Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

Les travaux de la Chambre ont repris le
21 septembre 2017

HANSARD 03-14

DEBATES AND PROCEEDINGS

Speaker: Honourable Murray Scott

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

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

Annual subscriptions available from the Office of the Speaker.

Third Session

TUESDAY, APRIL 15, 2003

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS:
Anl. Rept. of the Public Prosecution Service, Hon. J. Muir 966
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 611, Colville, Alex: Gov. Gen's. Award - Congrats.,
Hon. Rodney MacDonald 966
Vote - Affirmative 967
Res. 612, Life Quilt: Creators - Congrats., (by Hon. M. Baker),
Hon. R. Russell 967
Vote - Affirmative 968
Res. 613, Stevens, Mary: Retirement - Congrats., Hon. T. Olive 968
Vote - Affirmative 969
Res. 614, Charest, Jean/Liberal Party: Election - Congrats.,
(by Hon. J. Purves), The Premier 969
Vote - Affirmative 970
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 34, Riverport District Fire Protection Act, Hon. M. Baker 970
No. 35, An Act to Incorporate the Truro Golf Club, Hon. J. Muir 970
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 615, Film & TV Prod. (Cdn.) - Gov't. (Can.): Support - Urge,
Mr. D. Dexter 970
Vote - Affirmative 971
Res. 616, Charest, Jean - Quebec Prem.: Election - Congrats.,
Mr. W. Gaudet 971
Vote - Affirmative 972
Res. 617, Liberal Leader (N.S.): Party Reform - Undertake,
Mr. F. Corbett 972
Res. 618, MacKenzie, Bob: C.B. United Way Campaign - Congrats.,
Mr. Manning MacDonald 972
Vote - Affirmative 973
Res. 619, Gov't. (N.S.) - Nurses: Plan - Opposition Parties Admit,
Mr. F. Chipman 973
Res. 620, Sen. Citizens' Secretariat - Insurance Cos.: Stance -
Congrats., Mr. J. Pye 974
Vote - Affirmative 974
Res. 621, Liberal Party - Canada: Viability - Congrats., Mr. P. MacEwan 975
Res. 622, Piers, Adm. Desmond: Contributions - Recognize,
Mr. J. Chataway 975
Vote - Affirmative 976
Res. 623, Beechville - Baptismal Heritage Site: Efforts - Recognize,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 976
Vote - Affirmative 977
Res. 624, Health - Care System: Anna. Valley - Status, Dr. J. Smith 977
Res. 625, Lakeview/W. Chezzetcook Elem. Sch.: Green School -
Congrats., Mr. W. Dooks 978
Vote - Affirmative 978
Res. 626, Liberal Leader (N.S.): Taxes - Election Promises,
Mr. G. Steele 978
Res. 627, Charest, Jean/Liberals: Victory - Congrats., Mr. D. Wilson 979
Res. 628, Gospel Heirs: Efforts - Applaud, (by Mr. B. Taylor),
Mr. D. Hendsbee 981
Vote - Affirmative 981
Res. 629, Insurance - Gov't. (N.S.): Rates - Freeze, Mr. D. Dexter 982
Res. 630, Gov't. (N.S.): Nova Scotians - Respect, Mr. M. Samson 982
Res. 631, St. John the Baptist Anglican Church (River John):
Web Site Proj. - Congrats., Mrs. M. Baillie 983
Vote - Affirmative 984
Res. 632, New Waterford Boxing Club - Reinvigoration: Participants -
Congrats., Mr. F. Corbett 984
Vote - Affirmative 985
Res. 633, Hamm Tories - Quebec Election: Example - Remember,
Mr. M. Samson 985
Res. 634, Sports - Curling: Jessie Acker Rink - Harris Cup Congrats.,
Hon. J. Muir 985
Vote - Affirmative 986
Res. 635, Hamm Gov't.: Debt Relief Prog. - Enrich, Mr. W. Estabrooks 986
Res. 636, DeYoung, Clarence: Seton Award - Congrats., Dr. J. Smith 987
Vote - Affirmative 987
Res. 637, Lion Squadron (427) - Anniv. Presentation: Creators -
Congrats., Hon. A. MacIsaac 987
Vote - Affirmative 988
Res. 638, Sacca, Sister Cecelia: Seton Award - Congrats., Mr. D. Wilson 988
Vote - Affirmative 989
Res. 639, Avonside Motel - Crime: Response - Commend,
(by Hon. P. Christie), Hon. R. Russell 989
Vote - Affirmative 990
Res. 640, Bedford South - After Sch. Prog.: SPCA Donation - Applaud,
Hon. P. Christie 990
Vote - Affirmative 991
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 99, Health - Bureaucracy: Increase - Explain, Mr. D. Dexter 993
No. 100, Health - Acute Care: Anna. Valley - Backlog Explain,
Dr. J. Smith 994
No. 101, Health - Bureaucracy: Costs - Justify, Mr. D. Dexter 995
No. 102, Fin.: Tax Cuts - Details, Mr. M. Samson 996
No. 103, Nat. Res.: Non-Resident Ownership - Address,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 998
No. 104, Nat. Res. - Non-Resident Ownership: Nova Scotians -
Effects, Mr. W. Estabrooks 1000
No. 105, Educ. - Dominion Sch.: Gov't. (N.S.) - Accountability,
Mr. D. Wilson 1001
No. 106, Educ. - Tuition Fees: Freeze - Fund, Mr. F. Corbett 1002
No. 107, Insurance - Hikes: Boys & Girls Clubs - Protect, Mr. D. Dexter 1003
No. 108, Energy: Offshore Exploration - Regulatory Process,
Mr. Manning MacDonald 1004
No. 109, Environ. - Whitney Pier: Coal Stockpiling - Consult,
Mr. F. Corbett 1006
No. 110, Serv. N.S. & Mun. Rel. - Capital Transport. Comm.: HRM -
Discussions, Mr. R. MacKinnon 1007
No. 111, Insurance: Consumer Advocate - Independence, Mr. G. Steele 1008
No. 112, Econ. Dev.: CBRM Plan - Priority, Mr. R. MacKinnon 1010
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
GOVERNMENT MOTIONS:
ON MOTION FOR SUPPLY:
Mr. H. Epstein 1011
Mr. R. MacKinnon 1015
Mr. B. Taylor 1019
HOUSE RESOLVED INTO CWH ON SUPPLY AT 2:30 P.M. 1023
HOUSE RECONVENED AT 6:00 P.M. 1023
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Rural Roads: Gov't. (N.S.) - Abandonment:
Mr. P. MacEwan 1023
Mr. R. Hurlburt 1025
Mr. W. Estabrooks 1027
Mr. B. Boudreau 1029
HOUSE RESOLVED INTO CWH ON SUPPLY AT 6:29 P.M. 1031
HOUSE RECONVENED AT 7:01 P.M. 1031
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 3, Personal Property Security Act 1031
Hon. P. Christie 1032
Mr. H. Epstein 1032
Mr. W. Gaudet 1034
Hon. P. Christie 1035
Vote - Affirmative 1035
No. 9, Municipal Law Amendment (2003) Act 1035
Hon. P. Christie 1036
Mr. H. Epstein 1036
Adjourned debate 1045
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Wed., Apr. 16th at 2:00 p.m. 1046
NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3):
Res. 641, Nash, Les: Golden Jubilee Medal - Congrats., The Speaker 1047
Res. 642, Jeffers, Marcus: Oxford Vol. FD 15-Yr. Service Bar -
Congrats., The Speaker 1047
Res. 643, Martin, Andy: Oxford Vol. FD 15-Yr. Service Bar -
Congrats., The Speaker 1048
Res. 644, Harrison, Chelsey: Oxford Vol. FD 10-Yr. Service Bar -
Congrats., The Speaker 1048
Res. 645, Briggs, Lawrence: Oxford Vol. FD 15-Yr. Service Bar -
Congrats., The Speaker 1049
Res. 646, Black, Howard: Oxford Vol. FD 20-Yr. Service Bay -
Congrats., The Speaker 1049
Res. 647, Oxford Golden Bears: Boys Basketball Team - Congrats.,
The Speaker 1050
Res. 648, MacNutt, Evan: Chief Scout's Award - Congrats.,^
Mr. M. Parent 1050
Res. 649, Sheffield, Nathan: Chief Scout's Award - Congrats.,
Mr. M. Parent 1051
Res. 650, DeYoung, Clarence: Seton Award - Congrats., Mr. B. Barnet 1051

[Page 965]

HALIFAX, TUESDAY, APRIL 15, 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. Before we begin the daily routine, the subject for this evening's late debate was submitted by the honourable member for Clare:

Therefore be it resolved that the Tory Government has abandoned Nova Scotia's rural roads.

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

The honourable Minister of Natural Resources on an introduction.

HON. TIMOTHY OLIVE: Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to introduce to the House, to you and all members of the House, two guests from EMO Manitoba. I would like to recognize Mike Lester who is the Executive Director of EMO Nova Scotia who has with him today Paul Anderson, Assistant Director of EMO Manitoba, and Murray Brown, Recovery Coordinator from EMO Manitoba.

965

[Page 966]

Mr. Speaker, following the recent flooding in Nova Scotia, these two gentlemen from Manitoba kindly offered to come to Nova Scotia to assist EMO and our organization to get the Disaster Financial Assistance Program up and running. They have had a lot of experience in the Manitoba, Red River area, which caused, specifically in 1997, extensive damage to roads, bridges and homes. Both these gentlemen experienced first-hand the complexities of dealing with the aftermath of a major flood.

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Government of Nova Scotia, I would like to thank Mr. Brown and Mr. Anderson for coming to Nova Scotia to provide their input and their expertise and I would ask all members of the House to show them a warm welcome. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We certainly welcome our guests to the province and to Province House today. We hope you enjoy the proceedings.

We will begin the daily routine.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table the Annual Report of the Public Prosecution Service for the period April 1, 2001 to March 31, 2002.

MR. SPEAKER: The report is tabled.

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Tourism and Culture.

RESOLUTION NO. 611

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

Whereas organized by the Canada Council for the Arts, the fourth annual Governor General's Awards in Visual and Media Arts was recently held; and

[Page 967]

Whereas Nova Scotian artist Alex Colville has received one of these prestigious $15,000 prizes for his distinguished achievements during his lifelong career in the arts; and

Whereas now in his early 80s and continuing with his artistic career, Mr. Colville's work is revered throughout Canada, with some of his creations on display in the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Alex Colville on receiving the Governor General's Award in Visual and Media Arts and thank him for his past and continuing contribution to the artistic community in Nova Scotia and beyond.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Transportation and Public Works.

RESOLUTION NO. 612

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the honourable Minister of Environment and Labour, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas Monday, April 14, 2003, in Toronto, a mural-size quilt crafted by a Nova Scotian artist, Laurie Swim, will be unveiled at the Industrial Accident Prevention Association Conference; and

Whereas the Life Quilt bears the faces and names of 100 young Canadians who died on the job, including four young Nova Scotians: Wayne Hirtle of Northfield, Queens County; Jamie LaPierre of Lower Sackville; Yancy Meyer of Antigonish; and Clarence Ward of Auburn, Kings County; and

Whereas the Day of Mourning, which is held on April 28th each year, commemorates all workers who have died on the job in the past year;

[Page 968]

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House applaud all those who are involved in the creation of the Life Quilt and efforts to raise awareness of the importance of workplace safety in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Natural Resources.

HON. TIMOTHY OLIVE: Mr. Speaker, I beg the indulgence of the House as a bit of a preamble to my resolution, if I may. The Nova Scotia Civil Service is privileged to have many individuals who have given a number of years to the province and to the people of Nova Scotia. Today in our gallery we have one such civil servant, whose dedication to the people of Nova Scotia and to the various ministries she has worked in, is coming to an end after 35 years. I will read a resolution and I would like to recognize Mary Stevens, who is retiring after 35 years with the Government of Nova Scotia. I would ask her to rise while I read the resolution and, perhaps following that, we could give the appropriate appreciation of the House.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Natural Resources.

RESOLUTION NO. 613

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

Whereas Mary Stevens, secretary for the Minister of Natural Resources, will be retiring this month with almost 35 years of service with the Government of Nova Scotia; and

Whereas Mary has worked in several provincial government departments, including the Civil Service Commission, the Department of Lands and Forests, the Department of Tourism, and most recently the Department of Natural Resources; and

[Page 969]

Whereas Mary has made a significant contribution to the Province of Nova Scotia throughout her career through her continued hard work and dedication and, on behalf of all MLAs, I want to thank Mary for her commitment to the Department of Natural Resources since 1994;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House congratulate Mary Stevens on her retirement, after many years of employment with the government, and wish her many enjoyable years to come.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried. (Standing Ovation)

Certainly congratulations to Mary on behalf of all the members. We wish you many years of health and happiness in your retirement.

The honourable Minister of Health.

RESOLUTION NO. 614

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

Whereas Jean Charest led the Liberal Party to victory in last night's election in Quebec; and

Whereas the Quebec Liberal Party is a strong supporter of federalism; and

Whereas Jean Charest is the former Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this Legislature congratulate the Quebec Liberal Party and its Leader, Jean Charest, and wish them all success as they assume government.

[Page 970]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

Bill No. 34 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 94 of the Acts of 1958. The Riverport District Fire Protection Act. (Hon. Michael Baker.)

Bill No. 35 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 234 of the Acts of 1906. An Act to Incorporate the Truro Golf Club. (Hon. James Muir.)

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

[12:15 p.m.]

NOTICES OF MOTION

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

RESOLUTION NO. 615

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

Whereas the quality of film and television production was confirmed this Spring when Salter Street Films of Halifax won the Oscar for best documentary; and

Whereas support from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and the Canadian Television Fund has been fundamental to the establishment of a world-class film and television industry in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas the federal government has slashed its support for the Canadian Television Fund by $25 million and cut other support for Canadian producers while offering more money to foreign producers;

[Page 971]

Therefore be it resolved that this House urge the federal government to maintain and increase its financial support for Canadian film and television production instead of undercutting the industry which is vital to Canada's economy and our culture in the 21st Century.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Leader in the House of the Liberal Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 616

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

Whereas yesterday there was a provincial election in Canada's largest geographical province, Quebec; and

Whereas the Liberal Leader, Jean Charest, led his Party to an overwhelming majority victory in his province; and

Whereas this election victory by Jean Charest signifies the first federalist government in Quebec since 1989;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Liberal Leader Jean Charest on becoming Quebec's 29th Premier.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 972]

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

RESOLUTION NO. 617

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

Whereas Liberal Leader Danny Graham declared last October that he wanted to introduce real reform to politics and his Party missed opportunities in the past to engage in serious political reform; and

Whereas the Liberal member for Clare declared yesterday that "If anyone believes politics in Nova Scotia is a clean game, above the table, have I got news for them."; and

Whereas the Liberal member for Clare sees no problem with personal slurs and personal attacks as a way of doing politics;

Therefore be it resolved that the Third Party Leader had better work on political reform in his own Party before he claims he can engage in serious political reform on the provincial level.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton South.

RESOLUTION NO. 618

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

Whereas Bob MacKenzie has recently chaired the United Way's Share As You Can campaign on Cape Breton Island in an effort to raise funds for much-needed programs; and

Whereas this campaign has surpassed the expectations of raising $500,000 to improve the life of many Cape Bretoners through various agencies that work with the United Way; and

[Page 973]

Whereas in addition to the commitment made by Mr. MacKenzie, many individuals have donated not only money, but their time and effort to make this campaign a tremendous success;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Legislature congratulate Bob MacKenzie and the United Way for the success of the Share As You Can campaign and wish them every success in future fundraising activities.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 619

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

Whereas the member for Dartmouth East was part of the Liberal Government in 1995 when it moved forward and cut nursing programs across the province without any plan whatsoever as to how future shortages would be handled; and

Whereas in an October 26, 2001 news release, the Registered Nurses Association of Nova Scotia stated that "serious attention has to be placed on long-term comprehensive strategies such as those introduced by the government earlier this year"; and

Whereas a news release issued by the Registered Nurses Association in November 2002 clearly showed that 5,091 nurses were employed full-time, 214 more than in 2001;

Therefore be it resolved that instead of sidestepping the real facts, both Opposition Parties admit that our government has a plan, that it is working and is only going to keep getting better.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 974]

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

RESOLUTION NO. 620

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

Whereas the Nova Scotia Senior Citizens' Secretariat established the Nova Scotia Seniors' Safe Driving Committee in 1995; and

Whereas the committee represents the interests and protects driving privileges of more than 83,000 citizens of this province over the age of 65 who hold a driver's licence; and

Whereas the committee has spent the past year raising the issues of discrimination against seniors by auto insurers who have hit them with a dramatic rate increase, medical certificates of fitness and the threat of imposing no-fault insurance;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate and support the Nova Scotia Seniors' Safe Driving Committee of the Nova Scotia Senior Citizens' Secretariat for their stand against the discriminatory treatment of seniors by auto insurance companies.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

[Page 975]

RESOLUTION NO. 621

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

Attendu que la victoire du parti Libéral du Québec, c'est magnifique; et

Attendu que le nouveau premier ministre du Québec, M. Jean Charest, c'est l'ancien chef du parti Conservateur du Canada; et

Attendu que cette situation démontre qu'un mauvais Conservateur peut devenir un bon Liberal;

Qu'il soit résolu que la victoire Liberal au Québec démontre a tous les gens que le parti Liberal est très vivant au Canada. Vive le Québec! Vive le Canada!

To translate that to English, it means:

Whereas the victory of the Liberal Party in Quebec is magnificent; and

Whereas the new Prime Minister of Quebec, M. Jean Charest, is the former Leader of the PC Party of Canada; and

Whereas this situation demonstrates how a bad Tory can become a good Liberal;

Therefore be it resolved that the Liberal victory in Quebec demonstrates to all that the Liberal Party is very alive in Canada. Long live Quebec! Long live Canada!

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Chester-St. Margaret's.

