Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

Les travaux de la Chambre ont repris le
21 septembre 2017

HANSARD 03-22

DEBATES AND PROCEEDINGS

Speaker: Honourable Murray Scott

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

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

Annual subscriptions available from the Office of the Speaker.

Third Session

TUESDAY, APRIL 29, 2003

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS:
Standing Committees of the House of Assembly, Hon. R. Russell 1579
Anl. Rept. of the Nova Scotia Health Research Foundation,
Hon. J. Purves 1580
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 922, Vol. Recognition Wk. (27/04-03/05/03) - Acknowledge,
Hon. J. Purves 1580
Vote - Affirmative 1581
Res. 923, Barkhouse, Aaron: Rhodes Scholarship - Congrats.,
Hon. A. MacIsaac 1581
Vote - Affirmative 1581
Res. 924, Educ.: Healthy/Active Lifestyles Progs. - Encourage,
Hon. A. MacIsaac 1582
Vote - Affirmative 1582
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 42, Municipal Government Act, Mr. H. Epstein 1582
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 925, Pratt, John: Death of - Tribute, (by Mr. F. Corbett),
Mr. H. Epstein 1583
Vote - Affirmative 1583
Res. 926, Membertou First Nation - C.B. DHA: Donation - Thank,
Mr. Manning MacDonald 1583
Vote - Affirmative 1584
Res. 927, N. Nova Educ. Ctr.: Future Stud. Coun. - Congrats.,
Mr. J. DeWolfe 1584
Vote - Affirmative 1585
Res. 928, People First (N.S.): Efforts - Congrats., Mr. D. Dexter 1585
Vote - Affirmative 1586
Res. 929, Dugas, Jeffrey: Bowling Medal - Congrats., Mr. W. Gaudet 1586
Vote - Affirmative 1586
Res. 930, Anna. Valley Heritage Soc. - Macdonald Museum:
Preservation - Efforts Commend, Mr. F. Chipman 1587
Vote - Affirmative 1587
Res. 931, Family Caregivers Association (N.S.): Contribution -
Commend, Mr. J. Pye 1587
Vote - Affirmative 1588
Res. 932, WCB - Dorsey Rept. Action: Election Votes - Undeserved,
Mr. P. MacEwan 1588
Res. 933, Bond, Carol & Tom - Cancer Survivors: Contribution -
Congrats., Ms. M. McGrath 1589
Vote - Affirmative 1589
Res. 934, Coxworthy, Trina: HRM Vol. Award - Congrats.,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 1590
Vote - Affirmative 1590
Res. 935, Dugas, Justin: Bowling Medal - Congrats., Mr. W. Gaudet 1590
Vote - Affirmative 1591
Res. 936, Best, Joey: Boxing Medal - Congrats., Mr. M. Parent 1591
Vote - Affirmative 1592
Res. 937, Johnson, Dan: Fundraising - Congrats., Mr. K. Deveaux 1592
Vote - Affirmative 1592
Res. 938, Gillis, Phonse: NSSBA Educ. Wk. Award - Congrats.,
Mr. M. Samson 1593
Vote - Affirmative 1593
Res. 939, A-1 Tires: RRFB Tire Retailer of Yr. - Congrats., Hon. J. Muir 1593
Vote - Affirmative 1594
Res. 940, Cole Hbr. Hist. Revue - Colby Village Elem. Sch.:
Production - Congrats., Mr. K. Deveaux 1594
Vote - Affirmative 1595
Res. 941, Man./N.S.: Gov't.s - Differences, Mr. D. Wilson 1595
Res. 942, Morrissey, Kelly: HRM Vol. Award - Congrats.,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 1596
Vote - Affirmative 1596
Res. 943, Transport. & Pub. Wks.: Morrison & Broughton Rds. -
Repave, Mr. R. MacKinnon 1596
Res. 944, Fin. - Min.: Abandonment - Recognize, Mr. M. Samson 1597
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 196, Insurance - Rate Increases: Prevention - Lack Explain,
Mr. D. Dexter 1598
No. 197, Educ. - Nat'l. Testing: Funding - Effects, Mr. D. Wilson 1599
No. 198, Insurance: Consumers - Protect, Mr. F. Corbett 1600
No. 199, WCB - CEO: Termination - Details, Mr. R. MacKinnon 1601
No. 200, Insurance - Rate Increases: Action - Explain, Mr. D. Dexter 1602
No. 201, Health - West Nile Virus: Policy - Release,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 1603
No. 202, Fin. - Casinos: Smoking Bylaws - Exemption Explain,
Dr. J. Smith 1604
No. 203, Health - Mosquitoes: Larvicides - Usage Details,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 1606
No. 204, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Forest Dr. (Col. Co.): Listing -
Assure, Mr. W. Estabrooks 1607
No. 205, Prem. - Leadership/Integrity Questions: Answers -
Lack Explain, Mr. Manning MacDonald 1608
No. 206, Commun. Serv. - Income Assistance: Recipients - Fin. Status,
Mr. J. Pye 1611
No. 207, Health - Wadi Alarab Inspection - Details, Dr. J. Smith 1613
No. 208, Health - Nursing Strategy: Inadequacy - Admit,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 1614
No. 209, Environ. & Lbr. - Dorsey Rept.: Action - Time Frame,
Mr. P. MacEwan 1615
No. 210, Environ. & Lbr. - Off-Road Vehicles: Environmental Impact -^
Canvass, Mr. J. MacDonell 1616
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 36, Financial Measures (2003) Act 1618
Amendment [debate resumed] 1618
Mr. J. MacDonell 1618
Dr. J. Smith 1624
Mr. Robert Chisholm 1637
Mr. R. MacKinnon 1648
Mr. B. Boudreau 1663
Mr. J. Pye 1674
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Transport. & Pub. Wks. : Rural Roads - Condition:
Mr. P. MacEwan 1680
Mr. J. Chataway 1683
Mr. W. Estabrooks 1686
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 36, Financial Measures (2003) Act 1689
Amendment [debate resumed] 1689
Mr. J. Pye 1689
Adjourned debate 1697
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Wed., Apr. 30th at 2:00 p.m. 1698
NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3):
Res. 945, Martin, Yvonne: Curling Title - Congrats., Mr. M. Parent 1699
Res. 946, RRFB - Recycling Contest: Winners - Congrats.,
Mr. M. Parent 1699
Res. 947, Minas Basin Pulp & Power: Environmental Certification -
Congrats., Hon. R. Russell 1700
Res. 948, Collier, Bradley: Youth Entrepreneur Scholarship - Congrats.,
Hon. P. Christie 1700

[Page 1579]

HALIFAX, TUESDAY, APRIL 29, 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 Cape Breton South:

Therefore be it resolved that rural roads are in deplorable condition.

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

We will begin the daily routine.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Deputy Premier.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table the list for the Standing Committees of the House of Assembly as compiled by the Committees Office.

1579

[Page 1580]

MR. SPEAKER: The document is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Health.

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table the Annual Report for the Nova Scotia Health Research Foundation, Moving Forward, for the year ended 2002.

MR. SPEAKER: The report is tabled.

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health.

RESOLUTION NO. 922

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

Whereas volunteers in Nova Scotia are an integral part of the health care system, offering care to patients across the province and helping to raise funds that pay for equipment, resources and renovations; and

Whereas every year in Nova Scotia almost 7,000 people volunteer with Nova Scotia's hospital and health centre foundations; and

Whereas this week, April 27th to May 3rd, has been declared Volunteer Recognition Week;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House acknowledge and thank those Nova Scotians who generously give their time to help people at their time of need.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

[Page 1581]

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Education.

RESOLUTION NO. 923

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

Whereas Aaron Barkhouse has become the 82nd Dalhousie University student to receive a Rhodes Scholarship - the most prestigious of the Commonwealth - to attend Oxford University in England; and

Whereas graduating in May 2003 with an Honours B.Sc. in Physics, Mr. Barkhouse has been a starter for the Dal Tigers men's varsity soccer team since 1999, an academic all-Canadian throughout his university career and a tutor at Gorsebrook Junior High School, all the while maintaining a GPA of over 4.2; and

Whereas this isn't the first time Mr. Barkhouse has been acknowledged for his talents - Dalhousie has awarded him with the JDS Uniphase scholarship in Optics and Photonics, the Lucent Global Science scholarship and the W. Andrew MacKay Alumni scholarship;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this Legislature join me in congratulating Aaron Barkhouse on the receipt of the revered Rhodes Scholarship and wish him continued success in his studies and sport in Britain.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Education.

[Page 1582]

RESOLUTION NO. 924

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

Whereas this week, we're celebrating Education Week in Nova Scotia with the theme of physical education, stimulating the mind and the body; and

Whereas every day educators across this province are teaching our students the importance of healthy, active lifestyles through the physical education curriculum and other activities within the school and community; and

Whereas our Active School Community pilot projects, like the one launched at J.L. Ilsley High School last Friday, are involving the entire community of students, teachers, staff, parents and health and recreation professionals in a joint effort to increase the physical activity of our young people;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House applaud the dedication of school teachers and staff, and encourage all Nova Scotians to lead more healthy, active lives.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

Bill No. 42 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 18 of the Acts of 1998. The Municipal Government Act. (Mr. Howard Epstein)

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

[Page 1583]

NOTICES OF MOTION

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

RESOLUTION NO. 925

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

Whereas Canada is saddened by the passing on April 6th of John Pratt, a Canadian icon from the Second World War's Battle of the Atlantic; and

Whereas John Pratt, a former MP, Mayor of Dorval, architect and Expo 67 Commissioner, gained fame as a wartime entertainer; and

Whereas many will remember him in the wartime film reels, a tall, gangling sailor in overalls, mop in hand, singing of the hardships of war in the humourous ditty, "You'll Get Used To It";

Therefore be it resolved that this House mourns the passing of John Pratt, entertainer and Canadian icon of the Second World War, and sends its regrets to his fans, family and friends.

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. 926

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

[Page 1584]

Whereas the Membertou First Nation donated $25,000 for new X-ray equipment to the Cape Breton District Health Authority; and

Whereas this is the largest donation the band has ever made; and

Whereas the donation by the Membertou Band brings the hospital foundation closer to its $3 million goal;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize and sincerely thank the Membertou First Nation for their $25,000 donation for X-ray equipment to the people of Cape Breton.

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. 927

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 members of the future student council of the new North Nova Education Centre got together recently to voice their opinions and concerns about building a school community ; and

Whereas 12 students pre-elected to represent their future schoolmates came together for a two-day workshop to get to know each other and to establish a framework on how they would like to see their student council operate; and

Whereas the new school will hold a combination of students from East Pictou Rural High School, Trenton High School and New Glasgow High School;

[Page 1585]

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join me in extending congratulations to the members of the future student council of the North Nova Education Centre for their commitment to establishing good communications and relationships with their future classmates.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 928

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

Whereas People First Nova Scotia works tirelessly as an advocate for people with learning disabilities; and

Whereas this organization will hold its 13th annual general meeting and conference on May 9th to May 11th at the Holiday Inn Harbourview in Dartmouth; and

Whereas the conference will highlight the Renewal Initiative for the Community Supports for Adults Program and share stories of how the program impacts lives;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate People First Nova Scotia, the board of directors and the members for the excellent work it is doing to promote equality for all persons who may fall through the cracks without this strong support system.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 1586]

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Leader in the House of the Liberal Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 929

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

Whereas Jeffrey Dugas of New Edinburgh, Digby County, a grade four student at École Joseph Dugas participated in the provincial bowling council tournament in March at Shearwater; and

Whereas Jeffrey had the high bantam single game score of 284 and won the gold medal in the bantam boys division; and

Whereas Jeffrey will now compete this weekend, May 3rd to May 5th, on the Nova Scotia bowling team at the national competition in Regina, Saskatchewan;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Jeffrey Dugas on his gold medal achievement and wish him all the best in his upcoming national competition.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Annapolis.

[Page 1587]

RESOLUTION NO. 930

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

Whereas Middleton was the home of the first consolidated school in Canada; and

Whereas the old Macdonald Consolidated School building was built in 1903 and served as a school until 1979 and now, through the efforts of the Annapolis Valley Historical Society and with the support of the provincial government, the building has been transformed into the Annapolis Valley Macdonald Museum; and

Whereas throughout this year many events are being held to commemorate the building's centennial, with hopes of drawing locals and visitors alike to the museum;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House commend the efforts of local heritage societies like the Annapolis Valley Heritage Society in preserving historical treasures like the Macdonald Museum.

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 North.

RESOLUTION NO. 931

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

Whereas the Family Caregivers' Association of Nova Scotia is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing support and promoting the efforts of caregivers; and

[Page 1588]

[12:15 p.m.]

Whereas there are approximately 85,000 caregivers throughout the Province of Nova Scotia who care for spouses, children and extended family members and friends; and

Whereas the Family Caregivers' Association of Nova Scotia will celebrate Caregiver Week beginning May 11th , with a caregiver luncheon at the Dartmouth Holiday Inn;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House commend the Family Caregivers' Association of Nova Scotia and all the dedicated caregivers throughout the province for their valued contribution to society.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

RESOLUTION NO. 932

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

Whereas this government received a 390-page report entitled, The Nova Scotia Workers' Compensation Program - a Focused Review, from an eight-member committee headed by James Dorsey, Q.C. as Chair; and

Whereas this report contained 54 recommendations for action, divided into 10 chapters, was submitted after much work 13 months ago, and this government has so far acted on only one of them dealing with supplementary benefits; and

Whereas at this rate, it will take this government 54 years or more to deal with the 54 recommendations of this committee;

[Page 1589]

Therefore be it resolved that any government that takes 54 years to deal with a report it has received, does not deserve a vote at the coming election to be held, we believe, in the month of June.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Bedford Basin.

RESOLUTION NO. 933

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 breast cancer survivor and owner of New Woman Prosthetics & Apparel, Carol Bond, and her husband, Tom, hosted the 6th and final, In the Pink Fun & Fashion Show on April 27th ;and

Whereas this fashion show featured breast cancer survivors modeling the latest post-mastectomy fashions provided by New Woman Prosthetics & Apparel, and clothing from Paula's Fashions in Bedford; and

Whereas this event has raised $20,000 for the Canadian Cancer Society's Nova Scotia Division for Breast Cancer Research during the event's history;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join me in congratulating Carol and Tom Bond for their outstanding contribution to women who are fighting, and winning, the war against breast cancer.

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.

[Page 1590]

RESOLUTION NO. 934

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

Whereas volunteers play an important and vital role in our communities; and

Whereas Trina Coxworthy of Terence Bay has provided valuable leadership through her volunteer efforts; and

Whereas Trina received the Halifax Regional Municipality Volunteer Award at City Hall on Sunday, April 27th;

Therefore be it resolved that this Nova Scotia Legislature offer its congratulations to Trina Coxworthy of Terence Bay on receiving the Halifax Regional Municipality Volunteer Award and thank her for her many hours of volunteerism.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Leader in the House of the Liberal Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 935

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

Whereas Justin Dugas of New Edinburgh, Digby County, a Grade 8 student at École Secondaire de Clare, participated in the Provincial Bowling Council Tournament in March at Shearwater; and

Whereas Justin returned home with a gold medal after winning the junior boys division; and

[Page 1591]

Whereas Justin will now compete this weekend of May 3rd to May 5th on the Nova Scotia bowling team at the national competition in Regina, Saskatchewan;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Justin Dugas on his gold medal achievement and wish him all the best in his upcoming national competition.

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 Kings North.

RESOLUTION NO. 936

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

Whereas Hall's Harbour boxer, Joey Best, is one of the best amateur boxers in Canada; and

Whereas the 16-year-old's gold medal win at the Canadian Junior C Boxing Championships is the first in the 18-year history of the Evangeline Trail Amateur Boxing Club; and

Whereas the boxer's coach, Bryan Gibson, says that the biggest part of Joey's game is his conditioning - so anyone who fights him better be in good shape or they won't last long;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join me in congratulating Joey Best on winning a gold medal at the Canadian Junior C Boxing Championships and wish him continued success in his boxing career.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 1592]

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. 937

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

Whereas National Volunteer Week is the perfect time to honour Dan Johnson, perhaps the pre-eminent volunteer in the Eastern Passage community; and

Whereas Mr. Johnson has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years for the visually impaired through his annual type-a-thon; and

Whereas this year's type-a-thon will be held in Sir Frederick Fraser School, across from the IWK Hospital, on Thursday, May 15th and will be attended by the Lieutenant Governor;

Therefore be it resolved that this House praise Dan Johnson of Eastern Passage for his sterling efforts on behalf of the visually impaired and every success for his annual type-a-thon on May 15th.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

[Page 1593]

The honourable member for Richmond.

RESOLUTION NO. 938

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

Whereas the week of April 29 to May 2, 2003 is Education Week in the Province of Nova Scotia; and

Whereas Phonse Gillis, director of education with the Strait Regional School Board has been selected by the Nova Scotia School Boards Association to receive the NSSBA Education Week Partner Award; and

Whereas Mr. Gillis will be honoured at the Provincial Education Week awards ceremony this afternoon at Sackville Heights Junior High School;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Mr. Gillis on being selected to receive the NSSBA Education Week Partner Award for his commitment to excellence in education for the Strait Regional School Board.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Justice.

RESOLUTION NO. 939

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

Whereas A-1 Tires Ltd. of Truro has been named Tire Retailer of the Year by the Resource Recovery Fund Board of Nova Scotia; and

[Page 1594]

Whereas the award recognizes a business which has made a significant contribution to the protection of Nova Scotia's environment; and

Whereas A-1 Tires Ltd. is locally owned and operated by Frank Atkinson and his sons - Earle, Joe and Ross - and is celebrating its 25th Anniversary in 2003;

Therefore be it resolved that all members congratulate A-1 Tires Ltd. on being named Tire Retailer of the Year by the Resource Recovery Fund Board and thank the Atkinson family and their employees for helping make Nova Scotia a world leader in waste reduction.

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 Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

RESOLUTION NO. 940

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

Whereas the 4Cs Foundation builds meaningful relationships between public schools and their communities through fine arts projects; and

Whereas one such worthy project is the Cole Harbour Historical Revue being staged at Colby Village Elementary School under director Leana Todd and producer and chair of the Colby Village Elementary School Student Advisory Council, Lorelei Nicoll; and

Whereas notable mention must also go out to script writer Elizabeth Corser of the Cole Harbour Rural Heritage Society and to the many other folks who gave of their time and effort to bring the production to the stage;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Colby Village Elementary School and all the participants and families involved in staging the production, the Cole Harbour Historical Revue with the assistance of Andrea Puzhkar of the 4Cs Foundation.

[Page 1595]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Glace Bay.

RESOLUTION NO. 941

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

Whereas Manitoba is a Prairie Province while Nova Scotia is not; and

Whereas Manitoba is home to one of the largest concentrations of polar bears in the world, Nova Scotia is not; and

Whereas Manitoba borders Hudson Bay, Nova Scotia does not;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize that in addition to the above differences, Manitoba has an NDP Government, Nova Scotia never will.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

[Page 1596]

RESOLUTION NO. 942

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

Whereas this week is a time to celebrate the many volunteers who enrich our communities; and

Whereas one such volunteer is Kelly Morrissey of Hatchet Lake whose valuable leadership deserves recognition; and

Whereas Kelly received a Halifax Regional Municipality Volunteer Award at City Hall on Sunday, April 27th;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House offer their congratulations to Kelly Morrissey, of Hatchet Lake, on receiving the Halifax Regional Municipality Volunteer Award and thank her for her many hours of volunteerism.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

RESOLUTION NO. 943

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 Morrison Road and Broughton Road, Cape Breton County, are in a deplorable state; and

Whereas motorists travelling these roadways are incurring considerable repair bills because of damage caused by the state of these roadways; and

[Page 1597]

Whereas the Minister of Transportation and Public Works boasts of increased funding in his department for road construction, repair and capital improvements;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Transportation and Public Works commit sufficient funds to repair and repave the Broughton Road and the Morrison Road.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Richmond.

RESOLUTION NO. 944

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

Whereas the Finance Minister's parting gift to Nova Scotians is more debt and more debt-servicing charges; and

Whereas thanks to this Finance Minister, Nova Scotia now spends more on debt service charges than it does on education, but yet the minister thinks it's okay to borrow more than his government earns; and

Whereas the Finance Minister has so much faith in his budget that he will not be putting his name on the ballot in the next election because, as the old saying goes, "the writing is on the wall";

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize that the Minister of Finance is voting with his feet, knowing full well that Nova Scotians will not forgive him for jeopardizing the education system with higher debt and debt-servicing, while encouraging the Tory caucus to question why their Finance Minister is abandoning them just before an election.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: Question Period will begin at 12:27 p.m. and end at 1:27 p.m.

The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

[Page 1598]

INSURANCE - RATE INCREASES:

PREVENTION - LACK EXPLAIN

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, car insurance rates have shot up by 65 per cent by December, yet Nova Scotians are getting hit now with more rate hikes. In the past few days insurance companies have given notice that they are raising the rates even higher. Co-operators is going up by 15 per cent on average, Citadel will go up by 12.9 per cent, and Economical Mutual will go up by 10.1 per cent. So I want to ask the minister responsible for the skyrocketing insurance rates, why hasn't your government prevented these additional increases?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, as the honourable member, I'm sure, is aware, the URB has completed their review of insurance rates and we expect their report very shortly.

MR. DEXTER: Well, you know something, Mr. Speaker? The insurance industry isn't waiting for the URB decision; in fact the insurance industry had decided to take decisive action. The insurance industry is cranking up the auto insurance rates ever higher. This government is sitting on its hands instead of actually lowering auto insurance rates. So I want to ask the minister responsible for skyrocketing insurance rates to tell the industry that, come what may, these increases will be cancelled.

MR. RUSSELL: I will tell the honourable member that the file will be handled.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the industry knows that the latest increases insulate companies from the possibility of an unfavourable decision from the URB. For the industry, it's the old saying, "heads they win, tails we lose." The industry knows that they can increase rates before and after the URB decision. The Legislature can halt these skyrocketing rates, but this government just offers excuses and delays. So I want to ask the minister, why is the government so eager to give the insurance industry a green light for more increases in auto insurance rates?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I know that the New Democratic Party believes that all problems can be solved very rapidly; no problem is too complex for the NDP to handle

in two minutes. Well, government has to be responsible. Government will take the required actions to solve this problem.

[Page 1599]

[12:30 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

EDUC. - NAT'L. TESTING: FUNDING - EFFECTS

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Education. Earlier this year, the Minister of Education announced assessment results for our children across the province. In the minister's Report to Parents 2002, it states, "Overall, student performance in the Junior High Mathematics Program Assessment was very weak, and much below expectations for grade 8 students." The simple fact of the matter is our students compete with New Brunswick, Ontario and Alberta for university and job placements. My question to the minister is, when will the minister admit that his and the former minister's failure to fund our education system is a major factor in our poor results in that national testing?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, the likelihood of me acquiescing to his request is highly unlikely. However, if he were prepared to accept the responsibility that they had when they were government for their failures in education, then perhaps we will discuss it.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, this is not a time for smug answers. This is a time for answers. Again, my question is to the Minister of Education. The government offered the educational system minor financial resources and they expect unrealistic outcomes. School boards are consistently forced to take resources away from the classroom to fulfill this government's underfunded promises. If that isn't enough, we've learned that our debt-servicing costs are now over $1 billion, which is higher than the budget for Education. My question to the minister is, when will the minister commit the appropriate funds needed to our school system to allow our children to have the best and most enjoyable education that encourages them to be lifelong learners?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, the answer to the question is, we're spending the money now in order to accomplish what he is speaking about. We spent nearly $1 million last Spring to train 900 math teachers to be math leaders in their schools. We spent another $1 million on fraction block sets for junior high, and graphing calculators for senior high. We're also developing a Grade 10 math course to allow more time for students who need it in order to progress in math. We have our Learning for Life Program, we have our Active Readers Program, all of which are funded with additional money. The answer to the honourable member's question is, now.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, our province - and this is a fact - has the second-lowest per student funding in this country. The minister knows that that is a fact. The government knows this but it continues to do nothing to change that statistic. Our children are our future,

[Page 1600]

therefore, they deserve the best education that we can provide. My final question to the minister is, why, over the term of this government's mandate (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, my final question for the minister is, why, over the term of their mandate, did this government choose to see our children as an expense and not an investment in our province's future?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, in this year's budget, we are spending an additional $55 million on education in order to support our students. At a time when there is a declining enrolment of students in this province, we are spending more money on education, and we have a focus on the basics of our education, the mathematics, reading, literature and writing. That's the focus of this government. We're providing the funds that our students need, and we're increasing those funds and will continue to make education a priority for the students of this province.

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

INSURANCE: CONSUMERS - PROTECT

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, if Nova Scotians want to know why we will see another huge round of insurance increases with no relief in sight, all they have to do is look at the minister responsible. He does not have a firm grasp on this issue. Most of the time he responds with a joke or something that's just simply not right. I want to ask the minister, when is he going to start doing his job and protect the consumers of Nova Scotia, instead of cowering only to the Insurance Bureau of Canada?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, let me reiterate my answer to this question, as so many times in the past few weeks - we have a plan; we're working on the plan; the plan will be successful.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, that's cold comfort on a March night to consumers in this province. That minister has no plan whatsoever, and he knows it. By raising the rates in the URB decision, insurance companies are again out-maneuvering you and your lackluster government. They are able to do this because the minister is not staying on top of this very, very important consumer issue. This is a minister who believes, and he told this House the reason the rates are lower in Manitoba is because the roads are flatter. My question to the minister is, has your decision to ignore the call to freeze insurance rates allowed insurance companies to jack up rates on the eve of the URB decision?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the answer is no.

[Page 1601]

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, again, he shows his lack of compassion for the consumers and the residents of this province. The minister, as I've said, has never taken the time to understand the auto insurance industry, he doesn't care about it, he's never taken it seriously. This is the result, the insurance companies have had their way with you and your government, Mr. Minister, they've completely walked all over you and it's time for you to stand up and start doing your job. I want to ask the minister, why won't you tell the insurance industry that enough is enough, if they continue with these increases that you will bring in legislation to roll back these huge fees?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, in response to the honourable member, I know what I have to do and I will do it. If the honourable member wants to give me any advice, he can certainly come and chat with me any time he wants.

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

WCB - CEO: TERMINATION - DETAILS

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, it has been brought to my attention that there is about to be a shakeup at the Workers' Compensation Board. I understand that Mr. David Steuwe, the CEO of the Workers' Compensation Board, is about to be terminated or will be leaving by the middle of May of this year. Would the minister be willing to confirm that and if the date I've put forth is correct, if he is leaving on that date, and why?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I am privy to that rumour as well.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, the minister makes light of a very serious situation. Mr. Steuwe has been a leader at the Workers' Compensation Board to the extent of reducing the unfunded liability from 75 per cent down to 25 per cent. I'm given to understand he was given his notice at the last board meeting. Would the minister please explain to all members of this House and to all stakeholders of the workers compensation system why this CEO, who has been a leader in financial management, is being terminated from his job?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I would agree that Mr. Steuwe has been a very effective financial manager.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, we are starting to see the footprints and the fingerprints of John Buchanan coming back to haunt this board. What they're planning on doing is going back to the good old days, where political manipulation is going to be the order of the day. My question to the minister is, would the minister at least be good enough to confirm that the reason why his government is allowing Mr. Steuwe to be terminated is because his political operatives are preparing to change policy initiatives at the board in favour of the government's agenda?

[Page 1602]

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I presume there was a question somewhere within that monologue, I didn't get it, quite frankly.

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

INSURANCE - RATE INCREASES: ACTION - EXPLAIN

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, well, Nova Scotians are starting to receive notices in their mailboxes that another round of auto insurance increases is on the way. Recent filings at the Utility and Review Board show that some of the biggest companies in Nova Scotia plan to hike rates by as much as 15 per cent. Anyone who insures with Economical may not know it yet, but they're in for another 10 per cent jump in their rates starting this June. Since May 2001, this company alone has increased rates by 52 per cent. Someone paying $1,000 in 2001, will now pay $1,636.50. It's hard numbers, and the result has been a nearly 64 per cent increase. My question to the minister who is responsible for these skyrocketing increases in auto insurance is this, is your government prepared to let insurance companies gouge Nova Scotians with another round of rate increases?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I can understand the honourable member being exercised about the increase in rates for auto insurance, but all insurance rates across the world are increasing. We are going to do our part in Nova Scotia to keep rates stabilized and, if possible, decreased.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the reality is that the rates in Nova Scotia are among the worst in this country. Since last March, insurance rates in Nova Scotia have jumped by 65 per cent, and they're going up again. This morning my office heard from a senior who just found out that his rate is going up another 20 per cent, that means even though he has a great driving record, his insurance has jumped by 75 per cent since 2001. Ernie Weedon is another example. His insurance jumped by 100 per cent in the last two years. He went from paying $600 to $1,200. Another round of auto insurance increases will put people off the roads. My question to the minister is this, at what point, Mr. Minister, will you say enough is enough and do something to lower auto insurance premiums in this province?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I've already said enough is enough.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the reality is that many people, like Ernie Weedon, can't afford another round of rate increases, and yet this government is going to allow the big players to go ahead with their plan to hike rates and to hit Nova Scotians again. Seniors on fixed incomes, students, families, everyone is going to be affected. I just want to ask the minister this very simple question, when will you quit stalling and do something about the skyrocketing increases in auto insurance premiums?

