Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

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21 septembre 2017

HANSARD 03-18

DEBATES AND PROCEEDINGS

Speaker: Honourable Murray Scott

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

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

Annual subscriptions available from the Office of the Speaker.

Third Session

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 23, 2003

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
SPEAKER'S RULING: Minister's refusal to answer question in
Subcommittee on Supply. (Pt. of Priv. By Mr. M. Samson
Hansard p. 1177, 17/04/03]) 1295
TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS:
Anl. Rept. for Psychiatric Facilities Review Board, Hon. J. Purves 1296
STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS:
Health: SARS - Travel Advisory, Hon. J. Purves 1297
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 784, Fin. - Tax Reduction: Decision Soundness -
NDP/Libs. Acknowledge, Hon. N. LeBlanc 1300
Res. 785, Prov. Rep. Vols.: Recipients - Congrats.,
Hon. Rodney MacDonald 1301
Vote - Affirmative 1301
Res. 786, Writers' Fed. (N.S.) - School Visitation: Authors -
Contribution Recognize, Hon. A. MacIsaac 1302
Vote - Affirmative 1302
Res. 787, Ernst & Young - Entrepreneur of Yr. Prog.: Recipients -
Congrats., Hon. C. Clarke 1302
Vote - Affirmative 1303
Res. 788, Marshall, Donald, Jr.: Best Wishes - Send, Hon. M. Baker 1303
Vote - Affirmative 1304
Res. 789, Mendez, Dr. Ivar: Research Award - Congrats., Hon. J. Purves 1304
Vote - Affirmative 1305
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 40, Sisters of Saint Martha Act, Hon. A. MacIsaac 1305
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 790, O'Brien, Peter: Paid Political Announcement - Disclaimer,
Mr. R. MacKinnon 1305
Res. 791, Donohue, Jack: Death of - Tribute, Mr. D. Dexter 1306
Vote - Affirmative 1306
Res. 792, Daily News - New Paper: Team - Congrats., Mr. B. Taylor 1306
Vote - Affirmative 1307
Res. 793, O'Brien, Peter: Lobbyist Status - Register, Mr. R. MacKinnon 1307
Res. 794, Boyd, John: Drake Award - Congrats., Mr. J. MacDonell 1308
Vote - Affirmative 1308
Res. 795, Fin. - Tax Cuts: NDP (Man.)/NDP (N.S.) -
Similarities Acknowledge, Mr. D. Hendsbee 1309
Res. 796, Gov't. (N.S.) - Insurance: Issue Awareness - Time Frame,
Mr. Manning MacDonald 1309
Res. 797, Freetong Players - DSU/Black Cultural Ctr.: Presentation -
Congrats., Mr. Robert Chisholm 1310
Vote - Affirmative 1311
Res. 798, Fin. - Tax Reduction: Necessity - Acknowledge, Mr. J. Carey 1311
Res. 799, PC - Balanced/Unbalanced Budget: Difference - Explain,
Mr. P. MacEwan 1312
Res. 800, Arsenault, Randy/St. Marg. Bay Minor Basketball Assoc.:
Awards - Congrats., Mr. W. Estabrooks 1313
Vote - Affirmative 1314
Res. 801, Fin. - Tax Reduction: NDP/Lib. Party - Effects Recognize,
Mr. B. Barnet 1314
Res. 802, Lantz United Church: Anniv. (42nd) - Congrats.,
Mr. J. MacDonell 1314
Vote - Affirmative 1315
Res. 803, Gov't. (Man.) - N.S. Policies: Duplication -
NDP/Libs. Congratulate, Mr. Ronald Chisholm 1315
Res. 804, Prem.: Election Promises - Breach, Mr. M. Samson 1316
Res. 805, Fin. - Tax Reduction: NDP/Libs. -
Opposition Inappropriateness, Hon. E. Fage 1317
Res. 806, Lake Echo/Area Vol. FD: Anniv. (30th) - Congrats.,
Mr. D. Hendsbee 1317
Vote - Affirmative 1318
Res. 807, Bergen, Candice - Chester: Return - Encourage,
Mr. J. Chataway 1318
Vote - Affirmative 1319
Res. 808, Musquodoboit Hbr. & Dist Ladies Aux.: Dinner Theatre -
Congrats., Mr. W. Dooks 1319
Vote - Affirmative 1319
Res. 809, Sports: Truro Kwik Kopy Hockey Team - Congrats.,
Hon. J. Muir 1320
Vote - Affirmative 1320
Res. 810, Margaree Salmon Museum - Margaree Anglers Assoc.:^
Sponsorship - Congrats., Hon. Rodney MacDonald 1321
Vote - Affirmative 1321
Res. 811, Sutherland, Brittany/Lausanne, Crystal/Cruickshank, Johnnie:
Gymnastic Comp. - Success Wish, Hon. M. Baker 1321
Vote - Affirmative 1322
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 162, Educ.: Multi-Year Funding - Details, Mr. D. Dexter 1322
No. 163, Fin.: Tax Cuts - Options, Mr. M. Samson 1323
No. 164, Health - Nursing Homes: Per Diem Rates Supplement -
Effects, Mr. D. Dexter 1324
No. 165, Fin. - Tax Cut: Rev. Can. - Contact Details, Mr. M. Samson 1326
No. 166, Health: Mental Health Services - Access,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 1327
No. 167, Commun. Serv. - Vol. Agencies: Insurance Coverage -
Details, Mr. J. Pye 1328
No. 168, Fin. - Tax Cut: Rebate Cheque/Rev. Can. Cut -
Choice Explain, Mr. M. Samson 1329
No. 169, Fin. - Tax Cuts: Benefits - Eligibility, Mr. H. Epstein 1331
No. 170, Fin. - Tax Cut: Pictou Co. - Effects, Mr. H. Epstein 1333
No. 171, Educ. - Univ. Funding: Benefits - Explain, Mr. D. Wilson 1334
No. 172, Gov't. (N.S.) - Health Can.: Funding Interference -
Details, Ms. Maureen MacDonald 1336
No. 173, Fin. - Casino Workers: Second-Hand Smoke - Protection,
Mr. Manning MacDonald 1337
No. 174, Commun. Serv. - RRSS Strike: Resolution - Min. Ability,
Mr. J. Pye 1339
No. 175, Educ. - École Beaufort: Reopening - Announcement Time Frame,
Mr. David Wilson 1340
No. 176, Environ. & Lbr.: Casino N.S Workers - Protection,
Mr. F. Corbett 1341
No. 177, Nat. Res. - Coal Reserves (C.B.): Negotiations - Holdup Details,
Mr. B. Boudreau 1342
No. 178, Serv. N.S. & Mun. Rel. - Sable Assess.: Min. -
Responsibility Assume, Mr. Manning MacDonald 1344
No. 179, Insurance - Rates: Solution - Pre-Election Info.,
Mr. F. Corbett 1345
No. 180, Environ. & Lbr. - Workers' Comp.: Supp. Benefits Prog. -
Details, Mr. P. MacEwan 1346
No. 181, Prem. - Sunday Shopping: Election Referendum - Confirm,
Mr. B. Boudreau 1348
OPPOSITION MEMBERS' BUSINESS:
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS:
Res. 382, Educ.: Loan Remission Prog. - Prem. Promises,
Mr. D. Wilson 1351
Mr. D. Wilson 1351
Hon. A. MacIsaac 1353
Mr. W. Estabrooks 1356
Mr. R. MacKinnon 1359
Res. 429, Fin.: Prem. - Borrowing Inconsistency, Mr. M. Samson 1363
Mr. M. Samson 1363
Mr. B. Barnet 1366
Mr. H. Epstein 1370
Mr. Manning MacDonald 1374
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Econ. Dev. - Shelburne Co.: Hamm Gov't. - Econ. Boost:
Mr. C. O'Donnell 1376
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Thur., Apr. 24th at 12:00 noon 1379
NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3):
Res. 812, Sports: Bridgetown Jr. Badminton Club - Congrats.,
Mr. F. Chipman 1380
Res. 813, Hubbard, April: Prov. Youth Vol. Award - Congrats.,
Hon. N. LeBlanc 1380
Res. 814, LeBlanc, Edward: Prov. Vol. Award - Congrats.,
Hon. N. LeBlanc 1381
Res. 815, Robinson, Ian: Prov. Rep. Vol. - Congrats., Hon. P. Christie 1381
Res. 816, Uhlman, Joshua: Youth Entrepreneur Scholarship - Congrats.,
Mr. K. Morash 1382
Res. 817, Croft, Justin: Youth Entrepreneur Scholarship - Congrats.,
Mr. K. Morash 1383
Res. 818, New Minas: Prosperity - Commend, Hon. D. Morse 1383
Res. 819, Bear River Old Town Library - Opening: Participants -
Congrats., Hon. G. Balser 1384
Res. 820, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Digby Co.: Med. Material -
Delivery Commend, Hon. G. Balser 1384
Res. 821, Cdn. Blacks in the Military - Black Loyalist Heritage Soc.:
Organizers - Congrats., Hon. G. Balser 1385
Res. 822, Kenney, Wendy - Wigs for Kids: Donation - Congrats.,
Hon. G. Balser 1385
Res. 823, Garron, Viola Evangeline: Birthday (100th) - Congrats.,
Hon. G. Balser 1386
Res. 824, Yar. Cons. Mem. HS - Reg. Science Fair: Participants -
Congrats., Hon. G. Balser 1386
Res. 825, Yar. Cons. Mem. HS - Reg. Science Fair: Winners -
Congrats., Hon. G. Balser 1387

[Page 1295]

HALIFAX, WEDNESDAY, APRIL 23, 2003

Fifty-eighth General Assembly

Third Session

2:00 P.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Murray Scott

DEPUTY SPEAKERS

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

SPEAKER'S RULING: Minister's refusal to answer question in Subcommittee on Supply. (Pt. of privilege by Mr. M. Samson [Hansard p. 1177, 17/04/03])

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Before we begin the daily routine, I want to rule on an issue that has been brought before the House.

On Thursday, April 17th, the member for Richmond rose on a point of privilege. The member complained that during debate in the Subcommittee on Supply concerning the estimates of the Minister of Justice and Attorney General, the Minister of Justice had refused to answer a question and had asserted "ministerial privilege". While the authorities do not contain anything under that specific heading, the rules, usages and precedents governing this House are clear, that a minister is not bound to answer every question put to that minister.

Previous Speakers have ruled on this point and the authorities support that principle. On November 12, 1974, then-Speaker the Honourable Vincent MacLean had this to say, "A minister may decline to answer a question without stating the reason for his refusal and insistence of a member is out of order. No debate is permissible. A minister may refuse to answer on the ground of public interest and that refusal of a minister to answer on this ground cannot be raised as a matter of privilege. A member can ask a question but he cannot insist upon an answer." This is set out in Beauchesne.

1295

[Page 1296]

He also went on to say, "The practice is again confirmed in Philip Lundy's book On The Speaker, when he states, 'Any Minister has the right to answer or not to answer if he thinks proper, and if he pleases to enter into a justification of his conduct and give reason before he gives his answers to the question.'"

Marleau also points out that a minister's refusal to answer a question may not be questioned or treated as the subject of a point of order or a point of privilege. Rule 1 of our rules provides that proceedings in all committees are conducted under the same rules as the House. This includes the Subcommittee on Supply. Accordingly, I find there is not a prima facie case of a matter of privilege.

The member also asked me to rule whether the minister's knowledge of certain matters constituted a breach of the Code of Ministerial Conduct or a breach of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. The member would know that any questions regarding the Ministerial Code of Conduct are to be raised with the Conflict of Interest Commissioner under the procedures set out in the Members and Public Employees Disclosure Act and not with the Speaker. Similarly, it is not the role of the Speaker to make legal findings on whether provincial Statutes have been breached, so I will not be considering either one of these points. A copy of the ruling is available for any members who wish to have so, and it is in Hansard.

The debate for this evening's late debate was submitted by the honourable member for Shelburne:

Therefore be it resolved that the residents of Shelburne County have experienced an economic boost under the John Hamm Government.

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

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health.

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table the Annual Report for Psychiatric Facilities Review Board for the year ended March 31, 2002.

MR. SPEAKER: The report is tabled.

[Page 1297]

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health.

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to inform the House about the latest developments in the work to control the spread of SARS. I will begin by saying there are still no suspect or probable SARS cases in Nova Scotia at this time. This morning, the World Health Organization extended its SARS-related travel advisory to Toronto. The organization stated in a release that persons travelling to Toronto consider postponing all but essential travel. The advisory will be re-evaluated in three weeks.

The World Health Organization is a very credible organization and we recommend that Nova Scotians follow their advice and postpone any non-essential travel to Toronto. I also want to assure the House that the Chief Medical Officer of Health for Nova Scotia and members of his office are, at this moment, discussing the impact of this advisory with other medical officers of health in federal, provincial and territorial jurisdictions. These same officials have been working on a similar but more specific travel advisory within Canada to cover certain areas of Toronto. If there are changes to our guidelines, as a result, we will hold an immediate media briefing.

I would like to further advise the House that I will be taking part in a conference call of federal, provincial and territorial Health Ministers tonight to talk about SARS developments, and will update the House tomorrow on the results of that call. I also want to advise the House that the Province of Ontario has asked for assistance from other provinces and territories in providing critical-care doctors and nurses. We will be discussing this request on our call this evening.

Mr. Speaker, I will continue to inform the House as the work to prevent the spread of this disease continues in Nova Scotia and across the country. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the minister for the courtesy that she extended to myself and my colleague, the member for Dartmouth East, by way of an advanced briefing on this statement. I think it's fair to say that we're all watching the situation in Ontario with a certain degree of shock and concern. Most Nova Scotians and Maritimers have friends and loved ones in Toronto, and I think even for those of us who might not, we can't help but recognize the immense potential crisis of the situation as it unfolds, both for victims of SARS and certainly for the health care providers who seem to be particularly susceptible or vulnerable because of the nature of the work they do, the public health officials who are grappling with a situation that is probably, at times, quite overwhelming, and certainly for workers and businesses who have been affected by advisories such as the advisory that has been issued today by the World Health Organization.

[Page 1298]

[2:15 p.m.]

I would say to the minister that I think it would be very helpful if the government has a strategy to publicize the World Health Organization's directive as widely as we can and that we encourage people in Nova Scotia to comply to the three-week period of travel only for essential reasons. With respect to the request for assistance of health care personnel, Mr. Speaker, I guess the question is whether or not we're in a position to help, given the shortages in our own health care services. I would say that we must temper our compassion for our neighbour in the interest of being realistic.

This disease, this illness, we don't know its origin, its causes, there's no test, there's no treatment, it's highly contagious, and I would say the minister has spoken that it's not possible to stop health care professionals, individually, from making the choice to go. I'm sure that's true, but I would urge the government to carefully think about the kinds of communications that we can have with health care workers, that we caution them about the implications of just randomly going off, that we ask for some voluntary disclosure if that's their intention, and that we also consider voluntary quarantine, if they should go and work in those situations, for when they come back. With those words, Mr. Speaker, I will take my seat.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the minister for her statement earlier and also for the opportunity to meet and discuss informally the issue facing her and her government relative to the issue of SARS. The World Health Organization travel ban, or restriction, to Toronto has caused quite a bit of consternation throughout the country and I heard earlier the Mayor of Toronto was obviously quite upset by this. I would like to compliment the minister and her staff, the Chief Medical Officer of the province, and others who have been advising - and it would seem to be a more temperate and a more moderate approach - rather than an all-out ban except for essential travel, but targeting certain areas.

We're all in this together, Mr. Speaker. This is not a political issue and so this is not a political statement. The support of all members is required here because things change day after day. Several cases, if they were to take place in one of our hospitals here, would immediately put a strain and challenges, not only on the acute care sector, but also on our public health system which has maybe not been as active. I think if we look at the experience in Toronto, and Toronto has been quite noteworthy relative to the spread of the illness in a non-Asian country, and the failure of the system within the hospitals where patients with SARS were actually transferred to other hospitals and later infected. Some of the personnel, the health workers, who should have been voluntarily quarantined were not adhering to that and may have been part of a larger problem.

[Page 1299]

So those are all issues that one must be cautious with and how you order the length of quarantine, those people travelling and returning from certain areas, how they would be dealt with within the province which brings me to the point about the request from Ontario for health personnel across this country. That is commendable and I think, first, we have to know what our own resources are here in the province and, in fact, if there was an area that had to be declared out of bounds and areas, particularly emergency departments such as a tertiary care hospital and QE II, the resources that we would have and how that would be addressed. While it may be the danger of having someone leave that was a specialist in some of these areas, particularly with limited expertise in a small province, less than 1 million people, that if they went into a high-risk area such as a downtown Toronto emergency department and got exposed to SARS - and they may well be with high-risk people - then having to be in quarantine, albeit voluntary, when they do return.

So this government has the power to evoke quarantine but one would choose not to unless it was absolutely necessary. Those would be most of the issues as of today. I thank the minister for sharing. It's a challenge, just when we think that high-tech and all of the medications can knock off the superbug, nature comes along and throws us a curveball. So we all have to work together on this and support the minister and her department in the action. She has good staff there, Dr. Jeff Scott, and I know her deputy is well-versed in these matters as well. So she's getting good advice. She's obviously responding in a way that she'll be able to share Nova Scotia's position and where our priorities are later when she speaks with the federal Health Minister and the Ministers of Health from other provinces.

So it's an ongoing saga. It shows that antibiotics and high technology are not necessarily the answer to everything and we have to look at some good public health techniques and procedures like we did just a few years ago when tuberculosis was rampant in this province and it's right back to basics in the health care system. It really challenges, on the ground, the public health system. I thank the minister.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton West on an introduction.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to introduce to you and through you to all members of the House, a very distinguished Nova Scotian, an individual who has served in this House in a previous moment in time. He's sometimes been referred to as Landslide Ed because of the massive majorities such as six and 15 and so forth. He has served with distinction in the Ministry of the Department of Agriculture and he is in your gallery. He is the former member for Colchester North, the honourable Ed Lorraine and he's accompanied by another fine Nova Scotian, Mr. Glen Edwards from the Truro area. I would ask if all members would offer the warm welcome of the House to these two distinguished Nova Scotians. (Applause)

[Page 1300]

MR. SPEAKER: We certainly welcome our special guests to the gallery today. I know many of us had the opportunity to sit here with Mr. Lorraine. It's great to see you here today, Ed, and we hope you enjoy the proceedings from that seat as opposed to where you used to sit. Nice to see you here, Ed.

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance.

RESOLUTION NO. 784

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

Whereas both the NDP and the Liberals have come out against this government's plan to reduce personal income taxes by 10 per cent; and

Whereas their short-sighted, slow-the-economy view is not shared by their counterparts across the country, including in NDP Manitoba or Liberal Ottawa; and

Whereas this government, like so many others across the country, but unlike the Opposition, understands the connection between lower personal income taxes and a vibrant, growing economy;

Therefore be it resolved that the NDP and the Liberals acknowledge that lowering personal income taxes is a sound decision that is a must for growing our economy.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister assigned the responsibility for the Nova Scotia Sport and Recreation Commission.

[Page 1301]

RESOLUTION NO. 785

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

Whereas International Volunteer Week will be taking place April 27th to May 3rd (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable Minister assigned the responsibility for the Nova Scotia Sport and Recreation Commission.

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Whereas International Volunteer Week will be taking place April 27th to May 3rd where communities nationwide celebrate volunteers; and

Whereas today in Nova Scotia, we honour those who contribute to their communities through the Provincial Representative Volunteer Awards, recognizing Nova Scotians whose generosity, determination and compassion better our lives each day; and

Whereas Nova Scotia's volunteers received their awards at a luncheon that took place earlier today in their honour, hosted by Recreation Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House salute those Nova Scotians named as Provincial Representative Volunteers for 2003 and express our sincerest gratitude for the efforts of the thousands of volunteers across this province who perform invaluable service within their communities all year round.

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.

[Page 1302]

[2:30 p.m.]

RESOLUTION NO. 786

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

Whereas Nova Scotia students have hundreds of thousands of new books in their classrooms thanks to our Active Young Readers and Active Readers programs; and

Whereas these programs have also given collections of books written or illustrated by Atlantic Canadians to elementary and junior high schools, so students learn about their roots while improving their reading skills; and

Whereas three local authors from the Writers' Federation of Nova Scotia, whose books are in these collections, are taking the time to visit Grade 7 classrooms in Antigonish, Coldbrook and New Germany to celebrate Canada Book Day today;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House recognize the contribution of these authors, encourage all Nova Scotians to celebrate the joy of reading and perhaps even take the time to read a book themselves.

