Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

Les travaux de la Chambre ont repris le
21 septembre 2017

HANSARD 03-19

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

THURSDAY, APRIL 24, 2003

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS:
Commun. Serv. - RRSS: Wage Parity - Negotiate, Mr. J. Pye 1389
Commun. Serv. - RRSS: Wage Parity - Negotiate, Mr. W. Gaudet 1391
Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Hwy. No. 101: Safety - Ensure, Mr. W. Gaudet 1391
STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS:
Lbr.: Offshore Health and Safety - Regulations, Hon. R. Russell 1392
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 826, Racing Against Drugs: Prog. - Congrats., Hon. J. Muir 1395
Vote - Affirmative 1396
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 827, NDP (Man.): Fiscal Prudence - Congrats., Mr. D. Dexter 1396
Res. 828, Kings North MLA - Supply Debate: Importance - Recognize,
Mr. Manning MacDonald 1397
Res. 829, MacNutt, Dawn - Cdn. Sculpture Exhibition: Participation -
Congrats., Hon. T. Olive 1398
Vote - Affirmative 1398
Res. 830, Sports - E. Hants Penguin Peewee Girls: Hockey Champs -
Congrats., Mr. J. MacDonell 1398
Vote - Affirmative 1399
Res. 831, Health Prom. - Initiatives: List - Supply, Dr. J. Smith 1399
Res. 832, Thompson, Charles: Hockey Award - Congrats.,
Mrs. M. Baillie 1400
Vote - Affirmative 1401
Res. 833, Sudworth, David: Skills Can.-N.S. Comp. - Congrats.,
Mr. F. Corbett 1401
Vote - Affirmative 1401
Res. 834, C.B. Miners' Museum Fdn.: Efforts - Congrats., Mr. D. Wilson 1402
Vote - Affirmative 1402
Res. 835, Coping - The Song Remains True: Album Release -
Congrats., Mr. J. DeWolfe 1402
Vote - Affirmative 1403
Res. 836, Can. Book Wk. (21/04-27/04/03) - Celebrate,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 1403
Vote - Affirmative 1404
Res. 837, Kings North MLA - Gov't. (N.S.): Parliamentary Process -
Attitude, Mr. M. Samson 1404
Res. 838, Dumas, Alberta: Efforts - Recognize, Mr. F. Chipman 1404
Vote - Affirmative 1405
Res. 839, Northrup, Harold: Hawkins/Carrier Award - Congrats.,
Mr. K. Deveaux 1405
Vote - Affirmative 1406
Res. 840, Buckland, Bill - Senior Tennis Championship: Success -
Congrats., Mr. Manning MacDonald 1406
Vote - Affirmative 1407
Res. 841, DownEast Communications: Best Managed Companies List -
Congrats., Ms. M. McGrath 1407
Vote - Affirmative 1407
Res. 842, NDP (Man.): N.S. Tories - Heed, Mr. J. Holm 1408
Res. 843, Prem. - Sunday Shopping: Promise - Breach Explain,
Mr. D. Wilson 1409
Res. 844, Bailey, Brian - Springfield Lake Rec. Assoc.:
Life Membership - Congrats., Mr. B. Barnet 1409
Vote - Affirmative 1410
Res. 845, Smith, Harry: Queen's Jubilee Medal -
Posthumous Presentation - Congrats., Mr. J. MacDonell 1410
Vote - Affirmative 1410
Res. 846, Kings North MLA: Constituents - Representation,
Mr. R. MacKinnon 1411
Res. 847, SMART Prog. - Sydney Mines: Organizers - Congrats.,
Hon. C. Clarke 1411
Vote - Affirmative 1412
Res. 848, Bible Hill Village Preschool Soc.: Anniv. (30th) - Congrats.,
Hon. J. Muir 1412
Vote - Affirmative 1412
Res. 849, Dempsey, Mark - Antarctic Marathon: Participation -
Congrats., Hon. M. Baker 1413
Vote - Affirmative 1413
Res. 850, Halifax Boston Pizza: Exemplary Work - Congrats.,
Ms. M. McGrath 1413
Vote - Affirmative 1414
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 182, Commun. Serv. - RRSS Strike: Binding Arbitration -
Submit, Mr. D. Dexter 1414
No. 183, Commun. Serv. - RRSS Strike: Families - Meet, Mr. W. Gaudet 1416
No. 184, Health - SARS Travel Advisory: Consultation - Details,
Mr. D. Dexter 1417
No. 185, Health - Toronto Med. Contingent: Min. Commitment -
Details, Dr. J. Smith 1418
No. 186, Commun. Serv. - RRSS Strike: Resolution - Commitment,
Mr. J. Pye 1419
No. 187, Health - Valley Reg. Hosp.: Surgeries - Cancellation Explain,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 1421
No. 188, Educ. - Post-Secondary Educ.: Investment - Effects Recognize,
Mr. D. Wilson 1422
No. 189, Health - QE II: Helicopter Facility - Details, Mr. J. Holm 1423
No. 190, Educ. - Teaching Positions: Increase - Promise Confirm,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 1425
No. 191, Environ. & Lbr. - Injury Stats.: Reduction - Action,
Mr. R. MacKinnon 1426
No. 192, Commun. Serv.: Osborne Case - Details, Mr. J. MacDonell 1427
No. 193, Health - S. Shore DHA: Funding - Adequacy, Dr. J. Smith 1429
No. 194, Econ. Dev. - Dart. Marine Slips Employees:
Irving Shipbuilding - Severance Pay, Mr. D. Dexter 1430
No. 195, Econ. Dev. - Rural N.S.: Unemployment - Reduction Plans,
Mr. R. MacKinnon 1431
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
GOVERNMENT MOTIONS:
ON MOTION FOR SUPPLY:
Mr. W. Estabrooks 1432
Mr. B. Barnet 1437
Mr. R. MacKinnon 1441
HOUSE RESOLVED INTO CWH ON SUPPLY AT 2:31 P.M. 1445
HOUSE RECONVENED AT 6:00 P.M. 1445
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Liberals: Election 2003 - Credibility:
Mr. H. Epstein 1445
Mr. Manning MacDonald 1447
Mr. K. Morash 1450
HOUSE RESOLVED INTO CWH ON SUPPLY AT 6:25 P.M. 1453
HOUSE RECONVENED AT 7:01 P.M. 1453
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 36, Financial Measures (2003) Act 1454
Mr. G. Steele 1454
HOUSE RECESSED AT 7:35 P.M. 1464
HOUSE RECONVENED AT 7:41 P.M. 1464
Mr. Manning MacDonald 1465
Adjourned debate 1469
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Fri., Apr. 25th at 9:00 a.m. 1469
NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3):
Res. 851, River John - Residents: Nat'l. Flag Day -
Recognition Commend, Mrs. M. Baillie 1470
Res. 852, Sacca, Sister Cecelia: Seton Award - Congrats., Mr. W. Dooks 1470
Res. 853, S. Queens JHS - Science Fair: Participants - Congrats.,
Mr. K. Morash 1471
Res. 854, S. Queens JHS - Science Fair: Participants - Congrats.,
Mr. K. Morash 1471
Res. 855, S. Queens JHS - Science Fair: Participants - Congrats.,
Mr. K. Morash 1472
Res. 856, Brown, Phillip - Special Olympic Winter Games:
Medals - Congrats., Mr M. Parent 1472
Res. 857, Adekola, Grace: Youth Entrepreneur Scholarship - Congrats.,
Hon. R. Russell 1473
Res. 858, Malone, Franklin, Jr.: Youth Entrepreneur Scholarship -
Congrats., Mr. C. O'Donnell 1473

[Page 1389]

HALIFAX, THURSDAY, APRIL 24, 2003

Fifty-eighth General Assembly

Third Session

12:00 NOON

SPEAKER

Hon. Murray Scott

DEPUTY SPEAKERS

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

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Before we begin the daily routine, the subject for this evening's late debate was submitted by the honourable member for Halifax Atlantic:

Therefore be it resolved that Liberals who ran in 1999 on a policy of dramatically increasing the provincial debt and Liberals who are running in 2003 on a policy of decreasing the public debt must explain why Nova Scotians should believe them now.

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

We will begin the daily routine.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition. The petition reads as such:

1389

[Page 1390]

"PETITION ON SAFETY AND QUALITY OF CARE

FOR RRSS RESIDENTS

Whereas 250 residential counsellors working with Regional Residential Services Society provide a high quality of care and support to approximately 200 intellectually challenged adults over the age of 18 in the Halifax Regional Municipality;

Whereas these members of the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union have been attempting for over a year to negotiate a new collective agreement that would establish wage parity for them with their counterparts who do the same work in institutions;

Whereas they have been forced to withdraw their services on April 10 after both RRSS and the government rejected at least four different proposals from NSGEU to resolve this major outstanding issue without any disruption of service to the residents;

Whereas family members and the counsellors are very concerned about the safety and quality of care of the residents that is being provided through the current contingency arrangements by RRSS;

Therefore be it resolved that we, the undersigned family members, counsellors and other concerned persons, . . ."

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Is the honourable member reading the petition or a resolution?

MR. PYE: I'm reading the petition.

MR. SPEAKER: That's not the proper format for a petition.

MR. PYE: Well, we'll just do the operative clause.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The accepted principle in this House for a petition, obviously, was to be short and to the point. That's a format used for resolutions in the House.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, then I will just refrain to the operative clause. The operative clause is, "Therefore be it resolved that we, the undersigned family members, counsellors and other concerned persons, call on the Hamm government to show that it cares about the residents of the Regional Residential Services Society by giving that agency a mandate and appropriate funding to negotiate wage parity for their residential counsellors as soon as possible." I have affixed my name and signature to the petition.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

[Page 1391]

The honourable Leader in the House of the Liberal Party.

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition bearing the signature of 38 family members, counsellors and other concerned persons who are concerned about the ongoing strike at Regional Residential Services Society. The operative clause reads, "Therefore be it resolved that we, the undersigned family members, counsellors and other concerned persons, call on the Hamm government to show that it cares about the residents of the Regional Residential Services Society by giving that agency a mandate and appropriate funding to negotiate wage parity for their residential counsellors as soon as possible."

Mr. Speaker, I have affixed my name to that petition as well.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable Leader in the House of the Liberal Party.

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the residents living near Highway No. 101, Digby County, between the villages of Conway and Weymouth, I beg leave to table a petition that reminds the government of its commitment to limited access on this portion of the highway. The operative phrase states:

"This section of highway contains a school, post offices, several convenience stores and churches in addition to many residences . . . This road is extensively utilized by logging trucks, heavy equipment, large transport vehicles and tourist traffic . . . Our lives are greatly affected by the tragic accidents on this stretch of highway and we fear for the safety of our children as they wait for and travel on school buses . . . We live with this danger on a daily basis."

Mr. Speaker, there are 150 concerned citizens, and I will affix my name to this petition as well.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

[Page 1392]

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Deputy Premier.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotia is committed to protecting workers in Nova Scotia. Over the past few years, we have made important improvements to our health and safety regime. We have updated the province's Occupational Health and Safety Act and our first aid regulations, and introduced occupational health and safety general regulations. We have taken steps to enhance awareness and understanding through the development of plain-language guides, videos and presentations for both employers and employees. We have brought greater emphasis on education and preventative initiatives by moving this responsibility to the Workers' Compensation Board, where it will be governed by both employers and employees who have a direct interest in reducing accidents in the workplace.

We have also worked hard to bring harmonization to federal and provincial laws on occupational health and safety, because we believe that Nova Scotia's offshore workers should have the same kind of protection afforded to their counterparts onshore. Current protection for offshore workers is the responsibility of the Canadian-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board, which reports to both the federal and provincial governments. While this system offers a considerable degree of protection, we believe the ultimate solution must be the delivery of legislation that is supported by Nova Scotia, Canada, and Newfoundland and Labrador. We have been working diligently on this legislation with our partners for some time.

After more than three years of work by three governments, we are now coming to a conclusion. Just last week, we released a consultation document with details on how we propose to proceed. This is available at www.offshoreohs.ca. This proposed legislation takes the appropriate and best provision of the laws from three different occupational health and safety regimes to create a single regime that is adaptable to deal with the unique circumstances of the offshore.

In general terms, we believe that the current draft achieves our objectives, but we are also having discussions with stakeholders to be sure we have it right. Some groups, including the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour, have already made suggestions for improvements and other groups, like the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers, have indicated that more time is required to do a thorough review for such important legislation. We are continuing to work closely with all our stakeholders to ensure the system will work as expected with full and proper accountability.

Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to inform you and my colleagues that we expect these discussions and consultations to come to a successful conclusion later this Spring. Final government approvals and legal drafting would then be completed over the summer and a

[Page 1393]

bill brought forward this Fall. As you know, the government has been very attentive to this issue. In fact, the Government of Nova Scotia had hoped and was prepared to table a bill during this Spring sitting of the Legislature. However, as one would imagine, any initiative that involves three governments and two levels of government can be very complex and has taken longer than we had originally expected.

So until such time when a new system is in place, the present regulatory framework will continue. Offshore health and safety continues to be carefully regulated. Workplace rights and responsibilities continue to be enforced and continue to protect workers in one of the most important emerging workplaces for Nova Scotians. With the development of this legislation in consultation with our stakeholders, we will enshrine these current practices into law and, Mr. Speaker, I thank you for your attention this morning.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by thanking the minister for sending a copy of his statement over to our office and that's where my kind words to the minister end because, quite frankly, I don't think that I can ever remember a government sinking to deeper cynical depths in terms of its political gains.

Mr. Speaker, when the minister said that this government had been very attentive to the occupational health and safety issues, and particularly in the offshore, I was looking at him very closely to see if his nose was growing. We have had commitment after commitment by this government. I need not remind this minister, or the Premier, they were both in this House in the days of Westray, they were both members of the government that made commitments that this issue was going to be addressed. I have got a stack of press reports here talking about what this government was going to do.

Mr. Speaker, I'm sure members of this House remember the very tragic death of Shawn Hatcher in April 1999. We will remember that government departments in the provincial government, like the Department of Labour, wanted charges laid, but instead the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board said they would rather continue to work with the companies rather than prosecuting them. This government said, and we were told in the Human Resources Committee of this House in February 2000, that new legislation and new regulations were coming forth within six months.

[12:15 p.m.]

Instead what we're being told today, again, on the eve of an election, they are re-announcing basically what they had announced before, only now they are saying we'll do it after the election has been held. (Interruption) I wish you could do it before too, Mr. Minister, and I wish you had done it already. Nova Scotians and those who work in the offshore and their families wish you had done it before.

[Page 1394]

We had a bill introduced previously by the now Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, when he was occupying what is now called the Energy portfolio. What did he do? His plan was to give control and regulation over occupational health and safety to that very body - the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board. That legislation died on the order paper and now the government is saying they have a discussion paper out there. Groups like the Federation of Labour were given, really, one week's notice to respond, and one of the things that was discovered was, who will be overseeing it - but another promoter.

We heard the concerns about the Canada-Nova Scotia Offshore Petroleum Board being the regulator, as they are also the promoters in the offshore. Well, now we are hearing that they are proposing that the Energy Minister, who was the promoter, be the regulator. It isn't rocket science. If the government was truly committed to moving forward with this - and I'm sure that those in Ottawa and Newfoundland, the citizens there, are as concerned as we are - we would have had legislation introduced into this House and passed, as the government had committed to do three years ago.

For the government to stand up here and try to pat themselves on the back now - as they head into an election - saying, now we're consulting and we will do something after the election, that is pathetic; that is cynical politics at its worst. Nova Scotia workers, Nova Scotia families deserve to have the legislation on the floor of this House and, in effect, they deserve it, it should be there now, not after some date which the Premier, I'm sure, has already decided on to go out and to meet the voters in the province.

This announcement today is really nothing more than to try to push another potential issue off the table, get it out of the public view before the government goes to the polls, because they want to pretend that they truly do care and that they're doing something. I say through you, Mr. Speaker, to the Premier, to the minister who made the announcement and all members of the Tory caucus, shame on you for not having moved forward well before now in a concrete way on this extremely important issue. Thank you.

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

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I, too, echo many of the comments that have been made by the previous speaker and I do acknowledge the fact that the minister had sent a copy of his statement to our office earlier in the day.

The minister has indicated that there is a Web site for this particular initiative, www.offshore.ca. I think they should rename it, http://www.slowpoke.com because the reality is, in 1999, shortly after that terrible tragedy with the death of Mr. Hatcher, all stakeholders came together and realized that the Province of Nova Scotia's hands were tied and incapable of enforcing the occupational health and safety laws of this province as they should apply to the offshore.

[Page 1395]

We all acknowledge the collaborative efforts of the federal government, the Newfoundland Government, and the Province of Nova Scotia. It can be, and it is, a complex and long drawn-out process. As I recall, the draft legislation was prepared in the Spring of 1999, ready to go to the respective stakeholders. Now that's four years ago and we haven't even seen the light of day on that legislation, either in Newfoundland, Nova Scotia or in Ottawa. The question you have to ask is, why not?

I think it's patently unfair to have the offshore petroleum board continue to take ownership of enforcing the Occupational Health and Safety laws of this offshore development project - it's simply wrong. It's like putting a weasel in charge of the chicken house and expecting fresh eggs in the morning. It's just not appropriate. What the government seems to be doing here today is a little public relations to create the appearance of something being done. If what the minister is saying is correct, that this will be done in the very near future, then fine. But now he's talking about further consultation and review over the summer months. Well he knows full well that we'll be well into an election process, the Premier's pretty well committed the province to that on a number of occasions. So we're not going to see any legislation before this House until the Fall at the very earliest. We'll be well into year five since this issue was initially drafted.

I think that's unfair and given the fact that there is growing concern in the business community and the labour community across this province - particularly in the offshore - for workers' safety, the government has gone soft. The government has gone soft in enforcing occupational health and safety laws of this province. That's an issue to which we'll speak on a future day, but I believe my points have been noted and I would respectfully submit that the Premier and the minister responsible for this file be a little more proactive and take action now, not wait another six months before the delayed discussions continue.

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.

RESOLUTION NO. 826

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

Whereas Racing Against Drugs is a new community-based drug awareness program which catches the attention of elementary school children and warns them of the pitfalls of drugs, tobacco and alcohol; and

[Page 1396]

Whereas offered by the RCMP in conjunction with Addictions Services, Racing Against Drugs is an interactive program which uses a model race car track to capture the children's imagination, taking them around the track past eight pit stops which relay information kids need to know; and

Whereas this program is available to any school in the province and is offered free of charge;

Therefore be it resolved that all members commend programs like Racing Against Drugs for raising children's awareness of the harmful effects of tobacco, drugs and alcohol and encourage elementary schools to consider this program as a means to get these messages across to children.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

NOTICES OF MOTION

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

RESOLUTION NO. 827

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

Whereas the Liberal Leader and the Liberals in this House continue to chastise the Tory Government for continuing its long tradition of driving Nova Scotia deeper into debt; and

Whereas the Liberals' own track record on debt reduction shows their current claims of being a fiscally responsible Party are peppered with hypocrisy; and

[Page 1397]

Whereas on April 22nd the NDP Government of Manitoba produced its fourth consecutive balanced budget and the NDP's fiscal responsibility has been recognized in financial circles as its credit rating is higher today than in 1999, having been recently upgraded by Moody's Investors Service to AA2, tied for second in Canada;

Therefore be it resolved that the Liberal members of this House congratulate the Manitoba NDP for their ongoing fiscal prudence and regret their own legacy of debt mismanagement that has so burdened today's Nova Scotia families.