[Page 1603]

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, we have done so. We have appointed a consumer advocate. It's very interesting (Interruptions)

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

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, in Manitoba they have followed Nova Scotia's scheme and they have appointed a consumer advocate, I believe last week. (Interruptions) The reason that they have appointed a consumer advocate in the Province of Manitoba is because people there are very unhappy with the increases in insurance rates.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

HEALTH - WEST NILE VIRUS: POLICY - RELEASE

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question, through you, is for the Minister of Health. Last summer the West Nile virus spread across North America to 44 states and five provinces, including Nova Scotia. Although there were no human cases in Nova Scotia last year, scientists say it's a matter of when, not if, people start getting infected. The other four provinces have taken the risk seriously, and they've announced well-funded, aggressive, mosquito control programs, but Nova Scotia hasn't. In fact, Health Canada's West Nile site has links to the West Nile virus strategies of B.C., Ontario, Manitoba, Quebec and Ontario, but none for Nova Scotia. Why? Because we don't have one yet. I want to ask the minister, the mosquito season is already upon us, when will your government release its plan to stop the spread of West Nile virus?

[12:45 p.m.]

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the tentative date is May 15th.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the minister. I hope this government won't make the same kind of amateur mistakes they did when dealing with SARS. The Government of Ontario has invested $7 million to fight the West Nile virus; Manitoba has invested $5.8 million; Saskatchewan, $1.2 million; and the Quebec Government has already started larviciding in Montreal and is holding a West Nile symposium today.

In the government's Health blue book a week ago they promised a plan and so far we have seen nothing. So I want to ask the government, why haven't you woken up to the reality of this deadly disease and get serious and release your plan in order to protect Nova Scotians and their families?

[Page 1604]

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, to date, the people in my department have been meeting with various groups and agencies to talk about the West Nile mosquito season. The education and public awareness program will begin in earnest in a couple of weeks. One of the issues that the member raised, I would like to address and that is the issue of spring larvicide spraying. We are not doing that in Nova Scotia this year for the simple reason that we don't know exactly where to spray. Last year we had four dead birds, far fewer than the provinces the member mentioned. These four dead birds of West Nile virus were in four different counties. We do not have enough specific information yet to make a larvicide program effective.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, there were 4,000 cases reported in North America in 2002. The largest outbreak of the disease in history and Nova Scotia has 25 mosquito species and nearly half of these are carriers of the virus. So, since mosquito season has started, other provinces are acting aggressively and Nova Scotians want to know, why has your government failed to take this disease more seriously?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I would like to tell the member responsible for skyrocketing panic that this government does take the West Nile virus very seriously. We have been preparing for this summer for awhile now. We do expect cases to appear in Nova Scotia this summer and we are preparing very aggressively for that.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

FIN. - CASINOS: SMOKING BYLAWS - EXEMPTION EXPLAIN

DR. JAMES SMITH: My question is to the Premier. Mr. Speaker, every time the government talks about its Smoke-free Places Act, it tells Nova Scotians that it is one of the strongest pieces of legislation in Canada. What they don't say, however, is that it's the strongest legislation for creating exemptions and not protecting the health of Nova Scotians. The Cape Breton District Health Authority's medical staff is urging the Premier to uphold municipal anti-smoking bylaws and not exempt the Halifax and Sydney casinos from those bylaws. Will the Premier explain to the House today, why is he willing to exempt the casinos and won't protect casino workers from second-hand smoke?

HON. JOHN HAMM (The Premier): I refer that to the minister responsible for the Gaming Corporation.

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, to the member for Dartmouth East, he is very much aware, as he was a member of the previous administration that signed the contract with the casino operator, that there are provisions in that contract which state that if bylaws are changed or rules are changed - whether municipal, provincial or federal - that have a negative impact on the casino, then they have a termination clause that they can invoke which has to be remedied within 30 days.

[Page 1605]

Mr. Speaker, what we have done in this session is allow the government to react within 30 days. This is an issue of more than $100 million. The member opposite is more than aware of all those details because he was a member of the government that basically signed the contract.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, to the Premier. As a previous medical doctor, the Premier knows well the effects of second-hand smoke. As the Leader of this province, the Premier knows he has the power to do more to protect Nova Scotians against second-hand smoke than anyone else in this province. Unfortunately, when leadership should be demonstrated, the Premier has turned his back on those responsibilities in leaving the casino workers to continue inhaling second-hand smoke. This government could have negotiated with the casino operators. My question to the Premier is, can he explain to the doctors of the Cape Breton District Health Authority why he's let them down by tabling legislation without negotiating with the casino operators about smoke-free?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is fully aware of the answer to this question, but I'll ask the minister responsible for the Gaming Corporation to repeat it again to the benefit of the member opposite.

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite talks about leadership. That member, that specific member for Dartmouth East, when he was Minister of Health, had proposed legislation to bring about a reduction in smoking in this province, and that member never tabled any legislation in this House. Our government has tabled legislation to reduce levels of smoking in this province, especially to protect the youth of our province. We will stand behind that legislation, and the member opposite, to criticize this government for lack of action, is reprehensible.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my final supplementary to the Premier is, in overruling municipal bylaws and governance about leadership, when push comes to shove, this government proves it doesn't have any. Nova Scotians' own anti-smoking strategy says one group of people most at risk from second-hand smoke are those exposed to second-hand smoke at work; in particular restaurant, bar, and casino workers - the strategy of this government says that. My question to the Premier is, when will this Premier, this person who has sworn the Hippocratic oath to do no harm, show leadership on this issue?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite needs to be reminded on a regular basis that when he was a member of government there was a piece of legislation that was drafted for the benefit of that government, but it remained in the drawer. The legislation remained in the drawer, it was never brought forward, so I find it very, very difficult to accept criticism from that caucus and that member on the actions of this government that has produced the best anti-smoking legislation in Canada. (Applause)

[Page 1606]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

HEALTH - MOSQUITOES: LARVICIDES - USAGE DETAILS

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is for the Minister of Health. Yesterday, a health department spokesman said the West Nile virus is "something we should pay attention to." It's not something that we should just pay attention to, it's something we must take action on. One route some provinces have taken is to employ larvicides. Larvicides are sprayed on standing water between May and June to stop the spread of mosquitoes. Some provinces are using a biological larvicide called BTI, which is safe for humans and animals, but other provinces and some States are using Malathion which has a negative side effect on people and the environment. So I want to ask the minister, what research her department has done on larvicides and which, if any, they will be using to stop the spread of mosquitoes between now and July?

HON. JANE PURVES: We have done enough research and do enough surveillance on the dead birds to know that we are not going to be - as I said earlier - spraying this Spring because we don't have enough information as to where the larvicides should go. That is a decision that has been taken after considerable research.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, while this government is doing research, other provinces are acting on what is a serious matter. I want to tell the minister that the International Labour Organization reports that children and adolescents should not be exposed to Malathion and that any exposure should be reported to a doctor. If inhaled, it can cause things like dizziness, laboured breathing, and unconsciousness, and warnings also indicate that pregnant women, especially, should not be exposed to this larvicide. I want to ask the minister if she can tell this House what course her department will be taking on the use of larvicides, so Nova Scotians won't worry about the negative side effects from these chemicals.

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I thought I had made it clear that they won't have to be worrying about negative effects of larvicides because we won't be using them this year, but if we do use them in years to come because we have better information, then we will be using the biological larvicides that are not harmful like Malathion.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotia farmers, fish harvesters and nature lovers are also concerned about the use of chemicals in our environment. These people want to know that highly toxicant substances which could affect fish populations, honey bees and the like, as well as birds, won't be used. So I want to say to the minister that it's important that she guarantee to people who are concerned about these issues that whatever products are chosen to help combat this disease will be safe for people and for animals.

[Page 1607]

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, should we use any larvicides in the future, yes, they will be safe. There's another issue the member hasn't brought up yet and that is the whole issue of spraying later in the summer for adult mosquitoes and, there again, we're giving very serious consideration to the potential adverse effect on humans of that spray.

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

TRANSPORT. & PUB. WKS. - FOREST DR. (COL. CO.):

LISTING - ASSURE

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works. My office was contacted today by Audrey McManus, a senior living in Onslow, Colchester County. Mrs. McManus and many of her neighbours live on an unlisted street named Forest Drive and I will table a copy of the property on-line map of Forest Drive. Mrs. McManus says she is totally frustrated with her attempts, spreading over many years, to have this problem addressed. Nobody is listening so she has called the MLA for Timberlea-Prospect. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect has the floor.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Will the minister please assure Mrs. McManus, a resident of Colchester North and her neighbours, that she will have her street listed?

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I can hardly imagine the level of desperation that would have driven that woman to call the honourable member, that such misery should exist in Colchester County, it's hardly imaginable. However, the honourable member will know that obviously I'm not going to be familiar with every particular unlisted street in Nova Scotia and if he provides the information to me, I will review it accordingly.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Since Forest Drive isn't listed, the residents have had to pay for all the maintenance, all the snow removal. Services such as garbage collection are not even provided. I'm told, in fact, that an ambulance went into the ditch recently due to poor road conditions. These people want to stay in their own homes. I'm also told that the properties located on Forest Drive were developed under the Veterans' Land Act. These seniors have served their country, Mr. Speaker, but they have difficulty getting this government to lend them a hand on a very simple matter. Forest Drive is a short street, Mr. Minister. Will you direct your department to take the necessary steps to provide normal road service to these seniors and to these veterans?

[Page 1608]

[1:00 p.m.]

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member, again, for the question. The honourable member talks about an unlisted road. Typically the term unlisted road refers to an existing public highway that is not maintained by the department. However, the honourable member could also be speaking about a subdivision road or private road, which is the private property road which, if it's taken over, is taken over by municipalities. That's why I need the information.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mrs. McManus and her neighbours are asking this government and obviously their negligent MLA to understand their needs. The senior families on Forest Drive deserve a better deal from this government. They're not asking a lot and the solution is simple. Mr. Minister, will Mrs. McManus and her neighbours be contacted by your department before this week is over about a possible solution to their problem?

MR. BAKER: I want to thank the honourable member for providing me with the information. We certainly will check it out. I can tell the honourable member something else. We have, in this province, agreements with municipal units that provide that municipal units are responsible for taking over the cost of private roads. I know the honourable member respects agreements with municipal units. So, of course, we will have to make sure that that is followed.

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

PREM. - LEADERSHIP/INTEGRITY QUESTIONS:

ANSWERS - LACK EXPLAIN

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question today is to the Premier. The Premier continues to play hide-and-seek with this Legislature and the people of Nova Scotia. The Premier promised in the last election that he would run an open and accountable government. He has said that information was but a phone call away, and we need not waste our time and the government's time with pesky freedom of information requests. The Premier and his Cabinet have made a mockery of freedom of information in this province, and what is worse than that, the Premier is trying to suppress democracy by avoiding questions which specifically speak to his integrity.

One question that's very appropriate here is a question on smoking at the casinos in Nova Scotia. Instead of answering questions, he defers them, especially the most important questions of finance, health and education. When he does answer a question, he keeps falling back on dated notes sent to him by Rob Batherson. My question to the Premier is, Mr. Premier, why are you afraid to answer questions that speak to your leadership and your integrity?

[Page 1609]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, seldom has the member for Cape Breton South sounded so desperate, desperate to find a chink in the armour of a government that has achieved some significant improvements for the people of Nova Scotia. (Applause) I'm not going to get in an argument over credibility with the member opposite. If the member opposite wants to talk about the issues that this government has addressed in a very effective way or perhaps some issues that he feels the government has not addressed in an effective way, I'm quite prepared to get involved in that kind of debate with the member opposite. On the other hand, if all the member wants to talk about is a discussion of his credibility versus mine, I'm not prepared to engage in that debate. (Applause)

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the Premier continues to play hide-and-seek here today. I must say the lemmings are in fine form today with their cheerleading section over there. The Premier has deferred, since this Legislature convened this Spring session, 70 different questions in this House, he has referred to ministers, and I want to table that list of questions for the House. Seventy different times the Premier has deflected questions. During the last election, the Premier lectured the other two Parties almost daily, how he was holier than thou and that the other Parties were not upfront and honest. On one occasion he said, I believe respect is being honest and upfront with people. My question to the Premier is, why has the Premier stopped being honest and upfront with the people of Nova Scotia?

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

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: I will retract that statement and submit this statement to you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you. The honourable on his first supplementary, please.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: I would ask why the Premier of this province has stopped having respect for Nova Scotians.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite knows that this member, each year since he became Leader of his Party, has spent every summer travelling from one end of Nova Scotia to the other, talking with Nova Scotians from June to October; from 1996 on I have done that. I have literally talked to tens of thousands of Nova Scotians, getting ideas as to what Nova Scotians expect from the government. Now if the member opposite thinks that is treating Nova Scotians with a lack of respect, then he is entitled to his opinion but I'm also entitled to mine. This government has been open and accountable and has dialogued on a regular basis with Nova Scotians and as long as we're government, we will continue to do so.

[Page 1610]

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the Premier talks about being open and accountable. Well, where was that Premier last Friday when his estimates were before this House and he conveniently ducked out of here and left a . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. Order, please. (Interruptions) Order, please. Order, please. The same rules for the committee as for the House. The honourable member knows he is not to acknowledge either the presence or absence of a member.

The honourable member for Cape Breton South on his final supplementary, please.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: . . . presence or absence . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Final supplementary.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: I'm talking about the estimates of this House, Mr. Speaker. The estimates of this House . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. (Interruptions) Order, please. The honourable member brought to the attention of the House the presence or absence of a member and he knows it's against the rules.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Not in this House, I didn't.

MR. SPEAKER: Yes, you did. Order, please. The honourable member can put the final supplementary or I'm going to call another member to put a question. (Interruptions)

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, this is a place . . .

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

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: . . . of public accountability. Estimates are a place for public accountability, and the Premier chose to ignore that process. He chose to ignore that process, instead substituting a junior minister to run interference. Now my question to the Premier is, why did the Premier not feel it necessary to be accountable to this House with his own departmental estimates?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I welcome an opportunity to explain to Nova Scotians what's happening here. This House, despite the level of debate sometimes, operates on courtesies. For example, we offer the members opposite the courtesy of providing ministerial statements before they are delivered in the House so they can prepare their responses. Government ministers, as well, advise members of the Opposition when they are not going

[Page 1611]

to be in the House so that Question Period can be handled in such a way that they can prepare a question for the appropriate minister. Now the day before . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. (Interruptions) Order, please. The honourable member for Cape Breton South will bring himself to order or he will leave.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: . . . he disappeared . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I ask the honourable member for Cape Breton South to remove himself from the Chamber.

Next question.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

COMMUN. SERV. - INCOME ASSISTANCE:

RECIPIENTS - FIN. STATUS

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, the National Council of Welfare . . .

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

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, the National Council of Welfare just released its 2002 welfare income report. It showed that in Nova Scotia, both single- and double-parent families received less income assistance in 2002 than they did in 2001. What it also shows is that when the Tory Government ended the practice of clawing back the National Child Tax Benefit, it cut personal allowances for children from welfare benefits. I ask the Minister of Community Services, how do you respond to the fact that families on income assistance have grown poor under your government's mandate?

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for his question. I think that report was authored by the former Liberal MP for Kings-Hants, John Murphy. With regard to some of the things in his report, I'd like to start out by pointing out that the level of child poverty has dropped in Nova Scotia from 18.1 per cent to 17.6 per cent in and about that time. While that is not something that is good enough for this government, it is a move in the right direction, but specifically he's talking about social assistance rates and that report greatly simplifies what's going on.

Mr. Speaker, when the former minister and this government introduced the new Employment Support and Income Assistance Act and proclaimed the regulations on August 1, 2001, there were a lot of positive changes to the Act, including things like providing child

[Page 1612]

care to single parent families, providing transportation allowances, by providing special needs to them, and in addition to that we separated out (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. If the honourable member would wrap it up a little quicker, please.

MR. MORSE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. We did separate out the National Child Benefit and the Nova Scotia Child Benefit portion from the social assistance rates so that it would be uniform for both working poor families and social assistance recipients.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, I would remind the honourable minister that this is a national organization that is well respected. It is above reproach and the reports that they provide to the provinces and to this country are second to none. (Applause) In December the former Minister of Community Services stated that families on income assistance were better off because his government stopped clawing back their child benefit supplement. The report states, "Most perverse of all . . . is the effect of the National Child Benefit . . . Nova Scotia's cuts to the personal allowances for children in August 2001 were greater than any benefit to families from the provincial government's decision to cease the clawback of the federal child supplement."

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. PYE: How can the Minister of Community Services possibly justify making changes that ensured more Nova Scotian children would go hungry?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I would say to the member opposite, I was kind of hoping that this would come up in the estimates because so much positive has been done that it would take some time to cover it all and that's part of the reason for the length of my first response. I would start by saying that the $30.7 million which now goes directly to the 60,000-odd Nova Scotians who are in receipt of the National Child Benefit, the Nova Scotia Child Benefit portion is targeted to those children who are most in need and get the full benefit . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Dartmouth North on your final supplementary and I would ask the honourable member to put the question, please. You've had five minutes already on this question so I would ask the honourable member to put his final supplementary question, please.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, it wasn't my time that was used. You count my time and I could truly acknowledge (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Dartmouth North on your final supplementary, please.

[Page 1613]

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, the provincial portion of welfare income for families has decreased steadily under the John Hamm Tories. That's a fact. They would rather hand out to big businesses than feed children. The former minister attempted to discredit Dr. Lynn MacIntyre's report last year showing single mothers and children going hungry in Nova Scotia. Well, that study was accurate then and it's accurate now. So I ask the Minister of Community Services, will you admit to the members of this House that your government has done nothing to help children of low income families in this province?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for bringing up that report which was out of date by the time it was published because we had already taken steps to address it and to finish the point about the Nova Scotia Child Benefit, it's targeted to those children most in need and it cuts off for the higher income children. We work with the federal plan, the Canada plan. It reduces for each successive child. The Nova Scotia plan increases what's cut off the federal plan and there is no clawback today and the children . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

HEALTH - WADI ALARAB: INSPECTION - DETAILS

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health. Over the last three days much has been reported on the Wadi Alarab which has been quarantined outside Halifax Harbour since April 25th. As you would know, this situation could pose quite a great health risk to the people of Nova Scotia if not properly handled and monitored. My question to the minister is, can the minister please confirm whether there have been any provincial health officials directly involved in the inspection of the Wadi Alarab?

[1:15 p.m.]

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I can double-check on this, but I've been told that the inspections were carried out by Health Canada, and although provincial officials are part of a threat-assessment group, there was no need for provincial officials to board the ship.

DR. SMITH: I thank the minister for that information. Mr. Speaker, I don't think we have to remind this government of the dangers of anthrax. I do believe that Nova Scotians do have a right to know whether their health needs and safety are at risk. Given that the test results are expected on Thursday, and the minister has already flip-flopped on the serious issue of SARS, could the minister please confirm what emergency plans are in place to protect Nova Scotians should the test results on Thursday come back positive?

[Page 1614]

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, as the member for Dartmouth East knows, the ship is in quarantine off Halifax Harbour. The crew have all been looked at. They are not exhibiting any signs of anthrax. When the test results come back, we will know whether or not there is any anthrax present on that ship. In the meantime, there is absolutely no health threat to any Nova Scotian or any Canadian because the ship is in quarantine.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my final supplementary is to the Minister of Justice. I note on the minister's counter-terrorism Web site, there have been no confirmed cases of anthrax outside the U.S., and yet there may be one sitting right outside the mouth of our harbour. I know there's an issue of whether the ship would or would not come in. My question to the Minister of Justice is, what contacts has the Minister of Justice had with the national and international security officers, given the reports this morning that the situation may very well be involved in a case of bioterrorism?

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the report that we had late yesterday afternoon, from the federal officials, is that our country does not appear to be at risk.

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

HEALTH - NURSING STRATEGY: INADEQUACY - ADMIT

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I will table a letter that was sent to me from a nursing student at Dalhousie. This young woman has been told there are no jobs in metro, and she can't relocate due to family commitments. She's $50,000 in debt, with no job prospects. She's worried she won't find work before the payments have to be made on her student loan. She believed the Premier in 1999 and the commitment to hire 400 new nurses, and she took the risk of going back to school. Now she feels she was sold a bill of goods. I wish to ask the Minister of Health, why won't you admit that your nursing strategy has fallen short for this young woman?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, our nursing strategy has been very successful so far, and it will continue to achieve more success. There are jobs for nursing graduates throughout Nova Scotia, they aren't necessarily all going to happen in May of any one year. I would suggest to the young woman - I'm sure she's disappointed - but a job will come her way.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, in 2002, the Canadian Nursing Advisory Committee released 51 recommendations on nursing, including increasing staff to reduce workload and overtime for nurses. Instead of full-time nurses, this government uses casual positions and excessive overtime for current nurses to fill the need. In 2002, the former president of the NSNU told the Premier at the time, nurses are struggling with "exhausting shifts, excessive workloads and overtime." I want to ask the Minister of Health, you know

[Page 1615]

the need is there, the new graduates are now on our doorsteps, why won't you live up to this government's election promise made in 1999?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, one of the initiatives this government has taken is a joint program with St. F.X. and UCCB that trains nurses outside metro to do the work in those hospitals there. Attached to that initiative, St. F.X. is another one, to take graduates with a science background and give them a shortened nursing degree, which will allow them to graduate in the Fall. This is one of the initiatives that will help spread out the demand for the nurses for a job immediately with the reality that not all jobs are available in May or June, in any of our health authority districts. Those are just two examples of how our promises are being kept.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, from the letter that I've tabled that this young woman wrote to me, I would like to quote. She asked this question, "What is so appalling is that the United States is bending over backwards to accommodate and welcome our graduating nurses and our own . . . province is turning us away and making us feel unwanted." This government has let this young woman down, let her classmates down. Even worse, they are letting all nurses down by failing to address workload and overtime issues. I wish to ask the minister, how many more nurses, how many more recent graduates are you willing to drive out of this province before you address the need for more nursing positions and less overtime in the health system in Nova Scotia?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, this morning on CBC radio there was an interview with recent graduates in Toronto who were wondering why they couldn't get hired in Toronto, in spite of the fact that Ontario has put out a nation-wide call for nurses to come to Toronto. I raise that story in order to try to explain to the member opposite that supply and demand in the nursing profession is a complex thing. We are working to address these problems. The member opposite wants a slick answer, he's not going to get it from me.

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

ENVIRON. & LBR. - DORSEY REPT.: ACTION - TIME FRAME

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Labour. I had given him advance notice of this but earlier today I tabled a resolution about this report, the Dorsey Report, 390 pages - it has already been tabled several times - containing 54 recommendations for action to the government of which one has been acted on so far in 13 months, giving us a time ratio that would take 54 years, therefore, to deal with 54 recommendations. I would like to ask the minister, why at that rate of progress should he be supported in this ongoing saga? (Interruption)

[Page 1616]

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I heard a voice from across the way say, do I still expect to be here 54 years from now. The answer is, no. It's a legitimate question and the Dorsey Report is under study and the report will be acted upon. We are doing that, admittedly, it's very, very slow at the present time, however there will be a requirement for amendments to the Act and they will be proceeded with in the Fall.

MR. MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, through you to the minister, is there any connection between this lack of progress on dealing with the Dorsey Report and the upcoming resignation or retirement or whatever it is, of Mr. David Steuwe, scheduled for May 15th?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I don't know whether or not Mr. Steuwe is going to resign or retire or do something else on May 15th but I can assure the honourable member that has nothing and no bearing whatsoever on the Dorsey Report.

MR. MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, as my final supplementary I would like to ask the minister through you, what discussions he's had with Mr. Louis Comeau on this matter and how does Mr. Comeau feel about the lack of progress on implementing that report?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, as the honourable member is aware, the Workers' Compensation Board operates at arm's length from the government. Periodically I do have meetings with Mr. Comeau, the President. I can assure you that Mr. Comeau has assured me that the Dorsey Report will be acted upon. I know that the honourable member thinks we are very, very slow, but in point of fact, we are moving as rapidly as we can.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

ENVIRON. & LBR. - OFF-ROAD VEHICLES:

ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT - CANVASS

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I'll direct my question to the Minister of Environment and Labour. His government announced yesterday that the Voluntary Planning Board has agreed to conduct a public consultation on the use of off-road vehicles in Nova Scotia. We welcome a thorough look into the use of off-road vehicles if, indeed, we ever have such a thing. So, I ask the minister what measures has the minister taken to ensure that the environmental impact of off-road vehicles is being thoroughly canvassed?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I can give the honourable member the verbal assurance, however, sometime next week I will be tabling the terms of reference that we will be issuing to the Voluntary Planning Board and that will show, indeed, we are looking at all aspects of ATV operations.

[Page 1617]

MR. MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister and I will look forward to seeing what he brings forward. Yesterday's release from the minister indicates that Voluntary Planning is soliciting members of the public to become part of the task force. The only criteria for participation so far we know are knowledge, experience and/or other credentials regarding off-highway vehicles. So what assurances can the minister give Nova Scotians that this task force will have adequate representation from groups concerned with the environmental impacts of off-road vehicles?

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Environment and Labour, you have about five seconds.

MR. RUSSELL: Well, Mr. Speaker, five seconds certainly can't answer that question, however, I would suggest the honourable member ask that question again tomorrow.

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

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. Honourable members in this Legislature know or at least most members know that private roads are a municipal issue. I'm quite certain that I heard the honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect refer to my colleague, the member for Colchester North, as being a negligent MLA. I find that disrespectful and uncalled for, that another honourable member would refer to a member as being negligent, when I know full well from working with that honourable member for Colchester North for four years that he's a hard-working, very respectable member. I would ask him to stand in his place (Interruption) I would ask that member for Timberlea-Prospect to stand in his place and apologize to the honourable member for Colchester North. (Interruption)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. Order, please! As everyone, I'm sure, would agree, there has been a lot of noise in the House today and it's very hard to hear a lot of things happening on the floor of the House. I did not hear the honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect claim that the member for Colchester North was negligent in his duties. If he did, I would ask the honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect to please rise in his place and retract that, because all members here are honourable members and hard-working members. All members.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I did use the word negligent. I brought the issue forward because this particular constituent of that member chose to contact me on that matter. The word negligent, however, was used and I will withdraw it.

[Page 1618]

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you, sir, I appreciate that.

The honourable member for Hants East, on an introduction.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, to all members of the House, I would like to draw your attention to the west gallery to a young woman sitting there today, Erin Parker from Pictou West who is the niece of former MLA Charlie Parker. I would like for members to give her a warm welcome. She is job-shadowing me today. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We certainly welcome Erin to the gallery today and hope you enjoy the proceedings and I hope you learn a lot from the member for Hants East, I'm sure you will.

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: 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 Hants East.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I'm glad to have an opportunity to rise and actually speak to the motion put forward by the member for Cape Breton South. I know the members opposite, certainly in the almost four years that we have been here under this government, that certainly hoist amendments are not new to them. I think that they probably have had just about all of the hoist amendments that they would deem necessary in their careers. Actually, it's through the actions of the government that these amendments really are brought forward and they do have an objective. The members opposite would say that objective was just to stall the process of the House.

[Page 1619]

[1:30 p.m.]

But hoist amendments actually have the benefit for members on this side of the House that we could actually get a chance to speak to the members on the government side and to try to convince them that this motion if passed, would have a practical application, that the government may turn on its heels, do a little research and actually come back with a piece of legislation that members on this side of the House could approve of.

My thought would be that if we were to take all of the common sense that has been generated by governments in this House and put it in a pile on the floor that no one would really have to worry about tripping on the way out. It seems a shame to me that an issue that has come before this House and come before us by way of the Financial Measures (2003) Act that members of this House don't recognize enough common sense on the issue of the health effects of secondary smoke.

Members on the government side and certainly the member for Truro-Bible Hill would have indicated, I think at the time when he was Minister of Health, that he had brought in some of the most progressive anti-smoking legislation anywhere in the country. The irony of that was the fact that there were municipalities in this province and in particular, in the Valley that were already looking at bylaws. Some had been brought in, but the timeline hadn't been achieved. In other words, the effective date of those bylaws hadn't come into place by the time the government had brought in their legislation. As much as those advocates for smoke-free Nova Scotia had pursued this government and actually had, I assume, pursued the members of the Liberal caucus, they certainly pursued the members of the New Democratic Party caucus, they wanted to make their case that a complete and total ban of smoking in public places was the only way to go.

I don't know how much more time the government would need to think about this issue. It's obvious the time they've had to the point of introducing their own legislation wasn't enough for them to adopt a complete ban on smoking in public places. Six months would certainly allow them an opportunity. As a matter of fact, I would be willing to bet that within six months we will be into an election and the government would have a chance to be on the doorstep to answer the cries of the public and actually get a much better read on what the public wants in terms of a complete ban on smoking.

I have to say that I would hold out very little hope that members on the opposite side of the House are going to listen to the public any more than they've listened to the public to this point, but they would have an opportunity to do that.