RESOLUTION NO. 622

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

Whereas the South Shore Naval Association will officially change its name to the Admiral Desmond Piers Naval Association on April 25th in honour of the admiral's contributions to Canada and the Allies during World War II; and

[Page 976]

Whereas Admiral Piers first joined the Royal Canadian Navy in 1932 and spent 64 months at sea during the war and his naval career of 35 years brought him many war and peacetime decorations, medals and awards, including the Distinguished Service Cross and the Order of Canada; and

Whereas the 89-year-old retired admiral now lives in Chester with his wife of 62 years, Janet Piers, who married the admiral in the first naval wedding aboard ship during the war;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House join me in recognizing the many brave and honourable contributions of Admiral Desmond Piers, one of our great naval leaders from World War II and in peacetime.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 623

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

Whereas the historic community of Beechville continues to preserve its rich heritage; and

Whereas the Beechville Baptist Church has played an integral role in the history and development of this community; and

Whereas Beechville wants to establish the land adjacent to the Baptist church as an historic baptismal heritage site;

[Page 977]

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly recognize the community of Beechville for its effort to establish the land adjacent to the Beechville Baptist Church as a heritage property.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

RESOLUTION NO. 624

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

Whereas today the Premier announced with great fanfare that he is investing $1 million into studying the population and the physical infrastructure contained in the Annapolis Valley Regional Health Authority; and

Whereas the Premier is only one year late, as the people of the Annapolis Valley were pleading with government to do this last year; and

Whereas this study is merely a way for the Tories to say they are doing something in health care in the Valley when the reality is, they were the creators of the problems to begin with;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize that voters in the Valley won't be fooled with the studies when they know full well that the Tories are to blame for the state of the unstable health care system in the Annapolis Valley.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 978]

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Eastern Shore.

RESOLUTION NO. 625

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

Whereas Lakeview/West Chezzetcook Elementary School recently celebrated becoming a "green school"; and

Whereas the school's Green Team has completed the 100 ecology action and environmental awareness projects it needed to earn the honour of being a "green school"; and

Whereas members of the Green Team are Jessica Harnish, Katie Higney, Kale Levy, Jordan Pirri, Jessica Romo and Zackary Weeks;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Lakeview/West Chezzetcook Elementary School on becoming a "green school" and especially thank the Green Team members for their commitment to the environment.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

RESOLUTION NO. 626

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

[Page 979]

Whereas in 1993 the Liberal Government that had been elected with a promise of no new taxes brought down a budget that imposed the single biggest set of tax increases in Nova Scotia's history; and

Whereas in 1996, after more fee increases and a 3 per cent wage rollback, that same Liberal Government imposed the unfair HST, shifting a significant tax burden onto Nova Scotia families; and

Whereas the new Liberal Leader is promising that if elected he will increase income taxes and not reduce any other taxes;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the Liberal Leader for at least being honest enough to admit that if the Liberals are ever elected they will crank taxes up sky high just like they did the last time they were in power.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Glace Bay.

MR. DAVID WILSON: He has more guts than Darrell will ever have, Mr. Speaker. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Glace Bay.

RESOLUTION NO. 627

MR. DAVID WILSON: Very noisy. (Interruptions)

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

Whereas 44-year-old Jean Charest, Leader of the Quebec Liberals, led his Party to victory yesterday; and

[Page 980]

Whereas not only has Canada seen success on the golf course with Mike Weir's Masters victory but now Quebec has opted to look towards the future by voting in a federalist Liberal Government; and

Whereas the Liberal campaign hit its stride last week and developed a steamroller momentum over the sitting government;

Therefore be it resolved that all members acknowledge this overwhelming victory and congratulate Jean Charest and the Quebec Liberals.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

Well, if somebody is going to say no, say it loud enough so the Chair can hear because there's a lot of noise in the room.

AN HON. MEMBER: Brooke Taylor said no.

MR. SPEAKER: Well, speak up and say no because I'm tired (Interruptions) Listen. Order, please. There's so much noise in the room, nobody can hear what's being said at all. If somebody's going to say no, stand up and say no. There's so much noise in here, I can't hear what's being said.

There has been a request for waiver.

Is it agreed?

[I hear a No.]

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

[Page 981]

RESOLUTION NO. 628

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the honourable member for Preston, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas one of Canada's premier gospel groups, North Preston's Gospel Heirs, have touched hearts and souls across Canada and the world for nearly three decades with a mix of traditional gospel music and rhythm and blues which produced a sound uniquely their own; and

Whereas since 1976, this eight-piece group reached into the history of Black North Americans, from slavery to freedom, to sing spirituals reflecting struggle, hope and triumph alike; and

Whereas having amassed an amazing collection of recordings and reviews and with countless awards to their credit, their next concert, Shout For Joy, is the Gospel Heirs' farewell performance;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House offer resounding applause for the Gospel Heirs, known for their impact and inspiration, musicians of incredible talent and heart who will be forever remembered as North Preston's ambassadors of peace, hope, and joy.

[12:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

[Page 982]

RESOLUTION NO. 629

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

Whereas a recent survey of 25 insurance companies by the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board indicates that 64 per cent of them are making money; and

Whereas the insurance industry claims insurance rates are skyrocketing because they can't make money at prevailing rates, and in the process are beggaring consumers; and

Whereas the contradiction between the survey and the insurance industry claims would lead a prudent government to freeze rates until the issue is clarified;

Therefore be it resolved that this government act immediately to freeze auto insurance rates at the very least until the consumer advocate completes his investigation into the causes and cures of high auto insurance rates.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Richmond.

RESOLUTION NO. 630

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

Whereas Tory political staffers have been showing up in droves at the Legislature recently, confirming that an election is just around the corner; and

Whereas the Premier's chief of staff and principal assistant have been busy spinning the media on the most-recent Tory propaganda to try to secure Nova Scotians' votes; and

[Page 983]

Whereas this approach is in line with the Tories' Rumsfeld plan that states it is more important that the Tories convince Nova Scotians that the government is doing a good job running the province, instead of proving it to them;

Therefore be it resolved that it is beyond time that this Tory Government began to respect Nova Scotians instead of insulting them with blatant Tory pre-election spin-doctoring and propaganda in an effort to secure their votes.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Pictou West.

RESOLUTION NO. 631

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

Whereas Dana Jefferson's senior class at the St. John the Baptist Anglican Sunday School in River John is using the World Wide Web to put their faith on the map; and

Whereas the local teens are creating a Web site for their congregation with the help of the Community Access Program site trainer, Amy Sutherland, and the local branch of the Pictou-Antigonish Regional Library; and

Whereas each of the class's seven members are responsible for a page of the site, which includes information on the church's history and Sunday school events, a photo gallery and a guest book;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate River John's St. John the Baptist Anglican Church on this worthwhile project, thank the CAP site and the library for their assistance, and wish all those participating in this endeavour continued success.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 984]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

RESOLUTION NO. 632

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

Whereas the community of New Waterford has produced many fine amateur and professional boxers such as Red MacPherson, Les Gillis and Tommy Spencer, just to name but a few; and

Whereas the New Waterford Boxing Club has been rejuvenated under the auspices of the New Waterford Family/Youth Resource Centre, with trainers Sonny Corbett and Wendell Fraser; and

Whereas the New Waterford Boxing Club looks forward to helping young men and women develop discipline, self-control and self-esteem;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the New Waterford Family/Youth Resource Centre, and trainers Sonny Corbett and Wendell Fraser, for rejuvenating the New Waterford Boxing Club, and wish it every success in building on New Waterford's fabled boxing history.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

[Page 985]

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Richmond.

RESOLUTION NO. 633

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

Whereas last night, Jean Charest led the Liberal Party to a commanding majority government, as Quebec voters ousted the separatist Government of Bernard Landry; and

Whereas, much like the Hamm Tories, the Bernard Landry Government approach to solving social issues was through the use of glossy reports and studies rather than concrete action; and

Whereas Quebec voters should be applauded for turfing a government which was clearly out of tune with the priorities and needs of the citizens of Quebec;

Therefore be it resolved that the Hamm Tories be reminded of the Quebec example as they defend their rum bottle budget, continue to mortgage the future of our children by adding to the debt, and provide a smoke-and-mirrors tax scheme as they continue to be out of touch with Nova Scotians' priorities.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Justice.

RESOLUTION NO. 634

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

Whereas the rink of Jessie Acker, lead; Libby Langille, second; Sue Brenton, mate; and Judy Burgess, skip, won the Harris Cup competition at the Truro Curling Club; and

Whereas this rink exemplified the essence of club curling - competitiveness, fellowship and fun; and

Whereas the Harris Cup competition is a high note on which to end a very successful 2002-03 season for the Burgess rink;

[Page 986]

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Jessie Acker, Libby Langille, Sue Brenton and Judy Burgess on winning the Harris Cup and wish them continued competitive success, fun and fellowship in the 2003-04 curling season.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 635

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

Whereas the Millennium Scholarship Foundation's recent report on student debt loads found that 70 per cent of post-secondary students finance their education through debt and concludes that students aren't making ends meet; and

Whereas the report also detailed that 44 per cent of students have government loans, 30 per cent draw from private sources, and both groups draw an average of $600 per month in loans; and

Whereas the Millennium Scholarship Foundation said yesterday that the Hamm Government's $5.1 million student debt relief program is far less than needed, is not funded as well as its predecessor program, and will benefit no one until 2004;

Therefore be it resolved that the Hamm Government enrich its inadequate student debt relief program, make it available now, and invest in other measures such as a tuition freeze to help Nova Scotia's post-secondary students.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

[Page 987]

RESOLUTION NO. 636

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

Whereas Clarence DeYoung will be honoured with the prestigious Elizabeth Ann Seton Award at a dinner celebration on May 21, 2003; and

Whereas Mr. Clarence DeYoung has made volunteering his full-time career, dedicating his time to the Metro Food Bank Society as a volunteer and as past president, as President of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, and works to distribute home and school kits throughout developing nations; and

Whereas the commitment of Mr. Clarence DeYoung has been demonstrated not only here in the Halifax Regional Municipality, but through global efforts and is to be commended;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this Legislature congratulate Clarence DeYoung for receiving the Elizabeth Ann Seton Award, and commend Mr. DeYoung for his commitment to his community and to the impact he has in the lives of those he serves, not only in Nova Scotia, but globally.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Education.

RESOLUTION NO. 637

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

[Page 988]

Whereas a St. F.X. University project was the focus of Lieutenant Colonel E. Haskings' presentation at the 60th Anniversary of the 427 Lion Squadron, the Canadian 6 Group of the Royal Air Force; and

Whereas four students - Rene Malenfant, Nathan Smith, Andrew Goodmanson and John MacDonald - created a Web site on the World War II bomber squadron as a class project, detailing the detachment's history which the lieutenant colonel found while researching on the Internet; and

Whereas at the anniversary presentation, a veteran of the 427 Lion Squadron, Al d'Eon, officially received his Distinguished Flying Cross, making the Web site even more unique;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Rene Malenfant, Nathan Smith, Andrew Goodmanson and John MacDonald on creating this memorable Web site honouring the members of the 427 Lion Squadron.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Glace Bay.

RESOLUTION NO. 638

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

Whereas Sister Cecelia Sacca from Sheet Harbour will be honoured with the Elizabeth Ann Seton Award at a dinner celebration on May 21, 2003; and

Whereas Sister Sacca, who is presently the parish administrator in St. Peters Parish in Sheet Harbour, is being recognized for her contributions and work with seniors, not only in Sheet Harbour but in Mount Uniacke, where she has assisted parishioners with many tasks over her career; and

[Page 989]

Whereas the Sisters of Charity is an international organization of over 650 members which provides community support;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Sister Sacca for receiving the Elizabeth Ann Seton Award and commend her for her community work.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations.

RESOLUTION NO. 639

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

Whereas early yesterday afternoon, Windsor RCMP were called to a violent crime at the Avonside Motel in Falmouth, just across the bridge from Windsor; and

Whereas upon arrival they discovered two adults beaten and robbed as well as having their car stolen which, fortunately, had a global positioning tracking system installed in it; and

Whereas RCMP, with the assistance of staff from Stephens & Yeaton's Chev-Olds, quickly discovered the stolen vehicle travelling in northern Nova Scotia where they almost immediately had it apprehended and a suspect taken into custody;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs in this Legislature commend members of the Windsor RCMP for their quick and decisive apprehension, applaud the efforts of president Greg Boyd and his staff at Stephens & Yeaton's Chev-Olds in Windsor for their assistance in helping the RCMP, and wish the victims of this crime well as they recover from their traumatic experience.

[Page 990]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

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

Whereas rum costs $32.40 for a 40-ouncer; and

Whereas at this price one cannot buy five 40-ouncers with the government's planned $155 pre-election payment; and

Whereas this deficiency may greatly disappoint those in the rum-drinking community;

Therefore be it resolved that the government's pre-election sweetener should be increased to $162 so that the rum drinkers can get a full fill-up prior to being driven to the polls on election day.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would like to review that resolution.

The honourable Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations.

RESOLUTION NO. 640

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

Whereas students in the Bedford South after-school program wanted to thank the SPCA for the help it gave to a duck found living on the school property; and

Whereas at the start of the school year the students saved all their nickels and dimes to make a donation to the SPCA; and

[Page 991]

Whereas these children gathered together $75 along with cat and dog food as a gift of thanks to the charity;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House applaud the students in the Bedford South after-school program for showing their gratitude and commend their leaders, Kate Lawrence and Patricia Branson, for encouraging their students' thoughtfulness.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova's resolution is out of order.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, have we concluded resolutions?

MR. SPEAKER: Any further resolutions?

MR. HOLM: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, I'm rising on a point of order.

Mr. Speaker, as you know, the House sits not all that frequently during the year. There are only so many opportunities that members of the Opposition have to place questions to this government and to hold them accountable. Again today the Premier is absent and today . . .

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid knows full well it's not appropriate to recognize the presence or absence (Interruptions) There's a way to do it.

Order, please. The rules say that you do not recognize the presence or absence of a member. Those are the rules.

MR. HOLM: I will rephrase it, Mr. Speaker.

[Page 992]

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I cannot recognize the presence of the Premier at the moment and we do know (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. If the honourable member doesn't adhere to the rules, I will ask him to take his place and I will proceed to the next order of business.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I think that the point is there, I think that everybody understands what I'm trying to get at. Our office was not notified that the Premier would be absent from the House today. We did see, for example, a notice that the Premier was going to be in the Valley earlier in the day to make a public announcement, undoubtedly for a backdrop as part of a pre-election campaign announcing details that were not in the budget.

[12:45 p.m.]

It is critically important and it is an insult to the members of this House not to have the Premier available to answer questions in this Chamber. The custom is that if a minister, and that includes a Premier, is to be absent from the House the Opposition Parties are to be notified. We received no such notification, and I am requesting therefore that the House adjourn until the Premier arrives so that we can actually get a chance to ask the Premier the questions that need to be asked.

MR. SPEAKER: Anyone else want to respond to the point of order? I think that it has been determined in this House that, in all courtesy, Opposition members are being made aware of when ministers are unable to be here for whatever reason. I understand one minister is unable to be here because of a funeral. I have no idea why other ones are not here, but I am not going to agree to adjournment of the House.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: Question Period will begin at 12:46 p.m. and end at 1:46 p.m.

The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, before I begin my question, who is the Acting Premier?

MR. SPEAKER: We will call for the Acting Premier and we will have to see who stands.

[Page 993]

The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

HEALTH - BUREAUCRACY: INCREASE - EXPLAIN

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the 1999 Tory blue book promises to reduce the size of government. I'm going to table a response to a freedom of information request that shows that the administration in the Department of Health has gone up 37 per cent from 1999 to 2003 - that's 22 new managers in the bureaucracy of this government in the Department of Health alone. I want to ask the Premier, how did you manage such a large increase in administration while front-line health care has been allowed to suffer?

HON. NEIL LEBLANC (Acting Premier): That is obviously a question for the Minister of Health and, as such, I will refer it to her.

HON. JANE PURVES: As I've noted in this House before, the Department of Health in Nova Scotia has the lowest administrative costs in Canada, and I have tabled a chart demonstrating that.

MR. DEXTER: What's even more troubling is that during the last election campaign, in fact on July 22nd, the Premier told The Chronicle-Herald that "We will deliver less administration and more health care." Mr. Speaker, I'm tabling the article. The number of managers and non-bargaining unit staff is up nearly 25 per cent, and general administration costs have increased by over $1 million since this government came to power. So my question to the Premier is simple, how did you get from your promise to reduce administration to a 25 per cent increase in managers and a $1 million increase in administration costs since you came to power?

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, with regard to the member's question, I want to point out to the member opposite and all members of the House, and indeed Nova Scotians, that we have made changes in the Department of Health. The two years prior to coming to office, this province and the regional health boards overspent their budgets by $182 million and $130 million in the two years before we came to office. The budget that was just tabled this year, the overspending was about $16 million and $18 million over the year before. What does that point out? It points to performance and meeting our commitments to Nova Scotians that we would be accountable for the money that we received on their behalf.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, a $1 million increase in administration, 22 more managers - these people, these extra staff do not include a single new nurse or a single new doctor who is engaged in patient care. My question for the Premier is this, I want to know how we got from eyeball-to-eyeball health care to eyeball-to-eyeball administration.

[Page 994]

MR. LEBLANC: I gave the answer to the member opposite; obviously he doesn't want to hear it from me, so I will refer the question to the Minister of Health who can go into more detail.

MISS PURVES: The biggest increase in administration in the Health Department during our mandate was taking over the aspects of long-term care from Community Services. The member of the Opposition knows that but even so, even with moving those people from one department to another, we still have the lowest administrative costs of any province in Canada.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

HEALTH - ACUTE CARE: ANNA. VALLEY - BACKLOG EXPLAIN

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health. In March of this year it was reported that 13 acute care beds at the Valley Regional Hospital and eight acute care beds at Soldiers Memorial Hospital in Middleton were occupied with patients who were waiting to be assessed for long-term care. The District Health Authority yesterday confirmed that there has been no improvement. In fact, things are getting worse. There are now 13 beds at the Valley Regional Hospital and 12 at the Solders Memorial Hospital that are not available for acute care for the people in the Valley. My question simply to the minister is, could the minister please explain the cause of the backlog? Is it the assessment process, is it the single-entry assessment process, or are there a lack of long-term care beds in the Valley region?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the assessment process does take some time but I will investigate further for the member for Dartmouth East to find out the particular causes of the situation today.

