Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

Les travaux de la Chambre ont repris le
21 septembre 2017

HANSARD 03-23

DEBATES AND PROCEEDINGS

Speaker: Honourable Murray Scott

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

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

Annual subscriptions available from the Office of the Speaker.

Third Session

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 30, 2003

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS:
Environ. & Lbr. - Mainland South: Governor's Brook Land - Rezone,
Mr. Robert Chisholm 1703
Transport. & Pub. Wks.: Highway No. 101 - Limited Access Road,
Hon. G. Balser 1704
PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES:
Anl. Rept. of the Standing Committee on Community Services,
Ms. M. McGrath 1704
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 949, Gov't. (N.S.) - Employees: Commun. Spirit - Recognize,
Hon. N. LeBlanc 1704
Vote - Affirmative 1705
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 43, Members' Retiring Allowances Act, Hon. N. LeBlanc 1705
NOTICE OF MOTION:
Res. 950, Insurance - NDP Task Force: Participation - Urge,
Mr. D. Dexter 1706
Res. 951, PC Gov't.: Governance - Inability, Mr. Manning MacDonald 1707
Res. 952, Sports - Hfx. Mooseheads: Dilio Champs - Congrats.,
Mr. D. Hendsbee 1707
Vote - Affirmative 1708
Res. 953, Kashin, Margaret: Birthday (100th) - Congrats.,
Mr. K. Deveaux 1709
Vote - Affirmative 1709
Res. 954, Gov't. (N.S.) - Fin. Remedies: Danger - Conclude,
Mr. P. MacEwan 1710
Res. 955, Hfx. Fairview MLA: Leadership Aspirations - Promotion,
Mr. J. DeWolfe 1711
Res. 956, HRM Literacy Assoc. - Literacy Progs.: Enhancement -
Commend, Mr. W. Estabrooks 1711
Vote - Affirmative 1712
Res. 957, Prem. - Gov't. Actions: Responsibility - Refusal,
Mr. M. Samson 1712
Res. 958, Boutilier, Charles (Boots) - Soldiers Mem. Hosp. Vets. Coun.:
Pres. - Appt. Congrats., Mr. F. Chipman 1713
Vote - Affirmative 1713
Res. 959, Mandaville, Shalom - Metro Lakes: Study - Thank,
Mr. K. Deveaux 1713
Res. 960, Lane, Elsie - Commun. Serv.: Admiration - Express,
Mr. M. Parent 1714
Vote - Affirmative 1715
Res. 961, Yar. - Corrections Ctr.: Importance - Recognize,
Mr. R. Hurlburt 1715
Res. 962, Sports - Halifax Hawks: Achievements - Congrats.,
Ms. M. McGrath 1716
Vote - Affirmative 1717
Res. 963, Pothier, Hubert: Business Success - Congrats.,
Hon. N. LeBlanc 1717
Vote - Affirmative 1718
Res. 964, RCL Westville - Westville Venturers/Rovers: Donation -
Thank, Mr. J. DeWolfe 1718
Vote - Affirmative 1718
Res. 965, Sports - Truro Curves for Women Bearcats: Hockey Medal -
Congrats., Hon. J. Muir 1718
Vote - Affirmative 1719
Res. 966, LeBlanc, Fr. Maurice - Univ. Ste.-Anne: Hon. Deg. -
Congrats., Hon. N. LeBlanc 1719
Vote - Affirmative 1720
Res. 967, Johnstone, Donald: 2003 RBC Scholarship - Congrats.,
Hon. J. Muir 1720
Vote - Affirmative 1721
Res. 968, Liberal Party - Leadership: Prem. - Recognition Congrats.,
Mr. Samson 1721
Res. 969, Hfx. Fairview MLA - Econ. Authority: David Dodge -
Primacy, Ms. M. McGrath 1722
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 211, Insurance - Rates: Reduction - Lack Explain, Mr. D. Dexter 1723
No. 212, Prem.: Debt Reduction Strategy - Formulate, Mr. M. Samson 1724
No. 213, Insurance - Drivers: Abandonment - Explain, Mr. D. Dexter 1725
No. 214, Prem. - Debt Growth: Publication - Lack Explain,
Mr. M. Samson 1726
No. 215, Insurance - Service Deliverers: Coverage - Refusal Explain,
Mr. H. Epstein 1728
No. 216, Insurance - Industry: Understanding - Lack Explain,
