative maintenance. This government talks about rebuilding or renovating a few schools, but nowhere near that $500 million mark. I even think about the schools in my area, like Colby Village Elementary School or Caldwell Road Elementary or Astral Drive Elementary, these are relatively new schools, in good communities, and yet they have many infrastructure problems, many problems with their grounds that could use fixing, that could help make it a lot better for their children in those schools to be able to play in safe and healthy school grounds and in schools. Yet I see no programs through this government to ensure that those schools will get the funding they need to fix problems they have with their grounds and with their schools.

And what about new schools? This government has been proud to trumpet the fact that it is building new schools and it has put more money in the capital budget, but let the people of Nova Scotia be clear, there will be four new schools built in this fiscal year, 2003-04. That's all. Next year, 2004-05, there will be five new schools built. This government knows full well, whether because of emergency situations in Dominion or safety and health issues in Barrington Passage or overcrowding issues in Hammonds Plains or Eastern Passage or Timberlea-Prospect, they know that many more schools need to be built, yet they do not have a clear plan on how that will be done.

There will be plenty of numbers crunched, there will be plenty of announcements made between now and the election, between now and when the cheques go out, announcing new schools, yet there will be no major construction in many of the areas that deserve schools.

I want to talk about post-secondary education as well, Mr. Speaker. The extra $6 million this government announced last week for universities, and let me be clear on this point as well, does not and will not prevent increases in tuition. Dalhousie continues to talk about a 10 per cent increase in tuition, Saint Mary's and St. F.X. talk about a 5 per cent increase in tuition. That $6 million, they take and say thank you very much, we need it, but without guidance from this government, without a commitment to freezing tuition, they will seek tuition increases. As I noted above, a 5 per cent increase in tuition in Nova Scotia will mean $250 more in fees.

This government will have the dubious distinction, Mr. Speaker, of having completed a full term as a government and having not provided any debt relief programs to the students of Nova Scotia. They cut the one that was here, and the one that they announced last week does not start until the Spring of 2004, well after the next election. That means a full term without any debt relief programs, and the debt relief program they're going to provide is only half of what was there before.

[Page 537]

Let's talk about the 2,500 new seats in the community college that the Premier was so proud to announce last week on the waterfront. You know what? Those seats don't start until 2005. Not this year, not next year - the year after. This government has a penchant for trying to make announcements that go well beyond its first mandate, and the $2,100 tuition rate that is now at Nova Scotia Community Colleges, there's no guarantee that won't go up.

This is the state of our education system right now. This government has failed the parents and children of Nova Scotia once again. In many cases, the people of Nova Scotia don't ask much of their government. They want the health care system there when they or their family need it. They want to know that their children are going to get an education to allow them to compete against the best and the brightest of anyone in this country or in the world. That's not asking a lot from a government, a government with a vision, a government with a commitment, a government that's thinking beyond the next election. Yet this government can't do that. It won't do that and I believe Nova Scotians are disappointed as a result.

Municipalities in this province are also being squeezed. I talked about education and the lack of vision - well they seem to have one vision with regard to education, download the cost onto the municipalities in this province. They're downloading another $3.5 million in education costs on the towns and cities and counties of this province. It's a familiar song that this government likes to sing with the municipalities. For the towns and cities that are trying to balance its books - and it's interesting, because I heard today how HRM has already passed its budget. They passed it without any tax increases and yet now they're going to have to go back and see how they're going to be able to bring in, deal with the extra money they have to pay in education because this government isn't consulting, because of its downloading on municipalities has just thrown a monkey wrench in the budget of HRM and every other municipality in this province.

I think what is so galling for these municipalities is, they're asked to pay the bill yet they have no say in the education of the children within their region. They're asked to increase taxes - and let us not forget the old saying: There's only one taxpayer. I think someone in this House said that yesterday in a very brilliant speech and I think it's important to remember that. This government may be able to claim it can balance the books and write cheques with the Finance Minister's name on it, but those same taxpayers are going to be paying money in increased property taxes to cover that $3.5 million this government has downloaded on the municipalities.

This is just another sign of this government trying to pass the bill to municipalities without giving them any say. I also want to touch on - going back to my earlier theme of giving Nova Scotians a break. Yesterday this government tried to sell this budget as a tax cut for Nova Scotians. It specifically said that $68 million will be given back in cheques of $155 to all Nova Scotians who paid personal income tax in any of the last three years. Let us be

[Page 538]

clear that this government in the next year is going to collect $34.5 million more in taxes than it is cutting.

Revenues during the life of this government have increased by half a billion dollars. Let's put that in perspective. When this government came in, I believe the annual revenue of the government was $5.1 billion - this year it's $5.6 billion. This government likes to claim it's fiscally managing things, its tight belt, when in fact we've seen massive increase in spending in this province, and in correlation with that we've also seen massive increases in taxes and user fees.

[12:45 p.m.]

It's Nova Scotian families who are paying for it, Mr. Speaker. This budget of the government is predicting vast increases in gasoline sales and, therefore, that will mean more gasoline taxes collected, that will mean more HST collected. Of course that runs contrary to everything the Minister of Finance has been commenting on with regard to high gas prices mean lower consumption, but we shouldn't let the facts get in the way of what the minister wants to say. As I noted, it also means a tremendous windfall in HST on gasoline and on the motive fuel tax.

That's just the beginning of the increases in money that this government will take directly out of the hands of Nova Scotians and the people of this province. Let me give you a few examples. Our old friend bracket creep. This government, back when it first got elected, decoupled our tax system. It used to be in our tax system that the tax Nova Scotians paid to the Nova Scotia Government was a percentage of the tax they paid federally. So if the federal tax went down, the amount of tax they paid provincially went down. This government decoupled that.

They said we're going to have our own tax system. People thought wow, isn't that great of this government to be forward-thinking. Au contraire, Mr. Speaker, what we saw was a government that, as the federal government reduced its taxes, instead of - as it would have been if we didn't decouple - our taxes going down correspondingly, our taxes have stayed up. It's called bracket creep.

Mr. Speaker, this year alone, this government will be collecting an extra $28 million from bracket creep. How do I know that? Because the budget numbers alone say that. If anyone wants to turn to Page A13 of the budget, you will see that when the government asks how much it's going to lose in tax revenue this year because of the tax cut, it's only a $40 million cut, but the government says they're spending $68 million on these cheques. Where's the extra $28 million coming from? Well, the Department of Finance says, themselves, that it comes from bracket creep. That's $28 million in extra taxes they're collecting.

[Page 539]

How about that HST, $37 million more will be collected in HST this year, not because the HST is going up as a percentage but because this government is making a windfall off the high cost of gasoline, heating oil, increased electricity bills, insurance. These are all things this government is making a windfall from and that's going to be $37 million more out of the pockets of Nova Scotians.

Tobacco tax is up $21 million and, again, very little of that is going to smoking cessation and education programs. The gas tax, $8.5 million more will be collected this year. The Liquor Corporation is expected to bring in an extra $6.5 million. Corporate income taxes are going to go up $37 million. Maybe that's why the Chamber of Commerce is really upset with this budget. Registry of Motor Vehicle fees are going to go up $1.1 million. Apprenticeship training fees are going to go up $326,000. A grand total in this budget, over and above, there will be $75 million in extra taxes.