DR. SMITH: Maybe the minister could just check with the Premier if he's not carrying that backdrop. As one of the members of the House said, he's probably bringing it back there this morning with the pre-election announcements. (Interruption) Mr. Speaker, for whatever reason, one thing is for certain, ultimately that minister is responsible. In fact, the Premier's $1 million grant announcement this morning to do yet another study was nothing more than an admittance that the Department of Health has neglected the people in the Valley. The people in the Valley know this quite well and also yesterday morning in the emergency department at the Valley Regional Hospital, there were 11 and one at Soldiers Memorial Hospital emergency department who needed an acute care bed but none were available. That's the price that people in the Valley are paying for the inability of this minister and this government to manage the health care system.

[Page 995]

My question to the minister is, why is the minister allowing the Premier to spend $1 million on another study instead of investing the money and fixing the problems that they have created in the Valley region.

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, we are not doing a $1 million study in the Valley. The two studies will cost about $100,000 between them and one of the reasons we are doing this is we recognize there need to be some capital improvements in the Valley and the study will lead us to make the right capital improvements.

DR. SMITH: . . . two years ago, this government is two years late. Last year the department, her department, closed 13 beds at Soldiers Memorial Hospital, in Middleton. As a result, the stats that we've received, almost 50 per cent of the remaining beds at Soldiers Memorial Hospital in Middleton are being used for non-acute care purposes. It's certainly a downgrading of that facility. Mr. Speaker, the Premier's announcement is just two years too late.

My question to the minister is, will the minister indicate whether she is allowing the backlog to continue and the study to move ahead because they are planning to close Soldiers Memorial Hospital in Middleton or is it because she cannot manage the system at all? What is the answer, Madam Minister?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the facilities were improved at Middleton so we could do more surgery there. Currently we are doing orthopaedic surgery there and day surgery there and there are absolutely no plans to close Soldiers Memorial Hospital.

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

HEALTH - BUREAUCRACY: COSTS - JUSTIFY

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, in spite of the Tory blue book promises, management at the Department of Health has increased by 25 per cent during the Hamm Government's mandate, and I agree with the minister, it includes those people whose job it is to strip seniors of everything they own in order to pay for health care and long-term care. This is a department with the highest-paid deputy minister in the history of the province. Apparently, a $180,000-a-year deputy minister still has to have an assistant deputy minister and an associate deputy minister. I want to ask the Premier, how can you possibly justify a million dollars in bureaucracy instead of front-line health care?

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I find this line of questioning rather condescending for the people who are doing a good job within the Department of Health. I've indicated before that the department is doing very well in managing its costs, and one of the reasons is that we put sufficient help in that department in order to be able to do that. The Department of Health is doing a good job, and the fact of the matter is history speaks for

[Page 996]

itself. If the member opposite wants to examine that, he would see that the results are indeed positive coming out of the Department of Health.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the Hamm Tories promised to ensure that the work environment they offered nurses was going to be rewarding and a positive one. They must have been crossing their fingers, just like they did when they said they wouldn't be doing any politically-motivated advertising. District health authorities are finding it increasingly difficult to recruit staff with the limited resources they have, but in the Joe Howe Building the pockets are much deeper. My question to the Premier is this, how does a building full of managers decrease wait times for orthopaedic surgery or for MRIs?

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I could say something about filling out the FOIPOPs the NDP sent over, however, I will refer the question to the Minister of Health.

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I would like to clarify one thing the Leader of the Official Opposition said earlier about having an assistant deputy minister and an associate deputy minister. In fact, we have an associate deputy minister, not an assistant as well. That being said, I would say that one of the ways in which we are able to reduce some wait times now and will be able to do more in the future is through the use of information technology and very good planning, something the department has become quite good at in the last four years.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I hope that the many merry managers over at the Department of Health have their first aid courses up to date, because they may find that their jobs are taking a more hands-on direction if some of the rural hospitals don't soon find nurses. The Liberals created the mess by closing beds and by causing an exodus of nurses and doctors, and now the Tories have put highly-paid managers ahead of front-line staff. My question to the Premier is this, why is it that you invest in so many managers when you're running out of front-line staff to manage?

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, this is a question that has been answered before for the member, but for his information I will get the Minister of Health to explain it to him one more time.

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, government departments and district health authorities and school boards all need some administration. They need some managers. The administration costs of the Department of Health are the lowest of any province in Canada, and I repeat that quite slowly in case the point wasn't understood.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

[Page 997]

FIN.: TAX CUTS - DETAILS

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier. Our Party has made it very clear that tax cuts, when you are borrowing, are clearly wrong. Let's look a little more closely at the Tory tax scheme. The Minister of Finance has had over $1 billion in new revenue since taking office, from Ottawa, user fees and especially higher taxes. In fact in 2000, this minister took away the provincial portion of the federal tax cut by separating from the federal rate. As a result of this, a family of four making $40,000 will have lost $1,703 by the end of next year, because of this tax increase by this government. The proposed Tory tax scheme will give back in return, $273 in tax cuts. On the one hand, the minister is giving back $273 and with the other hand, this government is collecting $1,703. My question to the Premier is, why is the Minister of Finance only giving back a small portion of what he took from the people in 2000, when he denied Nova Scotians the provincial portion of the federal tax cut?

[1:00 p.m.]

HON. NEIL LEBLANC (Acting Premier): Mr. Speaker, I'm going to refer that question to the Minister of Finance. (Laughter) It blows me away when they ask the Acting Premier to refer it to himself but anyway, that's the way the questioning is.

I listened to the member opposite who has just said in this House that because of the changes that we've made in how we collect taxes in Nova Scotia, that benefits which could have flowed to Nova Scotians didn't. One of the reasons that is the case is, we told Nova Scotians that we would balance our budget before we gave them tax relief. Now today he is saying that we should do it - his Leader is outside the House saying that we shouldn't do it. My God, will you make up your minds who's on first, who's on second, and who the hell is going to third.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, the fact is this Minister of Finance yesterday was accusing others of wanting to increase taxes. What he has admitted today in this House is that it is his administration that has increased taxes on the backs of Nova Scotians when he did not pass on that federal cut. Now he says, not only did I increase tax, now I will give you back a small portion, and yet he preaches to other Parties about tax issues. One can see clearly right through this minister's tax plan. Unless the government protects tax brackets and credits from inflation, the tax scheme of this government will be clawed back over the next few years anyway and will be nothing more than an artificial smoke-and-mirrors tax scheme by this minister. My question to the Minister of Finance - being he doesn't want to refer it to the Premier - will the minister admit that the tax scheme he has proposed, in reality, will disappear in the very near future under the current plan proposed by his administration.

[Page 998]

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I will not admit any such thing because that is not the case. We told Nova Scotians in 1999 that they would get tax relief once we balanced the budget, his own Leader has stated on different issues that he wants certain things but I guess I should check the script today. The bottom line is that we told them they would get tax relief after we balanced the budget. What did we do in this year's budget? We did exactly what we said we would do. (Applause)

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, this is the same administration that said, we will not increase the debt, we will live within our means, we will fix health care, we will fix education, we will fix roads. At the end of the day Nova Scotians clearly know that that has not taken place. We have a Minister of Finance who just admitted that he increased taxes under his watch, yet he has the audacity to lecture others - in his pure arrogance - about tax issues. Nova Scotians want better health care, they want better roads and better education for their children. This tax scheme that is being proposed here is nothing but smoke and mirrors and is not even giving back a portion of what has been taken by this government.

My final supplementary is, why won't the minister admit that his government has failed to achieve their goals and the tax cut is nothing more than a smoke-and-mirrors attempt to justify their record instead of being open and honest with the people of Nova Scotia.

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite needs a course in 101 listening, because I did not say that we increased taxes. Nova Scotians paid the same tax until this year, whereby we reduced it. On another point, the member opposite talks about the audacity of this minister and this government. The audacity of this member and that Party to say that they're going to cut up the credit card. What did we do? We cut up their credit card when we came to office. We cut up their credit card. The one Mr. Downe said in the Red Room that he had a surplus of $1 million, and when he walked to this Chamber he had $0.5 billion deficit. The audacity of that member to say that is unbelievable.

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

NAT. RES.: NON-RESIDENT OWNERSHIP - ADDRESS

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Natural Resources. Non-resident ownership of Nova Scotia land has surpassed the one million acre mark. That's a sad day for Nova Scotians. One million acres, that's almost the size of the Halifax Regional responsibility. One million acres and yet this government decided, in its 2001 land task force, not to place limitations on non-resident landownership. My question for the Minister of Natural Resources is, why has your government failed to do anything to address the fact that more than a million acres of our land now belongs to non-residents?

[Page 999]

HON. TIMOTHY OLIVE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for the question. We are under a program in Nova Scotia, through our department, of acquiring land across this province for wilderness areas, for protected areas. We have recently acquired in-holdings in the Bowater region, we acquired Cape Split, we acquired an area in Dunn's Beach in Antigonish. So we are very much involved in securing the lands in Nova Scotia for Nova Scotians for the future.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I will table a copy of the annual report on non-resident landownership from 1991-2002. This report states, "There has been widespread non-compliance with the land disclosure act . . . this report should be treated with caution because of the apparent small percentage of actual transactions that it represents." My question to the minister is, and hopefully with a different briefing note, we know of at least a million acres that are gone, but do you have any clue as to exactly how much of our province now belongs to non-residents?

MR. OLIVE: Mr. Speaker, we are in constant negotiations and discussions with Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations in keeping an accurate record of land ownership in Nova Scotia. We will continue to do that so that we are aware of those land-transfer issues.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I think the minister is in that fog off Betty's Island, down off Terence Bay, because there's more than a million acres, and your government and you, Mr. Minister, have done nothing. We've lost a chunk of land almost the size of the HRM, and I get these sort of answers. My question to the minister is, why won't this government wake up and realize that only the privileged, many of them from outside this province, can now purchase coastal properties and islands in this province?

MR. OLIVE: Mr. Speaker, I'm not sure just what the question was there. Perhaps the member could repeat that. He was making a point, but I wasn't quite sure what the question was.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Why won't this government wake up and realize that only the privileged, many of them who live outside this province, can now purchase coastal properties or islands in this province?

MR. OLIVE: Mr. Speaker, quite frankly, that's not true.

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

[Page 1000]

NAT. RES. - NON-RESIDENT OWNERSHIP:

NOVA SCOTIANS - EFFECTS

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I am going to table copies of Friday's New York Times. I will turn to the appropriate section, which is listed under, of all titles, Escapes. One headline reads: "Bargains Across the Border - the place where a house on the water costs less than your SUV." Let me read a few lines from that New York paper . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I don't think the honourable member needs to read from the paper. (Interruptions) Order, please. The honourable member can read the question, please.

MR. ESTABROOKS: I will. The quote that I was using is that "recent United States interest (in Nova Scotia property) has been buoyed by lack of restrictions on foreign ownership of lands." People from Manhattan are quoted as "smitten with the notion of cheap seafront property." Well, what's cheap in Manhattan isn't necessarily cheap in Musquodoboit Harbour. Why can't the Minister of Natural Resources understand that his inaction means that Nova Scotians will never have access to coastal property or islands in this province?

HON. TIMOTHY OLIVE: Mr. Speaker, back in the Spring of 2001 the government commissioned Voluntary Planning to do research on non-resident landownership. They held 17 public meetings around the province and came up with 22 recommendations. We concur with these recommendations and we are in the process now of evaluating them as to their effectiveness and when they can be implemented province-wide.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, The New York Times' article also goes on to say, "While Americans thrill over what strikes them as bargains, their interest has pushed real estate taxes and prices so high that many year-round residents can no longer afford seaside homes." So my question for the minister is, if a New York newspaper such as The New York Times can figure out that many Nova Scotians can no longer afford coastal properties, why can't the Minister of Natural Resources do the same thing?

MR. OLIVE: Mr. Speaker, I would suggest to the honourable member and other members of the House that back in 1970 the Land Holdings Disclosure Act was passed. It, quite frankly, does not meet the requirements of the government related to non-resident landownership, and we do plan on bringing forth legislation, an improved land disclosure Act, and it will be forthcoming in legislation in this Legislature.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, non-residents own more than one million acres of Nova Scotia that we happen to know about. The New York Times is telling people to gobble up more Nova Scotia property because it's a bargain, it's cheaper than the SUVs, and this government has its head in the sand - it's time to take your head out of the sand before we don't even own the beach. That's the question that this government and this Minister of

[Page 1001]

Natural Resources isn't facing. Why hasn't your government acted to preserve access to coastal properties today, now, and not in the future?

MR. OLIVE: Mr. Speaker, I would indicate that a very small percentage of that change has happened, but I would say to you and other members of the House that Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations is completing, as we speak, maps tracking non-resident ownership, and when we have that information we will move ahead with the recommendations of the Voluntary Planning Task Force that were brought forward in 2000.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

EDUC. - DOMINION SCH.: GOV'T. (N.S.) - ACCOUNTABILITY

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education. I'm sure we're all aware of MacDonald high school in Dominion and the unfortunate incidence of subsidence which occurred there last Fall. The citizens of Dominion and area have met with the minister but unfortunately, in typical Tory Government fashion, they received no concrete answers as to the future of their school. So my question to the minister is, what means has the minister taken to ensure that his government remains accountable to the concerned citizens of Dominion and that the lines of communication remain open?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I have met with the school board with respect to the issue referenced by the honourable member. I have met with representatives from the community. We indicated our response to the school board's recommendations with respect to the situation there and I can tell the honourable member and members of the House that the students affected by that situation in Dominion are receiving a very good education. They are going to school and they're being very well accommodated and we'll ensure that continues to happen in the future.

[1:15 p.m.]

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, as everyone in this House is aware, the government has made commitments of nearly $700 million in a lot of recent announcements. But, as the members are all well aware, our schools are in desperate need of help today. This is a situation requiring help. The school situation in Dominion is an extremely important issue to the residents. This government has taken the attitude of don't worry because someone else will pay for it tomorrow. My question for the minister is, since the government has made almost $700 million in commitments already, will you commit the extra funding that's necessary to remedy this critical and emergency situation in Dominion?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, it's very interesting to listen to the honourable member reference spending and reference the need for schools and buildings. One of the solutions that was put forward by the school board would see those students being housed

[Page 1002]

in facilities in Glace Bay - new facilities that will be built in the near future. It's very noteworthy that the honourable member's Leader, who is not a member of this House, has said that he will not build new schools and that he would not have the solution that we're being able to offer. That's what he's saying. (Applause)

MR. WILSON: The honourable minister has made a commitment, as I understand it, to Glace Bay and I'm going to hold you to that commitment, Mr. Minister. You better build that new school in Glace Bay, as I just heard you. I'll be holding you to that commitment. Thank you very much.

I don't need to speak on behalf of my Leader. He'll be here soon enough to speak for himself. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, the minister is trying to make a little bit of light of a very serious situation so my question to the minister is, will the minister assure this House that the new schools he's going to have built - and hopefully they will include Dominion - will not be solely constructed in Tory-only ridings?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, we have carried forward with the construction program that was in place. We have responded to the needs as presented by the school boards of this province. We'll continue to do so. I was very encouraged to hear that the honourable member is wanting me to follow through with the commitment in Glace Bay because he knows full well that if his Leader ever gets in here, it won't happen.

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

EDUC. - TUITION FEES: FREEZE - FUND

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education. In February of this year, the Board of Governors of UCCB tentatively approved a budget with a 7 per cent hike in tuition fees. This weekend they approved that budget. I would also like to remind the minister that last year they also hiked tuition fees by 6 per cent under a funding freeze. Last month, when announcing the so-called debt relief program, and a meagre operating support to universities, this minister talked about helping students and keeping tuition fees down. So I want to ask the minister, why are you forcing universities to continue increasing tuition by not providing adequate operating funding so tuition fees can be frozen?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the honourable member for the opportunity to remind the House that this year we have added an additional $6 million to the operating funds of universities. We're moving closer and closer to the level of funding to universities that existed before that group over there cut it when they were in office.

[Page 1003]

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, UCCB didn't change its planned increase after your announcement, and other universities are saying they won't either. The Millennium Scholarship Foundation estimates that 70 per cent of students are financing their education through debt. The average a student earns during the summer barely covers two-thirds of the cost of tuition in Nova Scotia. It baffles me that a minister who represents a university town doesn't understand the impact of these tuition fee hikes. Mr. Minister, who are you listening to when it comes to freezing tuition? Are you listening to the students and their parents or Tory spin doctors?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, as a government, we have been addressing the issue of funding to universities. We will continue to address that issue, and I can say that as a result of the additional funds we've made available this year, tuition has, in fact, been moderated. We are going to continue to work with universities to ensure that their needs are met and, through meeting their needs, meet the needs of students.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Minister, this is a government that beats its chest when it gives a 4 per cent raise on the minimum wage and thinks that a 7 per cent increase in the education tuition fees is nothing. This government has been no friend to Cape Breton. They force students at UCCB to wash their clothes in brown water, refuse to bring in programs that will help youth employment, pursues policies to de-designate UCCB and student loans, and allows tuition to keep rising and rising and rising. My final question to you, Mr. Minister, is, will you at least throw the students at UCCB a little crumb today and tell them that you are scrapping your ill-conceived idea of de-designating their university?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, again I want to indicate to the honourable member that we, indeed, are concerned with the cost of education to students and with the funding issues relative to that. It's very important that students understand that the programs that they are entering are programs in which it is reasonable for them to expect success. We will pursue measures to ensure that as much knowledge is made available to students as possible as they make decisions relative to post-secondary education.

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

INSURANCE - HIKES: BOYS & GIRLS CLUBS - PROTECT

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. We have heard many stories in this House and in the media about the effects of skyrocketing insurance on today's families. Last week we heard about the plight of the volunteer fire departments, who have had their insurance cancelled by the industry. Now, we are hearing of more attacks on volunteers by the big insurance companies. The Cole Harbour Boys and Girls Club may have to close by May, because they face a 1,000 per cent increase in liability insurance. My question for the Premier is this, what, concrete, will you do for the Cole Harbour Boys and Girls Club, to ensure that they don't have to close because of insurance hikes?