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 Economic Development.

RESOLUTION NO. 787

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

[Page 1303]

Whereas the Entrepreneur of the Year Program, founded by Ernst & Young, celebrates great entrepreneurs and heightens awareness of the economic effect of entrepreneurial ventures; and

Whereas this year four metro businessmen were honoured at the Atlantic Region Entrepreneur Awards - Martin Karlsen of Karlsen Shipping Company Ltd. won in the category of Business-to-Consumer Products and Services, while Peter Marshall of Seamark Asset Management Ltd. won the Professional/Financial Services category award; and

Whereas Jack Flemming of Ocean Contractors Ltd. and Jim Spatz, Southwest Properties, owner, developer and operator of residential and commercial properties, tied in the Real Estate and Construction category;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate these successful entrepreneurs on their acknowledged success in each of their business ventures.

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 responsible for Aboriginal Affairs.

RESOLUTION NO. 788

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

Whereas Donald Marshall, Jr. of Membertou is in hospital in Toronto awaiting a double-lung transplant; and

Whereas Mr. Marshall has made a significant contribution to the livelihood and self-awareness of First Nations communities in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas Mr. Marshall has become a role model for many Mi'kmaq youth through his work with young people;

[Page 1304]

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly send its best wishes to Donald Marshall, Jr. for a complete recovery and an early return to his province.

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 Health.

RESOLUTION NO. 789

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

Whereas Dr. Ivar Mendez, Head of the Division of Neurosurgery at the Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre is part of a scientific team that has been awarded nearly $1.2 million by the Stem Cell Network to conduct leading-edge research into the use of stem cells to treat individuals with Parkinson's disease and stroke; and

Whereas approximately $350,000 of this money will go directly to research carried out in Nova Scotia, one of the largest grants ever awarded for stem cell research in Atlantic Canada; and

Whereas stem cells have the potential to revolutionize medicine and offer real hope to individuals with degenerative and other diseases;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join me in congratulating Dr. Mendez and his team for receiving an award that not only helps to advance our understanding of devastating diseases, but also contributes to the growth of a vibrant and healthy research community here in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 1305]

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. 40 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 141 of the Acts of 1918. An Act to Amend and Consolidate the Acts Respecting the Sisters of Saint Martha. (Hon. Angus MacIsaac as a private member.)

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

NOTICES OF MOTION

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

RESOLUTION NO. 790

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

Whereas Peter O'Brien of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business meets two and three times monthly with the province's most senior deputy minister, Gordon Gillis; and

Whereas in addition to these meetings, Mr. O'Brien meets with Cabinet Ministers and the Tory caucus selling his small-business community message; and

Whereas Mr. Peter O'Brien is the only member of Nova Scotia's business community, corporate, mid-sized and small, to applaud the government's decision to borrow money and increase the debt to give a so-called tax break;

Therefore be it resolved that any time Peter O'Brien speaks on matters pertaining to the provincial government, he use the disclaimer - this a paid political announcement.

[Page 1306]

[2:30 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 791

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

Whereas Jack Donohue will be remembered to millions of basketball fans as an inspiring, motivating and unselfish individual; and

Whereas Jack Donohue will also be remembered as the architect of the winning Canadian Olympic Basketball program and an ardent supporter of the New Waterford Coal Bowl Classic Basketball Tournament; and

Whereas on Wednesday, April 16th, Jack Donohue died after a brave battle with pancreatic cancer;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House pay tribute to the memory of this great competitor and legendary Canadian basketball coach, Jack Donohue.

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 Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

RESOLUTION NO. 792

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

[Page 1307]

Whereas the new and improved Daily News was launched today; and

Whereas the new paper focuses on more local coverage - from sports to human interest to neighbourhood news; and

Whereas this House recognizes the importance of a solid community paper with a wide (Interruption) So the NDP is going to vote against the Halifax Daily News.

Whereas this House recognizes the importance of a solid community paper with a wide range of views and voices;

Therefore be it resolved that we congratulate the entire team at the Daily News for creating a paper that reflects the issues, stories and attitudes of their community and its citizens.

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 West.

RESOLUTION NO. 793

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

Whereas Peter O'Brien is one of the most active lobbyists who hangs around Province House promoting special interests; and

Whereas Mr. O'Brien has yet to declare himself and register as a lobbyist; and

Whereas he chairs the FOIPOP Review Committee, is on the Occupational Health & Safety Advisory Committee to government, was on the selection committee for the Executive Director for Skills Agenda with the Department of Education, and a number of other various government committees;

[Page 1308]

Therefore be it resolved that Peter O'Brien either registers as a lobbyist or come out of the closet and take out a membership in the Progressive Conservative Party of Nova Scotia.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Hants East.

RESOLUTION NO. 794

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

Whereas good sportsmanship is arguably the most important goal of all sports; and

Whereas the Ross Drake Memorial Award is given to the minor hockey player who best exemplifies sportsmanship, skill and generosity; and

Whereas at the recent SEDMHA hockey tournament involving more than 240 teams at the minor hockey level from the hockey world, East Hants Midget AA Penguin, John Boyd of Burntcoat Road, was chosen as the winner of the Ross Drake Memorial Award;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate John Boyd for winning these esteemed award and commend him for his ability to combine character with skills as a premier hockey player.

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 Preston.

[Page 1309]

RESOLUTION NO. 795

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

Whereas this government understands why the NDP Government in Manitoba reduced personal income tax as a means to creating new jobs, new investment and long-term growth; and

Whereas this government went beyond the Manitoba NDP Government's effort to stimulate the economy by giving more than just middle-income earners a 6 per cent tax cut; and

Whereas Nova Scotia's plan will also see 3,500 Nova Scotian lower-income earners exempt from paying taxes altogether and gives lower-income earners an even greater rate reduction than higher-income earners;

Therefore be it resolved that while the Liberal Party opposes Nova Scotians keeping more of their own money, at least the NDP Party acknowledges that this government's lower tax plan is more in keeping with their brothers and sisters in the Manitoba NDPers.

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 Cape Breton South.

RESOLUTION NO. 796

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

Whereas increased numbers from the facility association known as the insurer of last resort, proves more drivers in Nova Scotia are having a tough time getting car insurance; and

Whereas the high cost of insurance is forcing thousands of car owners, many of them seniors and young people to pay premiums up to three times more; and

[Page 1310]

Whereas this Tory Government was well aware of the need to address increasing auto insurance rates last year when the Liberal caucus repeatedly called on it to establish an all-Party committee to deal with that very issue;

Therefore be it resolved that pretending that it is interested in addressing auto insurance rates for seniors and young people at the last minute and shamefully during election year, the Conservative Government admit that it could have done more, but it chose instead not to address the matter earlier.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

RESOLUTION NO. 797

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

Whereas the Freetong Players are a premier dance, drum and theatre troupe from Sierra Leone; and

Whereas their performance, Rising from Our Ashes, tells the story of Sierra Leone's struggle with civil war and the rebuilding of their nation since the civil war ended in 1999; and

Whereas this world-renowned troupe performed at the Black Cultural Centre and Dalhousie University during the month of April;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House congratulate Dalhousie Student Union and the Black Cultural Centre for presenting this historic event and the Freetong Players for a most enlightening performance.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

[Page 1311]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Kings West.

RESOLUTION NO. 798

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

Whereas even the most left-wing governments in this country and elsewhere know that lowering taxes stimulates the economy, generates new investment and creates new jobs; and

Whereas, unfortunately by opposing lower taxes, the NDP and the Liberal Parties of Nova Scotian continue to deny the realities of living in a competitive and global economy; and

Whereas unlike the NDP and the Liberal Party, the government knows full well that we need to compete for new investments and new jobs through lower taxes;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House acknowledge that unless we lower taxes, new investment, new jobs and the revenues we need to support health care, education and other critical services will go elsewhere.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

MR. SPEAKER: There's a request for waiver.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed. (Interruption)

Order, please. Order, please. I would ask the honourable member for Kings West to read the resolution again please. The Clerks nor I can hear what's being said and we're probably going to be here all afternoon because if we have to keep repeating them, we will.

[Page 1312]

The honourable member for Kings West.

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

Whereas even the most left-wing governments in this country and elsewhere know that lowering taxes stimulates the economy, generates new investment and creates new jobs; and

Whereas, unfortunately, by opposing lower taxes, the NDP and the Liberal Parties of Nova Scotian continue to deny the realities of living in a competitive and global economy; and

Whereas unlike the NDP and the Liberal Party, this government knows full well that we need to compete for new investments and new jobs through lower taxes;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House acknowledge that unless we lower taxes, new investment, new jobs and the revenues we need to support health care, education and other critical services will go elsewhere.

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 Cape Breton Nova.

RESOLUTION NO. 799

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

Whereas today's front page headline news story by Amy Smith gives perhaps a more objective treatment of where this government is heading than do the government's daily handouts; and

[Page 1313]

Whereas it is all enumerated here as to what the $155 cheques will cost the taxpayer, $68 million, and that the total worth of their campaign promises to date is $700 million and growing daily; and

Whereas the Tories claim on the one hand to be balancing the budget, and at the same time drive the province deeper into debt by $500 million since they came to office, bringing our debt to an all-time high of $12 billion;

Therefore be it resolved that all Nova Scotians should stay tuned as the Tories push the dollar value of their campaign promises over the $1 billion mark, while at the same time claiming to have balanced the budget, all of which raises the question of, if this is balancing, what then, pray tell, is an unbalanced budget?

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 800

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

Whereas Randy Arsenault, President of the St. Margarets Bay Minor Basketball Association, has been chosen Volunteer of the Year by Basketball Nova Scotia; and

Whereas the St. Margarets Bay Minor Basketball Association received the Association of the Year Award; and

Whereas Randy and all coaches involved have much to be proud of with their teams' many accomplishments;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Randy Arsenault and the members of the St. Margarets Bay Minor Basketball Association on their awards.

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 1314]

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Sackville-Beaver Bank.

RESOLUTION NO. 801

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

Whereas yesterday the Manitoba Government tabled its budget; and

Whereas the NDP Government in Manitoba announced a 6 per cent tax cut for middle-income earners; and

Whereas the NDP Government in Manitoba stated that cuts to personal income taxes are crucial to growing the economy;

Therefore be it resolved that the NDP of Nova Scotia, as well as the Liberal Party of Nova Scotia, recognize that reducing personal income taxes stimulates economic growth, generates new investments, and creates new jobs.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Hants East.

RESOLUTION NO. 802

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

Whereas churches have always been a centre of most communities in this country from its inception; and

Whereas through their concern for people who suffer both physically, financially and spiritually, churches remain needed by their communities; and

[Page 1315]

Whereas on May 4, 2003, the Lantz United Church celebrates 42 years of service to the community;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the congregation of the Lantz United Church on their 42nd Anniversary, and thank them as they serve the residents of the community and surrounding area.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury.

RESOLUTION NO. 803

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

Whereas the NDP Government in Manitoba is cutting personal income taxes of middle-income earners by 6 per cent; and

Whereas this 6 per cent tax cut represents an annual savings of $310 for Manitoba taxpayers; and

Whereas all Nova Scotian taxpayers, regardless of their income, will benefit from a 10 per cent cut in provincial income tax revenues for the last six months of 2002-03, matching almost dollar for dollar Manitoba's tax cut, with a full year's 10 per cent tax cut coming to Nova Scotians in January of the next year;

Therefore be it resolved that the NDP and the Liberals congratulate the NDP Government of Manitoba for following Nova Scotia's sound economic growth policies.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 1316]

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Richmond.

RESOLUTION NO. 804

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

Whereas once again it appears the Premier is suffering from a bout of blue book amnesia when it comes to the fiscal commitments he made to Nova Scotians in 1999; and

Whereas yesterday the Premier called upon us to read Page 28 of his blue book, claiming he has lived up to his commitments regarding the debt and fiscal management; and

Whereas Rob Batherson should remind the Premier that when brushing up on his blue book commitments he should start by reading Page 1 where the Premier states: "I am absolutely committed to the principle that the Government of Nova Scotia must live within its means. Borrowing hundreds of millions of dollars and mortgaging our children's future without so much as a plan is simply wrong";

Therefore be it resolved that regardless of the efforts of Tory spin-doctors to train the Premier in giving answers, Nova Scotians will not forget that by adding millions of dollars to the debt in the last four years, with another $118 million forecasted for next year, the Premier has broken a fundamental promise made to the people of the province.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

[2:45 p.m.]

HON. JOHN HAMM (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. The member for Richmond always has trouble with numbers. It was Page 18, not Page 28.

MR. SPEAKER: That is not a point of order but a clarification of the facts.

The honourable Minister of Energy.

[Page 1317]

RESOLUTION NO. 805

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

Whereas the tax-and-spend NDP of Nova Scotia have never been in office; and

Whereas they nevertheless share similar views with their brothers and sisters in the NDP Government of Manitoba; and

Whereas unlike the NDP in Nova Scotia, the NDP Government in Manitoba understands that a reduction in personal income tax stimulates the economy, generates new investment, and creates new jobs;

Therefore be it resolved that Nova Scotia's NDP meet with their tax-and-spend brothers and sisters in the Liberal Party of Nova Scotia and tell them that they were wrong to oppose lower taxes for working families in Nova Scotia.

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 Preston.

RESOLUTION NO. 806

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

Whereas the citizens of Lake Echo and surrounding communities have been volunteering their talents and their time to fight fires and manage emergencies in their areas since 1973; and

Whereas Fire Chief Joan Kennedy, Deputy Chief of Operations John Verrall, Deputy Chief of Administration Gary Sampson, and their fire department's three full-time members and more than 30 volunteers - including fire captains and lieutenants - are celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the Lake Echo and Area Volunteer Fire Department's founding; and

[Page 1318]

Whereas Ken Munroe and Gerald Crooks will be recognized for 30 years of long-term service and the honour of lifetime member will be bestowed upon Lewis Beals and Wilfred Simmons;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House offer congratulations to the Lake Echo and Area Volunteer Fire Department and all its volunteers for 30 successful years of community firefighting and emergency services.

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 Chester-St. Margaret's

RESOLUTION NO. 807

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

Whereas visitors are always astounded with the very sight of Chester, which leaves them longing to linger and enjoy all of its beauty; and

Whereas film and TV star, Candice Bergen, recently on a set in the Village, saw the perfect place for hiking, kayaking and sailing - things she and so many people truly enjoy; and

Whereas while Ms. Bergen's schedule did not allow for leisure in the Village, she voiced a hope she might return during the summer months;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House encourage Ms. Bergen to return to Chester for her enjoyment and wish her well on her new film, Footsteps.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 1319]

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 Eastern Shore.

RESOLUTION NO. 808

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

Whereas on Saturday of last week, the Musquodoboit Harbour and District Ladies Auxilliary, hosted a dinner theatre; and

Whereas the dinner theatre was a project designed to raise funds to purchase a chair lift for the fire hall; and

Whereas the play entitled, Aunt Jane's Last Supper, written by Verna Dunlop was a tremendous success, featuring yours truly playing the role of a preacher, and Halifax Regional Municipal Councillor for District 1 Steven Streatch playing the role of a delivery boy;

Therefore be it resolved that all MLAs extend our warmest wishes to the organizers of this local community fundraiser and wish them continued success.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

[Page 1320]

The honourable Minister of Justice.

RESOLUTION NO. 809

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

Whereas the Truro Kwik Kopy Bantam AAA Bearcats captured a silver medal at the 2003 SEDMHA Tournament; and

Whereas the Truro Kwik Kopy Bantam AAA Bearcats finished second in the Mainland Bantam AAA Hockey League and won a tournament in Miramichi, New Brunswick; and

Whereas Kwik Kopy, . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: . . . quicker than this.

MR. MUIR: . . . through its local owner, John Kelderman, has been the major sponsor of - read them before you read them, I guess is what the message is - Truro's top bantam team for many years;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the players, coaches and management of the Truro Kwik Kopy Bantam AAA Bearcats on their success in the 2002-03 hockey season and thank Kwik Kopy of Truro through its owner, John Kelderman, for its continued support of young athletes in Colchester County.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Tourism and Culture.

[Page 1321]

RESOLUTION NO. 810

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

Whereas the Margaree Salmon Museum is open on an annual daily basis between June 15th and October 15th; and

Whereas the museum has a large wall chart showing the life cycle of the Atlantic Salmon from the eggs to the time they re-enter the river; and

Whereas of particular interest to adults and children of all ages is an aquarium containing young trout and salmon;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs commend the Margaree Anglers Association, interested in the preservation of trout and salmon fishing in the Margaree River, for its sponsorship of the museum and its members many more years of success.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Transportation and Public Works.

RESOLUTION NO. 811

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

Whereas the Canadian Trampoline and Tumbling Championships are being held in Saskatoon on May 17th; and

Whereas many gymnasts from across the country will be taking part in the upcoming competition; and

[Page 1322]

Whereas Brittany Sutherland, Crystal Lausanne and Johnnie Cruickshank of the Mahone Bay Twisters will be competing at the national competition;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of the House of Assembly wish Brittany, Crystal and Johnnie every success in their upcoming competition in Saskatoon.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: Question Period will begin at 2:53 p.m. and end at 4:23 p.m.

The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

EDUC.: MULTI-YEAR FUNDING - DETAILS

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, last night the Minister of Education said that multi-year funding for universities will come at a cost - if they want more money, they are going to have to make cuts. This means that universities will have to find those cuts in program delivery, in administration and in services to students. So my question to the Minister of Education is this, is it your department's intention to make cuts to universities and to amalgamate them as a condition of multi-year funding?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, the answer to the question is no.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, despite the minister's denials, we have obtained documents showing the department talked about creating "a University of Halifax". I would like to table the minutes of a Treasury and Policy Board meeting on August 13, 2001. This meeting was attended by the Premier's former chief of staff, his deputy minister and the Deputy Minister of Education. My question for the minister is this, why were senior

[Page 1323]

government and political staff holding high-level discussions about creating a university of Halifax?

MR. MACISAAC: I can't answer the question as to why but obviously, Mr. Speaker, they were wasting their time because there is no intent to create such an institution.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, it seems that this government's public statements and their policies keep getting contradicted by the written record. The minister talks about universities coming up with ideas for more savings. Well, maybe he doesn't get it. After 10 long years of neglect and cuts, there is nothing left to cut. Mr. Minister, the Liberals cut and tried to centralize many university programs, why hasn't your government learned from the Liberals mistakes. My question is this, why does this government continue to pursue the idea of forced amalgamation?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, obviously, two noes didn't get through to the honourable member so a third one would be a waste of time. But what I can say is that the honourable member does not understand the difference between cut and efficiencies. Efficiencies are always able to be found, and if there are other objectives relative to long-term funding that can be achieved to create better services to students and to enhance the quality of education within this province, the universities of this province are prepared to enter discussions relative to obtaining those objectives. The honourable member should understand that efficiencies can be achieved and are always being achieved by all institutions.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

FIN.: TAX CUTS - OPTIONS

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, the Liberal Party has made it very clear that providing tax cuts at a time when the province continues to borrow millions of dollars is not appropriate. We have a government now that has indicated that it made a commitment in 1999 to provide a 10 per cent tax cut and indicates that it has kept that commitment. My question, very simply to the Premier today is, was giving a $155 cheque to Nova Scotians the only option available to your government to deliver tax cuts this year?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, members of the House are aware, and I think many Nova Scotians are aware that Hansard is an accurate record of what members have said in this House. A recent perusal of Hansard revealed the following statement, which was made in this House on May 16, 2001, by the then Finance Critic for the Liberal caucus. This is what that Finance Critic said on behalf of all his caucus members. "Decoupling, in effect, gave - this is when the minister decoupled from the federal tax - the Nova Scotia Government control over our own tax system. Our caucus . . ." meaning our Liberal caucus " . . . is calling on the Government of Nova Scotia to immediately implement a full indexation to the tax system and to relieve the growing tax burden on Nova Scotians."

[Page 1324]

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Premier, you were asked a very simple question. I will ask you again. Was giving a tax cut in the form of a rebate cheque to Nova Scotians the only option your government had to provide the tax cuts you claim was part of your commitment to Nova Scotians?