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. 828

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

Whereas on February 27th of this year the member for Kings North accused an unnamed Cabinet Minister of lying as part of his paid column in a local newspaper; and

Whereas in today's column, the member names many Cabinet Ministers and talks about how ministers avoid questions from the Opposition in Supply debate, and by doing so disrespects the whole process; and

Whereas instead of making accusations against these ministers, the member justifies the stonewalling and the lack of information provided by ministers by accusing Opposition members of liking to hear the sound of their own voices;

Therefore be it resolved that the member for Kings North recognize that Supply debate is the essence of parliamentary democracy, that should not be taken lightly by glib Cabinet Ministers who tell Nova Scotians that they have to ferret out information instead of providing the information they are duty bound to provide.

[Page 1398]

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Natural Resources.

RESOLUTION NO. 829

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

Whereas talented Dartmouth artist Dawn MacNutt will have a bronze piece, entitled Whysteria II, included in the 75th Anniversary Canadian Sculpture Exhibition; and

Whereas the exhibition will open in Toronto this summer and then in September it will travel to China for the Changchun International Sculpture Conference and on to six other Chinese cities; and

Whereas Ms. MacNutt's work will also be exhibited this year at the Westport Arts Center in Connecticut, the Brown Grotta Gallery in New York, and the Fog Forest Gallery in Sackville, New Brunswick;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House join me in congratulating Dawn MacNutt on having her work chosen as part of the 75th Anniversary Canadian Sculpture Exhibition, and wish her continued success in her artistic endeavours.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Hants East.

RESOLUTION NO. 830

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

[Page 1399]

Whereas hockey is our national pastime and, for many, a true obsession; and

Whereas girls' hockey has become a force of its own, attracting a lot of attention from hockey fans, even plaudits from the renowned Don Cherry, and Canadian women won gold this year in Olympic hockey; and

Whereas on March 30, 2003, the East Hants Penguin PeeWee Girls won the 2003 provincial title in overtime, in front of hundreds of cheering fans in the Lantz arena;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate the organizers of the very successful PeeWee Provincial Tournament and the hometown East Hants Penguin PeeWee Girls and their coaches on winning the 2003 Provincial PeeWee Girls Hockey Championship.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

RESOLUTION NO. 831

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

Whereas with the establishment of an Office of Health Promotion, this government stated that it will spearhead a number of new efforts to improve the health and fitness of Nova Scotians; and

Whereas earlier this week I asked the Health Promotion Minister to prove that he was committed to improving the health of Nova Scotians by listing the new initiatives his office would support and fund for the coming year; and

Whereas in response, the minister stated, "Indeed the list is so long I will have to write them down on paper and send them to the member.";

[Page 1400]

Therefore be it resolved that this minister remember the Conservative Government promise to be open and accountable, and supply the members of this House with the list of the new initiatives his office will support this year.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Pictou West.

RESOLUTION NO. 832

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

Whereas without losing a single game, River John resident Charles Thompson has coached the Tatamagouche Titans to the top at the Provincial Midget AA Championships; and

Whereas Mr. Thompson has also competed in the provincial tournament as a player four times, with his team placing second; and

Whereas Mr. Thompson has been honoured with an award from Don St. John, Fundy Zone Representative for Minor Hockey, in recognition of his outstanding service to this sport;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join me in congratulating coach Charles Thompson on his team's outstanding win at the Provincial Midget AA Championship, and wish him continued success in his coaching endeavours.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 1401]

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

RESOLUTION NO. 833

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

Whereas Skills Canada-Nova Scotia recently held its 6th annual competition for students in the technical trades; and

Whereas students from across the province competed in trades such as electrical, carpentry, cosmetology, forestry, graphic design and print media; and

[12:30 p.m.]

Whereas David Sudworth of New Waterford and a student at Memorial Composite High School won gold in the electrical construction division skill competition;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate David Sudworth of New Waterford on winning the provincial electrical construction division skill competition and wish him well in Waterloo, Ontario, where he will compete against the best across Canada in the national finals.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Glace Bay.

[Page 1402]

RESOLUTION NO. 834

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

Whereas the influence coal mining has made to the development and culture of Cape Breton Island, specifically Glace Bay and surrounding areas, has been depicted at the Cape Breton Miners' Museum; and

Whereas the federal government has given the museum $1.4 million to complete phase 1 of the improvements slated to be completed in June of this year, in addition to the $2.4 million the federal government has announced for phase 2 of reconstruction; and

Whereas at the end of phase 1 the Miners' Museum Foundation will begin a national campaign to find a corporate sponsor to assist with the $8.4 million phase 2 of renovations to ensure the rich history of coal mining is preserved for future generations;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this Legislature congratulate the Miners' Museum Foundation for the tremendous work they have done to preserve a large part of Nova Scotia's history.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Pictou East.

RESOLUTION NO. 835

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

Whereas the trio, Coping, the latest pop rock sensation to emerge from Pictou County recently recorded their second album, The Song Remains True, a follow-up of their debut album in 1998 titled, Retrogressive; and

[Page 1403]

Whereas together since 1997, the band consists of Jeff Long, singer and guitarist; Dan Stewart, bassist; and Steve Keough on drums; and

Whereas Coping, which was nominated at this year's East Coast Music Awards for Best Rock Group, have played the influential Five and Dime stage at the Marquee Club in Halifax and has been hailed as one of the strongest original pop bands on the East Coast;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Pictou County's Coping on the release of their second full length album, The Song Remains True, and wish them success as they surely become one of the major players in the East Coast music scene.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 836

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

Whereas, Canada Book Week runs from April 21st to April 27th, with national and local events held across the country; and

Whereas this year's theme, Literary Landscapes and Literary Sites, highlights the importance that particular places have played and continue to play in the development of Canadian literature; and

Whereas Nova Scotia's own George Elliot Clarke is one of the nine writers commissioned to write about some of the unique places that make up our country;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join in celebrating Canada Book Week and the talent and achievements of our many local and country-wide writers who enrich our literary heritage and strengthen our cultural foundations.

[Page 1404]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Richmond.

RESOLUTION NO. 837

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

Whereas after today's column in a local paper, the member for Kings North is demonstrating a lack of knowledge and respect for the basics of parliamentary democracy, which is voting on and debate on Supply; and

Whereas Cabinet Ministers of this government have also treated the process poorly by not coming forward with all the information Nova Scotians need to demonstrate that this is a legitimate budget; and

Whereas Nova Scotians are tired of ferreting out information that should have been made available by supposedly open and accountable government, but instead they are forced to pay outrageous fees for information that is usually less than complete;

Therefore be it resolved that the member for Kings North has lifted the veil on a government that treats the parliamentary process like a joke and that have flagrantly broken their promise to be open and accountable, but unfortunately the veil of secrecy goes on.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 838

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

[Page 1405]

Whereas Alberta Dumas, the volunteer co-ordinator with the Annapolis County RCMP Detachment's community assistance program, has been dedicated to the RCMP and victims of crime for years; and

Whereas in recognition of this dedication, the RCMP, Annapolis County Detachment, held an appreciation dinner in her honour, acknowledging her valued efforts; and

Whereas the commanding officer of the RCMP in Nova Scotia awarded Ms. Dumas with a certificate of appreciation as did the local offices in Bridgetown and Middleton, thanking her for both her tirelessness and compassion;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize Alberta Dumas for the important efforts she has made in Annapolis County through her work with victims of crime and the RCMP's community assistance program.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice. I would like to add, I just realized this morning that Ms. Dumas passed away on Tuesday.

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 Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

RESOLUTION NO. 839

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

Whereas for 30 years Harold Northrup has served as a volunteer auxiliary RCMP constable with the Cole Harbour RCMP office; and

Whereas for three years the Cole Harbour RCMP has presented the George Hawkins/Frank Carrier Memorial Fellowship Award for service beyond the call of duty; and

Whereas this certificate of service achievement for three consecutive years has been awarded unanimously to Harold Northrup;

[Page 1406]

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Harold Northrup, volunteer auxiliary RCMP constable in Cole Harbour, on winning the esteemed George Hawkins/Frank Carrier Memorial Fellowship Award and commend him for his extraordinary dedication and commitment to community and to the Cole Harbour RCMP Detachment.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton South.

RESOLUTION NO. 840

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

Whereas unseeded tennis player Bill Buckland of Sydney earned his place in the consolation final of the 2003 Canadian Indoor Senior Tennis Championships by disposing of the number four seeded Allan Care of Toronto 6-4 and 6-3 in the semi-final play last Saturday night; and

Whereas Mr. Buckland knocked off Peter Small of Toronto in the consolation final 6-3 and 6-4 on Sunday morning; and

Whereas Mr. Buckland also played in doubles at the nationals with Abraham Motiff of Toronto and advanced to the quarter-finals before losing 7-6 and 6-3;

Therefore be it resolved that all members congratulate Mr. Buckland on his successful 2003 Canadian Indoor Senior Tennis Championships.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 1407]

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Bedford Basin.

RESOLUTION NO. 841

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

Whereas each year a third party assessment of Canada's businesses takes place and Canada's 50 Best Managed Companies are named; and

Whereas companies are judged on their ability to adapt to today's changing market in terms of technology, globalization, leadership, branding and the new generation of workers; and

Whereas this year several Atlantic Canadian companies were on this prestigious list, including Halifax's own DownEast Communications owned and operated by Mickey MacDonald;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House commend Mr. MacDonald and the staff of DownEast Communications on being named to the prestigious Canada's 50 Best Managed Companies list and wish them continued success in the future.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

[Page 1408]

RESOLUTION NO. 842

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

Whereas the Manitoba NDP Government has reduced tuition fees by 10 per cent, increased student debt relief and now offers $1,000 to each employer creating a co-op job for Manitoba graduates; and

Whereas the Manitoba NDP Government offers seniors property tax relief that increases annually and which is worth more than twice the shrinking amount provided by Nova Scotia Tories; and

Whereas the Manitoba NDP Government's latest tax relief targeted property taxpayers and middle income earners with no tax cut in the 2003 budget for those in the highest tax brackets;

Therefore be it resolved that the Nova Scotia Tories should heed the NDP in Manitoba and in Nova Scotia who urge a better deal for today's families.

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.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East on two introductions.

DR. JAMES SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for allowing me to make an introduction of a group in the west gallery today from Bridgewater High School, 34 Grade 12 students. They're accompanied by their leaders, Chuck LeCain, Charles Williamson, Sandy Burgeron and Nancy Varner. I would ask them to stand and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

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

The honourable member for Glace Bay.

[Page 1409]

RESOLUTION NO. 843

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

Whereas in a bizarre answer to a question on Sunday shopping this week, the Premier went on to talk about the blue book and the debt; and

Whereas the debt is important and the Premier should know that Sunday shopping is a different issue; and

Whereas obviously the Premier's lacking an up-to-date set of "salvage your integrity style briefing notes" that would explain the difference between the broken debt promise and the broken Sunday shopping promise;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier request an up-to-date set of "salvage your integrity style briefing notes" to help him explain why he broke his Sunday shopping promise, which would be different from the set of notes that try to explain away his broken debt promise.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Sackville-Beaver Bank.

RESOLUTION NO. 844

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

Whereas Brian Bailey was awarded a life membership to the Springfield Lake Recreation Association at the annual meeting this Spring; and

Whereas Brian has been a tireless volunteer in his community and active in many ways over recent years; and

Whereas Brian's recognition by his peers shows the deep gratitude the association holds for its hard-working volunteers;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Brian Bailey of Middle Sackville for the honour of having his efforts recognized by a life membership to the Springfield Lake Recreation Association.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

[Page 1410]

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 Hants East.

RESOLUTION NO. 845

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

Whereas Harry Smith, noted philanthropist and former resident of Shubenacadie, was the kind of citizen any community would boast of having; and

Whereas the Queen's Jubilee Medal was struck to be awarded to such notable individuals as Harry Smith; and

Whereas Mr. Smith will be awarded posthumously the Queen's Jubilee Medal on May 5, 2003, at the Harry Smith Tinshop Museum in Shubenacadie, one of his many gifts to the community;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate the organizers of the Queen's Jubilee Medal posthumous presentation on May 5, 2003, in Shubenacadie to honour their illustrious former resident and friend, Harry Smith.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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 1411]

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

RESOLUTION NO. 846

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

Whereas the member for Kings North envisages himself as an intellectual guru on political science and behaviourism; and

Whereas this member's myopic view on the general principles of responsible government are demonstrated in his regular columns in the Daily News; and

Whereas this member claims "style defines the debater", an issue to which he has little claim, to date, in this House;

Therefore be it resolved that the member for Kings North realize that his constituents elected him to represent their views and protect their interests, not to take total ownership of the notion that "silence is golden".

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Economic Development.

RESOLUTION NO. 847

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

Whereas a new program recently launched in Sydney Mines hopes to improve the well-being of seniors; and

Whereas the Seniors Maintaining Active Roles Together, SMART program, was developed by the Victorian Order of Nurses for seniors who can't participate in other exercise programs because of difficulties with transportation, health or cost; and

Whereas this worthwhile program was designed to help strengthen and increase the participant's flexibility, balance and coordination, and relies on the assistance of trained volunteers;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House commend all those whose efforts have brought the SMART program to seniors in Sydney Mines.

[Page 1412]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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 Minister of Justice.

RESOLUTION NO. 848

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 Bible Hill Village Preschool Society celebrated its 30th Anniversary on Saturday, April 12th; and

Whereas over its 30-year history the Bible Hill Village Preschool has provided exemplary preschool activities to well over 1,000 youngsters; and

Whereas the community affection for the Bible Hill Village Preschool was shown when more than 250 people joined in the 30th Anniversary party;

Therefore be it resolved that all members congratulate and thank the Bible Hill Village Preschool Society, all present and former staff and volunteers for their 30 years of service to a growing community.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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 1413]

The honourable Minister of Transportation and Public Works.

RESOLUTION NO. 849

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

Whereas 90 runners recently competed in the Antarctic Marathon, a competition so tough that one-third of the competitors failed to finish the race; and

Whereas Mark Dempsey, a Bridgewater lawyer, was one of the participants in the Antarctic Marathon; and

Whereas Mark finished in the top 10 in the marathon and placed fifth in the kayak race;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House of Assembly congratulate Mark on his tremendous achievement and excellent performance at the Antarctic Marathon.

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.

[12:45 p.m.]

The honourable member for Halifax Bedford Basin.

RESOLUTION NO. 850

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

Whereas the Halifax franchise of Boston Pizza, operated by Rick and Hank VanPoelgeest, has received second place in the Boston Pizza International Inc. Standards+Training+Action=Results in Sales Award for July to December 2002; and

[Page 1414]

Whereas the S.T.A.R.S. Award recognizes staff of individual Boston Pizza restaurants who are consistent in demonstrating excellent guest services, meeting operational standards and continually exceeding in sales; and

Whereas the Halifax branch of Boston Pizza opened its doors to customers in July 2001 and has since been at the top of the Boston Pizza chain, winning a Franchise of the Year Award and placing first and second in previous S.T.A.R.S. Awards;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the Halifax Boston Pizza franchise owners and their staff for their exemplary work and wish them success in the future.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: Question Period will begin at 12:47 p.m. and end at 1:47 p.m.

The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

COMMUN. SERV. - RRSS STRIKE:

BINDING ARBITRATION - SUBMIT

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to start today with a question for the Premier. Since the Premier admitted defeat on Bill No. 68, his government has used binding arbitration to settle wage increases for nurses, for other hospital workers, for teachers and for paramedics. Today, we are in the third week of a strike by group home counsellors because the Conservatives have gone back to their Bill No. 68 policy, which is - 2 per cent, take it or leave it. I would like to ask the Premier, will he explain why his fellow citizens, who live in group homes, are not important enough for this government to submit the wage issue to binding arbitration?

[Page 1415]

HON. JOHN HAMM (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, I refer that to the minister responsible.

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for giving me the chance to once again talk about how much we value the people who are cared for and community supports for adults. The amount of work that has gone into upgrading the standards, making sure that there is a consistent level of care right across the province and commence with that to make sure that those service providers have the proper training and, with the sector, we've actually increased the amount of funding in that area by about 50 per cent over that four-year period and that we have also placed a very significant offer on the table which has been accepted already by a number of the unions providing services in that sector.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, this is not a community services issue. This is an issue of government-wide policy and specifically policy on public sector wages. The man who has defined and enforced the government's wage policy is the Premier. He decided that hospitals and schools merit the stability of binding arbitration on wages. I would like to ask the Premier to tell all Nova Scotians why his government will not agree to binding arbitration for those who serve the vulnerable men and women who live in group homes.

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

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I would like to go on to point out that there is a collective bargaining process that is ongoing. I would tell you from recent past experience in another ministry, it's very important to respect that process and that is what we are doing as a government.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the measure of any society is how we treat the most vulnerable among us. The treatment of the group home residents and their families by this government is quite simply a disgrace. Even their employer says so. The Premier belongs to a caring profession, and yet his government has bullied the caring professionals who dedicate themselves to group home residents. My question is this, how can the Premier justify his policy of second-class treatment for people and families who have demonstrated that they are first-class Nova Scotians?

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

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, just to put a little more substance into this, that increase of approximately 50 per cent over the four years amounts to $28 million. In addition to that, yes, there have been increments that have been offered of 2 per cent, 2 per cent and 2 per cent, but in addition to that there's been a pension plan that's been put on the table and enhanced benefits. This is all going to the sector, and it has been accepted by other service providers in that sector.

[Page 1416]

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

COMMUN. SERV. - RRSS STRIKE: FAMILIES - MEET

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. Last evening the parents of the residents of the small options homes operated by the Regional Residential Services Society met, and you couldn't help but be moved by these residents. These residents are upset and confused, and they just want to go back to their homes. The parents can't help but be upset and angry at this government's failure to do anything about this situation. My first question to the Premier is, will this Premier please tell the workers and the families in the gallery and those who are outside this Legislature, explain to them why he doesn't care about our most vulnerable residents?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite correctly identifies the fact that during this period of negotiations that many residents are not receiving the kind of care, the good care that they may be receiving when the regular workers are there. But we are in a situation where it is a union-employer negotiation. There are rules that are set up. There is a legality here that must be adhered to. We are adhering to the legality.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, we see this Premier, daily, bragging about the virtues of the blue book, but you know, Mr. Premier, governing is all about caring for people not checking off lists. Governing is about taking care of our most vulnerable citizens, not uprooting them and creating chaos in their lives. I'm surprised that as a family doctor this Premier hasn't shown one shred of compassion or concern as to what he and his government are doing to these very special, vulnerable citizens of our province. Again to the Premier, will the Premier agree to meet with these families today to get a better understanding of the very serious concerns that they are experiencing at this time?