[Page 1004]

HON. JOHN HAMM (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, the member opposite brings a matter to my attention, of which I was not aware. I wasn't aware of the 1,000 per cent increase of the insurance costs at the Cole Harbour Boys and Girls Club. If the member opposite can provide the government with some information, we will have a look at the issue.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, it doesn't stop there. The Truro Boys and Girls Club, the oldest one in the province, may not be able to stay open past July 3rd. The Chebucto Boys and Girls Club says that an increase that large would be 10 per cent of their overall budget, and it would surely force them to close. Even worse, areas that clearly need this support, like Port Hawkesbury and Indian Brook, will not be able to open clubs if this keeps up. My question to the Premier is, why does your government allow big insurance companies to cherry-pick who they insure? What action will you take to stop this practice?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, if the member opposite could provide some upfront information, the government is prepared to look at it. The member opposite is not naive enough to think that he can bring in a matter such as this to the floor of the House and expect it to be solved in Question Period. What the member opposite would do if in fact he really is interested in boys' clubs, is provide the information to the government so it could work on a policy to help the boys' clubs.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, we never know what to make of this government's promises. Last week, your minister told this House that they would be helping volunteer firefighters. Yet, this week, we learned that all of that help consisted of a couple of phone calls. Mr. Premier, your Party will help Sobeys, who doesn't need the government's help, so why do you steadfastly refuse to help groups that perform such vital community functions?

THE PREMIER: I will continue with the member opposite, if he can provide the information that he has at his hand and provide it to the members of government, we will look at the issue and see what government can do to remedy the situation.

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

ENERGY: OFFSHORE EXPLORATION - REGULATORY PROCESS

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question today is to the Premier. There are three drill rigs that have taken up residence in Halifax Harbour in what at first glance looks like a concerted effort to find gas in the harbour. I wish to table an article by Gillian Wood at Corporate Communications in which it states: Exploration is down, way down, because other regions and regimes are competing more effectively for that investment.

[Page 1005]

Mr. Speaker, yet, in the Tory blue book, it was promised that the regulatory process would be streamlined and, in that same article I just tabled, an industry executive states: I've never had so much grief about spending money anywhere in the world than I have here. So my question to the Premier, why, Mr. Premier, is your government chasing away exploration in the offshore by a cumbersome regulatory process?

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

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member asks a good question. Part of the problem with the jurisdiction in the offshore here is that it is a joint jurisdiction. Nova Scotia has made the changes on shore so that it's one-stop shopping. The regulatory process has been streamlined. Our challenge with the industry is to ensure that we have the federal government onside, the brothers of the provincial Third Party here, to ensure that we have proper regulatory process, one-window shopping. We co-chaired that committee that's looking at those regulations and we hope we have movement and co-operation from our partner, the federal government.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, it's yet another promise in the Premier's blue book that I was referring to. At this point, my reaction to what the Minister of Energy has stated is that the Minister of Energy - it took us a whole year in prodding just to get this government to set up an Energy Department in Nova Scotia - now he states that it's difficult to move that process ahead. Well, it wasn't difficult for Sable to move ahead and bring vast economic benefits and employment to Nova Scotia in the previous government.

I'm wondering, Mr. Speaker, will the Premier react to the fact that since his government has come to power, there has been no activity of any kind to create new jobs in the industry in Nova Scotia?

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

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, I believe the honourable member opposite must be mistaken because this government has formed partnerships with industry. Whether it's Eirik Raude, the work completed there; whether it's with the Nova Scotia Community College, the 13 campuses; whether it's with the University College of Cape Breton; whether it's with a half dozen of the major oil players in co-operation agreements; on-the-job training, we have made significant progress in supplying more opportunities and jobs for Nova Scotians. I would like to say to the member opposite that there's $1.56 billion worth of exploration commitment on the books. That's 1.56 billion reasons why Nova Scotia is moving ahead in the industry.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, what we have here is the Minister of Energy trying to defend the indefensible, because what he's saying is simply not true. There's no activity. There may be all kinds of partnerships being developed out there. I'm

[Page 1006]

talking about tangible jobs in the offshore for Nova Scotians. Instead of that happening, the oil and gas industry are leaving here.

[1:30 p.m.]

I want to refer to a breakfast meeting again that the Premier had with the Greater Halifax Partnership and here's what the Premier told the media: "We don't need the offshore to grow the economy." This Minister of Energy is telling us the offshore is moving ahead and the Premier is saying we don't need the offshore to grow the economy. Well, if we don't need the offshore to grow the economy, Mr. Premier, will you tell this House and Nova Scotians what your plan B is? How are you going to grow this economy in Nova Scotia without the presence of the oil and gas industry?

THE PREMIER: Unlike the previous government, this government does have an economic development policy called Opportunities for Prosperity that identified the various sectors of the Nova Scotia economy that have been very successfully growing. In the last three and a half to four years that we've been government, this province has experienced unprecedented growth. We now have 436,000 Nova Scotians working, the most in history. Since we became government, we've created a net increase of 27,000 new jobs in Nova Scotia. (Applause)

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

ENVIRON. - WHITNEY PIER: COAL STOCKPILING - CONSULT

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Yesterday I learned that Logistec has been charged with blanketing the Whitney Pier community with petroleum coke dust back in February. Residents in that community warned the company and this government that Logistec wouldn't be able to control the dust with the measures they were proposing to use, and a few months later the community was proven right. The department and this government make it a habit of not listening to the community until it's too late. I want to ask the Premier, before you allow the company to proceed with any more stockpiling in Whitney Pier, what meaningful consultations will your government have with the residents of the area?

THE PREMIER: It's a sensible question. The minister is not here to answer it, but I am being told that as recently as 24 hours ago the company started to implement the appropriate measures.

MR. CORBETT: In February, Whitney Pier was blanketed with black dust - the company offered a car wash. Meanwhile parents like Helen Barrington were wondering what the dust was doing to her or how it was affecting her asthmatic son. Provincial Energy Venture plans to stockpile 700,000 tons of coal on the former Sydney Steel site. Residents had appealed that, but the former Minister of Environment refused to consider this appeal

[Page 1007]

because they missed the appeal deadline by a couple of days. So, Premier, how can you guarantee that Provincial Energy Venture will get it right when a smaller operation like Logistec gets it wrong all the time?

THE PREMIER: The member opposite does bring a good issue to the attention of the House. What I can say is the Department of Environment is very much aware of certain potential problems with certain potential initiatives in the province, and with the appropriate reporting process I believe that those issues can be handled. We're not suggesting from time to time that issues do not occur relative to the environment, relative to certain economic activities in the province, but our Department of Environment is there when it is needed to take the appropriate remedial action.

MR. CORBETT: That's part of the real problem here. The residents of that area probably know better than anyone else in this province what it means by living next to heavy industry. They know that the risks involved are great and to merely say that, after the fact, investigations will help them is just not right. They may soon be living next to 700,000 tons of stockpiled coal. So, Premier, what will it take for your government to be proactive and help these people so incidents like this will not happen again?

THE PREMIER: The member opposite is bringing a question and an issue to the House that is of concern to residents in that area. All I can say is that our department people are vigilant in looking at companies that are involved in these kinds of activities to make sure that all environmental regulations are being adhered to.

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

SERV. N.S. & MUN. REL. - CAPITAL TRANSPORT. COMM.:

HRM - DISCUSSIONS

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: My question is for the Premier. During the Speech from the Throne, the Premier indicated that his government would introduce a capital transportation commission. My question quite simply is, what specific policy discussions took place between his government and the officials of HRM, in particular the Chief Magistrate, with regard to this transfer of responsibility?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I refer that to the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations.

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, I can say to the honourable member that I had the opportunity to speak with Mayor Kelly and the chief operating officer of HRM. We talked about it on a number of occasions. The discussions were how that would be formed and what the objectives would be from each party and what the goals would be as we go forward. Yes, I have had discussions with the Chief Magistrate.

[Page 1008]

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, would the Premier or the minister responsible for this particular issue apprise the members of this House and, indeed, all the residents of HRM as to what the financial implications would be, of this transfer of assets and revenues to HRM?

MR. CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, quite honestly, that's the reason that the discussions are being held. From the outset, it was agreed that both parties, going in, would have to bring equal assets, they would have to bring equal needs, and they would have to have goals and objectives that were similar. That's the process that's being discussed right now, prior to making an announcement, to make sure and understand that we both have common goals and that we're going in the same direction.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for his response, but his colleague, the honourable Minister of Transportation and Public Works, indicated no legislation would be introduced until after the next election, thereby leading one to wonder what type of detail the people of HRM would expect during an election campaign. Can the Premier or the minister responsible please inform members of this House and, indeed, the residents of HRM, what specific form would this new transportation commission take?

MR. CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member's question is a good one. As I indicated, that is what we're discussing now, the form that that would take. When the Minister of Transportation and Public Works indicated there wouldn't be legislation this Spring, it's simply because those two parties haven't arrived at the vehicle and the format that we're going to go forward with. We will be doing that. We have a common interest in solving those problems. We have an interest and now we have to put the vehicle together that we're going to go with. That's what we're in the process of doing.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

INSURANCE: CONSUMER ADVOCATE - INDEPENDENCE

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. When Nova Scotians think of a consumer advocate, they think of someone who will go to bat on their behalf, to the big insurance companies who are gouging them with insurance hikes. But it appears from the consumer advocate's contract that he will be representing the government, not consumers. I would like to table that contract now. After much questioning on Friday, the minister agreed to release it. It was passed around in the Red Room yesterday, but it's never been properly tabled. So for the benefit of the public, I would like to table that contract. Article 5 of the contract is nothing more or less than a gag order. It says that the consumer advocate cannot reveal any information that he gathers without the government's written consent. My question to the Premier is, how is the consumer advocate supposed to represent consumers' true concerns if he has to get the government's permission to speak out?

[Page 1009]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I was very pleased at the person who decided to become the consumer advocate on the insurance issue here in the Province of Nova Scotia. I would think that the member opposite would share my enthusiasm about the quality of the person the government was able to attract to take up this very sensitive job for the people of Nova Scotia. The people of Nova Scotia will be well served by that consumer advocate. The people of Nova Scotia will be well served by that report, because that report will be the basis of government action.

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, that was a nice attempt by the Premier to make the issue something different. But let's be clear about what's happening here, the consumer advocate, who is supposed to be on the side of Nova Scotians, isn't allowed to speak unless the Premier says it's okay. That's what's going on here. Under the duties of the consumer advocate, it says the consumer advocate will serve as ". . . an integral part of the insurance issues management team . . ." alongside the deputy minister ". . . and other management staff . . ." So my question to the Premier is, how does the Premier expect Nova Scotians to believe that the consumer advocate is independent when the contract says that he has to fall in line with the minister's issues management committee?

THE PREMIER: Again, Mr. Speaker, what I can say to the member opposite who is, as many Nova Scotians are, interested in the automobile insurance issue, we have put out a discussion paper that will allow Nova Scotians to have the maximum amount of input in terms of the reasonable options that are available to Nova Scotians that could result in a decreased cost of premiums for automobile insurance. If the member opposite has concerns about the process, then why does not the member opposite make a submission and make his submission public to the people of Nova Scotia. The government will address the issue. It will address it effectively. It will address it effectively through the discussion paper and the advocate who we have hired.

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, the Premier can solve this and he can solve it right now. So my question to the Premier, my final question to the Premier is, will the Premier take the consumer advocate off the issues management committee and, most importantly, will the Premier today remove the gag order?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the government has put in place a very effective way to deal with what is a very perplexing problem for automobile insurance purchasers in Nova Scotia. I think the process is good. I think the process will work and I can guarantee you that the government will take the appropriate action.

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

[Page 1010]

ECON. DEV.: CBRM PLAN - PRIORITY

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Economic Development. It's a home-based question, so he will appreciate this one. The Mayor of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality and his council have indicated and come to the conclusion that the Sydney area, indeed CBRM's economic development plan, should be developed before any other region in the province because of the economic disparity in that general area. My question to the minister is, does he agree with the mayor and his council?

HON. CECIL CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, I want to state clearly, as I have in and around urban Cape Breton, we're a government that works with all communities and for the common good of the entire CBRM. If anyone is thinking in isolation, it's not this government and any decisions by the CBRM are just that and this government has not been part of their decision, but we are part of the decisions that benefit the wider community.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, the Mayor of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality and, indeed, pretty well all the council have indicated that they are quite disappointed that they've been excluded from negotiations and discussions on a wide variety of economic development issues with the Minister of Economic Development. My question to the minister is, since he's looking at the community at large, would he not agree that that also includes the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, particularly in light of its rather concerning economic state?

MR. CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, as has been the case, whether that was the railway, we've always included the CBRM. When they decided to take themselves out of the situation, when they choose not to be part of a solution, then I choose not to have them at the table and that was the case then. They're choosing again to go in a direction that is not the voice of the community and I will stand up in Cape Breton on our opinion, on our record, and I look forward to the day I can get to the doorsteps and defend this government for what it has done there, and Mayor Morgan will have his opportunity in the not-too-distant future.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, my question to the minister is, does he not agree that this polarization between himself, representing the provincial government, and officials at CBRM is, in fact, having a negative impact on the residents, the taxpayers of CBRM?

MR. CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, the benefits to the people of urban Cape Breton are great. Employment levels have been substantial, at record numbers in and around the area. We've been partnering with those who believe in progress and we continue to offer to work in full partnership with the CBRM, with the Government of Canada and anyone else who is committed like this government is to the future strength of Cape Breton Island. (Applause)

[Page 1011]

[1:45 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview, you have about 25 seconds. (Interruptions)

Order, please. Order, please. (Interruptions)

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier, why will the Premier not remove George Jordan's gag order? Why will he not remove it today? (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Question Period will not be extended, but I would point out to the honourable members that the honourable member for Halifax Fairview did have an opportunity of 25 seconds to ask a question, and I think there was a deliberate attempt to prevent that. (Interruptions)

The time allotted for the Oral Question Period has expired.

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. WILLIAM DOOKS: Mr. Speaker, would you please call the order of business, Government Motions.

GOVERNMENT MOTIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

MR. WILLIAM DOOKS: Mr. Speaker, I move that you remove yourself from the Chair and that the House resolve itself (Interruptions) I should request that you should remove yourself (Interruptions) To leave the Chair and that the House resolve itself in a Committee of the Whole House on Supply unto Her Majesty.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, as you've no doubt noticed, today is a warm day and a pleasant day. It's a lovely Spring day. This is a time of renewal and growth and change, although I would like you, in particular, to note that I don't join with the immediately preceding member of the House in asking for your removal. That's not the kind of change that I had in mind at this time of year.

[Page 1012]

Mr. Speaker, undoubtedly, as all of us meander in our different constituencies and enjoy this time of year, we've noticed that the warmth of a new season is upon us. Many of us have noticed the beginnings of crocuses coming through the lawns, perhaps of daffodils. It's a cheering sight and something that no doubt warms the hearts of all of us. In this time of change, I think we have to be thankful that it seems that the Earth has perhaps forgiven us for our collective and individual abuses once again. In this time of change, we have to wonder what exactly will be coming in the next months as we move ahead with our individual and collective lives.

In the world of politics, of course, we know that there's wide expectation that this will be an election year. The expectation of this, I think, has been anticipated by all members of the House. Who knows when that moment may arrive. In expectation of that, however, I do have a few comments that I would like to address to the electors in my constituency, Halifax Chebucto.

Chebucto is an interesting constituency. You will know, Mr. Speaker, that it's an urban constituency, essentially a residential constituency. I've had the pleasure and honour of representing Halifax Chebucto for the last five years in this House and, indeed, for three years previously I represented essentially the same area on HRM Municipal Council and on the City of Halifax Municipal Council when it existed. I would like to offer my thanks to the voters of Halifax Chebucto for the opportunity to have worked with them. It's been a complete pleasure.

I don't want to sound as if I'm not going to be around to continue to do that, I indeed intend to continue to represent the residents of Halifax Chebucto should they afford me the opportunity. This election that we all know will be coming is one in which I do intend to be a candidate. The opportunity to represent them on a continuing basis is one that I relish, and I appreciate the trust that they've shown in me in the past, and I hope to get the opportunity to show that I'm worthy of their trust in the future.

Mr. Speaker, at the same time, I'm assuming nothing. It's a pleasure to have been elected several times by the voters of Halifax Chebucto, but no member of this House can make any assumption about individual family votes or about their ability to be re-elected in their constituencies. What's interesting about politics in Nova Scotia in the last five years is

that the patterns of traditional family voting, generation to generation, in the same way has probably been broken. Certainly it has been broken in the urban areas and I think to a lesser extent, but to a marked extent, it has been broken in the rural areas. What that means is that no one owns any votes. No one, no Party, no individual, can make an assumption that a particular individual or a particular family will vote for them again.

No Party can assume that any constituency is a safe constituency for their Party and the wonderful thing about this is that it requires each Party and each candidate every time to win anew the trust of the voters and that trust, expressed through the mechanism of a vote,

[Page 1013]

has to be earned. It has to be earned by the demonstrated record of what it is that the individual candidate, or their Party, has done.

There is a serious problem for the government seeking re-election in the next few months, I assume, to convince voters in my constituency, and I'm sure in many others, that they have acted on the items that they should have acted on. I have in mind, in particular, what I think of as pocketbook issues. I think that the government which came to power almost four years ago on a platform which presented itself as a common-sense kind of platform, one that was supposedly in touch with the day-to-day needs of regular Nova Scotians, seems to have been lacking. It's not clear by any means that this government has actually been able to follow through with what it was that it projected as an image at the time.

When I talk about pocketbook issues, I have in mind the very real problems that regular Nova Scotians have in paying the bills. It's clear that what is needed, what Nova Scotians actually desire is some kind of a break. Things are just a little too tough and they don't have to be, but what Nova Scotians have in mind when they think about that is that they think about things like their automobile insurance rates. They think about tuition fees at university for their children. They think about the health care costs for their loved ones who might be in long-term care. Seniors think about the Pharmacare fees that they have to pay, both the co-pay and the general fee. Those who deal with the government in any respect, for example, freedom of information applications, or driver's licences, think undoubtedly about the whole range of increased fees that they have seen placed as a burden on them over the last four years regularly each year. I don't think there's a year that has gone by in which we have not seen in the budgets that have come forward increased fees for ordinary Nova Scotians dealing in an ordinary day-to-day way with their government, whether it's licensing of one sort or another, or the filing of papers, or requests for information, or requests for something, the fees have just gone up. So Nova Scotians have seen that and they've seen it rise enormously.