THE PREMIER: I'm not sure, from the member's question, Mr. Speaker, if he is upset with the tax cuts or the mere fact that Nova Scotians are guaranteed that they will get the tax cut. Because this was a commitment that was clearly articulated in the blue book back in 1999. We said that in the fourth year of our mandate that we would give a 10 per cent tax cut, and Nova Scotians are getting the 10 per cent tax cut as promised.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, once again, the Premier is obviously avoiding the question that is being asked. I will ask you for a third time, Mr. Premier, was sending out a $155 cheque to Nova Scotians the only means your government had to provide the 10 per cent tax cut you claim was committed to Nova Scotians?

THE PREMIER: The Minister of Finance will explain the technical difficulties of providing a tax cut on July 1st, which could only start to be implemented on the passage of the budget.

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, with regard to the question the member opposite has raised. There are many different ways to deliver tax relief, Mr. Speaker. We have done it in two ways, one of which is a tax rebate cheque directly to the taxpayer and the second one is a formalized change effective January 1st. We have done it this way for two reasons, one of which is that it fulfills our commitment, and the second most important thing is that it is a catalyst to the economy that will be putting cash into the hands of Nova Scotians, working Nova Scotians this summer, which will help our economy grow. That's what this Party stands for, a strong economy and working families.

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

HEALTH - NURSING HOMES:

PER DIEM RATES SUPPLEMENT - EFFECTS

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, last month this government announced that it would supplement seniors' nursing home bills by $12.75 a day. That's not much help to the residents of the Shannex-owned Fairview Villa, where rates increased by over $58, to $189.68 a day. After the $12.75 reduction, the increase will cost the residents $16,000 more a year. It's the same story in the Shannex-owned Armview Estates, where their rates jumped over $41, to $173 a day. They're going to be out $10,000 more this year. I want to ask the Premier, how can $12.75 a day offer any real help to seniors when the per diem rates are skyrocketing?

[Page 1325]

[3:00 p.m.]

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

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the fact is that the reduction per day that the government will be paying this year will reduce rates by more than $4,000 a year per senior in the first year.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, it's amazing. The cost to seniors in some of these institutions will increase by $16,000 this year, and the minister has the audacity to give that kind of an answer. Shannex owns these two facilities, but it also owns Breton Bay Nursing Home in Sydney. It was replaced by Harbourstone and rates there were increased by $61.80 a day. Residents there are going to be out almost $18,000 a year after the $12.75 daily reduction. I want to ask the Premier, why are you choosing to tinker with a system that is stripping seniors of everything they own to pay for health care at an even faster rate?

THE PREMIER: I refer that to the minister.

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, on the contrary. What we are doing over the next four years is helping seniors, who right now are having a harder time, reduce their costs in the nursing homes, and by the end of this time the government will be paying the full medical costs of seniors, something that is not occurring at this time.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, can you imagine going to the emergency room and having someone there tell you no, you're going to have to wait four years before we we're going to cover your care? That wouldn't happen to anybody except to seniors and to those in the long-term care facilities, people this government seems to have forgotten. This is an example of how seniors continue to pay, and pay, and pay, while this government delays covering the health care costs for another four years. I ask the Premier, if you're going to borrow an NDP policy on nursing home fees, why didn't you go all the way, instead of offering an ineffective and meaningless version?

THE PREMIER: I refer that to the minister.

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, actually that question allows me the opportunity to emphasize yet again that seniors who would have to go to hospital or an emergency ward, obviously those medical costs are paid, something the NDP propaganda has managed to convince people is not the case. The medical care in nursing homes that seniors receive now is excellent. It's very good care that they receive, and by the end of four years all those medical costs will be paid for by the government. We will also be ending, at that time, looking at seniors' assets, something that goes beyond what the NDP asked for in the first place.

[Page 1326]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

FIN. - TAX CUT: REV. CAN. - CONTACT DETAILS

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians are continuing to ask questions as to why the tax cut proposed by this government is being sent out in the form of a rebate cheque. The Premier and the Minister of Finance seem to be sending out one message while Tory spin doctors seem to send out another message as to the purpose, as to why it is coming in the form of a rebate cheque. Therefore, I ask the Premier again, could the Premier indicate whether his government made any enquiries or requests to Revenue Canada to implement the tax cut by July 1st of this year?

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

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I already indicated in my first answer to the honourable member that we have put the tax cut in two different forms. One form is in a cash payment which will be paid early this summer. The second form is a formalized change in the tax structure which takes effect on January 1, 2004. The reason that we have done that is that it puts cash in the hands of Nova Scotians this summer. It will also ensure that our economy will continue to grow which is the whole thrust behind the tax cut, something that has been lost on the Liberal Party as to why reducing taxes in Nova Scotia is important.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, when the budget was announced and when the government indicated the tax rebate cheque would be sent out, it was indicated at the time that the province was unable to get Revenue Canada to implement the tax change on time and that was why a rebate cheque was being sent out. I ask the Premier again, did your government make a request to the Government of Canada to implement a change in the tax rate by July 1st and again I remind the Premier that it is disappointing to see you continue to hide behind the Minister of Finance who will not be here for very long. I ask you again, Mr. Premier, did you make that request to the Government of Canada for a July 1st tax change?

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

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite has stated something in this House which is not true. He has stated a fact that we had said we did that because we couldn't get it in time for July 1st. We have made the changes in income tax. We have clearly indicated that we did it in two different forms: one of which was an equal cash tax repayment, which would happen early this summer, of $155; and the second change is on January 1, 2004. I can't be any clearer than that. That is what we decided to do and that is what we did in this budget.

[Page 1327]

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians across this province have seen the $155 tax rebate cheque as a cynical attempt to buy votes. The government could have chosen traditional means of providing that tax cut. They could have asked Revenue Canada to make that tax change on July 1st which would have accomplished the same goal as what they have set out to do with the cheque. Therefore, I ask the Premier again, before deciding on sending out a rebate cheque, did you ask Revenue Canada to make a change in the tax rate effective July 1st of this year, keeping the commitment you claim you made in the blue book?

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

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, why would we ask Ottawa whether we can do it on July 1st when the determination was we would make a cash payment. It can't be clearer than that. The Liberal Party of Nova Scotia may not believe that lowering taxes will grow the economy. Every province in Canada has lowered taxes except for Nova Scotia and we are doing that this year. They may not believe that the economy is important. They may not believe that the dignity of having a job for working families is important. They may not believe that, but this government does and we have put in place the changes and will stand by them. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

HEALTH: MENTAL HEALTH SERVICES - ACCESS

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is for the Minister of Health. Earlier today the Minister of Health tabled the Annual Report of the Psychiatric Facilities Review Board. For the third consecutive year the government gets a failing grade in addressing the very serious problem of the lack of resources in the community for the placement of severely mentally ill patients to reduce the need of hospitalization. I would like to ask the minister, does she ever read the reports she tables?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, yes, the honourable member is suggesting I read between the lines. I do read the reports I table, many times, and I realize deficiencies in some of the supports that are pointed out in this report are real.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, well, three consecutive reports from the Facilities Review Board and two separate independent reviews commissioned by the present government has resulted in guess what? More study, no action, no plan, another review deep in the bowels of the Joe Howe Building. Meanwhile, people with mental illness are either languishing in institutions or they are on the streets, homeless, without the supports they require. I want to ask the minister how many reviews does government require to study

[Page 1328]

the studies that are recommending that this is a serious problem that needs to be addressed with resources and a plan and commitment from the government?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, we recognize that in many areas in the field of mental illness that Nova Scotia needs to go a long way and that is why we are developing a new mental health Act. It is why we announced mental health standards. We are the first province in the country to have these standards and that's why we are committing the amount of money we are this year to try to address some of these very real needs.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my final question to the minister is, will she commit to a plan of action that will address this very serious problem which has been identified repeatedly by the bodies which represent government in providing advice as well as consumer groups?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, we are committed to improving access to mental health services and one of the things that we are doing at the moment, that we have been doing for awhile, is trying to address one of the problems in our system that the report identifies and has identified before, and that is the split in community services between the Department of Health and the Department of Community Services. That is an area that definitely needs to be improved because it is in that area if the two departments were more united that we could provide better services to all the people who need them.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

COMMUN. SERV. - VOL. AGENCIES:

INSURANCE COVERAGE - DETAILS

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier. I want to table a document received by agencies who received grants from the Department of Community Services. This document states that those agencies must now expand their insurance coverage at their own expense and to "protect the Province of Nova Scotia". It goes on to require, among other things, $1 million liability limit and a zero deductible on vehicles. My question to the Premier is, will the Premier confirm that his government is protecting its own financial behind at the expense of volunteer agencies?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I heard the question but I didn't hear the preamble and without hearing the preamble, I really can't understand the question. So if the member opposite is prepared to repeat it, I'm prepared to try to hear it.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North, maybe just briefly the question only, please. If you could shorten it, the Readers Digest version would be great.

[Page 1329]

MR. PYE: Certainly, Mr. Speaker, I will shorten it. It is about the Department of Community Services requiring agencies to fund their own insurance policies. It says that in fact this document states that the agencies must now expand their insurance coverages and to their own expense, "protect the Province of Nova Scotia". It goes on to require, among other things, $1 million liability and a zero deductible on vehicle insurance. So, once again, to the Premier, will the Premier confirm that his government is protecting its own financial behind at the great expense of volunteer agencies?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Community Services has been called away from the House. I will take the question under advisement.

[3:15 p.m.]

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, there are dozens of agencies that received grants from Community Services and they include Meals on Wheels, YMCA, the Mi'kmaq Child Development Centre, to name a few. These agencies provide outstanding community services and have no margins for increased costs. Will the Premier confirm to this House that his government is now requiring many of these agencies to shoulder a drastic increase in insurance costs to protect his government's financial interests?

THE PREMIER: Thank you very much and I will take that question under advisement.

MR. PYE: Once again, Mr. Speaker, another to probably go under advisement. This government has just required that agencies like the Boys and Girls Club, Big Brothers-Big Sisters, and others cover the province for liability. My question to the Premier is, has his government done any analysis to determine what effect paying thousands of extra dollars in insurance will have on these voluntary agencies?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, it is difficult to answer questions on a specific department, but that particular question, I did hear the minister discussing the issue and my recollection is that two of the police boys' clubs in Nova Scotia have been refused insurance and we are looking at that. It is also our understanding that the others have been awarded renewals of their insurance policies. That is my understanding of the issue.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

FIN. - TAX CUT:

REBATE CHEQUE/REV. CAN. CUT - CHOICE EXPLAIN

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: During budget lock-up, senior officials with the Department of Finance indicated that the $155 rebate cheque was due to the fact that Revenue Canada was not given sufficient notice to implement the tax change. The Premier,

[Page 1330]

in his first response, indicated that the passage of the budget would have an impact on the implementation of the tax change. In fact, the Minister of Finance, when our Leader said that he would undo the January 1st change, indicated that he would not have the time needed for Revenue Canada to do that, indicating that a certain time limit was required before that implementation could be done. Mr. Premier, the fact is, your government, sir, had a choice. It could have implemented the tax cut on July 1st through the traditional means through Revenue Canada or could expose itself to allegations of vote buying and cronyism by mailing out a rebate cheque to Nova Scotians. I ask you again, Mr. Premier, why did you mail out the rebate cheque when you could have implemented a tax cut on July 1st through Revenue Canada, through the traditional means of doing so?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, despite the fact that even the Leader of the Liberal Party was on record in The Chronicle-Herald, August 17, 2002, as being in favour of decreased taxation. What I can say to Nova Scotians, it may be in the interest of the Liberal Party to inquire of Revenue Canada as to how to renege on the tax cut that this government is giving. That is what appears to be happening. We have no interest in that because we are going to deliver the tax cut, we will not renege.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, the veil has been lifted, the mask is coming off. The Premier had a choice. He could have put the interest of Nova Scotians first, he could have put the integrity of his government first and said, if I'm going to keep my word, I will do it by changing the tax rate July 1st , or I can listen to the spin doctors and the Tories who are telling me to get re-elected - why don't you mail them out a cheque right around the election time and use their own money to try to encourage them to vote for the PC Party in the next election. That is the fundamental choice this Premier had. I ask the Premier again, why is he mailing out a cheque to Nova Scotians with their own money - which is borrowed money - on the eve of an election, when he could just have easily implemented a change to the tax rate on July 1st through Revenue Canada?

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

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I've explained to the honourable member for Richmond on two different occasions why we have done the lower taxes in the manner we did. Now the NDP caucus is asking that if I go slower perhaps they will understand.

Mr. Speaker, we have done the changes as we have outlined because we wanted to meet the commitments to Nova Scotia that we said we would but also, by doing the cash rebate directly to taxpayers, we are putting a stimulus into the economy which will help the economy in this year. How can you be any more clear than that? The Liberal Party may not like the fact that we are giving tax relief to Nova Scotians and stimulating the economy. If they want to be against it just for being against it, let them do so. This government will stand on its records and we have grown the economy over a mandate and our intention is to continue growing it into our second.

[Page 1331]

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, the Premier, who has held himself so high to Nova Scotians had a fundamental choice. He could have changed the tax rate effective July 1st which would have again put money into the pockets of Nova Scotians as they claim was their intention, which the Minister of Finance claims is what they want to do, or on the eve of an election, they could make the choice and mail out a cheque to Nova Scotians using their own money, borrowed money on the eve of an election.

Now, Mr. Speaker, the Premier tells us, trust me, I had no intentions of wanting to use that cheque in the middle of an election, I wanted to use it to grow the economy. Nova Scotians aren't buying it and they are saying, will the real John Hamm please stand up because that's not what we saw in 1999, what we are seeing here today. I ask again, Premier, why did you not put your integrity and the integrity of your government ahead of cynical Tory re-election chances by sending Nova Scotians a cheque with their own money to try to curry favour for their votes?

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

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, the only people who aren't getting it are the Liberal Party. The fact of the matter is these members across the House obviously seem to be upset that we have met our commitment to Nova Scotians, that we have a vision for Nova Scotia, that we want the economy to continue to grow. If they are against that, so be it. We will stand on our record. We want the economy to grow and the fact is, I have more faith in working Nova Scotians that they understand what this is about than the Liberal Party has in their pinky.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

FIN. - TAX CUTS: BENEFITS - ELIGIBILITY

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: My question is for the Minister of Finance. Mr. Speaker, you and undoubtedly other members of this House will have noticed how this government has changed its tune toward "working Nova Scotians" over the past few months. They are talking a lot about how this tax cut will help these working Nova Scotian families. I want to table documents today that show that 56 per cent of tax filers in the Minister of Finance's own riding make less than $20,000 and so, of course, are unlikely to pay any income tax. Well over half the people in the minister's own riding are unlikely to see any benefit whatsoever from his income tax cut. So I wonder if the minister will explain to this House, how can he justify giving a tax break that will help only a very few Nova Scotians instead of giving those Nova Scotian families a real break on HST, auto insurance and tuition fees?

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, it's very interesting that the NDP are saying why would you give tax relief while yesterday the NDP Government of Manitoba just happened to be giving out a $310 yearly tax saving to middle-income earners and the reason

[Page 1332]

they said is because it would help grow the economy. I may not convince the NDP that growing the economy is important. I do know that they treat me as suspect that perhaps I am not looking out for their interests but I'm sure Greg Selinger, who is the Finance Minister for Manitoba, and his colleagues will share all their information with you and you can see the light. Just give it a try.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I would like to assure the Minister of Finance that I spend a great deal of time paying attention to what the NDP Government has done in Manitoba, that's Manitoba where the unemployment rate is half of ours, that's Manitoba under an NDP Government which has just delivered its fourth consecutive truly balanced budget, unlike the situation in Nova Scotia, but I would like to ask this minister about seniors in his own constituency.

The average income, Mr. Speaker, of people 65 years and over in Argyle is around $17,000. That means that virtually none of the seniors in Argyle will be paying much, if any, income tax. That means they aren't likely to get any income tax relief either. So will the minister explain to this House what's fair about a tax cut that gives no relief to seniors and low income Nova Scotians, people who still have no choice but to pay those increased costs like auto insurance and home heating fuel?

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, in regard to the breakdown of Argyle, the member opposite has quoted percentages and many of those people that he has quoted actually will pay taxes. So the fact is we could sit here and talk about the percentages, but to get back to the principle, he refers to people who are seniors, who are on fixed incomes, and he also refers to people perhaps who are on social assistance. What is the best way that we, as a government, can deal with those people and make sure that they have the services that they require? It is through a strong economy where people are paying income taxes, where the economy continues to grow. That is exactly what these changes in this budget will do and that is why the NDP Government in Manitoba has put forward a reduction in taxes so that their economy will grow, something that they seem to agree with what we're doing here in Nova Scotia.

MR. EPSTEIN: You know, Mr. Speaker, I think people in Argyle who own fish plants will probably do very well out of an income tax cut, but let's think about the women in Argyle, 75 per cent of the women in Argyle make less than $20,000 which means that most of them won't be paying income tax and won't see any relief from this income tax cut. So I would like to ask the Minister of Finance, can he tell us why he is pushing the tax cuts that will not give any relief to most of the people in his own riding?

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I heard the member for Halifax Chebucto say that if someone made $20,000, they wouldn't pay income tax.

AN HON. MEMBER: That's what he said.

[Page 1333]

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, he has to go to basic training and taxation 101 because they will. The fact of the matter is that we have made these changes and I have said it on so many occasions to make sure that Nova Scotia remains competitive. I've said it in this House before and I will say it again, every province in Canada with the exception of one has lowered their income taxes over the last four years. The one province that has not lowered their taxes is Nova Scotia. We have lowered our taxes after a long process of balancing our budget, starting from a deficit of $500 million to where we have tabled in this year our second balanced budget and we are now, today, giving tax relief just as we promised Nova Scotians. We have done something we said we would do. Isn't that refreshing?

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

FIN. - TAX CUT: PICTOU CO. - EFFECTS

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, let's have a look at the details of Pictou Centre. My question is now going to be to the Premier. I bet the people in Pictou Centre think that the Premier has their best interests at heart and they think that he goes to the caucus and Cabinet every week fighting for them to make sure they get a good deal but, you know, they're going to be a little puzzled about this tax cut. I'm going to table documents showing 54 per cent of tax filers in the Premier's own riding make less than $20,000 and so are unlikely to be paying any income tax. When he talks about being a Premier for all Nova Scotians, I guess he means except for most of the people in his own riding. What I would like to know is, why doesn't the Premier give a real break to today's families like reducing HST, auto insurance, tuition fees, instead of a tax cut that will leave the majority of people in Pictou Centre with higher bills and no more money to pay them?

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

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, in regard to the member for Halifax Chebucto going through each provincial riding on a percentage, we can do this on many different occasions and as many times. But I will say, that the member opposite is not presenting the facts accurately when he says that people who make under $20,000 will not pay income taxes. That is not the case. The situation is, overall, the changes that we have put in place are to help, not only to grow the economy and help people come and stay in Nova Scotia, to have jobs here, but also to put in place a strong economy which generates revenue, that we will need to deal with those in need. We, as a government, have done that throughout our mandate. We have not forgotten those people then and we won't forget them today.

[3:30 p.m.]

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, the issue is fairness. I want to go back to the Premier. Even though he is not going to do the right thing and pay for things like long-term care for another four years and he's not willing to give seniors a tax break. Seniors in Pictou Centre,

[Page 1334]

again, make an average of $20,000 in income and contrary to the Minister of Finance, very few of them, if any, will be paying much if any income tax. This Premier allows continued discrimination against seniors by the auto insurance industry and is still stripping them of their assets to pay for long-term care. What I want to know is when is the Premier going to give them a real break instead of a tax cut that isn't going to help them at all? I'm asking him about seniors in Pictou Centre.

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

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is trying to, in my estimation misrepresent the facts - I'm trying to be careful with the words that I'm using here - by saying that most people who are making under $20,000 won't pay income tax, that's not the case. In the changes that we have put forward, 438,000 will receive the refund that is coming through. We've told Nova Scotians that taxpayers will see a reduction in their income taxes. We do what we said we would, unequivocally, yes.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I'm going back to the Premier with this one, again. Let me draw his attention to the income level of single parent families in Pictou Centre, his home constituency. Single parent families in Pictou Centre earn an average of $15,670 and I don't think that most of them are making enough to be paying income taxes, especially given child care and other deductions. So I would like to know, from the Premier, it's seniors, it's single parents, it's women, it's low-income earners and many others in his home constituency of Pictou Centre who will get little or nothing from his tax cut. When are you going to give them a real break? When?