Mr. Speaker, I want to conclude where I began. This budget is a stunningly cynical document that is aimed squarely at securing enough votes for a second mandate. I don't think I've heard anyone on the government benches try to deny that. It's doing its most in the most crass fashion possible. This is simply "the cheque is in the mail" politics, and this is a budget about missed opportunities, opportunities to truly give Nova Scotians a break, an opportunity to give seniors and nursing homes the kind of break they and thousands of Nova Scotians support and have supported over the last year, a break that would see health care covered for seniors like it's covered for everyone else.

This budget missed the opportunity to truly help our children to learn in overcrowded classrooms, to address the needs of those with behavioural and intellectual disabilities, Mr. Speaker. This budget could have truly helped the children in Nova Scotia reach their full potential through an educational system that is second to none. This budget could have truly helped debt-burdened post-secondary students and their families by freezing tuition, but it didn't. This budget could have helped universities that are trying to find ways of operating without increasing tuition fees, but it didn't. This budget could have helped all those families out there who struggled through this long winter with increased heating oil and electricity costs by removing the HST on home heating fuel, electricity, the absolute necessities of life, and yet this government and this budget failed to do that.

Insurance rates in this province have gone up 65 per cent on average over the last year and this government has no plan for dealing with that. There would be far more money in the hands and the pockets of Nova Scotians if this government had done anything to ensure that Nova Scotians have the lowest and fairest insurance rates in Canada and yet they did nothing, Mr. Speaker. There are simply so many things this government could be doing inside and outside of this budget to create fair deals for Nova Scotian families, to give them the break that they deserve. Throughout this budget debate and in the election to come, Mr. Speaker, creating a fair deal for Nova Scotian families, giving them the break that they deserve, is my Party's goal and we look forward to that debate.

[Page 540]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, it's a pleasure to rise today to speak in reply to the budget presented yesterday. As you will be aware, having recently been named to the Finance Critic role for our Liberal caucus, it is my first opportunity to be able to reply to the budget. It's an opportunity right now that I want to use this occasion certainly to thank my former colleague, the honourable member for Lunenburg West, for the work that he did in helping our caucus in understanding budgets, interpreting budgets and appreciating the impact that the finances of this province have on average Nova Scotian families and better appreciating the whole budgetary process. It certainly has been of great assistance to me and I have to tell you, when I hear the NDP caucus talking about bracket creep, I'm sure that my former colleague, the member for Lunenburg West, is very happy to see that finally they're catching on to what he has been trying to communicate in this House for quite some time.

Mr. Speaker, there's no doubt that being Finance Minister or being responsible for the finances of this province is an onerous task and a very difficult one. One is working with a fixed amount of funds in trying to address the needs and priorities of Nova Scotians. I don't pretend to say that it is an easy task. I don't pretend to say it's a task that I would envy undertaking myself, but I can tell you that, unfortunately, it is my belief that this is a budget of missed opportunities and those are missed opportunities this government has had for the last four years.

As I said, as Finance Critic, I do bring a limited amount of financial experience with me, having instead obtained a law degree and being a member of the Nova Scotia Bar Society, but I can tell you, having grown up in a family of four, having worked, the son of a fisherman, a mother who took care of us and then went on to work as we got older, having grown up in the bait sheds of Isle Madame and on the wharves of Isle Madame and fishing with my father and seeing what the community was going through, having witnessed the collapse of the groundfish fishery in our community and the impact it had, and also being 30 years old and making student loan payments which exceed my mortgage payments, I certainly believe that I am in a position to understand some of the frustrations Nova Scotians have, the impact that this budget is going to have on them, and the concerns that we have as to what this budget is doing to Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, I want to start off today first quoting from the Auditor General's Report in 2001 and in that report the Auditor General said, "I also acknowledge that actions have been directed at addressing the Province's fiscal situation. In the early 1990s Nova Scotia was running huge deficits and the debt was skyrocketing. Actions from successive governments from 1993 on have slowed the pace but the goal of achieving a balance budget have still not been met, and the Province's debt continues to grow. There are other overriding questions which remain to be answered. Is balancing the budget enough? Aren't significant sustained surpluses necessary to really start reducing the debt? Is employing a target-driven budget system adequate when faced with demands for services that cannot be accommodated

[Page 541]

within the targets? How does a government lower the expectations of the public in terms of what can be afforded?"

Mr. Speaker, as has been stated by the Auditor General, much has been done in the last 10 years. In those 10 years, it was the result of actions taken by both Premier Savage and MacLellan who had to wrestle with the legacy that the John Buchanan and Don Cameron Governments left this province. We all know that the current Finance Minister was part of those governments but I, like many others, will acknowledge that that was quite some time ago. The unfortunate thing is that the lessons of that time have not been learned by this minister or by this government.

Mr. Speaker, I will readily admit that this government had made great strides in the last couple of years as had the two previous Liberal Governments. In less partisan moments, the Minister of Finance, himself, has acknowledged that here in this House. But, yesterday, something went horribly wrong. Yesterday, marked a turning point in Nova Scotia history, as the lessons of the past have been thrown aside and the floodgates of spending have again opened.

Mr. Speaker, the borrowing continues to put future generations at risk and an unprecedented tax scheme has been unleashed upon the people of Nova Scotia. We all know that the $155 rebate cheque announced yesterday by the government is nothing more than a cynical attempt to curry favor with Nova Scotian voters. It is a clear indication of the kind of cynical politics that the Premier in 1999 promised that he would not engage in. I will also remind you that this was the same Premier in 1999 who said, I will respect voters. He accused the previous governments of not respecting voters. He accused them of trying to buy their votes at election time and he said, I will not do this.

Well, how ironic, yesterday, Mr. Speaker, when the Premier rose in the House and listed his five commitments to Nova Scotians. Not once was respecting Nova Scotians listed as one of his commitments. Not once was using taxpayers' money to try to curry favor with the electorate at election time listed as one of his commitments to Nova Scotians. How quick the Premier has been able to put aside those commitments in efforts to try to prop up his Party and to try to win re-election in this province. Shame on the Premier for that.

Mr. Speaker, as I said, going back into the past, let's go back to 1989. On May 5, 1989, the honourable Greg Kerr, a minister in the Buchanan Government tabled a very optimistic and glowing budget. I wish to point out some of the Hansard comments from that budget. In that budget the economy was supposedly growing; unemployment was down but there were some signs that that would not continue.

Mr. Speaker, Greg Kerr might have recognized it at this time but by the time he tabled his budget it was probably too late. Even in that budget, Greg Kerr at the time said, "It is only when governments are able to stop the growth in the total debt that they can

[Page 542]

effectively begin to reduce the substantial costs associated with servicing the debt. Every dollar applied to debt servicing is one less dollar available for the delivery of programs and services."

Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, even Mr. Kerr at the time did not heed those words. In fact, the honourable Bill Gillis, a member of the Liberal caucus at this time later said "It is smoke and mirrors, Mr. Speaker, it is sleight-of-hand by this bunch opposite. They have been trying to do it for 10 years or 11 years but the day of reckoning is coming." How true Bill Gillis was that the day of reckoning was coming.

Mr. Speaker, the day of reckoning did come and it hit the Tory Government over the head like a hammer. In 1991, another budget by Mr. Kerr showed that there was a recession. Unemployment was up, revenues were down from transfers, interest rates were around 13 per cent and the ground fishery was on the verge of collapse. The Government of John Buchanan was warned by Bill Gillis that the day of reckoning was coming and he was right.

[1:00 p.m.]

Now, what is the relevance of that to today? Well, today we are back to where we were in 1989. The government is relying on a growing economy instead of sound fiscal management. Borrowing continues unabated. The warning signs are there. Alarm bells should be going off all over Nova Scotia because this government is not ready when the next day of reckoning comes. It's around the corner and it is Nova Scotians who will suffer.