Members will remember Ms. Heather Crowe who came before this House and actually had met with all caucuses around the issue of the damage of second-hand smoke. As my colleague, the member for Halifax Needham, had indicated last evening, Heather Crowe is an individual who had worked for 40 years in the restaurant business as an employee and

[Page 1620]

has inoperable lung cancer now. The message that she's trying to get out is that she would like to be the last person who would die from lung cancer caused by second-hand smoke or from any disease caused by second-hand smoke.

Mr. Speaker, this situation is not unique among Canadians, but it's certainly unique in the attention that it has drawn because Heather has been awarded compensation by the Workers' Compensation Board in Ontario and this would be a landmark decision in this country, that the Workers' Compensation Boards across this country now cannot escape from offering compensation to individuals where it can be proven that they have contracted a disease from second-hand smoke in the workplace. This is an individual whose history indicates that she had never smoked and that she contracted lung cancer from the smoke of cigarettes smoked by other people. This, on its own, to discover this information, would be enough you would think for any logical, common sense individual to say this is a serious problem and we have every responsibility to bring in legislation that will protect workers in any workplace where they could have their lives endangered by second-hand smoke.

I think the government will try to sell their legislation based on the impacts to youth, which is admirable enough. If we want to protect people, I certainly would say protecting the youth would be step number one and if they can come up with a mechanism to prevent youth from smoking, I would say that would be step number two because the tobacco industry certainly targets the youth because that's the new market for them.

Mr. Speaker, for all of those, the coalition for a complete ban, for the Medical Society, for all of those who were promoting and endorsing and trying to convince governments that they must go with a complete ban, certainly this amount of time indicated by the member for Cape Breton South, by his hoist motion, would offer the government six months at least to re-evaluate the folly of their way in this regard and actually, hopefully, bring about a piece of legislation that would be somewhere in tune with the 21st Century.

I want to say, for a Party that I would recognize that promotes itself as pro-business, I can't understand, Mr. Speaker, why this government actually has imposed the cost on the business community that it has. I can't believe they wouldn't have seen a complete ban as actually a much more cost-effective way to bring this in in regard to the expense to business. I know some of the presentations around that legislation were done in such a way that the representatives from the restaurants and bars tried to make the case that they didn't want to be caught in a position where they couldn't afford to build a better room for smoking or non-smoking, even though the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers had pretty well made it clear that there was no such thing as a ventilation system that could remove the toxins from cigarette smoke, and if that's the case, then it's obvious that you cannot build a room that is safe to smoke in or that will protect people who are outside it.

[Page 1621]

Mr. Speaker, this is an issue of health. I'm amazed that in a province like ours, where we have a Premier who's a doctor, that we didn't go further, especially when so many of his colleagues have pushed for a much greater ban. I'm amazed that the business community didn't actually push harder for a complete ban as well. One gentleman made the comment that he didn't want anyone to leave his establishment and go to another competing establishment simply because they had a much better facility for smoking or avoiding smoke.

Mr. Speaker, the best way to avoid any conflict in that regard was to have a complete ban in all establishments; that meant that anybody leaving your facility only would have left purely because of the service or the product, and that would have created a much more level playing field. The issue will still be that when this government changes the next Party in power is going to bring in a complete ban, and then the question of why force those businesses to spend that money when this is coming down the road.

Mr. Speaker, I would say that certainly these comments around the hoist are directed to the Minister of Finance, and actually he is going to get a lot more than six months to think about it, because he's a member who has indicated that he is not coming back in the next election. Like I said, I would be willing to bet there is going to be an election before the six months are up. Certainly whoever is going to be in his place, and if it turns out that it's a member from our Party then this will happen. I have to say that I'm amazed that the minister took this step, simply because the CBRM's smoking bylaw would have had an impact on the casino in Sydney and the people running the casino there is the same company that runs it in Halifax. There was no complaint by the operators when that bylaw was put in place, so why the minister felt that he had to jump to their rescue when they weren't calling for help is beyond me.

I have to say that there certainly has been a lot of bowing to the casino. The previous administration here certainly gave concessions to the casino operators and allowed them to compete in a much greater way with local businesses in the city. Now this government has capitulated, even without a request to curry favour with the casino operators, even when they didn't feel threatened. I'm not sure how much more we can do unless we're going to legislate so much of Nova Scotia taxpayers' dollars go to the casino anyway, rather than the other way around, to allow them to make more and more money at the expense of people's health and at the expense of local businesses that have to compete with them. I'm not sure that when the government has the ability to give out $68 million, I guess they consider the casino must be funding a large part of that.

Mr. Speaker, I think Nova Scotians look to their government to act in their best interests. I suspect that businesses look to the government to act in their best interests, and at some point there has to be a balance between what's in the best interests of the people and what's in the best interests of the business community. There are certainly those issues that are in the best interests of both; in other words, whatever you do for one is good for the other.

[Page 1622]

That's not the entire case all the time. There certainly are those decisions that can be made for the business community that are not in the best interests of the citizens, and this is one. I want the minister to take some time to reconsider his decision, because I'm not sure - I've stated this before - what kind of world members of the government side live in, that they don't have friends or relatives or someone they know who works in any of these industries whose health is going to be compromised by the lack of an initiative that they've taken. I think it was decided many years ago that a person's health is something you couldn't place a dollar value on, but this government seems to be able to do that. They're willing to say that if you get 60 years or so of life working in a smoke-filled environment, then that's about all you're entitled to; we're not going to push the envelope to try to ensure that you can live to a possible ripe old age simply because you chose or circumstances forced you to be in that environment.

[1:45 p.m.]

Some people make the argument that you don't have to be there. You can find more work or find other work or you can just get up and go and move to wherever somebody else will offer you a job in an area that's less harmful to your health. Well, the real world isn't like that. Actually, it's government decisions that brought the casino here, it's government decisions that have imposed the worst labour conditions I think on people who work there and it's those people's lives that now are caught in that treadmill and it's very difficult to just pick up and leave that when you have payments to make and you're trying to plan for a future.

The evidence is in. We don't have to go far to find out what the impact on Nova Scotia's health care system has been. I think that the Minister of Health would be aware, the former Minister of Health would be aware, the Premier would be aware and these would be significant portfolios that these individuals would have on the front benches and their accumulated knowledge should be enough to take a much harder position in terms of this piece of legislation. As a matter of fact, we would think that their counsel to the Minister of Finance would be enough to prevent him from bringing in this piece of legislation, especially a piece of legislation that we've never seen any evidence that the casino operators demanded in the first place.

So, you have to ask, why does anybody do this? Why do people impose hardship on their own people or why is it that they impose hardship on a select few of their own people? I guess this will be one of the questions that we'll be raising when we go on the doorsteps in this next election within this six-month period so that we can actually try to make Nova Scotians aware of how they've been let down by this government.

I think to assume that the trickle-down effect will work, that if we give breaks to the casino operators, we can give money to corporations, that somehow wealth generated by them will trickle down to the people on the street. It doesn't work that way. The evidence is

[Page 1623]

clear, the divide between the rich and the poor in this country and in this province is getting greater. Those with wealth are achieving greater wealth and they achieve that through the support of their governments. People get poorer through the lack of support of their governments and the purpose of government is to stand up and help those who on their own don't have the support they need to battle discrimination in society.

This is the one thing that we expect governments to do. We expect them to deliver service to their people. What we're finding is that people get very poor service and they're also offered a tax break along with it. In other words, a break that means nothing, not big enough to actually impact people's lives. If I'm going to get a tax break, I want to see a pile of money big enough to haul around in my truck, that's going to actually have an impact on my family or the people around me, otherwise the $155 that if we work it out to 365 days, it won't buy you a cup of coffee, but John Hamm is certainly hoping that it will buy the votes of Nova Scotians.

We would think, in this day and age, when we get to the year 2003, that politics in Nova Scotia would have moved well beyond that, that we can actually offer the people of Nova Scotia some vision, some hope to the future. Some plan for their children, some plan for their old age, so that someone will be looking out for them. As yet Nova Scotians have only become more and more disenchanted with this government in the four years that it has been in place. The very first move in the early months of this government was to take away funding from charities. That's something that the people haven't forgotten.

This legislation, the Financial Measures (2003) Bill, if ever there was a piece of legislation that now should be hoisted, this is it. The motion put forward by the member for Cape Breton South is one that we should pay attention to. To think that the Minister of Finance felt it appropriate to bring in protection for casino operators, especially at a time when they haven't asked for it. Especially at a time when the CBRM has brought in a bylaw against smoking that would affect the Sydney casino and that has been in place for some time now, and there was no cry for help from the casino. You only have to ask, is this a well-thought-out plan by the Minister of Finance and by this government and it certainly is not. As a matter of fact, it has never been made clear what that part of this bill was about. It has never been made clear what initiated that action. It has never been made clear that there will be any detrimental effect to the casino or the casino operators at all. As a matter of fact, nobody has even done a measurement to determine whether or not that business actually might improve if they were to ban smoking in that facility.

Mr. Speaker, we've seen other decisions by the government in terms of its treatment of RRSS, as well as workers in Nova Scotia, we are less than two weeks away from the 11th anniversary of the Westray disaster, a disaster that occurred because of a flagrant disregard for workers' rights in this province under a previous Tory Government. So if ever there was a Party that should rethink any policy that could inflict harm on working people, this is a Party that should be doing that. If we've ever learned anything from Westray, it should be

[Page 1624]

that we put labour laws in place that protect the worker. Because we are so much more aware, because we have the information to tell us that second-hand smoke can kill people, then all the more reason for this government to act to protect those people in those service industries where they have to work in the presence of second-hand smoke.

With those comments, Mr. Speaker, I will take my place. I look forward to hearing the remarks of other members in the House. Hopefully, they will have some impact on the members of the government side and they will look forward to supporting this hoist motion which would set this bill aside for six months and allow us to have a much greater debate on the bill generally, but specifically the issue of second-hand smoke in the workplace.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to speak on Bill No. 36, on the hoist motion actually that this bill be read a second time in six months to give the government more time to consult. We heard another reason today fresh from the medical staff at the Cape Breton District Health Authority area to consult with this government relative to the overriding of the Municipal Act relative to smoking in the casino in Sydney. So again we hear of the need of more consultation and the reason for this hoist motion, as it's referred to is quite legitimate and valid.

In debating Bill No. 36, Mr. Speaker, that is enabling legislation of this government that accompanies the budget that was passed in this Legislature last evening, we are now in a different mode relative to the session of this Legislature, and also leading up to the next election. This bill can be passed, or it doesn't necessarily have to be passed. The option to the government is to call on the Lieutenant Governor and drop the writ. We have to look at what is in this bill that enables the government to do some matters which are relative to policy, matters which are relevant to income tax matters, others that are really part of this enabling legislation that are really politics of the highest order.

The $155 cheque that would be allowed under Part IV, under the Income Tax Act, the enabling legislation that would allow this government to mail out, within the next while, a short period, probably already printed, the $155 cheque, that many members of this House have commented on. Most of us are pretty amazed that the government would go that route, the route of other governments. Very few, probably across this country would have the nerve to do that. Personally, I was quite surprised that the government had the nerve to do that in the face of an oncoming election, and leave itself so vulnerable and so open to criticism by those of us, not only in the Legislature but certainly people we meet in our constituencies.

MR. SPEAKER: Would the member permit an introduction?

DR. SMITH: Yes.

[Page 1625]

MR. SPEAKER: On an introduction, the honourable member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury.

MR. RONALD CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for allowing me to do this introduction. In the east gallery, we have two prominent people from the Town of Antigonish. We have Les MacIntyre. Les is a volunteer down in that area, and last week received the Provincial Volunteer Award on behalf of the Town of Antigonish. We also have a very prominent businessman from the town, Hugh Macfarlane. I would like to ask the members of the House to recognize them and give them the usual greeting. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Certainly, welcome to our guests as introduced, and welcome to all our guests in the gallery this afternoon.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, in addressing Bill No. 36 and, by way of that, the hoist motion to delay for six months the debate on this bill and the vote on this bill that addresses, initially, Part I, the Apprenticeship and Trades Qualifications Act. One can elaborate on that, but, essentially, other members have spoken on that matter, relative to the fee increases for training, for examinations and for certifications. The matter moves on, under the Gaming Control Act in Part III. While this whole bill, this government's Financial Measures (2003) Bill has certainly become a centrepiece, following the passage of the budget, it's their last kick at the can, essentially, to get things in order before going to the polls. This enabling legislation does that.

More specifically, under Part III, the Gaming Control Act, this has been very controversial, particularly in the Halifax Regional Municipality and also in the Cape Breton district in that it really enables this section, amendments to the Gaming Control Act, allows the provincial government to override what has been very deliberately and very courageously a real move to ban smoking in public places.

[2:00 p.m.]

This actually overrides the municipal Act. This Minister of Finance misspoke himself, in my opinion and in the opinion of others and better legal minds than mine, he misspoke himself - speaking of material breach, already very carelessly gave the casinos some ammunition to support their demands to be exempt from smoking legislation.

You can talk about all of the exemptions and all that, but if you look at the contract - I've glanced through it, but I haven't had the opportunity to read it more carefully today, but I shall - I cannot see the word "smoking" jumping off the page. All of a sudden it has become the real main issue behind all of this, that we must override our own municipal unit - here

[Page 1626]

in this area where this Legislature is situated - that has been trying, and not without problems, to push forward timely anti-smoking legislation to ban smoking in public places.

There can be many bylaws that could be overridden by this provincial government, laws of the municipal units which, as we know, are so-called creatures of the province. So they depend very much on the benevolence of this government, and this government has chosen to slap them down to say, no, you're being bad children, we will have the strongest legislation in Canada against smoking. They were among several provinces that had some substantive legislation at that time, but they're quickly falling behind. What they're gaining ahead now right across this country are the exemptions that they're bringing in on their public smoking Act. That's what the hallmark of this province will be, the exemptions that they're bringing in.

So the contract doesn't spell out smoking, and the danger of these amendments is that it will open up the door to other bylaws - it could be to do with parking, it could be to do with access to the site, there could be any number of things. It could be signage down the road, it could be any number of things that would open these new, widening amendments that will grant the operators of the casino to maybe drive a truck through this legislation by opening it up. I know that caught your attention, Mr. [Deputy] Speaker, I know you have great affinity for going down the road on the 18-wheelers. We won't go there today, but with respect, I always appreciate that must have been a great experience that you brought to the Legislature, but we don't want legislation that we can drive a truck through.

So, there's danger by opening up this whole issue. Just leave it alone, get a muzzle on the Minister of Finance and then go to work on building a case. I would suggest probably getting some other legal opinions other than the in-house type of advice that this government has used as an excuse. I think in all fairness - and this really spells out what this bill, these amendments on this enabling legislation does, that the government thinks that they can bring in items like this, open it up to other challenges by the casino operators that would challenge other bylaws of HRM and they think they can blame that on the previous government.

That's not going to wash, Mr. Speaker, this government has been government for four years. Times have changed. The courts have spoken on many issues relative to smoking. The whole landscape on anti-smoking legislation has changed and that is it's not only on a logistic basis that it's changed, on a judicial basis, it has changed within the temper of the times. This government is missing an opportunity. It's missing an opportunity by ducking the tough issues. If you look at what's happening, the band-aid approach to their health care system, the education system and all the others, they're trying to put these things all together and are calling them a plan.

It's not washing, Mr. Speaker. It's not credible within this House. It's not credible throughout this province. The first thing is to stop the misspeaking of the ministers of the front bench, particularly the Finance Minister, and allowing more ammunition to tip the

[Page 1627]

hand, to show the hand of this government, only what it's prepared to do but what it's prepared not to do. It's not prepared to go to the wall and fight for those workplace issues that would protect people from second-hand smoke.

The bottom line is the government is giving in to the casino's demands without a fight. The minister has given away his position and the position of the government. With those negotiating skills, it's no wonder this government lost to Newfoundland on the Laurentian boundaries dispute. The member for Glace Bay said he was concerned for a period of time that that decision might even take away part of his Glace Bay riding. He asked, no wonder that the offshore is at a standstill.

This bill, also, Mr. Speaker, clearly and distinctly raises a white flag of surrender that this government was not prepared to stand up for the workers of this province, those people who have to work in situations such as the casino. It's not going to wash to blame it on another government. I was part of that government. Yes, mind you when we got to be in the final year of a minority government, then, of course, you couldn't get any support for this type of legislation at all. They were quite happy, as our government, to let us take the blame for all of these things.

When their time came to bat, they simply, after four years to get their house in order, have just simply not stepped up to the plate, they've walked away. That's going to cost lives, that's going to cost Nova Scotians their lives. It's not only that, it's overriding a municipal unit that's trying their darnedest to wrestle, and there are some people like our nominated candidate in the Sackville area, he's prepared to put his future on the line and stand up for something that he believes in.

When we look back at all of this Mr. Speaker, it has shades of the nurses bill. When it came to browbeating the nurses, this government had no problem with that. It comes to the same thing, when it's supposed to be, should be, protecting the health of Nova Scotians. It shows contempt for those people. It's a symptom of a much larger problem. It means the government is putting politics before sound policy. We've seen it throughout Bill No. 36. The reason that we need more consultation and need the six months' hoist is to address some of the issues. It's riddled with politics, the $155 cheque to buy the votes of Nova Scotians, and this backing down from the casinos and tipping your hand and showing the white flag immediately.

When it comes to a choice between good policy and politics, politics with this government wins every time, every time under this Tory Government. We all know of the deadly consequences when politics is allowed to rule the day, especially when it comes to occupational health and safety, second-hand smoke or even in the coal mines. Before I leave that particular part, Part III of the bill and the reason that needs a lot more consultation, I want to pay tribute to Dr. Andrew Lynk and the doctors in Cape Breton. Of all the places in this province, with its strong history of heavy smoking and environmental issues, this group,

[Page 1628]

this area has really tried to do something about that and turn a chapter and make some changes in health promotion and lifestyle issues and they've done that well. The aldermen have responded to advice from the medical, the health community. They responded to the people in their constituencies and they have shown leadership. Now, after having a complete ban on smoking in public places, showing leadership in this province from an area, in all fairness, that most of us thought we would never live long enough to see that day. They really jumped right into the fray and showed leadership. (Interruption) My colleague has reminded me to say hoist every so often and we are talking . . .

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member should adhere to the sage advice of his honourable colleague.

DR. SMITH: Well, the honourable member does know that he's a very sage colleague and well-advised to listen to that. The reason I mention hoist at this juncture, Mr. Speaker, particularly is that these people, the health professionals in the Cape Breton area, have specifically addressed the issue that they have not had proper consultation in that area. They work so hard and those are the people who came to this area and spoke on the anti-smoking legislation and to the Law Amendments Committee and spoke extremely well at that time.

They say there's only so much, Mr. Speaker, that health care workers can do to battle the province's very high rate of cancers and heart disease, particularly in the Cape Breton community, and that they do need the leadership and the leadership of this government to take that role of leadership on this particular issue. They are dismayed. They cannot believe that of all the battles that they've won over a period of time can be just done away with by a stroke of the pen here in the provincial Legislature. So it's not a question of not supporting the legislation what this government has traditionally done. What it has done is it's overriding the legislation and that's even worse.

So this is so important to spend the next while, let the Premier and others go into the Cape Breton area and see how they feel about overriding their bylaws. The people in that area are very proud and they know that the battles are won inch by inch and they fought hard over the years for social justice in that community and now they're fighting for the lives of people who have to work in communities. This government is responding, after putting up the white flag, immediately saying to the casino operators we surrender. You've got us. That bad Liberal Government signed a bad contract. Well, that contract, Mr. Speaker, did not speak about smoking. There's not a word about smoking in that contract and that's the truth. So let this government stand up and be counted and act responsibly and adhere to the commitment they made to protect the people of Nova Scotia.

Sydney doctors say, Mr. Speaker, the province should stand up and should not be pushed around and intimidated by big tobacco companies and the casino operators and, make no mistake, there's a linkage there. The big tobacco companies are very happy to have the casino operators intimidate this government and that is exactly what is happening. Andrew

[Page 1629]

Lynk, who appeared before the Law Amendments Committee on other legislation relative to these matters, said that the medical staff believes the province will not be defeated in the courts or suffer financial penalties by doing the right thing and protecting Nova Scotians' health.

When I was looking for advice when I first came to these Chambers back in 1984, and in those earlier years I often looked to Bill Gillis, Guy Brown and Vince MacLean and all the others who were much more experienced. (Interruption) Vince MacLean was one of the best and strongest parliamentarians that ever entered these Chambers and he knew the rules and he adhered to them. You may make other comments about Vince but that's up to you but I certainly felt that he had great respect for the parliamentary tradition and British parliamentary system, I wish there was a little bit more of it some days here.

[2:15 p.m.]

Anyway, Dr. Lynk and others feel - and it is only their opinion - that this government should take the chance, should go toe to toe with the casino operators in Sydney and Halifax and let them prove a disadvantage, to see, in fact, what kind of poker they are playing. Will they blink? They believe that they will blink. If it goes to the court, they believe that what's right is fair. My point about advice that I received from people, my older and more experienced colleagues, they said when you're making a point and you're making a speech or question or resolution, or you're bringing something before the House, just don't worry about it, do what you can, speak the truth, speak how you feel, because if it is right and it is the right thing to do, in the long run you'll be supported and you'll be proven to be right.

I think this is an opportunity, Mr. Speaker, that this government has had to do the right thing and to be fair with the workers in Nova Scotia. You can give away the hard-earned rights just millimetre by millimetre and that's what happening here. It is not right and it is not fair.

Mr. Speaker, I think that's about all I have to say relative to supporting the hoist on the smoking issue. It is a major issue. I did want to make a few more comments on other matters relative to other parts of this bill as to why there should be a six months' hoist. There are some major issues here particularly in the tax issues.

The overall point about Part IV and others relative the Income Tax Act is the way that this government in the next election, which many people feel will be very shortly, will be having to explain to people why they feel that they can buy their vote with their own money. People are starting to understand that this government is increasing the debt in this province. It is borrowing money and yet at the same time, under the guise of stimulating the economy, it is really mailing out cheques to buy the votes of Nova Scotians.

[Page 1630]

I spoke earlier on this matter, briefly. I haven't spoken a great deal on many of the issues here in this last while, but I lived in British Columbia and that's the day I confessed to voting NDP and I'm not going to do that today (Interruptions) because I've seen the error of my ways for some time now. But I was driven to such a drastic measure by the Wacky Bennett Government that just had no shame. I thought that I would never see a government like Wacky Bennett - God rest his soul - W.A.C. Bennett - I should be more respectful, but I thought I'll never see a government that was so crass and would do anything to get re-elected. Everything was going along and I was very pleased - not that I was ever going to vote NDP again and I don't think this government would drive me to that either, because there are great alternatives, there is the Danny Graham Liberal Party with the potential to be the next government of this province.

The point being, I thought I would never see the crassness of W.A.C. Bennett ever again in my lifetime. I was finished with the NDP, I was finished with W.A.C. Bennett, so I came home to Nova Scotia thinking that there would be no government that would ever in this modern day, in the year 2003, be crass enough to think that they could buy a vote from Nova Scotians with borrowed money. There is something wrong with that picture, Mr. Speaker. (Interruption) Well, you call it a glass turkey or whatever you want to call it. But we do have it here. There is a lot of talk about accounting and how budgets are reported. There was a movement by our government, the minority government, that the accounting rules would be changed. We didn't have tangible capital assets accounting like today and we think it's a good change and was supported. We were certainly moving in that direction, there was a commitment to do that.

Just the same, you can amortize every capital project, it doesn't mean you can spend more than you earn. The big thing here, and the point I want to make at this juncture, is when you look at a bill to Provide for Defraying Certain Charges and Expenses of the Public Service of the Province, and this is Bill No. 41 before the Legislature. This is why we need to hoist Bill No. 36, to get out there and let people understand. Just that one page tells the story of this government. The debt service costs, Department of Finance, $1,062,316,000, the debt servicing costs of this province in this bill cited as the Appropriations Act of 2003. That is more than the Department of Education.

We know, and I don't want to dwell on the negatives because I think there are challenges here in this province, I think we have a lot of rural areas and there are a lot of challenges in education, there are a lot of challenges in urban areas. I would like to put more of a face in a positive way on education. But we are not doing well nationally in education. I think that's a fair statement. If you look at what's happening here, the borrowing of this government has placed us, with the debt service costs, now $1,062,316,000 higher - it's higher - than the Department of Education's budget, which is $980, 241,000.

[Page 1631]

Then you look down, the other story of this government that this one page that was tabled here I think last evening by the Minister of Finance, after he folded up his white flag from waving it at the casino operators, he got out this piece of paper. It speaks for itself, and it says a lot about this government. You have the Department of Health, $2.1 billion in Health. That was more than what we had projected in a health plan that we had devised and we were told was not accepted by either of the other two Parties in a minority government situation. We brought it in during a budget, did not have time to explain it. We had consulted with various groups, various stakeholders prior to the release of the budget, and we had great acceptance on that.

But that, many people credit, led to the fall of the minority government. At least it was the excuse used at that time. The Premier, going into that election, said he could fix health care. Liberals broke it, Tories good, they will fix it for $46 million or whatever it was. He was going to do it. There was no new money. This would all come in from administration. They were going to cut the fat out of health care. The previous Minister of Health over there is chuckling, but he didn't have a great deal of success cutting the fat out of health care, because when he got there he found out there isn't really any. In fact, he had to bring some more fat in - now I shouldn't say that, that might be the wrong description. (Laughter) Although the deputy is chunky, I wouldn't refer to him that way. (Interruptions)

They found out, to get the quality of people they needed that they really had to up the ante and pay a pretty considerable price, with travel and expense allowances and salaries. The Premier said that he could fix health care for $46 million, no new money. He said that $1.5 billion was enough to run the health care system. Now, at this juncture, for Health, we see $2,111,454,000. So those two items, the Department of Education now second to the cost for the debt servicing of this province, that those ministers across the way, Mr. Speaker, continually add to, they add and they've added as much or more to health care than what our proposal, one of the very reasons that both of the Parties used to take a Liberal Government down in a minority government situation with very little flexibility, having to kowtow to the wishes and the demands of the other two Parties, but we had been forthright with Nova Scotians. We said health care does need an injection.

So what has happened here, we've gone from that $1.5 billion to $2.1 billion, a substantive increase and still no plan. You have an infrastructure where we're seeing resignations of the head of psychiatry for Dalhousie in the capital region. We're seeing one of the top oncologists, Dr. Reyno, leaving from here. Here is a gentleman who was recruited by our government during our watch to come back, he grew up in Herring Cove. He's a local person, an ideal type of person, an extremely talented oncologist, an expert in cancer, and he was recruited through Dr. Andy Padmos to come back here and now he's leaving.

So this is the slippery slope, Mr. Speaker, that you see when you don't put infrastructure in health care to sustain specialists or family doctors within this province. We see that in psychiatrists, the minister herself has said, and that's why we should hoist this bill

[Page 1632]

and go out and listen to the people and find out how many more oncologists are in fact leaving and how many more psychiatrists are resigning. The Minister of Health said in the House here recently that this province needs, I think she said 14 to 15 psychiatrists, and that's only the tip of the iceberg. Now, yes, they have brought forward a plan with adolescent and child psychiatry and I think a lot of that is a plan that looks like, if the personnel can be recruited to fill those slots, we will have achieved some substantive improvement in the mental health for that particular age group. But we're not doing it for adults and we're not doing it particularly for seniors.

Mr. Speaker, we have in the Yarmouth community 0.5 psychiatrists at this juncture. You talk about a health team and psychiatrists, not everybody with mental health issues has to go a psychiatrist. That's a given. There are a lot of family doctors out there who would be pleased to carry on a mental health service to the people in their community and they would do it well, but they need a couple of things and they need, number one, a quick assessment. When you get a young person or an adult sitting in front of you - as a family doctor I have, and I'm sure others who have practices have had that experience - who say they're going to kill themselves. Well, some might just go out and do that and sometimes you can deal with that yourself as a family doctor, but there are other times you need an assessment and you need a quick assessment and you need it then. You can't let that person out of your sight until you have some other care. You need support and you need support not only of psychiatry, but you need social workers, health nurses, public health personnel and all matters of support.

That's what's lacking around this province, Mr. Speaker. I'm sorry for the minister that she has such a tough job to recruit under those circumstances, but it's this government in the last four years that has allowed the infrastructure of health care in this province to deteriorate. It has not increased over the four years. You ask the people. Look at the waiting times, the lineups and the closures, the cancellation of surgery, the closure of emergency departments on a regular basis. That's why we have got to go out into the communities and hear those stories that people want to share.

I think now, Mr. Speaker, you do have another introduction, I believe.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you to the honourable member for Dartmouth East.

The honourable member for Annapolis on an introduction.