THE PREMIER: Yes, Mr. Speaker.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I thank the Premier for that commitment. I didn't want to have to resort to the blue book because this is what's leading the Premier to be so stubborn in the first place, but I will. On Page 23, it states, "Nova Scotians are a compassionate people who firmly believe their government must work to enhance the quality of life for all people including our seniors, our children and those Nova Scotians who are physically or mentally challenged." My question to the Premier is, why won't the Premier do what Nova Scotians would want him to do, provide the resources so that our most vulnerable residents can get back to enjoying the quality of life they miss so much?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite has quoted a very poignant part of the commitments we made to the people of Nova Scotia and we will keep those commitments.

[Page 1417]

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

HEALTH - SARS TRAVEL ADVISORY:

CONSULTATION - DETAILS

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, yesterday this government demonstrated its weak grasp on the health issues surrounding SARS. The display yesterday, of the Minister of Health backtracking and flip-flopping over her announcement did anything but inspire confidence in the ability of this government to respond to this very important issue. So I would like to ask the Minister of Health, could she tell us what consultations did the minister have with federal or provincial officials yesterday before charging ahead with her comments on the travel advisory which has so offended the Mayor of Toronto and the Ontario Government?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, yesterday morning, after the World Health Organization issued its advisory, I spoke with officials in my own department and we attempted to contact Health Canada to see if they had any comment to make on what the WHO had issued, and at the time that I came to the House, read the statement and gone through Question Period and so on, Health Canada had still not replied to that request. So I gave the House the best information that I had after consultation with the deputy and the public health person in our department.

MR. DEXTER: Surprisingly, Mr. Speaker, if I can translate that, the answer was no one; she decided to go charging ahead without consulting with her colleagues. Now the minister is talking about sending doctors and nurses to Toronto. Health care workers, as you know, are dedicated professionals and they know their jobs can sometimes place them in contact with serious infectious diseases like SARS, but they want to be confident that this government fully understands the matter and has a plan in place that offers them the most protection possible under the circumstances, and they want to know things like whether or not their wages would be covered in the event that they end up in quarantine. So my question to the Minister of Health is, will she inform the House of her plan to deal with any Nova Scotia health care workers who might contract SARS?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, first of all, I had been quite clear that we would not prevent people who wanted to volunteer from going, but the first step of the plan is to consult with the Medical Society, with the Nurses' Union, with the NSGEU, and with our district health authorities, and that meeting will be taking place tomorrow morning. It is only after that meeting and consultations with the people who may be involved that we will be making any decisions on how many, if any, people we would encourage to go to Ontario.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I want to follow up with the minister, to ask this very simple question, given that there has been such a lack of consultation in this matter and although she has just said that she intends to consult with workers, we want to be certain that

[Page 1418]

the people of this province are also protected. So my question to the minister is, will she assure the members of this House that however many health professionals go to respond to this very great need that the people of Nova Scotia will still have sufficient medical staff to see to it that their needs are covered, and that waiting lists will not be continued to be expanded?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, we all know that there are shortages of health care personnel across the country. If it is determined that we are able to help Ontario in some way, then we will do so, but the House and the public can be assured that all possible protection will be afforded our health care workers and the public of Nova Scotia, which is after all the first concern of this government.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

HEALTH - TORONTO MED. CONTINGENT:

MIN. COMMITMENT - DETAILS

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health. Today we heard concerns expressed from those working in the health profession who seriously question whether we have the resources in Nova Scotia to enable nurses and physicians to be sent to Ontario to help with SARS. While we realize there's a critical situation going on in Toronto and we would do anything to assist - we have before - the reality is that to do so compromises the ability of nurses and doctors who remain back here to treat patients in Nova Scotia. Madam Minister, many are saying that we just don't have any excess resources to send. My question to the minister is, will she indicate whether she made a personal commitment to send nurses and/or doctors last evening on the conference call, and if she did, how many?

[1:00 p.m.]

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, it was decided during that conference call that the first thing that needed to be done was that Health Canada would have to coordinate the requests from Ontario and possibly also from B.C. to find out exactly what numbers of personnel they were looking for and in what areas. Health Canada agreed to do that. We have not yet received an official list of what is needed. What we are doing is proceeding to consult with the various medical professionals to see what might possibly be available when we actually get that official request for numbers of personnel.

DR. SMITH: I can assume that the minister made no commitment last evening to send any health personnel from Nova Scotia to Ontario. Mr. Speaker, we are committing resources, and if we do, we certainly don't have an excess in this province. In the Capital District alone they're attempting to fill seven registered nurses in positions in emergency departments and intensive care units. I would like to table the three pages of vacancies for

[Page 1419]

that profession. When you look at lists like that, this does speak to the shortage that we're experiencing. My question to the minister is, if the nurses and physicians do go to Ontario, how does she intend to support the workers who remain in Nova Scotia so that the health needs of Nova Scotians are met? What's the plan to ensure continued care for Nova Scotians?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the question that the member for Dartmouth East asked is precisely the question that is going to be discussed around the table tomorrow and perhaps in discussions afterwards with various personnel across Nova Scotia. Obviously looking after Nova Scotians is of utmost importance to us.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, we're not only dealing, in this situation, with the challenges facing us when our health care workers leave Nova Scotia to go to Ontario, but we're dealing with the issues of when they return. It would be absolutely mandatory that they be placed in some sort of isolation if, in fact, they had been working in high-risk areas. Certainly a failure to do so would place their co-workers and patients and the people of Nova Scotia at an even higher risk. Could the minister please table, or share with the House today, the detailed plans of how our system will function should nurses and doctors go to Toronto, and how it will function, importantly, when they return? Surely they just can't be leaving this to Health Canada, there must be a plan within this province. Would the minister share this with the people of Nova Scotia? I think the minister has to have a clear message and not be changing this message two or three times a day or every second or third day.

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the plan will be developed in consultation with health care professionals. This plan, the detailed plan, is obviously not available now because it has not been developed yet. I will say, however, that all or any health care personnel coming back from Toronto will be treated appropriately in accordance with all the protocols that are now in place or may be in place at that time for the treatment of people who may have been exposed or were exposed to SARS.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

COMMUN. SERV. - RRSS STRIKE:

RESOLUTION - COMMITMENT

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, staff at the Regional Residential Services Society are entering their third week of job action. So far the province has shown a complete lack of

will to resolve this dispute. The NSGEU, which represents the workers, asked to enter binding arbitration before a strike was called but RRSS refused. They refused because the province has given them a strict cap on wages and they had nothing else to put on the table. I ask the Premier, your government wouldn't meet with the families last night so they came to you, so will you commit today to take action to resolve this labour dispute?

[Page 1420]

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

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, it seems to me that we have perhaps covered this ground before but here we go again. We have put substantial new resources into funding the sector in the idea that it's very important to care for those who are most vulnerable in society. This has been done. Not only have the resources gone into wages and benefits but they have also gone into increasing the training so ultimately we are serving those for which we have community supports for adult programs and we will continue to do that.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, my questions have been to the Premier simply because the Community Services Minister has continued to beat around the bush on his responsibility. So I do hope the Premier will respond. The Premier won't accept responsibility for this issue but the families expect his government to step in. As one family member writes: I urge you, Mr. Premier, to take personal responsibility for the welfare of residents of small options residences to ensure their caregivers a salary commensurate with their skills. Clearly, families are looking to the government - that's you, Mr. Premier - the one who holds the purse strings to end this strike. My question to the Premier is, how much longer do you plan to let these families down by ignoring their situation?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I am actually personally aware of some of the residents who are involved because of the negotiation between the employer and the employee. This particular MLA, this particular Premier will be very happy when the process is finally over and those workers are back to work.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, then the Premier can take action. Family members are reporting behavioural changes in these vulnerable residents. They are not coping well with the stress of this job action and the unwillingness of this government to live up to its responsibility is dangerously close to negligence. My question to the Premier is simple - and he should note that the families and workers are waiting in the gallery for the answer - will your government agree to negotiating an end to this strike, yes or no?

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

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I think that to be clear, what the concern is about here, first and foremost during this difficult labour dispute, is the care of the residents. That is what this is about. Now we know the families are concerned about the residents, we are concerned about the residents and indeed, I would tell you that those who are walking the picket line have those same concerns. This is an unfortunate side effect and a serious one of this breakdown in negotiations but the department does provide care coordinators that go in, they meet with the residents, they meet with the families, they talk with them and they try to do all they can to make sure that the appropriate care is available to the residents.

[Page 1421]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

HEALTH - VALLEY REG. HOSP.:

SURGERIES - CANCELLATION EXPLAIN

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Health. The Valley Regional Hospital continues to struggle with surgical cancellations due to a lack of beds, inadequate operating room time and equipment problems. In March, surgery was cancelled outright for several days over some of these issues. In 2001, the number of surgeries cancelled due to bed shortages was 63, but it doubled in 2002 to 125. I want the minister to admit what is now obvious, that under this Tory Government cancelled surgeries due to lack of beds has doubled since 2001 at the Valley Regional.

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the question is similar to one that was asked the other day by a colleague concerning cancelled surgeries in Cape Breton. Certainly, I will look into the numbers mentioned at the Valley Regional. But I would say, that while those numbers were correct in themselves, they left a misleading impression. There were 311 cancelled surgeries in Cape Breton out of a total of 20,000 completed surgeries, with a cancellation rate of 1.5 per cent, which is lower than the national 3 per cent average.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the minister full knows that of the surgeries that were cancelled in Cape Breton, more than 50 per cent of them were cancelled because of the lack of beds and in-hospital problems.

Mr. Speaker, I will table information from the Valley Regional Hospital outlining the cancellation and the dramatic increase in this government's mandate. The Minister of Health can talk all she wants about her million dollar plan to help the Valley Regional, but the reality is it fails the real reason for the problems. In 2002, surgical services at Soldiers Memorial Hospital were reduced and medical beds were closed. This was done in spite of a rising number of surgeries cancelled because there weren't enough beds. I want to ask the Minister of Health, why do you continue to ignore the impact of rural hospital cuts and the impact they are having on regional facilities?

MISS PURVES: We well recognize the issues with the surgical beds in the Valley and that is one of the reasons that we are looking at a plan to try to meet the needs. Mr. Speaker, on the contrary, what we're trying to do with some of the treatments in rural areas of the province is what the department calls repatriate some services from Halifax. In that way, we are beginning to be quite successful and we will continue to be successful.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the plan doesn't seem to be working. There is a lack of evidence. What is perhaps the most troubling in this very troubling situation is that many of the surgeries are major in nature and they involve seniors. Twice the people requiring surgery were sent packing last year because this government refuses to

[Page 1422]

acknowledge the Valley Regional Hospital is in real trouble. So my question to the Minister of Health is simple, why do you continue to allow cuts to rural hospitals in the Valley while surgical cancellations in Valley Regional continue to climb?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, while we do recognize there are issues involving surgery and wait times and other issues with health care across this province, including urban areas of the province, our government does not wish to focus on surgical cancellations but surgical completions. As I said earlier, our cancellation rates in Cape Breton alone are half those of the national average.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

EDUC. - POST-SECONDARY EDUC.:

INVESTMENT - EFFECTS RECOGNIZE

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education. Yesterday, in a speech to the Greater Halifax Partnership, Maclean's Magazine Editor Ann Dowsett Johnston stated that post-secondary education funding must be taken more seriously in this province. During that speech, she warned the level of post-secondary education funding in Nova Scotia was almost preposterously low and that we could not continue to take a back seat in funding.

Mr. Speaker, this government just doesn't get it. Education is not a cost; education is an investment. It is an investment for the universities, it is an investment for the province, it's an investment for the students of this province. My question is, when will this minister and this Conservative Government begin to see that post-secondary education is an investment in the economic future of this province and not just a cost?

[1:15 p.m.]

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for the question. The facts are that the funding for universities in this province did become preposterously low in 1997-98, when it reached a level of $175 million. We have restored funding, this year's, up to the level of $207 million, and we will continue to support our universities in that manner.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, as I said, this government just doesn't get it. The minister need do nothing more than look up and tell high school students that they're going to have an affordable post-secondary education in this province in the future. Tell that to the students in this gallery today. Our economic future is dependent on having a highly-skilled, well-educated workforce, and to secure that future means we have to invest meaningfully in post-secondary education. My second question to the minister is, knowing that the province's economic future requires a well-funded post-secondary education system and a skilled

[Page 1423]

workforce, when will this government improve funding so our universities can become the driving force for economic development?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for the question. The honourable member is quite correct, it is necessary for us to improve post-secondary education in this province. That's why we, as a government, took the initiative to provide $123 million for the expansion of the Nova Scotia Community College. That's why we have restored funding to universities, and we will reach the level where they were before they started reducing that level of funding. That's why we've come forward with the debt reduction program for students in this province that will allow them to recoup more than 40 per cent of their debt. We will continue to support post-secondary education in this province.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, this province lags behind all of the other provinces in investments in the university sector. That's a fact, and that minister knows that fact. According to statistics, the staff and students of the province's post-secondary universities inject close to $1 billion into the economy annually, $1 billion. My final question for the minister is, when is he and the Conservative Government going to get it, when are they going to begin to adequately and meaningfully invest in our universities so underfunding doesn't erode our post-secondary infrastructure and force companies and students to move elsewhere?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, the fact of the matter is that that group over there, when they were the government of this province, reduced funding to universities down to $175 million. They did that in a failed attempt to balance the budget of this province. We balanced the budget, and we're restoring funding to universities.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

HEALTH - QE II: HELICOPTER FACILITY - DETAILS

MR. JOHN HOLM: This government talks all the time about the potential for offshore development. As a coastal province, we certainly have many people who are working at sea. There will be times, unfortunately, however, when these workers will become injured or they will become seriously ill. In a world of emergency services we often hear about the golden hour. That refers to the critical need to transport the patients to medical services urgently required. This increases survival rates and reduces lasting impacts. We do have an excellent medical evacuation system, but there remains a serious gap that must be fixed now. Through you, Mr. Speaker, I want to ask the Minister of Health, will the Minister of Health inform this House of any steps she is taking to develop a helicopter-landing facility close to the QE II that is capable of handling the larger helicopters used by the offshore and by our military?

[Page 1424]

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I would like to refer that question to the Minister of Labour.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I would like to take that question under advisement and provide for the honourable member a complete answer.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, obviously the Minister of Health thinks she's Premier because she's deflecting the question now over to another minister. It's not only those who work in the offshore. We have military search and rescue helicopters that often are having to transport those who are on merchant ships or fishermen who become ill or become injured at sea - it's not only about the offshore oil and gas industry.

The new helicopters used by the military and some of those by the offshore, weigh up to 30,000 pounds, but the helicopter port at the QE II is only capable of handling those up to 16,000 pounds. At least one suitable property has been identified, where a helicopter port could be located and I'm sure there are some other ideas as well. Development and operating costs do not appear to be prohibitive. What is lacking is a commitment and leadership that needs to happen in order to ensure the helicopter pad is built. I want to ask the minister, will you take the lead and ensure that the parties involved are brought to a common table so we can move forward in an early and timely fashion, to bring this to a conclusion?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I was aware of the issue but I'm not aware of details of any discussions or plans, so I will take that question under advisement and I will report back to the House.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, the minister was aware but she doesn't have any information. Well, you know, after a crisis happens it's amazing how issues crystallize and over time - and I hope it never does, but unfortunately it is likely at some point in time - there will be a need to have a helicopter pad close to the QE II to transport somebody with one of the offshore helicopters or one of the military helicopters. Unless it is there, we could have a loss of life, or certainly an injury that is going to be a medical emergency that cannot be properly addressed. I want to ask the minister, since she doesn't have any information now - don't bother deflecting this one - will you undertake, as an immediate priority, to have constructed the required helicopter pad on the Halifax peninsula to accommodate the larger helicopters that will be used in such medical evacuation procedures?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, before I make that commitment, I am going to obtain details of discussions that have already taken place regarding this issue. Thank you.

[Page 1425]

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

EDUC. - TEACHING POSITIONS:

INCREASE - PROMISE CONFIRM

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Education. In releasing Learning for Life, also known as the Tory Education blue book, this government showed its first sign of life in the education field in this mandate. Suddenly, they're trying to convince us they have rediscovered that education is important. We all know the pressure classroom teachers are under and this government has given them no new supports - instead, they have had cutback after cutback.

Last week, miraculously, this government sent out a press release saying there are 127 new - that's the key word, new - teaching positions being filled this year. My question to the Minister of Education is, will you confirm for this House that there will be, in fact, with no false accounting or fancy accounting, 127 more teachers in Nova Scotia classrooms this Fall

than there currently are on this day?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the honourable member for the question. That is certainly our intention. We have increased funding for our education and our school system this year and part of that commitment is to increase the number of teachers. We will be following through on that commitment.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, this government's education policy is very simple - to get something you have to give something up. That's what they're telling universities and now they're doing the same with school boards. The province clawed back $6.4 million from public school funding this year because of enrolment declines. This is the equivalent of between 122 and 132 full-time teaching positions. By my arithmetic, that either leaves boards with the status quo or a cut in the number of classroom teachers. So will the minister tell this House how he expects the quality of education to improve when his department is forcing boards to cut teaching positions?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I want to point out to the honourable member and to members of the House that as student population declines, the requirement for teachers, maintaining or even lowering the student-to-teacher ratio will result in less teachers in classrooms because there are fewer students. However, we have made a commitment to address the objectives of our Learning for Life initiative in this province and by addressing that commitment we will be increasing resources, i.e. teachers and other people in order to meet those commitments as well as meeting the commitments with respect to classroom size in Primary as we move forward with our commitment to Primary, Grade 1 and Grade 2.

[Page 1426]

MR. ESTABROOKS: Some boards have already indicated they may have to go beyond this and cut back even more and I will table for you this from the Cape Breton Post, "Strait district will have 15 fewer teachers next fall" - 15 fewer teachers next Fall. This government says their $5 million investment will mean 127 more teachers in the classroom, yet their $6.4 million cutback will actually mean less. How can the minister say that students will be better off next school year in this province than they are this year when his government is cutting back - cutting back - on classroom teachers across this province?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, the fact of the matter is that the school age population of this province is declining. As a result of that decline and even maintaining student-teacher ratio, there will be less teachers required in order to deliver the program. But we have added additional resources to meet our commitment with respect to class sizes, we have added additional resources to meet our commitments with respect to special needs students in classrooms and we will continue to meet our commitments with respect to teachers. I can only assume that following the logic of members opposite, they would continue to keep the same number of teachers in the classrooms until such time as we had more teachers than students, following their logic.