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

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I've been listening to the questions coming from the member for Halifax Chebucto and I know that the Leader of the NDP said that he will allow the tax reductions to go through, in other words he supports them. The fact of the matter is we find ourselves here with the NDP sort of trying to play both sides against the middle. A Party that is saying, why don't you just simply bring about changes to the HST-when they know very clearly, you couldn't reduce the HST unless you had all three provinces agreeing to it. The fact is, what we have here is the NDP talking both sides against the middle. The fact is, we will stand on the promise that we made Nova Scotians that we will lower taxes and grow our economy. If you don't agree with that, stand up and say it.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

EDUC. - UNIV. FUNDING: BENEFITS - EXPLAIN

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, last night another Nova Scotia university increased its tuition rates for next year. To say that students are angry with that decision

[Page 1335]

would be, indeed, an understatement. This Conservative Government cut the debt relief program and kept millions of dollars from the Millennium Scholarship, and also froze operational funding to universities. We know that the Tories are going to say they're investing in universities to help address rising tuition rates. My question for the Education Minister is, given these increases, can the minister explain again to students in this province how his department's recent university funding investment has in fact helped address the burden of yet another tuition increase on our already overburdened students?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member is quite correct, I will speak to the fact that we increased funding to universities by an amount of $6 million, that we have brought our total funding to universities up to $207 million, and we have also brought forward a debt reduction program which will allow students who graduate from Nova Scotia universities to reduce their total debt by in excess of 40 per cent, and that's the program that we're bringing forward to assist universities and to assist students.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, as I said, this government is predictable if it's anything. In a speech last month about university funding investment, the minister stated that with this money our universities can manage rising costs while maintaining quality programs for our students and limiting future tuition increases. But what the minister glossed over was an important fact in his announcement, university funding will continue to remain at the same level next year as it did this year. My question for the minister is, can the minister tell the students in this province how by freezing operational funding to Nova Scotia universities, how this government will help guard students against increased tuition rates next year?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I'm glad to hear the honourable member talk about what this government will be doing next year. If he manages to get back here, he can sit back and watch us, because we will continue to add to the universities.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, I know the students of this province don't want me to make fun of the minister and the small majority that he got here with in the first place, so I'm not going to do that. It's more serious than that, Mr. Minister. It's not a matter of politics. (Interruptions)

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

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, we know a 7.5 per cent tuition hike at Dalhousie will mean tuition will rise to about $5,200 next year. Dalhousie is not alone. There are other universities facing tuition hikes, all of which are in addition to last year's increases. These increases wouldn't be so high if this Tory Government provided universities with the proper operational funding that they need. My final question to the minister is, can the minister please tell universities and students in this province when they will begin to actually see enough investment so that tuition rates are manageable?

[Page 1336]

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I can remind the honourable member that in 1997-98, the funding that they were providing to universities was an amount of $175 million. We have increased funding to universities to the tune of $207 million. I would like to remind the honourable member that there is evidence in the Speaker's Gallery today that you can make a long, good career by narrow margins at the polls, and I would be glad to emulate the former member for Colchester North in that regard.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

GOV'T. (N.S.) - HEALTH CAN.:

FUNDING INTERFERENCE - DETAILS

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, last year the Kendrick coalition applied for a $25,000 grant from the federal government through Health Canada. They were going to use the money to fund a staff position, offer workshops and provide information to people with disabilities, their families and the public. At first their application met with a favourable response, but then they got word their funding was turned down. The reason was due to an unfavourable response from the provincial Department of Health. So I want to ask the Premier, how often does your government interfere with groups accessing federal funding?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I know nothing of what the question relates. I'm not aware of that specific action, but I'm sure if the member opposite could provide some details, the minister would be able to generate an appropriate response.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I would like to table a two-page questionnaire filled out by a senior health official. Our office obtained it through the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. The answers on the form show clearly that the Department of Health and this government did not want the Kendrick coalition to receive any funding. So again I want to ask the Premier, Mr. Premier, your government spent $0.5 million on the Kendrick report. Why did your government treat a group that supports the recommendations of Kendrick in such a mean-spirited and underhanded manner that you would deny them access to a small federal government grant?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, that may well be a very serious question, but it's being handled by the member opposite in a very, very difficult way. If the member opposite was really concerned about the group, she would have provided the information so government could appropriately respond as to what was done with the file, but the member opposite has no interest in that group. All the member opposite is doing is trying to make a political point knowing full well that the government couldn't possibly on the spur of the moment respond to her question. She's simply engaging in theatrics.

[Page 1337]

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, we all know the Premier doesn't like being called to account on the floor of the House, but that's why we're here. The only comment on the entire form from the Minister of Health's Department says that this project does not support the current direction of the Department of Health or the Department of Community Services. So the project did not go ahead because of that government's interference. So again I want to ask the Premier, why is your government against workshops and advocacy for the disabled so much so that it stopped the Kendrick coalition from receiving federal funding?

THE PREMIER: Again I reply to the member opposite, if the member opposite had any real interest in getting the answer, any real interest, she would either have asked the question when the appropriate minister was in the House to answer it, or she would have served notice to the government she was going to ask the question. The reality is this has nothing to do with the group that the question involves. It simply is a way for the NDP to use up time in Question Period with inane questions.

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

FIN. - CASINO WORKERS:

SECOND-HAND SMOKE - PROTECTION

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question today is for the Premier. As the Premier would know in his former profession, restaurant, bar and casino workers are at the highest risk of the harmful effects of second-hand smoke. While there has been a quick move by the Minister of Finance to exempt the casino from the HRM bylaw, the Premier has failed to show any leadership when it comes to protecting casino workers from second-hand smoke. My question to the Premier is, can the Premier explain why he and his government caved in so quickly when it comes to the important issue of protecting workers from the harmful effects of second-hand smoke?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I refer that to the minister responsible for the Gaming Corporation.

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite was part of a government that signed an agreement with the casino. Within that contract there are provisions for termination of the contract if changes to such things as municipal bylaws are put in place. We have tabled, in the House, amendments to the Gaming Control Act which will allow us, only if required, to be able to deal within 30 days, that is the window of opportunity that the government has to remedy the situation. The money involved, the punitive damages to the province is well over $100 million. We have acted responsibly in dealing with this issue.

[Page 1338]

[3:45 p.m.]

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, we're talking about a health issue here. The Premier of this province is a medical doctor in this province and he ducks the question and sends it off to his Finance Minister. We're talking about an issue here that kills people in this province and the Premier refers it to the Finance Minister to answer. The government loves to point fingers at everybody else when it comes to a problem.

This government in dealing with an important issue, such as health issues of the people of this province, and this whole issue unfolding as it is makes no sense. Yesterday the Minister of Finance said that they were bringing in legislation in case the casino decided to walk away because of the HRM bylaw - that's like laying all your cards on the table and then telling your opponents to bid on the hand. My question, again to the Premier, is, can the Premier tell us what recent indication his government received that the casino was prepared to walk away from a profitable operation as a result of the HRM bylaw?

THE PREMIER: I refer that to the minister responsible for the Gaming Corporation.

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I will bring up two points. The first thing, the member opposite is saying that we don't show concern in regard to smoking. This government tabled the provincial smoking legislation that dealt and made marked improvements. That member was part of a Cabinet that had smoking legislation that they kept in the desk and never let come into the light of day. Don't talk to us about protecting people, we have put smoking legislation in place that does so.

The other thing, in regard to the casino, the fact of the matter is we can now respond within 30 days; subsequent to that we can also go to a dispute resolution process after that if it happens. If it happens that we win, then we can reverse the situation and the smoking bylaw will apply to those casinos. We have given ourselves options. With the contract that's present, I think we've acted responsibly. It's over $100 million; we've acted more than responsibly in a difficult situation.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance knows full well the casino is not going to walk from Halifax because of this issue. He knows full well they're not going to walk. This is a health issue; this is a health issue that the Premier continues to duck. Let me see if I can get this straight. You have a Smoke-free Places Act that doesn't create smoke-free places, you have admitted that the health of workers is less important than the interests of the casino, and now you've brought in legislation to deal with a hypothetical situation. My final supplementary, again to the Premier, is, why is your government, Mr. Premier, admitting defeat before they even enter into negotiations with the casino?

THE PREMIER: I refer that to the minister responsible for the Gaming Corporation.

[Page 1339]

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is not listening to the answers that I'm giving him. We have put in place the ability for the province to answer within 30 days. That member knows very well that oftentimes it's difficult to pass a piece of legislation within 30 days. We have put something in place so that we can deal quickly with an issue if it comes forward. We hope, as a government, as I'm sure all members of this House, that the casino will never challenge the smoking bylaw. If they do, we now have the ability to deal with it, and subsequent to that we can also go to a dispute resolution process, and if we win that we will allow the smoking bylaws of both HRM and CBRM to be in place. This is a hypothetical question. The fact of the matter is that we have provided for that type of situation if it does arise. As any good government does, we have dealt with things that may happen in the future.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

COMMUN. SERV. - RRSS STRIKE: RESOLUTION - MIN. ABILITY

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, yesterday I was trying to get some response from the Minister of Community Services with respect to these issues, so my question today is to the Premier. In a press release yesterday the Regional Residential Services Society indicated that it would not be participating in a meeting with family and unionized workers tonight. I table a press release - the executive director, Beverley Wicks states that it would be dishonest for us to participate because we have nothing new to bring to the table. I ask the Premier, how can you continue to deny that your government has a role to play in this dispute when it is clear that only the Minister of Community Services has the ability to resolve this job action?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, it is a difficult situation for residents, it is a difficult situation for workers, but there is a labour dispute resolution method in this province. There is a process to be followed and we encourage both sides to follow the process.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, the Premier and his minister can create an action that will put the people back at the table. The executive director also states that we are 100 per cent funded by the Department of Community Services and there is a cap on the salary amount they provide us. It's a fundamental issue over which we have no control. This group of volunteers has been hung out to dry by the Minister of Community Services. He tightens the purse strings and lets the agencies deal with the fallout. I ask the Premier is this the treatment that any agency funded by your government can expect if they experience a labour dispute?

THE PREMIER: I refer that to the Minister of Environment and Labour.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, in response to the honourable member for Dartmouth North, we have a conciliator in place. He's one of our senior conciliators and he is on standby and willing to meet with the opposing parties at any notice. I can assure the honourable member that Mr. Weir is most anxious to get the parties back to the table.

[Page 1340]

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, the most important thing here, to the Premier, is it's a matter of them providing the funding that will put the people back to the table. What is most tragic is that the vulnerable residents and their families are caught in the middle of this battle. The continued refusal of the minister to exercise his authority in this strike while people are suffering borders on negligence. My question to the Premier is, you have the power, your government holds the purse strings, when will you finally accept the responsibility that goes with it, step in and end this terrible situation?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I refer that to the Minister of Environment and Labour.

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the New Democratic Party has one answer to every job dispute that comes along and that's simply to throw money at the problem. Well, we have a process and we will follow that process through.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

EDUC. - ÉCOLE BEAUFORT:

REOPENING - ANNOUNCEMENT TIME FRAME

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Education. Last year École Beaufort was closed and the minister of the day, the member for Halifax Citadel, badly bungled an attempt to keep the school open. The former minister baked up a short-term, shoestring, duct tape response that she knew was going to cause a disruption and would need to be revisited. We now have a new minister wanting to work with the Halifax Regional School Board to reopen École Beaufort, a new minister trying to make up for the previous minister's mistakes. It's now April, the end of the school year is fast approaching, so my question to the minister is, when will his government be able to inform the parents of École Beaufort, the same ones neglected by the former minister, that their school will finally reopen?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I can say to the House that as a result of the very constructive work of my predecessor to enhance opportunities for French language students in this province, that the Université Sainte-Anne/Collège de l'Acadie have looked for campus space in metro and they identified the school École Beaufort as being suitable to their needs. That created an opportunity if they so decide to move into that facility. They don't need all of the space and if the facility were open, then there would be the potential of space for students to go from the Halifax Regional School Board to attend that facility. That is what is being explored.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, the minister may be a little confused. It was the former minister who actually closed the school. My question again is to the Minister of Education. The parents were locked out of the final process despite assurances from the former minister that they would be included. The boundary line for the replacement school just happens to

[Page 1341]

run along the minister's constituency boundary lines. This led many to charge that perhaps the former minister was playing politics. I hope this government is not playing politics with the parents and children of École Beaufort. My question to the minister is, why is the Department of Education, under the direction of the same deputy minister, now trying to reopen École Beaufort on the eve of an election?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, it is very interesting to listen to the honourable member describe the process relative to the closure of École Beaufort. He obviously has been listening too much to his seatmate who thinks that we should be controlling the school boards of this province. The school boards have responsibility for that. They have taken the decision. As I have already pointed out to the House, the Université Sainté-Anne/Collège de l' Acadie have requested space. They have looked at École Beaufort as a suitable site. They do not require all of the space that's there. We have made the school board aware of that potential and should the Université Sainte-Anne/Collège de l'Acadie and the school board collectively decide they want the space, then it would be appropriate for it to be turned and used for that purpose before it reverts back to the municipality.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, I'm sure that we'll all agree that the parents and children of École Beaufort have been put through enough. Enough is enough. So will the minister now admit that his predecessor made a serious mistake when she got involved in the École Beaufort situation?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, what I can say about my predecessor is that she greatly enhanced the opportunities for French-speaking students in this province. As a result of that, the Collège de l' Acadie is looking at this site and I hope that the Université Sainte-Anne/Collège de l' Acadie and the school board can get together and jointly use that space in the interest of French-speaking students both at the community college level and at the elementary level. That would be a wonderful outcome.

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

ENVIRON. & LBR.: CASINO N.S. WORKERS - PROTECTION

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, we know very well that the casino came calling and this government certainly blinked when they said anything to them. So my question is to the Minister of Environment and Labour. Everyone in this House knows the harmful effects of second-hand tobacco smoke to a person's health. The medical opinions are virtually unanimous on it. In a recent study by Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada they laid down three conclusions: (1) all involuntary exposure to tobacco smoke is harmful; (2) ventilation provides no solution; and (3) full compliance with health and safety regulations would require eliminating all smoke from workplaces. So I want to ask the Minister of Environment and Labour why doesn't he think that the workers at Casino Nova Scotia deserve that same protection?

[Page 1342]

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I'm sure the honourable member is aware that this government has put in place the strongest legislation, possibly in Canada, for the protection of workers from smoke.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, this minister is certainly blowing smoke. The Occupational Health and Safety Act establishes the legal framework for protecting every employee from exposure to human health hazards in the workplace except if you're an employee of Casino Nova Scotia. The minister's department has prepared draft indoor quality regulations. These regulations address smoking in the workplace and are being amended to be compatible to the Smoke-free Places Act. So I want to ask you, Mr. Minister, why won't you protect the health of casino workers by giving their employer the right to subjugate those laws?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I'm very pleased that the honourable member can recite all the regulations that we have put in place to protect workers in this province.

[4:00 p.m.]

MR. CORBETT: Don't hurt your hand patting yourself on the back protecting workers. We have April 28th coming up, Mr. Minister, to talk about the day of mourning, and we will talk about what a great job your government does in protecting workers. All workers should have that right. I want to ask the minister very directly, how can you ensure casino employees will continue to have the legal right under the OH&S Act to refuse unsafe working conditions caused by daily exposure to harmful chemicals in second-hand tobacco, how can you ensure those workers those rights?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the federal government, as he's probably aware, does not accept the effects of second-hand smoke as a hazard that will activate a claim against the employment insurance scheme.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes. (Interruption)

The schedule that was sent out several weeks ago, number 16 on that would be the Independent member.

The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes.

NAT. RES. - COAL RESERVES (C.B.):

NEGOTIATIONS - HOLDUP DETAILS

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Natural Resources. Negotiations have been ongoing for some time now between this government and the federal government in regard to existing coal reserves in Cape Breton. Local reports indicate these negotiations are held up on issues related to remediation. My question to the

[Page 1343]

minister is, can the minister confirm, in regard to the negotiations with the federal government, in regard to coal reserves in Cape Breton, that they are indeed held up because of issues in regard to remediation concerns?

HON. TIMOTHY OLIVE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for the question. It certainly is a very important issue in Cape Breton and in Nova Scotia from the point of the economic advantages to Nova Scotia in development of the coal fields. The negotiations have been ongoing for a number of months with Devco, with the Cape Breton Development Corporation. We're quite satisfied with the progress of those negotiations, and they will continue.

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, hundreds of jobs could be created in a coal industry in Cape Breton, actually, and that would be good news for residents of Cape Breton The Lakes, of course. Donkin Resources and the miners co-op are just two community organizations that are committed to the development of a coal industry in Cape Breton. Can the minister please tell us when the community can expect to receive the benefits of his negotiations?

MR. OLIVE: Mr. Speaker, the negotiations with the Cape Breton Development Corporation, as I said, have been ongoing for quite a while. We have received a great deal of co-operation, we would like to get a little bit more from the federal representatives who also have some influence with Devco. As I had stated yesterday in estimates, we would look forward to any support that could be added from the members of the opposite side of the House with the appropriate members from Cape Breton in the federal Parliament to assist us in an early resolution of the transfer of the leases so that we can, in fact, develop the saleable and moveable coal in Cape Breton.

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, recent correspondence that I have received in regard to this issue indicates that these negotiations are in the final stages, as the minister has indicated here today. I would like to ask the minister very clearly, when does the minister expect to announce a redeveloped or a revitalized coal industry for Cape Breton?

MR. OLIVE: Mr. Speaker, we're working quite eagerly, as I'm sure all members opposite would expect us to, to bring on-line those coal mines and those sites that can in fact be developed and we are quite hopeful that the negotiations that we're having right now will provide that opportunity within months, but it certainly will depend upon the co-operation of the federal government and the Cape Breton Development Corporation to put those coal mines onstream for the benefit of Nova Scotians and particularly for the benefit of the economy of industrial Cape Breton.

[Page 1344]

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

SERV. N.S. & MUN. REL. - SABLE ASSESS.:

MIN. - RESPONSIBILITY ASSUME

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations. The government doesn't want to deal with bad news so they have been desperately trying to keep the issue of the Sable assessment under wraps. It's strange how the government will immediately cave in to the casino, but will drag out assessment negotiations for four years and even consider allowing it to go to court. The Premier, the Energy Minister and the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations will not address the issue. In last week's Question Period, the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations said in Hansard, "Obviously, the SOEP people have had some disagreement with the municipal units and as I indicated earlier, the process is coming to a conclusion very soon."

Mr. Speaker, the disagreement is not with the municipalities like Guysborough. The disagreement is between the province and the Sable partners and the minister should have known that. I'm sure that the member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury is going to be interested in this first question. My question to the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations, why won't the minister take responsibility for this file and resolve this impasse instead of blaming municipalities like Guysborough?

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, I'm glad to have an opportunity to chat on this item with the honourable member again. As we talked last week, we had indicated over the period of years there had been some legislation introduced on this and, as I indicated, that file is moving. Today a proposal has been put to the SOEP people based on that. It is now with their lawyers waiting for agreement. That happened some months ago. We expect to have their lawyers response. Perhaps the honourable member would take the opportunity to tell the House when they negotiated this deal why they didn't set up the structure for this assessment at the time.

MR. DAVID HENDSBEE: Another little contract.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: The member for Preston has spoken - twice in this session.

Mr. Speaker, my first supplementary is to the Premier. That minister doesn't have a clue what he's talking about here. We're talking about an assessment problem with municipalities that are hurting like Guysborough. The issue has not been resolved and it is hurting Nova Scotia's reputation with industry. Worst of all, municipalities like Guysborough cannot collect taxes to improve services. My question to the Premier, it has been four years since this issue was hanging over the province. Despite legislation and

[Page 1345]

despite negotiations we are no further ahead. My question, why won't you, Mr. Premier, demonstrate leadership and bring an end to this impasse?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I refer that to the minister.

MR. CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, we are moving towards the impasse. We know that there are a lot of the municipalities that are interested in getting this file completed. The department has had about 11 meetings with the SOEP people in the last six months and we have made a proposal to them. It is with their lawyers now. We expect the response and if we have a favourable response, the issue will be resolved.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my first supplementary, I noticed the minister for or the member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury (Interruption) He won't have to worry about that because he's one on the extinction list in the next election. Anyway, when is this government going to pay attention to the plight of municipalities like Guysborough? The member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury doesn't care. The minister doesn't care. The Premier doesn't care and the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations couldn't care less. When is this government going to settle this issue so a municipality like Guysborough can get on with the business of improving services and collecting taxes in that area of the province?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Who was the question for?