MR. FRANK CHIPMAN: Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to rise in the House today to make an introduction of a gentleman in the east gallery. He has always had an extreme interest, I should say, in politics, Mr. Alex Gillis from Middleton. I would ask him to please stand and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

[Page 1633]

[2:30 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Yes, indeed. Welcome to Mr. Gillis and welcome to all our guests in the gallery this afternoon as we debate the hoist motion on Bill No. 36, the Financial Measures (2003) Bill. The honourable member for Dartmouth East has the floor.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, this particular part of addressing the hoist motion, I would just close and refer honourable members to the first page of Bill No. 41. That tells an awful lot about this government. When the debt service has now markedly exceeded the Department of Education's Budget, and the Health Budget has gone from $1.5 billion, that the now Premier said could be completely adequate, that has increased $2.1 billion and yet we see the deterioration daily. It gets so you're afraid to open the newspapers or check your e-mails or speak with your research staff some days as to what will be happening next.

When people who you've been involved with meeting and encouraging, like Dr. Reyno, to come to this province, who came from that great community of Herring Cove, who has bread and buttered so many great Nova Scotian citizens and you have those people come to your community, recruiting them back from Ontario and they spend some time here and then you see them leaving, that is something that strikes right to the heart of health care in this province that is not sustainable, but the job gets more difficult the more often these types of things happen, where you have good people leaving.

Speaking to the hoist motion, on Bill No. 36, we talk about missed opportunities, we speak in terms of repeating the mistakes of the past, that burdens that are heavy today on us, that over $1 billion in debt servicing that the appropriations under the Department of Finance, that really tells the story. There's no plan in sight to address that particular issue.

The other comments I could be making very well and I'll bring my comments to a close fairly shortly on these matters, but the fact is that I was part of a government and others of us at that time, we saw the cutbacks from the mid-90s, the cutbacks of the federal government, and it's made Canada a much more stable environment and a higher ranking country. But the people of Nova Scotia certainly paid that price. Of course, we paid the ultimate price as a government and not having sustainability in the programs, at least in the minds of the other Parties that was supportable.

We were forced to do measures that were drastic to maintain, but we did have a plan. We were prepared to put that on the line and we took our medicine. The medicine was sour, Mr. Speaker, because it cost us a government. But, we were truthful with the people of Nova Scotia, the way that Danny Graham is telling the truth now about the matters of (Interruptions) well, so the member for Preston says, what a joke. But it's fine for you, you agree, as a backbencher, in this government that it's proper to go out and borrow money to increase the debt servicing beyond $1 billion? Would you try for $1.5 billion, honourable

[Page 1634]

member for Preston? When he goes out after hoisting this bill and does his consultation, I wonder what the people in his area will say?

AN HON. MEMBER: Thank you.

DR. SMITH: The people who get the cheque will say thank you. What about the people who don't get the cheque? I think you'll be hearing from them. I believe that. We don't have to repeat the mistakes of the past. The honourable member for Inverness has been fairly good this day since he's had Friday all to himself. He's been pretty good, I want to compliment him on that.

Seriously, Mr. Speaker, we must learn from the past. There have been philosophers and historians who have spoken well about this, much better than I might. This government is falling into the traps not only of the W.A.C. Bennett, but of the previous Buchanan Government. The price is there, the figures are waiting, they will move and they're moving in the wrong direction.

Now we do have a more stable economy nationally, the money is coming from Ottawa. In fact, the new Health money this year, and I haven't heard it disputed too much, we said, of the $140 million going into health care, the increased money, only about $300,000 was actually new money from the province and the federal government was bailing them out. Now that would have been the scenario that as Minister of Health I certainly would have enjoyed, not trying to explain to people why we had to swallow the medicine that the federal government was dishing out in the mid-90s and really not having the flexibility. I look back on tele-health and the EHS services, the new ambulance services and all the things that our government did under very difficult challenging times, with cutbacks coming from the federal government. When you woke up in the morning, you didn't know what was going to happen next to your budget.

I make no apologies for what we did. We managed very frugally, and we managed well. We also were under that burden of the debt that was passed on by the previous Tory Government. Why does history have to repeat itself again, Mr. Speaker? That's what we're seeing here today, history is repeating itself. The economy is relatively healthy at this time, so why not pay down the debt now and find ways to save some money, so that you can put that money, that over $1 billion in debt servicing, put it into the health care, into public health issues. Look at the scare with SARS, did we not learn anything from that - Toronto just floundered for a period of time, and within their own health care hospital system, that's where the system broke down. We had lost.

One of the editorials in the National Post this morning, the financial page, speaks in terms of politics overriding science. That's exactly what this bill is doing, politics is overriding good fiscal management and politics is overriding the good health care management within this province. Instead of using that $68 million or even the tax rebate of

[Page 1635]

$140 million, we're continuing to borrow, taking away from building that infrastructure within health care that is so important.

The money is coming in from Ottawa now. I certainly envy those and I might even say I'm a bit jealous at times that they're able to live in these times when the federal government has opened the coffers in so many areas. Going to announcements of $66 million, the Minister of Community Services announcing all federal money, and without a federal minister taking any credit for it all, allowing the provincial government to show, on the evening news, as if that was their largesse. Well, their largesse, when you look at the total picture, this balance sheet is really costing us markedly, even though the federal government is coming up to bat. This government has not come up to bat, it has not come up to bat for the people of Nova Scotia, the children of Nova Scotia, the needs of education and matters of literacy, shelter, personal safety, all those rights that are enshrined, the rights of the child, the Convention on the Rights of the Child are being neglected by this government, as they move forward with a political agenda within the revenue management of this province and within the education and the health care systems.

It's all about politics. It amazes me that the people on the opposite side of this House can find this funny and a joke, that they can mail out $155 cheques thinking that they can buy the votes of Nova Scotians. I hope it doesn't work. I've lots of faith in this province; I love this province; I chose this province to live in after having been away for a few years and I haven't regretted a minute of it, ever. I have faith in the people, that they will see through what's actually happening, and that they, by taking that cheque, and even if they are in great need, $155 is a lot of money to many people. I still feel like I'm rich if I have $50 in my back pocket. So be it, Mr. Speaker, I suspect that having filed an income tax, I will have to accept that cheque. We won't get into details what we will do with that.

Times are relatively better now. This government has had a better ride than our previous government but are we working now if there is a downturn, a recession, if interest rates go up? How well are we going to be placed on the balance sheet, Mr. Speaker, when we have over $1 billion a year in debt service charges in this province of less than 1 million people. What if that goes up with high interest rates and there is a recession and downturn? Who would have thought of 9/11 and the impact that had?

Who would think of SARS and the impact it has had on a city such as Toronto who now, for many years, may well be labeled because perhaps there was a breakdown in the public health system. That's what happens when your infrastructure breaks down. You are not prepared and you don't respond and you're fighting a retro rear-guard action. That's what happened. That's what we are doing here in adult mental health. That's what we are doing in education, Mr. Speaker, because 33 per cent is not good enough results for the children of this province and matters relative to literacy and their future job training and access into the world economy.

[Page 1636]

So, it took us a decade to recover from the last recession and we are still paying for that, as the balance sheet shows. It's not an accident that debt services costs are $1 billion. It happened, Mr. Speaker, because 13 years ago it was decided it was okay to spend instead of paying off the debt. In the 1980s it was, don't worry, Sable will save us, the offshore. We can spend now because the economy will grow later. Well, we know that hasn't happened but the government kept insisting, onward and upward. There was a bit of a plan that that government had. They had some capable people there. They should have done better because they did have capable people but are you going to use an excuse that this government doesn't have capable people? Some people have that opinion.

Arrogance tends to cover up incompetence often. Is that what we're seeing coming into this election? Some people say that. I don't want to misspeak myself here in the House, Mr. Speaker, because we have already lost one member today and the ranks are getting a little shallow in spots so I'm very careful when I speak to the hoist motion for Bill No. 36, that I'm very careful to stick right directly to the hoist part of this amendment.

AN HON. MEMBER: Hoisting yourself.

DR. SMITH: One member said I should hoist myself and I think he wants to speak so I'm going to give him the opportunity pretty quickly.

Mr. Speaker, what it is here, we have a government that really doesn't care about the future. It's all about now. It's like an addiction. It's like they've got addicted to gambling, they've got addicted to smoke and they've got addicted to the free cheques in the mail but there are no free cheques in the mail. The day of reckoning is upon us and it will come and it will face us right head on.

So this government is a government that doesn't care about the future. It cares about the election that may well be very close, within maybe a few days even. Who knows when it will be called? But they are not concerned about the welfare and the well-being, particularly of our children. People say, well, the children are our future. That's only half a sentence, Mr. Speaker. The children are our future but the rest of that sentence is - and their needs are now and they can't wait. They can't wait on education, they can't wait on child protection, early child development, prenatal, all of those matters. The children, the welfare, the social well-being of our children cannot wait because their needs are now.

The growing debt, it threatens a whole generation. This government, Mr. Speaker, is saying, don't worry, be happy. It's soon time to get the barbeque message from the Premier again. Go out around, be happy. The only thing is I have to get that election over with before the students come back in September so they better not get too happy out there and get careless but I'm sure they are polling and they're trying to balance it off, whether they can (Interruption) what's going to happen? Maybe six months will change their mind. Maybe they will try to stretch it to five years. They could. But at least they're not doing the two and

[Page 1637]

three year John Buchanan trick, but they've hung in long enough trying to get up in the polls. Maybe their polling is telling them that they're looking a little stronger. I doubt it.

[2:45 p.m.]

So it loans people $155 a day, it's loaning them money out of borrowed money, so they're borrowing, loaning the money out, but the people of Nova Scotia will have to pay that $155 back someday. That's what they want to talk about with this government, see what plans they have for paying that $155 back.

That is just deferred taxation. You can talk about increasing taxes or decreasing taxes and debt is deferred taxation, it means the tax breaks of today will mean a tax increase of tomorrow. So you can play all the glossy brochures we're going to see out from consultants from Toronto that this government usually gets, and they'll be talking about, vote for us, we're going to cut your taxes, we're going to give you more money, we're going to fix health care, we're going to educate your children, all of those promises. They are not all things to all people. In fact, they're very quickly becoming nothing to everyone. They're losing credibility rapidly and thinking Nova Scotians can spot this and they're going to have to be accountable for that. Sooner or later it will be at the ballot box.

Borrowing $118 million to give back $68 million is bad math. It's bad public policy and it's even bad politics and we should wait and see how that works. I believe that Nova Scotians can't be bought. I think in supporting the amendment to hoist this Bill No. 36 for six months, you would hear that. The choice is there - hoist it for six months or go to the people and let them speak at the ballot box. Either way, I think Nova Scotians are fair-minded and they want to do what's right. They will give the information to this Tory Government that they can't play politics with the health care system and the education and the health and well-being of their children who needs are now. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to enter the debate and speak for some time on the hoist motion that was introduced with respect to Bill No. 36. The motion is a delay motion, it's a six months' hoist to give all members of this House an opportunity to discuss their respective thoughts or their constituents' feelings with respect to this legislation.

I have a few things that I wanted to say as well. I think the opportunity to take six months and consider the implications of this bill and what it means in the scheme of things, in the scheme of the political debate in the Province of Nova Scotia, is a good idea. Over the last number of years, last 10 years, this province and other provinces in the country have been engaged in what I think is a phony exercise of trying to present a semblance of fiscal management to the taxpayers. They've done things, as we have here and elsewhere, brought

[Page 1638]

in balanced budget legislation which restricts and constrains a government in terms of what they can do, in terms of increasing the debt or increasing the deficit in any particular year.

What that does, it has an impact on the decisions that are made in any given year by the government. I use, for example, the decision by the Liberals in 1996 to build schools in the Province of Nova Scotia through what's called P3s or public-private partnerships. They did this, not because it was a good idea, not because it would save money, not because it would improve education in the Province of Nova Scotia, they did it simply so that they could build some schools that were badly needed in the province. They could pay for the construction of those schools through annual lease payments that were made to the private sector who designed, built and operate these schools for a period of 20 years.

In other words, that was the decision that was made strictly as a result of the accounting rules, as a result of the constraints brought upon the government by balanced budget legislation. The consequence in that case was that we've got schools that are being operated by the private sector, where access is being restricted, the quality is in question in many of those schools, the inequity of education provided between P3 schools and other public schools has increased and, of course, the cost is much greater, Mr. Speaker, because of the need for profit and the increased costs of borrowing that were faced by the private sector in order to finance these projects over a period of 20 years. So the decision to engage in this shell game of balanced budgets, of trying to present a vision of good fiscal management ends up costing this province and ends up costing the taxpayers considerably over the short- and long-term.

I think we need a six months' hoist and the reason I stand to support it is that it would provide us an opportunity to explore some of those issues and some other issues that I would like to raise. My colleague, the Finance Critic for the NDP caucus, has pointed out, Mr. Speaker, the member for Halifax Fairview has pointed out that the supposed surplus that we had in 2002-03 is illusory, that it doesn't really exist on paper. He talked about federal tax changes that were made, accounting changes that were made in the previous year and made again this year, that resulted in the government being able to register a $14 million surplus for that year. We know even without that, or besides that, at the end of the 2002-03 budget year we had a massive catastrophic flood in the Province of Nova Scotia, which is going to mean at least $10 million plus to the Province of Nova Scotia - extra costs, extra expenditures.

So even without the accounting work that was done, Mr. Speaker, the obvious costs to the Province of Nova Scotia are going to mean that that surplus doesn't exist. The surplus for this year likewise may very well end up disappearing in a puff of smoke, and again I think it's questionable exactly, and something that we should discuss, whether, in fact, we're accomplishing anything as a Legislature or whether this government is accomplishing anything by continuing to play this balanced budget game. The reason I say that is because on the one hand we supposedly have a few million dollars in surplus, but on the other hand

[Page 1639]

we have a debt that is increasing at an alarming rate year after year. So the servicing costs for that debt are increasing upwards of $1.5 billion annually - and that's a lot of money and it indicates that even when it comes to the straight optical, showing the numbers on the paper, we aren't really in a true surplus situation.

But there are other consequences to playing this game, Mr. Speaker, that I think should be explored over the six-month period and that is where - what parts of the economy, what parts of the public sector, what parts of the Province of Nova Scotia - life in the Province of Nova Scotia is suffering as a result of some of these decisions. We just had an Auditor General's Report come down a few weeks ago that registered, again, that there is a capital construction deficit in school boards in excess of $500 million. What that means, Mr. Speaker, is that in order to bring the 466 schools - and that's what we have in the Province of Nova Scotia - up to scratch, in order to repair damage as a result of deferred maintenance and otherwise to these schools, it would cost the province $500 million in order to do that. That's in excess of $1 million per school.

What that means is that if we continue to fail to invest, to catch up to the deferred maintenance that we've let go in the past, it's going to continue to build like a snowball, it's going to get worse in the future, Mr. Speaker. You could say that that $500 million should in fact be added to the debt of the Province of Nova Scotia, because it's an obligation, it's a liability on the taxpayers that at some point or another is going to have to be paid. In the meantime, you have children who are going to schools that are making them sick, in schools that are not adequate, in schools that don't have enough space, in schools that don't have proper facilities or facilities that are in a proper condition in order for them to realize the same level of education that their cohorts do in other parts of the province.

In other words, Mr. Speaker, the children, right now, who are attending school in the Province of Nova Scotia, who are those schools that are in desperate need of maintenance and repair, are paying for this game that we're playing here in the House of do you or do you not have a surplus, or do you or do you not have a balanced budget. At some point, we are going to be faced with making some investments. Education, surely, it needs to be recognized that any money spent in Education is an investment in the economy, it's an investment in our society as Nova Scotians. It's an investment in our future. It should not be looked on as simply a pawn in the game of politics over balanced budgets.

We have problems, Mr. Speaker, in other areas, other areas of this province that are failing to be invested in so that the government can stand up and say we have a balanced budget or we have a surplus, therefore, we are good managers. You and I know that there are tens of millions of dollars necessary or needed to be able to bring our roads, our secondary roads, let alone our 100-Series Highways up to some kind of condition. If those roads are not brought up to standard, and our bridges and other highway transportation infrastructure are not brought up to standard, are not brought up to snuff, then what that's doing is increasing costs to the economy of this province through accidents, through injuries, through fatalities,

[Page 1640]

through damage to equipment, through the impeding of the movement of goods and services in the Province of Nova Scotia.

It is an investment that is going to have to be made. It's going to have to be made at some point, and if we continue to defer it, it's only going to build, it's only going to build. So when you think about the tens and hundreds of millions that are necessary to bring that highway infrastructure up to scratch, Mr. Speaker, can we then truly say that we have a balanced budget or a surplus?

Likewise, in areas of water and sewer, of other municipal infrastructure, we have failed, over the last number of years, to make the investments that are necessary in that level of infrastructure. The consequences are going to be considerable if we fail to recognize the level of deterioration in that infrastructure. We know that last year we had 30 to 40 boil water orders in the Province of Nova Scotia. That is municipal, small municipal and large municipal, water supplies, drinking water supplies, where the quality of the water has gotten to the point where that water needs to be tested. It's not safe for human consumption.

[3:00 p.m.]

Now part of the reason why this is happening is that we don't have appropriate, let alone adequate, infrastructure in place to treat and to clean the drinking water to ensure that it's safe. That's an investment that is going to have to be made, if not by this government then by some future government. That's an obligation, a liability that the taxpayers of the Province of Nova Scotia are going to be responsible for.

Let's continue and look at the failure of this government to invest in workplace safety and health. We have regulations still on the desk of the minister, still in the department of the minister on things like violence, on things like air quality, on things like industrial safety, dealing with chemical and biological hazards, dealing with roll-over protection. Regulations which, if they were in place, could save lives, could prevent injuries and could save costs for employers and for employees. If these regulations were implemented, then there would need to be resources put behind the implementation of these regulations to ensure that they were enforced. We already have a problem in the Department of Environment and Labour with the lack of inspectors, or inspectors who are desperately overworked, and the result is that workplace safety and health, many feel in this province, is not a priority of this government.

The point I'm making is that by failing to put the proper resources in place, by failing to do simple things like assigning a special prosecutor in the Department of Justice to occupational health and safety issues is putting off, I would suggest, Mr. Speaker, costs to employees, to workers who end up getting injured, who end up dying on the job, and it puts off costs to individual employers as well.

[Page 1641]

Just look at what this government has done around the smoking issue. They have failed to take the leadership that's necessary. They have failed to work together with the municipality here in Halifax, HRM, and in Sydney to properly enforce a no-smoking bylaw throughout all workplaces. They have decided to exempt casinos. They have decided, Mr. Speaker, for whatever reason, that the lives of those workers working in that casino - who are sucking in that air that's filled with toxic fumes of second-hand smoke - they are the ones, they and their families and the province down the road, are going to absorb additional costs rather than the casino, rather than the Province of Nova Scotia right now by properly enforcing the bylaws, backing up their smoking in public places legislation. By providing an exemption for casinos in the Province of Nova Scotia is again shifting the burden, shifting the financial burden onto the backs of workers who will end up getting sick and may die as a result of working in these smoke-filled workplaces.

The people outside, the women and men who work in small options homes here in HRM, who provide services to the intellectually disabled, are on the streets on strike. They have withdrawn their labour from RRSS and they have done so because of the fact that this government has made a decision that it's more important to play the game of pretending that we have a little surplus, rather than appropriately and adequately funding small options programs in the Province of Nova Scotia. By properly providing services to those Nova Scotians who are requiring the assistance of special workers, like the ones who are out there on the streets right now, providing the space in small options homes and the programs and services that will enable these Nova Scotians to learn, to gain confidence, to gain skills so that they will be able to continue to gain independence and be able to make a contribution to their communities.

The government has made a very clear choice not to properly fund RRSS so that they can provide the beds and services necessary and so that they can provide a fair wage to their workers. The government has made a choice not to do that, but instead to try to play the games, to try to fool Nova Scotians, to try to fool all of us into thinking that they have a surplus. It's wrong. I ask the minister today in this House how he and his government can allow this dispute to continue. This dispute is resulting in devastation to some families, is resulting in the disruption to the lives of people who are unable to care for themselves, who are unable to handle the level of disruption and distraction they are being faced with. They are the ones who are paying the ultimate price here.

I understand this idea that, we're not the employer, we're arm's-length, we're behind closed doors, but no one is being fooled. No one is being fooled into believing that it's not the Government of Nova Scotia that is the ultimate funder of this service that will determine whether or not the management of RRSS has sufficient funds in order to negotiate.

I'm not standing here asking the minister to necessarily hand over gobs of money to settle this dispute. What I'm asking him and his colleagues to do is to consider the impact that this dispute is having on the clients, on the families, on the workers who have dedicated

[Page 1642]

their lives to the service of those who are intellectually disabled and to step in in some way, shape or form to ensure that this dispute is brought to a close. There are a lot of different ways, there are a lot of tools available to the minister and his government and his colleague, the Minister of Environment and Labour, in order to solve this dispute.

I'm not standing here and arguing on behalf of either side, at this point, but I am saying to this government that it's unconscionable that you're allowing this dispute to continue. You can't wash your hands of it. You have to get involved and this dispute must be resolved in the spirit of fairness and compassion for Nova Scotians.

There's been some debate in this House about this $155 and whether it's the most cynical form of political posturing by a government. It's not unlike in many ways the $600 million Health Investment Fund that the Liberals proposed in 1999 with absolutely no caveats, with no parameters whatsoever, just saying, we're going to spend $600 million of your money, we don't know how, we don't know where, but we want you to know that we're going to spend it and we want you to vote for us. It's like buying their vote, what the $155 is intended to do. It takes $40 million of revenue out of the system and it gives it back to individual Nova Scotians, certain individual Nova Scotians, not all Nova Scotians.

I've spoken to many people who have said to me that they're going to take that $155 and they're going to spend it and they're going to say thank you very much. It's not going to have an impact on how they're going to vote. Their level of respect and cynicism for government and what government can do is so low that they say, well, it's better than nothing, but there are many others who are saying why don't they take that $155, why don't they take that $40-odd million and invest it into services for the intellectually disabled? Why don't they invest it into the system to ensure that this dispute is resolved? Why don't they invest it into services for children in schools who require special education? Why don't they invest it into services and support and technical aids for disabled Nova Scotians? Why don't they return some of the money that was ripped out of the pockets of children when the child tax credit was reduced? Why don't they invest that $40-plus million into the health care system that is providing such inadequate care to so many Nova Scotians?

Those are some of the things that Nova Scotians are saying about the $155, but you see it's all about politics, that's what we're into here, it's all about politics. This government has been very much a stand-pat kind, keep your head down, stay below the radar screen, tread water, hand out a few goodies and hope that it will get re-elected.

I tell you, Mr. Speaker, that there are many Nova Scotians who voted for this group opposite who are very discouraged and dissatisfied with the lack of leadership that is coming from the other side because the majority of Nova Scotians believe that there is reason to have hope, that there is reason to believe that this province will prosper on its own, let alone with a visionary and proactive government, that there are Nova Scotians by the tens of thousands throughout this province who are working in different ways to make their lives better, to

[Page 1643]

make the lives of their neighbours and their families better, and all they're looking for from the government is a bit of leadership, a bit of confidence, a bit of hope, and we're not seeing that because again nobody is fooled, that at some point in the very near future and in some places it's immediate, the schools have to be replaced.

Some people realize that in some places the bridges need to be replaced because they are falling down, that the roads need to be fixed, Mr. Speaker, that there's infrastructure that needs to be responded to by this government. There are investments that need to be made that this government is not making so that they can play the silly game of standing here and saying, look at us, what a great government are we, we've been able to balance the budget or come up with a minuscule surplus.

[3:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, who else is paying? There's children, the intellectually disabled, the people who work with and provide support and services to those Nova Scotians, the people who work in casinos, the people who work in workplaces and through no fault of their own become injured or whose families suffer as a result of this, they're paying. Seniors on fixed incomes are continuing to pay more. Their gasoline, home heating fuel continues to go up. Their insurance costs, automobile insurance costs, are going right through the roof. Is this government doing anything to prevent that, to prevent the burden of increased costs on those Nova Scotians? No, they're not.

You must wonder if they're not doing that because they are reaping significant increases in revenue as a result of the tax on things like insurance premiums, on things like increased fuel costs. So, while individual Nova Scotians, seniors, people on fixed incomes are paying more, paying extra, they are able to get away another day, they're able to get away with a budget that says, hey, we have a small surplus.

Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians, I believe, deserve better than this. Nova Scotians deserve some frankness, they deserve some honesty, they deserve some real proposals to deal with the challenges, they deserve a government that's going to stand up to corporate citizens like those that operate the casinos in the Province of Nova Scotia, that are trying to bully the government and ultimately bullying their own workers. This province deserves a government that's going to stand up and demand that Nova Scotians get access to our natural gas, that we get appropriate revenues from the natural resources that are being extracted from this province.

They are looking for a government that's going to make the kind of investments that will make this a better place, to designate more area of this province as protected areas, as wilderness areas, to ensure, in fact, that there are enough environmental inspectors available to make sure that the environmental catastrophes that are taking place in this province are not allowed to continue, to enforce our Environment Act. What's the point of having an

[Page 1644]

Environment Act? What's the point of the minister having the authority to designate or require that a full environmental assessment will be conducted on particular projects if we don't carry forward with that, if the government doesn't have the commitment, doesn't have the fortitude in order to follow through on the responsibilities that it has? Those are some of the things that Nova Scotians are looking for because, otherwise, individual Nova Scotians have to pick up the costs. Over six months, as a result of this hoist, if we agree to pass it, we will be able to discuss these things.

Mr. Speaker, I talked in this House a week or so ago about a family in Herring Cove whose son had an accident and suffered brain injury. He is trying and they are trying to work with the Department of Health, working with the Nova Scotia Rehabilitation Centre, to regain his skills and abilities, the skills and abilities that he lost as a result of the brain injury, so that he can live independently, so that he can go back to work, so that he can continue as he was, to make an important contribution to his community and to this province. But while on the one hand the Department of Health would offer him, or his family, a few hours of home care, someone to come in and do a little cooking and cleaning, they wouldn't provide financial assistance to help him and his family with a person who would work with him to help him regain some of his skills and abilities. His family, his parents are fully carrying the burden of hiring an individual to work with their son, because the Department of Health does not allow the flexibility to ensure that those who suffer brain injuries in the Province of Nova Scotia get appropriate help.

I've been in this House for 12 years, and for 12 years, at various times over that period, I have been arguing on behalf of constituents who are brain injured and who are not receiving the kind of appropriate services that they should be entitled to in the Province of Nova Scotia. As a result of the fact that those services aren't available, that the government is not investing in those kinds of services that should be expected of a humane and mature society like ours in Nova Scotia, individuals are picking up the costs or are suffering the burden of not getting the results of those programs, just so this government can say we have a surplus, can say that we have balanced the budget, we've maintained the provisions or stayed within the provisions of our balanced budget legislation.

The point I'm trying to make is, are they really benefiting anybody but themselves, because, ultimately, the economy, our society will pay as a result of the government's failure to make those investments. In some cases it will come out of individuals' pockets, in some cases people's capacity to perform and to contribute will be impacted to the extent that it will affect our community, it will affect our economy. I say to you, Mr. Speaker, I, for one, a member of this House, a resident of this Province of Nova Scotia, feel that that is wrong.

I mentioned earlier, resources for special education in the school system. We have a policy of inclusion in the Province of Nova Scotia in our public schools, and yet there's a desperate lack of resources for those students, for those classrooms where children with special needs are attempting to get an education. The consequence of the failure of the

[Page 1645]

system to provide proper and adequate supports is that that individual with special needs does not get the attention, does not get the assistance, the support, the training that they need. The people who are working in that classroom as it is are suffering as a result of the lack of appropriate and adequate supports. The other children in that classroom are being distracted and disrupted and otherwise affected. So no one benefits as a result of a policy of inclusion on the one hand, but a failure to make the investment, to make that policy properly function.

The last estimate of the deficit, the deficit in funding for special education in our schools, is in excess of $20 million. That's just to bring things up to standard. That's just to bring things up to the minimum. So when we fail to make those investments, when we would rather say that we've got a $20 million surplus, rather than provide programs for those people requiring special education in our schools, who wins and who loses there? That's the thing that we have to ask ourselves. What gains are being made? The government has turned their backs on a whole generation of children.

Right now this government, the previous government, but any government that fails to make those kinds of investments because of some phony argument that's been established that says, this is how we define proper fiscal management, this is how we're going to define good government, by having a balanced budget law that says from year to year we can't run a deficit, we have to run a surplus on the books, on the basis of these accounting rules that don't take into account the $500 million deficit in capital construction in schools, that don't take into account the deficit in funding for special education, that don't take into account the deficit in funding for the health care system, funding for support for those with intellectual disadvantages, for the disabled, and for other Nova Scotians.

We need to recognize, surely, that these issues are much more important than who sits on the other side, who sits on the other side of Mr. Speaker, who sits in the big chair, who has the responsibility for taking Nova Scotians' tax dollars and delivering the programs that we know, as a society, are best provided for publicly, or are best provided for collectively.

I'm afraid, I'm increasingly concerned about the fact that if we continue to play these games, these phony games, fiscally conservative phony games, that we're only fooling ourselves and more importantly, that we're disadvantaging many thousands and hundreds of thousands of Nova Scotians and our futures, ultimately, and our future as a viable and progressive province.