Mr. F. Corbett 1729
No. 217, Prem. - Debt Servicing Charges: Increase - Justify,
Mr. M. Samson 1730
No. 218, Nat. Res. - Subsidence: Gov't. (N.S.) - Stance, Mr. F. Corbett 1732
No. 219, Prem. - Health/Gambling: Priorities - Stance, Mr. G. Steele 1733
No. 220, Health - N.S. Hosp.: On-Call Staff - Location, Dr. J. Smith 1734
No. 221, Environ. & Lbr. - Casino Workers: Smoke Exposure -
Justification, Ms. Maureen MacDonald 1736
No. 222, Educ. - High Sch.: Dominion Citizens - Commitment Details,
Mr. D. Wilson 1737
No. 223, Energy - Nat. Gas.: Franchise - Problem Explain, Mr. J. Holm 1738
No. 224, Health - Drug Plans/Tax Rebate: Prioritization -
Justification, Dr. J. Smith 1740
No. 225, Environ. & Lbr. - Governor's Brook: Dev. Impact -
Investigation Details, Mr. H. Epstein 1741
No. 226, Econ. Dev. - Marine Atl. (N. Sydney): Employment -
Update, Mr. B. Boudreau 1743
No. 227, Insurance - Discussion Paper: Pre-Election Release -
Undertaking Give, Mr. Manning MacDonald 1744
No. 228, Gov't. (N.S.) - Vulnerable Nova Scotians: Treatment -
Justification, Mr. J. Pye 1745
No. 229, Educ. - Rankin Mem. Sch.: Const. Schedule - Delay Explain,
Mr. K. MacAskill 1747
No. 230, Econ. Dev. - N. Sydney Sportsplex: Const. - Timetable,
Mr. B. Boudreau 1748
No. 231, Commun. Serv.: RRSS Strike - Resolve, Mr. J. Pye 1749
No. 232, Educ. - Library Funding: Funding Agreement - Fulfill,
Mr. D. Wilson 1750
OPPOSITION MEMBERS' BUSINESS:
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS:
Res. 17, Educ.: Dominion Crisis - Tories (N.S.)/Liberals (Can.)
Condemn, Mr. F. Corbett 1753
Mr. F. Corbett 1753
Hon. A. MacIsaac 1756
Mr. B. Taylor 1758
Mr. D. Wilson 1760
Mr. W. Estabrooks 1764
Res. 906, Educ.: Special Educ. Implementation Review
Comm. Rept. - Implement, Mr. D. Dexter 1769
Mr. D. Dexter 1769
Mr. M. Parent 1772
Mr. D. Wilson 1776
Dr. J. Smith 1778
Mr. W. Estabrooks 1779
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Fin. - Tax Relief: Soc./Econ. Criteria - Compliance:
Mr. M. Parent 1784
Mr. J. Pye 1787
Dr. J. Smith 1789
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Thur., May 1st at 12:00 noon 1792
NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3):
Res. 970, RCL Branch 12: Anniv. (75th) - Congrats., Hon. C. Clarke 1793
Res. 971, Granville Ferry Int'l. Feast - Participants: Efforts -
Applaud, Mr. F. Chipman 1793
Res. 972, Gordon, Blaine/Lays, Chance - Lamontagne Tournament:
Success - Congrats., Mr. J. DeWolfe 1794
Res. 973, Call to Remembrance Comp.: W. Pictou High - Congrats.,
Mrs. M. Baillie 1794
Res. 974, MacRae, Kevin: Educ. Wk. Award - Congrats.,
Hon. Rodney MacDonald 1795
Res. 975, Roscoe, John: Educ. Wk. Award - Congrats., Mr. C. O'Donnell 1795
Res. 976, Hobbs, Bruce: Educ. Wk. Award - Congrats., Mr. R. Hurlburt 1796
Res. 977, Ferguson, Alan: Educ. Wk. Award - Congrats., Hon. G. Balser 1796
Res. 978, Hilchey, Terry: Educ. Wk. Award - Congrats., Mrs. M. Baillie 1797
Res. 979, Burke, Wayne: Educ. Wk. Award - Congrats., Hon. R. Russell 1797
Res. 980, Gaudet, Ruth: Educ. Wk. Award - Congrats., Mr. F. Chipman 1798
Res. 981, Nogler, Robert: Educ. Wk. Award - Congrats., Hon. E. Fage 1798
Res. 982, Gallant, Kevin: Educ. Wk. Award - Congrats., Hon. N. LeBlanc 1799
Res. 983, Landry, Laurent: Educ. Wk. Award - Congrats.,
Hon. N. LeBlanc 1799
Res. 984, Smith, Sue: Educ. Wk. Award - Congrats., Mr. K. Morash 1800
Res. 985, Campbell, Leo: Educ. Wk. Award - Congrats., Mr. K. Morash 1800
Res. 986, Andrea, Mary Lou: Educ. Wk. Award - Congrats.,
Hon. Rodney MacDonald 1801