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: The Premier.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member for Cape Breton South gets up and he huffs and puffs, but he knows full well that the real problem is because this is one of the issues that should have been determined and settled prior to all of the infrastructure going in place. It was one of the messes they left for this government to clean up.

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

INSURANCE - RATES: SOLUTION - PRE-ELECTION INFO.

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, the Consumer Price Index came out today and it shows that Nova Scotians' auto insurance rates are at an all-time high for the second straight month. The result is that many are being forced to give up their cars, like Eileen Foster, a 42 year old. She's been forced off the road because she can't afford her auto insurance. Her insurance almost doubled last year, even though she's never had an accident. My question is for the minister responsible for auto insurance, can you tell Eileen Foster what solution she can expect from your government before you go to the polls?

[Page 1346]

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, we expect to have our consumer advocate's report sometime in early June and at that time we'll be advising all Nova Scotians of what steps we intend to take.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, with the consumer advocate in place, even with information he will give to this government, I'll bet sure as there is that they won't take that advice before the next election. Nova Scotians like Eileen Foster won't have a car to depend on. She travels by bus from Lawrencetown to Kentville every day where she works as a personal care worker. When the bus isn't running, she's forced to hitchhike. We're talking about a woman who has raised a family in this province, paid taxes to this government, hitchhiking to work because she can't afford insurance on a 1996 Taurus. I'd like to ask the minister responsible for supporting international, multinational insurance companies how he's going to help someone like that in the near future?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, this is not a problem that's confined to the Province of Nova Scotia, it's not only even a Canada-wide problem, it's a problem right across North America. You cannot solve that type of a problem just overnight. We are doing our best and we will come forward, as I said before, with a plan in the very near future.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, that's cold comfort to Eileen Foster who's standing along Highway No. 102 hitchhiking to work thanks to the inaction of this government. This is a driver with a clean record being forced off the road. When people like Eileen Foster are being forced to hitchhike, there is something seriously wrong with this government and its style of governing this province. So minister, when are you going to stop stonewalling and help Nova Scotian drivers like Eileen Foster to have decent insurance rates instead of hiding behind reports?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I will reiterate for the honourable member that we are moving in the direction of stabilizing insurance rates and that we will have a plan in place by early June.

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

ENVIRON. & LBR. - WORKERS' COMP.:

SUPP. BENEFITS PROG. - DETAILS

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, I too have a question for the Minister of Environment and Labour. I'd like to ask him about the supplementary benefits program under the workers' compensation. We passed the law here last Fall to make it possible for people on that benefit to get a large increase before Christmas. The bill was passed on an expedited basis by all-Party co-operation so those people could get paid. By doing that, we found that we created a new problem in that new people now eligible for the supplementary benefits programs, that weren't before, find it very difficult to get into the program. I've

[Page 1347]

raised this matter with the minister, I've sent him a pile of papers that I am now going to table to the House to show correspondence that I've exchanged with the Workers' Compensation Board and the minister on this problem. The minister has undertaken to review it and to try to find a way out that will enable these new applicants to be dealt with on a quicker basis than the month of October, which is when it's now planned to admit them. I wonder if the minister could verify what I've just said to the House and outline in a more systematic way just what specifically he intends to do on this matter?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, yes, I am aware of the problem and some people unfortunately have had to wait for up to nine months, I believe, before they can get on the supplementary benefit. But, they do not necessarily have to wait until October to apply for the benefits. They could apply in July and then their payment would start October 1st.

[4:15 p.m.]

MR. MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, this is a serious matter, and I could not hear the last part of the minister's answer over the hubbub in the House. (Interruptions) Just to illustrate what I'm talking about, I want to deal with one individual case involving a Donald McMullin who lives at 645 Atlantic Drive, Reserve Mines. Now this man has an income of $900 a month, Canada Pension Disability and a small PPD from Workers' Comp. If he could get into the Supplementary Benefits Program, his income would rise from $900 a month to $1,250, an increase of $350. That man right now is trying to live on next to nothing. I'm wondering if there isn't some way that he, if he does qualify under the guidelines, could not be admitted to the program earlier than October?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, as I said in my response to the initial question, that gentleman could get on the program in July. I have asked the Workers' Compensation Board to look at a modification to the system to enable people to get on to supplementary benefits earlier than has been the case in the past.

MR. MACEWAN: They're over there clapping, I will clap, too. There's two of us that will clap, because I agree with what the minister has said, and I would urge him to continue on that course and not get distracted in the meantime by electioneering or other such activities. I would like to say, as a final supplementary, just one more example, it's a Mr. Clarence Foley, who lives at 19 Kent Court, outside Sydney.

MR. SPEAKER: Order. Order, please. It's too noisy in here. Order, please. (Interruptions) Order, please. The honourable member for Cape Breton on your final supplementary, please.

MR. MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, my final supplementary involves another illustration of what I was speaking about. Mr. Clarence Foley, who lives on Kent Court, which is outside Sydney, is struggling to get by on a permanent partial disability payment of less than $200

[Page 1348]

a month. He can't get his Canada Pension because he doesn't have the contributions to get it. Someone like that clearly qualifies for supplementary benefits, yet he too is being told you have to wait until October, until the leaves turn golden, and all will be well then. In the meantime he just can't make it. I would like to ask the minister, as my final supplementary, please, would it not be possible to develop a comprehensive approach, not on a case-by-case basis but generally, for such applicants for supplementary benefits?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I agree with the honourable member, and I can assure him that we've asked the Workers' Compensation Board to modify the program so that people can get on supplementary benefits earlier.

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

PREM. - SUNDAY SHOPPING:

ELECTION REFERENDUM - CONFIRM

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, good afternoon. My question is to the Premier. Most Nova Scotians I speak to seem to be somewhat amused in regard to Sunday shopping. As you are aware, Sunday shopping is seriously affecting our economic situation throughout Nova Scotia. Merchants in Cape Breton The Lakes, that I speak to at least, feel they are affected today, now. My question to the Premier is, are you considering a referendum during the 2003 provincial election?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite brings to the attention of the House an issue that obviously is of great interest to a great number of Nova Scotians, many of which, over the last number of months, I have had an opportunity to speak with or at least receive information by way of e-mails and direct letters. The government is looking at the issue and will be making its intentions known very soon.

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, my next question is to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works. In the Westmount-Coxheath area of my constituency, postal service is being delivered by workers at the local Sobeys supermarket. I know that local members throughout the industrial area have been contacted by the local postal workers. In fact, I've spoken personally to the president and several postal workers. Is the minister aware that this situation is occurring in the Sydney River area of my constituency?

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: I'm sorry, I didn't catch the beginning of the honourable member's question. The honourable member indicated about the Westmount area and Sobeys' workers, but I wasn't able to catch the beginning part of the question.

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works. In the Westmount-Coxheath area . . .

[Page 1349]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes on the question only, please.

MR. BOUDREAU: In the Coxheath-Westmount area and Keltic Drive area of my constituency, Sobeys have received a contracting of services of the postal services in that area. They deliver parcels and that sort of thing to the residents of those areas. I know that postal workers, including the president, have contacted me as well as other local members. I'm asking the minister, is the minister aware that this situation exists at the Sydney River Sobeys store?

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I can answer honestly to the member that I wasn't aware of that situation. Canada Post is obviously a federal Crown Corporation and I wasn't aware of the situation that the member spoke of.

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I'm not going to continue on and try to embarrass other elected members of the community, but my next question is directly to the Public Works Minister. Will he agree to meet with postal workers in that community in regard to the concerns they have regarding the Sydney River Sobeys' outlet?

MR. BAKER: I would be certainly anxious to talk to the honourable member about what the provincial government can do, but I'm not sure that the provincial government has any particular influence over Canada Post. Perhaps the former Liberal colleagues would be a better way of handling that.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Justice. Last Friday wasn't such a Good Friday for seven Dartmouth residents beaten up by what appears to be a random attack on law-abiding citizens just going about their business. It is reported that 10 males driving around in a number of vehicles stopped at four different locations and assaulted people in random acts of violence. My question to the minister is this, is his department taking any action to ensure Nova Scotians are not subjected to these hoodlum tactics on streets of our communities?

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

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of personal privilege. (Interruption)

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

[Page 1350]

MR. MACKINNON: Yes, Mr. Speaker, on a point of personal privilege, earlier today as I was exiting the House of Assembly building here, I was accosted by Mr. Peter O'Brien from the Federation of Independent Business. In the Hollis Street corridor Mr. O'Brien approached myself in front of the House of Assembly security in what I would refer to as nothing short of an uncontrollable rage, making threatening remarks and gestures to the point of spitting on myself on several occasions, despite my request of the House of Assembly security that Mr. O'Brien remove himself from my presence. Mr. O'Brien continued and then exited the building in a rather uncontrollable state.

Mr. Speaker, the point being is that I believe all members of this House should be entitled to entering this place in a safe work environment. That's point number one. Point number two, I would ask if you, as the chief magistrate and caretaker for the House of Assembly, would investigate and that some type of an assessment be carried out of Mr. O'Brien's behaviour in consultation with all of those who witnessed the event, if you can refer to it as that, and perhaps appropriate action could be taken.

MR. SPEAKER: Do other members have comments in regard to the same issue? The honourable member has brought forward a very serious issue that I certainly will take under advisement and will report back to the House.

The honourable member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury on an introduction.

MR. RONALD CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, in your gallery we have two people from the Canso area, Mayor Frank Fraser and Deputy Mayor Fin Armsworthy, and I would ask the House to give them a warm reception. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, also in the east gallery, we have another former warden of Richmond County, now the nominated candidate for Richmond, and I am sure he's going to be sitting here with us after the next election, Mr. Richie Colton. (Applause)

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

OPPOSITION MEMBERS' BUSINESS

MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS

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

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, you have a better chance of winning at the casino than you have in betting on that.

Mr. Speaker, would you please call Resolution No. 382.

[Page 1351]

Res. 382, Educ.: Loan Remission Prog. - Prem. Promises - notice given April 3/03 - (Mr. D. Wilson)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, it's rather unfortunate that we even have a need to debate this resolution for the record, but because of the shameful actions of the Conservative Government that have forced students in this province into higher debt by attending universities with the highest tuition, unfortunately we find ourselves in this position.

Mr. Speaker, what this government has done is deliberately left students mired in debt, which is a promise the Premier made in his blue book said would not happen. The fact of the matter is that there was a student debt relief program in place in this province in 1999, but this government decided to scrap the former $10 million Loan Remission Program in the year 2000, and what happened was that left Nova Scotian students as the only ones in the country without a debt management program. There have been repeated empty promises from the government on debt levels for students. Since the year 2000, when they scrapped the Loan Remission Program, the Tories have promised to reinstate a better debt management program for students.

Mr. Speaker, what we have is when they finally came around and announced the Loan Remission Program recently it was at a lower funding level than it was before they actually scrapped the program. As a matter of fact the program was announced as a $5.1 million program, much less than the program that existed before they cut it. This government is so committed to cutting students adrift that they only decided to increase the level of funding to a fraction of what it was, as I said, under the former government.

Mr. Speaker, what's difficult to understand is that in asking - as we're debating this resolution - for waiver on the issue of student debt, on the issue of this resolution, when waiver was requested there were actually several noes from the other side of the House. So I would think that clearly demonstrates what the attitude is by this government towards students in this province. It's only the beginning of the arrogance that this government has shown to students in this province, and what the government is failing to grasp on this issue is the bigger picture of what is happening with students. For instance, as you well know, and we all know in this House, last night another Nova Scotia university increased its tuition rates for next year. That has left students even more angry than they were before. The increase is 7.5 per cent at Dalhousie University and it will bring the issue of tuition next year at Dalhousie to about $5,200 a year for tuition alone.

Mr. Speaker, at one time I guess we could have said that rising tuition rates are fast approaching where we find a post-secondary education out of reach to a lot of people in this province - we're past that point now; we're there and then some. This government wants

[Page 1352]

students to believe actually that they're acting in their interests, but nothing could be further from the truth. The students know that it's the government that did away with the Loan Remission Program. The students know that it's this government that froze operational funding. It's troubling for students who are going to be graduating from university this year. They don't qualify for the new Loan Remission Program, as a matter of fact, an entire graduating class over the last four years will not be eligible for this Loan Remission Program. What the government has done is turned its back on an entire graduating class at universities throughout this province by not making that Loan Remission Program retroactive.

[4:30 p.m.]

We know that we have the highest debt loads in the country. Students understand that this government is not going to be able to control increasing tuition rates in the future either, because this government is not investing more money into operational budgets of universities. The students in this province don't want more empty promises. The students in this province don't want to have to go to food banks in order to attend university. The students in this province don't want to have to hold down two or three jobs just to be able to pay the rent or pay the tuition in order to attend university.

What the students in this province are asking for is nothing but fair treatment. University funding is going to continue to remain at the same level next year as it did this year - approximately $201 million. But, the minister gets up and pontificates about the program just to say funding for universities is being increased. In actuality, it is not. The universities are going to receive $6 million more in funding, but it hasn't fooled anyone; in particular, it hasn't fooled the students in this province. They know without proper operational funding that in the future tuition rates are going to increase and they'll increase again next year.

The minister doesn't understand by freezing the operational funding to universities in this province, this government can't help guard students against increased tuition. Not next year, not the following year or the year after that.

I mentioned Dalhousie is going to have a tuition increase of 7.5 per cent, St. Mary's University approved an increase of 5.5 per cent, Nova Scotia College of Art and Design approved an increase of 7.5 per cent, the University College of Cape Breton is talking about a 7 per cent increase. Universities don't want to increase tuition, but because of the failure of this government to provide universities with that proper operational funding, students are having to shoulder the funding shortages as well.

It was the Premier of this province who gave us his word that he would not let students in this province down. The Premier was the person who stated in the blue book that he did not want students in this province mired in debt. But what the Premier doesn't seem to understand is that the $5.1 million for the Loan Remission Program won't help the

[Page 1353]

thousands of students in this province. They need more. The students in this province deserve more. The reality of the situation regarding the Millennium Scholarship Foundation, the money for the Millennium Scholarship Foundation was taken by that government. It did not serve the purpose it was intended for, and the only people hurt by that decision were the students in this province.

The Premier still wants the students to believe that things are stronger and better now than they were four years ago with this new Loan Remission Program. How could they possibly be better? There's less money. How could a Premier tell any student in this province with a straight face who has gone for three or four years without a Loan Remission Program that they're better off now than they were three years ago? Better off coming out of university now, faced with an increasing debt load but no Loan Remission Program that they would qualify for.

Mr. Speaker, students in the greatest need are going to look at the cost and say, eventually, I can't go there, I can't afford to further my education, because of rising tuition rates. Where that leaves us is anyone's guess. I never thought that we would see the day in this great Province of Nova Scotia that someone would say, well, I simply can't afford to go to university, and to be able to pinpoint the blame on a government that has done nothing to help post-secondary education and in particular post-secondary students in this province.

Mr. Speaker, the resolution that we're talking about actually came from Page 24 of the blue book that stated, as I said, the pursuit of post-secondary education should not leave Nova Scotians mired in debt. Those are the words of the Premier of this province. Despite that promise, after four years of this government taking student aid money, the pursuit of a post-secondary education has left thousands of Nova Scotians, thousands of our children, thousands of our students mired in debt. That is a shame. Thank you for your time.

MR. SPEAKER: The member's time has expired.

The honourable Minister of Education.

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I'm really pleased to have the opportunity to rise in my place today to speak about the support that we have provided for post-secondary education in this province, both to the institutions and to the students. We have not only a new debt reduction program for students, but we have also given universities more funding to help mitigate tuition increases. In fact, when you add it up, we are making an $11 million investment to Nova Scotia students and universities, that's $11 million more than in the previous year. That's a big improvement on what the honourable member's opposite government was able to do. If you examine the figures, which I've already discussed earlier in Question Period today, you will note that they actually reduced funding to universities down to the low level of $175 million from what it had been previously.

[Page 1354]

We are now in excess of $206 million annually. Mr. Speaker, I hope that I will be here when we reach the level where we have fully restored funding to the levels they had been before the Party of the previous government reduced funding to the extent that they had. We have increased funding to universities, while at the same time, through the efforts of the Minister of Finance, balancing the budget of this province.

Mr. Speaker, let's start by examining our new debt relief initiative. Last year on Budget Day we promised to develop a student debt reduction program within 12 months. We're delivering and we have delivered on that promise. We're investing $5.1 million for the first year of this new program. It is designed to help the greatest number of students possible with the resources we have. It also has the ability to expand as more money becomes available. The program is available to university, community college and private career college students who meet eligibility criteria.

About 18,000 students receive Canada student loans each year, about 9,800 of these students also receive Nova Scotia student loans, which is the first eligibility requirement for the new program. They're the students with the highest need, and therefore among the students with the highest debt upon graduation.

All students who receive Nova Scotia's student loans in the academic year, August 1, 2003, study in Canada and successfully complete full-time course loads, can apply for debt reduction when they graduate. Students will have to apply within three months after they have graduated. Students can get loans for each year of their program, plus one additional year. For example, a student can get a maximum of five years of loans for a four-year university degree. They will receive 15 per cent of the debt reduction for the first year, 25 per cent for the second, 35 per cent for the third, and 45 per cent for the fourth year. If the student studies for another year and has a loan, the student will get 15 per cent for that fifth year.

One thing we heard back from the student leaders, Mr. Speaker, when we met with them to review the details of the new program, there was a concern that eligible students wouldn't be well aware of the new program or the timelines. The department will work very hard to ensure all avenues of communication are explored to ensure students are in fact well informed. We want to help as many students as possible, and on that note, I'm sure the honourable members of the House can appreciate that there is a multitude of different avenues that students take to complete their post-secondary education. Our staff considered these different scenarios carefully and designed a program that's flexible to work for them. The citizens of Nova Scotia have invested their tax dollars in the education of our college and university students. They deserve to reap the benefits of that investment.

With this program we are encouraging students to complete their programs and contribute to Nova Scotia's economy and society. Students will only get debt reduction when they complete their programs. They will also receive a 25 per cent bonus for staying to work in the province and a 10 per cent bonus for repaying their loans in a timely fashion. This

[Page 1355]

program is a step in the right direction. As I said before, Mr. Speaker, we are doing our best to help the greatest number of high-need students with the resources we have today and we will expand the program as more funding becomes available.

Let me try to help honourable members better understand how our new program will help students. Let's say there is a student named Mary who has spent four years in a Bachelor of Science Program and she graduated. She had the maximum amount of Canada and Nova Scotia student loans for all four years that she was in school. Mary is eligible for assistance through the new Student Debt Reduction Program. She applies to the program and $6,120 is paid to her bank to reduce her debt. Within three years after graduation, Mary worked full- time in Nova Scotia for at least 50 weeks. She also made at least 12 payments on her student loan in the first three years of her repayment period. Mary is now eligible for bonus debt reduction. She applies to the Student Debt Reduction Program with proof of her employment and loan payments and an additional $2,142 is paid to her bank to reduce her debt. Mary's total debt reduction is $8,262 which represents 40.5 per cent of her Nova Scotia student loan debt. That, Mr. Speaker, is 40.5 per cent. We are paying more than 40 per cent of the student's debt.

As I indicated earlier, as more resources become available, our assistance to students will increase. Mr. Speaker, the best way to invest more money in students and post-secondary education is to manage the provincial debt and the best way to manage the debt is to grow the economy so that we can have a bigger tax base. In addition to lowering taxes, the best way to grow the economy is through a highly-skilled workforce. Investing in our universities and students continues to be a part of our goal to build Nova Scotia's economy. We've identified $6 million from the 2002-03 fiscal year that we gave to universities. With this money, our universities can manage rising costs like salaries and fuel, while maintaining quality programs for our students and limiting future tuition increases.

[4:45 p.m.]

It's one thing for me to say this, but it's certainly something very different when we hear it directly from the universities. In a newspaper clipping this week, Mr. Brian Mason, Dalhousie's Vice-President of Finance and Administration, said that the tuition increase for Dal students could have been higher. He said that an extra $3 million in provincial funding announced in March will help keep tuition hikes below the 9 to 12 per cent the university predicted in January.

We're not only helping the students through a new debt reduction program, but through increased funding to the universities that they attend. The $6 million that we announced in March will be included in the base funding for 2004-05. I will continue to advocate to my Cabinet colleagues the need for continued investment in post-secondary education.

[Page 1356]

In addition, I've already had some discussions with CONSUP, that's the Council of Nova Scotia University Presidents, about deferred maintenance. I have asked staff in my department to continue these discussions to ensure we have the facilities we need to continue offering the quality programs for which we are known.