Those are some of the points that I would like to see us engage in a debate over this Financial Measures (2003) Bill. This is the kind of discussion I'd like to see us have instead of this phony one about whether we have a surplus or don't have a surplus. This government has proposed in here a 10 per cent tax cut in January 2004. It's going to take another $147 million in revenue, $147 million in revenue that's going to go proportionately to the higher income earners in the Province of Nova Scotia. The people who don't pay taxes will not only

[Page 1646]

not receive any benefit from that income tax cut, but the services that they receive will be further underfunded to the tune of $147 million.

So, our schools, our special education funding, services for intellectually disabled, aids for the disabled and other Nova Scotians, our roads, our highways our municipal infrastructure is going to continue to suffer, is going to continue to suffer until we find better ways to generate revenue that doesn't involve picking the pockets of individual Nova Scotians, which is what this government has done.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member knows that's unparliamentary and I ask you to retract that, please.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: What's that?

MR. SPEAKER: Picking the pockets of Nova Scotians.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Sure, it kind of rolls off your tongue, but if you consider it unparliamentary, then I will certainly retract it.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you. The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic has the floor.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: I've used other terms in the past, things like sucking like a huge super vacuum out of the pockets. You know what I mean, Mr. Speaker, it's shifting the burden of the cost of these programs from the collective to the individual. We've seen this government do that over the four years that they've been in power - taxes and user fees have increased to the tune of $300 million. This government is quickly getting a reputation as being a tax-and-spend government. The question is, though, what are they spending the money on, because Nova Scotians are not seeing the benefits.

[3:30 p.m.]

I guess one of the other things that I wanted to say is that this $155 - I'm going to come back to this $155 because it does have an impact on a certain segment of the constituency that I represent, Halifax Atlantic, and that is the thousands of people who won't be receiving this because they didn't earn enough money last year to file income taxes. There are over 300,000 such Nova Scotians, over 300,000 Nova Scotians who won't receive the $155. They won't receive it because they didn't earn enough money to file an income tax return.

On the one hand, whether it be people who are eligible for the child tax credit, which has been clawed back by this government, whether it's people who have to get their wells tested for water quality themselves - costs of which have risen to over $100 for a basic test -

[Page 1647]

whether it's individuals who are trying to ensure that their child who requires some special assistance in school that they have to provide extra aid, they have to pay for that cost because it's not provided at school, whether it's people who have to pay higher costs for automobile insurance, those people pay those additional costs plus they don't get the $155, plus they're not going to realize the 10 per cent tax cut, so they're getting it both ways. Low- and middle-income Nova Scotians, I would suggest to you, are getting pounded by this government, are getting just literally pounded by this government, by the double whammy of cuts to services, cuts to programs and, on the other hand, increases in taxes and user fees. This government has not been a friend of the average Nova Scotian.

Those are some of the issues that I would like to have us debate here in this House as we pursue a six months' hoist on the Financial Measures (2003) Bill, that we examine these issues, we examine why it is we take in $147 million annually on tobacco taxes - $147 million in tobacco taxes - and yet we only put back $2 million to $3 million in smoking cessation programs. We simply do not invest the money in programs that have been proven to reduce the number of people who smoke tobacco.

Why is that, Mr. Speaker? Why is that? There has to be more to a government than simply taking in money and putting out money. There has to be some leadership, there has to be some conscience, there has to be some balance in terms of what's in the best interests of the people of Nova Scotia. We talked about it here before. I raised it in terms of the Department of Environment and Labour and other departments of this government that have had cutbacks and are unable to provide the kind of services they're responsible for because of the cutbacks in staff.

Mr. Speaker, how much time do I have?

MR. SPEAKER: Thirteen minutes.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. A prime example of that is public health. When we see the stories internationally and across the country of the SARS epidemic, you have to wonder how prepared are we here in the Province of Nova Scotia to deal with this problem, to deal with this public health issue because you know we've cut back on public health as heavily as we've cut back on workplace safety inspections, Mr. Speaker. We simply do not have the troops on the ground to be able to handle, I believe this, the kind of pressure that's going to be generated if - and let's hope it doesn't happen - we are faced with that kind of an epidemic.

The West Nile disease, Mr. Speaker, is another concern that is out there and it's not good enough for us to wait until it happens and then respond. We have to be more proactive. We have to be more responsible and progressive in order to ensure that the government who is responsible for protecting the public interest, is responsible for protecting public health, is able to educate and to work to prevent these kinds of public health issues from becoming

[Page 1648]

a serious problem in our economy. We can only do that by paying attention to the investments that are necessary, the investments and the programs and services that we provide rather than simply focusing on an ideologically driven argument about having balanced budgets, ensuring that a particular accounting book that says we have taken in more money that we have spent does not reflect the deficits in so many other areas that result in a failure to invest - schools, health care, roads, individual Nova Scotians. These are all problems that are continuing to build and until and unless we get a government that has the confidence and the conviction to make the investments that are necessary, we are going to continue to go down a road where these deficits are going to build. That does not bode well for the future of the Province of Nova Scotia.

So with those few comments, I'll resume my place, Mr. Speaker, and indicate that I will be supporting the motion to hoist for six months Bill No. 36 because I feel that these kinds of issues need to be discussed in the public forum. We need to engage with Nova Scotians over these issues to ensure that the government has the will as well as the support to be able to move in a direction that is much more positive, much more constructive for the people of Nova Scotia. Thank you.

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

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to rise and speak on the hoist that was introduced by the NDP caucus on a previous day. (Interruption) I'm sorry, I do apologize. Yes, my colleague, the member for Cape Breton South. The NDP have been so eloquent with some of their arguments that I kind of got caught up in the moment, not that I'm really captivated by some of the substance all the time but indeed in this particular case I have to agree.

Mr. Speaker, some rather interesting developments over the last few days as we watched here in the House last evening. The government passed their budget for all intentional purposes which some folks would refer to as a rum-bottle budget by providing that $155 rebate to a certain number of individuals across the province and, indeed, as the government would claim, a 10 per cent tax reduction. Well, there are a number of factors to that I believe all Nova Scotians should be aware of. Number one, back in the 1999-2000 budget, the Minister of Finance for the Province of Nova Scotia, the Honourable Neil LeBlanc, decoupled the taxing process with the federal government, thereby forcing Nova Scotians not to enjoy the benefit of the tax cut that the federal government was providing during that fiscal year, the next fiscal year and the next fiscal year after that. So in effect, what we had was the provincial Government of Nova Scotia, gouging the people of Nova Scotia by this decoupling process. There was no tax relief when tax relief should have been provided. That's point number one.

[Page 1649]

Point number two, Mr. Speaker, despite claims by the government on how you define a user fee, a user fee by any other name is still a tax when it's providing a public service to the people of Nova Scotia. We saw that with the ambulance fees, we saw that with user fees for licensing for automobiles, for trucks, for ATVs, we saw it for just about anything and everything that the government could possibly tax.

Mr. Speaker, that issue generated over $0.5 billion for the provincial government. That's how much more they generate today in revenue than they did when they first came to office. The Minister of Finance says, good minister. Well, maybe so, maybe not. We will let history be the judge of that. Let's look at what's happening today. Let's assume for the sake of discussion that the Minister of Finance really has a balanced budget. If that's the case, why is the government borrowing $115 million to carry out the programs that it says it has to carry out? You can put it on paper all you want that you will have a balanced budget and go on to all these amortized capitalization processes that accountants and chartered accountants and what have you will be able to articulate and say, well, you still have a balanced budget even though you're borrowing more money.

Put it all in the mixture together, the fact of the matter is the government does not have a balanced budget. I would submit, any government that has to borrow money to be able to provide a tax break is actually cheating the people of Nova Scotia. They're cheating the people of Nova Scotia by saying, we're going to give you this $155 or we're going to give you that 10 per cent tax break, but because the debt is growing, the interest charges on that debt will increase, which means you're going to have to pay taxes for a longer period of time, whether you like it or not.

So really what the Minister of Finance is doing, to try to generate and court some favour with the electorate in the Province of Nova Scotia, is like a deferred maintenance, like what happened with the schools in Nova Scotia. Mr. Speaker, because of the capital program that was initiated by previous governments and certainly under the John Buchanan Administration, the deferred maintenance grew and grew and grew, and, yes, even under the Savage Administration, because it had so many other issues to deal with, to try to cope with the fact that in some cases agencies like the Workers' Compensation Board or Nova Scotia Resources Limited, all these agencies, and I can go on about the unfunded liability with the Teachers' Pension Fund, they were all on the verge of bankruptcy.

There were some mistakes made there, but there had to be some value judgments made, which in fact allowed the government to get control of a spiralling-out-of-control situation. So what we have now is a government that would rather take us back in time for the sake of political advantage than stand up to the people of Nova Scotia and be as honest and as forthright as it should be. That's a serious issue. It's not easy to tell people that you can't afford to give them a tax break when they feel that they're being soaked to the bone. Every time they turn around, they're paying higher personal income tax, they're paying

[Page 1650]

higher corporate taxes, they're paying user fees, they're paying higher health care fees. You name it, they're paying it.

Now, that's fine if the government wants to kind of embark on a very gradual reduction of tax burdens to the people of Nova Scotia. But that's not what's happening. This is voodoo economics. The Minister of Finance knows this. It's all smoke and mirrors about giving them a tax break while at the same time coming in the back door and gouging over $0.5 billion out of their back pockets. (Interruption) That's something like Merlin. They're saying that they're going to give them this break which, by the way, they're going to the banks and they're borrowing $115 million to say they're giving a $68 million tax break. Now how can that be good economics? How can that be helping the people of Nova Scotia by increasing their debt load over the long term?

[3:45 p.m.]

Members, not only in that Tory Cabinet, but the Tory backbenchers came in with this extreme, right wing, fundamentalist view of how everybody had to live within their means. Well they're not doing it by doing these things - this is cheap, theatrical politics to try to win an election.

Let's look at the reality of the debt. You know the debt, the servicing charges on the debt have now become the number two ticket item in the annual budget. When this government came to power it was third. Indeed, Mr. Speaker, when some elements of this government were in a previous Tory Government, the debt burden was down probably about seventh or eighth on the list, it was way down. Now it's second on the list. I'll read the excerpts from the Public Accounts. This year the debt-servicing costs are $1,062,316,000. Now, for the Department of Education it's $980,241,000. Of course we know that Health is the number one expenditure, Health, which is $2.1 billion, more or less.

Now, let's go back and look when this government first came to power. This government, who proclaims to have its fiscal house in order and is able to control the growing debt which, by the way, the Premier said he wouldn't put one red cent on the debt. He would not allow the debt to grow by one red cent. Here's what it was when they first came to power: Education, the budget for 1999 was $1,059,783,000 and the debt-servicing cost was $1,041,578,000. So clearly, by the minister's own figures, the debt-servicing charges of this province are growing at such a rate they have now taken over the educational costs.

Mr. Speaker, I'll table them, the minister looks confused, I'll table them for him. He looks totally confused, and why shouldn't he be? He was part of a government that bankrupted the province on a previous day. He should be confused because we didn't expect any change. Merlin didn't really change, he may have changed his tie, he may have been a little different in time, but the fact of the matter is the debt is growing and growing and what

[Page 1651]

do they do? They go out and borrow $115 million to rebate $68 million and tell the people that they've got a balanced budget. This is voodoo economics. (Interruptions)

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. The member opposite has talked about how debt-servicing costs have gone up since we've come here and he's quoted the Estimates and the Act that was tabled. The member opposite is quoting the gross amount, if he wants to quote the right amount he has to show that less the earnings of the sinking funds. The member opposite has been a member of the Executive Council, he would know that. Actually our debt-servicing costs have been relatively constant during our term and the member, if he wants to speak about the facts then we should put all of the facts on the table. I'm not trying to interrupt his speech, however, he should note that, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: That's not a point of order, but clarification of the facts. The honourable member for Cape Breton West has the floor.

MR. MACKINNON: That's right, Mr. Speaker. The minister is right when he says sinking, because this is what the minister is doing to the Province of Nova Scotia. He's sinking us further in debt and I don't care how many words that he can use and play games with. I don't care which way you look at it, the bottom line is, you're borrowing money to give a tax break and by borrowing money, you're putting more on the debt. When you put more on the debt our interest charges are going to go up, our credit rating will go down. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure that out. He can talk about sinking funds, he can talk about floating funds, he can talk about whatever he wants, the bottom line is, they're borrowing money. They borrowed money this year, they borrowed money last year, they borrowed money the year before that and they borrowed money the year before that. So for the Minister of Finance to stand in his place and say he has a balanced budget, I don't believe it. He can spin it out all he wants.

How can he say he has a balanced budget when he's borrowing money? How can you say you have a balanced budget in your home, Mr. Speaker, and everything is under control and you're living within your means if you're going with you credit card and borrowing $115 million more - not that you would borrow $115 million, because if you had that type of credit rating you wouldn't have to borrow it. But anyway, I think you get the message.

The fact of the matter is, Mr. Speaker, the minister knows full well that servicing the debt of this province has now become the number two ticket item of more than 14 different departmental charges. We have Education, Health, Natural Resources, Transportation and Public Works, Justice, Environment and Labour, and Community Services. We have all of those, and what's the number two ticket item? Servicing the debt.

The Minister of Finance can spin it any which way he wants because if he was that good, he wouldn't have had to borrow $115 million this year because, according to the government propaganda, they would be living within their means. If you're living within

[Page 1652]

your means, why do you have to borrow money from somebody? Why borrow? You shouldn't have to borrow, and that's the reality.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I just want to remind the honourable members that it was agreed that cellphones would be turned off in the Chamber.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West has the floor.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I think some of the government members are probably so excited about my speech that they're calling their constituents to turn on the TV and listen, that's what it's all about. They know that the debt is growing and they should get the message out and don't listen to the Premier and the Minister of Finance, that's really what's happening. They are really coming to their senses that borrowing $115 million to give a tax break is not good economics, because you're not doing any good - it's short-term gain, long-term pain. I don't know if they have ever heard that saying (Interruption) Oh, the minister is saying they borrowed more than that. So you borrow $118 million, not $115 million, and I do thank the Minister of Finance for acknowledging that they are borrowing more money, I do appreciate that. So we're worse off than even I thought we were.

Mr. Speaker, just to give you an example of the skepticism that's pervasive across Nova Scotia, let's go back and recall some of the activities that took place before some of the committees of this House. In the Public Accounts Committee several weeks ago, the Deputy Minister of Education came before the committee and he confirmed that the School Capital Construction Program was before Cabinet. Now, that was on Wednesday, April 16, 2003, and it's on Page 16 of Hansard. That's a public document, so I won't have to bother with that. The deputy minister indicated that he couldn't tell the people of Nova Scotia what schools were on the priority list, what schools were being considered, that's an issue that's before Cabinet. Now, whether we agree or don't agree, I respect what the deputy minister said.

Let's fast-forward to during the estimates when I asked the Minister of Education on this very issue. He said, again, this was an issue that was being considered by Cabinet and that's not something you discuss; any Cabinet documents or recommendations, what we call R&R, report and recommendations, are not public documents until the final decision of Cabinet is made. Okay, I respect that. I have full confidence that the minister is within the terms of reference in the process of government and Cabinet confidentiality.

Well, Mr. Speaker, as you may or may not recall, during those committee estimates, when the member for Eastern Shore was chairing the committee, I got a little impatient with the Minister of Education and suggested that perhaps he was misleading the committee intentionally. Now, rather than have complete polarization, I thought the best way to diffuse it is I would exit the Chamber and let sleeping dogs sleep and let things cool down a bit.

[Page 1653]

Mr. Speaker, I received in my mail this afternoon a document from the Department of Education which by the way is entitled Memorandum and I will table it for members of the House. It's from Charles Clattenburg dated April 24, 2003, and the subject, I quote, "Report of the School Capital Construction Committee - December 2000". This is when Cabinet met to decide this issue. "Cabinet met Executive Council at its meeting held March 27, 2003, considered the enclosed memorandum submitted by you, the Department of Education, in June 2001 recommending that . . ." And it recommends two general issues, but here's the most interesting part, here's the most interesting part about this document and I quote, "This will confirm that the Minister of Education requested that this item be withdrawn from the Cabinet agenda. If you require anything further, please contact me."

Mr. Speaker, clearly either there's another document floating around or the Minister of Education has been deliberately misleading this committee and this House. Or, staff within his department are aware of one agenda and he's aware of another agenda. So why is it that the minister will say during his budget estimates that the document is before Cabinet, his deputy minister only a week or so before that said it was before Cabinet, and yet by Mr. Clattenburg's signature and this document, it's not before Cabinet. Who's telling the truth? Who's right and who's wrong? Is Mr. Clattenburg, who by the way is the director of facilities management, that ill-informed, is he that ill-advised about what's happening at the political level? Well, Mr. Clattenburg was in attendance, as I recall, with the deputy minister. There was an excellent opportunity. So any which way you look at it, somebody has not been forthright with this House and anyone that has been before the committee during estimates I will table this, because the decision was made on March 27th to withdraw from Cabinet, that very issue.

Now, if it was withdrawn from Cabinet, how can they say it's still before Cabinet? You wonder why we're suspect. You wonder why we're suspect of what's going on within government circles and, Mr. Speaker, it would be well advised for some of the Tory backbenchers, as well as Cabinet colleagues, to read that document. It would be very interesting to see what the priority listings are. I noticed in the local media, well, it would be almost two years ago now, a year and a half, the member for Cape Breton North, who is now the Minister of Economic Development, indicated that the number one priority in his area for the school board was a school in North Sydney. The Cape Breton-Victoria District School Board officials came out and said that's not our priority, it's not even on the priority list. That was the big headlines in the local media.

Now, Mr. Speaker, we look at that document that's withdrawn from Cabinet, what's the number one priority for that school board? Well, what a coincidence - North Sydney - what a coincidence, and the government says it's a document that's being considered before Cabinet when, in fact, almost two weeks prior to that it was withdrawn from Cabinet. So is the minister saying there's another document before Cabinet? In fact, the deputy minister indicated when he came before the Public Accounts Committee that earlier that morning he

[Page 1654]

had been before Cabinet to discuss this issue - the priority listing for capital school construction. Something is not adding up.

You wonder why, Mr. Speaker, we would be suspect. There's a very serious issue here and that's one of the reasons for the hoist. We have a $500 million deferred maintenance issue. That issue, in part, is addressed in that document, but then again we can't talk about that as part of the budgetary process because it has been withdrawn. What other documents does the government have that it's not telling the people of Nova Scotia? I think, no, I believe that the Minister of Education and the Minister of Finance owe an explanation to the school boards across this province as to what are their priority listings really are. If they're just sitting on that and waiting for an election call to announce all these schools, whether it be QEH, St. Pat's which is itemized as number one on the priority list, or what have you, then fine, put it out there so people will know, people can plan. Stop playing politics with the education and the well-being of the students of this province. Stop playing politics with all these elected school board officials, with the teachers, the parents, all the stakeholders.

[4:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I believe that the government owes us an explanation. I think what we've seen here is a real sleight of hand. We've seen a sleight of hand by the Minister of Education. We've seen a sleight of hand by the Minister of Finance, who, by his own admission, is now indicating that he borrowed a lot more money than even I thought he was borrowing. He was good enough to admit that, so how can he say he has a balanced budget? He's setting up the people of Nova Scotia. Not everybody will receive that benefit. As I understand, close to 300,000 Nova Scotians will derive no benefit, through no fault of their own.

So what we have here is classic neo-conservative politics. They set up one group in society against another. They're always playing one off against the other to see if they can get some political advantage. Only a Conservative philosophy could say - and if you go back in time, history will prove this in the absence of any social programming - what Conservative philosophy will do was always support the fittest who survive in the marketplace. That's what they do. If you have money and you have power and you have that prestige that can court favour with the government, they will support you, but if you're underprivileged or you're disadvantaged, they look at you as a liability in society. If, through no fault of your own, you're not able to get a job to pay enough money . . .

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

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, clearly, what we have here is the old-time Conservative politics. We will only help those who help us. Look out on the street. Who are the ones who are really being hurt by this government's actions? Who is really being hurt by

[Page 1655]

this strike? Who is really being hurt by the indifference of the Minister of Community Services and the Minister of Environment and Labour? The disadvantaged, the special needs people of this province.

Mr. Speaker, even for those special needs people, who now receive support from the government, those families, and they have special needs children at home, the rates haven't been indexed once since this government came to power. Now, what they're doing, if you look at the schedule of fees, every year, as the cost of living goes up, someone who may have been under the threshold, the cutoff point, now they're over, even though they have less purchasing power or no more purchasing power, but the government never indexed the schedule of fees. What's happening? Every year there are perhaps 15 or 20 families being siphoned off the system, so this government saves maybe $20,000 or $30,000 per family. Multiply that by 20 or 30, and it doesn't take long for it to add up. Is that fair? No, it's not, but that's what they're doing to the disadvantaged in this province.

These are the types of social issues that impact not only on the Minister of Finance's Budget, but the Minister of Community Services. Why is the Minister of Community Services been so silent on this issue? They know. They know that some individuals or some families, may be a little too embarrassed to raise this for fear of being exposed by the government. We've seen what's happened in the past when anyone came trying to raise issues of social concern or of genuine importance to themselves or their families. They've been made to feel like if you don't go away and stop bothering us, we're going to make a public issue of it and you could be exposed. There's evidence on the public record that would suggest that. I don't want to get into too much history, but I think government members know that and anyone that's been around this House long enough.

It's absolutely unfair what they're doing to the people of Nova Scotia. If anyone should be out on the street talking to those picketers, or still better, going to talk to the families, rather than the families being forced to come - track down the minister here as he leaves the Chamber because he refused to meet with them before then - it's the Minister of Community Services. They shouldn't have to be forced to come in the fashion they did and then to be treated with such indifference, such indifference. These are genuine, good living Nova Scotians.

Yet, what will they do in their budget? They'll try to pit one group in society against another. Because you have more money, we're going to cater to you; because you are disadvantaged, we're going to stick it to you and we're going to make you feel like you are the liability, you're the one who's dragging us down in society. They don't say that outright, but by their actions they do it. They do it and they do it in a very derogatory fashion, I believe. It's absolutely deplorable what they do to these people.

[Page 1656]

Let's look at some individual departments. For example, with the Department of Natural Resources, during estimates I asked the Minister of Natural Resources about the forest sustainability agreements and how much money was paid out on silvaculture in this province to all the individual contractors, small and big contractors, companies, the forestry groups and the like. Altogether, there are perhaps close to 40 individual companies and corporations and individual contractors that received assistance through this program. There were some $639,838.84 paid out. When you're looking at a $5 billion budget, it doesn't sound like a lot of money.

Let's say you're a small forestry contractor in the Province of Nova Scotia. You have to scratch your head and wonder why only two contractors, two companies, will receive, I would say, close to 80 per cent of all the dollars. What's going on in this province that the government consistently, and almost exclusively, caters to big business?

I'm not against big business. We have some of the finest companies in this province, Michelin, Bowater Mersey, Stora Forest Industries. They provide long-term, sustainable, good-paying jobs, and I'm very pleased and I support them. But these types of programs, these small contractors should not be nickel-and-dimed out of business. It's not fair to a small, private pulp contractor that may have two or three, or even half a dozen employees, seasonal employees for the most part - they get very little advantage out of this program. I'm sure there are Cabinet Ministers who are sitting in that government who have a lot of small contractors in their constituencies, and I am sure there must be some Tory MLAs who have contractors, whether it be in Shelburne or Lunenburg or Yarmouth, or Cumberland County. I know because I've dealt with them, many of them.

Why aren't they getting some financial opportunity? Why aren't they getting access to these subsidiary dollars? The big guys like the J.D. Irvings are getting the lion's share. It's absolutely incredible to think that we have perhaps well in excess, across this province, of over 100 small- and medium-sized contractors and they're getting little to nothing and this government wants us to support that type of budgetary process? Mr. Speaker, something is not right. When the government said that they were setting up this program for these forest sustainability agreements to allow contractors to do reseeding, to do some silviculture on individual woodlots, we fully expected a lot of the small, private individuals - and not only that, but individual woodlot owners who partake in forestry activities.

It doesn't necessarily have to be a silviculture contractor or a pulp contractor or a logging contractor, there are many Nova Scotians, some 30,000 private forestry woodlots in the Province of Nova Scotia. Not all of them are managed by the landowners; many of them are absentee landowners, many are managed by individual silviculture contractors or, indeed, contractors contracted by the Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources. There are many issues, Mr. Speaker, that's just another classic example of why the Opposition is very suspect about what's happening in this province.

[Page 1657]

The report that was put out on April 24th of this year on the capital school projects, Page 11, for new schools clearly indicates the department's number-one priority for this fiscal year - not the school board, not the Halifax Regional School Board, but the department's number-one priority - is St. Pat's/QEH. Well, I tabled the documents last week that clearly supported that position. So why is it the government is sitting on that? Why is it that Truro West Elementary is the number two-priority? That's the second constituency held by a Tory member.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. Thank you. Some of the members, please would they take their private conversations outside of the Chamber. The member for Cape Breton West has the floor.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, as I've indicated, the first two priority lists for the Department of Education are in Tory-held ridings. Let's look at the third priority - Windsor Regional High. Now, which constituency is that? I wonder. It's just a coincidence that's a Tory-held riding, three for three. Let's look at priority number four - Harbourside Jamieson Elementary Junior High, Halifax. Well, whose constituency is that? We're not hearing any takers. Well, we will leave that for now, let's come back. What's priority number five - Truro Junior High - the Minister of Justice.

[4:15 p.m.]

This could be pure coincidence, Mr. Speaker, the first known four out of five are in Tory-held ridings. Maybe that's why they don't want to put it out before the election, you know, because if it's out there, it's subject to public scrutiny and maybe the people won't give the approbation that the government thinks it will get. Let's look at priority number six - Waverley - L.C. Skerry Elementary in Halifax. Perhaps some of our Halifax colleagues could make commentary on that. Maybe that's just a coincidence that it's a Tory-held riding, just a coincidence. So we have six out of seven and the other one we haven't determined which area that's in yet and that could very well be, by the luck of the draw, another Tory-held riding.

Mr. Speaker, then we have Arcadia Elementary, that's in southwest Nova Scotia. Perhaps the Minister of Finance would be right anxious to stand to his feet and try to defend Arcadia Elementary. (Interruption) Yarmouth, oh my gosh, another Tory-held riding. That's a coincidence, my golly, seven out of eight so far that we know of are in Tory-held ridings. That has got nothing to do with politics, this is priority listing, maybe that's why they said it was before Cabinet and they didn't want to discuss it. The fact of the matter is a staff member in the Department of Education let the cat out of the bag. He released this to us today, Mr. Speaker, and he said it's not before Cabinet because the Minister of Education sent it back. So who's telling the truth? Who's telling the truth in that government? (Interruption) I did, I did.

[Page 1658]

Now, let's look at the next one. Oh my gosh, Mr. Speaker, this is definitely a coincidence. This is definitely a coincidence, I know it can't be politics. North Sydney Junior High, well, well, well, I daresay that might be, it just might be, I'm just guessing it might be in the constituency of Cape Breton North, the Minister of Economic Development. This has to be pure coincidence. No government can be that unscrupulous, no government can be that underhanded to come up with this type of a priority list.

Number 10 on the list, well, Mr. Speaker, you will not view it here. You will not view it here. (Interruption) Glace Bay, you're number 10 on the list, but here's the caveat, they're not going to look at you until the year 2006. So they're going to hope that they've got at least two elections to take a crack at you and maybe even then this might change. This may even change, you know, two elections away. Oh my gosh, my gosh, I have to keep going because the good fortune of this government and the government members, it's overwhelming. Let's look at the next one. Yarmouth Elementary - southwest - my golly, that's two for the member for Yarmouth. That's two. He's really hitting it lucky here today. That's two in his riding.

Let's get going, this gets better, Mr. Speaker. My golly, Musquodoboit Rural High, well, well, well, the good member for the Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley finally strikes bingo. He says bingo on a diagonal line, but do you know he's two elections away too. Maybe they're hoping for other fortunes for this honourable member because they don't even look at that until 2006. Now, here we have two, four, six, eight, ten, twelve; 11 out of 12 schools are in Tory-held ridings.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I have to come to the government's defence. This is pure coincidence. It can't be bad politics. It can't be crass political politics. I just can't believe that they would even come up with that. Even this group can't be that diabolical, or can they? This is a document that came from the Department of Education today. The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley would like to have a copy of this. I'm sure his colleagues would.

AN HON. MEMBER: Table it.

MR. MACKINNON: I already did. If the member would like to check with the documents that are tabled. He's also a member of the Public Accounts Committee, he should have a copy because it's on his desk and he doesn't even know it. Read his correspondence.

AN HON. MEMBER: I'll read it tomorrow.

MR. MACKINNON: Why wait until tomorrow? Do it now, Mr. Speaker. You wonder why things are in disarray and why people don't trust what this government is doing and they are going to say that there is no politics in education, 11 out of 12 in Tory-held ridings. Well, well, well. You wonder why they say it's before Cabinet, they don't want to discuss it. Maybe they sent it back because there was only one in a non-government riding

[Page 1659]

and they wanted to make it 12 for 0 instead of 11 for 1. (Interruption) Well, the Wal-Mart doorkeeper wants to engage himself in the debate. He can get to his feet and he can try to defend these types of decision-making arguments any time he wants or he can stay there and be cheerleader and greet people as they come and they leave. It's up to himself. Let the constituents of Preston speak for his participation in this most important debate.