Interest rates are at their lowest level since the depression, the U.S. economy is slowing and the growth in the offshore has not only stalled under this government's watch, most of the major players have packed up and gone home. This is not the time to open up the floodgates of spending, this is not the time to keep borrowing, it is not the time to implement a tax scheme aimed at currying favour with Nova Scotians at election time.

This government is actually bragging because it is spending $250 million on capital. They have justified the borrowing by saying that it is for roads and schools and the Minister of Finance said not only have I borrowed, not only am I still borrowing, I make no apologies for it.

Let's go back to the budget of May 14, 1991. At that time the government borrowed $260 million for capital. Imagine, Mr. Speaker, 10 years ago today the province borrowed $10 million more than the Government of John Hamm for schools, schools that are now falling apart and into the ground. Adjusted to today's dollars, that figure is probably much higher. We can't justify borrowing by simply saying it is an investment. They did the same thing under John Buchanan and look at the situation that we are in here today - a debt of $11.6 billion.

[Page 543]

Every government since 1993 has had to deal with the Buchanan legacy of debt financing in this province. Every government since 1993 has faced debt-servicing charges based on the improper management of our fiscal status of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Make no mistake, as Bill Gillis said then, the day of reckoning is not far off again for us. If interest rates go up, if the economy slows down at all, Nova Scotians are in big trouble. (Interruption) The House Leader for the Tories says if the sky falls, that's another worry. This was the same minister that sat in the Buchanan Government and said, don't worry, don't pay attention to that debt, it's this invisible thing that you don't need to worry about. We're going to build roads, we're going to build schools and don't pay attention to that.

Mr. Speaker, it is us here today in this House, the 52 members of this House who have to try to find a way to deal with when he was sitting as a member of the Buchanan Government saying, don't worry, the sky's not going to fall, this debt is nothing serious. We're the ones who are dealing with that today; that same mentality. I thought the Minister of Finance might have changed their mentality, but the House Leader has made it clear for the government that he still believes that is the way to go, don't worry about the debt, leave it there, our grandchildren will take care of it, future generations will take care of it. Let's just keep spending and spending as much as we need to to get re-elected. That is clearly the message that is coming.

The most alarming part of this budget is not the numbers, it is not even the attempts to curry favour with the voters at election time, but it is the attitude, the sheer attitude of the Minister of Finance and the Premier. It is our belief that their attitudes and their approach toward the finances of this province will ruin Nova Scotia.

The Finance Minister said, yes, we are borrowing and we make no apologies. Who will pay back for his borrowing of today? That minister will no longer be here after the next election due to his own personal decision and he will not be here to be held accountable for decisions made in this budget. He will not be here to explain as to how we're supposed to pay back the money that he is borrowing again this year, the money that he has borrowed for the last four years. He is leaving that for us, for those who may follow us, for our children and for our grandchildren, the very same people the Premier said he would not let down in 1999, and yet yesterday, the day before, the Premier doesn't even want to acknowledge that commitment that he made because he has conveniently forgotten about it and has had to set it aside in order to try to get his government re-elected at whatever cost.

Mr. Speaker, as I said, the Premier's attitude is not only disturbing, I believe most Nova Scotians would say that the actions of this Premier have been a disappointment to Nova Scotians because the Premier elevated himself to such a plateau in 1999, saying - and preaching, I would even say - that the previous governments, all the wrong things they had done, all the bad things they had done, that they were trying to buy votes at election time, that they were using taxpayers' money for politically-motivated advertising, that they were not respecting the voters. He said, trust me, I'm a family physician, I will respect you, I won't

[Page 544]

use your money for politically-motivated advertising, I will not use your taxpayers' money to try to buy votes at election time - I won't do any of that.

He didn't say it once - I've given quotes here in this House in the last week where he said that repeatedly, incessantly, non-stop, front page of his blue book, but now when he reads the front page of the blue book he skims over all those parts. He doesn't read those any more. In fact, how interesting it was to hear him say the other day that a few nights ago he had spent the night actually reading the blue book. I would submit to you, Mr. Speaker, that's probably the first time in four years that he's actually read it - and maybe the first time he ever read it. I can certainly tell you those commitments he made, the principles he set out that his government would follow, he doesn't talk about them anymore, they've all disappeared, and when he's given an opportunity to explain his actions and to say what happened to those commitments, he won't even acknowledge he made them.

Mr. Speaker, in this day and age, in the day of media and the day of the global village and the Internet and radio and TV, you can't get away with that any more as a Premier of this province. You can't get away with hoping that Nova Scotians might not hear about that before you can have an election, and by the time the news filters away from Halifax they might not even be aware of what has happened, of how you have not maintained those promises.

We have cameras in here now. People can watch us instantaneously as we speak, right now, and you can't fool Nova Scotians. For the Premier to say that the ads that they've undertaken in the newspapers and on the radio were not politically-motivated advertising, how cynical to think that any Nova Scotian would actually buy that.

They released the other day, through their advertising, their new tax plan, even before the budget, and the document continually makes reference to the blue book. Now is the blue book a formal document of the House of Assembly or the Government of Nova Scotia? No. The blue book is the bible of the Progressive Conservative Party, yet our taxpayers' dollars were used to advertise this tax platform that continually makes reference to a partisan set of principles, to a book that was established for the Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative Party, yet it's our tax money that went to pay for that.

What's even more alarming is when you read this policy it doesn't actually tell you what the tax cut is, what the amount is, what benefits it will give you, what it will look like; it's just a general principle trying to justify why a tax cut is a good thing. There's nothing more in it than that, yet how many thousands of dollars of Nova Scotians' money was used to pay for that?

During the nurses' strike the government underwent a propaganda campaign to justify what it was doing to our nurses. Who paid for that? Nova Scotians. When the paramedics went on strike, again a propaganda campaign to convince Nova Scotians what they were

[Page 545]

doing. We've seen them talk about a health plan and an education plan, Mr. Speaker, we all know there is no plan. They are feel-good messages and trying to rehash some of the announcements that they've made, but it's not actually a plan. Yet the Premier stands here and now says, well, no, no, no, when the Liberal Government was in office and they tried to explain to Nova Scotians their health investment fund, that was political advertising and that was wrong.

Mr. Speaker, I sat here, you sat here, when the Premier preached to the Liberal Government at the time and said what a terrible thing they were doing. I was here and now I'm still here and I've watched for four years how the Premier has done exactly what he said he would not do and how he continues to do that.

I can tell you right now, Mr. Speaker, in Monday's papers there will be the ads saying what a great thing this budget is, what a wonderful thing this budget is, how the blue book commitments have been kept, and the government and the Premier will again say this is not political advertising.

Mr. Speaker, I have more respect for Nova Scotians than that in thinking that they will not see right through that, that they will not see a government that says we don't have money for this, we don't have money for that, yet we can continue to spend thousands of dollars for this advertising to sell Tory policies. A government shouldn't have to pay taxpayers' money to convince them, to lobby them, that they're providing them with good government. What the Premier should realize, all of his ministers and all of his members, is that if you want to convince Nova Scotians, don't go out and get some PR ads, why don't you try for once providing good government and that will convince them that they are actually getting good government, but this government is not interested in that.