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

ENVIRON. & LBR. - INJURY STATS.: REDUCTION - ACTION

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Environment and Labour. A recent media report in the Chronicle-Herald reports that more than 5,000 young Nova Scotians are injured every year, specifically in the last two years, by more than 5,000 per year in the last two years. This is an increase of 5 per cent since this government was first elected. What specific action is the minister and the Conservative Government taking to reduce this trend?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I truly appreciate that question because it is a tremendous problem and it's not only a problem in Nova Scotia, it's Canada-wide. In fact, it's probably worldwide. The younger work force coming into factories or into any type of occupation increasingly are suffering the greatest amount of injuries that impact on our workers' compensation system and I would suggest to the honourable member that we recognize the problem and we are certainly increasing the emphasis on education for the younger worker.

[1:30 p.m.]

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, just monitoring is not good enough, quite frankly. Doing something about it is the issue. The fact that there are 5 per cent more students and young Nova Scotians being injured today than there were when the government first got elected is an indication that they're not succeeding in that program. Perhaps they should

[Page 1427]

adopt the safety programs that were just initiated in British Columbia. My next question to the minister is, how are Nova Scotia businesses currently being monitored to ensure that proper safety techniques are being implemented to protect our young Nova Scotians?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I'm surprised that the honourable member does not consider education to be a worthwhile pursuit for the Occupational Health & Safety organization in controlling the number of incidents involving younger workers because certainly that is I think the primary thrust that we should be taking. With regard to monitoring the workplaces, we are continuing our monitoring process as we have in the past and we will continue in the future.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, if education alone was the answer, we would have less injuries in the marketplace, not more. So I believe the minister is quite erroneous in what he states here today. The fact that over 100 high school students attended a youth safety symposium last month in Halifax, it was amazing to discover that many of these students were unaware of their safety rights and responsibilities in the workplace. So my question to the minister, will the minister plan to hold a youth safety discussion program or initiative across the province so that all young Nova Scotians can have access to the same safety information and safety programs that the minister so aptly refers to in his educational program?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the success of this government in creating opportunities for young people has created more spaces in the workplace for young people and in consequence, obviously the rate of incidents of accidents occurring to the younger population is going to increase. Having said that, I still say that it is a worthy endeavour of government to educate the workforce, particularly the younger workforce, in activities that will reduce accidents in the workplace.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

COMMUN. SERV.: OSBORNE CASE - DETAILS

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I will be directing my question to the Minister of Community Services. Last January, Rick Osborne had a feeding tube put in place because he suffers from ALS. Despite support from physicians and caregivers, Community Services forced him out of Link House where he had been living. The family was advised by Community Services to appeal the decision and were told that however the appeal went, that Community Services would support it. They appealed, they won, and they even got approval from the Fire Marshal for him to return. So with bags packed, Rick made ready for his return to Link House on Wednesday, which was yesterday, but the family found out on Tuesday that it had been put off. So I ask the Minister of Community Services, why has he seen fit to place another roadblock at the eleventh hour?

[Page 1428]

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I have to start by saying it's not appropriate for me to discuss the specifics of a particular case in the House, but I would like to speak in generalities as to the policy which might provide the member opposite with some assurance. First and foremost our concern is for the health and safety of all those who are in the care of the minister and in this particular case of which I cannot speak, I would say that maybe the better way of putting it, in cases where there are rapidly changing physical conditions, that before we would put them back into similar circumstances, we would have to be confident that it was in the best interests of the health and safety of that resident, and I would suggest that that is our primary concern, the health and safety of the resident.

MR. MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, that's what the appeal was for, to determine that and they won the appeal. On January 22nd I attended a meeting with the family, their lawyer, Community Services staff, and the department gave the service provider 24 hours to put in place 24-hour LPN care, an RN supervisor twice a week and additional staff, which they couldn't meet. Now they're requiring a lower level care than they did in January, but Community Services is now waffling on whether they want to fund the lower cost of care at Link House. So my question to the minister is, why is your department flip-flopping on funding for Rick's care when it is now at a level less than your department demanded in the first place?

MR. MORSE: Again, Mr. Speaker, without specifically referring to the case, I would just say that the policy would be to work with the family and, clearly, with the resident. I would assure the member opposite that we intend to honour the decision in the appeal and that we would be working towards accommodating that decision.

MR. MACDONELL: What does that mean, Mr. Speaker, "we intend to accommodate the decision"? This is a Party that just endorsed an expenditure of $68 million to buy the goodwill of voters. They paid $400,000 to the failed Orenda Recip, they offered Sobeys $3 million in tax rebates - like they really needed it - but they can't find $250 a day for Rick Osborne to return to Link House. So I'm pleading to the minister to step in and show some compassion in this case and allow Rick Osborne to live where he feels at home. Will you commit to do that today, Mr. Minister?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, again with the difficulty of being asked questions about a specific case being a little frustrating, I would say as the minister, because I would like to answer the member's question, but it would not be appropriate in this setting other than to again assure the member that it is the department's policy to honour the outcome of appeals and we are, of course, working to do that, working with the families that are affected by the decision.

[Page 1429]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

HEALTH - S. SHORE DHA: FUNDING - ADEQUACY

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. Several weeks ago the minister released a document entitled, Your Health Matters. In this document the minister talks about how additional money provided to district health authorities will be used to hire more nurses, doctors, and shorten wait times. I note with interest an article in the recent Bridgewater Bulletin where the CEO for the South Shore District Health Authority indicates that once you factor in salaries and the program transfers from the department, the increase to his district health authority amounts to $531,000 and not $1.5 billion. I would like to table that comment in the Bridgewater Bulletin.

My question, simply, to the minister is, how does she expect the South Shore District Health Authority to hire more doctors and nurses and shorten wait times with $531,000 for that district health authority?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I haven't seen that particular article, certainly I will take a look at it. The one point - and one point alone - would be that the 7 per cent increases that are going to the district health authorities are only for non-staff matters. The salaries will be provided to the DHAs above and beyond that 7 per cent and also that not all salaries have been negotiated yet. So until I look at that article, that is what I would say in answer to that question.

DR. SMITH: It is interesting how the various stories on very important critical issues change with this minister. It was stated in Your Health Matters that the department has committed to funding increases of 7 per cent each year for hospitals and other services provided by district health authorities. That's pretty clear, Mr. Speaker. It further went on to state that this would be in addition to what has already been provided for salaries and negotiated salary increases. The minister has failed on both accounts. The South Shore District Health Authority saw an increase of 2.8 per cent, and the salary and salary increases are included in the $1.5 million increase.

My question to the minister is, why did the minister state in Your Health Matters that the district health authorities would have 7 per cent increases and that additional money for negotiated salary increases would also be provided when it's simply not true?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, certainly the reason we said that we would be providing 7 per cent plus salaries is because that's precisely what we're doing.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, the people in Nova Scotia, in the South Shore area, they won't see too many new nurses and doctors or shorter wait times with $531,000 for that district health authority. Why does the minister see fit to continually mislead Nova Scotians

[Page 1430]

into believing that there will be, and there are, more nurses, more doctors and shorter wait times, when it's clear that the increase will simply fund service and programs as they currently exist, particularly in that South Shore region?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, obviously, the goal of providing additional money to district health authorities is first and foremost to preserve the most valuable services, and then to add on other valuable services such as more doctors, nurses and shorter waiting lists. That is the plan, and that's why we stated so in Your Health Matters.

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

ECON. DEV. - DART. MARINE SLIPS EMPLOYEES:

IRVING SHIPBUILDING - SEVERANCE PAY

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to draw the attention of the Minister of Economic Development to the former employees of the Dartmouth Marine Slips who are sitting in the gallery. These men have been fighting for fair treatment now for almost three years, ever since Irving Shipbuilding shut down operations in the Dartmouth Marine Slips in June 2000. In February, Irving Shipbuilding announced that they were shutting down the shipyard effective June 2002, and now the former employees have learned that the company has no plans for paying them severance. I would ask the Minister of Economic Development, and point out to him that he has the power under the Industry Closing Act to ensure that these workers gain the severance they are due. My question is this, will you, Mr. Minister, make it clear to Irving Shipbuilding that they must pay severance?

HON. CECIL CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, the member is indeed correct, on February 20th we did receive notice under the Industry Closing Act from Irving that they would be closing the Dartmouth Marine Slips. The member is also aware of correspondence that has been going back and forth between his office and ours. Irving is being required to follow due process. That's what they're doing. If there is anything requiring government intervention, we will deal with it at that time.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, no one wanted to see the shipyard shut down operations, but in June 2000 it did. Immediately, more than 100 people were out of work. Many of these employees had worked in the Nova Scotia shipbuilding industry for more than 20 years. The Minister of Economic Development knows that he has the power to ensure that these employees are treated fairly. He knows that Irving Shipbuilding notified his government more than a year ago that the Dartmouth Marine Slips were closed in June 2000. Mr. Minister, the men in the gallery want to know, why won't you do the right thing, invoke the Industry Closing Act and ensure fair treatment?

[Page 1431]

MR. CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, a point that's very important, a large number of people who worked at the Dartmouth Marine Slips, as the member would know, also worked with Irving on the Eirik Raude and other projects, were actively involved in other Irving-related work. Irving indicated that that opportunity was there. There is nothing before me that requires me to invoke anything under the Industry Closing Act.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, more than 100 people worked in the Dartmouth Marine Slips when it was shut down in June 2000. These employees never received just severance. They have now been fighting for years for fair treatment. Mr. Minister, Question Period is going to end in two minutes, I would ask you, will you make a commitment to meet with these workers when Question Period expires?

MR. CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, I make the first commitment, and that is to table the correspondence between the Leader of the Opposition and my office with regard to the position as it relates to the Industry Closing Act and the close of the Dartmouth Marine Slips. This is the first time that any such request has come forward and obviously I would be happy to have a consultation, then again, the Industry Closing Act is there for specific terms and I will bring those details before the House.

[1:45 p.m.]

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

ECON. DEV. - RURAL N.S.:

UNEMPLOYMENT - REDUCTION PLANS

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, my question, as well, is for the Minister of Economic Development. In every region of the province except for the metro region there has been a significant increase in the unemployment rate. What is the minister's plan to reduce unemployment in rural Nova Scotia?

HON. CECIL CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, as the member would know, just recently he was published in a press release complaining about the fact that numbers in the province for employability was at an all-time high at 135,000 and complained that 5,000 jobs were lost in the metro area which means there's a gain in the non-metro area of this province. Our growth strategy is at work. The results speak for themselves with 436,300 Nova Scotians working. I will be going across this province updating Nova Scotians in the weeks ahead to show how our economic strategy is working across the Province of Nova Scotia and the prosperity will continue in the days ahead and indeed, when this government is formed once again.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, my question to the minister, if his strategy is working, why is unemployment increasing in rural Nova Scotia?

[Page 1432]

MR. CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, the numbers speak for themselves. We're at an all-time high. Employment is up in this province and will continue. As we go into our tourist season, you will quickly see it will expand once again.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton West, you have about two seconds.

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

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

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

GOVERNMENT MOTIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move that you do now leave the Chair and the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole House on Supply unto Her Majesty.

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

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I want to take a few moments of the House . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Would the honourable member allow for an introduction?

MR. ESTABROOKS: Sure.

The honourable member for Preston.

MR. DAVID HENDSBEE: Mr. Speaker, at this moment I would like to make a special introduction. In our east gallery we have a young member who I remember from my young days in politics, but also the son of the member for Yarmouth, Mr. Mark Hurlburt. I would like to have him recognized and stand beside his father in the upper east gallery. (Applause)

[Page 1433]

MR. SPEAKER: We welcome this special gentleman to the gallery today and we hope you enjoy the proceedings.

MR. ESTABROOKS: I welcome Mr. Hurlburt, Jr. Just keep him up there so he doesn't bother me during my comments, how's that.

I have a few comments to make on some positives, and I know that members opposite often say that the NDP is always so negative, but I want to deal with some positive comments. They will begin with an event that I attended last evening in my constituency. Last evening I had the opportunity to attend the annual meeting of the Beachville-Lakeside-Timberlea Rails to Trails. It's always such a privilege to attend that meeting, to see Erich and Catherine Klefenz, to see Lindsay Gates, and to realize the very positive contributions they have made to our community. I want you to know that one of the key roles in the growing Timberlea-Prospect area is the fact that we can call upon numerous volunteers to step up and get involved with issues in our community.

Over the next few weeks, Mr. Speaker, I'm going to have the opportunity to attend various annual general meetings of homeowners' associations throughout my constituency. There are a couple of them that I would like to mention at this time, in particular, the Lake of the Woods constituency with Brian Pestill and Jim Muir. If you ever want to go to a meeting that's well run, that has time constraints always closely put in place, and has an agenda that's tightly controlled, there's a meeting you should go to. I also want to draw recognition to John Feetham and Barb Shanks from the Glengarry Estates Homeowners Association. In particular, I should point out that probably the best homeowners' association meeting that I attended recently was the Prospect Peninsula Residents Association, chaired by an exceptional young woman named Teresa Kiley. I want you to know when you come to an annual ratepayers' meeting and there are issues that come forward, the meeting is often as good as the person who's chairing the meeting. The meeting that I attended in the Village of Prospect, run by Teresa, was exemplary when it came to getting things done and people reporting back in a timely fashion.

I will also have the opportunity over the next few days to attend other annual general meetings. The one that I'm looking forward to is the Haliburton Hills-Highbury Estates annual meeting. I know members opposite have heard of this growing subdivision, 700-plus homes in this subdivision. The concerns that are going to be brought forward will be brought to this House, will be brought to specific ministers, but in particular they will be brought to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works. There is no more glaring example in the growing constituency that I represent than to invoke the plea of the member for the beautiful Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley who said, when he was on this side of the House, not a teaspoon of asphalt ended up in his riding.

[Page 1434]

Here we are as the Opposition and as a member for the NDP, I am telling you that a growing subdivision such as Haliburton Hills, in particular, but I can mention St. Margaret's Village in addition, I can mention that notorious stretch of road, the McDonald Lake Road. These roads are in horrendous shape. These people pay big taxes, their assessments are going through the roof and in return, a school bus was stuck on McDonald Lake Road, there are concerns about mail delivery in certain parts of these growing subdivisions and in other particular areas fire trucks will have difficulty negotiating these roads because of the potholes and the rotten shape that they're in.

In return, we hear talk about a priority list. The people in Haliburton Hills, the people in McDonald Lake, the people in St. Margaret's Village, they have reached their level of frustration. I hear members opposite talk about this all the time. In fact, it was the member for Queens who said that it was myself as the MLA for Timberlea-Prospect that was pitting rural Nova Scotia against the HRM. I want to point out to the Minister of Transportation, in particular, that this amalgamation disaster created by this Liberal Government previously, this amalgamation disaster does not work in all areas of the HRM. When you get outside of the core and when you get into the growing areas, there is definitely a deficiency in services. The most glaring example of course is our roads. I can follow with our schools, but I'll leave that for another day.

I often mention many names in my comments that I make in this House and I'm proud to say that I always have permission from these constituents, many of them past students of mine, as you know, to bring forward their particular cases. I am not going to be able to bring forward this particular mother because this mother was a student of mine when I was a young teacher at Sir John A. Instead I am going to table her letter - it should be particularly brought to the Minister of Education's attention. I know the Minister of Education will diplomatically handle this issue and I will privately bring forth the name of the mother and the young man who wrote this poem. I'm going to read it into the record, if I may, Mr. Speaker. It's entitled, The Invisible Man.

"You can't see him, he's alone,

it's as if he's not there.

He's a no one, he's an outcast,

you won't bother to stare.

The adults think they're smart,

like they know what to do.

Of course, they can help people,

like me and you.

But what about the loner,

the person who's not there?

Who will look after him?

Who the hell will care?

[Page 1435]

So if you've teased, excluded or

thrown a fist, you will make somebody live like this."

That is a poem written by a Grade 6 student who has suffered from bullying, threats, physical intimidation and the school and the principal feel that their hands are literally tied.

The mother goes on in this letter - again, the letter will be brought to the Minister of Education's attention personally and I hope he follows up by contacting the mom. This mother writes:

"In regard to the physical abuse, I feel very strongly that the provincial government should be held accountable; chronic under funding and cuts to education over the years while class sizes have grown and the number of special needs students has increased, has definitely had a negative impact in the classroom and in the schoolyard when it comes to being able to provide a safe, supportive learning environment."

As a parent, this mother has a case and it's a real one. As the mother of a young man who suffers from taunting and bullying, in a class with enrolments in excess of 35, there are no excuses. In speaking to this mother, I am clear with her to say that the even more challenging years are ahead.

I hear this government and I hear this Minister of Education talk about class enrolments, and I know how important Primary and Grade 1 are, but why is there this wasteland called junior high? I say it's a curriculum wasteland. It's that land between Grade 6 and Grade 10, where you sort of keep the lid on it, get as many substitute teachers as you possibly can and you control one issue after another, day after day. For members opposite, I want you to know, I know of what I speak, the bullying, the intimidation, the threatening in junior high has reached an unforgivable extent.

In return, what are the teachers to do? The teachers are in situations where, after all, we have been given directions - and I say we, Mr. Speaker, because of the previous career that I was fortunate enough to be involved in - on handling students and handling intimidation and handling bullying, and I'm not talking about the violent extremes, I'm talking about the nasty words that young people are being called throughout the school system in this province. Here are some of them, none of them are profane, I've removed some of the adjectives and the adverbs. How would you like this as a condemnation as you took the school bus or went out for recess or later on for lunch, you suck, you're a loser, you're not cool like us . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. I would suggest those terms are unparliamentary, and I would ask the honourable member not to recite them in the House, please.

[Page 1436]

MR. ESTABROOKS: I agree with you in that reading. Unparliamentary in this House, but you go to a junior high anywhere in this province, you travel on a school bus anywhere in this province, and you will hear those terms. Mr. Speaker, I removed that adjective that's been used in so many unfortunate guttural ways day after day after day.

Mr. Speaker, this issue isn't going away. This issue has to be addressed. Currently, the Halifax Regional School Board is holding a series of workshops around the growth area that I represent. Parents go, parents plead for their case. In return, we're told the class size is too high, we can't handle all the issues, we have so many other things we are responsible for. Well, as you well know from your previous career, if young people do not feel safe, if young people do not feel comfortable in their learning environment, then they cannot achieve success. This is a real problem.