We're talking about a multi-million dollar capital commitment over the next five to seven years and the minister has the audacity to come before the committee of this House and say this document is before Cabinet when, by signature of his own senior director, he has referred it back away from Cabinet. We don't believe what the minister is saying and we have just cause because it's documented, Mr. Speaker, and you wonder why we would like a six-months' hoist because if this is what happens in one day, one week, what is going to happen in six months?

Do you know, Mr. Speaker, look at the Finance Act. You would think they have never ever come to innovative ways to bankrupt this province. Let's see what they've done in past practices. Yes, there is a section in the Finance Act, yes, they will have this budget to work with, yes they will have the Financial Measures (2003) Act, yes they will because they have the numbers. We can filibuster but ultimately they will get it passed. It doesn't matter but once the House is closed down and they are in the heat of the election campaign, this is not going to be good enough for them. Do you know why? Because they can go under the Finance Act and they can appropriate a good measure of next year's capital expenditure. So they are going to dump this on the shoulders of the next crew. They can go - I may be wrong and a senior colleague can correct me - they can borrow up to 50 per cent or they can charge up to 50 per cent of next year's capital budget in any department that they want and that's what we'll see on the election trail. Yes, there will be lots of pavement, yes there will be lots of steam, yes the member for Eastern Shore can get on the pavers with his hard hat and wave that he's paving roads but I tell you, they've been trying to put so much pavement down, they have been paving over squirrels and chipmunks and porcupines. You don't know what in the name of heavens they are going to pave.

Down in Cape Breton they are praying for snow to fill in the potholes. The roads are that bad. The member for Inverness knows that. I wonder if he'll get his share. Mr. Speaker, last year, check with the Nova Scotia Road Construction Association. First time ever, Cape Breton received only half of what it traditionally received under previous administrations. Tell me that's not politics. Tell me that's not good old-fashioned Tory politics. But, let's be fair, it could be coincidence. They say they just increased the budget from about $60-some million up to $105 million or $115 million. Well, by golly, they must have that money for some reasons that we don't know.

They forgot to tell us as well, like they forgot to tell us when the former Minister of Community Services announced that lovely housing program last year, that was all federal money. He's shaking his head in disbelief, I know he's so despondent about it, he knows he

[Page 1660]

should have given credit to the federal government. Now we have the Minister of Community Services in this budget with $11 million of federal commitment to housing. They spend $2 million and they hold onto $7 million.

AN HON. MEMBER: Nine.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Nine - nine and two, right? (Interruption) that's 11. Yet, I gave one example of how

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

MR. MACKINNON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I didn't really mean to start a flurry of debate amongst the Tory backbenchers over there fighting over that one school that's in a Liberal-held riding. They can go out and draw straws as to who's going to get, you know, like they did on a previous generation, dividing somebody else's clothing. They're now all deciding among themselves who's going to take the school out of Glace Bay and whose Tory riding it's going to be. I can well imagine what type of stimulated debate that is over there. They didn't even know the document existed until I tabled it.

AN HON. MEMBER: . . . worry about your own debate earlier.

MR. MACKINNON: Well, Mr. Speaker, I worry about my debate - at least I'm standing on my feet, defending my decisions. I'm not a yes man or an apologetic element for an agenda of which there is little input or democratic process. (Interruption) Mr. Speaker, we have a bite. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Would the honourable member for Cape Breton West entertain a question. (Interruption) Order, please. I have to have some control. Would the honourable member for Cape Breton West entertain a question?

MR. MACKINNON: Yes, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I apologize to the honourable member (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I'll call to order the honourable member for Yarmouth. (Interruption). I will call to order the member for Yarmouth for challenging this Chair. The member has this opportunity to apologize.

[Page 1661]

MR. RICHARD HURLBURT: I apologize for nothing, Mr. Speaker. I did nothing wrong.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member has this opportunity to apologize to the Chair.

I will give the honourable member for Yarmouth one more opportunity to apologize to the Chair.

Then I would ask the honourable member for Yarmouth to remove himself from the Chamber, please.

I would ask the honourable member for Yarmouth one more time to remove himself from the Chamber, please. If not, then I would call one of the Pages, please, to summon the Sergeant-at-Arms. (Interruptions)

Order, please. The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: I don't want to challenge your ruling but, quite honestly, I don't know what this is about and I don't think anybody on our side does.

[4:30 p.m.]

MR. [DEPUTY] SPEAKER: I'd be quite glad to explain to the honourable Government House Leader that the member for Yarmouth made gestures and said something towards the Chair in a derogatory manner. I witnessed it myself. I very politely asked for an apology from the member for Yarmouth and I gave him several chances to apologize and I'd be quite willing to give the member for Yarmouth another chance to apologize to the Chair, but I really see no need to defend myself and I'm sure the honourable Government House Leader knows better than anyone in this House that the Chair should not and cannot be challenged in this case. But I would be quite willing to put this before the Speaker for a ruling, but in the meantime I'm left with no other choice but to ask the Sergeant-at-Arms to remove the member for Yarmouth from the Chamber for the time being.

The member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley has the floor on a question.

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, due to recent events I seem to have lost my train of thought. I do thank you and apologize, however, I guess my question that I'd like to direct to the honourable member for Cape Breton West, and I did apologize initially for intervening - I guess you would call it - when the honourable member was in full flight. (Interruption) Well, the member for Timberlea-Prospect who isn't in his place, but is in the Chamber, has been known to make disrespectful and derogatory comments towards members

[Page 1662]

on this side. If he wants to pose a question, then he can pose a question, but I'm doing mine right now and if he wants to take his place and ask a question, go ahead. (Interruption)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley with a question for the member for Cape Breton West.

MR. TAYLOR: Yes, I was intending to ask the honourable member for Cape Breton West if he could tell this House and all members of the Legislature how many schools on that list he has will be built by the P3 method and model?

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, the present administration just completed seven under the P3 model, as I understand it. The Minister of Education has already confirmed that, if not, the deputy minister. It's in Hansard (Interruption) This one here? This is a proposed list, none have been built. You can't propose a priority listing and have the school already built, otherwise there would be no purpose in having a priority listing for construction.

I would think the honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley would know that's the purpose of having the priority list submitted by the school board to the Department of Education, which in turn goes to Cabinet. Otherwise, if they're already built, there's no sense having a priority listing. Obviously, the honourable member is confused. He's confused. He's so dogmatic about . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Does he bark?

MR. MACKINNON: I'm not sure if he barks or not, Mr. Speaker, and I don't want to go down that road. But he knows full well that type of dogmatic philosophy does very little to engender public confidence. He knows that, but I give him full marks, at least he's trying to defend the indefensible. Smoke and mirrors has become the hallmark of this government. You borrow $118 million, you give back $68 million and you increase the debt, you increase interest charges on the debt and then you tell people you balanced the budget.

I'm no economist, I don't have a CA degree or anything like that, but that's pretty simple, I would think. I'm sure even the Minister of Finance should be able to figure that out, and I'm sure even the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley must be able to figure that out.

If they feel so good about it, why don't they stand up? Why don't they stand up and defend this budget, these Tory backbenchers? Why aren't the various members from Kings County standing up and saying what they're going to do for the flood victims? Never mind good-news resolutions congratulating people for what they're doing. The people want to know what they're doing.

[Page 1663]

Mr. Speaker, this is very disappointing. That's why we have opted to put this process on hold, because I'm not so sure and I would be almost willing to bet, and I know politicians aren't allowed to bet, but I would be willing to submit that this time next year the people of Nova Scotia will be very upset. It doesn't matter what political Party is on that side of the House. They're going to be upset because of what's been done in this budget. They're going to be upset because they're paying $0.5 billion more in user fees. They're going to be upset because the government increased the debt to try to give short-term gain. All they had to do, if they were that committed to the people of Nova Scotia, why did they not leave the provincial tax rate in concert with the federal tax rate and the people could have enjoyed that tax break. It was this government that said they were going to correct all the problems in health care for $46.5 million, and they're well over $0.5 billion more in expenditure and still haven't solved the problem.

People don't believe you. That's as simple as it gets. They're not going to be taken in by old-style politics. The 1950s and 1960s and 1940s and, yes, even going back to the Harrington days, where they did gerrymandering of voters' lists and manipulating this and manipulating that, those days are gone. The remnants of that philosophy better just pack their bags and move on and let the next generation of Nova Scotia political thinkers move in and take control of the agenda and do some good for this province.

Mr. Speaker, I realize my time is short on this, and I look forward to the honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley standing up for an hour and defending this very piece of legislation. Thank you.

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

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I find it kind of interesting that I rise today, and I feel very privileged that I have an opportunity, of course, to speak on this hoist amendment in regard to the issue of second-hand smoke at the casinos. I find this a rather interesting topic, actually. This government claims to be the champion of all things, but I can't understand for the life of me why they separate businesses in this community and create two societies, basically, that's what it is.

Mr. Speaker, I don't know what this says for health promotion, when you spend money to promote health. In fact, what you're telling children, basically, what I understand from this, is that if you work in a casino it's okay to smoke, but if you don't work in a casino in this community or in this province, then you can't smoke at work. There's quite the debate going on here in this House, it's rather interesting. I feel very privileged being here during these debates. This is a very interesting topic. People I represent are calling me and can't understand why the casinos, both in Sydney and in Halifax, aren't smoke-free, particularly when both municipal councils in those communities have clearly indicated, through their resolution and process and, in fact, their mayors as well, that they're against smoking in the casinos.

[Page 1664]

It's rather interesting how this all came about, because what I'm hearing from the Finance Minister on the other side of the floor is that he's blaming a former government for creating this very negative issue that's the topic of debate here in this House. It's kind of all messed up, really. If this is a government that means everything to everybody and they are going to be all things to all people, then what's the problem? Why can't this current government solve the problem? I mean that's what they're telling Nova Scotians that they can do and that they have been doing now for three and a half years, but really all I see on this particular issue is they're achieving a society separated on the issue, and business owners, small business owners in particular, I don't believe are impressed.

There are two sets of rules ongoing here and it may be that the Finance Minister - I'm not suggesting that the Finance Minister is saying anything mis-truthful about what may be in the contract when the casino came into the province. I don't think it's really fair to blame the former government for a contract that was signed in an era where second-hand smoke was not considered dangerous although there were some suspicions on it medically. The medical professionals both in the province and the country indicated at that particular time that they were still researching. So there was no decision made or enough research evidence to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that second-hand smoke does cause illnesses such as cancer. They cause many other illnesses such as heart attacks. Many times people die from a heart attack and people say, my father took a heart attack, or whatever. But it's just recently, Mr. Speaker, that people are beginning to realize why people are taking heart attacks and in many of the cases it's because they're working in environments where there is second-hand smoke and many of these areas, unfortunately, are in workplaces.

Mr. Speaker, if they're going to go in the schools and provide funding for health promotion and they're going to tell children, you know, it's bad to smoke and that they have to become more healthy and should participate in sports and other recreational activities, what's the secret message here? If you go to college and you get an education and you work down the road in a government department, you can't smoke but, you know, you can't really drop out of school anymore until you're in Grade 12, after Grade 12, but if you decide not to go to college, it's okay to smoke if you work in a casino. Really it just does not make any sense to me.

If second-hand smoke is dangerous after 9:00 p.m., it's obviously dangerous at 8:00 a.m. or at noontime when people have lunch, or at suppertime, or whenever. I mean I read the medical reports. This topic, I believe, was researched by top medical professionals in the country, at least I was told they were, and I believe they're right. They have researched this issue for years and this government doesn't want to hear the results of that research. The research clearly indicates second-hand smoke causes cancer and other illnesses, particularly to people who are working in an environment filled with second-hand smoke such as casinos. It's kind of unique really when you think about it. (Interruption) I know it's a gambling business and they continue to gamble, it just doesn't make sense to expect an individual to

[Page 1665]

go into a workplace and gamble on their health and in fact their very lives. It just doesn't make any sense to me.

[4:45 p.m.]

One individual said to me, why do they bother working in that environment then? Why take a job in that type of environment? Well, I can't really indicate to the members of the House here in Halifax why they take a job, particularly if they're afraid of second-hand smoke. Maybe they all smoke in the casino in Halifax, I'm not sure because actually I've never been in the new casino yet so I'm not familiar with that setting. But I am darn well familiar with the setting in Cape Breton and those jobs are important down there. I recognize that, there are a lot of jobs in that facility but people must take the jobs, there are no choices in Cape Breton. If you can find a job in a barber shop, you take it. Simple, if you want to feed your family, even if you're not a barber.

So, for people who have experience in the hospitality industry in Cape Breton and they see a reasonable, well-paid job, they're going to have to accept that job, they have to. They're going to look for it, apply for it and obtain it, but they also look toward governments to protect them. They protect construction workers to certain levels with work boots, helmets, safety gear, but in casinos there's no protection. It's kind of baffling to me. It doesn't seem to me reasonable that this government cannot begin to open new negotiations with the casino. Perhaps, if this government is not (Interruption).

MR. SPEAKER: Order. Order, please. The honouorable member for Yarmouth.

MR. HURLBURT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Speaker, and to all members of this House, I would like to apologize to all members for not obeying the order from the Chair.

MR. SPEAKER: The apology is accepted, the member may take his seat. The member for Cape Breton the Lakes has the floor.

MR. BOUDREAU: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Who is supposed to protect the health and safety of workers in this province? Who? Now I go back, I look across the floor over here and I look at the Department of Labour, the minister responsible for that department, and I said it in the House during Question Period a couple of weeks ago that actually that minister is basically an icon in this province. Really, he has more experience over there than any. He certainly forgot more than I know. I don't have a problem, I don't have any problem admitting that. However, if that minister over there thinks he's fooling anybody in Nova Scotia that he doesn't have the ability to deal with those casinos - I don't believe that, I really don't - that minister has more abilities and capabilities than any other elected member in Atlantic Canada to my knowledge. If he fails at doing something, it's because he wants to fail at it. It's because he's ignoring the issue.

[Page 1666]

Now, that minister knows darn well that he has the money to take on the casino because you just look at the extra income from insurance rates for instance. The minister is really disappointing at times. I know he's had an exceptional career and I know he probably in the future will deliver again, but there are issues that he's ignoring either deliberately or I can't imagine why he just ignores the issue.

Mr. Speaker, that's two ministers. You have the minister that's responsible for Health Promotion. He's prepared to spend money to tell children and grownups to quit smoking, it's bad for you. It's terribly bad, it could end your life, it's life threatening, but you can go in to a restaurant and have lunch, you can have breakfast and you can have an afternoon drink or a beer or whatever, and you can go in there in the evening and have snacks, you can have wings, whatever, until 9:00 p.m. and you're in a smoking environment. Does that make sense? After 9:00 p.m., well then that environment gets dangerous.

I would like to see the medical doctor who signed that recommendation, really. I'm no medical doctor, I'm an auto mechanic, and I don't have a problem saying it. I can tell you one thing, that's just unbelievable. The Minister responsible for Health Promotion, he's prepared to spend money to tell children not to smoke, it's unhealthy, go out, get actively involved, participate in more sports and recreational programs and become healthy, but if you want to work in a casino in this province, it's okay to smoke. If you work anywhere else, though, if you choose another profession, then you should not smoke. If you want to work in the hospitality field, well then you have to accept the dangers of working in that type of environment.

That's where the Minister of Environment and Labour comes in, because it's his responsibility to protect the workers in this province, whether it's in a hospitality environment or on a construction work site or in a hospital. He has obligations and responsibilities to protect the workers in Nova Scotia, all workers, not just a select few that they choose.

Mr. Speaker, we're all aware that there are several cases, and one in particular that has been brought forward, at least one individual in this province has contracted lung cancer as a result of second-hand smoke. She had no other choice but to work in an environment with second-hand smoke. That is one too many. This government has a responsibility to stand up, not only to protect other workers in that field but to assist this particular worker in any aspect they can possibly can. The lady is terminally ill. Think about it, if any member in this House today got sick and went to the doctor and went through tests, and said, well, there's asbestos in the building, down there in that House of Assembly. If you go back in there, you're going to be terminally ill. I would like to know what member is going to walk in the door.

[Page 1667]

I would like to know what government member is prepared to do that. I know there are government members over there against anti-smoking laws. There is. Would they take a job in one of the casinos? I doubt it, but they expect me or my children or my neighbour or my other community member down the road, it's okay for them. It's okay for someone else, as long as somebody else gets affected by it, it's all right. That is wrong. It's not proper.

Mr. Speaker, if you look at the municipal units in this province, like the HRM and the CBRM, they were the ones that showed more spunk on this smoking law than this government did. I witnessed in Cape Breton, not everybody was in support of eliminating smoking in public places, not everyone. I witnessed some of the debate. The councillors and the mayor, from some individuals, took pretty gruelling verbal abuse or whatever because this was being proposed. They withstood that storm. They stood up and they fought for what they believed was right and for what they believed was good and positive for their communities, and what they believed would help protect the workers in every establishment, regardless of whether it was a restaurant or another drinking establishment or a casino. The HRM and the CBRM, in fact both mayors, I believe, are on record as opposing this government allowing Casino Nova Scotia to allow smoking in their establishments.

Of course, this government indicated before those municipal units, that they were going to protect all the people with the legislation and everything was going to be okay. The municipalities accepted the fact that this government was going to support them on this initiative that health care experts indicate is the most pressing issue in this country. Yet, what do they do? They allow smoking in casinos.

The six months' hoist would be an exceptional opportunity for the minister to open negotiations or at least write a letter maybe instead of taking a phone call from the casino owners. Perhaps he should write a letter, maybe drop by the office down there or send one of his staff members and arrange a meeting and propose that these negotiations be reopened. Really, in all fairness, if Nova Scotians decide that the casino is creating an unfair environment, then maybe Nova Scotians will decide to stop going there. If that happens, and business falls off and all the profits this government is reaping from those profits, if that starts dropping off, then you'll see some activity, I assure you. You'll see that they'll be recognizing that issue rather quickly and then dealing with it.

So, I guess it's money over lives and illness. This government obviously has more money to spend on health care, that's obvious with the new arrangement with the federal government. That's clear. That's where they got the money, it wasn't as if they came up with this big scientific event that created this windfall overnight. The windfall came from Ottawa. This government has the most amount of money than any other government in the history of this province. It's small enough and lean enough that it could manage. However, they just simply stand up and ignore the issues that affect Nova Scotian workers, in particular, in the casino environments.

[Page 1668]

I think it was the Premier that I heard speak in the House one day and he told all members of this House that he would do the right thing. He would do the right thing. He would bring in smoke-free legislation. He said that here. I believe exactly what he said is that we will work to ensure Nova Scotia's legislation is at the forefront of national and international efforts to reduce smoking and to reduce exposure to second-hand tobacco smoke.

That is exactly what the HRM council and the CBRM council recognized. They recognized that. They took the Premier at his word and felt that was the goal of this government. Then they went into the debate on their by-laws, took the heat from some irate smokers, perhaps - not everyone believes that you should not be allowed to smoke in a bar after 9:00 p.m. In fact, it's hard for me to come to terms how it's safe to have breakfast, how it's safe to have lunch, a snack in the afternoon, supper, lunch in the evening, in an environment with smoke up to 9:00 p.m., and then, after that, these eating establishments, according to the bylaw, are allowed to pass out the ashtrays. But before that hour, workers in those establishments are prohibited from providing ashtrays to their customers. It's insane.

[5:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, all you have to do is discuss this issue with any other establishment in Nova Scotia, a tavern, bar owner, a licensed restaurant, ask those small business owners if they feel that this law is fair. I speak to them quite often, and they're baffled by it as well, this bylaw; the law this government is putting forward to them is just insane. Really, what they're telling small businesses here is, if you're going to allow smoking in your establishments, you have to go out and spend thousands of dollars to put in a venting system and it is safe to use it up to 9:00 p.m., and after 9:00 p.m., it's okay, go ahead, smoke.

Mr. Speaker, it baffles me. When this government changes, we have two Parties here that are committed to eliminating smoking altogether in public places, including the after 9:00 p.m. episode. Anyway, many small business owners are being forced to spend large amounts of money for just a couple of years perhaps, perhaps it could be only for a couple of months since this government is heading into an election. So, what is the theory? It's hard to understand why this government is actually going forward with this legislation, particularly when you have a Minister of Labour who has the experience and ability and capability that he has, and a Premier who's a doctor. It's just baffling.

Mr. Speaker, I read most of the literature that was provided to me by Smoke-Free Nova Scotia and it has been an enormous amount of information, at least, that I received I'm sure that all Party members received the same literature. I mean, they didn't just give it to me. It just baffles me why anybody over there, particularly when many of them are former municipal councillors, they know the municipal world, they know the tough fight that the HRM Council had to deal with, they understand that fight, they understand those debates, Mr. Speaker. They understand the grassroots system in this province. Certainly, that's where

[Page 1669]

I come from, back in Cape Breton I learned a great deal through that system. I know some of these former councillors over there, they have also. It just baffles me why they allow this government to jerk these municipal units around, particularly the two largest units in Atlantic Canada.

Mr. Speaker, if we look at statistics for cancer, levels of cancer here in Nova Scotia that is directly related to smoking and second-hand smoking, they're alarming, very much so. It's documented that workers in these environments are among the highest risk anywhere in this country. It's not just smoking or cancer-related illnesses. There's heart disease, there's pneumonia, there's bronchitis, there are many ailments that are a burden on our health care system through money and time and effort that could be eliminated by just a few short measures by this government. How much money would this government save delivering health care?

Mr. Speaker, perhaps someone should do some research in that regard, because I would suggest that it is a significant amount of money. Second-hand smoke kills 200 Nova Scotians every year, 200 every year. As I said before, that one that we are all aware of is too much. I don't know many of these 200 people who die every year, but does that make it okay because I don't know them personally? We all must have seen the television commercial in which the older gentleman is sitting in a chair explaining what happened to his wife, that she pleaded with him to quit smoking all those years and that he ignored her pleas. He thought she was just a nagger, he just ignored her pleas.

Mr. Speaker, the results were that his wife died from second-hand smoke. That was a true story. A very true story. People like that would appreciate the six months that it would take for this government to begin a process, many of those families, perhaps, could have an opportunity to have input into how this affects families and lives and how children grow up and the impact on family life. Is that what the government is afraid of? Maybe the government doesn't want to learn those things. If I know them already, I'm sure members over there know them already. I honestly believe all workers in the province, whether you work in a casino, a construction site, a tavern or here in this House, deserve the same protection.

Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier, what kinds of contradictions can we recognize when we say that they want to do this and that they actually are going to do it. That's what baffles me. The phone rings, the Finance Minister answers the phone. It's the manager of the casino saying, hey, you guys better exempt me from that smoking bylaw that the HRM worked so hard to put in place, months and months. Actually one municipal councillor is on record saying he fought for the issue for 10 years. It's not a new issue, which reminds me again of the former municipal representative from HRM who's sitting over there on that side of the House, who is fully aware that second-hand smoke is an issue to the grassroots people in this community, yet they ignore it. The knowledge that they've gathered over the years was sitting on a council up here and they ignore it and they do nothing about the issue, they sit

[Page 1670]

back and they allow their former colleagues and municipal units in this province to take all the heat and after they took all the heat they put a provision in and they exempt the casino.

Mr. Speaker, we need a clear set of standards for this policy in Nova Scotia. It should be one that begins at one end and goes to the other. I mean, this is just a very loud signal or message to our young people and other people who are smoking that it's okay to smoke in some environments, and that isn't true according to the statistics that the Health Minister puts forth and those Canadian medical experts that I spoke about before.

Mr. Speaker, you know this hoist, if the government did agree to the hoist, six months really would not be an unreasonable amount of time to begin a negotiation process. Allow the people who are affected by this issue to have an input whether they feel they are being protected in their workplace.

Mr. Speaker, what's wrong with listening to restaurant and bar owners? We went through a process already in this province - I witnessed many of them in committee. I heard them tell the committee and all the government members who were sitting on the committee and many of the members, even the members were in the room who weren't on the committee. So, they know what the majority of restaurant and bar owners, they know full well what they believe this government should be doing in regard to this bylaw.

Mr. Speaker, this whole law now will likely fail. It will be a failed attempt by the municipal units to deal with the issues that affect the grassroots people. It's a failed attempt and it's hard for me to believe the Premier, a doctor, and the Minister of Labour, who's supposed to protect the workers in this province. I don't want all the workers to be too concerned. You know if you work on a construction site or even in a service station, you're protected. You're working in a bar after 9:00 p.m. then you're protected - or before 9:00 p.m., pardon me.

Anyway, you know, Mr. Speaker, what type of message is this to send to the younger people in the community? If you go to the restaurant down here and you have something to eat you're not allowed to smoke, but if you go down to the casino - is this, perhaps, maybe this is where they're trying to centralize smoking. If you're a smoker go down to the casino and the people who work down there have to gamble on their health and their life, but that's okay because it's down on the waterfront and they're gambling down there anyway. So people, if they're going to gamble their money, they might as well gamble their life. It seems so unfair and so unreasonable. It doesn't seem like sanity to me.

[5:15 p.m.]

I don't understand why the casino should enjoy any special status. The Minister of Environment and Labour, his responsibility here is to protect the health and safety of all workers in this province. This contract that was signed in another era, when it was okay to

[Page 1671]

smoke, many members of that government over there were in third place. I believe when the casinos came here, it wasn't right. It just was not time and it would not have been acceptable at that particular point in time to open a casino here without smoking. I can accept that. These years later, it's hard for me to understand that the health and safety of someone can be put in danger because there's a signed contract in place. It doesn't make sense.

What else doesn't make sense to me is that there's no effort to try to deal with the issue. They just want to take the cash, the profits that they get from the casinos - I guess they need the money. They need the money, I guess that's why we're not going to have a six months' hoist here, they need the money that bad, they were going to stand up and vote to allow this bill to go forward.

I still hear the Premier saying, we're going to do this right. It's like an echo. Shortly after 1999 I think he referred to his government as turtles. Well, they sure are moving rather slowly. Most Nova Scotians would understand now what he meant then.

The HRM Council and the CBRM Council should be congratulated because those two municipal units did pass bylaws that would protect the health and safety of all workers in their municipal units. That's the grassroots people that they represent, they listened. They heard, they listened to the debates and they made the decision. That's democracy. Democracy. Yet, this government fails to recognize, not only the effort, but the results. The results.

A six months' hoist would be excellent. Perhaps even the casino workers could get involved and we could find out how they feel. I don't receive that many calls from casino workers, quite frankly. That may be through fear. You know what usually happens in a job site and I've been involved with unions before, somebody seems to be trouble at work, you know what happens. Management doesn't take long to move in and correct that situation.

A question of fairness, the Premier said. This is a question of fairness. His government would be a government of fairness for the people. I fail to recognize that when you provide - the Finance Minister indicates that he didn't give the casinos this exemption. That's a fair statement. But, he is failing to do anything about it. He's just ignoring the talk. For a casino manager to call a Finance Minister, I have a hard time identifying with that. A Finance Minister is a pretty important individual on that side of the House and he's probably the senior minister to the Premier and for him to just say, okay, Mr. Casino Owner, yes, sir, okay, sir, we will take care of it, sir, okay, sir, and that's the end of it. Think about that. Does that sound reasonable? It's baffling.

Mr. Speaker, this bill is a bill that is working against municipal units and there are many more than just HRM, I'm just mentioning HRM and CBRM because they have casinos. The other towns and cities and villages throughout Nova Scotia are also experiencing a great deal of difficulty in administering this provincial policy. There seems to be a problem with

[Page 1672]

inspectors. They don't have the money, apparently they don't have the money over there to hire these inspectors. They even expect workers to police the policy for them. They expect people who eat in bars, perhaps anyone, the bar owner, or the female worker there, whatever, to police the smoking policy. Yet this government has the biggest windfall ever from Ottawa and they can't hire inspectors to go out and support small business owners in this province. It baffles me why this government would even consider why those small business owners are going to support them when they go to the polls this year. It baffles me. It just does not make good business sense. The Premier said that originally - he recognized that - so I don't understand why he changed his mind. It just amazes me.

Mr. Speaker, I really don't have that much problem with casinos I stay out of them. However, people probably should have the right to go there to visit or not, the same as whether you want to go to a bar and have a drink or meal or whatever. Those are people's rights and that's fair, but I don't think it's one bit fair to expect somebody to stand down there at a card table and accept the danger of second-hand smoke in a working environment because I want to go down there and smoke and play machines all night. It doesn't seem reasonable. I read in a newspaper article actually about one of the casino's workers who saw fit to quit because of the health effects. In fact, she has obtained apparently medical documentation that indicates that she obtained illnesses as a result of second-hand smoke in that casino. When that lady filed for Employment Insurance benefits, she was denied benefits. She was denied benefits because she quit her job.

Mr. Speaker, if any Nova Scotian in this country, in this day and age, in any province, has to risk their health and safety to work in an environment that is harmful to their life, their very life, their family life, for that government over there to even consider imposing that is just terribly wrong. Six months would provide an opportunity to those workers and the businesses to come forward and have an input. Maybe the Premier or the Finance Minister, perhaps they wouldn't mind accepting some advice from the people who are affected by this instead of accepting phone calls from people who are obviously pretty powerful. In my opinion they would have to be powerful. They would have to be powerful. There really is no option here.