I also want to continue discussions about multi-year funding agreements with the universities. Knowing what their funding will look like for a three-year stretch will help keep tuition in check and address priorities like deferred maintenance.

I also want to point out that in the discussions with the university presidents related to a multi-year funding, that we will continue to respect the historic institutions that we have in this province, we will continue to encourage their separate identity as the proud institutions that they are and for which all Nova Scotians are very proud. That is very much a part of where we are going as a government.

In addition, there were administrative changes in the loan program made for the 2002-03 academic year, meaning that students are getting more money for books through their student loans. That's gone up to $1,000 from $800. I also want to indicate that last month I was able to address the Ministers of Education from across the country and received their endorsement to approach the federal government, after research has been done, to see what is a reasonable amount of money for parents to be expected to contribute to their children's education. We all know from dealing with parents and student loan applications that the expectation of contributions from parents, especially with more than one child attending university or a post-secondary institution, is considerable. The council of ministers has agreed to study that. Thank you very much.

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

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, as you well know, this is a topic of personal concern to me as the proud father of a daughter who attends NSCAD. I must tell you my daughter Jana will be leaving this Monday to go plant trees in Northern Ontario - north of Timmins - for the summer. I can tell you that that young woman has done her share as her older sister did her share in getting through their post-secondary education. I haven't had the opportunity to talk to the vice-president of anywhere. I'm not on a first-name basis with the university presidents, except for Mount Allison, but that's another topic. Who I've been talking to are some of my past students, some of the people in my community and I'm going to bring a couple of their cases to the floor this afternoon.

First of all, let's get the facts straight. The kids in university, the kids who are in post-secondary institutions, they are hurtin' - without the g on the end - they are hurtin', and there's no way around that. We hear the stories of the kids at NSCAD who go and use the food bank. We hear the stories of these young people who are holding down a couple of jobs so that they can help out with tuition, with books, with art supplies.

[Page 1357]

I had the occasion to run into Tony Roeding. Tony Roeding was one of my students. I asked Tony, how are things going and how are you doing? He said, well, you know, I'm holding down a job, sir, I'm pulling down a B average, I'm not doing too bad. I would say to him, I remember Tony as a student, he was an exceptional student. His first reaction was, I know, Mr. Estabrooks, I could be doing better, but I have a part-time job so I can assist with the cost that my parents are paying so I can go on to university. Let's be clear on this, and I think some members know this, I am the son of a Dorchester Penitentiary guard. My father, under no circumstances, could have afforded to send me to university. He used to, in fact, say, you have a choice, what side of the bars do you want to be on, you're either going to be behind the bars or you're going to go get an education and you're going to stay on the right side of the bars.

Education, for me, was a way out. Education, for me, was a way to make sure that I had the opportunity to achieve what I wanted when it came to getting a university education. Mr. Speaker, as you well know, that wasn't yesterday. If it was tough for my mom and my dad at that time, in the 1960s and the 1970s, I know in return how tough it is for parents today. I want to bring to the House's attention, and I will table a copy of a letter that was sent to me from Jamie Richardson. Jamie is a young woman who used to go to Acadia. That's the key thing, Jamie used to go to Acadia. I'm going to quote from it, and I've tabled a copy for your attention. Jamie says in the letter that she wrote to me: I enjoyed my classes, I had been recognized by many of my professors as a promising student with a gift for writing. These same professors were as saddened as I was to learn that I would have to withdraw from Acadia mid-year because I did not receive the student loan I had been counting on to finance my year at Acadia.

This young woman is the daughter of a single parent. Unfortunately, recently, Jamie lost her dad, but she writes these words, and they are words that I hope members listen to and understand because everyone has to understand that the huge majority of parents cannot afford to help their sons and daughters with post-secondary institutions. Jamie writes: My parents had taught me and I had always believed that if you wanted something badly enough and you worked hard enough, your dreams would come true. Yet here I was at my university, learning the real truth was that no matter how hard you worked or how much you wanted something, in the end it all came down to how much money you had.

If this government believes in accessible education to all Nova Scotians, to all Nova Scotians from one end of this province to the other, there have to be much more progressive steps taken when it comes to assisting these young people to be able to attend post-secondary institutions. The key thing in this resolution that my friend from Glace Bay introduced was in one of the whereases. For the record I think it's important not just to have it for the be it resolved, it says, "Whereas during the last election, the Premier, on Page 24 of his blue book stated . . .", and I will quote this again, as we all know, and I will table this, Mr. Speaker. The quote says, "The pursuit of post-secondary education should not leave Nova Scotians mired in debt." That comes from Page 24 of the blue book.

[Page 1358]

Now, that was four years ago this summer, Mr. Speaker, and the unfortunate truth is that many young Nova Scotians are mired in debt. We can say, well, we did this with the Loan Remission Program and then I hear the highjinks of the Millennium Scholarship. Explain that to some young person who cannot go back to their university because as my daughter leaves for her summer job in northern Ontario, many of the young people that she goes to school with will not be returning and I've had the occasion to meet with them. In fact, I must tell you on a fairly regular fashion they end up at our place for Sunday dinner, but that's another topic. I want you to know that many of the young people who attend university with my daughter will not be returning. They're in debt. They feel uncomfortable with the fact that they cannot continue to go to their parents for assistance and the stress and the turmoil that has resulted. If education is going to continue to be the key for success in this province and in this country, there has to be a much more progressive loan remission program offered by this government and by future governments. It has to be fair and it has to be of a matter that will be of real concern to young people.

Recently, of course, Dalhousie University, the biggest university in this province, and I had the pleasure of attending there to get an Education Degree, their tuition fees jumped again. The answers in return that you get from whatever administrator that you talk to at whatever particular university, we have no choice, we have to meet our budget demands, we have to, after all we are running a business here where we have to make sure that the bills get paid, and that is understood. However, and it has been said many times to one form of government or another, there should be, and it would be without doubt well received by the huge majority of university students that a tuition fee freeze was put in place. But, no, that couldn't be done and I heard some of the reasons. Most of them in my opinion make no common sense at all because the reason we always hear, whether it's from the Liberals or from the Conservatives, well, look what happened in other provinces.

Something has to be done immediately to stop the bleeding, if I can use that expression. Something has to be done to put a freeze on student tuition fees. That would at least have been a first good step so that many of the young people who will be unable to return to Dalhousie University this year, or this next academic year, would have been able to look at themselves and say, well, at least our tuition has not gone up, but it's now too late for that.

So what do we tell these young people, Mr. Speaker, because as you well know, in the profession that I previously had, I heard from many of these young people and if there are other educators over there on that side of the House, they know too that they hear from - I was going to call them kids, we won't call them kids - young men and young women who come to us and say I am hurting, I can't pay the bills, I'm using the food bank, or as Tony Roeding said to me, he continues to live at home incidentally, and Mr. Roeding's problem is that he can't get insurance, and I will use Tony's expression, this old rattletrap vehicle of his that he uses to get from Brookside to Saint Mary's, he can't get enough insurance to keep it on the road. So here he is - Catch-22 - Tony Roeding is trying to continue his education,

[Page 1359]

but his car insurance problems have no way for him to be able to get from out where he lives on the Prospect Road to university.

This isn't a situation of frills. This isn't a situation with a young man living in residence and trying to pay the bills. This is a young man who has problems with insurance who needs assistance when it comes to education and making sure that when he does graduate, because Tony Roeding inevitably will graduate, as will the Jamie Richardsons, they will pursue their goal. They will eventually get the degree that they want, but in the meantime they will face debts when they inevitably do graduate that are just monumental. That is no way to begin your career, that is no way to begin your summer of work, to be worried at the age that these young people are, worried about the fact of how they are going to pay their share if their parents cannot carry the load.

[5:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I had some great summer jobs. I worked in northern Ontario on the Canadian Pacific Railway, and I worked at a football camp in Antigonish, where I think the St. F.X. students actually might have learned something. But I want you to know something, when I went to my dad and said, Dad, here's my $3,000, here's my $4,500 one summer working on the CPR in northern Ontario, I want you to know that money was well received by that penitentiary guard. Education is the key to success and this government has to allow young people to taste that success. Thank you.

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

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in support of this particular resolution, Resolution No. 382, that effectively deals with the issue of debt relief for university students in the Province of Nova Scotia.

I listened with interest to the minister's comments about all the initiatives that he feels that the government undertook to provide debt relief to the university students in the Province of Nova Scotia. At first glance it sounds pretty good, but if you look at the detail you will see that there is a rather unpleasant positioning of what has taken place for university students right across this province over the last four years.

Today's article in The Chronicle-Herald is entitled "Dal students miffed at 7.5 % tuition increase". Not only was there a 7.5 per cent increase this year, there was an 8.0 per cent tuition increase last year and the year before that there was a 4 per cent tuition hike for these students at Dalhousie, and I'm sure if you extrapolate that across the province in other universities there won't be too much of a variation.

[Page 1360]

Add it all up and you have close to a 20 per cent tuition increase during the life of this government. Add it all up and there's a total of a 20 per cent increase in tuition fees for university students in this province since this government was elected in 1999. That works out to - just for Dalhousie students alone - somewhere in the vicinity of $975. That doesn't include the increased fees for residency, that doesn't include the increased fees for travelling back and forth to universities, the cost of fuel, the cost of food, the cost of buying school supplies, the cost of buying all the accessories that students need, the cost of computer services, books. You name it, the cost is a lot more than the fee that was indicated here today in The Herald of some $360.

We could very well be looking at, if you add it all together, at least $1,500 per student per year since this government got elected. Take some 40,000 students across the province, just on tuition fees alone you're looking at $40 million additional charges to the university students of this province. This government has the audacity to say that it's doing great things, it has the audacity to say that we're going to give you $155 back. We just took $1,000, maybe $1,500, out of your pocket and we're going to give you $155 back. and you're supposed to say, thank you very kindly, we will vote for you.

Mr. Speaker, I hear some of the Tory backbenchers saying yes, that's right. Well, what a patronizing attitude about the plight and the dilemma that university students of this province have found themselves in. Why aren't they standing up for these university students as they have been gouged to the bone? The Millennium Scholarship Fund was manipulated by the predecessor of the Minister of Education. Yes, Mr. Speaker, even the representatives from the student unions across this province appeared before the Public Accounts Committee and condemned the actions of this government on what they were doing to the Millennium Scholarship Fund. Yes, what about the Loan Remission Program?

Well, the government says we are bringing it back in great fanfare. Well, they didn't bring it back to the extent it was before. Why not, they had nothing to lose and yet they are supposed to make the students feel great about this. What about this tax credit? What about the tax deductibility that the Minister of Education and the Minister of Finance promised when the government was first elected? Where is that tax credit for university students that was supposed to come? It's not there.

Now, Mr. Speaker, $40 million in additional tuition fees. I'm sure if you took all the residence fees, books, the cost of computers, technology upgrades, travel back and forth, personal supplies, clothing, the taxes on all that, add that up and I'm sure you will come close to another $40 million. The total cost to university students across this province, I would submit, would be close to $80 million more today than when this government came to power. And they are going to make us feel good by giving us $5 million in this budget? Well, I would say, shame on that Minister of Education, shame on the Minister of Finance and shame on the Premier who said in his blue book that he would do all these wonderful things to help university students. It's not done.

[Page 1361]

Mr. Speaker, it's not done and it is nothing short of a political sham. Anyone who has a student, whether it be in university, a vocational institute, a technical institute, or what have you, the parent or the guardian of those children in terms of supporting an individual to go to university or one of these post-secondary institutes, know full well that what the government has taken away, versus what it has put back, there is no comparison. They have taken tenfold more than they have given back, and more, $80 million versus $5 million.

You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out what this government is doing and then they'll say, well gosh, this is a break for you. You had a summer job and maybe you will qualify. Maybe, just maybe, you've got enough money to qualify for your $155 tax credit, which is your money in the first place, because we took it from you ten times over, Mr. Speaker. But let's put a little icing on the cake. We are going to use it as election bait because we still think that this is back in the 1950s and the 1960s where you can buy elections with a bottle of rum. Those days are gone.

I don't know if certain senior political elements within that government and the think tanks behind the scenes really believe that Nova Scotians have regressed that far under this government. This type of neo-conservative patronizing philosophy just doesn't wash with the young people of Nova Scotia any more. They are not for sale, Mr. Speaker. They are not for sale with the Liberal Party, with the Tory Party, with the NDP or any other Party. The value of education is known by the lack of it and this government lacks the knowledge and the education to understand what the future generation of this province is all about. They are not for sale.

Where are all the commitments that were made in the blue book? Where are they? They are not there. What do we get - not only with the Executive Council, not only with the Cabinet, but the Tory backbenchers. My golly, Mr. Speaker, why aren't they standing up for the university students in their respective ridings, their constituencies? Why aren't they? Day in and day out these students are being hammered with increased costs. They're finding it more and more difficult to find summer jobs. Where is this integrated summer employment program that the government promised in the blue book upon election that would help university students go through a seamless process of being educated with the least amount of disruption from a financial perspective, all at the same time, picking up considerable experience and knowledge?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I wonder if I could ask members to take their seats or turn down the private conversations, please. It's quite difficult to hear the member who has the floor.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, maybe they don't feel they have university students or post-graduate students in their ridings who are interested in this, but I would

[Page 1362]

submit quite to the contrary. I would submit that every member, whether they be in government or Opposition, would be advocating, on behalf of their constituents who are attending post-graduate studies, ways to seek debt relief.

Mr. Speaker, I will bet you a dime to a donut when graduation exercises come along in June of this year, with all the students who are graduating from high school and going on to post-graduate studies in the Fall, you will see just about every Tory member rush up to the graduation exercises because they want to be seen as being part of this graduating class, they want to be seen to be doing something for the students, they want to be seen to be the champions of the young people of the Province of Nova Scotia, but where are they when the students are looking for debt relief? They're all in hiding. Well, I say shame on them. Shame on them who attend these graduation exercises knowing full well that they are not putting 150 per cent into helping those students. That is why so many young people today have been turned off by politics and different political Parties.

Let's not be mistaken, I'm not just trying to be one-sided on this issue. No one has exclusive rights on who's done everything right and who's done everything wrong. There's enough blame to go around. But this government, this Cabinet and this caucus, has the wherewithal and the opportunity to do something for these young people, many we see here in the House, Pages, trying to further their education and their careers by working and getting the experience and picking up a few extra dollars to pay their bills. This is the type of initiative we should support.

What do we get? We get nothing but letters of congratulations come graduation exercises, but where are you at when they come looking for you to get a job, to get that leadership that was promised in the blue book? It's not there. We don't need write-ups, letters to the editor about all that's wrong with the political process and how things are not so altruistic as we would like to think they are. We need leadership from elected officials, some who have universities in their constituencies. What are they doing? Why not give the university students of this province a greater voice on the board of directors at various universities across this province? Let them have a better say, a greater say. They pay close to 50 per cent of the bills at the universities, and yet they're only allowed anywhere from 6 per cent to 12 per cent voice at the table. If the government wants to do something, give them a greater voice. If it's too cheap and mean-spirited in their budget to help these university students, let them at least have better control over their destiny.

Shame on those Tory backbenchers who sit in silence as we go to an election with $155 tax rebate. Well, well, well. It's sad. In the year 2003, trying to buy votes with people's own resources. Those days are gone. I'm sorry folks, it's over. Mr. Speaker, I realize my time is coming to a close, and I look forward to further this debate on a future day.

[Page 1363]

MR. SPEAKER: The time for Resolution No. 382 has expired.

The honourable Liberal House Leader.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Resolution No. 429.

Res. No. 429, Fin.: Prem. - Borrowing Inconsistency - notice given Apr. 7/03 - (Mr. M. Samson)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, I will read the resolution.

"Whereas on March 4, 2002, the Premier told a local newspaper, 'To be sure there are some people who suggest that government should continue borrowing on its debt and spending beyond its means. I don't believe there is merit to this argument'; and

Whereas somewhere between then and now, the Premier has decided that it is now okay to continue to borrow and spend beyond his means; and

Whereas during the last election, the Premier also said he would run a government of honesty and integrity;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House recognize that the Premier has been inconsistent on his borrowing promise, which continues to cast a long shadow on the credibility of the Premier."

[5:15 p.m.]

Now, Mr. Speaker, where does one start when it comes to talking about fiscal mismanagement of this current administration? As you are well aware, it is my first session as the Finance Critic for our caucus and what an interesting experience it has been, not coming from a financial background, learning more than I would have learned as an MLA as to the exact budgetary process, the financing of this province, debt issues and all of that. I can tell you it's been quite a learning experience, especially with this government, because the messages that are being sent out, the messages that were sent out in 1999 and what we are seeing today - what a stark contrast, to say the least.

Just a mere few weeks ago, the ultimate spectacle was just outside this Chamber when the Premier basically admitted that he has been adding to the debt and that he had broken his word. When he walked outside and the media asked him if he had actually broken

[Page 1364]

his commitment made in the blue book not to increase the debt, the Premier said, no, I never said that. So the media, like all of us, were very puzzled and said, Premier, did you not commit in your blue book that you would live within your means as a government? Again, the Premier said, no, I don't believe I did make that statement, I don't believe it's in the blue book. The amusing part was Rob Batherson standing next to him and he looked at Rob and asked, do you remember me saying this or do you remember it being in the blue book? And, again, as I said before, there were two options - either Mr. Batherson was aware and didn't want to embarrass the Premier in front of the media or number two that even he wasn't aware of the commitments made in the blue book.

What we've seen since that, rather than the Premier sitting down and saying I'm going to brush up on what's in the blue book, I'm going to brush up on my commitments, I want to make sure that my integrity is intact when it comes to the commitments I have made to Nova Scotians. Instead, what does the Premier walk in here with? A briefing note entitled, Advice to Premier from Mr. Batherson. What does that briefing note say? It says that the Liberals are onto something Premier, they're on to the fact that you said you wouldn't increase the debt and you've been spending out of control. Here are the messages you are to give every time the nasty Liberals get up and remind you of the fact that you've broken your word, you're increasing the debt.

How amusing it was, Mr. Speaker, when we came in the House, when we obtained a copy of that briefing note. When the Premier was asked a question about the debt, I have to say, he's a quick study, because he almost recited word for word exactly what Mr. Batherson had written for him to say. How embarrassing it was when I rose and tabled the exact response that the Premier gave written down from his communication officer.

Where is the Premier that in 1999 ran on the campaign of an open and accountable government, a clear course, fiscal sanity, saying that we'll live within our means, we will not add to the debt, we will not mortgage our grandchildren's future, we will not leave today's problems for the next generation to deal with. Where did all that go? Now what we have, we have a Minister of Finance, keep in mind that he was well trained under a former gentleman, I believe the last name was Buchanan, he was well trained in how finances should be operated back then. Now we have him standing in this House when he delivers his budget and says, I have borrowed, I am borrowing today and I will continue to borrow tomorrow and I make no apologies for it.

Nova Scotians are not accepting that. That certainly doesn't fit within the description of living within your means, of not mortgaging your grandchildren's future, of dealing with today's problems with today's solutions - where did all of that go? Yet the Minister of Finance would have us believe that the debt of this province is manageable, that it's okay for him to continue borrowing because of the process of amortization. He's doing it in a responsible fashion and our debt is manageable, it can be handled.

[Page 1365]

Mr. Speaker, I believe by 2007-08, on the current pace we are on, the yearly debt servicing costs will reach the $1 billion figure. Now, imagine - imagine what the Minister of Tourism, who's responsible for Sport and Recreation, could do with $1 billion. He would be able to stand in this House and say Amy Cotton is going to represent Nova Scotia, instead of having to say I'm sorry she's going to represent Quebec because we were not able to compete and provide the necessary funding for our own athletes.

How many of the other ministers would love to be able to stand and say I've just been given an additional $1 billion to invest in programs and services for Nova Scotians? I'm sure the Minister of Natural Resources would love that. I have no doubt he would put running water and proper washroom facilities at every provincial park there is in this province - and he would still have lots of money left. He could do that at Martinique, at the park in Pondville, Richmond County, and then he could do it at Battery Park in St. Peters that he has been lobbying for, for quite some time - $1 billion, that is what is going to go to banks, not to Nova Scotians.