Remember when we tabled that document that has been referred to in many different ways, the Rumsfeld plan and everything else, the plan kept saying, convince Nova Scotians, convince them that we've done well in education, convince them we've done well in health, convince them we've paved roads, convince them we've done well on the offshore. Why? Why would you have to convince them? If you've done such a good job, it should be apparent. You shouldn't have to convince anyone. Your actions should speak for themselves. Yet that document, like this budget, is an admission of failure. It is an admission that we have not been able to do what we said in 1999 and in order for us to be able to even give the appearance that the Premier has kept his word, we must convince Nova Scotians, we must sell, we must spin. There are more spin doctors being hired by this government right now than there are family doctors because you've got to convince Nova Scotians. That is the message.

We have heard the backbenchers stand up one at a time and try to convince Nova Scotians what they have done for health care. We've heard the members get up and talk about numbers in health care which are clearly not numbers which can be backed up. They

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are numbers that have been glossed over. They are numbers to try to send a message out there to convince there are more nurses, convince there are more doctors, convince there are less emergency room closures, but we all know that's not the case. But, again, rather than a government that can stand there and say look at our record and I stand by my record, they say, no, go out there and convince and spin and do everything you can to gloss over the reality to make it look like we've done what we said we would do and that, Mr. Speaker, will be the Premier's greatest failure here in this House of Assembly as a Premier of this province, that rather than letting his actions stand and saying I stand by my record, he has to say I need to go out and convince and sell and spin.

That will be the legacy that the Premier will leave here and I can tell you that is exactly in 1999 what the Premier said he would not do, that he would provide Nova Scotians with good government and that his government's record would stand for itself. What we've seen in the last few years, and what we see in this budget is an admission of failure and it's an admission that we must do something to try to cover up, or I shouldn't say cover up, but to make Nova Scotians forget about our inability to keep the commitments that we have made.

Mr. Speaker, we all remember how the Premier said, on the front page of his blue book, my government will live within its means. The days of mortgaging, of borrowing millions of dollars which is mortgaging our children's future will end. Today I ask, on behalf of our caucus, I ask on behalf of Nova Scotians, when will it end? You said in 1999 it would end. Now, today, all of a sudden the Premier says he doesn't recall saying that, I didn't say that, I said I was going to provide a tax cut, I never said that I wouldn't borrow millions of dollars. I wouldn't mortgage our children's future. In the scrum the other day, Mr. Speaker, the Premier said I don't believe I said that. He looked at his communications assistant, Mr. Batherson, and said, do you remember me saying that? Do you remember that being in the blue book? There are two options. Either Mr. Batherson himself didn't notice - and shame on him if that's the case - or what's more likely, he wanted to avoid embarrassing the Premier by saying, oh, excuse me, Mr. Premier, by the way that was your number one promise that you made. So it's either one or the other, I'm not sure.

But, Mr. Speaker, I can tell you for the Premier now to stand in this House in Question Period and say, I never made those commitments, or when he is asked, he lists off all sorts of other commitments and forgets not adding to the debt, living within his means, respecting voters. Those have all disappeared.

[1:15 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Would the honourable member allow the honourable Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries to make an introduction?

The honourable Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries.

[Page 547]

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member opposite for giving up some of his time so I could make an introduction. I call the members' attention to the gallery opposite. We have two visitors with us. Yvonne Jones is my counterpart in Newfoundland. She has been here, this morning we had some meetings to talk about bioterrorism. I would ask our guests to rise and receive the welcome of the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We certainly welcome the minister here from Newfoundland and hope you enjoy the proceedings and your stay here in Nova Scotia. Thank you to the honourable member for Richmond, you have the floor.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, I certainly want to welcome our guests also. As I said before, the Premier's main platform was that he would not add money to the debt of this province, he would not mortgage his children's or his grandchildren's future. This budget, like all of his other budgets, has as its main plank doing that very thing he said he would not do.

Mr. Speaker, the Premier's cavalier attitude now in selling this budget and saying to pay no attention to the debt, pay no attention to the fact we're adding $118 million, who does the Premier think is going to pay for this? Someone has to pay for it, or do we just, in this province, say, look, if we want better roads, better schools, under the Tory Government we need to continue borrowing money, and we're just going to borrow and borrow, like the House Leader when he was there as a minister of the Buchanan Government, said, this debt, you can't see it, pay no attention to the Opposition. Do you see the debt? They can't hold it in front of them, they can't bring it here to the House. I'm not sure how we would bring $11.8 billion here to the House to show Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, they want us to forget. The Minister of Finance says, oh, we've got a balanced budget, we have to have a surplus of $2.8 million. Yet, you're borrowing $118 million. How, in good conscience, can you stand in this House and try to spin again, or convince Nova Scotians that you've been good financial managers when you've now thrown up your arms and said, we just can't do it, in order for us to keep doing what we want to do, we have to keep growing that debt? It will just keep growing, and hopefully someone else will take care of it someday. Our main priority now is getting re-elected, and we will forget about it until later.

Mr. Speaker, it's like someone who has a mortgage payment who keeps borrowing, and says, well, don't worry about the mortgage, I will pay it later, I will pay it next month, I will pay it next year, I will pay a few years down the road, because I need to buy this thing today. Forget about that, forget about the interest that I'm being charged. Nova Scotians know you can't do that. Nova Scotians know - our parents, our grandparents - that when you borrow money, you have to pay it back. You can't start growing and being able to make

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improvements to your home or to grow your assets until you've paid back your money, or you have a plan or you have it managed.

Not only is this government saying, we're going to continue borrowing on top of the borrowing that's already there, there is still no plan. Now, the other day the Minister of Finance, after the continual pressure we've put on him, said, at the end of April, well after the budget is gone, I will come in with a debt management plan. Mr. Speaker, that plan should be a main plank in the budget. It should be there to say, here's how we're going to do it. Here's how we're going to start knocking down that $11.8 billion, $11.6 billion, not adding to it. Here's how we're going to address it.

I would think that after the meeting, the luncheon that the Minister of Finance had with the Halifax Chamber of Commerce, where the chamber, for those of you who may not have been there, actually started this campaign, the campaign had this watch on it, an old-fashioned banker's watch, I guess, is what it was. It was called the debt watch. They said they were going to continue watching how the government dealt with the overall debt of this province. One would think that from that the minister would say, listen, I have to do something here. I can't go present a budget without a plan for that because I know they're watching me. These people have undertaken a campaign, they have accountants, they have all these people watching who want to see what I'm going to do, what my legacy will be, how they will judge me.

Mr. Speaker, if you want to see that judgment, read today's papers and that judgment is not good. The judgment says, you have failed to get the budget in place. What are they saying? They're saying no management of the debt, no vision, no plan, no time frame. But what do they agree on? They agree that their cheque is in the mail when it comes to the $155 rebate and the cheque will be in just in time for the election.

Mr. Speaker, I believe the Minister of Finance is an honest person. I believe he is someone who is a respectable person. I believe he truly meant when he said that he wanted to leave, I don't know if I would say, legacy but he wanted his time here to be remembered as having done his best or having tried his efforts to keep the finances of this province in place. Well, he was given the opportunity to do that in this budget. He was given the opportunity to send the message out that, no, I am not going to once again say, someone else is going to take care of this problem, I am going to do something today to say, here's what my plan is. He had that opportunity. The luncheon wasn't yesterday, it wasn't the day before, it was last week, where he had the chance and he had the time to be able to put something in place.

Mr. Speaker, it is my position that he has failed in that, that he has again said that someone else will take care of it. It is somebody else's problem down the road, it going to be either his children's, his grandchildren's or somebody else's children, it won't be him. It may not be you, Mr. Speaker, or it may not be me but he is saying, I had the opportunity to

[Page 549]

do something about this and I decided, with an election coming, with my colleagues going back to the polls, let somebody else worry about it another day. Unfortunately, I fear that is the legacy that the minister will leave behind and, unfortunately for him, I would say, I don't think that is a legacy anyone would want to be remembered by.