[Page 1703]

HALIFAX, WEDNESDAY, APRIL 30, 2003

Fifty-eighth General Assembly

Third Session

2:00 P.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Murray Scott

DEPUTY SPEAKERS

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

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 Kings North:

Therefore be it resolved that the government's plan for tax relief meets criteria for social fairness and economic effectiveness.

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

We will begin the daily routine.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition signed by approximately 1,400 people of the Halifax Regional Municipality, two-thirds of which are from the Mainland South area and one-third are from the more general Halifax area. This is a petition of people speaking in opposition to a proposed development out on the Colpitt Lake area of Mainland South, of Halifax Atlantic.

1703

[Page 1704]

If I may, the operative clause says,"We, the undersigned, petition Chebucto Community Council NOT to rezone the Governor's Brook land in Mainland South; and NOT to approve a development agreement for the construction of 870 housing units." Also included in this petition are some of the reasons why we are asking the Minister of Environment and Labour to step in and ensure that before any development goes forward that there is a proper environmental assessment done. I have affixed my signature to this petition and I would so table.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries.

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition on behalf of the residents of Conway and Weymouth. The operative clause says, "We the undersigned citizens of Highway 101, Digby County, between the villages of Conway and Weymouth, hereby remind the government departments concerned of their commitment to make this portion of the Highway 101 into a limited access road." There are 350 names on this and I have affixed my name.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Bedford Basin.

MS. MARY ANN MCGRATH: Mr. Speaker, as Chairman of the Committee on Community Services, I beg leave to table the Annual Report of the Standing Committee on Community Services.

MR. SPEAKER: The report is tabled.

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance.

RESOLUTION NO. 949

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

[Page 1705]

Whereas the Metro United Way invests donations in a network of programs and services to support children and their families, help people get back on their feet, reduce violence and build stronger volunteer organizations; and

Whereas the 2002 Provincial Government United Way campaign exceeded its goal and raised $311,000 to help build a better community in the Halifax Regional Municipality; and

Whereas the Department of Finance reached 114 per cent of its goal and received the 2002 Quantum Leap Award for exceptional workplace campaign achievement;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate provincial government employees for their outstanding effort to help build an extraordinary community and recognize the caring spirit we have here in the Province of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

Just before we move on to the next order of business, I would like to bring to the attention of the members of the House, two special guests in the Speaker's Gallery today: David and Barb Murray of Rodney, Cumberland County. They are the mother and father of Stephanie Murray, a Page on the floor of the House. As well, Barb is the daughter of the late Raymond Smith, who was an MLA for the area of Springhill in 1973, I'm sure he's well-remembered by many, I've heard him mentioned on several occasions. I would like for Barb and Dave to rise and receive the warm welcome of the House, please. (Applause)

Welcome folks, we hope you enjoy your visit this afternoon and enjoy the proceedings and the great work that Stephanie does here in the House. Thank you.

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

Bill No. 43 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 282 of the Revised Statutes of 1989. The Members' Retiring Allowances Act. (Hon. Neil LeBlanc)

[Page 1706]

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

The honourable Minister of Health on an introduction.

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, if I could draw the attention of the House to some special guests in the west gallery. They are from a school in my riding, there are 18 Grade 8 students from Armbrae Academy. They're here with their leader, Johnathon Fowler and among the special guests happens to be my niece, Ellen. I wonder if they could rise and receive the welcome of the House. (Applause)

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

[2:15 p.m.]