This is a problem that this government has to address. That's why it is important for the Department of Education and the Minister of Education in particular to look very clearly at the junior high situation, the class size, the importance of curriculum changes but, more importantly, to delve into the important issue of bullying of young people in this province. This is no time to be dramatic. We've heard of some unbelievable cases, we've heard of an unfortunate suicide, we've heard of young people coming home and refusing to go back to school. Those are issues that have to be addressed.

Teachers are asking for help. They're asking for direction. They're asking for support, and they're turning to this Department of Education and this minister. We don't need window dressing, we need real assistance and that assistance revolves around one key factor, the size of classes in junior high. The size of classes in junior high is a crucial issue. I can tell you from personal experience, they will say this class is 38 in size. I, at one time, had a class of 41. You don't prepare one lesson, you don't have one outcome in that class, you usually have three or four lessons that you would prepare. You, after all, have one for your teaching assistant - and thank God they're there - you have one for the students who are what we call the middle of the road. The high achievers, they have to survive on their own. Some of the kids that really need the help, that we as professionals want to assist, we don't even get to. But in the middle of a class of that size, some of the tension, some of the discipline problems, some of the concerns are forthcoming.

[2:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, you know I am proud to say that my first teaching job, as you well know, was at Dorchester Penitentiary. Dorchester Penitentiary was a maximum penitentiary at the time. I was in my first year of teaching, and I will tell you that I, on many occasions, was put in challenging positions, and you know from your experience in the Springhill situation, perhaps not as challenging as Dorchester Penitentiary was in the early 1970s, and that wasn't yesterday, but I know there are teachers and I know there are young people in this province who are in threatening situations in schools and in classrooms as I speak.

[Page 1437]

There must be leadership from this government. There must be leadership from this particular minister. I look forward to working with him, as does the parent of this young man who wrote that very touching poem, The Invisible Man. I thank her for allowing me to use that. I encourage the minister to follow up. I will provide the parent's name and her address. That's the sort of one-on-one contact that we need when it comes to this specific issue. Thank you for your time today, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. BARRY BARNET: Mr. Speaker, I want to take my time on debate going into Supply to talk about the people and places that I represent. I want to, first of all, follow up along the lines of the member for Timberlea-Prospect. He started out talking about the good work, the hard work and the dedication of the people in his community, through homeowners' associations and various types of organizations, and the work that they do to help further and improve their communities.

Many of you would know that I've spoken before in this House about the vibrant growing community that I represent, the fact that I believe it's one of the fastest-growing communities in Atlantic Canada. It's a young community. It's a community that's progressive, that works to improve itself through a variety of means, through service clubs, through various homeowners' associations and recreation associations and those types of things. I'm going to take a bit of my time to talk about that community that I represent and those communities that I represent, and take this House through a bit of a geographical tour.

Mr. Speaker, I happen to represent the community of Upper Sackville. Upper Sackville was famous in Nova Scotia for having hosted probably the worst-run landfill in Atlantic Canada. For two decades, that community was the place where all of Halifax took their garbage and dumped it. The people of Upper Sackville put up with what was described as the worst-run landfill in Atlantic Canada and maybe even beyond for 20 years, and for 20 years they sat there and had their community devalued and had their properties devalued and saw a diminishing quality of life through the negative consequences of having a landfill in their backyards.

They stuck together, Mr. Speaker, as a community. They formed an association, the Sackville Environmental Protection Association. They fought, then, the Metropolitan Authority and subsequently the County of Halifax, and then Halifax Regional Municipality to find a successful closure to what was the worst-run landfill in Atlantic Canada. They were successful in that, because they worked together as a community, they stuck together, they had a common goal, and they achieved that goal.

Mr. Speaker, that community took what was a tremendous negative, a huge negative, that negatively affected not only them but their neighbours, and it spanned out, probably a two- to three-kilometre span. In fact some would say that the stigma of hosting a landfill

[Page 1438]

actually expanded to all of Sackville, parts of Lucasville, Hammonds Plains and the surrounding communities. They took what was one of the biggest negatives that they had to face as a community and turned it into a tremendous positive.

They were able to convince the powers and the authorities of the day to enact legislation that enabled the Metropolitan Authority, who was the body that was responsible for operating that landfill, to compensate that community for its negative effects that that landfill had on the community. They were able to take that compensation and translate that into real, genuine, positive change.

Being somebody that spent a great deal of time and effort and energy in that community, from an economic point of view, I was a real estate agent, I know only too well the positive outcomes that community had as a result of the compensation they were able to earn as a result of that very negative landfill. The community took that compensation, provided real and genuine improvements that have enabled that community to become a more vibrant and active community. They spent some of that compensation on community facilities such as soccer fields, baseball fields, community halls. They improved not only the makeup and the infrastructure, they improved the environment. They also took a great deal of that money and invested it right back into the environment where it came from in the first place.

Some of the projects they undertook saw the rehabilitation of some of the Sackville rivers and watersheds. Frankly, the benefits of that work will extend well beyond this generation and into future generations. Because of that hard work of dedicated hard-working volunteers, the community of Upper Sackville is now a vibrant, active, growing community where people want to live, where people enjoy living, where they're able to access community services right in their community. Frankly, those people have done a great job to turn what was one of the biggest negatives into a tremendous positive.

Some of the money that they received for compensation, they invested in the public service. They took some of that money and invested in fire service. One of the things that they did was they purchased a new rescue vehicle to be used in the Upper Sackville fire hall. I want to report to you, Mr. Speaker, that unfortunately that fire hall's been closed for about a year and a half. It's an issue that has been growing in terms of importance in the community. Halifax Regional Municipality was forced to temporarily close that fire hall as a result of mould and mildew and structural issues. However, unfortunately the municipality has not taken the initiative to reopen that fire hall. A recent fire in the community left a house completely devastated with a nine-minute response time. I want to encourage Halifax Regional Municipality to do the right thing, to reopen that fire station to provide the level of protection that community deserves.

[Page 1439]

They've invested in that fire station with their own hard-earned money, they put their own time in, and they deserve and expect the kind of protection that that fire station provided for 25 years and now no longer provides. I'm encouraging Chief Mike Eddy and the Halifax Regional Council to do the right thing, to reopen that fire station and provide the right kind of protection to those people in Upper Sackville that they so rightfully deserve.

I also want to talk about a number of other initiatives. Springfield Lake Recreation Association is an association that was founded 20 or 30 years ago. It has grown exponentially over the past couple of years. They host a lot of community events there. They provide programs for young people. They provide an opportunity for residents to get together and to meet on a regular basis in a hall setting to help foster the sense of community that has established them as one of the most vibrant communities. It's an area that has seen tremendous growth in the past year to year and a half. It's a sought after area in Halifax Regional Municipality of which to live. It's an understanding thing to know that people are spending literally hundreds of thousands of dollars for a piece of land to build a house in that area because that's a community that has bonded together to improve their own neck of the woods.

People like Andy Conrad who is the executive director of the Springfield Lake Recreation Association, has done a tremendous job, he and his volunteers. I spoke in a resolution today about Brian Bailey who received a lifetime membership in the Springfield Lake Recreation Association. People like Brian Bailey and Andy Conrad and others have done a great deal to improve that area of my constituency that I represent and without their hard work and effort, I would say that the community would be a lot less than it is today.

I also want to speak a little bit about the schools. The member for Timberlea-Prospect today passed me a book by Bill Gerrior. It's called Acadian Awakenings. Bill Gerrior was a principal at Harry R. Hamilton Elementary School for a number of years and Bill Gerrior is no longer the principal of that school but his commitment and dedication to that community continues. He's visited that school again on a number of occasions since his retirement. Bill was very instrumental in a number of projects that moved Harry R. Hamilton Elementary School from an average school to a superior school. They've been recognized nationally, internationally and across this province for their working environment and for their work with respect to peace in the classroom.

I want to also point out a vice-principal, Hettie Adams, who is a leader in peace initiatives in this country. I think Hettie is responsible for the League of Peaceful Schools. She does a great deal of work and she actually taught and was the assistant principal at that school for a number of years, and during her time at that school she began devoting a great deal of her time and energy towards peace in the classroom initiatives and the League of Peaceful Schools. We were very thankful to have Hettie as a vice-principal of that school.

[Page 1440]

Moving down the road, Mr. Speaker, I move to Millwood, which is probably one of the youngest and newest communities that I represent in the Sackville part of my riding. Millwood was a project that had been developed by the Department of Housing through the Province of Nova Scotia, to provide affordable housing to Nova Scotians. It's the area where I settled in terms of my own first home. It gave me and my family an opportunity to build a home and to live in the community where I was born and raised and it has done the same thing for a great many other people; in fact you will find that housing turns over very quickly in Millwood. People move to Millwood, establish roots, establish community ties, and then move to other parts of the community as they progress with their family.

It's a very vibrant community, a very active and involved community. Many of the people who live in Millwood are involved in community sports, in organizations, the many church and community associations, community service clubs that exist in Sackville and the surrounding communities. It's because of the community of Millwood and other communities and the people who live there that we have such a vibrant and active community.

I want to, as well, talk about my neighbours, Mr. Speaker, Lucasville. Lucasville is a community that has existed for well over 100 years, a couple of hundred years. It is a very spiritual and vibrant community that has just recently seen a tremendous amount of growth. Lucasville for the past 50 to 75 years probably never saw any more than five new homes constructed in that community. Now we have a new subdivision in that area that has literally hundreds of houses under construction, lots of new growth, and it's a vibrant community that has a great deal of community involvement. I want to say that the community of Lucasville is a front-runner in terms of dealing with its own economic development. As many people would know, economic development is not, I would say, the overwhelming pressing issue in the community I represent, and it's not a pressing issue because, frankly, the vast majority of the people I represent are well-employed. The unemployment rate in our community is at probably an all-time low.

We have what I would describe as the opposite problem of many areas of the Province of Nova Scotia. In fact a lot of the businesses, like the service industry, the restaurants, and many of the other industries, are competing directly one-on-one for employees with companies like Staples Call Centre that now, I believe, employs over 1,300 employees in the Sackville area, probably the single largest employer in our community - virtually six or seven years ago they weren't even there.

I would add, Mr. Speaker, that another call centre that employs a couple hundred people located there just a few short months ago. This has created a problem where people in the food service industry, in the restaurant industry and in the service business have to compete directly for those employees, and they're having a difficult time finding people to fill those jobs. So that has helped to stimulate what is now what I describe as one of the most vibrant and active communities in metro, if not in the Province of Nova Scotia.

[Page 1441]

I also represent Kingswood and Kingswood, as many of you would know, is a community that has undergone some recent challenges and is still undergoing challenges with respect to school boundaries. Kingswood will have a new school built to serve its needs. A Primary to Grade 9 school will serve the needs of Kingswood. It will be constructed by the year 2004-05 and will serve those needs well, but they still have some pressing issues to deal with. They still have to deal with the school board that for some reason, and I don't understand it completely, doesn't want to listen to the people. The people in Kingswood want their students to remain as a student group, as a community, yet, somehow the school board insists on separating that community, dividing it in two and sending half the students one way and half the other way.

[2:15 p.m.]

I think it's regrettable that that's happening, and I know that the community is rallying strong to try to voice its opposition to these plans that will do nothing other than try to divide what is now a very united and very strong community. Frankly, I think it's regrettable they've gone down this road.

I only have one minute left, and I'm going to have to go quickly, Mr. Speaker. I believe the community of Kingswood, in the end, will prevail. They're a very strong and active community. Considering I only have a minute left, I'm going to talk about two other communities that I represent, Beaver Bank, which after the next election will no longer be part of this riding. Beaver Bank is a community that has overcome some tremendous challenges with respect to municipal sewer and water. This government and the federal government, through the Canada-Nova Scotia Infrastructure Works Program, was able to dedicate $20 million to help them overcome what was one of the most environmentally-sensitive problems in that community, providing badly-needed sewer and water for that community.

As well, the community of Maplewood and Hammonds Plains has overcome some of their water problems with hundreds of thousands of dollars being dedicated to that neighbourhood, as well as to Upper Hammonds Plains, to provide badly-needed services that those communities need and deserve and expect. The interesting thing about Maplewood and Upper Hammonds Plains, that's the area where most of metro gets its water from, yet for two decades, 20 years, the water flowed right past their community, right down past their backyard to the communities of Halifax, and they weren't able to access that. I see my time has expired.

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

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to rise and make a number of comments going into Supply today. I couldn't help but be somewhat taken by this rather unique article that was in today's Daily News on Page 18. It's referred to as, Style defines

[Page 1442]

the debater. It's an article that was inserted by the honourable member for Kings North. (Interruptions) Now, the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank would like me to table it, so obviously he doesn't have access to the media at his caucus office, so I will certainly do that. I will ask one of the Pages to bring it over, because it's good to see that members of the Conservative caucus are interested in what the member for Kings North has to say.

The member for Kings North is so absorbed in his desire and his quest to make everything so altruistic in this Legislature that he continuously writes these articles pointing out all the errors and omissions and deficiencies and the weaknesses of various individual members, both individually and collectively as caucuses. I somehow wonder if the honourable member for Kings North has missed his calling. With all due respect, perhaps he should be at a university teaching political science, not engaging in the active debates before the Legislature here today, addressing some rather pressing issues. Some pressing issues, by the way, which are going on in his very own constituency.

Mr. Speaker, we recall several weeks ago the flooding that took place here in this province. The honourable member for Kings North stood in his place and introduced one resolution, one resolution for himself to put forth to his constituents that this is the position that he is taking, he wants to show his constituents that he is standing up for them, he is fighting for their cause, he is making sure that the Minister of Environment and Labour and the Minister responsible for EMO and everybody else sees that he is advancing the causes and the interests of his constituents.

What did that resolution say, Mr. Speaker? Congratulating those who started a fundraiser on some tapestry, that they would sell tickets, $10 each. Now what has he said about those residents in his riding that have not received fair compensation? Nothing that we're aware of. What has he said about those communities that have been adversely affected by water contamination from the oil spills that were caused through that flooding disaster? Not one word.

Perhaps the honourable member should take notice of the fact of what his job description is. He's not in here to pontificate about all the wrongs and the weaknesses of every other member. His job is as much to come in here and represent the interests of his constituents and stop trying to put himself up on a pedestal as if he is above all other members in this House. It's disrespect. It's that type of condescending disrespect that infuriates the people of Nova Scotia.

Yes, much of that has been brought on the politicians themselves over the years. No one particular Party has a licence above reproach. Let's be very clear. So the member for Kings North would be well advised to earn his pay - earn his keep as we used to say. If the individuals out on the street and Hollis Street or Brunswick Street, if their pleas to be heard are to be continually ignored, then we have failed. We have failed. The honourable member for Kings North should take a few moments to go out and listen to the strikers and the

[Page 1443]

protesters. He should take a few moments to listen to what the parents had to say at a public meeting down at the Westin Hotel last evening. Take the time to understand the implications of what his government is doing to the people who need help. Never mind pontificating about how great thou art because they are not interested. That's not why we were sent here.

That honourable member, I say shame. Shame on him. That he would use this position and the Legislature to advance his own self-gratification on how he thinks that he is the perfect MLA - above any and all others. We all come here with flaws, we all come here with weaknesses, but we come here with strengths too. I'm very proud of the people I represent and to have that honourable member stand in his place or use the local media to try and tear down many of the conventions and the traditions that have been built up over the last 275 years through the efforts of such men as Joseph Howe and many other great orators and parliamentarians and legislators. Yes, of all political stripes.

I can only refer to some of the ones that have been here during my tenure. Some great skilful politicians, such as the honourable Rollie Thornhill, one of the greatest debaters in this Legislature, the honourable Gerald Regan, who for more than eight and one-half hours debated a social issue. The member for Guysborough says, who else? Well, I can't say that for some of his predecessors who brought down some of the most horrendous debt-burdening budgets of the history of this province. It was a shame. That honourable member at that time brought shame to this Legislature with the vote-buying scandal using government funds through supplying gravel on private property.

Yes, there's enough blame to go around in all Parties and I said that. But that's not what the member for Kings North was sent here for. Perhaps he should take a little time to reflect on members of his own caucus and their weaknesses. Not just the weaknesses of others. Shame on that honourable member. We have had some of the greatest debaters and legislators in this province. My colleague for Dartmouth East, in my view, was one of the best Ministers of Health. The member for Hants West, who is now the Minister of Environment and Labour, a very skilful and a very able legislator. He's made his mistakes.

Mr. Speaker, why is valuable taxpayers' money being wasted on this foolishness when we have people on the street pleading for help? We have disabled citizens in this province who have been uprooted and put into turmoil. What kind of a compassionate government - what kind of a message are we sending to the people of Nova Scotia with this neo-conservative agenda? How patronizing and how disrespectful to try to deflect attention away from the real issues of the day.

I would invite the honourable member for Kings North to stand in his place and tell these good citizens where he stands on this issue and what he, as an MLA, as a legislator, as a public policy maker, is doing to address the ills and the misfortunes in the system, and how he's going to use the weight of his office to try to help these disadvantaged Nova Scotians. Never mind introducing frivolous resolutions and sometimes half-hearted resolutions and

[Page 1444]

sometimes patronizing resolutions to make people kind of feel a little good. Well, in essence, he's doing not what he was sent here to do.

Mr. Speaker, those good folks out on the street, whether it be on Hollis, Brunswick or wherever, they would better serve this province and the communities that they serve, the families, these very special needs persons by being back on the job. We have an obligation and a duty to help them go back on the job. They don't go out there because they enjoy protesting. They're not professional picketers. They are good, honest, hard-working Nova Scotians who have a genuine concern. The collective bargaining process, I dare say, is failing them.

The Minister of Environment and Labour has the power to do something about it. What's he doing? Nothing. What does the Premier say? Oh, I will go and I will meet with the parents. That's a start and that's good, that's movement. At least it's a recognition after two weeks that this government has failed, has failed miserably not only for the workers but most importantly for those people who, through no fault of their own, need our help as a society.

Mr. Speaker, the member for Kings North would be well advised to champion the cause. If he sees himself as the social conscience of this Legislature, what better issue to take up than the plight of the disadvantaged. Never mind talking about the inhibitions of his colleagues in the Legislature, about their ability to articulate an argument. Never mind the fact that he's able to be rewarded in some fashion, materially or however, by continually writing these articles. At the same time, he likes to kind of jump in and say, oh, I'm a legislator, I'm a politician, I'm a public servant, and I'm very proud of it. Then, he kind of jumps outside this skeleton that he represents and says, oh no, look, let's look down into this forum. This is terrible.

These folks, Mr. Speaker, they sent us here. It doesn't matter what side of the House we are on at this point. We all have an obligation as public servants to do something, whether it's on this particular issue, whether it's on education, whether it's on health, whether it's on finance, never mind the patronizing comments and the platitudes. Quite frankly, I find some of his comments quite offensive, but I guess that's one of the good things about democracy. We have the right to disagree, and we have the right in this forum to express our opinion in a professional and fair-minded fashion. That's what Joseph Howe fought for and, Mr. Speaker, why the government allows that type of mantra to continue, that mindset to be pervasively perpetrated on the people of Nova Scotia, as much as to say you're the ones who are at fault because if you argue with us, you're the bad guys, you know, we know what's good for you, we're going to do it and if you argue with us, you're the bad guys, and you can't blame us if things don't work out.