Yet what the Minister of Finance is trying to say is forget about this debt. You know, the Liberals keep talking about it, but you can't see the debt, it's not something you can hold, it's not something you can touch. It doesn't talk back to you, and it doesn't call you. It's just this imaginary invisible thing nobody sees, pay no attention to that. Mr. Speaker, that's what John Buchanan told us back in the 1980s: don't worry, don't worry, the economy is good, the economy is getting better. It makes no difference if we're spending more than we're taking in. It's going to get better; this is just a short-term thing. Fifteen years later, 20 years later, it isn't a short-term thing. We have had years and years of continually spending more than we were taking in.

Now, Mr. Speaker, even the Minister of Finance has admitted since 1993 successive governments have fought to try to wrestle with the debt, to try to wrestle with the deficit and try to bring fiscal sanity to this province. Has it been perfect? No. Have they been able to deal with the problem 100 per cent? No. Could more have been done? Maybe. But where we are today to where we were back in 1992, there is a marked difference in the course of where this province was going. Even my predecessor before me, and even myself, our caucus will admit this government continued the practice of trying to deal with the deficit, trying to deal with the debt, and tried to bring fiscal sanity. There were hard times. There were hard times when we were there. We would have loved to have spent more money, we would have loved to invest more money, there were very difficult decisions, but what we are seeing in this budget is a marked change in the course of where this government was going.

This government is now saying, well, we brought this fiscal sanity to the province so we can keep borrowing, we can give a tax cut while we're borrowing money. We can go and borrow money to build schools and fix roads. Mr. Speaker, where does it end? Another $118 million this year that will be spent, more than what we bring in.

[Page 1366]

Mr. Speaker, the Premier and the Minister of Finance say it's political suicide for a Party to say that they would reverse the 10 per cent tax cut. Even the NDP have already gone on record. Their Leader shocked Nova Scotians, I would have to say, in saying, no, we don't want to even talk about that 10 per cent tax cut, it would be political suicide. I think he regrets having made that statement. I would predict today that he may be reversing that policy quite quickly before too long, but then again I could be mistaken on that - only time will tell. But very simply, you are giving a tax cut at a time when you're borrowing money and the government continues to say we are going to spend today and leave it for someone else to take care of tomorrow.

Mr. Speaker, I ask which member here in this House can stand in his place and say while they were growing up their parents taught them that it was best to spend today and worry about it tomorrow and that it wasn't important to pay your mortgage payment, it wasn't important to pay your car loan, it wasn't important to pay any outstanding debts that you have, that we had parents who told us, I look forward to leaving you with a legacy of debt when I pass on. That I've worked all my life and I look forward to leaving you and the rest of my children with money to be paid.

None of our parents raised us on those principles and we ask why should we allow a government to be acting on those principles and to be saying, we will spend today and someone will take care of it tomorrow. I will use again the words of a wise fish merchant, an Acadian from Isle Madame, who in his retail store had behind the cash register a simple sign. This would apply to previous Tory Governments in this province, where it said, I've trusted too many to my sorrow, so pay today, not tomorrow. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Sackville-Beaver Bank.

MR. BARRY BARNET: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, I want to as well thank the member for Richmond for bringing forward the resolution.

The hecklers opposite are asking what happened to Toronto. Well, frankly the issues of the Province of Nova Scotia of today are much more important than what happened in Toronto last night.

I want to first of all quote from what may be the most quoted book in the last session of this government, and that is the blue book. It seems to me that the members opposite continually, at least early on in the session, raised this blue book and quoted from it, but recently they've stopped doing that. I would submit to you, Mr. Speaker, that the reason is because they are now attempting to rewrite history and they're somewhat embarrassed or shocked that as a government we've been able to meet the commitments to the people of Nova Scotia that we made in 1999.

[Page 1367]

One passage that's continually tried to either be rewritten or ignored with history and that is the section with respect to debt and deficit. I want to read to you and to members of this House and to all Nova Scotians exactly what it is that we said in the summer of 1999 to Nova Scotians in the blue book, a book that I would say we distributed widely and we used as our platform and the people of this province elected us to represent them based on this book. What we said was we would "Establish practical targets for reducing the provincial debt which has increased by almost $3.6 billion during six years of Liberal Government;" That's what we said, and that's what we will do. (Interruption)

Now, we've seen a great deal of discussion and debate in this House about debt and deficit and I would submit to you and to all members that the members opposite know, like I do, the difference between the two. We know that there is a great deal of concern about the commitment that has been made by the Leader of the Liberal Party, Danny Graham. What I want to say to you, Mr. Speaker, is that Mr. Graham needs to come clean with Nova Scotians and he needs to come clean with the people I represent. His plan is not only to raise taxes, his plan is also to cut capital spending.

The people that I represent, and I would submit the people of Sackville-Cobequid, also want to know is part of that plan to cut the capital spending that would go to the Cobequid Health Centre. That centre is very important to the people of the community that that serves. We want to know, and I'm sure the member for Sackville-Cobequid wants to know, is that part of Danny Graham's plan?

Mr. Speaker, the people of Kingswood want to know is part of their plan to cut capital funding for schools because they're expecting and deserve a school to be built to serve their needs in the very near future. They know that school is going to happen under this government, but they don't know whether it would happen under a Danny Graham Government. They want Danny Graham to come clean with the people of Nova Scotia. They want to know where he stands on these types of projects.

Is Danny Graham going to cut the Cobequid Multi-Service Centre? Is he going to cut a new school for Kingswood? Is he going to cut spending on highways like Highway No. 101? We've heard members opposite talk about that highway and they know that it needs to be done, but if he's going to cut millions and millions of dollars, we need to know where it's going to happen because Nova Scotians need to know before they put their X on that ballot.

We also need to know for our young people, the young people who expect to be going to a community college system that so desperately needs to be revamped. The capital project or prospect that's been re-announced or been announced recently. They want to know, those young people want to know whether or not Mr. Graham intends to cut that project and frankly I think the prospects are very bleak if you look at his proposals.

[Page 1368]

[5:30 p.m.]

But the crux of the resolution speaks primarily to the credibility of our Leader and I would say without hesitation, Mr. Speaker, the credibility of John Hamm is second to none. There is not a Leader in this House now or in the past that meets his credibility. You know, as I know, that John Hamm is a man of his word. He made a number of commitments; we spelled them out in the blue book; and we kept those commitments. One of the commitments that we made to the people of Nova Scotia is that we would provide them with badly-needed tax relief.

I recall just weeks ago members opposite saying that this Party can't do that, this government cannot provide that tax relief. Well, in fact, we have. The budget that the Minister of Finance tabled here in the last couple of weeks shows a tax relief that the people of Nova Scotia badly need. I would say to the people of Manitoba, I think that their government has been wise, following Nova Scotia's lead to help grow the economy, Mr. Speaker, and I think that's the kind of leadership that the people of Manitoba need and deserve.

Now we know, like Nova Scotians know, that hard-working families need a break. They deserve a break. We know that we are the only province left in this country that hasn't provided tax relief. We are the highest taxed province in this country and we know that Nova Scotia's working families and working Nova Scotians are the ones who are better trusted to spend their money, Mr. Speaker, and that's why we proposed what we proposed. But what we don't know and what we continue to worry about, is what's being proposed opposite.

It's like a blank cheque. The people of Hammonds Plains, Kingswood, they don't understand. They don't know. Is Mr. Graham going to take away their school? The people of Middle Sackville, Upper Sackville, Bedford, Lower Sackville, Fall River, those people who are served so well by the Cobequid Multi-Service Centre, that have waited so long, Mr. Speaker, and I'll tell you, they've waited a long time.

I want to point out to you, Mr. Speaker, that that particular facility was announced under the previous government. They came out to our community in advance of an election, under great fanfare, and announced a new health centre. What they did, they announced that centre, unlike what we did, they announced that centre, without one red cent of budgeted money, not a penny. The member for Sackville-Cobequid pointed that out at the press conference. He pointed out four years ago, five years ago, that that centre was being announced without one red cent of budgeted money. I say shame on them.

Mr. Speaker, the difference between them and us is we have a site; we have had community consultation; we have had budgeted money and a plan to go forward. What they're saying, is they are going to take all of that away and go right back to where the community started, over five years ago, and that's not good enough for the people I represent.

[Page 1369]

That's not good enough for the people that the member for Sackville-Cobequid represents and that shouldn't be good enough for you, too, member for Richmond.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I can tell you that the people of Nova Scotia, when I go around to knock on their door, they are going to be asking me that, and I expect they are going to ask whoever is knocking on their door with a Liberal button on the lapel. I want to know what the answer is going to be from that member, because I will tell you right now, it's good to talk about the Cobequid Multi-Service Centre, but it is better to do something about it and this government did something about it and they talked about it.

Now I might get a little bit excited and worked up over that, but it is something that's very important, I would say, to our community. I know the member for Sackville-Cobequid in his day - it's gone now - has gotten pretty worked up and excited over the Cobequid Multi-Service Centre over the last number of years. Frankly, sometimes he can be described as one of the most cynical people but I would suspect that even he, I think, would agree that the Cobequid Multi-Service Centre will be built under this government, but it is very, very much in question if the Liberal Party became government of this province . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. BARNET: . . . I think even he would agree with that.

MR. JOHN HOLM: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, I want to say to my good friend, the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank, that I certainly do agree with the comments about the importance of the Cobequid Multi-Service Centre and seeing that go ahead and going ahead as quickly as possible. I too have concerns that after an election whatever government came in, if it happened to be one from either the blue or the red team that there could be delays.

My concern is, Mr. Speaker, that as in the red team before, they made an announcement before the election, this time we had another announcement made by this Premier, we're already over a year behind where we should have been because of funding cuts that were made, and I would desperately love to see tenders being called before any writ is issued. That way people could feel confident that it's actually going ahead in a speedy, efficient manner.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. That is not a point of order.

MR. BARNET: Mr. Speaker, you're right, it isn't a point of order, it is an interesting point. I would say this, though, the member didn't take the opportunity to take me up on the challenge to say whether or not he believed that that centre would be built under this government or under a hypothetical Danny Graham Liberal Government. Frankly, I think . . .

[Page 1370]

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I want to apologize for not having answered that question. I want to apologize to him for not having done so, and say to him that I'm very sure that under a New Democratic Government I know that it will be built.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. That is not a point of order. Order, please. Order, please.

MR. BARNET: Mr. Speaker, I think I've said enough on this issue. I'm glad the member for Sackville-Cobequid agrees with this Party and believes that that facility should be built, as do the residents I represent. It's just unfortunate that the Liberal Party has a plan or a platform that would jeopardize facilities like that. I think the people of Sackville will make decisions based on those types of plans and platforms, the same as the people of Sackville made decisions based on the platform, the blue book that's been so widely distributed throughout the Province of Nova Scotia and quoted from here in this House.

I also want to point out to members a number of other key accomplishments of this government - two consecutive balanced budgets with a surplus of the last one going directly to debt, that counters exactly the opposite of what the member for Richmond says in his attempt to rewrite history with his very poor resolution. I would say we made other commitments, like the commitment to reduce the foreign exposure of our debt, and that goes without saying, they can't rewrite that history, it's there, it's a matter of record. They can see that.

We've also been able to reduce the direct debt, the GDP, from 46 per cent to 41 per cent. They can't dispute that. That goes without dispute, that's part of the record. We, under this government, moved to an accounting system that brought the books of this province up front and out front where they belong under GAAP, under the Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, where they should have been in the first place. I don't apologize for that. I think that's good for all Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, the list goes on and on and on. I would say that under the PC Government, under our government and under the leadership of our Premier John Hamm, the people of Nova Scotia know where they stand financially, know where they stand with the government that they have elected, and for the first time in a long time they have a government that not only said what they were going to do, but kept their word and did what they said. That's what we are.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I'm sure there are very few subjects that we discuss in this Legislature on which more nonsense is spouted than the subject of deficits and debt. It's a tricky subject, so there's probably a good reason why it is that many members find

[Page 1371]

themselves at something of a loss in engaging with it. I think there are a number of common sense observations that can be made about debt in this province and that need to be put on the record, and seem to be needful of being put on the record regularly since many members seem to forget about them.

Before I turn to accomplishing that task, I would like to really pose the question of whether debt is actually what's being discussed in this resolution or in the comments that we've heard from the two previous members. If the wording of the resolution is examined, it seems that the thrust isn't so much around the direct issue of debt and how it's to be managed, the thrust is something else - the thrust is really a question of blame, the question of whether one thing was said in an election campaign but another thing was done when the Party, which is now the government, has been leading its administration over the last four years.

That is not the same thing as dealing with deficits and debt, but it is a very germane point, and I think it can be tied to this question of debt and deficit if we ask ourselves who is actually responsible for the debt that the province now has accumulated - this is the $12 billion of debt that the province now has to carry around and as was correctly pointed out in earlier comments, has to service very expensively year in, year out.

In October of 1978 I happened to be in the Legislative Library - I forget the exact date, it might have been October 25, 1978, but in any event the evening of the opening of the Legislature under the newly elected Progressive Conservative Government of John Buchanan. It seems to me that at that time, 111 years after Confederation, the Province of Nova Scotia had accumulated a total debt of about $500 million. Now that's one-half of $1 billion, compared with the $12 billion that we have now. By the time 1973 had come around . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: In 1973?

MR. EPSTEIN: No, in 1993 - I apologize if I said the wrong year - by the time 1993 came around and the people of Nova Scotia chose to leave behind that Progressive Conservative Government, the total debt of the Province of Nova Scotia had grown to about $7 billion, maybe $8 billion.

Now, I forget the exact numbers, but the point is that year in, year out, during Tory Administrations from 1978 through 1993, there were huge deficits that accumulated to the point where this province had total debt of about $7 billion - that's an enormous accretion of debt from the point we started in 1978.

Following that, the Liberal Government did its bit between 1993 and 1999 to add to that debt. They added another $2 billion or $3 billion, but they weren't around quite as long as the previous Tory Government, but in terms of the average annual amounts that they

[Page 1372]

added to the debt, they were up there on a par with the Tories. There is no distinction between those two Parties when it comes to their annual adding to the debt of the Province of Nova Scotia.

We can look back, as many of us do, to the times of John Buchanan and we say, John, we remember you and we are forever in your debt. Well, it's equally true for the Liberal Administration - we are forever in their debt. That's the hard fact. The hard fact is that as between this question of saying on the one hand, as both of these Parties have said, that they don't want to run up debt, that they don't believe in deficits, that they think it's wrong, that they think it's poor fiscal management - neither of them in their time in office has done what they said they were going to do.

Recall that those were the closing words of the previous speaker: We said we were going to do something and we accomplished it. It's clear that this is the theme that his government is going to take to the voters of Nova Scotia sometime later this year. They're going to claim that they promised it and they accomplished it, but you know what? That isn't really the case when it comes to debt.

When it comes to debt, as was correctly pointed out by the first speaker, the sponsor of the resolution, the debt of the province has been growing and furthermore, the debt of the province under this government will continue to grow. In fact, although the Minister of Finance and the Premier have attempted to make a distinction between debt that they wish to add to on the basis of building up infrastructure - schools and hospitals and bridges and roads - and other kinds of debt, in fact the total cost to the people of Nova Scotia of a number of years of Tory Government here is $100 million and I would like to point out how I arrived at that figure.

[5:45 p.m.]

If you look at the total number of years that we have had this government so far and you just leave aside the very first year because it was 1999-2000, halfway through the year in which there had been a different previous administration and you don't even count against them the deficit from that year, but if you start counting the following year, if you start counting in 2000-01 and you go through as far ahead as 2007, which is a projection that this Minister of Finance has put in his budget this year, and I refer to Schedule 13 on Page B22 for those who have the document and want to look it up, because this government is projecting ahead as far as 2007 but, do you know what, they're not projecting any more surpluses in the following years after this one.

So they've run big deficits in their first several years. If you accept their numbers, they're running very tiny surpluses and then for three years after that it's going to be completely balanced they're saying. There will be neither a deficit nor a surplus. If you add up all these numbers, all their deficits and their surpluses, their very small surpluses, and the

[Page 1373]

total cost to the people of Nova Scotia in terms of added debt is going to be $100 million. That's what it has cost us to have the Progressive Conservatives as the government of this province since 1999 all the way through - should they succeed in getting re-elected - to 2007. What an enormous addition to our debt and that is entirely apart from capital projects. This is on the operating side. This has nothing to do with capital projects.

Well, I suggested that there are some common sense things that do need to be said about the debt. One thing is that, of course, the question of who's responsible for the debt is indeed the basic issue. What, we have to ask ourselves, is the government doing about reducing that debt? The answer is so far very little. It has been noted a number of times that there is no plan, no plan in place to continue to deal with that debt. What do they suggest? The example was given of a reduction of the debt in terms of its comparison to the overall economy of the province. Well, it's true. There has been a very slight reduction of the debt in comparison to the total economy of the province because the economy of the province has grown somewhat. Can we continue to assume that that's going to be the case? Not clear. Even if we can assume that that's going to continue to be the case, in what numbers? Not clear.

Is it the case that we may have to live with this debt for a very long time? I suspect that that is the case. I suspect that unless there are large windfall revenues from special sources, that that debt will not be significantly reduced. That is probably the hard fact and so far we have not heard any solid suggestions from this government, apart from the $14 million they're saying they're putting into debt right now, about what it is that they're going to do about it. This is a government which has modeled itself from day one on the corresponding Ontario PC Government of Michael Harris. The program of this government in its first term has been exactly the same, although on a slightly reduced and modified scale, as that followed by Mr. Harris in his first term. The hope of this government is clearly that they will be able to say to the voters we promised you certain things, we've accomplished them, and let us carry on again.

Now, I am very skeptical about whether this is likely to prove to be attractive to the voters here. Just as I pointed out that the voters here have a total cost of $100 million for the privilege of having a Progressive Conservative Government in Nova Scotia there was a big cost to the voters in Ontario of having their Progressive Conservative Governments because they followed exactly the same pattern, big deficits in their first years, very small surpluses in the following years. The total cost, in terms of dollars, to people in Ontario has been minus $9 billion added to the debt. That's to date, that's so far in Ontario.

Associated with that has been big cutbacks in government services, the kinds of government services that people pay their taxes for. I know that that's what people see as the basic deal in society. They pay their taxes and they expect the services to be delivered. That is the deal. That is what people expect. If the members opposite believe that they can do something different, and say to people that the deal is going to be different, that we won't

[Page 1374]

give you services and we will let you pay less in taxes and this should be appreciated, they have made a mistake. That is not what it is that Nova Scotians believe ought to be the deal.

What they expect is that they should be paying fair taxes and get their services in exchange. They don't want to take the chance of having another Walkerton here. They don't want to see the hundreds of millions of dollars of accumulated infrastructure needs in their schools and hospitals and roads. They want to see that these things are being done by their government. They want to see that the government can do it and also balance their books, not run up the debt any more. The time for that has passed. We all agree, that is not acceptable, but it is possible to run a government and deliver the services without adding to the debt. We look forward to that happening. Thank you very much.

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

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join in this debate today on the resolution before us. I have to first of all refer to the comments of the previous speaker, the Finance Critic for the NDP. All I can say to you, Mr. Speaker, is thank heavens the NDP will never have an opportunity to deliver anything in this province except empty rhetoric. That's what we were just subjected to.

I want to turn my attention to the comments previously from the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank who is fast becoming the chief apologist for the Premier and his blue book and becoming somewhat of a poster child for the - yes, he's even sitting in the Premier's chair right now, so he's been elevated to the front benches, miraculously. He's had an opportunity to go to bat for his boss here today, and everyone of them, I suppose, will have an opportunity to do that.

What we are engaging in here today is a debate on chequebook politics, also known as borrow now and worry about paying it back later. That's exactly what this government is doing, no matter how they want to sugar-coat what's going on in their political agenda here. I want to refer to a resolution on April 7th. The resolution is simply a resolution in this House that quotes the Premier. The Premier said on April 7th, "To be sure there are some people who suggest that government should continue borrowing on its debt and spending beyond its means. I don't believe there is merit to this argument." That's the Premier.

What has happened since the Premier took office, another $500 million in borrowing. The situation in this province where we now are approaching $12 billion of long-term debt. I didn't say we shouldn't borrow any more, the Premier said we shouldn't borrow any more. That's what he said in the blue book, and that's what he said at numerous public appearances. I can tell you also that the Premier made reference in Hansard, Tuesday, April 17, 2001, "Mr. Speaker, what I will confirm is that a year from now this government will introduce a balanced budget, and from that day onward the debt of this province will no

[Page 1375]

longer grow." No longer grow. So why are we borrowing $118 million this year if the debt is not going to grow from 2001 on?