Another area that I would clearly think is a pocketbook issue is the minimum wage. There are a lot of Nova Scotians who work at minimum wage jobs, who don't have the opportunity perhaps to have full-time employment at decent wages and are stuck in minimum wage jobs. We know that the pattern of this government has been to add an extra dime every year to the minimum wage - completely inadequate. This year, an election year, they finally announce that the minimum wage will go up by something more than a dime, it will go up 50 cents this year. You have to be cynical and one is bound to place the slight increase in the overall minimum wage to people this year in the same category as the $155 cheque that's going to be coming out to voters in June.

What's striking about this is that people recognize it for what it is and their votes are not available for sale in this way. I'm sure all members who have been talking with their neighbours and friends are coming to understand this. They're coming to understand that

[Page 1014]

Nova Scotians have a variety of reactions, but the reaction that the government hoped for, the reaction of affection, the reaction that something deserved and good has occurred for which in exchange, a vote will be registered, is just not there.

I happened to be talking this morning with my real estate agent. This is a person who's extremely successful in his business. He has quite a large income and he tells me that he and his wife virtually have no real interest in politics, they don't pay attention. They just don't follow it. Clearly not the way we do from day to day with the intimacy of moving through legislation or examining detailed policies. He's busy, he has a family, he has a business, he has children, he has parents, he has relatives, he has a life and he's busy with his life, but he started to talk with me today about the tax cut. He said - entirely unprompted by me - I don't know what effect the government thinks this is going to have on me. I'm one of the ones who's going to benefit quite a bit because my income, he said, is a high income. But, you know what? I'm not interested. It's just not something I would like to see. He would rather see services, he would rather see the money put into paying down debt, he would rather see the government get on with its regular business rather than deliver a tax cut. He was particularly insulted by the prospect of the $155 cheque. He saw it for what it was.

I have to say to my friends across the way that they've miscalculated. They've miscalculated the sophistication of the Nova Scotia public, even of a person like the one I just described, who doesn't pay much attention to politics, but when something big like that comes along they can see it for what it is. They're not going to be persuaded. What they're looking at is to see whether something is really being delivered in terms of good government to them. They're concerned about the quality of education. They're concerned about the quality of health care. They're concerned to make sure that their reasonable amounts of tax dollars are used in an efficient and effective way, to make sure that the services that they pay for through their taxes are actually there to give them the quality of life that they want. That's what people in Halifax Chebucto are interested in. That's what people in my constituency are interested in.

They want to see the deal kept. The deal is, they'll pay taxes but they want the services that they're paying for. If there is one issue that people in my constituency are really focused on - because this is an unusual constituency, it's not like a rural constituency where they're concerned about the highway coming through or they're concerned about a wharf, or they're a one-industry town. They're not. Metro is where the bulk of the population lives, and Halifax Chebucto is a typical residential constituency. This is the heart of metro, right here, that I represent.

I'll tell you what they're concerned about, they're concerned about a whole range of issues in a general way. But they share that view, that they want the government services that they pay for. The one they're particularly focused on at the moment is education, because they see this as the area of the greatest failing of this government over the four years that they have endured this government. They look at that and they worry about all levels of education.

[Page 1015]

They worry about the elementary schools, they worry about the middle schools, they worry about the high schools, they worry about the community colleges and they worry about the universities. They're worried about the quality and they're worried, when it comes to the post-secondary education, about the cost. This is something that is an enormous concern to them, particularly in the high school level. Many of them have children who are about at that level and, if not there, then they will be soon. They know there's going to be one combined high school on the peninsula, but they want a high school of good quality, just as they want good quality in their education system from Primary all the way through to Grade 12, and in post-graduate undertakings after that. They're following this in great detail and that I think is the heart of what it is that they're looking for, and in this time of Spring and renewal I think we should turn our minds to effective ways of delivering that to them. Thank you very much for your attention.

[2:00 p.m.]

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

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, my dissertation today, going into Supply, is with regard to a particular project that I believe is a very worthy project. It's on the issue of economic development, and it's an issue being put forth by the Eskasoni First Nation with regard to a wind energy plan that they have so as to become more economically independent, self-sustaining, and hopefully to be able to further itself to the level of independence and of self-sustainability that I believe all members of this House would certainly support, as would the people of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, in support of this particular economic development initiative, the Eskasoni Band Council would essentially like to construct, own, and operate a wind energy generating system consisting of an approximate number of wind turbines, two or three, depending upon the final analysis of the testing that's being done on the mountain top just above their community. In the short term this project would supply or result in the creation of jobs during construction, bolster the local economy, both directly in terms of construction companies, tradespeople and so on, and indirectly through security, hospitality, and community education and so on. In the long term it will provide a valuable source of certified green energy production as committed to by the federal government as a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol.

Other federal initiatives in the areas of climate change and global warming are also supported directly through this project, Mr. Speaker. Additionally, new doors will be opened to the local economic development by taking a greater role in the utility management service and billing within the Eskasoni First Nation. Collectively this program fosters energy independence, stability of pricing for the next 25 years - that's 25 years - and opportunities to assist other First Nations interested in the pursuit of these goals.

[Page 1016]

Mr. Speaker, each turbine is projected to supplant a minimum of $160,000 per annum, currently purchased externally at the full rates from Nova Scotia Power. Furthermore, those rates based primarily on the generation of electricity by burning coal and gas are expected to consistently increase over time, while the output costs of wind turbines will remain unchanged. On the advice of Nova Scotia Power and the Nova Scotia Wind Energy Project team at Dalhousie University, which by the way has been working very closely with the Eskasoni First Nation, the firm of Canova Energy was retained to help develop this plan and to supply a turnkey package of consultation, engineering expertise, and project management. Aside from these contributions, the firm was also identified on the basis of local content and their particular and strong support of the principles of community-generated power has developed very successfully. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would ask the honourable members to take their conversations outside, please. The honourable member for Cape Breton West has the floor.

MR. MACKINNON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I believe this is a very important issue for the First Nation community, particularly for Eskasoni, and given the fact that all members of this House are always advocating that we should become more economically self-sustaining and efficient in how we operate with ourselves, our homes, our community and the leadership issues, I think this issue would be of paramount concern, particularly to government members.

Mr. Speaker, aside from these contributions, the firm was also identified on the basis of local content and their particular and strong support of the principles of community-generated power as developed very successfully in Denmark and throughout Europe. Canova Energy has demonstrated close technical, economic and political ties to Danish wind industry, and the expertise, the European renewable energy industries, as well. They have worked actively to ensure that any such proposition would have the highest possible level of Eskasoni content. The Eskasoni Band Council initiated this investigation into renewable energy almost two years ago, gathering market, economic and technical data.

The Nova Scotia Wind Energy Project team was first brought on board in early 2002 to outfit their meteorological tower with wind measuring and recording equipment to operate it for a valid period, that being one year for testing and to analyze these findings. Validation of the wind regime is a critical step in the design of any wind power facility. It facilitates the production of accurate electrical output projections and the subsequent selection of both viable permanent sites and the most appropriate wind turbine technology to deliver these results.

Several major refinements to the data collection processes have enabled the Eskasoni Band Council to further improve and validate the electrical output expectations, including the raising of the sensing equipment to higher, more exposed altitudes on a meteorological tower, and scientific extrapolation of the data to conditions at specific installation targets. As

[Page 1017]

indicated in the included summary report, which I will certainly table, the preliminary analysis indicates the existence of support, a strong recommendation and a high confidence in the viability of installing a commercial wind energy project along the highest altitude or the ridge just above the Eskasoni Reserve.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Cape Breton West has the floor.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, the next major issue was defining an electrical interconnection with the existing utility, Nova Scotia Power, both technically and economically. Further negotiations will need to be carried out, and I know they have been carried out at the federal level and they've been pursuing assistance with the provincial government, although they haven't come on board at this time, but I will go into that a little later. Further negotiations will require all stakeholders' support.

Additionally, the wind energy plan is completely synchronized with the provincial government's new energy strategy that forecasts a significant move towards more open markets and multiple independent sources of generation over the course of the next few years. Within the plan, all development activities are identified and quantified, including, as a minimum, the following: environmental assessments, taking into consideration birds, rare plants, waterways and that sort of issue; acceptance by the community, there has been public education and consultation; the eco-logo certification, requiring a third party green certification; job creation, in terms of both training and ongoing opportunities in operation and maintenance services; the establishment of an appropriate legal entity for the ownership and operation of this project, and the negotiation of a power purchase agreement with Nova Scotia Power. Finally, development of all necessary project management design engineering, procurement, construction and commissioning infrastructure to see this project through its successful completion and the ongoing benefit of the people of Eskasoni.

Lastly, all considerations of technology - comparison, selection and procurement have been completed and the final recommendations for these and all other issues of project construction and management are contained within the plan that has been submitted both to the federal government and to the provincial government. That's essentially the message that was conveyed by Chief Blair Francis to the various stakeholders.

I understand this project will cost approximately $5.7 million for the three turbines. The federal government has agreed to fund two-thirds of this project which leaves approximately one-third for the other two stakeholders - the community of Eskasoni and the provincial government. The payback period for approximately the $2.4 or $2.5 million that would be required - if that were divided between the remaining two stakeholders, the provincial government and the community of Eskasoni - the payback period would be less than, I would say, six to seven years, and at the outside, depending upon financing, terms and conditions, let's say 10 years.

[Page 1018]

We have essentially the community of Eskasoni saving upwards of $600,000 a year by this very vital project. At $600,000 a year times 15 years, that's $9 million that this community would be able to redirect into social, educational and a whole range of community economic development projects. The provincial government has consistently said that it wants various communities in this province and most importantly, communities such as Eskasoni First Nation, to become self-sustaining. We have an excellent opportunity here and to date the provincial government has not responded to the official request that was made by Chief Blair Francis and his council.

I would ask the provincial government to give serious consideration to this project whether it be through the Department of Economic Development, whether it be through the Department of Energy, whether it be through the office of the minister responsible for Aboriginal Affairs or whether it be through the Premier's Office; it doesn't matter. The bottom line is, we have an opportunity to save money for this community. It could serve as a model for many other communities across the province. If you look at the total number of wind turbines that Nova Scotia Power has, and you compare this to what they have, this provides a greater service of electrical needs than Nova Scotia is providing through the initial pilot projects that they have up and running.

Not only that, but the provincial government collects - I stand to be corrected on the exact figure - on transfer payments, approximately $2,204 for every Nova Scotian, from the federal government each year. That's true for individuals living in Native communities across this province - whether it be Eskasoni, Membertou, or what have you. The provincial government collects that money, but it doesn't provide any services to the Native community of Nova Scotia.

I know there are a whole variety of issues that could be attached to the federal-provincial responsibilities and relationships back and forth, but by golly, the federal government ultimately pays for health care as part of that federal government Department of Indian Affairs' responsibility to the Native community; the same with education and a lot of other infrastructure things. We expect the Native communities to become self-sustaining but here's an opportunity and what's happening? The provincial government is dragging its feet. Why? Why is it collecting - if you took $2,204, multiply it by the total number of people from the First Nation community in Nova Scotia, we're looking at the provincial government collecting over a period of years since this entire inception of transfers, tens of millions of dollars. And what are they giving back?

They don't want patronizing comments, Mr. Speaker. They need real, genuine support to help them become self-sustaining. That's all they're asking for, the same as any other community, the same as any municipality, the same as any private corporation, the same as any non-profit organization. We should treat all Nova Scotians the same. We should give them the support and the respect they deserve by supporting this vital initiative.

[Page 1019]

[2:15 p.m.]

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

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, once again at this time it's a great honour and privilege to rise in my place, the home of the first responsible government in the British Empire. I indicated earlier that I was very pleased, extremely honoured that members observed, on the opening of this session of the Assembly - we took time out of the schedule. I know you very much supported us taking a moment to reflect on world events and things of that nature.

Just this past Saturday evening, I had the pleasure of attending the Hilden Fire Brigade's annual meeting. During the course of the ceremony and evening, the Deputy Fire Chief, Mr. Peter Oosterom, was kind enough to present me with a lapel pin. It has the Canadian and American flags, and states, emphatically, united we stand. He said he found that was very appropriate in the aftermath of 9/11, and he felt it was very appropriate today. So I was very honoured to be presented with the lapel pin.

Again, I commend all the young men and women who, over the past several years, in the 1920s, in the 1930s, in the 1940s - especially in the 1940s - and of course in the 1950s during the Korean War, and some recent times, I just want to say thank you to the men and women who fight to preserve the democracy and the peace and comfort we enjoy as Canadians here today in this great country Canada. Mr. Speaker, it did and continues to take a lot of courage and sacrifice and hard work to preserve a lot of things we take for granted. That's just a very brief thank you to the men and women who sacrifice so much for us.

Mr. Speaker, I was quite dismayed and disappointed and considerably disillusioned last evening upon listening to the dissertation by the venerable and honourable member for Cape Breton Nova, speaking about the Firefighters' Compensation Bill. Like I indicated earlier, having been in this Legislature for nigh on 10 years, this government, the John Hamm Government, the Progressive Conservative Government and this caucus have done more for the volunteer firefighters in the Province of Nova Scotia than any government in recent time. We have done more.

The role of the Fire Marshal's Office, as you know, Mr. Speaker, is within the jurisdiction of the Department of Environment and Labour, the honourable minister. You might remember that it was the honourable Minister of Environment and Labour who brought forward legislation that will recognize Nova Scotia firefighters annually, each and every October, with a day named in the honour of our volunteer firefighters. I would challenge any member in that Liberal caucus, including the member for Cape Breton Nova, to stand on his feet and speak against such legislation.

[Page 1020]

Mr. Speaker, the legislation was delayed for a short while because the chief fire officer and, of course, the volunteers wanted some input relative to that piece of legislation. When I say there was some discussion with the Fire Marshal's Office and the volunteer firefighters, it was concern that was expressed over the honorarium. Following much discussion, following consultation, changes to the wording in the legislation were made and an amendment was made where the government and the chief fire officer will review each and every case independently if some volunteer firefighter does earn $500 or more. This was all necessary because of the good legislation we brought in that also entitles the volunteer firefighter's family to be paid $100,000 if, God forbid, that a firefighter should lose his or her life in the line of duty, another great feature and clause and provision that we incorporated into the legislation. (Interruption)

I hear the honourable member for Cape Breton Nova. I know last evening when I rose on a point of order which, in fact, was ruled a point perhaps of something else, I indicated very clearly that this government has taken a lot of steps and provided much-needed legislation to support and buttress our volunteer firefighters.

Mr. Speaker, I do commend with some reservation the NDP and their critic for bringing forward concerns about firefighter compensation, but if you go back through some of the media clippings relative to the NDP's comments about firefighter compensation legislation, not once referenced in the initial media briefs and clippings will you find that the NDP spoke about the volunteer firefighter. Our government took the initiative to include the volunteer firefighters in the Firefighters' Compensation Bill and on saying that, I point out that Manitoba and Alberta have similar legislation, but listen to this, Nova Scotia will be the first jurisdiction to cover volunteers. Get that, honourable member for Cape Breton Nova, Nova Scotia will be the first jurisdiction to cover volunteer firefighters. (Interruption)

More than seven professional departments and over 130 volunteer fire departments will be covered by workers' compensation, and they will be eligible for benefits. I have to tip my hat to the honourable Minister of Environment and Labour, Mr. Speaker, and we know that with the increased incidents of exposure to chemical-based products and things of that nature that it's good-sense legislation and, like I say, I do recognize, and I think my government has already acknowledged publicly that while the NDP nipped around the periphery of some type of coverage, we took the initiative to cover the volunteer firefighters. It's somewhat ironic that on one hand we have an entire caucus allegedly - and I didn't hear, but I heard if you will, that the honourable member for Cape Breton West was claiming that his caucus should perhaps vote against this much-needed legislation if such and such didn't happen, but I don't think, knowing the NDP as I do, that the NDP would have the audacity to do such a dastardly deed. Now, I did indicate . . .

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. The fact of the matter is if the honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley would read Hansard, he would find that what he has suggested was simply not correct. What I suggested

[Page 1021]

was that this particular piece of legislation could have been done by regulation and policy at the board. At no point in time did I ever suggest that we would not support it, but rather that amendments should be put in to improve it so that the 3,000 volunteer firefighters in this province, who don't receive coverage, will receive coverage.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. It is not a point of order but a disagreement of facts between two members. The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley has the floor.

MR. TAYLOR: A very appropriate ruling. Mr. Speaker, our government was also pleased to bring forward legislation exempting volunteers from court action provided that they carried out due diligence in the course of action in responding to concerns related to their volunteer status with their fire departments. It was this government that brought forward that legislation and I believe even at that time the Liberal caucus might have just supported it. It was all so great that almost immediately upon taking office in 1999, we were able to save some more money, so to speak, for the volunteer firefighters by introducing free licence plates for the volunteer firefighters.

Well, the Liberals spout off all the time about this being their measure. When we were in Opposition we kept pressing the issue - pressing the issue: when are you going to bring forward the exemption for firefighters and ground search and rescue workers? They tried to mislead, Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians into believing we have to do it by legislation. Well, the fact of the matter is they could have done it by regulation, but they wouldn't do it. But guess what? We did it. This government, almost immediately upon taking office, did it. They like to boast about what they almost did, well, what they almost did is not good enough.

Mr. Speaker, I'm very proud, very pleased about some of the different initiatives that we have put in place for the volunteer firefighters. I think it is very, very important.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I am curious as to whether the honourable member would entertain a question.

MR. SPEAKER: Would the honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley entertain a question from the honourable member for Cape Breton West?

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member for Cape Breton West already had an opportunity to speak in debate going into Supply, but if he has a question that makes some sense, I will certainly try to answer it.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I suppose there's a lot that all members of this House could have done differently for volunteer firefighters and perhaps a lot more - I think there's enough blame to go around over the years. My question to the honourable member

[Page 1022]

is, where's the $500 tax credit that his colleague, who is now the Minister of Transportation and Public Works, promised for the volunteer firefighters?

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, if the honourable member has a question for the minister appropriate, he should place the question to the minister, don't ask the MLA for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley. I'm working very hard, this government is working very hard for the volunteer firefighters, and he wants to split hairs. He wants to split hairs. Why doesn't he go out and build some more P3 schools? That's what he should go do - go out and build some P3 school. That's what you should do.