NOTICES OF MOTION

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

RESOLUTION NO. 950

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

Whereas auto insurance rates continue to skyrocket in Nova Scotia, as insurers regularly file increases with the utility and rubber stamp review board; and

Whereas these rates, such as a six-fold increase in the facilities association rates since this government took power, are forcing today's families to consider whether the privilege of driving is any longer affordable; and

Whereas the NDP Task Force on Lower Auto Insurance is asking Nova Scotia, through mail-back cards, to participate in a process that, unlike that proposed by the government, will look at all the options available to make auto insurance more affordable;

Therefore be it resolved that this House urge all Nova Scotians to participate in the NDP Task Force on Lower Auto Insurance to ensure that all options for providing cheaper auto insurance are thoroughly canvassed.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 1707]

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton South.

RESOLUTION NO. 951

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

Whereas the actions of Cabinet Ministers during this session of the Legislature demonstrates the lack of respect the Tory Government has for the Legislature, the democratic process and all Nova Scotians; and

Whereas this was displayed very clearly yesterday by the Minister of Energy, when instead of listening to Question Period, the minister decided it was more important to read the newspaper; and

Whereas this shows the Tory Government's arrogant and disrespectful attitude that they represent proves that it doesn't deserve a second term in office;

Therefore be it resolved that the Tory Government has shown a total inability to properly govern the province with the respect and regard that Nova Scotians deserve.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Preston.

RESOLUTION NO. 952

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

[Page 1708]

Whereas the Halifax Mooseheads captured the 2003 Frank-Dilio Conference finals last night in Baie-Comeau's Henry Leonard Centre by routing the Drakkar 7-1, and winning the best of seven series four games to three; and

Whereas the Mooseheads' win was a product of a phenomenal team effort during the conference from its 20-year-old veteran players such as team captain Brandon Benedict, Thatcher Bell and Stuart McRae and supported by the phenomenal play of their goaltender, Guillaume Lavallee; and

Whereas for the time in their franchise history, the Mooseheads will compete for the President's Cup of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League playoffs;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House offer congratulations to the Halifax Mooseheads and their coach, Shawn MacKenzie, on capturing the Quebec Major Junior Hockey Frank-Dilio division championship against the Baie-Comeau Drakkar and wish them well as they prepare to fight the Robert-LeBel Conference Champions, Hull Olympiques, for the overall Quebec Major Junior Hockey League championship title.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic on an introduction.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to bring to members' attention three visitors in the gallery opposite, representing the Williams Lake Conservation Company. These people are here today, they presented me with a petition, which I then presented to this House with 1,400 signatures raising concerns about a large housing development at Governor's Brook in Mainland South. I would like to ask these people to rise and receive the warm welcome of this House. Patricia Manuel, Anne Von Maltzahn and Kris Alison. (Applause)

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

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

[Page 1709]

RESOLUTION NO. 953

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

Whereas Margaret Kashin was born in Halifax on May 20, 1903, and she resided in that city for 70 years; and

Whereas Margaret Kashin was a survivor of the Halifax Explosion and to this day she can recount her experiences with regard to that tragic event; and

Whereas Margaret Kashin is well-known as a dedicated wife, mother and community member;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Margaret Kashin on her 100th birthday on May 20, 2003, and wish her good health in the future.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre, on an introduction.

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, in our west gallery today we have some residents from the Town of Dominion. They're here today to see the proceedings and talk to the Premier about the plight of the Macdonald High School Complex. The committee consists of Councillor Darren Bruckschwaiger, Mary Anita MacCormick, Allen MacCormick, Tom Ellsworth, Patricia MacNeil and Jody Flynn. I would ask them to rise and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: I welcome our guests to the gallery today and hope they enjoy the proceedings.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

[Page 1710]

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, I, too, would like to welcome the visitors from Dominion. It is not in my riding it is in the honourable member for Cape Breton Centre's riding but I have a lot of friends in Dominion and I hope to keep them. (Laughter)

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

RESOLUTION NO. 954

M. PAUL MACEWAN: M. le président, j'avise que je proposerai à une date ultérieure, j'ai l'intention de proposer l'adoption de la résolution suivante:

Attendu que le médecin du comté Pictou a s'avancé comme le bon docteur du paysage; et

Attendu que le device du bon docteur c'est "Achetez maintenant, payez un long temps dans le futur"; et

Attendu que sous le governement Conservateurs, le débit publique a avancé tous les jours au point qu'il approache douze billions dollars;

Qu'il soit résolu que nous arrivons au conclusion que le bon médecin c'est un charlatan financier, et ses remèdes sont très dangereux, jusque léthifère, à l'avenir de la Nouvelle Écosse.