[Page 1445]

[2:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, it's not quite that simple. Every one of us come in here to represent 52 constituencies of unique interest and concerns and demands and there's giving and there's taking. But I realize my time is coming short on this. I would invite the honourable member for Kings North to come back and debate issues such as what I've raised here today and we will debate them, we will debate him on every point of every issue that he raises if he so chooses, where he was elected to debate them.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is carried.

[2:31 p.m. The House resolved itself into a CWH on Supply with Deputy Speaker Mr. Brooke Taylor in the Chair.]

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

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

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

LIBERALS: ELECTION 2003 - CREDIBILITY

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, the resolution for discussion this evening is one which was presented to this House by my colleague, the honourable member for Halifax Atlantic, but it's one that I have been asked to speak to. I should, for observers at home, read the resolution so that they're aware of the details of what it is that we will be discussing over the next half hour. The resolution is as follows:

"Therefore be it resolved that Liberals who ran in 1999 on a policy of dramatically increasing the provincial debt and Liberals who are running in 2003 on a policy of decreasing the public debt, must explain why Nova Scotians should believe them now."

Mr. Speaker, well, this certainly gets at the heart of the problem of dealing with the Liberals when it comes to virtually any topic. I think many members of this House will agree with me that it's not just a problem of saying one thing and doing another, as this resolution today illustrates, it's a problem with the Liberals of saying different things at different times. The heart of the problem, this question of a difference between what is said and what is actually done or what's said one time and justified in different terms at another, can easily

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be illustrated by turning our minds back to some of the things that the Liberal Government did in its time in office between 1993 and 1999.

One illustration, this isn't directly a question of debt and deficit and taxation, but one very striking illustration, of course, is the policy with respect to municipal amalgamation in HRM. Of course it was the policy of the candidates, the Liberals as candidates for government in 1993, that there wouldn't be any municipal amalgamation in HRM, and yet shortly after that election, a year after, without any further consultation with the municipalities involved, they brought it in. It remains a big irritant for many people living in metro to this day.

P3 schools, another example of something that the Liberals did to us. It's not a gift, the schools were certainly appreciated in the sense that there are many places in Nova Scotia that needed the schools, but P3 schools, let's recall, have been a disaster on the financial side and on the social side for the communities that have them. On the financial side, of course, it was an example of Liberal, one might say, Enron accounting. It was purely a financial device designed to try to keep the debt associated with schools off of the books. It was a financial manoeuver so that they could pretend that the debt had not really been encountered.

Here's another example, the gambling casinos. Also a gift of that government. Another example, Pharmacare premiums. This has been a problem with the Liberals from day one. We should really try to focus on the question of what it is this province now has to grapple with on the question of debt and deficit. I listened yesterday - because this is the second day in a row in which we've had a special debate with respect to debt and deficit - to the Liberal Finance Critic, the honourable member for Richmond, who confessed that, of course, he was very new to financial affairs and was learning his way through the portfolio, he was trying to understand, in detail, what it is that's involved in the Finance portfolio.

Well, immediately, in his speech, he made one of those basic errors that one frequently encounters with respect to Finance at the provincial or national level. The error he made was to start talking about the province as if it were a family. He began talking about provincial government finances as if they were the same things as the finances for people's families at home. Of course they're not. This is not the most important error the Liberals have, but it illustrates there are a number of basic facts that are important to understand just as foundations for economics and the provincial finance that should come home to the Liberals but seem not to have come home to them.

The difference, of course, between family financing and a government's financing is that in the families, we grow old and our income prospects decline. At the time of your life when you're ready to retire and your income will go down, you should have put your children through university if they're going to university, you should have paid off your mortgage, and you should have established yourself in business if that's where you are because your income is going to go down and you're going to retire.

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Governments don't retire. We're not like families in that respect, and that's an important distinction. But it does not mean of course that we can carry debt forever or that we can accumulate debt forever. The fundamental point that we have to remember about finance in the Province of Nova Scotia right now is that we cannot afford to increase our debt. That means no more deficits on an annual basis; it's just not on because this province can no longer afford it. That's the starting point.

The difficulty is that it's far from clear that that would be the program that the Liberals would follow, even though they are now saying that debt is a problem and they want to pay down the debt. The last time we had a Liberal Finance Minister he brought to us a budget that essentially proposed more Enron-accounting tricks. What was being proposed was essentially special off-book accounts - this time dedicated to the health care budget. What everyone saw was that this was not an acceptable way to do the books of the province. Everyone saw that this was an attempt at an accounting trick that was designed to give a misleading picture of the true financial state of the province. Everyone saw through it, no one was fooled. Even the detailed calculations on the amounts turned out not to be accurate.

So that budget went down in flames and that government disappeared. I don't think we're likely to see anything that is likely to help us from the government we now have, even though they're taking a different line, they're not likely to say one thing and do another. I think they've been fairly straightforward about what's occurred. There are other ways to understand it - to our misfortune, this government has kept on the road that it planned.(Interruption) It's a real pleasure to hear some amusing comments from the member for Cape Breton South, but it's not something I'm going to engage with, because at this point this is the main problem that this province faces at the moment - the economy is in the hands of a government that, although taking a different approach than the Liberals did, is nonetheless not delivering what it is that Nova Scotians need.

The priorities of this government should be the priorities of what it is that ordinary Nova Scotians need. Unfortunately, they're continuing to add to the debt and they are not delivering what Nova Scotia families really need. The list has been enumerated here a number of times: It's a break on auto insurance, it's a break on tuition fees, it's a break on HST, it's a break on Pharmacare, it's a break on health care costs of people in long-term care. That is exactly what it is that working families in Nova Scotia need. Not what it is that they're being offered right now, nor what we're being offered or have been offered in the past by the Liberals. Thank you.

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

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to join in this debate this evening. I just want to make reference for a moment to the motion. Interesting - it's by the former Leader of the NDP who still sits in this House. It is a pleasure to speak to the

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resolution from the members of the perpetual Opposition, known as the nothing-doing Party and also known as the New Democratic Party, or short, or the N-Dippers.

Before I get into the debate, I would like to read some names, Mr. Speaker, I would like to read some names before I get into the debate: John Deveau, Helen MacDonald, Charlie Parker, Yvonne Atwell, Dr. Hinrich Bitter-Suermann, Peter Delefes, Don Chard and Rosemary Godin - may they all rest in political peace. All eight of those MLAs paid a supreme political sacrifice just so the member for Halifax Atlantic could "get it on". That was his slogan. Remember the double-dipping member for Halifax Atlantic, and once Leader of the NDP, who said at the last election, let's get it on, like it was some kind of sport. His juvenile antics cost the NDP eight seats and it cost Nova Scotia a better health care system. After the next election I will read another list of the NDP fallen, including the one who brought this resolution forward.

You see, Mr. Speaker, the NDP don't get it. We had an election in 1999. The people chose the current government and we and the NDP lost fair and square. The problem is that the NDP can't get over that election. I say let's move on. We moved on and that's why we have a new Leader and a new plan instead of the NDP who may have a new Leader, but policies that are still stuck in the 1930s. This resolution is a prime example of the three reasons why the NDP will never form government in this province. The first reason is people don't vote for clichés. All we heard from the NDP in the last six years was why should we believe you now, let's get it on, that's why we're here. Nova Scotians never bought that before and they're not going to buy it again. Tired old slogans do not work.

Secondly, Mr. Speaker, people want an Opposition Party to hold the government accountable to the people between elections. People want to know how government policy will affect their lives and that is the job of an Opposition Party. The NDP, on the other hand, has decided to waste valuable time and energy attacking the other Opposition Party - our Party, the Liberal Party. They're spending all their time attacking the Party that they feel is in the most danger of even reducing their ranks further. Not only is that a waste of time, they're using resources that could be used in attacking the government for its current policies.

To put it mildly, Mr. Speaker, the NDP has a blind dislike for Liberals; it means that the government gets away with things they shouldn't because the NDP are more preoccupied with us than they are with the government; and, thirdly, the NDP and the government are always living in the past. People want to hear about what the next government is doing, not what the last one did. This resolution fails to mention one thing, it fails to mention that there was no plan to run an election in 1999 by our government. It was the Tories and the NDP who forced an election in 1999 and, it's funny, the NDP really thought the people of Nova Scotia were going to elect them and that's why they sided with the Tories to pull the plug on us, but it backfired on them. Those names that I mentioned earlier, they paid the price for that folly. They really didn't think Nova Scotians were going to trust this province to them. If

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they did, they were dreaming in technicolour because it didn't happen. They were chomping at the bit for another election and eight of their colleagues paid the price.

Do you know, Mr. Speaker, what else is disturbing, is the member for Halifax Atlantic is still in his chair in this House, collecting a paycheque from the government while working somewhere else as well. Russell MacLellan, the former Premier, had the good grace to leave this Chamber with dignity while the member for Halifax Atlantic hangs in here until the last moment. So let's get back to the election and the $600 million Health Investment Fund.

Remember, Mr. Speaker, the NDP voted against the plan to stabilize health care so they could get into power. Well, they didn't get into power and health care has suffered ever since. Had there not been an election, there would have been no Bill No. 68 and that's a certainty, but it was the NDP who sold out health care workers in 1999 instead of voting for a budget that would have helped the system. The Health Investment Fund was also a fund that would have been paid back over 14 years by Sable royalties, although if the NDP had it their way, there would be no Sable project, and that's a certainty. If the NDP had their way, there wouldn't be any gas coming ashore anywhere or any royalties because it would still be on the ocean floor. It would be still on the ocean floor.

Mr. Speaker, I shudder to think what would have happened in this province under an NDP Government. The difference between now and 1999 is clear. In 1999, health care required a plan and it required money, and we decided to provide it. I don't know how the NDP thought that health care was going to be funded, maybe they felt it didn't need any money to be funded, it was just going to fund itself. That's the typical NDP philosophy.

[6:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, health care is still underfunded and they continue to throw money at the system with no plan, I'm talking about the current government. In 1999-2000, Nova Scotia experienced its greatest economic growth because, I believe, of the MacLellan Government. In 1999, the private sector created 12,600 new jobs for Nova Scotians under the policies of a Liberal Government, the biggest one-year gain in the past 20 years. From 1996-2000, Nova Scotians' income increased by $1.9 billion. Housing starts in 1999 jumped 35.5 per cent. Sales of new cars, trucks and other motor vehicles grew by 12.3 per cent over 1998. Exports of goods and services were up 10 per cent, and tourism revenues grew by 16 per cent.

Mr. Speaker, 1999-2000 marked a turning point in Nova Scotia history because it was the year the Tories failed to capitalize on opportunity. With that kind of economic growth, we would have made short order of a lot of the problems we were facing. We could have started dealing with the fiscal problem. The last government and its policies are responsible for greater economic growth and prosperity that would have allowed this government to fix education, health and pay down the debt. But the government lost that opportunity. They

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could have done more but they continue to borrow, and there's still an uncertainty about where we're going with health care, and certainly the problems we're having with student debt and education problems, and some other pressing matters in the economy of this province.

Mr. Speaker, it's thanks to the NDP. Instead of working within the framework of a minority government back in 1999, the NDP were so intent on taking power that they literally threw themselves at the Tories and said, we're with you. We're with you, trust us. Only they thought they were going into power and not the Tories. The names I read out earlier are testament to that folly. Thanks to the NDP, we have a government today in this province that I don't think has a plan to go forward past the next election. That's evidenced by the Financial Measures (2003) Bill provisions, which we will be talking about later this evening.

In short, I might add, Mr. Speaker, that the NDP literally gambled and lost. That's what happened here. Back in 1999, they threw caution to the wind and they said, Nova Scotians will elect us. All we have to do is get back to the polls and they will elect us. Remember how we stopped them at the one-yard line in the previous election before that. They went backwards ever since. They will continue to go backwards in this province, because the people of Nova Scotia had the good sense to reject them back then. I shudder to think where this province would be today if that crowd had achieved government in 1999. We would have been worse off than the Bob Rae Government in Ontario, or much worse off than perhaps the Glen Clark Government in British Columbia, both NDP Governments.

These people just don't get it. You have to have a plan, you have to manage the economy, you just don't throw money at it and increase the debt. Mr. Speaker, let me tell you that I've certainly caught the attention of the NDP in these few remarks, and I will end by taking my place. I promise you I will be back again.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Queens.

MR. KERRY MORASH: Mr. Speaker, I certainly appreciate being able to take part in this debate tonight. I will read the resolution:

"Therefore be it resolved that Liberals who ran in 1999 on a policy of dramatically increasing the provincial debt and Liberals who are running in 2003 on a policy of decreasing the public debt, must explain why Nova Scotians should believe them now."

It's nice to be here tonight. It's certainly interesting to hear the comments from the members opposite from both Parties. The focus of the motion is simple. The Liberal Party appears to have flip-flopped on its position on the debt. In 1999, the Liberals ran on adding $600 million to our debt in an odd scheme understood by most as a last-ditch effort in an attempt to try and hold on to power. Now its Leader has decided, and I quote, "he would not

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add one cent to the province's debt". Which seems to be quite a change from the previous election platform that was used at that point in time.

My colleague for Sackville-Beaver Bank asked in a press release today, and on the floor of the House yesterday, he said, you've told Nova Scotians you'll increase taxes to do this, you won't add to the debt. In terms of what other projects will be cancelled, what is it? Are you going to cancel projects, are you going to increase taxes? What's going to happen? My colleague asked if the Liberal Leader would cancel the Cobequid Community Centre, the planned school for children of Hammonds Plains. What things would be detrimentally affected if the plan goes forward?

The member for Cape Breton West says the Liberals would bring back the P3 plan for school construction. Which was another Liberal way of hiding the debt. The Leader feels otherwise. The Leader of the Liberal Party says something different from the member for Cape Breton West and, once again, is at odds with his own caucus, which doesn't show a great deal of co-operation or solidarity on that side of the House.

So I ask my Liberal colleagues across the floor just how they'll manage the Liberal plan. When will they reveal to the people of the province how they won't add a cent to the debt, but will spend every dollar we've committed to spending and generally more? In fact, every time we turn around, the Liberals claim we're not spending enough on our athletes, our health system, our education system, on our roads, on the salaries of every employee in this province, we need to replace more schools. Just how much would they hike taxes to see that this was paid for? What's their ceiling? Spending more? Taxing more? It's a recipe for disaster in Nova Scotia.

In our blue book of 1999, we warned Nova Scotians then that the Liberal Government has relied on smoke and mirrors to pretend to have a balanced Nova Scotia budget. In truth, they have failed to eliminate the deficit and the provincial debt has grown by $3.6 billion. As the motion on the floor says, the Liberals must explain why Nova Scotians should believe them now. On June 11, 1999, a date many in this House will remember clearly, the minority Liberal MacLellan Government, under the leadership of the current member for Dartmouth East, released details on the Health Investment Fund.

There are many across this floor familiar with this plan, but don't just take the political views of our Party and the NDP - after reviewing the $600 million health election platform, the Montreal-based Canadian Bond Rating Service said it was concerned about the Liberal Government's proposed Health Investment Fund. Luckily, the date on this article, July 28, 1999, would show they didn't have to worry, as there was a new Premier the day the comments were made and the direction of this province took an abrupt turn away from the Liberal's so-called plan to a real plan for growth and prosperity.

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However, the agency warned at that time that if the province had passed the 1999 Liberal budget, the rating outlook for Nova Scotia's long-term and short-term debt would have been revised from stable to negative. There were others giving clear shots across the Liberal bow.

According to economist, Donald Savoie, in an article dated July 28, 1999, "problems with the plan, the centrepiece of the Liberal platform leading up to the July 27th provincial election, emerge with borrowing $239 million to ensure hospitals stay in the black over the next two years. That money would pay for operational costs, such as salaries." Mr. Savoie added that those expenses belong in a normal budget. He described the Liberal plan as akin to a homeowner getting a loan to pay for groceries.

Our Leader and our Party campaigned on a promise that "A PC Government will live within its means. By spending responsibly, we will protect our ability to guarantee priorities like health care and education for the future. We are committed to a long-term plan for reducing the provincial debt to a manageable percentage of GDP, enabling us to reduce taxation and promote a healthy, job-producing economy."

In fact, as noted in one of this year's budget bulletins:

"Nova Scotia continues to make progress when it comes to managing our long-term debt. Two successive balanced budgets have put us on the right path. The release of A Balanced Approach to Surplus and Debt Management by the Department of Finance highlights our commitment to manage our debt appropriately, according to all generally accepted accounting principles.

In the past three years, as a result of carefully controlled spending and a growing economy, one of the most important economic indicators which shows our net direct debt as a percentage of the province's overall economic activity, has improved. What this means is that the burden of debt carried by taxpayers is less . . ." of a burden. "We have a greater ability to repay our debt.

The ratio of net direct debt to gross domestic product has dropped from more than 46 per cent in 1999-2000, to an estimated 41.1 per cent for the fiscal year 2003-2004. It is progress and it shows that the province's strategy of managing the debt is working.

While the ratio of net direct debt to overall economic activity continues to decline, the actual debt will increase in 2003-2004 to $11.8 billion, because we continue to borrow to build new schools and improve highways. These are assets that will provide real benefits for Nova Scotians for years to come.

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The cost of servicing the province's debt will increase to $893 million in 2003-2004 from $888 million last year."

As our Premier said, if the debt of this province wasn't increased by $3.6 billion from 1993 to 1999, we wouldn't have to send that to the bank. We would have to send less than $700 million to the bank and we would have a $300 million surplus. As our Finance Minister said in a debate in this House, "It is because of our careful financial management that we are able to turn our attention away from deficits and now focus on the debt." The Liberals certainly haven't helped along the way. They criticized every efficiency we've had to make. At their rate, they wouldn't have even balanced the budget let alone tackled the issue of debt.

But two consecutive balanced budgets speak volumes for our government's commitment to living within our means. The Liberal Leader is a Johnny-come-lately on the idea of being concerned about debt. He's decided that's his election issue. We are pleased he's finally chosen a position on anything. And on lower taxes, we know now that he's against them. He wants to raise them by 11 per cent if he's elected.

Mr. Speaker, the long-awaited plan for lower taxes for the working families of this province would disappear under a Liberal Government. In fact, in order to cancel the lower tax plan, the Liberals would have to raise our taxes, and that's certainly not something that businesses or individuals care to look forward to.