Mr. Speaker, it's absolutely ridiculous that he would eat the clock up with nonsensical questions like that, knowing full well that this government has done a lot for the volunteer firefighters - and we will continue to do a lot for the volunteer firefighters. But to stand up, like the honourable members did last evening, and hypothesize and daydream about what might happen: if a firefighter makes $100,000, they may not be covered; if they make $100,000, they might be covered; all that type of claptrap - that was just disgraceful last night. What they were doing, it was an attempt to filibuster.

I was very pleased, Mr. Speaker, that you gave the honourable member for Cape Breton Nova, you referenced the fact that he used to be a Speaker in this wonderful, beautiful Chamber, the home of the first responsible government in the British Empire, that honourable member, as a Speaker you advised him that he should know full well that he's reading from the bill. He was reading, a member with 30 or 31 or 35 years - however many years' experience it is - you had to tell him, and it was great that the honourable member respectfully received your admonishment, but I was quite surprised that he would stray so far in Second Reading.

Mr. Speaker, because of your latitude and generosity, the honourable member was able to put in as much time as he did, but it was absolutely disappointing, very disappointing and dismaying that the honourable member would get up and complain that we're trying to help the volunteer firefighters.

Now, when he goes back and speaks to those volunteer fire departments in Cape Breton West, maybe in Big Pond or maybe down in the honourable member for Cape Breton Nova's riding, when he goes back, will he take time out of his very busy schedule and go speak to the volunteer firefighters? Go speak to them, and then come back, and maybe when you come back on Tuesday, maybe when the honourable members in the Liberal caucus come back on Tuesday they might have a different perspective, one that's based on what the grassroots in that riding is saying and not what they come down here and ramble on and rumble on about this, that, and the other thing. Relevancy, relevancy, speak to the piece of legislation, the bill, don't read it word for word, don't read it verbatim to try to eat up the clock.

[Page 1023]

Commend the government. This is the government that almost immediately in 1999, upon assuming office, exempted firefighters and ground search and rescue people from licence plate fees. This is a government that took the initiative to do that, Mr. Speaker. In Opposition we came up with the idea, we tried to force those scoundrels to do it, but they wouldn't do it; they absolutely wouldn't do it.

MR. SPEAKER: Order. Order, please.

The motion is carried.

[2:30 p.m. The House resolved itself into a CWH on Supply with Acting Deputy Speaker Mr. William Dooks in the Chair.]

[6:00 p.m. CWH on Supply rose and the House reconvened. Mr. Speaker, Hon. Murray Scott, resumed the Chair.]

MR. SPEAKER: We have reached the moment of interruption.

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

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

TRANSPORT. & PUB. WKS. - RURAL ROADS:

GOV'T. (N.S.) - ABANDONMENT

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, I have before me an interesting proposition to address. It reads:

"Therefore be it resolved that the Tory Government has abandoned Nova Scotia's rural roads."

Well, it may not say much in words, but it encompasses a great deal. I know that recently I was advised - I don't know if I, myself, was advised, maybe it was the MacEwan espionage services - of a certain poll that was taken off the record to identify the most important issue in the upcoming election. Issue number one was health, issue number two was education, and issue number three was roads. I understand that roads are rising, and the other issues are perhaps somewhat falling, because people are more concerned about the condition of the roads on a day-to-day basis than they are with the hospitals, except those who have immediate health needs, likewise with education. Perhaps all are, in a general way, concerned with it, yes, but the condition of the roads is something that you're very much aware of day by day as you attempt to use them.

[Page 1024]

Now, I don't see - I won't say about the minister. I will just say about the roads. I try to navigate them myself, daily. I noticed that - well, I'm going to take Highway No. 28, because that's a very interesting highway. It begins at Ashby Corner in Sydney and ends at Senators Corner in Glace Bay. It goes there from corner to corner.

AN HON. MEMBER: Why is it called Senators Corner?

MR. MACEWAN: Well, I don't know, but I will find out. As a Minister of the Crown would say, I shall look into it and report back in due course. Yes. Maybe the member for Glace Bay knows that one. (Interruptions) Well, I understand it would be a great sign location, yes indeed, but it was also the case at which people used to fight with their fists at election time over the various Parties opposing each other. I don't know if it was senators or not who undertook those particular fistfights. Perhaps not, perhaps they were spectators while they cast bets on who would win.

Getting back to Highway No. 28, it goes from Ashby Corner in Sydney to Senators Corner in Glace Bay by way of New Waterford and passes through that very interesting community, as well as the communities of Scotchtown and River Ryan and Gardiner Mines, where it's called Seaside Drive. In the area leaving New Waterford, it's called Union Highway. Don't ask me what union that was, hopefully not one that gave money to the NDP, but that remains to be determined. It then goes through the Town of Dominion - which I still call the Town of Dominion and always will - and goes on into the Town of Glace Bay, where it is known as Main Street. So we have a road here that has many names, but will get you from Sydney to Glace Bay, the roundabout way.

Now, this highway is zoned for 80 kilometres per hour, that's the speed on which to drive over it for most of its distance. I'm not saying within the Town of Glace Bay, I never got a ticket in Glace Bay yet, but I'm sure if I drove at 80 kilometres an hour down Main Street in Glace Bay, I would, yes, and then there was the Town of Dominion which was always known somewhat as a speed trap. You'd better not drive over 50 kilometres an hour through there or you would be nabbed. The rest of it, parts of it might be lower in speed than 80 kilometres, I know that the parts approaching New Waterford and going through New Victoria are zoned as 60 kilometres and the parts coming out of New Waterford, depending on which way you're going, in either direction, are also zoned at 60 kilometres.

So you can probably travel half this highway at 80 kilometres and the rest of it probably at less than 80 kilometres, but the point is that going from Sydney to New Waterford, or vice versa, most of the distance is zoned at 80 kilometres per hour and on that highway which was rebuilt in the good old days of the Liberal Government from New Waterford to Sydney, the total distance, every time you go over a culvert, the road goes down about two feet, sometimes less, sometimes more, but around that distance because the ballast that was used over the culverts was not of the same recipe as the ballast used over the rest of the highway, see, so you have a series of level sections followed by slight drops, followed

[Page 1025]

by level sections, followed by slight drops. All of this is still zoned at 80 kilometres an hour. The results for those who travel at the maximum speed limit tolerated is multiple damage to the undercarriage of their cars - flat tires on occasion and generally they get all shook up as Elvis Presley used to say, all shook up.

Now, that is the condition that highway is in. I see other honourable members listening to what I'm saying because I know that they're thinking of roads like that in their constituencies that are the same way because this time of the year, as the frost comes out of the ground and in the last couple of months with the extreme low temperatures that we've had, it has an effect on pavement and if I had the time, which I don't, I could give you a scientific lecture on how frost affects pavement, but it's not conducive to the bonding process, it's conducive to the opposite, to the pavement breaking up, to the development of potholes and other such encumbrances. Do I see a signal to me? I just started, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Ten seconds.

MR. MACEWAN: All right, well, there is much opportunity for the government to act. We look forward to their action in the near future.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Yarmouth.

MR. RICHARD HURLBURT: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to rise in my place today to speak on this resolution. In the former government from 1993 to 1999, if I recall correctly, there was a member from the Shelburne area who was the Minister of Transportation and Public Works. I think his real title should have been Minister of Natural Resources because I believe the only thing that the member ever did was clear-cut a swath through Barrington. That's the only thing to my recollection that he did.

Well, let me tell you what the good member for Shelburne from 1999 to 2003 has accomplished and as a backbencher, a hard-working backbencher. He has had his road paved from the Queens to Shelburne County line to the Sable River Bridge. He had the Riverhead Road in Barrington repaved. He had the Forbes Point Road paved that the former minister promised prior to the 1999 election. The only thing that I know that the minister of the day did for Shelburne, he closed the service station or the area garage that they had in Shelburne and moved it to Bridgewater. That was quite nice of him to do. (Interruption)

Mr. Speaker, the service garage, that's right, in Shelburne. They moved it from Shelburne to Bridgewater. That was very nice of the minister to do for his people in Shelburne. In the RIM funding that was implemented by this government after 1999, it has paid big dividends to Shelburne area and to my area - Yarmouth. It has hit, just all the outlying communities, there's been more gravel work, there's been more bush cutting, culverts, ditching in areas that were neglected for 10 years prior to and that RIM funding has paid tenfold to these little communities in the outlying areas.

[Page 1026]

When this government took office there was approximately $36 million in capital spent on highways in the Province of Nova Scotia. Today, our government with the new budget that was introduced, it will be $116 million for capital investments for the highways in the Province of Nova Scotia - $10 million into the RIM funding, $1 million for cost sharing with municipalities which I was fortunate enough to have one of those projects last year in my community and the people are very grateful. That's the only way the J-Class in this great province are ever going to get to see blacktop and that's partnering. They did partner with the Municipality of the District of Yarmouth, the residents of the community and the Province of Nova Scotia. The people are very, very thankful to this government for doing that project for them.

This government has cut a deal with the federal government for doing the 100-Series Highways which the former government forgot to do - $61 million was just announced last week. We are going to enhance Highway No. 101 through the Valley which they call the death highway. There are going to be some new overpasses in South West Nova, there's work to be done on Highway No. 104.

What happened to the government from 1993 to 1999? Why was there not a deal with the federal government for highway work in this great province? New Brunswick seemed to get their share, but the Province of Nova Scotia sort of laid back and just let it go. Well, in the Yarmouth area, the Lake George Road was one of the roads that the people were the most vocal about prior to the 1999 election. I'm proud to stand here in my place today and say that road has been completed by this government.

The next road, the priority that's set by the community and the councils and the Department of Transportation in Yarmouth was the Hardscratch Road. It's a very busy stretch of road, it's a shortcut for the inland areas, for the communities to go through town to the centre of our community. It's our composting facility, our landfill is out through there, the new quarries are out through there, it's growing. That road was earmarked to be the next priority. I am proud to say here today that road is going to see new blacktop in the year 2003. The contract's been awarded, the blacktop will be there this year and it was awarded last year.

This is not an election promise. Ever since I was elected in 1999, every year we've had roadwork in Yarmouth, where prior to 1999, we had $865,000 spent in capital in Yarmouth County - $865,000. We had a minister from the southwest area but he must have forgotten that he was a minister for the whole province because he forgot the riding of Yarmouth and there was a sitting member for the Liberal Party from Yarmouth. What happened? He couldn't even get ditching done on the Moods Mill Road. (Interruptions) Maybe you should do so.

[Page 1027]

Mr. Speaker, whenever the election is called in 2003, I want to assure you that this member will be standing in his place back in this Legislature after the election, because I did exactly what I told the people in 1999 I would do. That's stand up for the people of Yarmouth and work for the people of Yarmouth and listen to the concerns of the people of Yarmouth. I have never backed down from one debate with the people from Yarmouth. I walked into a delegation of over 1,000 people who were upset because of misinformation about closing a school in Yarmouth. I want to tell you today that school is still open and it will be open tomorrow. I did not back down from those people. Some people put false rumours throughout my community.

That's the representation that the people from Yarmouth wanted, that's the representation the people from Yarmouth have gotten and that's the representation the people from Yarmouth will have after the next general election. Thank you.

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

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: I look forward to a few moments. I'm aware that the member for Cape Breton The Lakes is going to make some comments, so I understand that I have less time than our usual amount during the last debate.

[6:15 p.m.]

The previous member, its good to see him stand in his place, I wish the member for Queens would participate in this debate, though. I wish some other member in the backbenches would replace, because Ministers of Transportation come and go and I don't really think it's appropriate, from my view, having had the opportunity to be in this House for two sessions, to on our way make disparaging comments about the previous Minister of Transportation.

I want to make it very clear that the Minister of Transportation in the previous Liberal Government, during estimates and during questions and answers that we had in this House at that time, was a very credible Minister of Transportation. I say that, I put it on the record. I understand that Mr. Huskilson had limited dollars, maybe he didn't get listened to at the Cabinet door, I'm sure he got in there and he got listened to on occasion, for sure. I want the government members on the opposite side to know, it's no time to start pointing fingers and talking about priority lists here. We're talking about the fact that people all across Nova Scotia want fairness and they want openness, that's what they want.

I heard the member for Yarmouth say that the priority for his community, according to the municipal council and to the residents, was a particular road. That's great to hear because most municipal councils, whether it's within the HRM or where the previous Warden of the Yarmouth Council operated, and that's the MLA for Yarmouth now,

[Page 1028]

established that priority. It's open and you can see it, but where it goes once it gets to the Department of Transportation, that's where the concerns begin.

I can take you on a tour of my riding and I can tell you that there are, without doubt - and there was money assigned to Timberlea-Prospect, I know the member for beautiful Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley says there was all kinds of teaspoons of pavement in the riding of Timberlea-Prospect. The twinning of Highway No. 103 announcement, the seven kilometres on the Prospect Road which of course is on the way to Peggy's Cove, those announcements and those projects were done because they had to be done, because the engineers within the Department of Transportation and Public Works have decided that, based upon what the municipal council says, based upon what the MLA for the area says, these are our priorities.

That's the sort of response that we have to come from the Department of Transportation and Public Works, but the concern is, it's the perception. The perception is, there's politics involved and come election time pavement will hit the road. That's why it's of crucial importance that we determine the criteria for roadwork and so people know, whether it's the Scott's Branch Road, whether it's the McGrath's Cove Road, whether it's that infamous Porcupine Hill, up and down over Terence Bay. People will know - well, Porcupine Hill will receive roadwork, the amount of roadwork and the time frame for it - if it's done in an open fashion and that is, after all, how it should be done.

The previous Minister of Transportation, I want to compliment him. He knew and toured roads in my community and when he came to Porcupine Hill, the next day in the House when he responded to the questions that I asked, he inadvertently called me the MLA from Porcupine Hill, but he went there, and he looked at the problem. Now we all know that we have roads in our communities that need work. However, there is no way, and I know it's a prop, but we cannot get into this divide and conquer which I have here from the Liverpool Advance "NDP stance is anti-rural says Morash." That's the sort of comment that pits one community against another community.

Many of the people in Liverpool called me and said, what are you saying? I'm saying that 100-Series money for paving, 100-Series money for improvements to those roads has to go to 100-Series projects. I did say - and I put it for the record and I will table this in a moment - that we cannot have 100-Series money end up on a back road in Queens County. But for the member for Queens to sit during this debate and not participate after using the old divide and conquer mentality of that government, that's the shameful sort of way that gives us all a bad reputation as MLAs. That gives us all a bad reputation when it comes to determining transportation priorities across this province. Mr. Speaker, thank you for your time.

[Page 1029]

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

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, just at the beginning, I am glad to hear that the honourable member for Yarmouth is getting his blacktop put on his roads and what I witnessed here is exactly what is wrong with today's government. Prior to 1999, there was a program in place, an infrastructure program. A new deal has been signed by this government, but the program prior to 1999 that Russell MacLellan had signed with the federal government indicated very clearly that, within the formula, approximately 38 per cent of that funding would be spent in rural Nova Scotia and that was in there apparently to protect the rural areas from the larger centres like Halifax. This government has eliminated that formula, and there's no avenue now to do rural infrastructure and rural infrastructure could be water lines or sewer lines or it could be bridges.

What it would do, if this was a clause in this new agreement, is free up money for pavement. It would free up and lift the handicap that this government has imposed on itself, because they have to use other funding for the blacktop instead of putting a portion in and paying a three-way portion to do water lines and sewer lines, and that would comprise of construction of the highways as well. I've had several projects throughout my community, prior to 1999, completed like this and it does have a major, positive impact in the community.

I know now that since the federal Fisheries Minister has gotten his roads fixed, hopefully the minister will point his direction and his attention to Cape Breton, where he has two MPs elected down there, and they are Liberal MPs and I don't hear anything, not a word about infrastructure, Mr. Speaker. If I look at the Cabot Trail, the road leading to and from the Cabot Trail should be a 100-Series Highway, which would allow the federal government to spend maintenance money on this road. These roads - I've been on them recently - believe me, are not fit to drive a five-ton truck on. How or why would tourists even consider going there?

Mr. Speaker, residents in northern Cape Breton, such as in Meat Cove, have experienced difficulties with homes burning down because the roads weren't salted and the fire trucks couldn't get to the scene of the fire. Now this is a very serious situation. I could tell you about probably hundreds of situations that I have documented in my files. These are very serious issues for this government to deal with. I have streets in my constituency - really, it's a tax grab for the government. For instance, a young lady called me just a couple of weeks ago, after obtaining a new job at a local car dealership and one of the first things she did, because she was happy to have obtained the job, was to purchase a used vehicle.

Mr. Speaker, she didn't make too many trips up the Georges River Road before damage to the bumper was caused by a culvert that was dropped in the highway. No signs, although the Department of Transportation and Public Works officials did indicate that they

[Page 1030]

dropped the signs, and I don't doubt that, with vandalism, youths, whatever. When I visited that site, there were no such signs located along that stretch.

Mr. Speaker, there's Villa Drive, there's Church Road, there's Alder Point Road, there's Route 223, there's the Johnson Road, there's the Groves Point Road, there's Millville Road, and the list goes on and on, the Eskasoni Road. My constituency has paid the price for partisan politics long enough. When will these Parties get together to put some type of formula together so that we don't have these conflicts created between the constituency of Yarmouth and former ministers?

What we need in this province is a non-partisan policy to deal with the worst roads first. Mr. Speaker, that is quite easy to put forth. We have people working in the Department of Transportation and Public Works who really are intelligent. They know how to deal with this situation. If the politicians took it out of their control, but they want to own this, they want to be able to go down on the street and say, look, I paved your street and vote for me, I'm going to pave the next street.

Mr. Speaker, that type of politics in Nova Scotia has been around forever, but it's old-time politics. It's time to get modern. If the minister and the Premier are serious about delivering a progressive road policy in this province, a non-partisan road policy must be developed. My community has paid the price because it had Liberal representation in a Tory Government, it said because it had NDP representation in a Liberal Government.

Mr. Speaker, it's time now, I don't think my constituency has seen a new paving project since the Point Aconi Road was paved and that was done when I was in municipal council by the former Premier of the province. I said oftentimes that I had to go to the Premier and he understood. He was aware of the street. He visited the street with me personally and he agreed with the concerns the people had. That's the type of representation that we require there. Just simply to stand back and do nothing because your HST or GST revenue is increasing because of the number of tires that are being purchased by motorists, front-end parts such as ball joints, tie-rod ends, front-end shops have an abundance of work but revenue is increasing. We see similarly the insurance industry where there is absolutely no effort whatsoever to deal with these issues because revenue keeps coming in and isn't that the name of the game for this government.