Keep in mind, Mr. Speaker, the economy and the revenue that this minister has had in the last few years are unprecedented. When we left office in 1999, from the time the Liberal Government was there, from the day John Hamm was first elected until today, the revenues of this province have increased by almost $1 billion. He had almost $1 billion more money to play with than the previous government to invest strategically, to put into programs and to not have to continue the borrowing practice. Yet $1 billion more was not enough. It was not enough for him to get our finances in order. It was not enough to convince him that now, I am going to make a legacy by saying that I am going to do something about the debt. It wasn't enough, we're still borrowing and it is somebody else's problem. Somebody in the future will take care of the decisions made by this government in this budget. Shame on them for that. They did have the opportunity to do something. History will remember them as the government that did have that opportunity.

I would even submit to you that I believe that Nova Scotians would agree that the 1990s, the early 1990s, the mid-1990s were not the greatest of fiscal times to be able to undertake some of the measures taken to get our finances in order. They were very difficult times. Interest rates were not favourable. The economy was not as strong as what it is today. It was extremely difficult, yet, I would even submit that it probably wasn't the easiest thing when the government first got elected. But $1 billion later and they still have to keep borrowing $118 million. The question we ask today is, when will it end? When will the bleeding end? When will the government stop saying, it is somebody else's problem down the road, somebody else will take care of it?

Mr. Speaker, the tax issue, without a doubt, is an important issue, but let's take a look at the $155 kickback. There is no doubt that many Nova Scotians - I know certainly many people in my riding - could use $155. The sad part is all those people back in Richmond County, all those people back throughout the entire province who will not receive these cheques, who will not receive a cent from this. Do you know why? Because the minister says, this goes back to the people who contributed to the economy of this province. If you haven't paid taxes, you haven't contributed - nothing for you. Yet, you've paid higher gas tax - a 2 cent increase.

Mr. Speaker, I'll tell you as I've said, this is my first budget as Finance Critic, that 2 cent increase in the last budget brought them an additional $25 million. Yet, is it only people who pay provincial taxes that contributed that $25 million? Is that the position of the Minister of Finance? Is it only people who have paid provincial income tax that pay the HST and the higher costs of home heating oil? Is it only people who have paid provincial income tax that have seen skyrocketing insurance costs that this government has done absolutely

[Page 550]

nothing to address? Pay no attention to the fact they've received an additional $7 million to $8 million because of the increase in the insurance. No wonder they didn't want to address it - they were reaping a windfall from it.

Yet, all of those people, because they haven't paid provincial income tax, even though they've all contributed to the higher increases, to the user fees, to the added taxation - they don't get anything. My, oh my, won't it be fun for the Tory candidates when they come to the doors of those people who won't be getting the cheque. I can tell you, in rural Nova Scotia, it'll be very interesting. I know in Richmond County, to break down as to who gets a cheque and who doesn't get a cheque and I have no doubt that there's going to be a significant portion of the residents - whether they be in Inverness, Pictou West, Guysborough, Sheet Harbour or in Kings North or in Kings West - there will be a lot of people who won't be getting those cheques. Your government, your Minister of Finance said, they didn't help contribute to the economy. They didn't help pay into the increased user fees, they made no contribution so they don't get anything.

I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, there are many things that maybe we all aspire to be in life, but I can assure you being a Tory candidate going door to door in the next election is not one of them. The member for Preston - I can't wait to see how he is going to justify to the people in his riding when he goes to their door, that have young families and when they ask, sir, why wasn't I good enough to get a cheque? Why does your government not consider me to be good enough or worthy enough to get a cheque? I can't wait to see what justification they give because at the end of the day, that is what they need to face.

Just by looking at their faces right now, the Minister of Finance never told them this, see. He forgot to tell them what the downside was to this program. He only told them all the good things - he said 438,000 Nova Scotians are going to get this. This is great. But, what he did forget to say is what are you going to say to all of the Nova Scotians in your ridings who won't be receiving this? Your Minister of Finance who said they didn't contribute to the economy, they didn't contribute to the growth, they haven't experienced the pain that others have experienced - they don't get anything. That is why I can't wait. I know I'm looking forward to the next campaign and being able to see what Nova Scotians will have to say about that.

The other thing I want to talk about is the tax cut itself. The minister and the Premier keep saying this is our commitment, we've lived up to the commitment, 10 per cent tax cut. They've provided the tables which show what kind of benefits you'd receive, everything else. What he doesn't talk about is what is going to happen to that 10 per cent tax cut in a very short period of time. The Minister of Finance would have you believe this tax cut is going to be something that's going to be in place for years to come and will benefit for years to come. Once again, as with so many other things in this budget, lift the veil, look at what's really there and you see that tax cut is artificial and that it is not going to last very long. I'll tell you why. We all know, even you, Mr. [Deputy] Speaker, when you spoke, you mentioned

[Page 551]

the issue that what the minister failed to do in Nova Scotia, but what they did in our neighbouring Province of New Brunswick is that they have indexed their tax brackets and credits to inflation.

The whole issue of bracket creep that my good former colleague, the member for Lunenburg West, spoke about so many times. He kept talking about it. The minister certainly can't say he wasn't aware of this because how many times did we hear it here in this House. Yet by not doing that, what does it mean? It means that over time the tax cut will be clawed back by bracket creep and the benefits the Minister of Finance tells you you will receive will disappear in a very short period of time.

[1:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, New Brunswick has indexed their tax brackets and credits meaning that fewer low income people have to pay their taxes in New Brunswick. I give you for an example the basic personal amount. In Nova Scotia right now under this Tory plan it will remain at $7,231. In New Brunswick, on the other hand, it is $7,756 for a difference of $525. The other most common refundable tax credit is the spousal amount which here in this province is $6,140. At the same time in New Brunswick, it is $6,568 for a difference of $428. All told, a family in New Brunswick where one spouse works has $953 more in tax credits available to them than here in Nova Scotia. Let me say that again. A family in New Brunswick where one spouse works has $953 more in tax credits available than what we have here in Nova Scotia. So when the Minister of Finance says that we are now in the competitive bracket, that we're right on top of the Atlantic Provinces, it's just not true. It's just not true.

Mr. Speaker, tax brackets in New Brunswick have a higher threshold than Nova Scotia so the minister's claim just does not hold up to scrutiny in regard to his 10 per cent tax cut and its benefits. Today's 10 per cent tax cut in this budget is a temporary measure that will be eroded away because of hidden bracket creep taxes caused by inflation which this government has refused to address. Inflation itself will wipe out the tax cut in short order. Last year alone inflation was close to 5 per cent. The great irony though is that when everyone goes and spends the $155, the vote kickback cheque, it will actually drive inflation higher.

Think about that, Mr. Speaker, the money they're giving to Nova Scotians is going to help get rid and erode that 10 per cent tax cut faster than it would have on its own. Now, that's not the easiest thing to explain to Nova Scotians, but I can assure you we will undertake to do our very best in the days and weeks ahead to make sure Nova Scotians do understand that and understand, as we have said, that 10 per cent is not a tax cut, it is a tax scheme where once again the government wants to convince, wants to lobby, wants to spend the benefits rather than just saying here is what it is going to do, we stand behind the impact it is going to have and we hold our record onto that.