Mr. Speaker, our government made commitments to the people of this province in 1999, and we've stuck to those commitments. It's meant a significant turnaround for the people of this province. The Liberals have bounced around so much on their position on spending and debt and taxes, it would take a psychic to read through the fog. The Liberals should take a navigation course because they don't seem to know where they're going or where they want to go. Our government hasn't just made promises, we've provided Nova Scotians with a plan, for health, for education and for debt management. I'm sorry neither the Liberals nor the NDP can say the same. Thank you for the opportunity to rise this evening to say a few words on the motion brought forward by the NDP. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: I want to thank the members for taking part in the debate this evening.

[6:25 p.m. The House resolved itself into a CWH on Supply with Acting Deputy Speaker Mr. William Dooks in the Chair.]

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

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

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

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

The honourable Government House Leader.

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

PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 36.

Bill No. 36 - Financial Measures (2003) Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview. You have 35 minutes.

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise again to continue where I left off on Tuesday. On Tuesday, I had been explaining to the members on the opposite side of the House how much the Financial Measures (2003) Bill and the budget of which it forms a part is built on illusions, that every major contention this government makes about the budget and the Financial Measures (2003) Bill turns out on closer examination to be not true. On Tuesday, I examined the claim that the budget is balanced, last year's and this year's; I examined the claim that the debt is under control; I examined the claim that this is a tax-cut budget, and I showed how all of those things, on closer examination, are untrue.

What I was in the middle of talking about when I had to break off last Tuesday was the illusion that - as I heard the Minister of Economic Development say again today - the economy is doing great. He said in Question Period today that he's about to start on a tour of the province, telling everybody how great things are around the province. As John Buchanan used to say, prosperity is just around the corner. I guess it's a line from the Tory play book that they like so much from the Buchanan years that they can't help themselves but use it again this time.

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As I pointed out the other day, the truth is that job growth in Nova Scotia is less than the national average. Sure, Nova Scotia is creating jobs, but so is every other jurisdiction in Canada, and on average they are creating more jobs than we are. So when we're lagging the national average, what is it exactly that the Minister of Economic Development wants to go out and brag about? If the Minister of Economic Development wants to use his time more productively over the next few weeks, I would like to suggest that he maybe travel to Manitoba, where they have an unemployment rate that is half of Nova Scotia's. Manitoba has the lowest unemployment rate in Canada, not just by a little bit but by far.

If you ask most people which province has the lowest unemployment rate, I bet most people would guess Alberta, or Ontario, British Columbia, but it's not, it's Manitoba, which by far has the lowest unemployment rate in Canada. That province has a government that knows how to put people to work. That government has something to brag about. When that minister can tell this House that unemployment in Nova Scotia has hit 4.7 per cent, as it has in Manitoba, then, Mr. Speaker, I will vote for him myself.

Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned the other day, on Tuesday, what the Minister of Economic Development and the rest of the Tories don't want people to know is that unemployment in Nova Scotia is going up. It's going up, all of you over there, it's going up. Interestingly enough, after I delivered my remarks on Tuesday, one of the Tory backbenchers said, well, I can't believe you said that - where did you get your figures? You must have made them up. And I said, no, they're Department of Finance figures, produced by Nova Scotia's Department of Finance. He said, but that's not true because Nova Scotia is creating more jobs than anywhere else. I said, no, it's not true, here are the figures produced by the Department of Finance. I guess the key is that when you look at these figures, you have to read them with an open mind and not with a preconceived idea of what it is they're going to tell you.

How is it exactly that Nova Scotia can have more jobs than ever before and yet have our unemployment rates stubbornly high? And growing, I might add. Well, there's a very simple reason, one of the little secrets of the Nova Scotia economy that I never hear this government talk about - that little secret is called the participation rate. The participation rate is the percentage of the adult population that are either working or looking for work. What happens in an economy that's really doing well is the participation rate rises because people who have been discouraged from looking for work are drawn back into the workforce.

Nova Scotia's participation rate is, has been for a long time, is today, abysmally low. Let's take the minister's home territory of Cape Breton. What is the participation rate in Cape Breton? The participation rate, that is the percentage of the adult population that are either working or looking for work, is 50 per cent. A very well-respected economist said to me once, a couple of years ago when the participation rate in Cape Breton was about the same, that those kind of participation rates are seen nowhere else in Canada except on Aboriginal

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reserves, where the economy is so bad, where the jobs are so few, that one-half of the adult population is not even looking for work.

What's the national average? Just to give you an indication of what a proper participation rate is - well the Canadian participation rate is 66.6 per cent, 67.5 seasonally adjusted. That's what you see in economies that are doing okay. There are almost no provinces in Canada that have a participation rate lower than Nova Scotia's, and there is probably no region of Canada, very few regions of Canada, with participation rates lower than Cape Breton's.

That means that when that minister goes knocking door-to-door in his riding of Cape Breton North, every second household that he goes to is not just not working, and not just not looking for work, but not even looking for work - not even bothering to look for work because they know the jobs are not there. Let that minister travel up to Cape Breton and tell them, again in the true heritage of John Buchanan, that prosperity is just around the corner, because that's what the government's spin doctors told him to say. Let the member for Guysborough and let the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley go to their people and tell them that prosperity is just around the corner. Because you know what? The funny thing is, I represent a Halifax riding, and there are more people working in my riding than in theirs. This message that prosperity is just around the corner, I don't think it's going to sell very well on the doorsteps.

The Liberals are going to go out with the message that tax cuts are bad. That's fine. They can sell that message, they're better at this game than I am. But that crowd is going to go around in Shelburne County and Yarmouth County and they're going to say that prosperity is just around the corner. But you know what, Mr. Speaker? The truth is that unemployment in their regions is going up; the participation rate in their regions is still abysmally low.

Let me tell you one of the other dirty little secrets of the Nova Scotia economy, Mr. Speaker, that I never hear them talk about, and I certainly never hear the Minister of Economic Development talking about, and this is a very real problem in my constituency and I'm sure in theirs as well and that is the little secret of underemployment. That is people who have a job and so they count as employed, but they're not working at jobs for which they have the skills, the education and the aptitude.

A couple of weeks ago I met a young man, a computer science graduate, can't find work in his field. He wants to, he just can't find it. So he has applied for work at a call centre and that's fine, call centre jobs are available. Many, many young people are being employed in call centres, but very, very few of the people who I've talked to who work at call centres want to stay there. They do it because it's all they can find. They are qualified to do a great deal more and, in fact, many of them do move on to a great deal more. That's why the turnover at call centres is so very high. So we have this young man who is ready for the

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knowledge economy, he has his degree, and he's ready and willing and able to work, but the jobs aren't there. So that young man is underemployed.

Now, if the Minister of Economic Development really wants to do something for job creation in Nova Scotia, I will give him a tip, some free advice, because I'm in the advice business, Mr. Speaker, although the crowd over there is very selective on the advice they listen to and when they do adopt our advice, they do it in kind of a . . .

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I can say I'm listening to the honourable member, but when he says that call centre jobs - what he's telling Nova Scotians is that call centres jobs are not good jobs for Nova Scotians. I can tell you there are 300 people in my area, in Port Hawkesbury, who think they're great jobs and they do make a difference. So that member is also suggesting that people who aren't looking for work, somehow it's a bad thing. There are many stay-at-home people, I know in my area and many areas across this province and he certainly doesn't speak for the people of the Strait area or Inverness when he makes those comments.

MR. SPEAKER: It's not a point of order, but certainly a clarification of the facts.

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, if only the members on that side had the courage to stand up during the debate and actually talk and represent their members, instead of standing up on spurious points of orders like that.

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. The terminology that that honourable member used may not have been unparliamentary, but to insinuate that another member rose on his feet on a point of order, that is left to the Speaker. The Speaker makes that decision, not any member sitting in his place in the House. I have to say that not too long ago I had a conversation with the chief from Millbrook, and the chief up there is trying to attract a call centre for the Millbrook First Nation people and he will be very pleased when he's able to make that announcement. I find it very distasteful that that member will criticize the employer and the employees who provide those jobs for Nova Scotians. He should be ashamed of himself and he should apologize to the people.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. It's not a point of order.

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, yet another spurious point of order, so they must be listening to what I'm saying, at least. Remember what I said, the young man who I met has a computer science degree and he wants to work in that field, the knowledge economy that the minister likes to talk about so much, but he can't find the job so he's working at a call centre because it's what's available and is all he can get.

[Page 1458]

Mr. Speaker, I'm on the public record, which I know the member reads as well as I do, as saying that call centre jobs are fine, they are good, because working is better than not working. Any job is better than wanting to work and not being able to work, but I think the people who should be ashamed in this House are the members on that side who are trying to create an illusion that the government spin doctors created a couple of months ago and says we just have to say this and keep repeating it and repeating and repeating it until election day. Do you know what? We're never going to hear that line of argument from them from the day after the election. If they're re-elected, we're not going to hear it; if they're not re-elected, we're never going to hear it again.

[7:15 p.m.]

It's a line that they're spinning, and what I'm talking about is how the Financial Measures (2003) Bill and the budget of which it forms a part is based on illusion. Here's the numbers, Mr. Speaker, and there is that backbencher on the other side who didn't believe the numbers, here they are, up in the top corner, Nova Scotia Department of Finance Statistics Division. All you have to do is read the numbers, and it starts to pierce the illusion that that government is trying to create.

Another thing that they're trying to create, which is very relevant to the Financial Measures (2003) Bill, is this idea that the tax cut will spur the economy. Let's take a look at that and let's examine that. That crowd likes to quote an official from the Conference Board of Canada, who came to Nova Scotia and said, well, if you cut the taxes it's going to spur consumer spending. They wave that around at every opportunity and say, look, the Conference Board of Canada says, well, of course it's going to spur consumer spending, because if you put money in the hands of consumers, it's going to spur consumer spending. But that doesn't tell you anything other than that money is being shifted from one sector into another. It's not as if governments don't spend money too, they just spend it in different ways.

What they're doing is they're taking money out of hospitals, they're taking it out of universities, they're taking it out of our schools, and any time those members need to reflect on this, just remember what I told you on Tuesday night and that is that every single school in your constituencies and mine, every single one on average needs $1 million worth of repairs, $1 million for every school in Nova Scotia, elementary, junior high and high school. Obviously some need more and some need less, but on average every single school in their constituencies, in your constituency and in mine needs $1 million worth of work. Governments spend money too, they spend it on things like crumbling schools, if that's a priority but obviously it's not for this government.

So to say that the tax cut is going to spur consumer spending, it's a truism, of course it is, because if you put it in the hand of consumers, it's going to raise consumer spending, but the money comes out of somewhere else. Here's a question that I would like the members

[Page 1459]

on that side to reflect on as well, as they consider the Financial Measures (2003) Bill. If it's true that a $40 million tax cut will spur the economy, because it is $40 million, let's remember that, it's not $68 million, because of bracket creep and inflation and other things it's only actually going to cost the government $40 million. If that is in fact going to spur the economy, then I would like to ask the members on that side to reflect, what is the impact going to be of the $74 million in other taxes that this budget is going to take out of the pockets of Nova Scotians?

It's $40 million they say is going to spur the economy, but what they don't say, because it doesn't fit with the illusion, is that they're also taking $74.5 million more out of the pockets of my constituents and theirs. What's the impact of that going to be? I wonder if the members on that side could reflect - if $40 million is going to spur the economy, what is going to be the impact of the extra $70 million in corporate income taxes? Now where's that coming from? It's coming out of the pockets of corporations.

So they're giving $40 million back to consumers, but taking $74.5 million as well. Then on top of that, they're taking $70 million in additional corporate income taxes. If $40 million is going to spur the economy, what's going to be the impact on the economy of that $70 million they're taking out? What's going to be the impact, what has been the impact in the economy of the nearly $300 million of new taxes and user fees that this government has imposed since they came to office in 1999? If $40 million is going to spur the economy as they claim, then surely there must be a corresponding impact of that $300 million that they've taken out. But that doesn't fit with the illusion, Mr. Speaker, and so they prefer not to talk about that.

So then let's talk about the final illusion, the grand illusion of the budget, and that is that the tax cut that they're proposing is fair. Well, let's take a look at that. What the Minister of Finance has done is redefined who is a taxpayer in Nova Scotia. He will stand up and he will pound his desk and he will thunder out, just like Old Yeller there, the Minister of Economic Development. I always know that the louder the Minister of Finance gets, the less substance there is to what he's saying. So he'll pound his desk and he'll say, Nova Scotia taxpayers are all getting a refund, every single one of them. But, it's not true.

What he really means but won't say is it is Nova Scotian income taxpayers. Every single Nova Scotian who buys anything in a store is a taxpayer. Every single one. Every single one. But the minister, for some reason, is excluding them or doesn't count them because it doesn't fit in the illusion. All the pain that this government has inflicted over the past four years has been in the form of regressive taxes that hit everybody equally, no matter what their income. And it's been in the form of user fees which hit everybody equally. The parking fees at rural hospitals are such a sore point in rural communities, it hits the poorest person the same way as it does the richest person. One dollar to park at a rural hospital might not be very much to somebody earning in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, but to

[Page 1460]

somebody on social assistance, to a senior on a fixed income, it matters and it hurts. That's how this crowd has imposed the taxes and user fees.

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I'd very much like to challenge the honourable member for Halifax Fairview to come with me into Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley and I would agree to go with him into Halifax Fairview and speak with some blue collar workers that pay provincial income tax and ask them if they would like to have a 10 per cent tax break and $155. I would challenge him to come with me and I will go with him if he would agree to.

MR. SPEAKER: It's not a point of order, but an invitation I guess. The honourable member for Cape Breton South actually invited them to go now. The honourable member for Halifax Fairview has the floor.

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, now we've moved on from spurious points of order to invitations. I accept the member's invitation if he will go with me to the West End Ecumenical Food Bank on a Thursday morning, Saint John's Anglican Church at the corner of Joseph Howe Drive (Interruptions) Oh, wait a minute now. I want that member to go to a place in my constituency, half of the clients of which are in the constituency of the member for Halifax Bedford Basin and I want that member to come to this place where people - not one single person at that food bank is going to get that $155 cheque. If that member agrees to come to the food bank . . .

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. Irrespective of the NDP philosophy - and I question whether the NDP ever saw a Nova Scotia business that they liked - does the NDP recognize that it's Nova Scotia businesses and those employees that make payroll taxes that help sustain all the programs that government provide? Have they ever recognized that and if they do acknowledge that then they should have the courage and audacity to go out and talk to the blue collar worker that pays provincial tax.

MR. SPEAKER: Again, it's not a point of order. The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

MR. STEELE: I'm not sure if that was a spurious point of order or a question, Mr. Speaker. It actually fits in very well with where I was going next. On the Easter weekend I sat in the living room of a young man with a young family in my constituency. If the member wants to go into my constituency, I will take him door knocking on one of the streets. People call Fairview a blue collar community and if that member wants to go door knocking with me, I will gladly do that. I'll go into his constituency, but he has got to come to that food bank to see who's being left out of this government's plan first.

[Page 1461]

Anyway, I was sitting in the living room of this young man and he was laid off from the public sector. He used to work in the public sector, but he was downsized. So he did what I'm sure that member would think was a good thing and he started his own company. We talked a lot. We talked for over an hour about - as a matter of fact, the reason I was sitting in his living room was to start talking about jake brakes because he's one of those people who lives so close to the Bicentennial Highway. I know the member is sympathetic to the issue of jake brakes.

But, we started talking about jake brakes and then ended up talking about what it's like to run a small business in Nova Scotia. So this young man with a young family took his severance money after being laid off from the public sector, laid off under this government from the public sector, took his severance money and he started his own company. I won't name the company because I don't think that's fair to him, but what I will say it's in a service industry. He said that is what is killing him and that if you could ask the government to do one thing, it's to deal with the underground economy.

He's trying to run a legitimate, above-board business where he pays all of his taxes, he pays all of its fees, and he is being killed by people who will do the job for cash under the table for half as much. He does not see any serious effort from this government to deal with that problem. It's people like that, on Central Avenue in Fairview, who are paying their fair share of taxes. It is people like that, on Central Avenue in Fairview, that we need to rely on to grow this economy. It's people like that who deserve all the breaks they can get and that man doesn't see this government doing anything for him. So if the members want to reflect on that, maybe they could think about what they will do for that young man on a street in Fairview who just wants to run a legitimate service business.

Mr. Speaker, as I was talking about, all the pain from this government has come through regressive taxes and user fees, but the reward is being delivered through the income tax system. That's why I said in this House a couple of weeks ago that 5 per cent of Nova Scotians are getting 40 per cent of the benefit. Do you know what? That would be fine if the money had been taken out of people's pockets the same way, but the problem is that's not how it was taken out of their pockets. It was taken out of their pockets unequally, through user fees and regressive taxes like the HST that hit everybody equally. If you delivered the pain through the income tax system, then by all means deliver the punishment through the income tax system, but what they're doing in the Financial Measures (2003) Bill and in the budget, generally, is delivering the pain through regressive taxes and delivering the reward through the income tax system. That's not fair - 300,000 adult Nova Scotians, adult taxpaying Nova Scotians will not get that $155 cheque.

So I have another piece of good advice for the Tories - call the election before those cheques go out, because the people who get the $155 aren't going to say thanks, they're going to say that's my money anyway. The people who don't get it are going to be furious, because one of the things I've learned in my professional career in and around government

[Page 1462]

is that as long as the pain is spread equally, people will put up with a lot of hardship. If everybody is being treated the same, people will just live with it because that's what Nova Scotians do. But nothing upsets people like the idea that they've been treated unfairly.

So what's going to happen in the Eastern Shore, or Colchester North, or in Kings West, when those cheques start going out, is people are going to wave them, they're going to open their mailbox and they're going to say to their neighbour, here's my cheque, did you get yours yet? And 300,000 Nova Scotians are going to say, no, not yet, what cheque? They're going to be furious when they realize they're not going to get it, because 300,000 adult taxpaying Nova Scotians don't earn enough money to get this $155 cheque and they're the ones who need it the most.

If you really want to spur the economy, Mr. Speaker, if you really want to spur the economy what you should do is give it to the most needy among us, because I guarantee you, just like in Fairview, I guarantee you that they will spend that money within four blocks of their house within 24 hours, because they will go to the store and get the food that they couldn't afford. They will pay their back rent, the rent that they owe, because it's pretty darn expensive to live in Halifax. They are going to spend their money within four blocks of their house and they will do it immediately, and they're not going to see a dime from this government.

Finally, Mr. Speaker, on the subject of whether the tax cut is fair or not, I once asked the member for Preston what he's going to say in his community when he goes knocking on doors and he said, well, he's going to tell them that 3,500 people are no longer going to be paying Nova Scotia provincial income tax. Well, that's great until you consider that there are 650,000 to 700,000 taxpaying Nova Scotians. So 3,500 is 0.5 per cent. That means that for every 200 doors that you knock on in the election, you're going to find one person who may have been knocked off the provincial income tax rolls. These 3,500 people are the people who were paying probably $10 or less in income tax anyway, and all they've done is gone from paying very, very, very little, to paying nothing.