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

Whereas the Pictou County doctor has presented himself as the good country doctor; and

Whereas his motto is to buy now and pay a long ways off in the future; and

Whereas under the Tories the public debt has grown to approach $12 billion;

Therefore be it resolved that we conclude that the good doctor is a financial charlatan and that his financial remedies are dangerous even lethal on the future of Nova Scotians, and that has nothing to do with Charlottetown, that's a good place.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Pictou East.

[Page 1711]

RESOLUTION NO. 955

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 member for Halifax Fairview has repeatedly claimed that Nova Scotia's economy lags behind the rest of Canada; and

Whereas the wannabe NDP Leader recites this gloom and doom forecast despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary; and

Whereas on Monday, Statistics Canada reported that Nova Scotia's GDP growth in 2002 was higher than the national average for the second straight year;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House recognize the member for Halifax Fairview for never letting the facts get in the way of promoting his leadership aspirations.

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.

RESOLUTION NO. 956

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

Whereas the Halifax Regional Municipality Literacy Association is a grassroots organization committed to increasing public awareness of literacy issues; and

Whereas this association will be launched on Friday, May 2nd at the Harbourview Holiday Inn in Dartmouth with participants from the health, justice and social welfare sectors; and

[Page 1712]

Whereas the topic will be Adult Education in Nova Scotia, followed by a panel presentation - Learning to Be: How Adult Literacy Affects our Community;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of the House commend the Halifax Regional Municipality Literacy Association, the staff and board for its efforts to enhance literacy programs and other initiatives to assist learners in our community.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Richmond.

RESOLUTION NO. 957

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

Whereas Premier John Hamm is undermining democracy and disrespecting Nova Scotians by continually referring questions in the Legislature to his Cabinet Ministers; and

Whereas since the Spring session of the Legislature, the Premier has referred over 70 questions to his Cabinet Ministers; and

Whereas the Premier fails to answer questions that speak to his questionable leadership because there is an election right around the corner;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier has been in office for almost four years and still refuses to take responsibility for the actions and decisions of the government he leads.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Annapolis.

[Page 1713]

RESOLUTION NO. 958

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

Whereas at the Veterans Unit at Soldiers Memorial Hospital in Middleton, a veterans council has been established to meet monthly and discuss matters of importance and concern to the veterans living on the unit; and

Whereas Charles (Boots) Boutilier has taken the position of President of the veterans council; and

Whereas Boots has a wealth of military experience - as a veteran of both World War II and the Korean War, having served in both the Army and Navy, he has worked as a jeweler, a denturist, a musician, Mason and an active Shriner;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House commend Charles (Boots) Boutilier for the heart and commitment he has shown in all his life's endeavours and wish him well in his new role serving his fellow veterans at the Veterans Unit at Soldiers Memorial Hospital.

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. 959

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

Whereas noted limnologist Shalom Mandaville has dedicated much of his life to restoring the many polluted lakes in the metro Halifax area; and

[Page 1714]

Whereas Mr. Mandaville's recent report indicates that more and more development around urban lakes such as Morris Lake or Bissett Lake will only worsen the growing pollution problem unless controls of storm drainage are implemented; and

Whereas the province has adopted a new storm drainage policy to stop much of the abuse of the past, but restoration of metro's lakes will require at least $20 million of government investment;

Therefore be it resolved that this government thank limnologist Shalom Mandaville for his study of metro lakes and commits to investing in their restoration.

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 Kings North.

RESOLUTION NO. 960

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

Whereas 89-year-old Kings County resident, Elsie Lane, defies any stereotypes people may have had about senior citizens, with her boundless energy and enthusiasm; and

Whereas Ms. Lane has volunteered at the Kings County Museum since moving to the area 10 years ago and when not at the museum you can find her volunteering at the Valley Regional Hospital; and

Whereas museum staff note that she is one of the most pleasant and hard-working volunteers any organization could ask for;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House join me in expressing our admiration to Elsie Lane for her tireless dedication and service to our community.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 1715]

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 Yarmouth.