Mr. Speaker, any time bumps on roads cause difficulties for bumpers on cars, then I think it's very recognizable that there are problems on our highways. Last year there were reports in local media about students on buses having split lips from hitting bumps and the children jumping up and biting, you know, their lip on their tooth. When will we get a government in this province that is non-partisan, that will deal with the issues that face all Nova Scotians, not just people in the ridings that were lucky enough to pick a winner. If I look in any of these ridings, I would have to ask how many ridings outside of Tory control obtained paving in the past three years? I would suggest that list is very minimal.

[Page 1031]

Mr. Speaker, it's time to move forward. A 2 per cent increase in gas prices has enabled this government the funding necessary to fix the roads not only in Yarmouth, not only in Richmond, or Cape Breton Nova, but in Cape Breton The Lakes, in every riding. A truly non-partisan road policy, that's what we require. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: There's a moment left if anybody wants it.

I would like to thank the honourable members for taking part in the debate this evening. The House will resume into a Committee of the Whole House on Supply.

[6:29 p.m. The House resolved itself into a CWH on Supply with Acting Deputy Speaker Mr. William Dooks in the Chair.]

[7:01 p.m. CWH on Supply rose and the House reconvened. Mr. Speaker, Hon. Murray Scott, resumed the Chair.]

MR. SPEAKER: The Chairman of the Committee of the Whole House on Supply reports:

THE CLERK: That the committee has met, made considerable progress and begs leave to sit again.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

The honourable Government House Leader.

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

PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 3.

Bill No. 3 - Personal Property Security Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations.

[Page 1032]

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the chance tonight to move second reading of Bill No. 3, Personal Property Security Act. This bill is just going to lay the groundwork for some significant consumer protection measures in the future. This would clarify the consumer's search for personal property registry by serial number or by name. This is a proactive measure, and it's a response to court decisions in Nova Scotia and other Canadian jurisdictions. This bill, when passed, will enable the province to establish an Internet-based lien check where consumers could search public records by serial number to determine if the car, boat or some other high-end good or product to be purchased has any outstanding liens. This bill will clarify that the Personal Property Security Act applies to offshore registered items in the personal property resource. I am pleased to move second reading.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I was interested to hear what it was that the minister would say in explanation of what his bill was about. I do have some comments to make about it, but let me just immediately cut to the chase and be clear that our Party will be supporting this bill. We regard it as a useful small piece of legislation dealing with this question of liens on chattels.

I would like to start by expressing some thanks to the minister because of the way in which he has chosen to approach this bill. He did this by having his officials invite the Critics who were responsible for Service Nova Scotia to meet with him for an explanation of what it is that this bill was all about. I have to say that when we're dealing with technical legislation that this is a very good idea. It was very welcome. I know that I found it useful to receive the briefing that we were given by the departmental solicitor and by the other official who was in charge of the registry. It was a useful clarification of how it is that this system is designed to work.

Partly because my training is in the law, we had a discussion about the cases, both in Nova Scotia and in other jurisdictions, P.E.I. for example, that had led to some dispute about who was responsible when certain errors are made in computerized searching. One of the things I don't think the minister actually did mention is that I think it's the intention of his officials to set up a common system among the four Atlantic Provinces so that anyone searching would be able to search for liens in the four Atlantic Provinces using the same inputs and the same computer system. This is a very useful initiative. I think it's exactly the kind of thing that computers are going to be able to do for us more frequently in the future. It's exactly the kind of modernization of a lien-searching system that ought to take place.

I think it's right that the minister's department has taken steps to engage in not only establishing an Atlantic Provinces system, but in improving it. There's often a process of dialogue that goes on between the Legislature and the courts. We pass laws that we hope have clarity. Occasionally questions arise and they're litigated, and the courts tell us whether,

[Page 1033]

in their opinions, there's actually clarity or there isn't. If we're told that there isn't clarity, it's up to us to further respond to try to make clear the point that was actually intended by us collectively in the first place.

That's exactly what's happened here, is that on similarly worded legislation - that is legislation similar to the wording that we had prior to these amendments - there were some disputes as to what occurs in the interesting circumstances in which someone who is doing a search for liens against property, perhaps inadvertently enters the wrong serial number or the wrong name. Furthermore, there is a complicating factor of what happens when those who are registering the liens in the first place put in the wrong serial number or the wrong name. As one can well imagine, they might make an error of one digit in a long serial number, and yet it wouldn't be the correct serial number, or they might type an "a" when they meant to hit a "c". It's easy enough to make these small errors and the problem is, does the lien become ineffective against someone who purchased the chattel and does a search afterwards?

This is an interesting and problematic area. I only hope that the language of this bill is sufficient to cover off these circumstances. I know we're not in clause by clause, but I have to say that there is at least some wording in the bill that does cause me at least mild concern. I'm not sure that it can be fixed in the sense that I don't know if it's possible to clarify so completely the language around these circumstances that there will never be room for dispute. I think this bill goes some way towards it. I think that a very commendable effort has been made to deal here with a routine administrative function of government, but one which has serious implications for many people out there.

Many people will want to purchase, as the minister said, cars or boats or, as he said as well, high-end chattels that may well have liens against them by the original lending institutions. People will want to be assured that those liens are either present or not present. If they're present, they want to make sure they're paid off. This is a commonly encountered set of circumstances.

I commend the minister and, as I said, we will be supporting this bill. I think it's a very useful way to engage with the computerization of our society. This is exactly the kind of niche where computers can be used, but as we learned in the disputes over liability, in computer user language, GIGO, that means garbage in, garbage out. In other words, it's always possible to make mistakes and anyone inputting can easily make an error. We have to figure out where the liability lies after that.

I thank the minister for asking his officials to brief the Opposition critics. It's very useful and this is a useful bill so, with those remarks I repeat again, we will be supporting this bill at second reading. Thank you very much.

[Page 1034]

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

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I rise on behalf of our caucus to say a few words on Bill No. 3, An Act to Amend Chapter 13 of the Acts of 1995-96, the Personal Property Security Act.

I understand the intent of this piece of legislation is to correct a legal misinterpretation. In reviewing this legislation it would appear that this legislation reflects a desire to clarify the wording of the present Personal Property Security Act. It addresses and clarifies the understanding of misleading defect, irregularity, omission or error when registering personal property. It appears that these changes are to clarify wording and to update this relatively recent piece of legislation. There has been some discussion on the interpretation of the wording, as I've said.

The case law in the east, as I understand - Nova Scotia hasn't really been affected, I guess, or challenged on this issue - is that a searcher must search by both name and serial number. I understand in the west, however, the case suggests that a searcher need only to search by either name or serial number.

Mr. Speaker, this amendment to the legislation will ensure the uniformity of interpretation on how search provisions under the property registry are viewed. As I understand it from my discussions with those working on these amendments, this is the original intent of the legislation. Indeed, the proposed changes to the Personal Property Security Act reflect the necessity of correcting the problem out of the courts of New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island and the western provinces.

I guess we aren't the only province in the east that will be correcting this problem. I understand the three other provinces will also move this year to address this interpretation issue to ensure that all Acts are continued to remain the same in wording and understanding. This legislation will have the effect of bringing those interpretations back into line. It would appear reasonable that the interpretation of the legislation would also be consistent.

This legislation, which we have little problem in supporting, will help to address this. We know that the main purpose of these changes, and as I said earlier the case law with respect to serial number searches in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island have been interpreted differently from the western provinces, and in discussions with those trying to address this legislation it would appear that many within the legal community agree that the interpretation given by the courts appears contrary to the intent of the legislation.

The Atlantic Provinces are all making changes to their respective legislation to correct the error in order to create a uniform law that reflects the rest of Canada and the initial intent of the legislation. As I understand from the case law, it would seem to suggest that a searcher must search by both the name and the serial number. The legislation contains

[Page 1035]

an "or" statement, but has been interpreted to be read as an "and" statement. The amendments will make it clear that a serial number search will be sufficient for serial numbered items.

For example, given that many used automobiles are bought and sold frequently, it makes sense that using the serial number as the main search since it and not the name of the owner stays with the vehicle. The amendments, however, will make it clear if a proper serial number search is sufficient for serial numbered goods. The amendments will make it clear that if a proper serial number search does not return a result, there is an invalid serial number registration. This will protect the searchers and those looking to determine whether there are any liens or other vested interests in line for this property.

In closing, our caucus will be supporting these amendments to the Personal Property Security Act and we look forward to having this bill brought to Law Amendments. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: If I recognize the honourable Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations it will be to close debate on Bill No. 3.

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: I thank the honourable members for their comments. We've made some notes of those comments and we certainly will be developing those comments as we move on to the Law Amendments Committee. As has been indicated, this is to enable people to do an easier search and to deal with the court cases. That said, Mr. Speaker, I move second reading.

[7:15 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 3. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

Ordered that this bill be referred to the Committee on Law Amendments.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 9.

Bill No. 9 - Municipal Law Amendment (2003) Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations.

[Page 1036]

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to move second reading of Bill No. 9, the Municipal Law Amendment (2003) Act. This bill amends three different pieces of legislation: the Municipal Government Act, the Municipal Grants Act, and the Municipal Elections Act. Every year the municipal governments ask us to make some amendments to the Municipal Government Act and that's what we're doing at the request of individual municipalities and indeed the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities.

Clause 22 deals with the amendment that was asked for by the Halifax Regional Municipality and the Union which has to deal with councillors and officials of the municipality that should release information that causes the municipality to become liable and indeed lose them some money. The intent of this is to protect the taxpayers so that confidential information isn't used for somebody's gain. There are other sections in this that enable municipalities to sell odd-shaped or small lots to owners of abutting properties, other amendments which deal with the request of municipalities, and for general housekeeping. Under the Municipal Grants Act we're making some amendments to formalize the long-standing practice of the province paying grants in lieu of business occupancy tax to provincially-owned property.

Under the Elections Act we're making a few amendments which would enable and help in campaigning in apartment buildings, and clarify the cost recoveries by municipalities for running school board elections. These changes, Mr. Speaker, are changes that have been requested by the municipalities, and I'm pleased to move second reading.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I intend to take a little more time dealing with Bill No. 9 than I took dealing with Bill No. 3, and I can't start off by pledging that our caucus is verbally disposed to this bill. Indeed, as I will try to explain in this long omnibus bill, there are many problematic provisions. I can agree with the minister that indeed there are parts of it that could be characterized as housekeeping, but I cannot agree that the whole of the bill can be characterized as housekeeping, or as sensible legislation. I have to say that at the very least there are serious questions that have to be raised about a number of provisions in Bill No. 9 and I am seriously worried about a few of those, so I want to try to explain what it is that has caught my eye as I read through this bill.

I should explain, Mr. Speaker, that this is not merely a casual interest for myself. There are a number of us in this Chamber who are former members of municipal councils, so of course I share with those members a strong interest in how it is that municipalities are given a framework for their governance by the province. That's our duty; that's what we do. We try not to get involved in detailed land use planning decisions that are merely local. That, in our determination, is to be left for local elected governments - we set the framework for that.

[Page 1037]

Now, I take a special interest as a former municipal councillor and I would think that many of the members of this House, including the honourable minister, would take a strong interest as well because of their backgrounds in this and their detailed knowledge. I add an extra layer in this particular topic because I happen to teach this subject. At Dalhousie Law School there is a course called Land Use Planning Law, I teach that course. It's essentially a municipal law, although regulation of land use is also federal and also done through private instruments between private individuals or private corporations.

The main thrust of it is to look at municipal regulation of land uses. I've spent probably, I think, now six years teaching this course annually. In fact, I spent this whole weekend reading my students' papers - an interesting exercise for any teacher to read their students' papers at the end of term. One of the things we look at, of course, is the Municipal Government Act, which is the main piece of legislation that governs municipalities and probably the main Statute that is being amended here.

Partly as a teacher and partly also as a practitioner in this area, certainly in the past I've litigated land use planning matters aplenty. As recently as a year ago, I, on a volunteer basis, took a case to the Utility and Review Board, there was a land use planning case. I try to keep current with the laws that have developed in Nova Scotia and as it moves around Canada and in the United States and United Kingdom so that I can teach my students and also write articles, which I also do on this subject.

I was not entirely taken with a number of the provisions in the bill. Since I haven't specifically been consulted about this the way we were about Bill No. 3 or invited in by staff for a consultation, I believe this will be the first opportunity I've had to let the minister know some of the points that struck me as matters of concern.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. EPSTEIN: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I have identified, I think, seven items that have struck me as potentially problematic and before I launch into a discussion of these, I should say to the minister that they are all with respect to Part II of his bill. They don't really have to do with the elections process. It seems to me that those sections are just fine and that the problems don't arise there.

The problems do arise, I think, with respect to the proposed amendments to the Municipal Government Act; not all of them by any means, but there are a number that struck me. I'm afraid I rather have to treat them one by one in the sense that although we're making general comments about the purpose of the bill, this is of course an omnibus bill so we have to address ourselves to the different aspects of them as they come to the floor. Because we're not in clause by clause, I won't list the individual clauses, nor will I discuss in any detail the wording. The issue here is not really the wording. The issue is really more the thought behind the individual proposals that come forward.

[Page 1038]

Let me just tell the minster of the first one that struck me as potentially problematic. It was the proposal to add landscaping to the list of items that can be dealt with by a municipality as unsightly premises. I have a problem with this in two respects. First, I have a lot of hesitation over whether landscaping ought to be dealt with as a matter of unsightly premises at all. But, more importantly, and I think the minister should really ask his officials for some advice about this, there is a real question about whether landscaping can be regulated as a matter of unsightly premises in the abstract. The problem that has been encountered by municipalities that have attempted to do this is that litigation has shown that regulatory bylaws can be successfully attacked as vague, as void for vagueness unless they are specifically tied to objective criteria. Aesthetics, what appeals to one person, what an inspector might think is appropriate, even what the neighbours might think is appropriate is not supportable when it comes to a bylaw that attempts to deal with landscaping as a matter of unsightly premises.

The leading case is a 1996 decision, known as Toronto v. Bell. In this case, Ms. Bell was a proponent of what she called natural landscaping. She made sure that she grew, on her lawn, a variety of plants, grasses, small bushes, shrubs, that were native to Canada, native to Ontario, but that grew in profusion and that were certainly not just a lawn made up of plain grass, kept cut to a couple of inches in height. What she had was what she regarded as an organic entity, as an ecological whole, something that expressed her understanding of what was appropriate. She defended the charge that was ultimately brought against her, under the Toronto bylaw of maintaining unsightly premises because of what her lawn looks like, on the basis that the bylaw was too vague and, furthermore, that it was an infringement of her right to self-expression.

In the end, she was successful in defending herself from the charge. In other words, she was acquitted. In other words, the bylaw was found to be ineffective, and it was found to be ineffective on constitutional grounds as a violation of the Charter of Rights. I have to say that I'm surprised to find this kind of provision coming forward, apparently, with no consideration given to this jurisprudence, which I think is fairly well-known jurisprudence. It's a well-known case, certainly well known to those of us who practice or teach in the area of municipal law, and, I would have thought, well known to the minister's advisors.

Essentially what I'm saying is that if the minister is interested in giving municipalities the power to regulate landscape, then the power should be a slightly different power. The power should be expressed so that the bylaws have to be very particular and with objective criteria to be met. I would ask the minister to reconsider this, regardless of whether he is able to frame it in a way that appeals to objective criteria. The problem is this, the problem is that there is a very large group of people throughout North America who have advocated for what they call natural landscaping. In fact a few years ago, one of my students did his graduate thesis on natural landscaping. I was interested, and I have to say perhaps a little surprised to find the extent to which there are individuals, supported by their communities often, who

[Page 1039]

have moved away from what many of us grew up thinking was a traditional form of front lawn.

In fact, of course I know my own front lawn doesn't look like that anymore. I have dug it up and I put a garden in. I think, as we look around, we find that many people are doing similar things. I certainly know that there is a taste for gardening that's very widespread. There's nothing that requires all of us, nor should there be anything that requires all of us, to subscribe to the regularity of uniform green grass front lawns. I'm all in favour of green space, but I'm also in favour of variety. There are reasons for it, and they're not purely aesthetic. It's not just a question of thinking that flowers and shrubs might be prettier than uniform green lawns. This is not a matter of aesthetics on which I'm attempting to impose my views on anyone, just as I don't think anyone else should impose their views on me or those who might be interested in natural landscaping.

What I am saying is that the minister should consider the possibility of encouraging natural landscaping.

MR. SPEAKER: Order. Order, please.

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I was inviting the minister to consider ways in which he might frame the powers of municipalities to allow them to encourage natural landscaping, to think about variety in lawns, to encourage individuals to express themselves and to create small, ecological, interactive areas on their property in ways that don't amount to safety problems or hazards.

[7:30 p.m.]

I have to say, of course, there are legitimate reasons why, in some circumstances, there might be height limitations or there might be limitations on the species. For example, things that are regarded as noxious weeds ought to be controlled in some form, but as I understand it there are already controls over noxious weeds. It may be that that needs clarification. If height is a problem, it won't be a problem in all areas. For example, there may be some lots that are so situated that if lawns were to grow with bushes or shrubs or trees too high, then it might be that sight lines for traffic might be interfered with. In general, I don't think that's the case, but it might be that occasionally there are properties in that circumstance and the special allowance might be made for that.

What I'm encouraging the minister to do is think about ways in which all the interests might be accommodated, and I have to say that this question of how landscaping is being tucked into the general area of unsightly premises doesn't seem to do it because the assumption seems to be that landscaping should be regarded as potentially unsightly. I have

[Page 1040]

to say that the subject seems to require a bit more detail for a proper rendering of what it is that's appropriate here for the subject.

I would like to move to the second of the list of seven points that struck me about this bill as problematic. This is the introduction of the possibility of a civil suit, that is liability and damages, for people who act as whistleblowers with respect to in camera council meetings. The minister will know that this particular provision has already been questioned. Members of our caucus immediately flagged it when Bill No. 9 was introduced. They flagged this particular provision as being something that might have a chilling effect, an inappropriate chilling effect on councillors and employees of the municipality.