So the member for Preston really believes, I guess, because he's under the spell of this illusion just as much as everybody is on that side, that telling people that 3,500 people are going to get knocked off the rolls is actually going to help win him votes, but it's not. First of all, it's only going to apply to one in every 200 households he goes to, and the other reason is that for most people it's going to mean $5 or $10. If that's enough for that member, if that member thinks that he can go on the doorsteps of Preston and say that to win votes, I say good luck to him.

[Page 1463]

[7:30 p.m.]

What we need, Mr. Speaker, when we're considering the Financial Measures (2003) Bill and the budget more generally is a government that understands the realities of today's families, a government that understands the devastation wrought on families that see their assets stripped away when someone needs to go into a long-term care facility, a family that sees their dream of a son or daughter going into university or community college slip away because they can't afford it, a family like one of the families in Fairview that the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley is going to visit that had to choose this winter, they really did have to choose, between filling their oil tank at their house or eating. I hope that the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley has the courage to come out and meet that family.

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. The honourable member did put forward an invitation to me to join him after we visit with some provincial income taxpaying Nova Scotians in both ridings. I will tell you, Mr. Speaker, through you to the honourable member that I agreed to do that provided that that honourable member, in addition, as I'm making an accommodation for him, that he will agree to come with me to MacTara in Upper Musquodoboit, to Taylor Lumber in Middle Musquodoboit, to Irving Sproule Lumber and meet the owners, the employers and the employees at those businesses. I would ask him to come with me, if he will come and meet those employers and employees, I will agree to the request that he has made. He kind of stuck it on as an addendum to my invitation, instead of having the courage . . .

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

MR. TAYLOR: Well he . . .

MR. SPEAKER: I know, but it's infringing upon the honourable member's time.

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, the final illusion in the Financial Measures (2003) Bill is that this government really wants to do something about the casino in a panicked overreaction based on a ridiculous misreading of the contract. That's why, to conclude my remarks tonight, I would like to move "That the motion be amended by removing all the words following 'that' and inserting therefor the words: The health of casino workers deserves the same protection as the health of workers in restaurants and bars."

MR. SPEAKER: I would like to see the amendment that the honourable member has moved, please.

The House will take a five minute recess. We will return at 7:40 p.m.

[Page 1464]

[7:35 p.m. The House recessed.]

[7:41 p.m. The House reconvened.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The bill that's before the House at the present time for second reading, obviously, is the Financial Measures (2003) Bill, which is an omnibus bill. The amendment which the honourable member moved, and I would like to read it, is "That the motion be amended by removing all the words following 'that' and inserting therefor the words: The health of casino workers deserves the same protection as the health of workers in restaurants and bars."

Obviously a reasoned amendment moved in the House in regard to a bill would address the main principle of the bill. With a bill such as the Financial Measures (2003) Bill, in my belief, there is no principle of the bill that is being addressed at this time. He's actually talking about a specific section of the bill, therefore the motion is out of order. (Interruptions)

Order, please.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

MR. JOHN HOLM: I'm not disagreeing or challenging your ruling, I accept it, but I'm seeking your guidance. (Interruptions) They could use it over there too, Mr. Speaker. The guidance I'm seeking is this (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid has the floor.

MR. HOLM: I know that the bill is called the Financial Measures (2003) Bill, but government bills over the last number of years have really become omnibus bills and they've got things in the bill that really have nothing to do with financial measures. So what I'm seeking your guidance on is what is the main principle of this bill, because it deals with so many things that have absolutely nothing to do with financial measures?

MR. SPEAKER: I'm not disagreeing with the honourable member, but we're going to move right along here. I can think of some amendments myself that would be acceptable in regard to a bill like this, but obviously I'm not going to pass them along to the honourable member tonight. (Interruptions) I think there are certain occasions where an amendment could have been moved and would have been accepted, but certainly not in this case.

The honourable member for Cape Breton South has the floor.

[Page 1465]

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, it's a pleasure to stand here in my place this evening and join in the Financial Measures (2003) Bill debate on second reading. I guess I could say a lot of things about this bill, like it's a bill of great contradictions, a bill that contains a lot of sleight of hand, a bill that could be accurately named the Tory "spin city" bill, complete with chequebook politics. I believe the government, with this bill, is trying to hoodwink Nova Scotians. I believe that Nova Scotians will certainly see through that and will reflect that when this government has the nerve to call an election.

I'm going to start my remarks, Mr. Speaker, by quoting a couple of statements here from Hansard. The first one being a statement made on Tuesday, April 17, 2001, by the Premier. The statement is, the Premier says, "Mr. Speaker, what I will confirm is that a year from now this government will introduce a balanced budget, and from that day onward the debt of this province will no longer grow." The debt of this province will no longer grow. The Premier said that. Premier Hamm said that and it's a great misrepresentation of the facts, and I'm being kind in saying that's what it was. As we stand and sit in our places here today, the debt is growing. It's grown up by $500 million since this government took office, to the point where it's going to reach $12 billion next year and the Finance Minister is projecting that the debt will go up for the next seven years in this province. Yet the government is trying to hoodwink Nova Scotians into thinking they've got a balanced budget.

[7:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, another quote from the Finance Minister: 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. Well, they are the facts and that same Finance Minister is here doing it to Nova Scotians again, only the sad part of that is that he's not going to be around to answer when this government is called to account for the huge debt they continue to foist on the people of Nova Scotia. Those are statements made by the Premier of this province who said the debt would not grow another nickel in this province and he misrepresented the facts because the debt is growing. This government is trying to tell Nova Scotians this year that they're balancing the books when at the same time they're borrowing another $118 million. Nova Scotians aren't being fooled by that.

Mr. Speaker, the Financial Measures (2003) Bill has become a centrepiece of this government's last gasp before going to the polls. What they haven't explained to Nova Scotians is, what they've said is we're going to give you a cheque in June, that's the rum- bottle politics we're talking about here, they're going to try to buy your vote, and then they're going to give you a 10 per cent tax break next year, January 1st, but what they're not saying is that that doesn't apply to all Nova Scotians. Quite a few Nova Scotians are not going to realize the benefit of that, but what is true is that every Nova Scotian has had their pockets picked by this government in the past three years.

[Page 1466]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. That's unparliamentary and I would ask the honourable member to retract that, please.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Well, if they didn't have their pockets picked, they've been taxed to death or user-fee'd to death in the past couple of years, how's that?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. That's fine.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Maybe they had their wallets emptied, maybe that would suit the House, their wallets have been emptied by this government in user fees in the past couple of years.

Another statement the Premier made, you know, the Premier stands in this House and says that he met all his commitments. He also made a commitment, Mr. Speaker, to this House and to the people of Nova Scotia that he would not increase taxes in this province except for cigarette and tobacco taxes and what did he do? That statement wasn't out very long before he allowed a 2 cent a litre increase on gasoline taxes in this province, a direct contradiction to what he said he was going to do. He said there would be no tax increases. He misled Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, in addition to that this same Premier has flip-flopped on a number of important policy issues in this province - Sunday shopping for one, the issue with smoking in public places for another. He has not addressed the problems that people are facing in this province with high insurance rates. This government hasn't come within light years of trying to do anything about that except to put a study group out there that's going to carry them past the next election and then they will do nothing about the report that the group will come in with. We know that. That's another sleight of hand. They have no intentions of trying to relieve Nova Scotians of the burden of increased insurance, increased oil costs, increased licence fees. As I've said, they've user-fee'd the people of Nova Scotia where they can't stand it any more in terms of their financial ability to pay. People are hurting in this province and this government is only interested in one thing - is trying to (Interruption) The member for Colchester says giving them a break. Taking money from them in one hand and giving them half back in the other hand, that's giving them a break. They're giving them their own money back.

It's not even half back, Mr. Speaker, but I can tell you that the government completely ignored Nova Scotians' plea for tax breaks when the federal tax break came down in the year 2000. They didn't let that pass through. Every other province did, but Nova Scotia didn't. They kept it. There's another word I could use on that but I know I won't get away with it if I use it tonight. But, they kept that money and now they're trying to give some of it back and say, on the eve of an election, aren't we wonderful? We're going to give some money back to the people of Nova Scotia on the eve of an election.

[Page 1467]

How cynical. How stupid do they think Nova Scotians are that they're going to buy that, they're going to buy that on the eve of an election; they're going to try to buy their vote and then they're going to come up with a 10 per cent tax decrease on provincial tax only next January 1st, which means that anybody making $30,000 a year or less is not going to see hardly any improvement in their tax situation next year.

Who's going to receive the benefit of the 10 per cent tax decrease the most? Those that are making the most money and paying the most provincial income tax. So when those members go looking to get re-elected, let them tell the people the truth in their areas - that unless you make a great deal of money, you're not going to see a great deal of benefit from that 10 per cent tax decrease in provincial taxes.

I'm going to digress for a moment, but I'm going to come back at some point to the financial picture here. What I want to digress to is trades training. There have to be improvements in the trades training apprenticeship program - we all agree with that. Indeed, we need to ensure that the needs of existing and anticipated new employers and the potential for great career opportunities for Nova Scotians in skilled trades exist. Industry and business are anticipating the number of certificates of qualification being issued each year will need to triple by the year 2007.

There is, however, concern with this Act. The fees for training, exams and certification. I'm coming back to fees again because no matter what you talk about with this government it comes back to money, money that taxpayers are being relieved of to satisfy the insatiable appetite of this government; the fact that this government now wants to be generous after charging just about every user fee they could possibly come up with in this province.

Many Nova Scotians who want to become trades people will soon be paying higher fees because the province is expanding its apprenticeship program for industries such as construction. I hope this doesn't send a mixed signal, Mr. Speaker. On the one hand you want more young people to choose the apprenticeship program, but on the other you are charging more for it in the amount of fees they'll be expected to pay. Fees for registration, exams. For example, we know that the cost of a one week training course will jump to $70 from $40. Registration for the program, by the way which used to be free, will now be $100. Another $100 out of the pockets of the people who want to access that program.

As well, the businesses that hire apprentices will have to pay $1,000 accreditation fee every five years and an annual credit fee of $500 - another tax. In other words, the government is doing nothing for people. What they're doing is charging for everything. If you want the course, you have to pay for it, like everything else of this government. Not only do you have to pay for it, but you have to pay increased costs. The government talks about the fees as a cost recovery program and how all the revenue generated from the fees will go directly back into the apprenticeship program.

[Page 1468]

Another measure in this bill which has stirred up controversy and will eventually make the government change its mind yet again, I believe, is the provision that makes it easier to cave in to the casinos' demands to be exempt from smoking legislation. The bottom line here is that the government has given into the casinos' demands without a fight. The minister has given away his position, publicly here in the House. During Question Period yesterday I asked the Premier the question about the health aspect of it. The Premier, who is a former doctor, deflected the question to the Finance Minister. I didn't want an answer from the Finance Minister as to the financial implications. I wanted an answer from the Premier on the health problems facing casino workers from second-hand smoke. That's the question I wanted the Premier to answer. Being a medical doctor, he should have had the courtesy to answer that from a medical perspective, and if he cared about the workers who are working in that casino, he would give them the same protection that other workers in other public places are going to get. But he didn't, he deflected the question to the Minister of Finance because he didn't want to answer the question.

Mr. Speaker, with negotiating skills like this government have in tipping their hand on this issue, it's no wonder they lost the Laurentian Sub-basin debate with Newfoundland. I can give you other examples about the great debates that this Premier has lost. His campaign for fairness went nowhere, and he wasted valuable time and money and resources of this province to get absolutely nowhere. It's no wonder that the offshore is at a standstill.

Mr. Speaker, this bill before the House on the casino simply raises a white flag without standing up for Nova Scotians. Does anybody really believe that this casino is going to walk if the province plays hardball with them?

AN HON. MEMBER: It's not even hardball, it's softball.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: They're making money. Even if they play softball with them. That casino is making a fortune down there. They have it good here, they're right in the heart of a Maritime convention centre. Why not put them on the same playing field as all the other businesses? No smoking in public places, not a half-hearted measure to exempt businesses in this province at the expense of other businesses - put everybody on the same playing field.

I can't get an answer out of the Premier on what he's going to do on this; I've tried a couple of times now. The Finance Minister keeps talking about a previous deal. Well, that deal was done by a different government at a different point in time with a different set of circumstances. We're talking about tough anti-smoking legislation that has come up with municipalities who are light-years ahead of this government in terms of their insistence that the public be protected in this province. You can't blame trying to protect people in this province now on a previous government of a number of years ago.

[Page 1469]

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

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: I certainly will, and I certainly will be back tomorrow to pick it up from there, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is to adjourn debate.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[The motion is carried.]

MR. SPEAKER: 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 9:00 a.m. The House will probably sit until 2:00 p.m., certainly no later than 2:00 p.m. The first four hours will be Supply, and then we will have up to an hour on Bill No. 36. I move the House do now rise.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that the House adjourn until 9:00 a.m.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The House is adjourned until 9:00 a.m.

[The House rose at 7:58 p.m.]

[Page 1470]

NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)

RESOLUTION NO. 851

By: Mrs. Muriel Baillie (Pictou West)

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

Whereas our flag is not only a symbol of our country's land and its people but also its values; and

Whereas each February people across this great country gather together to express pride in our nation each National Flag Day; and

Whereas at the River John Consolidated School, 40 guests representing local organizations and the general public gathered to listen to Eureka resident Dr. Ellen McLean talk about our flag, which represents us as a people regardless of our background or our ancestry;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House commend the people of River John for taking the time to recognize National Flag Day, a day to show our pride in our country and our flag.

RESOLUTION NO. 852

By: Mr. William Dooks (Eastern Shore)

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

Whereas the Elizabeth Ann Seton Awards, recognizing service to others, were recently handed out at a dinner at Mount Saint Vincent University; and

Whereas one of those honoured at the event was Sister of Charity member since 1962, Sister Cecelia Sacca who is parish administrator at St. Peter's Parish in Sheet Harbour; and

Whereas she also spent time in Mount Uniacke overseeing the expansion of a local church and assisting parishioners in its construction and raising donations for the furnishings;

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Therefore be it resolved that all the members of this House congratulate Sister Cecelia Sacca on receiving the Elizabeth Ann Seton Award and thank her for all her work and dedication to her community.

RESOLUTION NO. 853

By: Mr. Kerry Morash (Queens)

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

Whereas school science fairs are something that students look forward to all year, giving them a chance to showcase what they've learned in a practical way; and

Whereas South Queens Junior High School recently held its science fair with awards for Grade 8 given to Geoffrey Mason (gold), Marta Barrett (silver) and Emily Morraz and Kayla Ingram (bronze); and

Whereas honourable mentions were awarded to Justin Doucette, Tommy Ireland, Brittany Davison and Charlie Doucette;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the students who participated in the South Queens Junior High School science fair and wish them all success in their future endeavours.

RESOLUTION NO. 854

By: Mr. Kerry Morash (Queens)

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

Whereas school science fairs are something that students look forward to all year, giving them a chance to showcase what they've learned in a practical way; and

Whereas South Queens Junior High School recently held its science fair with awards for Grade 9 given to Jessica Wentzell and Lindsey Soper - who also received the highest marks at the fair - Jonathan Hartt, Dave Atchison, Keighan O'Laughlin, Hannah Connolly, Catherine Wolfe, Kaillin Fralic, Nathan Dagley, and J.D. Hatt (gold); Andrew Hogg and Parker Marshall, Kaylee MacKenzie, Amy Ingram, Ryan Whynot, Nathan Wamboldt, Casey Conrad, Amanda Dalby and Lisa Hanley, Kerri Fralic, Matthew Plummer, Amanda Cookem, Josie Awkar, Megan Chandler and Lindsey Hatt, Janelle Loader, Kate Ingram, Tasha Miller, and Jackie Oickle (silver); and

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Whereas Brittany Whynot, Christine Cooke, Rose Gohier, Tanya Fralic, Nick Handspiker, Mitch Harlow, Ryan Grezaud, Jonathan Whynot, Jennifer Cosby, Elan Snarby, Nick Dagley, Dylan Killam, Sara Rhuland, Jessica Munroe, Ashley Oickle, Dawn Schrader, Zachary Neilson, Joe Hatt, Jeremy Whynot, and Ryan Foster (bronze); honourable mentions were awarded to Tim Roberts, Brittany Conrad, Amber MacLeod, Ryan Whynot, and Max Lingley;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the students who participated in the South Queens Junior High School science fair and wish them all success in their future endeavours.

RESOLUTION NO. 855

By: Mr. Kerry Morash (Queens)

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

Whereas school science fairs are something that students look forward to all year, giving them a chance to showcase what they've learned in a practical way; and

Whereas South Queens Junior High School recently held its science fair with awards for Grade 7 given to Jacob Roberts (gold); Nick Whynot and Jonathan Snow (silver); and Elvis Martinez (bronze); and

Whereas honourable mentions were awarded to Evan Rafuse, Mike Shawn, Ben Smith, Crystal Weagle, Amanda Harlow, Sean Koppernoes, Ben Woodford, Brandon Leslie, Cody Ingram and Nathan Munroe;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the students who participated in the South Queens Junior High School science fair and wish them all success in their future endeavours.

RESOLUTION NO. 856

By: Mr. Mark Parent (Kings North)

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

Whereas Phillip Brown was the big winner at this year's provincial Special Olympic Winter Games held at 12 Wing Shearwater; and

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Whereas the Kentville resident won six gold medals in the 111-, 222-, 333-, 500- and 1,000-metre speed-skating races and for top overall performance in speed-skating; and

Whereas these medals bring the total of awards Phillip has won for speed-skating over the past 10 years to an incredible number of 81;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join me in congratulating Phillip Brown on his formidable showing this year at the provincial Special Olympic Winter Games and wish him continued success in his athletic endeavours.

RESOLUTION NO. 857

By: Hon. Ronald Russell (Environment and Labour)

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

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

Whereas the young business owners who received the prizes were chosen by regional selection teams who evaluated the participants' end-of-season reports then recommended them for the scholarships; and

Whereas Grace Adekola of Windsor, a Saint Mary's University student, received one of these awards for her business, Grace, at which she designs and produces jewellery;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House commend the initiative of all those who received the Youth Entrepreneur Scholarships and wish them continued success in all their future endeavours.

RESOLUTION NO. 858

By: Mr. Cecil O'Donnell (Shelburne)

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

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

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Whereas the young business owners who received the prizes were chosen by regional selection teams who evaluated the participants' end-of-season reports then recommended them for the scholarships; and

Whereas Franklin Malone, Jr. of Wood's Harbour, a student at Barrington Municipal High School, received one of these awards for his business, Rockweed, which last summer harvested rockweed;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House commend the initiative of all those who received the Youth Entrepreneur Scholarships and wish them continued success in all their future endeavours.