RESOLUTION NO. 961

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

Whereas on Monday night the member for Richmond criticized our government's commitment to a new correctional centre in Yarmouth; and

Whereas the people of Yarmouth County very much welcome the significant economic benefits of this much-needed new facility; and

Whereas the Danny Graham Liberals continue to oppose important capital investments for the people of this province;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this Legislature recognize, especially the Liberal caucus, the importance of introductions to Yarmouth and other areas of Nova Scotia of improved infrastructure, especially in vital services such as correctional systems.

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.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. It's very rare we actually get the member for Yarmouth to stand on his feet and speak but, when he stands in here and intentionally misleads this House, obviously there needs to be some action taken.

[Page 1716]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Richmond knows that it's unparliamentary to use the words, "intentionally misleads". I would ask you to retract that please.

MR. SAMSON: Well, I'll retract that. I guess, Mr. Speaker, I would ask you as how to define when a member clearly takes facts and twists them and provides information that's clearly not correct. A review of Hansard will show that the question was, where was the funding in the budget for the new correctional facility? It was clearly a question about where the funding was - not about the merits of the project, it was about the funding. The member has clearly not provided accurate information.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, order please. On the point of order. Far be it, I would hope, for any member of this House to distort the facts. It's not a point of order; it's a disagreement of facts between two members.

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. Just on the honourable member's intervention, I believe the honourable member knows full well the definition he defines, because he employs it every day.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Bedford Basin.

RESOLUTION NO. 962

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

Whereas the Halifax Hawks hockey team has captured both the Nova Scotia Atom AAA Championship and the Tournament of Champions title; and

Whereas the team is made up of outstanding young hockey players: William Legay, Brennan Saulnier, Spencer Cameron, Andrew Graham, Christopher Bluteau, Matthew MacInnis, Ben Richardson Joey Silburt, Ian Saab, Keith Oland, Kevin Lee, Jillian Saulnier, Alex Zafiris, Matthew Smith, Tyler Newton, Chris Riguse, and Michael Clarke; and

Whereas the coaching team of Kevin Saab, Kevin Cameron, Dave Bluteau, and Darren Saulnier are to be commended for their dedication and leadership;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join me in congratulating the Halifax Hawks and their coaches on their championship achievements.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 1717]

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 Finance.

[2:30 p.m.]

RESOLUTION NO. 963

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

Whereas last week Hubert Pothier of Tusket, owner of Tucket Sales and Services, celebrated 44 years in business; and

Whereas Mr. Pothier, having started with a small body shop, has grown his business to a full service automotive centre, employing nearly 70 people, where quality service is their top priority; and

Whereas Mr. Pothier and Tusket Sales and Service have become excellent corporate citizens, giving of their time and resources to support many worthwhile causes in the Municipality of Argyle;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Mr. Pothier for his many successful years in business and thank him and his staff for their unwavering support of so many community organizations.

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 1718]

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Pictou East.

RESOLUTION NO. 964

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

Whereas Branch 35 of the Royal Canadian Legion in Westville recently made a donation to the 1st Westville Police Ventures and Rovers; and

Whereas the contribution was to go towards upgrades of the Ventures and Rovers uniforms; and

Whereas a sizable donation of $1,000 was used to purchase new jackets and hats;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House thank Branch 35 of the Royal Canadian Legion in Westville for contributing to the 1st Westville Police Ventures and Rovers, and assisting them in the upgrade of their uniforms and express also our thanks for all of the community efforts of our Legion members.

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. 965

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

Whereas the Truro Curves for Women Bearcats captured the gold medal in the midget female division of the 2003 SEDMHA minor hockey tournament; and

[Page 1719]

Whereas the Truro Curves for Women Bearcats cruised to a 6-0 record and won the championship game convincingly; and

Whereas the Truro Curves for Women Bearcats are an excellent example of the continuing increase in the quality and popularity of women's hockey;

Therefore be it resolved that all members congratulate the Truro Curves for Women Bearcats players, coaches, and support staff on winning a gold medal at the 2003 SEDMHA hockey tournament and wish them continued success in the future.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Finance.