This casino - I know there's a contract, there's a negotiation process. In fact, I believe if the casino was a good corporate community citizen, they would ban smoking down there, voluntarily, and there wouldn't be any need for this debate, really, when you think about it, particularly when you have the medical evidence that indicates second-hand smoke is a danger to people who work within that environment. I can't, for the life of me, understand why anybody would want to hire somebody and place them in an unsafe working environment. I know in Cape Breton, they don't have a choice. They have to work, there are no jobs down there. There's only a few jobs left after the collapse of Devco and, of course, the steel plant. These low-paying jobs that this government claims they're creating down there, the story doesn't fit.

[Page 1673]

In any event, Mr. Speaker, I believe we should send the Minister of Health Promotion over there, he should send a clear message to the children that he wants to get a new lifestyle for them. That's obvious. They're on record saying they want to create a lifestyle for Nova Scotians that is healthier. I would like to hear the topic at the Cabinet Table, when this issue is discussed. That baffles me. I can't believe that this government is going to ignore this and impact small business the way it has in Nova Scotia. It's just amazing.

More than me are wondering why these casinos are continuing, according to this government, they tried to blame the former government saying that it was the former government that provided this special treatment. Mr. Speaker, really. The Premier is on record saying there are problems in health care and there's problems here and there, but he's also on record indicating that he's putting an effort into these issues, and he's impacting these issues. He brags about the impact he's having here in this House and all that wonderful stuff. Why ignore the real issue facing Nova Scotians, the number one issue, second-hand smoke? Why ignore it? It just doesn't make sense. It has to be money. The only thing I have ever seen people ignore issues over was money, really.

[5:30 p.m.]

It's no secret that casinos do pay large amounts of money to this government. I don't hear them complaining about that, the revenue that's coming in. They complain about a contract that was signed probably 10 years ago or 12 years ago that has a line in it that didn't deal with an issue that wasn't an issue at the time but, now, because of medical evidence, is an issue. This government fails to recognize the issue and the government fails to deal with the issue. No activity, just okay, sir, okay Mr. Casino Manager, I'll do what you tell me, thank you, goodbye. That was the end of the issue. Then we're going to blame the other government for signing the contract and then we're going to take all of the revenue and do whatever we want with it.

They're not even considering - they can't be - the impact this issue has on people's lives according to medical professionals. They're not my words, really. Nova Scotians deserve choices and that's what this government is all about, choices. Well, why don't they give Nova Scotians choices? Not when it's an advantage, and a revenue advantage.

Now, that other government was bad because they signed the deal to allow smoking in these casinos, but I didn't hear anybody say over there that casinos were bad and they didn't want the revenue they were paying the government. I haven't heard, that so it's obvious the game is still alive and well; it's the revenue the government's after that the casinos bring the province. That's okay, that's fair, I can understand that, but why ignore the issues that affect the workers in those locations? It's amazing. They actually are exempting these workers, or these casinos, they're exempting them from the labour laws in the province. Now think about that. What other location in Canada does that happen? I'd like to know that, Mr. Speaker.

[Page 1674]

Mr. Speaker, before I sit down I'd better correct myself because I believe I read my note here wrong and I indicated that the ashtrays really don't come out until 9:00 p.m. in this province. This whole thing, it just doesn't make sense to me. There's just something that we don't know that is really the issue here, when you think about it. You have a government blaming another government for a problem that was just created lately. Not 12 years ago, that wasn't a problem then. Maybe it was a problem but it wasn't a recognized or a documented problem because the medical evidence wasn't there to support it, but now it is. Today it is an issue, but 10 years ago it wasn't. So why is this government ignoring the issue that affects Nova Scotians? It's got to be revenue, it's the only thing I ever see.

I see the same thing with the insurance industry. The industry itself is crying, they're pleading with this government to put a process in place where they can help straighten out the insurance mess, or what many people believe is a mess. I'm not an insurance expert so maybe it isn't a mess, I'm not sure. At least the people who work in that industry want to work with the government to find solutions. This government ignores that. I ask myself why. It has to be the gravy train, really. Why else would you just let an industry run without any attempt whatsoever to try to deal with the high insurance rates? When you receive a 600 per cent increase in insurance rates and you didn't have any driving infractions or accidents, there's a problem somewhere. It's affecting seniors and people with low incomes and people with disabilities more than anything. Yet, this government ignores it. Why? I believe it's the added revenue that the government has coming in. In fact, the Finance Minister, he probably brought in - I don't know if we'll ever know, but he did indicate once last year that he had at least $7 million more. I would suggest it was much higher and it will be much higher.

If he doesn't do anything with that issue, he will have more revenue, that's proven. The records are coming up. I want him to know something else in my opinion, if he doesn't deal with this issue, he's going to start collecting - not money, we'll see the bodies starting to build up. Health care delivery costs will continue to increase on a daily basis unless this government does something about the issue that exists and has been created since that contract was signed. Simply to blame a former government and walk away from it, that's just totally unacceptable. It's issues like that, when the government does go to the polls, they'll get the message and they're going to get the message loud and clear, I would suggest.

In closing, I will plead with the Finance Minister. I will ask him, this is affecting people's lives. It's an issue that affects many, many Nova Scotians that work in an environment that deserves the same protection as workers in any other field in this province. I know my time is about to expire. Thank you, I appreciate the time.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, I rise to take this opportunity to speak on the hoist of the Financial Measures (2003) Act, Bill No. 36. The hoist is that it be read for a second time six months hence. That means six months further down the road. What I have

[Page 1675]

consistently realized is that every year during budget estimates, a Financial Measures Act is proposed before the Legislature. Each time the Financial Measures Act is proposed before the Legislature, what normally happens is that we find that there's a six months' hoist to the Financial Measures Act each time. It gives us the opportunity in the Legislature to debate that and all those items which are affected by the budget process.

All of the budget items and the departments are affected by the Financial Measures Act. Sometimes there are other issues that are shoved into the Financial Measures Act which the government wants to deal with and they want to deal with it at a rather quick pace.

What I will say is that each and every time that I've been here and I've debated the Financial Measures Act, the six months' hoist, is that often it falls on deaf ears by the government and the government hasn't paid much attention to that six months' hoist. But the six months' hoist is a mechanism that's put into a bill that allows the government, the members of the Opposition and the public a greater opportunity to rethink and to think what those items in the budget might be and how those items in the budget might very well be addressed, what kind of significant impact those items have on individuals in the budget and what kind of an impact it has on departments.

Mr. Speaker, often there is a question of why can't we do a six months' hoist and we take this on a road show that the general public can actually be involved in looking at the Financial Measures (2003) Bill to see the impact that it might have on how it affects their lives and how government legislation with respect to financial budgets are looked upon with respect to their very issues. Often I became quite concerned when I came to the Legislature as well, Mr. Speaker. As you know previous experience often gives an individual a budget, and I know the former members and mayors of municipal councils will certainly attest to this, that, in fact, often a budget is presented that's a line-by-line item budget and that you see how each and every department works and how it functions and how every dollar is spent within each and every one of those departments. Often that doesn't happen in provincial governments, you're expected to ferret out that kind of information that normally should be afforded you.

I can understand the good reason why much of that information is not brought forward, because each individual department would have such a significant line-by-line item or book that would take you awhile to go through and the process as to the legitimacy of some of those numbers. Having said that though, Mr. Speaker, it would certainly enlighten us, the general public, and certainly inform us how each and every department works and where each and every one of those line-by-line items are part of the government and how each of those line items are funded.

Having said that, I want to say as well that the Financial Measures (2003) Bill will be dealing with a tax concession that's going to be offered by this government to many Nova Scotians - 464,000 Nova Scotians will receive a tax cheque of $155. Now that's expected to

[Page 1676]

come out sometime in June and that tax cheque would give many Nova Scotians the opportunity to see if this is a real good way of spending the taxpayers' dollars and if in fact society is benefiting from the return revenue that those taxpayers' dollars will in fact, after being flushed through the community from being spent, come back in tax dollars to the government.

That would be a good six months' hoist, that we could go out to the community and actually see that and see what the community thought of it. What's amazing, Mr. Speaker, and whether it's in your community or my community or any of the other members' communities that are represented here today, is that there will be some 300,000 Nova Scotians who will not benefit from that tax cut and 300,000 Nova Scotians who were told that they will not benefit from that tax cut, they're told because they don't pay taxes or they don't have the tax base comparable to getting back the $155.

Allow me to tell you, Mr. Speaker, that many of the 464,000 who will receive that cheque will use that cheque to spend it out of the province. They'll use that $155 cheque towards their vacation and they will spend that in Ontario or the United States or Europe or elsewhere. Along with that they'll buy antique furniture and so on, but if in fact we are all to benefit from the spoils of a balanced budget and if we are all to benefit from a province that is moving forward and looking after its debt, and that in fact it has come forward with respect to a balanced budget, then we should all benefit from the spoils. Every Nova Scotian should benefit from the spoils.

I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, a senior, a low-income person who is impoverished is more likely to spend that in your local corner store and my local corner store and the small businesses that keep the small businesses alive and operating than someone who earns $150,000 or $100,00 or more. Why should I, as an MLA, be able to collect a cheque of $155 because I earn x number of dollars and I would be a recipient of the spoils and the benefit of a balanced budget while others who earn significantly less than I, do not.

[5:45 p.m.]

The question is it's about fairness in government. It's about how government metes out and distributes the benefits to all of society. That's the question and the question is where do you get your biggest bang for your buck. If you want the money to flow through the economy, you don't give the money to someone who's earning $100,000 a year so that they can go out and put that money towards some prized antique. You don't want them to take that money and spend it outside the province on their vacation, but what you want that to do to flow it through the economy is give it to the hard-working, low-income citizens who will not benefit from this tax break, those people who are poor and those seniors who in fact have been asking for HST tax rebates on home heating fuel and so on.

[Page 1677]

The government had ample opportunity, Mr. Speaker, to make sure that each and every Nova Scotian benefits, as I said, from the spoils of a balanced budget. The Finance Minister may be very correct. He may come in this House and he may articulate the budget estimates and he may very well say that we have a balanced budget, not only do we have a balanced budget, but we have surplus dollars and we anticipate surplus dollars in the future, but unless you look at how the economy spends, then you certainly will not be able to anticipate that those continued benefits are accrued to you in the future.

Mr. Speaker, one thing that has always been a fact is that, in fact, if you - and there were many opportunities for this government not only to look at the individuals who would spin the economy and make the economy flow by making sure that those tax dollars went into their pocket, but also how best this government could utilize that revenue that it has boasted about in surpluses to a better use that would benefit the society as a whole. Now, I'm not saying that individuals shouldn't receive a tax break, particularly those hard-working Nova Scotians, particularly those individuals who rightly deserve to have a tax break, and there are many who do but, remember, every time you take money out of the public purse, someone pays. Government reduces the level of services and programs to its society and as a result of the reduced level of services and programs to its society, it comes back onto you and I and our ability to pay for those services and programs. Not all tax cuts are beneficial.

Mr. Speaker, there are many places in North America now that are experiencing the result of tax cuts. The municipal governments and provincial governments who have witnessed, particularly on the municipal government side, if I can say this, is that they have witnessed as a result of reduced personal property tax rates and so on, they have a reduced level of services and programs. Recreation, we have seen recreation programs diminish. We have seen community centres having to go out and raise extra dollars for themselves in order to keep the community centres operational.

AN HON. MEMBER: Fundraisers.

MR. PYE: And when we move that up further into provincial government, Mr. Speaker, we see the provincial government causing the advocacy groups and agencies and organizations, which are funded by the provincial government, in turn to go out there and to generate additional dollars. They must generate those additional dollars through fundraising ventures and the fundraising ventures of each and every one of those organizations out there is a result of reduction to the funding by the government and as a result of a reduction of revenue coming into the public purse, what happens is it becomes a saturated market and the saturated market causes everyone to be in the same boat.

Mr. Speaker, you and I and every member of this Legislative Assembly have been bombarded within the last three to four years with respect to special requests from advocacy groups and agencies and organizations. We have been asked to come out to their black tie dinners, to their casino nights, to no-show dinners, you name it, the whole gamut of

[Page 1678]

fundraising ventures that we have been asked to come out for. That's a result, specifically, of government cutbacks. Government has continued to ask the agencies and organizations to be self-reliant, independent of government and so on. It can't happen in a vacuum, there's no possible way that that can happen in a vacuum. There must be a shared, co-operative venture by government and those agencies that provide the programs and services.

Six months from now, Mr. Speaker, we could go out there and we could look at this, and we could certainly see what is happening when you erode the tax base by giving back tax dollars, when in fact there are many agencies and organizations out there that are hurting. For example, the transition homes and women's centres have a reduced budget item in the Community Services budget, a reduced line item this year compared to the previous year. Remember, last year, had it not been argued and debated, they would have been cut by $897,000. It was only because this political Party brought the issue to the floor of the House and used some very pertinent examples with respect to the Lieutenant Governor's home and how the money was being spent there in relation to the money being spent on social programs and so on.

Mr. Speaker, it was very important that we looked at that. Again, one has to realize that in order to continue to provide those services, every one of us should be the recipient of the spoils of this province. If the spoils of this province say that we have a balanced budget and that we are in a surplus and there are surplus dollars expected this year and there are further surplus dollars expected next year, then we should be addressing the very important social issues that affect this province.

Mr. Speaker, a good example is to take the tax off home heating oil, take the HST off children's clothing. The minister says that we can't do this, because we need the co-operation of three levels of government. Well, the five-year period has ended, and there is no need for the co-operation of the three Atlantic Provinces. There were four provinces that were tied into this - no there were actually three because P.E.I. did not join. Prince Edward Island did not join, as a matter of fact, if I recall, so there were only three provinces - Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and New Brunswick - that tied into the harmonization by the federal government. The five-year period is now over, and the government has within its power to suggest those particular changes, with respect to the HST on clothing, on home heating, particularly where it affects those individuals who pay the most, and those are the people who are impoverished.

Mr. Speaker, when we look at the Financial Measures (2003) Bill and we talk about moving this six months' hoist, I know that this will probably not happen, I've been here for five years, and each and every year of these budget estimates, up comes the Financial Measures Act. It's a bill, it might be Bill No. 36 this year, but it might have been Bill No. 72 or Bill No. 20, whatever, the previous year depending on the ratio of bills, but nonetheless it's here. Often we will go through this ritual of spending an hour debating on the six months' hoist of the Financial Measures Act, and in the end, the government will have the

[Page 1679]

ultimate power, as it usually does, to bring in the members and, by majority, vote down the six months' hoist.

So the public out there won't get an opportunity to review the budget in six months. The public won't get an opportunity to be a participant in this, because they never are. It's not a travelling road show, it's doesn't go out into the community. It doesn't go out there so the public can provide input to this government, something that I think might be a smart move. You can rest assured that this year in particular it won't move anywhere, because it's an election year. You can be assured that in an election year, this process will be sped up and moved rather quickly.

When we look at how the tax dollars could have been spent, rather than the $68 million that is going to those 464,000 Nova Scotians, who will benefit from receiving that $155 cheque, Mr. Speaker, I want to say that those Nova Scotians may very well deserve that $155 cheque, but there are the other 300,000 Nova Scotians who deserve to be the recipients of that as well. Also, we could have very well put those dollars into the situation we are now faced with listening to every day. That's the Regional Residential Society Services. There are additional dollars that the Minister of Community Services could have to put in to say, look, we're going to address this issue, we know the kind of services that they provide to the most vulnerable Nova Scotians, those counsellors out there who are members of Local 66.

We also know how frustrating it is for the parents and the families of the most vulnerable adults. They know the kind of services that were provided by those Regional Residential Society Services counsellors. They know the RRSS counsellors, and I will use that as an acronym from now on, because it's much simpler to use. I think those people listening and the viewers certainly know RRSS stands for the Regional Residential Society Services, so I will use the acronym from now on.

I must say, Mr. Speaker, the family members, the RRSS, the board of directors of the RRSS, are all in agreement that there needs to be a settlement of this issue. There's no question about that. The board says that it can't move, that it's hands are tied, and that it is the responsibility of the government. The government says that it can't move, that it is not the manager, and therefore is unable to make any movement.

What the minister needs to know, Mr. Speaker, is that the minister has the ultimate power. It is not the first time that the government, and this government here in particular, has requested binding arbitration. If binding arbitration is requested by the family members, it's requested by the union Local 66 of RRSS, and it's requested by the board or supported by the board, then the minister should step in and he should certainly seek consultation from the Minister of Environment and Labour with respect to this very important issue.

[Page 1680]

Mr. Speaker, he doesn't have to do that over the next six months, although this bill says that we can debate that six months hence. The minister can address that issue immediately. The minister can do that now. The Minister of Community Services has that within his power. He has the grasp. He holds the purse strings. He might even hold a purse, but he holds the purse strings.

Mr. Speaker, the important thing is that the seriousness of this issue needs to be dealt with and it needs to be dealt with immediately. How those most vulnerable Nova Scotians perceive this government is significantly important. I would say to the minister that he should show some compassion, show some leadership, demonstrate his concern for this very important issue and get on the phone tonight or tomorrow, as quickly as possible and get them back to the table.

Mr. Speaker, whether you like this or not, this is a budget item. When we debate the Financial Measures (2003) Bill here, we debate every single item within the budget and then some. As this affects the Minister of Community Services' budget, I would ask him to talk to the Finance Minister, the Minister of Environment and Labour, and make a phone call to the volunteer board that works so hard and so diligently on behalf of the RRSS . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. We have reached the moment of interruption. We are now going to move to the late debate. The resolution is from the member for Cape Breton South.

"Therefore be it resolved that rural roads are in deplorable condition."

[6:00 p.m.]

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova. You have 10 minutes with regard to the debate.

TRANSPORT. & PUB. WKS.: RURAL ROADS - CONDITION

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, it's always a privilege and an honour to rise in this House, especially after such outstanding oratory as we've just heard. Now, I would like to speak on the same subject as well but the draw has been conducted by the Clerk and the subject to debate for the next half hour is "Therefore be it resolved that rural roads are in deplorable condition." So, I will have to address that subject during these 10 minutes and not the Financial Measures (2003) Bill. I will speak on that one later on.

[Page 1681]

Now, Mr. Speaker, in approaching the upcoming election, I can tell you that there's nothing more important than rural roads because that's what we will depend on to get to the people and the people that will voting in the 52 ridings are mostly in rural constituencies. They're not downtown, they're not in air-conditioned office towers, they're out there in the places that are not so far and they're much further away from downtown Halifax. (Interruption) The hinterland I'm told, the hinterlands, yes.

The people who live in those areas, they judge government and politicians and the whole political process by what they see and experience day to day in living. They don't come to downtown Halifax, they don't go into the air-conditioned office towers to go to the 17th floor and confer with people in suits and ties, that's not the way they live. They have their own work, their own occupations, their own activities to keep them busy all day long and then some. How do they get from place to place? The answer is, by the road system that we have. It's not by railways, they've largely gone out of style. It's not by airlines, they're beyond the ordinary persons ability to pay for. It's not even by cruise ships or by ocean liners or by any other kind of vessel that plies the waters. They use the roads.

This is the result of the automobile revolution of the 20th Century which was of course made possible by assembly line production, mass development of a cheap car that ordinary people could afford because when that became available to the people, they could buy the Model T or whatever it was that they drove, that led to the development of roads so that these cars could proceed down them, and because we now have a highway network that goes into every nook and cranny, it means that the public is dependent on the roads more so than ever. That is likely to continue into the future.

I know there's talk of developing new fuels and talk of developing an electric car and talk of developing some kind of a steam engine maybe that might use nuclear fusion, not fission but fusion, to get by, but they're all on four wheels, they all go down the road. So whether we're driving a gasoline-propelled car or a propane-fired car or a ethanol-fired car or a steam engine or whatever it may be, we're going to be dependent on these roads for a long time to come.

Now, Mr. Speaker, I was formerly Transportation Critic for the Liberal Party and I noticed my honourable friends to the front nodding at that so they realize that that is indeed so. During that time I perhaps gained more appreciation of these matters than I had in the past because you have to reflect on what you're supposed to be doing.

AN HON. MEMBER: Kaneville Road is paved.

MR. MACEWAN: Yes, Kaneville Road is paved from top to bottom, the honourable member is right and (Interruptions) around Newman's Corner and right up to the Poiriers at the end and that little loop where we can turn around and come back out. All that is an example of what should be done and was done in my constituency. I won't say thanks to me

[Page 1682]

because I didn't go out like the honourable member over there and pave the roads by driving the paving machine myself, but I was instrumental in helping make that work happen.

We're talking here about rural roads being in deplorable condition, not those rural roads that are all fixed up. So, I won't dwell too long on the one he mentions that was fixed up(Interruptions). Well, if I had more time Mr. Speaker, but he wants me to take up my whole 10 minutes talking about Mrs. Matthys rather than about rural roads being in deplorable condition and that's what's on the topic for the debate here. (Interruption)

Well, it was Mrs. Madhouse, her name was Helen Tootsie Madhouse and she lived at 44 Queen Street in Scotchtown and because she came out her door with her broom one day waving it at me, that led to her road getting paved that summer instead of the following year which it was scheduled to be done.

AN HON. MEMBER: Bring out the brooms.

MR. MACEWAN: Yes, sometimes a broom in a good place is a good thing. The idea was if you don't get our road on the list of roads to be paved this summer, don't come around here looking for any more votes. So the road was paved. There was no further argument at that point. Now, that's enough. The reason that that could be relevant to this resolution is that the condition of Queen Street before it was paved was absolutely terrible and this road says deplorable, so I will say the road was deplorable. It was muddy in the Spring. It was very dusty in the summer. In the autumn when the frost came in, it was all heaving and generally year around it was in deplorable condition which I think is what this resolution says. So that's the way it was.

I know that it's the job of governments to pave roads. I think it was Angus MacLean, the former Premier of Prince Edward Island, who said that if it moves, get it a pension. If it doesn't move, pave it. That was the formula of the Premier of Prince Edward Island, Angus MacLean, for remaining in office and I think he remained in office for some time and he was a Tory, but I will follow a Tory on certain items where I think they may be right and certainly when it comes to paving roads, that is very important. In the Province of Prince Edward Island, I should say, they have got almost every road over there paved by now, almost every one. There are a few little rural roads that aren't yet, but the main highway system of the province is completely paved. I know that the Minister of Transportation and Public works may say, well, the land over there is flatter than it is in Nova Scotia and that's true.

AN HON. MEMBER: Also Manitoba is flat.

MR. MACEWAN: Also Manitoba, Manitoba is very flat. That's why a flat Party like the NDP can get into power there, yes. (Interruption) In Nova Scotia, highway construction is more difficult than in Manitoba or in Prince Edward Island and that's why it requires more effort, more energy, and more attention. We get all kinds of reports that the bridges of the

[Page 1683]

Nova Scotia highway system are in a poor state of repair. I remember years ago that there were an awful lot of one-lane bridges on the main highways and cars would line up in one way waiting while those coming the other way proceeded across the bridge, but there is still one like that in St. Peters over the canal. There is still one like that at Black Brook which is in the constituency of Cape Breton West between Donkin and Mira Gut. There are one-lane bridges at Leitches Creek.

AN HON. MEMBER: Margaree.

MR. MACEWAN: Margaree, I hear there's a terrible bridge at Margaree. The Tories are hoping they will have that new bridge there completely ready for use before election day, but they will require magical powers to make that happen in the next six weeks I think, magical powers. Anyway, the tenders on that have been awarded and the construction is underway and, Mr. Speaker, if you want to follow the history of the Tory Party on these matters, look at the bridge from Grand Narrows to Iona, the Barra Strait Bridge in Cape Breton.

The Tory Party under John Buchanan was able to use that bridge in four consecutive elections to help them get back into power. The first election was that the bridge was going to be built. The second election was the tenders had now been awarded. The third election was and the bridge is now being built, see it, and the final election was and the bridge has been built, drive over it, see. So that's the way in which you can use a bridge to win elections. It seems that the Tories have lost sight of the old vision. Some of them have even gone to sleep, Mr. Speaker, but the fact is that I think the more alert and awake elements over there, may perhaps rise to the challenge in the next five or six weeks and demonstrate new interest in this subject, but it is not interest that we're looking for, it's action. Action is what the people want, action is what the people need, action is what the people deserve. I think my 10 minutes is just about up. If there's another speaker wanting to speak about bridges and roads, I would welcome their coming into the debate.

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

MR. JOHN CHATAWAY: Mr. Speaker, I very much appreciate this opportunity and it sort of has been very interesting because to get to follow one of the more, maybe the most colorful speaker in this House, is a very great privilege. I don't always agree with everything that he says, but he always very articulately makes the point of view come across and certainly it's a very great privilege to hear him talk.

Of course the topic tonight is that rural roads are in deplorable conditions and I think many, many people feel indeed that is the truth and exactly it is. I think it's a very good topic, though, at this time of the year because, indeed, it is the Spring. The Spring is a time when you become very much aware of the condition of the roads in the district that you have the honour of representing.

[Page 1684]

I know many people on this side of the House are representing rural or suburban ridings, and some are urban as well. Certainly I'm sure no member who has the honour of representing part of Nova Scotia has no opinion about what we can do to improve the road situation because indeed we have to. I should think as time rolls forth you also realize that railways are sort of fading and roads are absolutely, terribly more and more important. I think we all realize that in the economy of Nova Scotia, the economy of any place in Canada we have to get to market what we can make. In that respect the world is not exploding, the world's imploding because there are indeed companies in Nova Scotia that are literally selling on the other side of the world.

I have the great honour to represent Chester-St. Margaret's and I've always been terribly impressed with G.N. Plastics. If you didn't know what G.N. Plastics was, that company just won a volunteer award this year, at the volunteer ceremony, for healthy futures. This is what is encouraging people in the community, et cetera. They literally sell in 50 countries around the world. At any rate, it's very important that we have the roads that are adequate to get their product to market and things like that because there are no real railways and things like this.

I think it's very important, too, why people on this side of the House feel that we should be discussing this. I'm sure nobody on this side of the House said oh, the roads are just fine. We're just so tickled pink with them all. No, we're not on this side, but we really are making some accomplishments in that area. We can go on and I won't get into it tonight but basically we are living within our means.

The other thing is, I'm very much impressed by the Minister of Transportation and Public Works and the one before him as well. When - in this case he - says we will do this, they not only say they'll do it, they end up doing it. I know one of the greatest shocks when I had the honour of being the MLA for Chester-St. Margaret's, a person phoned me up and said, how about paving this road? It's in my riding. He said, the government before us said they would pave it - I've got a letter in my file, I have a letter saying it will be paved by the Spring. That was four Springs ago.

We certainly can't put that sort of down on paper. Now when we say we'll do something, we do indeed do it. It's very, very important. Of course, bureaucratic engineers, et cetera in the Department of Transportation and Public Works said, okay, in a world that had no real money problems, what would you need to fix up all the roads and make them A-1? That is not building so much new roads but just repairing what we have. The guesstimate was about $3.5 billion over a 10-year period.

[Page 1685]

[6:15 p.m.]

So, when we became the government in 1999 we were paying in the neighbourhood of about $40 million to $50 million on new roads, on repairing the roads. This year, in the budget, it was $106 million. It's not perfect, but we're going in the right direction. I think that's why many people feel that we're getting ahead in this regard. It's not a perfect world, but we're certainly going to repair the roads.

The other thing is, in fact I was interested in the member for Timberlea-Prospect and I know that many people - I'm not so much sure it was him, but some other people in the Opposition have said, oh well, if I were on that side of the House you would have this and this and this paved. Well, he got more pavement in his riding than I did last year. I think it's basically people on this side realize we have many roads to repair, but it's where the road is at the worst and it's used by the most. That's the criteria. It isn't because you sit on this side of the House or that side of the House, whatever. It's just where the need is most, that's where the repair gets first made.

Certainly, we're going in that direction and I think that all Nova Scotians are very aware of that. The majority of the people are. You fix the worst first and that's the direction we're going. If I could take just a moment, in my riding of Chester-St. Margaret's, I know there is going to be some paving done on Route 333 and it's going to be between Indian Point Road and Raymond Road. Also, there's some pavement to be replaced, as it should be, as I just mentioned, at Simms Settlement and they're taking the road up and replacing it because it's dangerous in its present condition. We all know of dangerous roads. The other one too in Chester-St. Margaret's, a tender has been put in the paper to repair Trunk 12 from the exit from Highway No. 103 up to Chester Grant Road. (Interruptions) I appreciate that, I could go on for hours about roads.

The main thing is, we're going in the right direction and it's being done fairly. I think all Nova Scotians appreciate that. We can't do it all at once, but you have to do it fairly, not just because you're on this side of the House or that side of the House and all that stuff. Sometimes I see some of the Opposition saying, oh, well, it used to be this way, it used to be that way, we could do this. That's not the way to do it.

In the early 1990s, 10 per cent of the provincial budget went to the Department of Transportation and Public Works. When we took power in 1999, it was 3 per cent. So, the roads are costing more, so less and less was done. Now, we have to do it as fair as we can, we're going in the right direction.