[Page 552]

Mr. Speaker, because the minister has failed to index tax credits and brackets, the inflation caused just by that $155 cheque will actually help increase taxes next year. Imagine how ironic - a government taxes you to death, user fees all over the place, then they send you a cheque of $155 of your own money which is actually going to help increase your taxes that you will pay next year. Only Tory logic would even consider such a plan and, again, I can't wait to see when the Tory candidates go knocking on the doors and Nova Scotians start asking questions and they start saying, what about indexing, what about bracket creep, what about the fact that the Opposition is saying that 10 per cent is going to be eroded in very short order? What's the most - I won't say infuriating - blatant aspect of the $155 cheque at tax time is that it's not $155 coming from the Tory Party asking you to vote for them, it's $155 of hard-earned taxpayers' money that the government is now trying to use to curry favour with the voters of this province.

The Halifax Chamber of Commerce last week chided the minister for failing to deal with the debt. They waited for the budget with high anticipation and yesterday their message basically was shame on the minister and shame on the Premier because, once again, their main priority said you failed to address the debt. Mr. Speaker, I have to tell you, one would think that the members of the Halifax Chamber of Commerce are the ones who stand best to gain from a 10 per cent cut in their personal taxes. Yet even they, those who would probably benefit the most, are saying it's not the right time to give a tax cut, when you have to go out and borrow $118 million.

That is where the Premier and the Minister of Finance - the polling they've done, the spin doctors they've hired, the Tory propaganda people who are in place, have failed them, because at the end of the day, when you have those who stand to benefit most from this saying we do not feel it is responsible, we do not feel you've kept up your commitment to deal with the debt of this province or the finance of this province, that is what they will have to deal with.

The only unfortunate thing is that one could only hope that the chamber of commerce would have as much money to use in the propaganda and in advertising as this government will use, of taxpayers' dollars, to convince them that the tax cut is of benefit to them and will help grow the economy, and pay no attention to the concerns of the chamber of commerce, pay no attention to the concerns of the chartered accountants association, pay no attention to business leaders throughout this province, because we are going to spin it out there and convince you and throw all the propaganda at you that we can to convince you that this is a great thing.

Mr. Speaker, here's the other thing. When you want to talk about Tory fiscal policy for the long term, look in their budget. Now this one's an easy one - some of the stuff wasn't that easy to explain, but look at this one. Look at the line where it says what are your expenses, what is the growth in your expenses, your program spending, everything else, what is the growth going to be for the next fiscal year - they have that number pegged at 4.1 per

[Page 553]

cent. Okay, so it's growing 4.1 per cent. The line that's a little bit important to look at is what is your growth in revenues, because if you have a balanced budget, if you're a good fiscal manager, well, my God, your expenses can't be higher than your revenue but, under the Tory fiscal policy, imagine, your expenses are up 4.1 per cent and your revenue at 3.8 per cent.

Mr. Speaker, I ask you, is that a sustainable fiscal policy for the future of this province, where you're presenting a budget and yet at the end of the day you tell Nova Scotians we will have a surplus, yet, expenses are up 4.12 per cent, revenue only 3.8 per cent? Only a Tory Party and a Tory Government could stand here in this House and try to convince Nova Scotians that this is good fiscal policy for the future management of the finances here in this province. Shame on them. I assure you that that is another issue where I look forward to seeing what the Tory candidates will say when they knock on Nova Scotians' doors.

I would challenge any member - the member for Preston or any of the other members of the House - to stand up and say it is sustainable for a government to predict a 4.1 per cent increase in spending with only 3.8 per cent coming in for revenues. Mr. Speaker, again, as Bill Gillis said quite some years ago, the day of reckoning will soon be upon us. We know that in the long term we are in trouble; if we are not going to be responsible for dealing with this today, somebody else will in the future. You just can't continue to grow that debt ad nauseam without the day coming when somebody says you just can't have any more money.

Mr. Speaker, I would submit to you that that day is soon approaching. That day will come, but the unfortunate part of it is the Minister of Finance probably won't be here, the Premier probably won't be here, members of Cabinet probably won't be here, yet it is the day we will be held responsible for when they had the opportunity to address this and they failed to do so, because getting re-elected was a higher priority to them than dealing with the long-term fiscal issues of this province.

Mr. Speaker, as I said before, the Minister of Finance says he makes no apologies for borrowing and says: "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 future." Perhaps the minister would like to explain to Nova Scotians why there was no money for roads for over a decade - it was because of the spending ways of the John Buchanan Government which prevented successive governments from being able to make the infrastructure investments that we wanted to see.

In fact, back in 1996, after being attacked by former New Brunswick Frank McKenna, where he described the John Buchanan Government as being the worst government in Canada, a former colleague of the Minister of Finance, the honourable Terry Donahoe, said there was nothing wrong with Buchanan debt because it was spent on roads, schools and hospitals. A couple days later Senator Buchanan jumped in to defend his record

[Page 554]

by saying $400 million deficits were okay because we built hospitals and roads from Sydney to Yarmouth and it was the right thing to do.

Mr. Speaker, it wasn't right then and it's certainly not right now. How ironic to see a Minister of Finance, who tries to distinguish himself from the John Buchanan fiscal policies to now stand before us and say, it was right back then, 10 years ago, and I'm saying that it's right again now. Someone else other than Buchanan had to take care of the fiscal legacy he left, and the Minister of Finance is saying somebody else will be left to take care of the mess I'm leaving.

Mr. Speaker, we have hit a danger zone and the government is pretending there is no problem. They want us to believe everything is fine, there is nothing wrong. In 1999, John Hamm said I have a plan for health care. He said I am a family physician, trust me. The Health Department does not need more money. We can cut administrative fat and that will be enough to sustain our health care system. When the Premier was elected, the Health budget was at $1.5 billion. Today, under this budget, the Health Department itself is absorbing over $2 billion and, Mr. Speaker, it's a sad thing, there is no end in sight because there is no plan. All the government is doing is throwing money at the Department of Health and hoping again to convince Nova Scotians that they're doing something for health. I can tell you that even after the money they're putting in - and I should tell you the money that is in here, once again, when you lift the veil, it's money coming from Ottawa, it's not coming from the Minister of Finance. Yet he says that the Government of Nova Scotia is investing $140 million. We know that's not true. It's coming from Ottawa.

Yet, at the end of the day, Mr. Speaker, will it put more doctors in Arichat? Will it put more doctors in L'Ardoise? Will it keep the emergency room at the Strait-Richmond Hospital from closing? Will it stop waiting lists? Will it cut down on people's wait times for surgeries or to get a hospital bed? They haven't been able to do it in four years and I highly doubt that throwing more money at it is going to do it now. There is no plan. The former Minister of Health knows he had no plan. He just hoped each year that if he kept throwing money in, Nova Scotians would buy into the fact that they were trying to do something to fix the system and they have clearly failed on that. I would submit to you that goes right up on the top of the list of the failures of the Premier and this government, the legacy they have left for health care after telling Nova Scotians previous governments were wrong, they had a plan, they could fix it. After adding an additional $0.5 billion in the Department of Health, still no plan and no end in sight.

Mr. Speaker, we fully agree that you need better infrastructure in this province, but we must be able to afford the infrastructure investments we are making. We just can't keep saying, if you want a better road, vote for us, pay no attention to how we're going to pay it, somebody else will take care of it later. That is just unacceptable. Our debt, under this government, will reach $11.6 billion. It is the highest per capita of any other province in Canada. In fact, the Halifax Chamber of Commerce actually broke it down to say that today

[Page 555]

if we were to take that debt and tell Nova Scotians, okay, we're going to break it down between how many people we have here in Nova Scotia and we're going to send you a bill, that bill for each and every Nova Scotian, whether you're a newborn or whether you're a senior, would be approximately $13,000 for every man, woman and child in this province. That's what you would be required to pay.