In order to understand, a little more, what it is that actually goes on, I would like to put on the record what my experience was at HRM, particularly, and a little bit before that, on the Council of the City of Halifax before it was amalgamated. The minister will know, of course, that when, in this House, in 1998 we brought in and debated the Municipal Government Act, there were then included a list of specific circumstances, limited circumstances, in which it was regarded as appropriate for a municipal council to meet in camera. I have no problem with that. I think that there are clearly occasions on which a municipal council, which normally would have to carry on all of its business in public, should be able to meet in private.

The list is a fairly limited one, however. It's when council is receiving legal advice, it's when a private personnel matter is being dealt with, it's when, perhaps, a commercial transaction, especially a land transaction, is being considered. There may be one or two other small things I think that are on the list. I don't have the section in front of me. It's that kind of fundamentally private matter which treats of the municipality when it's primarily engaged in its corporate dimension, and much less engaged in its public policy dimension.

Here's the problem, Mr. Speaker, many councillors and indeed many senior staff regard in camera meetings at the municipal level as the opportunity to do something more. They regard it as the opportunity to stray beyond what are the narrow confines of what ought to be limited to in camera discussion, because they forget or deliberately ignore the fact that they are enjoined in the Municipal Government Act to meet only in public except for those few exceptions.

I can recall a number of occasions on which councillors at HRM said that they would rather discuss something in camera and then indeed they proceeded to do so because they felt that they could fully express their true opinions much better in camera. When they said this, they were very clear that what they were discussing went well beyond the permitted list of topics that the Municipal Government Act allows. They were clear that really what they wanted to do was discuss the regular, normally public business of council on land use planning or other associated matters in private because they would rather thrash it through that way.

[Page 1041]

I've even heard councillors say not just that they could be franker in their opinions in private, but that they didn't want to make a fool of themselves by speaking out in public. Well, it seems to me that on this latter point, of course, there are other ways of approaching it. Either if you're going to make a fool of yourself, then you do it and you take your lumps. Another possibility is that you can do your homework and be ready and not make a fool of yourself. It may be that they were just a little shy or uncertain.

For the most part, that's not what I saw. For the most part, what I observed were councillors who all too frequently turned to the in camera meeting as the normal place to do sensitive business. By sensitive I mean business having an element of public controversy. Because this happens so frequently, it seems clear that something inappropriate was going on and some councillors, to their credit at HRM, absolutely refuse to attend any in camera meetings. I don't know if that was helpful because occasionally there were very legitimate reasons for holding in camera meetings.

But there was clearly a split around the council table and from what I know from talking to councillors elsewhere in the province, my experience at HRM is not untypical. My experience at HRM is indeed reflected in litigation one sees by reading cases around the country. Indeed, from time to time, citizens who learn about inappropriate in camera meetings do bring lawsuits against their municipality, essentially inviting the courts to enjoin the councillors from engaging in this kind of activity. So we know that this is not a problem limited to HRM or to Nova Scotia. It's a Canada-wide problem and it's probably a universal problem.

I'm just a little concerned that there's something about this initiative that tends to encourage or provide a context for in camera meetings that is inappropriate. Now, I haven't heard the minister address this particular clause. I might have missed it or perhaps he's made comments on this, but I certainly didn't hear him today talk about this aspect of the bill. He gave a fairly quick overview of what it is that the bill contains. What I didn't hear him say is that this clause, this part of the bill, would only apply to legitimate in camera business. Surely that has to be a starting point. Surely, this provision cannot be meant to apply to anything that councillors or staff with their councillors deal with in camera but do so really without the sanction of the rest of the Act. That seems to me to be exactly the kind of thing that should be clarified in the language of the bill and I would hope would be clarified by comments from the minister.

The minister will know that occasionally when courts are called upon to interpret portions of legislation, they will look at the comments that are made in the Legislature by the minister at the time he introduces or when he debates the bill as an aid to understanding what was intended. I'm hoping that the minister will go on record, at the very least, as saying that it's his intention that if he does want to go ahead with this portion of the bill, it's only to apply with respect to matters that are purely, legitimately sanctioned elsewhere in the Municipal Government Act as bona fide exercises of the power to meet in camera. I think

[Page 1042]

I see the minister nodding - it's a little hard to see over your table, Mr. Speaker - so I'll take it that I have some hope that in due course we will hear comments to that effect from the minister. I'm encouraged to hear that.

That doesn't finish my concerns about this particular provision in the bill because even if it's limited in that way to bona fide exercises of the in camera meeting power, there's still the question of whether it's an excessive tool to deal with the problem. I was trying to understand what circumstances might actually come up. I was trying to think of circumstances in which there could somehow be a financial loss to the municipality as a result of this that perhaps wouldn't otherwise be covered by the common law.

Surely, if there's behaviour that causes loss, this is what tort law, the common law, is all about. Where someone has a duty to someone else and the duty is breached and there is a consequent injury that's quantifiable, presumably a lawsuit can follow. I'm concerned about whether we're creating a liability where none existed at common law, or whether we're expanding the ambit of it, and this is unclear. I don't want to really say any more on this part of it, except that I'm concerned that there's a potential chilling effect on councillors and staff.

There are circumstances in which, even if there were a bona fide in camera session, if something really problematic were to take place, some kind of whistle-blowing might be appropriate. I know that there's been a lot of resistance on the part of incumbent governments to consider the position of whistle-blowers, but this is something that does require careful thought. Any bills we've introduced on this subject I don't think have proceeded very far, but there is some legitimate notice, some legitimate purpose in that.

Let me move off of that second point and move now to a third point. It has to do with what I think is quite a useful initiative in the bill, which I think doesn't go far enough and here's the problem. There are a couple of different points in Part II where the minister is seeking to make provision with respect to the giving of notice to adjacent landowners when a municipality is considering certain uses for an adjoining or nearby piece of land. As you can well understand, Mr. Speaker, that any of us who own land would be concerned to know if a development proposal is coming forward on a neighbour's piece of property because of course it's likely to affect our enjoyment of life and perhaps even our own economic interests in the sense that the value of our own land may be affected positively or negatively.

The question of notice to adjoining landowners or to landowners in the vicinity is a question of fundamental fairness to everyone. It's a question of the opportunity to be heard because if an owner doesn't know that something is coming up before the municipal council, then of course they don't get the opportunity to make representations to let the council know what they think about the development proposal. I'm all in favour of any initiatives that allow councils to give notice or even require councils to give notice. The format of that notice is a tricky point. Often we'll turn to the newspapers, and particularly in HRM, I know that on Saturday it is the habit of HRM to purchase half a page or a quarter of a page of space

[Page 1043]

in the paper and to notify citizens of developments in their area. If one looks at them, sometimes these notices are of a sufficient size and contain sufficient information to let everyone know what's going on but, of course, there are a number of built in assumptions there. One assumption is that people can read or that they read the newspaper. Not everyone, of course, is able to read the newspaper or read anything else.

[7:45 p.m.]

There is a community out there that doesn't have the literacy skills or, if they do have the literacy skills, simply don't read the newspapers. They may not be able to afford the newspapers. There are people in that position. I have run into cases where people indeed didn't know. Now, in order to deal with at least in part some of those circumstances, municipalities like HRM have supplemented the requirements of the Statute by adopting a voluntary policy of notification within a set distance around a property where some development is proposed and here is how they do it - they do it by mailing a notice to the registered landowners and, of course, the municipality would know the registered landowners because of the assessment rolls, because of the tax rolls, and this is easy for them to do and they do it. Now, it's not always an adequate area and one could dispute this. Indeed, I would ask the minister to perhaps think about whether he might want to specify this kind of additional notification to go. This whole issue of notification is beset by problems but, do you know what, that isn't even my main point.

My main point about what's missing from the minister's provisions with respect to notice is that he speaks only about notice to owners. Now, notice to owners, of course, is easy to accomplish and it's fairly routine for a municipality to do this, but the minister, I am sure, will know that not all Canadians are owners. Many Canadians are tenants. I forget the exact number in recent statistics, but I think it's about 38 per cent of Canadians (Interruption) The minister is telling me perhaps 40 per cent of Canadians who aren't landowners who live in apartments and I suppose, I'm not sure how condominiums are taxed for municipal purposes, but certainly there are a substantial number of Canadians who would not be notified. Now, this sometimes means virtually all of the residents in the immediate area of a development proposal.

I mentioned a little while ago that as recently as a year ago I had acted in a volunteer capacity on behalf of a group of residents who were appealing to the Utility and Review Board a rezoning, a change in height precinct and in that case which had to do with property on South Street in Halifax all of the surrounding properties within the immediate area were apartment buildings. Fenwick Towers was one of those buildings, the Joe Howe Manor was another and there was a small apartment building just down the street. All of the truly affected residents in the immediate area were tenants.

[Page 1044]

Now, it's true that HRM sent out notification to the owners of those properties. So when it comes to Fenwick Towers, which is a 33-storey building, they would have sent a notice to Dalhousie University, but that's one notice compared with all the many people who lived in Fenwick Towers or when it came to the Joe Howe Manor, they would have sent a notice to the Province of Nova Scotia which is ultimately the owner of that building through the Housing Authority, one notice for a 10-storey building with 140 apartments in it. None of those tenants would have received notice from the landlord and although, of course, the owner of the property would have a perfectly legitimate reason to be notified and would have a perfectly legitimate interest in knowing about the new development proposal, so too would the tenants and yet there's nothing in our laws that requires tenants to be treated equally with landowners.

Indeed if one looks at, say, something like the Human Rights Code, the Human Rights Code doesn't require us, as I see it, to read into the Municipal Government Act a requirement that tenants be treated like owners. It might be different with the Charter, but that's an outstanding point; I'm not going to explore the Charter issue here.

For the minister, I'm appealing to him to think about this issue as one of fairness in light of the fact that 40 per cent of Canadians live in apartments, and I'm suggesting that it's really only fair that something be done to make sure that when notice is given about some kind of development proposal to owners, that notice should equally be sent to tenants within the notification area. I can't see that this is problematic, and I can't see even that it has a practical dimension that might be problematic for the municipality. I agree, of course, that the municipality will not have, on file, a list of tenants.

Nonetheless, we experimented in the case I mentioned with how to give notice to tenants and we found that it's very easy. We enlisted the co-operation of the managers of the apartment buildings, who either took the notices themselves and put them in mailboxes or allowed us to deliver the notices to the tenants door-to-door. It took virtually no time at all. It was very easy, and it clearly was fair to the tenants and allowed them the opportunity to participate fully in the process that was then afoot. By this time of course it was too late for the municipal council, because the tenants didn't know about the municipal council decision. They were, however, notified about the appeal at the Utility and Review Board, and I assure the minister they all wanted to participate in the appeal at the Utility and Review Board.

Now I think I've set out what it is that's the problem here. I'm really encouraging the minister to think about ways in which notice could be put on equal footing as between owners and tenants. I think this is not problematic. I don't know if it has really come up for active discussion inside the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities, but one way to spark this of course would be for the minister to go back and ask them whether they have a policy on this. They might have concerns over practicality, which I've tried to address here.

[Page 1045]

It's clearly the case that tenants are citizens. They have rights to vote, not just in provincial elections but in municipal elections; they have a right, if they knew about a hearing, to appear at the hearing and speak - but no one has a right, if they don't know that a hearing is taking place. It's no comfort to them if they don't know about it. So what I'm suggesting is that here's an opportunity to think a little more broadly than has so far been set out in this legislation.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to turn, if I may, to the fourth point of concern I have about this bill, and it has to do with non-conforming uses. Non-conforming uses are a very interesting example of the interaction of public rights and private rights. Here's how it works - I'm sure many members, probably all members are familiar with this - when it comes to zoning, if the municipality changes the zoning on land, or perhaps introduces zoning for the first time, and the zoning that is introduced or put in place differs from the actual use that has been made of that land previously, then a dilemma arises and the question is, what should be the public policy with respect to what we call the non-conforming use?

What was previously legal, either because it was unregulated or it was within the confines of what was regulated, has suddenly become by declaration, by rezoning, or by introduction of zoning, at least on the face of it, illegal. Well, the answer, uniformly across Canada, has been to say and to write into a Statute so that it is not a discretion of the municipality, the uniform solution has been to say that any previously-existing legal, non-conforming use can continue to exist. That's the compromise. The compromise is that it recognizes the private rights of the landowner to continue to use their land as a non-conforming use, if it was legally in use in a different way prior to the zoning.

But it also recognizes that it's perfectly legal for the municipality to change the zoning. The trouble is, of course, that from the municipalities' point of view - I'm sorry, Mr. Speaker, is it time you'd like me to finish up?

MR. SPEAKER: I was just wondering, with tomorrow being an Opposition Day, if the honourable member would consider adjourning debate at this particular time. He could carry on, perhaps, another day at the discretion of the Government House Leader.

MR. EPSTEIN: I can carry on in exquisite detail on another day. At this point perhaps I'll just move adjournment of the debate. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is to adjourn debate.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

The honourable Government House Leader.

[Page 1046]

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, before moving adjournment, I would turn the final moments over to the Leader of the Official Opposition to detail the business for tomorrow and the hours for tomorrow.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Opposition House Leader.

MR. JOHN HOLM: I would like to advise the house that tomorrow we will be dealing with two resolutions, Resolution No. 289 and Resolution No. 443. I've previously given those two numbers to the Government House Leader and to the House Leader for the Third Party. The House will sit tomorrow between the hours of 2:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. and with that, I move that the House do now rise to meet tomorrow at the hour of 2:00 p.m.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that the House do now adjourn and sit tomorrow at the hour 2:00 p.m.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[We are adjourned.]

[The House rose at 7:57 p.m.]

[Page 1047]

NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)

RESOLUTION NO. 641

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

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

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

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

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

RESOLUTION NO. 642

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Marcus Jeffers of the Oxford Volunteer Fire Department was presented a service bar for 15 years of service on November 16, 2002; and

Whereas Marcus Jeffers has given unselfishly of his time and dedication to the Oxford Volunteer Fire Department; and

Whereas Marcus Jeffers along with several other members were honoured at a banquet in Oxford for their years of service;

[Page 1048]

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Marcus Jeffers on receiving his 15-year service bar, and we thank him for volunteering for such an important position and we wish him continued success in the future.

RESOLUTION NO. 643

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Andy Martin of the Oxford Volunteer Fire Department was presented a service bar for 15 years of service on November 16, 2002; and

Whereas Andy Martin has given unselfishly of his time and dedication to the Oxford Volunteer Fire Department; and

Whereas Andy Martin along with several other members were honoured at a banquet in Oxford for their years of service;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Andy Martin on receiving his 15-year service bar, and we thank him for volunteering for such an important position and we wish him continued success in the future.

RESOLUTION NO. 644

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Chelsey Harrison of the Oxford Volunteer Fire Department was presented a service bar for 10 years of service on November 16, 2002; and

Whereas Chelsey Harrison has given unselfishly of his time and dedication to the Oxford Volunteer Fire Department; and

Whereas Chelsey Harrison along with several other members were honoured at a banquet in Oxford for their years of service;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Chelsey Harrison on receiving his 10-year service bar, and we thank him for volunteering for such an important position and we wish him continued success in the future.

[Page 1049]

RESOLUTION NO. 645

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 presented a service bar for 15 years of service on November 16, 2002; and

Whereas Lawrence Briggs has given unselfishly of his time and dedication to the Oxford Volunteer Fire Department; and

Whereas Lawrence Briggs along with several other members were honoured at a banquet in Oxford for their years of service;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Lawrence Briggs on receiving his 15-year service bar, and we thank him for volunteering for such an important position and we wish him continued success in the future.

RESOLUTION NO. 646

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Howard Black of the Oxford Volunteer Fire Department was presented a service bar for 20 years of service on November 16, 2002; and

Whereas Howard Black has given unselfishly of his time and dedication to the Oxford Volunteer Fire Department; and

Whereas Howard Black along with several other members were honoured at a banquet in Oxford for their years of service;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Howard Black on receiving his 20-year service bar, and we thank him for volunteering for such an important position and we wish him continued success in the future.

[Page 1050]

RESOLUTION NO. 647

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 Golden Bears boys basketball team won the championship game of the NSSAF Division IV Northumberland Regionals; and

Whereas Coach Graham Wood shows pride in his team saying that the veterans stepped up to play to their full potential and the young players played very well also; and

Whereas the team showed a good all-around effort, and it payed off with the impressive win that has led them to the next step at the provincial championships early in March;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the Oxford Golden Bears boys basketball team on winning the NSSAF Division IV Northumberland Regionals, and we wish them continued success in the future.

RESOLUTION NO. 648

By: Mr. Mark Parent (Kings North)

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

Whereas the Chief Scout's Award is the highest badge a Scout can earn, with recipients recognized around the country as being leaders in their own troop and community; and

Whereas the award was created in September 1973 by the Chief Scout of Canada at that time, Governor General Roland Michener; and

Whereas this year, Evan MacNutt is one of only two people from Canning to have accomplished this notable achievement in almost 25 years;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join me in congratulating Evan MacNutt on becoming a Chief Scout, and wish him much success in his future scouting endeavours.

[Page 1051]

RESOLUTION NO. 649

By: Mr. Mark Parent (Kings North)

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

Whereas the Chief Scout's Award is the highest badge a Scout can earn, with recipients recognized around the country as being leaders in their own troop and community; and

Whereas the award was created in September 1973 by the Chief Scout of Canada at that time, Governor General Roland Michener; and

Whereas this year, Nathan Sheffield is one of only two people from Canning to have accomplished this notable achievement in almost 25 years;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join me in congratulating Nathan Sheffield on becoming a Chief Scout.

RESOLUTION NO. 650

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 next month Clarence DeYoung will be honoured with the prestigious Elizabeth Ann Seton Award; and

Whereas Mr. DeYoung's commitment to his community is not just a local one, his efforts extend to our global community as well; and

Whereas his lifelong commitment has shown itself through his work as Past President of the Metro Food Bank Society, as President of the St. Vincent de Paul Society, and through his work to distribute home and school kits to developing nations;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Mr. Clarence DeYoung on his upcoming receipt of the Elizabeth Ann Seton Award, and declare our thanks to Mr. DeYoung for using his abilities throughout his life to better the lives of others here and around the world.