I realize, Mr. Speaker, I don't have a great length of time. The other thing is, too, I think we all appreciate that we have to - everybody I think wants to have the economy of Nova Scotia busy. Basically, the business of Nova Scotia is small businesses. About 70 per cent of all businesses in Nova Scotia are small businesses employing between one and five

[Page 1686]

people. They're spread all over Nova Scotia and indeed it is very, very important that they have accessible ways to get their product to work. It is also to keep workers all over Nova Scotia, who don't have to feel that they're ruining their cars, et cetera.

Thank you very much and I appreciate this opportunity.

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

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Well, well, well. Roads. Deplorable conditions. I could break into a few choruses of Hank Snow's I've Been Everywhere because let me tell you we can take a tour of roads all across this province and they are in rotten shape. More importantly, there's no plan in place. There's no strategic plan in place. A public plan that lists the criteria correctly and publicly, so that people can say they know when their road will receive the proper attention that is due.

I can use the member for Chester-St. Margaret's most pressing example. The most highly-publicized, promoted tourist destination in this province is Peggy's Cove. I can tell you, from the Indian Point Road to Indian Harbour, unless you have a donkey and a cart, you're going to have one terrible time getting there this summer. A highly-promoted tourist destination, that road is in embarrassing shape. What's the plan? What's the strategy? When can that road be expected to be worked upon?

All across Nova Scotia, Nova Scotians are expecting the pavement trucks to hit the highway, because, after all, pavement politics is alive and well in this province. Why is it alive and well - because of the secretive approach of this previous crowd here and that government there. They will not make it clear what the criteria is when it comes to deciding priority projects for road improvements. For example, if we knew the impact on the economic development of a particular area of a certain road, if we knew the time since the road had last had a major job done on it in the way of upkeep, and we're also looking at a major upgrading, when we look at the tonnage of the vehicles that regularly use that road, or, more importantly, a statistic which is of important consequence, the number of fatal or non-fatal accidents that take place on these roads, we have to be aware of the fact that we have a need in this province that has to be met.

I hear members opposite and I hear the members of the Third Party go on about the plans and what they're going to do. Nova Scotians are frustrated because of how the work has been done. We wait for these tenders to be called, we wait for these announcements to be made, and then for what reasons they are made. I heard the member for Chester-St. Margaret's make reference to the fact that the people in Timberlea-Prospect received paving. They did because of the activists involved. The activists involved in the PROS group, the Please Respect Our Safety group, which is the group on the Prospect Road. Those people lobbied that government at the time, they lobbied that government because the decision had to be made. To the credit of the previous member for Shelburne, Mr. Huskilson came into

[Page 1687]

our community and met with the community, listened to the community. The case was made, and this recent government has followed up and had that amount of paving done.

I wanted to make clear the fact that although my constituency of Timberlea-Prospect is in the HRM, this government on the opposite side is determined to pit rural Nova Scotia against urban Nova Scotia. The member for Queens in particular, on numerous occasions in debates like this should stand in his place and explain to us the Rural Impact Mitigation fund and how it's used. Instead, you read the headline in the Liverpool Advance that the NDP are accusing that the roads are not being worked on in Queens County. Yet the member for Queens has not stood in his place. I challenge him now, stand and have your say on this important issue.

I want you to know that my constituency is largely rural. I can tell you, outside of the urban sprawl, we do have a number of roads that are in deplorable condition, unsafe conditions. We cannot attract tourists to those areas. The fish plant in various areas can't even get their trucks up and down. We have vehicle restrictions in some areas, particularly along the coastal communities. The roads in rural Nova Scotia are in terrible shape. They have been neglected. They were neglected by that crowd, and because of budget limitations and we can't do it all at once, they are very slowly being worked on by that government.

But we need a plan. The plan has to be clear. The timelines have to be made public so people know that a particular stretch of road will be worked on, will be looked at within a time frame that is made public. That's what's needed, Mr. Speaker. That's, after all, the number one priority when we have trust restored to us as MLAs, to us as public officials. When we go out on the election campaign trail, hopefully any day here, we can say, look, I'm in Opposition, but if the case is made for why a particular road should be worked on, improved, paved, the case will be made. So that we don't hear or see in the paper, more importantly, these announcements that a certain portion of road is being worked on. Of course they say, well, it's within the Halifax Regional Municipality, it's all treated so differently, it's all treated so differently, as if it's in rural Nova Scotia.

Yes, we belong to the capital district, but let me tell you, Mr. [Deputy] Speaker, and you know well from your area, outside of the core area, the core area of amalgamation created by these Liberals, amalgamation, the disaster that it's been when it comes to an equity of services. Let me tell you, when it comes to roads outside of the urban core, they are not in deplorable condition. For a change, I will agree with the member for Cape Breton South, this is a resolution that I certainly can support.

Now we're looking at the fact that over the next 10 years, there could be as much as $3.5 billion to bring roads up to spec in this province. What is the effect of this going to be? One of the first things that I did this Spring when we came into the Legislature is I tabled a petition. The petition was from tourists who had been going to the Camp Neptune

[Page 1688]

campground in Indian Harbour. Person after person who signed that petition said they would not be back to Nova Scotia.

I know the Minister of Health Promotion and Tourism is concerned about that. When you drop in to the Amherst Tourist Bureau, when you drop in to some of the other exit points across this province, tourists will make glowing comments about the generosity of Nova Scotians. They will talk about the wonderful scenery, they will talk about how well they're received in this community or that community, and then they will say, the roads are absolutely awful because, as the Minister of Tourism knows, tourists come to this province to attend those various events that are throughout the province. They want to see the rural museums, they want to go to the coastal communities, they want to visit parts of Cape Breton, and I know that during estimates the minister and I shared this comment and in no way was it meant, and he knows it too, as any kind of comment, they want to get off the beaten track.

But we have the Minister of Environment and Labour bringing forth the Voluntary Planning group to look at off-road vehicles, and I will tell you it will be very difficult to justify to the people in Terence Bay why they can't use the roads in Lower Prospect, why they can't use the roads on Porcupine Hill, because the roads are so bad the only way you can use them is by using your all-terrain vehicle. They are in very hard shape, very deplorable shape. So a community that is attempting to promote itself, a community that's attempting to economically get back on its feet, one of the key factors in this province is the method of transportation.

We can look at other areas of the province, and I know the member for Colchester North wasn't particularly pleased with the fact that I brought up a constituency issue in this House today, but the issue is there. The issue comes out time and time again, that there has to be a strategy, the plan should be made public, the priority list should be open so that people know what it is. The criteria for these road improvements must be made in such a fashion that Nova Scotians have trust and they have faith in the decisions that are being made.

I want for the members opposite, particularly the member for Chester-St. Margaret's, to table this March 27, 1999, column from the Saturday Chronicle-Herald, "Make road-repair criteria transparent." It is written by the MLA for Timberlea-Prospect. I would see that that would be something that the member for Chester-St. Margaret's could perhaps use as he knocks on the doors, as we go down the Peggy's Cove Road. I heard that member stand in his place today. I must admit, I was waiting to hear of the destination of Peggy's Cove. I was waiting to hear of the destination of the Swissair memorial. I didn't hear those words. That concerns me sitting in government, that that particular stretch road - from the need of improvements, it's not in my constituency of Timberlea-Prospect, it's an obvious need that must be addressed. The Minister of Transportation and Public Works knows it, he's been told so by myself, I hope he's been told so by the member for Chester-St. Margaret's. I hope

[Page 1689]

the Minister of Tourism has impressed upon him that this is, after all, a road that needs immediate improvement and residents, only fairly, should be treated in that fashion.

MR. SPEAKER: Order. The time for the Adjournment debate is ended. When we adjourned a half hour ago, the member for Dartmouth North was speaking. He has 38 minutes left.

[PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

Bill No. 36 - Financial Measures (2003) Act.] [Debate resumed.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, I think that before the moment of interruption, when I left off I was talking about the RRSS facilities and the role and responsibility of the Minister of Community Services. I want to say that the family members have obviously had conversations with members on the government side and some of those members on the government side have obviously given them conflicting or different information with respect to how best to address this.

[6:30 p.m.]

I do know that the honourable minister, the member representing Halifax Citadel, does have a small options home within her constituency, one that's operated by the RRSS, and the member for Halifax Bedford Basin also has one of those facilities. I do know that they probably have been in conversation, as being members of the government side, with respect to how best to address this particular issue.

Some of the information may have been - and I'm not privy to the information that they may have had in conversation with particularly the family members of persons with intellectual disabilities - I can tell you that they probably did have those conversations along with others and that they can certainly direct the Minister of Community Services to address this issue in an appropriate way. I know that we're dealing with this Bill No. 36 before us and it's six months hence, but we could look at that item and that item could be one of the items on the top of the agenda with respect to dealing with this. If, in fact, we are going to make sure that all our society benefits from this balanced budget and the surplus and revenue, then the most vulnerable people in our society could very well benefit from that as well.

In fact, those members can certainly impress upon the ministers within the portfolios that have the authority to do something about it - the Minister of Finance, who can divvy up the additional dollars; the Minister of Environment and Labour who can talk about binding arbitration or at least getting them back to the table; and most importantly, the Minister of Community Services who does have the power to ask the volunteer board who do such a

[Page 1690]

tremendous job, to get back to the negotiating table and negotiate the agreement and a settlement.

After all, the kind of service these individuals provide is absolutely significant. I can tell you the family members are particularly proud, and I know that the former Minister of Community Services demonstrated flexibility when the issue of the transition homes came before this Legislature. The minister demonstrated that his government was going by the blue book and the process that we listen and we act and we understand the concerns of Nova Scotians out there, and he understood the concerns of Nova Scotians out there with respect to making sure that the transition homes continued to be funded for that year of 2002-03.

Also, this can very well happen with respect to the RRSS, the board of directors and the Local 66, the counsellors out there. Simply because there are some 250 members and there are 36 other agencies and organizations out there that will require funding doesn't mean that's where you stop - that's the basis of where you start. The minister uses the old analogy that they have balanced and they have brought wage parity across the province as a result of the service exchange. But what the minister doesn't tell Nova Scotians is that was part of the service exchange. That was an agreement by the municipalities in the province to take over people services, and people services were Community Services, and many of those people were funded by the municipal government. There are many members of municipal government who are very much aware of how much of a bite that took out of the municipal governments' tax dollars.

Having said that, this is today; it's over and done. There has been no collective agreement for at least two years. These individuals worked diligently on behalf of the most vulnerable Nova Scotians - those with intellectual disabilities and they do the kind of job that you or I or no one else would be prepared to do. Six months from now, we could certainly look at their role and responsibility.

I also want to go back because the $155 tax rebate is something that just strikes out at me, it reflects - I can see that big cheque that's going to be coming in the mailboxes of many Nova Scotians, the 464,000 Nova Scotians that will receive that cheque.

Mr. Speaker, I know that there are some 300,000 Nova Scotians who live in all those ridings and those 52 constituencies, not only on this side of the floor, but on the government side of the floor as well. There will be some 300,000 Nova Scotians who will not pull a cheque out of the mailbox. They will not get the benefit of a luxury summer. They will not get the benefit of taking those dollars and spending them on items that they would so dearly need or want. This will be an opportunity or this could be six months down the road, to allow the government to rethink that all Nova Scotians should benefit in the spoils of a balanced budget, not simply because of their inability to pay.

[Page 1691]

Many Nova Scotians are disabled Nova Scotians and there have been requests for this government that if Nova Scotians are all going to benefit from the spoils of a balanced budget, then so should the disabled persons. I do know that there was a pilot project some ten years ago with respect to persons with disabilities living independently, it was called independent living. That pilot project is still on but there has been a request for the government to entertain other pilot projects, pilot projects of a similar nature that would allow disabled persons to have this independence. This ability to be a part of the community, to be able to flow and go to events and to do their shopping and to be as independent as they possibly can. Even independent to the point whereby they could live in what they consider their own home environment.

The minister could very well have done that if the minister would have looked at - the Minister of Finance - how best he could utilize those surplus dollars. I know that the blue book said that there was a plan and the plan after year four, that there would be a 10 per cent tax cut. Mr. Speaker, I've held up the government's blue book, I have held it up in this Legislative Assembly until my arm got tired, until I finished counting the number of times that the government has not lived up to its commitment of some 247 promises in that blue book. Not all the promises, and the government will agree, have been fulfilled and some haphazardly.

I also was fortunate enough to have the Tory blue book signatured by every member of the Tory Party, the Tory caucus I should say. That signatured blue book is there and I will certainly keep that blue book in my possession for some time to come. Maybe some day I might use it as a fundraising venture when some of those names will no longer be in the Legislature and it will become a historical document. It will certainly become a historical document and something that might generate a great deal of revenue on the auction block.

Mr. Speaker, having said that, I have to tell you that there was another promise in there that in fact the government could have lived up to and that was a request by the Disabled Persons Commission of Nova Scotia. It was also a request by LEO, which is the League of Equal Opportunities of Nova Scotia as well, and that was for a pilot project on technical aids. The former Minister of Health - and I know the present Minister of Health - will acknowledge the importance of having access to technical aids, particularly if we find that individuals are trapped in hospitals, to use an appropriate word, trapped in the hospitals because they don't have the technical aids that will allow them to vacate the institution or the hospital setting or even a home environment at an appropriate time.

A technical aids pilot project operated by disabled persons could very well save this government hundreds of thousands of dollars. Not only would it save the government hundreds of thousands of dollars, it would also give opportunities for persons with disabilities to be employed. Persons who are knowledgeable about the kinds of apparatuses that might be needed, like a pair of crutches, quad canes, for example, wheelchairs because this government does not fund wheelchairs and so on unless it's for a special circumstance,

[Page 1692]

most often many people are there to fund their own wheelchairs and wouldn't have to go to the Lions Club, to the Rotary Club, to the Kinsmen and all those other organizations to further embarrass themselves by seeking funding to be able to purchase something that allows them to be as mobile as you or I. It's all about mobility as a matter of fact and it puts them in the embarrassing situation of having to seek these technical aids and having to go out to organizations in the community to seek assistance in purchasing these technical aids.

The government could have very well thought about, when it was giving a 10 per cent tax cut, how it was going to divvy the spoils out to all Nova Scotians and not only to 464,000 Nova Scotians, by a $155 cheque. The government could have said that, look, we will continue to do that, it may cost us a bit more, but all Nova Scotians are going to benefit in the spoils of a balanced budget. Mr. Speaker, the government side has many individuals who I believe could demonstrate compassion and have the opportunity to reflect a change within the government. I'm sure the honourable member for Kings North, who is a member of the clergy by profession, could very well talk about social justice. He has been around the world. He has seen some social inequities in other countries and he certainly understands that if social justice is to be here, everyone is to benefit. If he is a professor of ethics and he teaches ethics, then surely he would understand that he has the opportunity to impress upon his government through ethics the importance of equity and fairness.

There is absolutely no question about that, Mr. Speaker. We talk about religion and government not mixing, but yet we have members of the clergy who have from time to time been elected to this Legislative Assembly. They have an important role to play and I would not deny them the opportunity to play an important role in the Legislative Assembly because they do, but they also have input with respect to that and with a six months' hoist we could go out there and we could talk about social issues across this province. We could talk to those social agencies. We could talk to members of the parishes and of the church. If we believe that we are truly the Christians that we are and we go to church, simply use it as an exercise, if we are the true Christians that we are, then we would look at social justice and how everyone is going to benefit from these dollars.

So when we turn around and we have a government that provides a balanced budget, and not only provides a balanced budget, Mr. Speaker, but it has a surplus to the point whereas in year four it says that it will give a $155 cheque to 464,000 Nova Scotians, but 300,000 Nova Scotians will be left out. The poorest of Nova Scotians will be left out and those Nova Scotians are the ones who are likely to make this economy flow and that money is going to spin back into small business. If this government believes in small business, then this government ought to make sure that those individuals who are going to spend the money in Nova Scotia have the opportunity to get it by way of tax rebate and spend it so that those small businesses will flow. The money then, in turn, will reach the cycle it always has and gets back into the government purse.

[Page 1693]

Mr. Speaker, there's also another issue that the Financial Measures (2003) Bill hasn't addressed, but certainly we have the opportunity, because of the omnibus nature of this bill. There are many different parts of the bill, also this bill hinges on every one of those government departments, and we could have had the opportunity to address the issue of housing. Now, I know that the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations entertained with the federal government support for an affordable housing program. As a matter of fact, that was in September, I believe, it might have been September 13, 2002, that agreement was signed at the Halifax Airport Hotel and that this government was going to be committed to developing housing projects over the five-year period of which this money was allocated for. The government up fronted $11 million of the federal government's dollars. The federal government decided to get back into housing and I don't know if the members of the Liberal side have seen that, but I'm sure the federal Liberals have seen that up front $11 million, rather than using the taxpayers' dollars of Nova Scotia which the government was committed to do to balance that off into the housing projects.

[6:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I will tell you that there was a report, Housing For Tomorrow, social housing, affordable housing, that report was done in 1998. There was a report done in 1997 and that was under the previous Liberal Government. The Conservative Government came to power, they had the opportunity to address the most important issue that we are faced with now, housing and the extreme shortage of housing. This government has not built one single housing development other than the 15 unit housing project in Middleton.

I can assure you Mr. Speaker, that we won't have to wait six months hence to deal with that because that announcement will come when the election is on and I will bet you that will be a ribbon-cutting ceremony during the election, I can assure you that that's what will happen. There was one other tiny gesture that was made by this provincial government with housing, both previous governments, and the previous government in the last 10 years and that was with respect to the Gerrish Street housing project that's on the corner of Gottingen and Gerrish. As a matter of fact, the Halifax Regional Municipality donated the land for that to go.

Six months from now we can go out there and we can talk to the advocacy groups on housing and what type of housing needs to be built in Nova Scotia that will meet the needs and the present needs that the requests are out there for. Seniors' housing is significantly important, Mr. Speaker. It has been requested, seniors are quite concerned that seniors' housing has actually moved away from seniors and people who are no longer seniors are moving in to seniors' housing projects and that was never the design for those seniors' housing projects. Actually they were designed for people 65 years of age and older to be able to live in an environment where they were comfortable. Some of them no longer live in seniors' housing that they feel comfortable in and there needs to be a rethinking of just exactly what seniors' housing is and what it should be. There are many seniors' housing that

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need elevators. In five years they've never had elevator services in those seniors housing. As a matter of fact, I do know that in Cole Harbour on Circassion Drive, there's a seniors' complex that has made a request for an elevator on several occasions to the minister of housing services. Never to be, it did not happen and I don't think it's in the books now.

The Financial Measures (2003) Bill, and if this were to go out, we would certainly have the opportunity to look at that and to make sure that that was one of the priority items. There are a number of seniors' housing that just simply don't meet the needs of today's seniors. There needs to be a rethinking of redesigning and the people who should be involved in that are advocacy groups and seniors who best know the kind of environment that they want to live in in the future. I do know that the honourable member for Dartmouth South has many, many seniors' centres, seniors' facilities built in his riding of Dartmouth South and the new riding to be Dartmouth South-Portland Valley, and much of that had been done by the former Minister of Community Services, Rollie Thornhill at the time, and he developed many of those seniors' housing. There's been a need for a spread out through Dartmouth as the communities change for the seniors' housing to be more appropriately located into communities. That's never been looked at and needs to be looked at.

Mr. Speaker, there are some 1,300 people on a waiting list in the Halifax area. Vacancy rates in the Halifax area are some 2.7 per cent which puts a tremendous stress on those individuals whom in fact are seeking housing. Housing, Mr. Speaker, is a right, it's a right to shelter under the United Nations agreement, I do believe. I can't very well confirm that, but I believe that's one of the social fundamental rights under the United Nations, that everyone be afforded, at least, shelter.

There are many individual who, because of the high cost in the metro area and people migrating to the Halifax area simply because of maybe the economy spinning down in Cape Breton, or maybe because there are greater employment opportunities in the metro area, there's a number of reasons why people migrate to a capital of a province. Many of those are opportunities for seeking a better way of life, a better employment opportunity. As a result of that, there's a lot of pressures placed upon the housing stock in those municipalities where there's a need. It's not only a need, particularly in Halifax, but if you look at where the growth is taking place, there's a need in Guysborough for housing, there's a need in Antigonish, there's a need in the Halifax metro area, of course we all know that because there's a waiting list of some 1,300 people, but there's also a need in Kentville and also needs in the South Shore of Nova Scotia, through the Yarmouth and Digby areas.

There's a tremendous need for social housing, Mr. Speaker, and it has not been addressed. It has not been addressed by this government, and it was not addressed by the previous government. Six months from now we can go out and we can possibly ask the citizens of Nova Scotia, the advocacy groups who are keenly interested in making sure that housing is a number one issue on the government's agenda, we could certainly go out and

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ask them how they believe the government should move or what direction the government should move in with respect to social housing.

When we look at this, Mr. Speaker, we also know there's another special group that's not even taken into consideration as of yet, and we do know that in other parts of the country they have been, and those are individuals with environmental illness. We do know that there's a project in Ottawa, in fact a 15-unit building that deals primarily with those individuals who have environmental illness. There are varying degrees of environmental illness, so it's extremely difficult to meet all the needs, but they have sat down with a group and decided on a pilot project of a 15-unit building whereby this can be done.

The Government of Nova Scotia has not indicated in any way that it's about to address the issue of environmental illness and housing. I do know that we have had one particular individual, over time, who has actually lived in an automobile because they could no longer live in the apartment units; living in certain parts of this municipality and in parklands in that automobile rather than having a shelter.

I think that's what this bill can do, this Financial Measures (2003) Bill, it can say to the Minister of Housing that it's important to rethink your budget, and if in fact you're going to rethink your budget, that $37.26 million that you have agreed to be a partner with the federal Government of Canada, you need to think about the housing stock. We don't know how much money is going to go into rental supplements. We do know there's another separate bag of money that was handed down for residential rehabilitation assistance, the RRAP program. We do know that many people in our constituencies have taken advantage of the RRAP program. We do know there will probably be many people taking advantage of the RRAP program in the future.

We need to know, Mr. Speaker, that there's money there. Often. the rent supplement, the RRAP program, the money runs out before it actually comes in because there are so many requests for emergencies and so many requests for those dollars. So, I have to tell you that we can certainly look at that as a financial measures item, and we can certainly ask in six months' time, we can certainly look around and we can certainly ask the Minister of Housing Services to go back and to review his budget, to see where that money is going to come from.

I know there will be a flurry of announcements during this election year and on the campaign trail there will be a flurry of announcements, you can rest assured, on housing projects that are going to come from this government's purse. I can tell you that there will be announcements probably to rural communities - and rightly so. Many people - 78 per cent I think - of Nova Scotians in rural communities own their own homes and they need to have those homes maintained and up to standards and so on and rightly so, there will be money put into that.

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I, believe in the agreement that was signed - that the federal government with the provinces - said that there needs to be some new housing stock established. There needs some 1,500 new housing stock maybe, possibly established here in the Province of Nova Scotia. I don't know, I'm not the expert in the field, but I can tell you there are many people out there who are experts in the field. There's the advocacy group on homelessness, there are a number of other groups, which just slipped my tongue at the present time, but I can assure you that they're very competent, they have individuals who have participated in round tables on housing. They have participated in what the requirements are out there, what the needs are for the 21st Century in housing? There are a whole lot of things that they know about and I'm sure that they have had contact with the government on and it's about time the government moved on that.

I know my time is coming to a close and I want to touch on an issue that I haven't touched on and I don't think that I will give it the appropriate time that it needs, but I'm certainly going to try to capsulize it and that's the issue with respect to the casino and the legislation the government has introduced giving a 30-day notification. The government says it's an amendment to the Municipal Government Act. Well, the Municipal Government Act was approved in this Legislature in 1998 and I happened to be here. In the Municipal Government Act, the government of the day and the present government knew that the Municipal Government Act was designed for the order of good government and it was designed to allow municipalities to have autonomy in drafting bylaws that the municipality felt that it could appropriately deal with and those bylaws could appropriately stand the test of time in the courts.

The municipalities, prior to 1998, could not draft a bylaw or even entertain or consider legislation that would be contrary or would affect the legislation of the Province of Nova Scotia, the Government of Nova Scotia. When the new Municipal Government Act came in in 1998, I was certainly one of those who applauded it simply because it did give municipal government for once the opportunity to be another level of government, although not recognized under the Charter and not recognized by the province. It still gave the municipal government the opportunity - the 55 remaining municipal governments in this province - to have what they considered to be an order of good government. That was a government whereby they could introduce bylaws they felt the citizens of their municipality wanted.

The City of Halifax most recently introduced a very controversial bylaw and that bylaw was a total ban on smoking. A total smoking ban bylaw affected one of the major revenue drivers for the Province of Nova Scotia, that being the casino. When the provincial government recognized that now the municipal governments had the power to draft such bylaws, it quickly came to the Legislature with another bill saying that they're going to rescind this municipal bylaw by bringing in their own piece of legislation that will allow them the 30-days' opportunity in the event that they are dramatically affected, the profits or the revenue from the casino.

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Mr. Speaker, I wanted to say to you that it was irresponsible of this government because most importantly the Minister of Health is very much aware of the effects of tobacco and tobacco smoking in this province; not only in this province, we have health experts across the country and many provinces who are going for a total ban on smoking in public places and in the workplace.

The day has come when we have to recognize that if we're going to reduce the cost of health budgets, then we have to recognize that one way to reduce the cost health budget is the cessation of smoking which has a significant impact on the Health budget because of the kind of problems that it creates and the kind of diseases that smoking creates.

[7:00 p.m.]

If you really want to see the effects of smoking, all you have to do is visit a palliative care unit in any hospital in this province and you will see the side effects of smoking. When you see someone on their death legs, trying to struggle from one unit to another, then you recognize the importance of the cessation of smoking. I think when a government turns around and looks at dollar values rather than human values, there needs to be something said about a level of government that thinks in that particular way.

Mr. Speaker, like I said, I don't think that I could provide the kind of time that's really needed to simply debate this one issue alone, because it's such a significantly important issue. At this moment I would like to take the opportunity to make a motion and I move the adjournment of this debate. (Interruption)

MR. SPEAKER: There's a motion to adjourn debate and I hear two members requesting a recorded vote. I guess at this point, unless there's unanimous consent to do otherwise, we will proceed with the recorded vote.

Ring the bells.

Order, order. Okay, so maybe we can talk about what we did last night, which is, is there unanimous consent to waive the ringing of the bells on the assumption that there is unanimous consent to proceed directly to a motion to adjourn the House?

Is that agreed?

It is agreed.

The honourable Government House Leader.

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HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move the House do now rise to meet again on the morrow at the hour of 2:00 p.m. The House will sit from 2:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. and the order of business will be the Opposition Members' Business and we'll await the . . .

MR. SPEAKER: I direct the member for Halifax Fairview to give the business of Opposition Day tomorrow.

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, the Government House Leader has given tomorrow's hours and the business for tomorrow is Resolution No. 17 and Resolution No. 906. If the other members would like a copy of that I have a copy of those resolutions here.

I move that the House adjourn.

MR. SPEAKER: There's a motion to adjourn the House until 2:00 p.m. tomorrow, Opposition Day.

Is it agreed?

The motion is carried.

The House is adjourned.

[The House rose at 7:03 p.m.]

[Page 1699]

NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)

RESOLUTION NO. 945

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 at 60 years of age, when many people are thinking about retiring, Yvonne Martin appears to just be warming up; and

Whereas Ms. Martin has won her second straight provincial senior women's curling title, her third in five years; and

Whereas Ms. Martin joined her teammates from the Glooscap Curling Club at the Canadian senior women's curling championships in Lethbridge, Alberta, in January;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join me in congratulating Yvonne Martin on her second straight provincial senior women's curling title and wish her further success in all her future curling tournaments.

RESOLUTION NO. 946

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 last year during National Waste Reduction Week, the Resource Recovery Fund Board held a recycling contest for students from the province's seven solid waste resource management regions; and

Whereas three of the five winners from the Valley region were from Eastern Kings; and

Whereas Aldershot Elementary School student Caitlyn Cavanagh-Dollard, Wolfville School student Aaron McKinley and NKEC student Melissa Reekie brought home top honours from a ceremony held in January;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join me in congratulating Caitlyn Cavanagh-Dollard, Aaron McKinley and Melissa Reekie on winning the Resource Recovery Fund Board recycling contest.

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RESOLUTION NO. 947

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 Environment Canada created the Environment Choice M Program in 1988 to help consumers identify companies and products committed to reducing stress on the environment through "green power"; and

Whereas to be certified to carry Environment Canada's EcoLogoM, companies must go beyond just meeting industry standards for safety and performance and demonstrate that they are taking steps to protect the environment for local species; and

Whereas Minas Basin Pulp and Power Company Ltd. now carries the EcoLogoM for its renewable, low-impact electricity generation at its three-megawatt hydro-generation facility which runs its paperboard mills;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House commend Minas Basin Pulp and Power on its environmental certification and applaud the steps it has taken to reduce harmful impacts on the local environment.

RESOLUTION NO. 948

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

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

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 Bradley Collier of Bedford, a Charles P. Allen High School student, received one of these awards for his work perfecting and landscaping lawns in his neighbourhood;

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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.