Think about that, Mr. Speaker, when they send you your cheque for $155.That cheque today, what really should be in there if this government were open with Nova Scotians, would be that they would send you an invoice and tell you that it would cost you $13,000, each and every one of you, to pay down the debt. Yet, we're going to send you a cheque and hope that you don't pay attention to the fact that that $13,000 figure is going up by another $118 million this year.

[1:45 p.m.]

I know my time is getting short. I am looking forward to the estimates debate because like every other Tory budget, it's going to be important for us as Opposition members and Nova Scotians that when it comes to this budget to just lift the veil. I will give you an example - you saw the budget where there were all the user fees and the Premier said the Opposition would have to ferret it out because we're not telling you what we've increased, we're not telling you what we've cut. You've got to go and find it, yet this Premier said it is an open and accountable government.

I listened to the radio this morning and I hear the minister of the Office of Health Promotion saying on our local radio in the Strait, how wonderful it was he now had a budget, a new budget of - I think he said $15 million, new money. Mr. Speaker, it's not new money. He now inherits the Sport and Recreation budget, he picks up budget from the tobacco strategy that was in the Department of Health. I think he's getting in all an additional $600,000 for his department - that's the new money. Guess what that $600,000 is for? It's for his deputy, for staff, equipment, typewriters, phones - not for promoting health in this province. You just have to lift the veil. That's just one example.

I give you the Department of Education - more money in education, lift the veil and you will see where it's coming from, a good portion is coming from municipalities and not from the provincial government. Lift the veil. In the Department of Health, they say $140 million, I believe it's $105 million coming from Ottawa. We all know this government's propensity for trying to take credit for federal money. The former Minister of Community Services would go out and say, look at all the child care spaces I'm funding. Then when he was asked where did you get the money? Oh, well, it's from Ottawa, didn't you hear me say that? He never said that. Nor will they say that the money's coming from Ottawa for health. They will say we invested $140 million. That is what they will say. That's what they will spend, that's what they will do to try to convince government.

[Page 556]

As I wrap up, I want to tell you how disappointed I personally am and I feel that I can speak on this with a level of comfort at what this government has done with the debt relief program for students. I can tell you that I benefited from the debt relief program when I was a student. It certainly helped me at cutting down the amount of money I owed, but when I graduated I still owed $35,000.

The other day I had a constituent come and tell me that he had graduated from St. F. X. and he had just finished a year of teaching and last summer he got married. He married a student coming out of St. F. X. who had a teaching degree. You only have six months after you graduate before they send you the bill to start repaying your loans. They consolidated their loans and guess what, Mr. Speaker? Guess how much their monthly payment is? These people just graduated, they're trying to have a home, they need two cars because they teach at different schools, probably thinking about possibly having a family - $1,200 a month goes to pay student loans. How in God's name are they supposed to run a home, run two vehicles and even consider having a family when $1,200 goes out just for student loans. That number could have been cut down had this government not cut the debt relief program when they did and to now tell those people, by the way, you've graduated now, you will not benefit from this new plan. Too bad, so sad, for the years that you did not get that relief. Shame on this government.

I want to give you another example of missed opportunities. This government suspended the in-home support program under the former Minister of Health in March 2000. This program was a strategic investment which kept seniors and loved ones at home. It kept them out of nursing homes. It kept them out of long-term health facilities. It kept them at home where they wanted to be. At the end of the day, it saved the government money, significant amounts of money, yet this government has frozen it. In March of 2000 the former Minister of Health said, we are reviewing it. How sad to see that in this budget, three long years later, still nothing. Yet they say, we can't afford to pay to fix the problems in long-term care. If only they had made the strategic investments in long-term care, in better housing - not just new housing and low-income housing, but in helping seniors with housing grants. They've indicated that they have renewed the RAP program. but no money has been put in there. Mr. Speaker, when seniors can't fix their homes, when they are in unsafe situations, they turn to nursing homes as a last-ditch effort to have appropriate accommodations. Strategic investments would save this government money, yet this government has clearly proven that it is not interested in doing that.

We saw again the disaster that the former Minister of Health and his department caused with the delay in the construction of a new Richmond Villa. Where the municipality would have paid for it itself and built it itself, they stuck their nose in it and now we're looking at a year to two-year delay before that facility is ready. The legacy that this government is leaving is a legacy which we will remind Nova Scotians, we will remind them of what the $155 cheque is really for. We will remind them of the fact that the tax cut is really artificial. We will remind them of the fact that they had an additional $1 billion in

[Page 557]

revenue to play with than what they had when they were first elected and yet they are still borrowing $118 million. The opportunity was there to say, we will deal with the debt today, not tomorrow for someone else to deal with, that is the legacy the Minister of Finance will leave. That is the legacy the Premier will leave. Generations to come will remember this government for failing the opportunity they had and where they instead said, we want to get re-elected, someone will deal with the problems of the debt tomorrow. That is the legacy Nova Scotians will remember them for years to come. Thank you, Mr. Speaker. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The estimates are referred to the Committee of the Whole House on Supply.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now rise to meet again on Monday at 4:00 p.m. The House will sit from 4:00 p.m. until 10:00 p.m. The order of business following the daily routine will be estimates in the Chamber and in the Red Room. In the Chamber it will be the estimates of the Minister of Health and in the Red Room it will be the estimates of the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries. From thence on it will go in alphabetical order in the Red Room and in this Chamber it will be Education after Health.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The motion is the House hours are from 4:00 p.m. until 10:00 p.m. on Monday evening.

The motion is for the House to adjourn until 4:00 p.m. on Monday.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

We are adjourned until 4:00 p.m. on Monday.

[The House rose at 1:52 p.m.]

[Page 558]

NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)

RESOLUTION NO. 395

By: Mr. Russell MacKinnon (Cape Breton West)

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

Whereas the state of the Catalone-Main-A-Dieu Highway has deteriorated to the point of becoming a major health hazard for motorists travelling this roadway; and

Whereas the Department of Transportation and Public Works' maintenance policy for the Catalone-Main-A-Dieu Highway has proven to be a complete failure on ensuring a safe public roadway; and

Whereas continued expenditures on maintenance is also proving to be a waste of tax dollars;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Transportation and Public Works commit to finishing the repaving program on the Catalone-Main-A-Dieu Highway commenced four years ago.

RESOLUTION NO. 396

By: Mr. Russell MacKinnon (Cape Breton West)

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

Whereas it is nearly four years since Premier John Hamm's Conservatives publicly announced they would pave the Marion Bridge Highway immediately after the 1999 general election; and

Whereas despite overwhelming evidence that shows the Marion Bridge Highway as a high priority for paving, the present government has consistently put politics ahead of good public policy and safety by refusing to pave this vital roadway;

Whereas this highway is in a deplorable state;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Transportation and Public Works include the Marion Bridge Highway in this year's capital paving program.

[Page 559]

RESOLUTION NO. 397

By: Mr. Russell MacKinnon (Cape Breton West)

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

Whereas the Canada Winter Games offers our most talented youth to demonstrate their abilities on the national stage; and

Whereas Team Nova Scotia's Kenzie Sheppard of Howie Centre competed in the men's hockey event at the 2003 Canada Winter Games held in New Brunswick; and

Whereas Kenzie Sheppard excelled during competitions held at the 2003 Canada Winter Games;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize and congratulate Kenzie Sheppard for his personal accomplishment and all those who participated in the 2003 Canada Winter Games.