Mr. Speaker, there's no other conclusion that you can come to, the Premier is adopting a policy of day-by-day attitude towards the running of this government and has no intentions of living up to his promises. These are his words - the debt will no longer grow. But it is growing. Nova Scotians aren't going to be fooled by those empty statements. Now, here is the Finance Minister's statement in Hansard under debt reduction commitment: Mr. Speaker, I want to point out that it did take 40 years to accumulate the debt that we have. I will stand here today and say that I was part of a government that added a great deal to that debt. These are the facts, says Neil LeBlanc, these are the facts. The problem is where we are today and how are we going to face that. How are we going to face that?

His way of facing it, Mr. Speaker, is to continue to raise the debt in this province. The debt is going to grow under this government's watch for the next five years in this province. That's the schedule that the Department of Finance has placed on the increased debt obligations of this province and I say to them it's chequebook politics. When you borrow $68 million to send out a cheque on the eve of an election instead of adhering to the accepted principles of the Income Tax Act in this province, that's nothing more than cynical politics. When you borrow on the lives and the future of the children of this province to give a cheque out now to buy a vote, it's nothing more than cynical politics. It's the same old Tory way of buying votes at election time.

The Premier said that he was going to run a government of honesty and integrity. Well, if he was honest, Mr. Speaker, he would live up to what he said, his words, no more borrowing in Nova Scotia, we will live within our means. Yet since that Premier took office we've had $500 million more in borrowed money and a continuation of that policy well into the next five years running which will mean at the end of that, given the fact that we may have current interest rates in this province, or the economy remains somewhat buoyant, we will have a situation where the taxpayers of this province will be paying in excess of $1 billion a year in interest payments to repay the debt of this province, a debt that the Premier said would not grow one nickel after he took office. The same Premier said, and I can quote him, but I don't have to because I've said it many times in this House and so have other members, the Premier also said, I will not increase any taxes in this province during my term as Premier except tobacco taxes. And what did he do? He broke that promise as well by raising taxes on gasoline at the pump 2 cents a litre to inject some more money into his war chest for the election.

Mr. Speaker, all goods and services that are available to the people of this province have gone up. This government has paid no attention to exorbitant insurance rates, no attention to fees on virtually everything they use here, everything from drivers' licences, no attention to the problems that people are facing with home heating oil in this province, the tremendous costs, no attention to any of the problems that are facing Nova Scotians on a

[Page 1376]

daily basis. What they have done is embarked on a plan to do only one thing - to get themselves re-elected at any cost, $68 million to go back out of $118 million they're going to borrow this year and because of that we have a serious problem in this province with the credibility of this government.

I want to end up, Mr. Speaker, by saying again what Neil LeBlanc said, it took 40 years to bring this debt to where it is and I could tell you that that Finance Minister is continuing the policies of the past and borrowing money in this province. The sad part of it is that he won't be around to answer for his mistakes.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. We've reached the moment of interruption.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move the House do now rise to meet again on the morrow at the hour of 12:00 noon. The House will sit from 12:00 noon until 8:00 p.m. The order of business following Question Period will be Supply for four hours followed by a further second reading on Bill No. 36, the Financial Measures (2003) Act.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The subject for tonight's debate was submitted by the member for Shelburne:

"Therefore be it resolved that the residents of Shelburne County have experienced an economic boost under the John Hamm Government."

[6:00 p.m.]

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Shelburne.

ECON. DEV. - SHELBURNE CO.: HAMM GOV'T. - ECON. BOOST

MR. CECIL O'DONNELL: Mr. Speaker, I would just take a few minutes to mention some of the positive things that are taking place in the County of Shelburne under the John Hamm Government, this Progressive Conservative Government.

Mr. Speaker, I promise not to list all of the good news announcements, as we would be here for a long while. I will just highlight a few of the government's good news. First, I want to mention the expansion of Highway No. 103 at Barrington. It was a widely-discussed

[Page 1377]

issue for far too long, until John Hamm and this government, this Progressive Conservative Government came to power and put an action plan into place.

Mr. Speaker, the Liberals, when they were across here, on this side, announced plans on February 12, 1997, for the extension of the Barrington Bypass which the residents of Shelburne County waited for, for six long years while the Liberals were in power. Then the former member still couldn't get it done when he was Minister of Transportation and Public Works. It was the highway the Liberals huffed and puffed about but never moved on.

On January 26, 1999, the former member announced his department kicked off its early tendering program for the 1999 road-building season. However, despite a promise made by the Liberals in 1997, work on the Barrington Bypass was ignored. All they did was announce some repaving and cold planing of Highway No. 103 in Lunenburg County, which was much needed.

Then on April 26, 2002, this government, this Progressive Conservative Government announced, we not only announced but we immediately began to do the work with a plan. The Barrington Bypass project will cost $12.1 million. This new section of Highway No. 103 in the Barrington area extends north of Oak Park, River Head, Barrington Head and Barrington and runs from the existing Highway No. 103 near Oak Park to Trunk 3, Highway No. 103, east of Barrington. The total length of the project is 8.3 kilometres. This new road will be part of Nova Scotia's 100-Series, two lane, controlled-access system, providing a safer driving environment for motorists. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the members opposite for their applause. There will be an interchange linking the extension of the Oak Park Road at River Head and an intersection will be constructed at Trunk 3, east of Barrington. Signs identifying Barrington, Barrington Passage, Clark's Harbour, Lower and Upper Woods Harbour are being considered also. These signs will include destination and service signs. This new highway section is expected to be completed in 2005. This includes $3.5 million for the 2002-03 fiscal year, another $2.3 million this fiscal year, plus $3.3 million in 2004-05, and $3 million in 2005-06.

While I am on the subject of road work, this is an important factual item which should be noted, Mr. Speaker. In fiscal 1998-99, the last year for Mr. Huskilson, road work done in Shelburne County totalled $1,893,500. In 2002 alone, this government, this Progressive Conservative Government, under the capable leadership of John Hamm, did almost $1 million more work, spending $2,704,000 in Shelburne County. (Applause)

Some of the work we have undertaken in the past four years included 11.1 kilometres resurfacing of Highway No. 103 from the Sable River Bridge to the Jordan River Bridge. Mr. Speaker, this government, this Progressive Conservative Government then paved the Forkes Point Road, approximately 4.5 kilometres, River Head Road, Oak Park Road for 2.3

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kilometres repaving and tenders called April 4, 2001, for 9.2 kilometres of cold planing and repaving of Highway No. 103 from the Queens County line westward to Sable River bridge.

Other work, also done in Shelburne County since August, 1999, includes work with local developer Kim Anthony and then Minister of Transportation Ron Russell to allow for the construction of the new Atlantic Superstore at Barrington, major renovations to Bayside Nursing Home which were desperately needed; I might add, repairs that the former member for this area and his government failed to do.

Mr. Speaker, we are a caring government. We have addressed the mould problem at the Bayside Adult Residential Centre with an expenditure of $1.8 million. (Interruption) Also, we kept a campaign promise to divide the Southwest Regional School Board into two districts with Shelburne now part of the Tri-County District School Board. Ensured Roseway Hospital would continue to have 19 beds for operation. Establishment of a $1.5 million revolving loan fund for use by the Nova Scotia Boatbuilders Association which has had a definite impact on Shelburne County. We have built the Barrington Development Residence at a cost of $600,000 which opened in May, 2002. We have also constructed a new group home in Shelburne at a cost of $500,000 - it opened in January, 2002.

Mr. Speaker, this government, this Progressive Conservative Government provided funding for the Barrington Municipal Arena to allow for an improved viewing area for those in wheelchairs. Also $6,600 for the Grace Baptist Church to allow for construction of a ramp and also to make washroom improvements. I would like to thank the former minister for that; $2,240 for Holy Cross Anglican Church Hall in Lockeport to construct a ramp; $47,800 for the Shelburne County Learning Network; $1,700 for Lockeport recreational centre; $6,000 to Shelburne County Active Team or SCAT, as they are sometimes known; $49,500 for the Barrington Woolen Mill and the Old Meeting House in Barrington. $42,100 for Ross-Thomson House Museum and $34,000 for the Dory Shop Museum.

Opening of the Registry of Motor Vehicles office, originally one day was scheduled for Shelburne and that now has been increased to two days, Tuesday and Thursday, between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. Students at the Shelburne campus of the Nova Scotia Community College will soon benefit from $355,000 in improvements that will upgrade students' learning areas and facilities. About $205,000 of the investment will be directed towards safety issues and structural work while $150,000 will be used to enhance the college experience including upgrades to the cafeteria and the Centre for Student Success. Up to $10,000 or 75 per cent of the total cost for a door operator to be installed at the McKay Memorial Library.

Shelburne County has been treated exceptionally well under the Surplus Crown Property Disposal Program and I am going to use just one fiscal year for an example of it, being April 1, 2000 to March 31, 2001. Recipients of used government property were: Shelburne Pentecostal Church, the Hope Wesleyan Church in Sandy Point, Barrington

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Regional Curling Club, Our House youth wellness centre in Shelburne, Samuel Wood Museum Complex in Lower Woods Harbour, Sandy Point Lighthouse, Shelburne County Women's FishNet. A total of 57 pieces of used government furniture, appliances and other items such as fax machines and dictating machines were all distributed to those groups in

Shelburne County.

Mr. Speaker, I will conclude this evening by asking a simple question. The Liberals have said no to a tax cut. They have said no to any additional capital spending because it is impossible, despite what the Liberals would tell you, to do any amount of school or hospital construction and road work for $147 million in a province of almost one million people. The Liberals will not tell you, but they can only mean one thing for at least the first term of a Liberal Government, no hospital construction, no new schools, meaning a delay of the new Shelburne high school and no road work. Our roads (Interruption) and no renovation to the Barrington Municipal High School. Our roads were in terrible enough shape the last time the Liberals were in power and if we allow them to come back and ignore them again, we will be taking ourselves back to the days of the Old West, where there will be nothing but gravel roads.

The Liberals are trying but they can't have their cake and eat it too. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. If there are no further speakers on the matter, then the House will now adjourn until 12:00 noon tomorrow.

[The House rose at 6:11 p.m.]

[Page 1380]

NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)

RESOLUTION NO. 812

By: Mr. Frank Chipman (Annapolis)

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

Whereas the Bridgetown junior badminton club was a force to be reckoned with at the Provincial Junior Badminton Championships held in Dartmouth earlier this winter; and

Whereas the nine members of the Bridgetown team brought home a total of 16 medals that included one gold, nine silver and six bronze; and

Whereas the Bridgetown team consisted of Lea Campbell, Jenna Gaul, Erin Hannam, David Shackleton, Jessie States and Lindsay, Nicky, Ben and Sam Stewart;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs in this House of Assembly extend our congratulations to the Bridgetown junior badminton club for their outstanding play, and wish them continued success.

RESOLUTION NO. 813

By: Hon. Neil LeBlanc (Finance)

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

Whereas today Recreation Nova Scotia held the annual Provincial Volunteer Awards Ceremony and Luncheon; and

Whereas on this occasion the Province of Nova Scotia recognizes and honours a youth who has made a significant contribution as a volunteer; and

Whereas this year April Hubbard of Ste-Anne-du-Ruisseau was chosen as recipient of the Provincial Youth Volunteer Award for her outstanding involvement in her school, her community and the province;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate April Hubbard and thank her for her exceptional contribution and encourage her to maintain the level of excellence she brings to all her endeavours.

[Page 1381]

RESOLUTION NO. 814

By: Hon. Neil LeBlanc (Finance)

À une date ultérieure, j'ai l'intention de proposer l'adoption de la résolution suivante:

Attendu qu' aujourd'hui avait lieu la cérémonie annuelle, coordonnée par Recreation Nova Scotia, qui honorait les bénévoles à l'échelle provinciale; et

Attendu qu' á cette occasion, la Province de la Nouvelle-Écosse reconnaît les personnes choisies par les municipalités pour leur contribution exceptionnelle comme bénévole au développement de leur communauté; et

Attendu que cette année, Edward LeBlanc de Ste-Anne-du-Ruisseau recevait le prix comme bénévole pour son travail soutenu et son dévouement à la Municipalité d'Argyle;

Qu'il soit résolu que cette assemblée transmette ses félicitations à Edward LeBlanc, et le remercie pour sa grande contribution à la communauté.

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

Whereas today Recreation Nova Scotia held the annual Provincial Volunteer Awards Ceremony and Luncheon; and

Whereas on this occasion the Province of Nova Scotia recognizes and honours the people selected by the municipalities for their exceptional contribution to the development of their community through their volunteer work; and

Whereas this year Edward LeBlanc of Ste-Anne-du-Ruisseau was given the Volunteer Award for his long-standing work and commitment to the Municipality of Argyle;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Edward LeBlanc and thank him for his outstanding contribution to his community.

RESOLUTION NO. 815

By: Hon. Peter Christie (Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations)

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

[Page 1382]

Whereas International Volunteer Week runs from April 27th to May 3rd, and communities all over Canada are honouring citizens who contribute to the community through active volunteerism; and

Whereas the 2003 Provincial Representative Volunteer Awards recognize the thousands of Nova Scotians whose generosity, determination and compassion help to create a better future for us all; and

Whereas Ian Robinson of Bedford is one of these exemplary citizens being recognized for their significant community volunteer work and contributions;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Ian Robinson of Bedford for being named a Provincial Representative Volunteer for 2003, in recognition of tremendous service given selflessly to our community.

RESOLUTION NO. 816

By: Mr. Kerry Morash (Queens)

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

Whereas this year, $1,000 Youth Entrepreneur Scholarships were awarded to 27 students between the ages of 16 and 27 across Nova Scotia; and

Whereas in 2002, two of these scholarships went to students from Queens County, North Queens Rural High School's Joshua Uhlman, and Liverpool Regional High School's Justin Croft; and

Whereas Mr. Uhlman, 16, operates a business, Joshua's Woodworks, making birdhouses from the waste from his father's sawmill, also received a special recognition award for Most Innovative Use of Resources which included a prize of $500, and he plans to attend either the Nova Scotia Agricultural College or Dalhousie University;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Joshua Uhlman on receiving one of the Youth Entrepreneur Scholarships as well as the Most Innovative Use of Resources Award, and wish him continued success in the future.

[Page 1383]

RESOLUTION NO. 817

By: Mr. Kerry Morash (Queens)

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

Whereas this year, $1,000 Youth Entrepreneur Scholarships were awarded to 27 students between the ages of 16 and 27 across Nova Scotia; and

Whereas in 2002, two of these scholarships went to students from Queens County, Liverpool Regional High School's Justin Croft, and North Queens Rural High School's Joshua Uhlman; and

Whereas Mr. Croft, a Grade 11 student who spent last summer mowing lawns in his community, is still undecided on his future post-secondary plans, but is comforted that he has the scholarship behind him;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Justin Croft on receiving one of the Youth Entrepreneur Scholarships, and wish him continued success in whichever direction his future takes him.

RESOLUTION NO. 818

By: Hon. David Morse (Community Services)

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

Whereas the Village of New Minas is a vibrant and successful commercial business centre in Kings County; and

Whereas the origin of the Village of New Minas and a much larger, former district "Minas' is centred around Samuel de Champlain's arrival in Nova Scotia in 1604 and his sailing into Minas Basin from Port Royal; and

Whereas following a public meeting, a plebiscite and an Order-in-Council, the Village of New Minas was incorporated on September 1, 1968;

Therefore be it resolved that the MLAs in this House of Assembly commend the New Minas Village Commission, the New Minas Business District, and village citizens and volunteers for making New Minas the prosperous place it is today to work and raise a family.

[Page 1384]

RESOLUTION NO. 819

By: Hon. Gordon Balser (Agriculture and Fisheries)

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

Whereas on March 14, 2003, many of the citizens of Bear River gathered at the Oakdene Centre to join librarian Krystal Buckler in officially opening the Bear River Old Town Library; and

Whereas this library is located in the Oakdene Centre, a former school that was deeded to the village by the municipality once it was no longer an educational facility, that has become a hub of activity in the community of Bear River, housing CAP sites, art studios, a community dark room, a meeting place and a business incubator location; and

Whereas many committed board members and community-minded volunteers have contributed to the success of this facility;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House applaud the efforts of Mr. Robert Bays, the Board of the Centre and the committed community volunteers in the village of Bear River for their determination to develop and enhance the usefulness of this historic building.

RESOLUTION NO. 820

By: Hon. Gordon Balser (Agriculture and Fisheries)

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

Whereas on January 22, 2003 the crew of the Joseph Casey, and Digby Transportation and Public Works staff assisted with the transport of medical material from Long Island to Digby as, due to the inclement weather, the regular courier that also transports for Canada Post was not able to come to Freeport; and

Whereas it is my understanding that this action provided a significant benefit to several individuals who reside on the Islands; and

Whereas this is just one of many examples of exemplary behaviour exhibited by employees of the Department of Transportation and Public Works;

[Page 1385]

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House commend the efforts of the crew of the Joseph Casey, winter operators Owen Foote and Allan Ungain, and recognize Shore Captain Peter Morehouse and Operational Supervisor David Comeau for their contributions to the department and their commitment to serve the communities in which they reside.

RESOLUTION NO. 821

By: Hon. Gordon Balser (Agriculture and Fisheries)

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

Whereas on Saturday, March 22nd the Black Loyalist Heritage Society launched the exhibit Canadian Blacks in the Military at the Sam Langford Community Centre in Weymouth Falls; and

Whereas this was a marvellous opportunity to celebrate the phenomenal commitment to military service made by many members of this small rural community; and

Whereas this collection is a proud tribute that will be maintained so that future generations will be able to understand and remember the dedication and sacrifice of these courageous individuals;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the Black Loyalist Heritage Society and the organizers of this event for their dedication to preserving our heritage.

RESOLUTION NO. 822

By: Hon. Gordon Balser (Agriculture and Fisheries)

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

Whereas on March 23rd Wendy Kenney permitted five pre-school students in her Sunday School class to cut 12 inches of her hair; and

Whereas this was a demonstration of personal sacrifice for the service of others as an example for her class; and

Whereas this was to benefit an organization that makes wigs for children who have lost their hair due to medical treatment for cancer and other conditions, called Wigs for Kids;

[Page 1386]

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House applaud Ms. Kenney for her innovative and constructive approach to a very complicated concept and commend her for her contribution to both this worthwhile initiative and her commitment to her students.

RESOLUTION NO. 823

By: Hon. Gordon Balser (Agriculture and Fisheries)

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

Whereas on February 3, 2003, the island communities of Freeport, Westport and Tiverton joined the family of Mrs. Viola Evangeline Garron in celebrating her 100th birthday; and

Whereas she was mother of seven, grandmother of thirteen, great-grandmother to many and great-great grandmother to many more; and

Whereas she was a phenomenally hard-working homemaker who cared for her children and supported the efforts of her spouse, Leonard Garron, a fisherman;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join with her family and her community and extend our very best regards to her on reaching this momentous milestone.

RESOLUTION NO. 824

By: Hon. Gordon Balser (Agriculture and Fisheries)

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

Whereas on Friday, April 11, 2003, the Yarmouth Consolidated Memorial High School hosted the Regional Science Fair for high school students from Grades 7 to 12; and

Whereas over 45 students put together 25 top-level science displays and the winners will be going to Calgary from May 11th to May 18th to represent the Tri-county District School Board at the Canada Wide Science Fair; and

Whereas competitions such as these provide creative young minds with an opportunity to challenge their potential and develop new and innovative approaches to complex problems;

[Page 1387]

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join with the Tri-county District School Board in extending their appreciation to all those involved who made this competition such a success including the committed educators, Yarmouth High staff and students who gave up their gym, the judges from the TCDSB and APENS who selected the winners and the Association of Professional Engineers of Nova Scotia, SouthWest Air and Curry Systems.

RESOLUTION NO. 825

By: Hon. Gordon Balser (Agriculture and Fisheries)

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

Whereas on Friday, April 11, 2003, the Yarmouth Consolidated Memorial High School hosted the Regional Science Fair for high school students from Grades 7 to 12 and over 45 students put together 25 top-level science displays and the winners will be going to Calgary from May 11th to May 18th to represent the Tri-county District School Board at the Canada Wide Science Fair; and

Whereas the winner of the Grades 7 to 8 competition was a project by Islands Consolidated School student Bryan Powell on parabolic microphones, which included a parabolic dish mike; and

Whereas the winner of the Grades 11 to 12 competition was also a project from Islands Consolidated School: Chad Titus, Brock Thimot and Derek Elliott, who built a working sit-on model of a hovercraft;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate these innovative and creative young men and wish them continued success in the upcoming competition.