RESOLUTION NO. 398

By: Mr. Russell MacKinnon (Cape Breton West)

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

Whereas the Canada Winter Games offers our most talented youth to demonstrate their abilities on the national stage; and

Whereas Team Nova Scotia's Ashley Chaisson of Sydney River competed in the speed skating event at the 2003 Canada Winter Games held in New Brunswick; and

Whereas Ashley Chaisson excelled during competitions held at the 2003 Canada Winter Games;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize and congratulate Ashley Chaisson for her personal accomplishment and all those who participated in the 2003 Canada Winter Games.

[Page 560]

RESOLUTION NO. 399

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Dean Dormiedy of Collingwood, Nova Scotia recently competed in a karate tournament in Amherst; and

Whereas Dean, a yellow belt, won gold in Kumite disciplines; and

Whereas Dean trained with the Springhill JA Karate Club under the instruction of 4th Degree Black Belt Dave Wilson;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Dean for working so hard and earning this gold medal, and we wish him continued success in the future.

RESOLUTION NO. 400

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Melinda Ells, Grade 12 student at Advocate District High School, has been nominated for this year's Wendy's Classic Achiever High School Scholarship Awards Program; and

Whereas Wendy's selection process sees one male and one female student in the Maritimes awarded a $6,000 scholarship to assist in furthering their education; and

Whereas Melinda was nominated for her involvement in sports, social activities and volunteering in the school and in the community and has very strong leadership skills;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Melinda Ells on her nomination, and we wish her all the best of luck and continued success in the future.

[Page 561]

RESOLUTION NO. 401

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Robert A. Gogan, a Springhill native now residing in Oxford, Nova Scotia, was presented with the peacekeeping medal in February 2003; and

Whereas Robert Gogan, now retired after 10 years in the Canadian Navy, participated in Operation Sharp Guard in Bosnia in 1994 and has also served in the Persian Gulf; and

Whereas Mr. Gogan gave his time and dedication to serve this country in time of war and peacekeeping;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Robert Gogan for receiving the peacekeeping medal, and we thank him for his dedication and service to the Canadian Navy.

RESOLUTION NO. 402

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas the Oxford Regional High School hosted its annual science fair on March 5, 2003; and

Whereas the intermediate team of Crystal Flemming and Desiree Green placed second in the study category of the annual science fair; and

Whereas Crystal and Desiree will advance on to represent ORHS at the regional science fair in Stellarton on March 19, 2003;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Crystal and Desiree on this accomplishment, and we wish them continued success in the future.

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RESOLUTION NO. 403

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Lawrence Briggs of the Oxford Volunteer Fire Department was honoured with the distinction of being named Fireman of the Year in Oxford on Saturday, November 16, 2002; and

Whereas the members of the Oxford Volunteer Fire Department gathered to hold its annual awards banquet to honour those who have given so much of their time and dedication to the fire department; and

Whereas Lawrence Briggs, who has given 15 years to the Oxford Volunteer Fire Department, was named Fireman of the Year by his peers;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Mr. Lawrence Briggs on this honour, and thank him for giving so much to such a worthy cause. We wish him all the best in the future.

RESOLUTION NO. 404

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Mr. Dean Emmerson of Oxford, Nova Scotia was recently awarded the prestigious Queen's Jubilee Medal; and

Whereas Mr. Emmerson has given 40 years of service by volunteering with the Oxford Fire Department; and

Whereas Mr. Emmerson is well thought of and admired by the members of the Oxford Volunteer Fire Department and the citizens of Oxford and they are proud that Mr. Emmerson received such an honour;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Mr. Dean Emmerson on receiving the Queen's Jubilee Medal, and we thank him for his years of dedication and service to the fire department.

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RESOLUTION NO. 405

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

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

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

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

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

RESOLUTION NO. 406

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas John Emberly of Springhill, Nova Scotia is 1 of 14 Cumberland County students who have been named to the University of New Brunswick's dean's list; and

Whereas John Emberly is 1 of 5 students who received the designation in the faculty of education; and

Whereas John Emberly earned the distinction by maintaining a grade point average of 3.7 or above, which equates to an A;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate John on being named to the University of New Brunswick's dean's list and we wish him continued success in the future.

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RESOLUTION NO. 407

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

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

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

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

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

RESOLUTION NO. 408

By: Mr. Barry Barnet (Sackville-Beaver Bank)

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

Whereas Nova Scotians were proud of the efforts of each of its 284 athletes, coaches, managers, artists and mission staff at the 2003 Canada Winter Games from February 22nd to March 8th in New Brunswick; and

Whereas in addition to excelling in their individual fields, our athletes and team personified the Canada Games motto, Unity Through Sport; and

Whereas Hammonds Plains' Samantha Sabean was one of these great Nova Scotians and also part of the rhythmic gymnastics team that finished eighth overall, the highest ranking the Nova Scotia team has finished in the sport since the 1980s;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Samantha Sabean on her part in Team Nova Scotia's triumphs in the 2003 Canada Winter Games and wish her continued success in future endeavours.

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RESOLUTION NO. 409

By: Mr. Barry Barnet (Sackville-Beaver Bank)

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

Whereas Nova Scotians were proud of the efforts of each of its 284 athletes, coaches, managers, artists and mission staff at the 2003 Canada Winter Games from February 22nd to March 8th in New Brunswick; and

Whereas in addition to excelling in their individual fields, our athletes and team personified the Canada Games motto, Unity Through Sport; and

Whereas Hammonds Plains' Courtney Schriver was one of these great Nova Scotians and also part of the women's hockey team that finished fifth, the highest the Nova Scotia team has finished in the sport at the games;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Courtney Schriver on her part in Team Nova Scotia's triumphs in the 2003 Canada Winter Games and wish her continued success in future endeavours.

RESOLUTION NO. 410

By: Hon. Ronald Russell (Environment and Labour)

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

Whereas the Windsor Hockey Heritage Society will hold their 11th annual Hall of Fame Induction Ceremonies in Windsor at the Royal Canadian Legion tomorrow evening; and

Whereas this year's induction ceremonies will commemorate the birth of the Windsor Royals Hockey Club name with the induction of the 1947 and 1948 Royal teams along with the 1961 Windsor Bantam Royals which produced so many great hockey players; and

Whereas other inductees will include Windsor Hockey greats Randall "Jake" Miller, Ellis "Etch" Sheehy, Robert "Bobby" Dill, the late Everett "Chub" Reading and the late Clifford Shand;

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Therefore be it resolved that MLAs applaud the efforts of the organizing committee of the Windsor Hockey Heritage Society for putting together another great dinner to honour Windsor's rich and historic hockey heritage.

RESOLUTION NO. 411

By: Hon. Ronald Russell (Environment and Labour)

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

Whereas it was on this date in 1878, 125 years ago today that Windsor was officially incorporated as a town; and

Whereas over the past 125 years, the little town of big firsts has accomplished a great deal and is a town known across the world; and

Whereas through the organizational efforts of Her Worship Mayor Anna Allen, members of council and town staff, various celebratory events are being staged in the town this year to commemorate Windsor's 125th birthday;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs in this House of Assembly pay tribute to the Town of Windsor on its 125th birthday and wish them another 125 years of continued success, and also accept the invitation to drop by for a visit.