RESOLUTION NO. 966

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: M. le président, à une date ultérieure, j'ai l'intention de proposer l'adoption de la résolution suivante:

Attendu que à chaque année, l'Université Sainte-Anne honore la contribution d'une personne à l'éducation en lui décernant un doctorate honorifique; et

Attendu que cette année, l'Université Sainte-Anne a choisi de reconnaître le père Maurice LeBlanc de Pubnico-Ouest pour sa contribution exceptionnelle aux arts et à l'éducation; et

Attendu que le père LeBlanc recevra le grade de Docteur ès lettres honoris causa à l'occasion de la cérémonie de collation des diplômes de l'Université, le samedi 3 mai;

Qu'il soit résolu que cette assemblée transmette ses plus chaleureuses félicitations à père Maurice LeBlanc et le remercie pour son engagement soutenu envers le développement de la communauté acadienne.

[Page 1720]

M. le président, je demande l'adoption de cette résolution sans préavis et sans débat.

Mr. Speaker, I know you understood every word but I'll repeat it in English just for your edification.

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

Whereas each year, l'Université Sainte-Anne recognizes the contribution of an individual to education by awarding an honourary doctorate degree; and

Whereas this year, l'Université Sainte-Anne has chosen to honour Father Maurice LeBlanc of West Pubnico for his exceptional contribution to arts and education; and

Whereas Father LeBlanc will be receiving the degree of Docteur ès lettres honoris causa, at the Convocation ceremonies of the university on Saturday, May 3rd;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Father Maurice LeBlanc and thank him for his longstanding work and commitment to the development of the Acadian community.

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. 967

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

Whereas Donald Johnstone of the Truro Junior A Bearcats has won the 2003 RBC $5,000 Scholarship, being selected from nominees across Canada; and

[Page 1721]

Whereas Donald Johnstone, a second year Bachelor of Science student at the Nova Scotia Agricultural College, has excelled in his studies as well as being one of the very best defenceman in the Maritime Junior A Hockey League; and

Whereas Donald Johnstone has been a role model for young hockey players by showing that it is possible to be both an excellent athlete and an excellent student while playing in the Maritime Junior A Hockey League;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Donald Johnstone on earning the 2003 RBC Scholarship and wish him every success in the future and also recognize the Maritime Junior A Hockey League for having this prestigious national award go to its players two years in a row.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Richmond.

RESOLUTION NO. 968

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 Premier flip-flopped on the issue of Sunday shopping in Nova Scotia, eventually following the lead of the Leader of the Liberal Party; and

Whereas the Premier once again followed the lead of the Liberal Party on the need for health promotion and healthy starts in Nova Scotia, only after the Leader of the Liberal Party made all Nova Scotians aware of their importance; and

Whereas the latest headline in today's media indicates the Premier is once again following the Liberal lead by identifying the debt and education as top priorities, all of a sudden, for the Province of Nova Scotia;

[Page 1722]

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier be congratulated for recognizing the outstanding leadership coming from the Liberal Party of Nova Scotia and Danny Graham.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Bedford Basin.

RESOLUTION NO. 969

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

Whereas the member for Halifax Fairview is obsessed about an old political saying, "prosperity is just around the corner"; and

Whereas in Nova Scotia, prosperity is in fact right here, right now, with 27,000 new jobs created since July 1999, 90 per cent of which are full-time; and

Whereas no less an authority than David Dodge of the Bank of Canada said last June that Nova Scotia had set a record for jobs in the province's history, a record Nova Scotia has exceeded on three separate occasions since Mr. Dodge's statement;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize that David Dodge is a much greater authority on our economy than the member for Halifax Fairview.

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.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: Question Period will begin at 2:37 p.m. and end at 4:07 p.m.

The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

[Page 1723]

INSURANCE - RATES: REDUCTION - LACK EXPLAIN

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I am going to begin this afternoon by tabling a chart showing the use of the Facility Association. Now you may know the Facility Association is the insurer of last resort to anyone who was left out in the cold by private insurance companies. What you may not know is that since the Hamm Government was elected, there has been a 600 per cent increase in the use of the insurer of last resort. Even though this is the case, the Conservatives refused to act. My question for the minister responsible for skyrocketing insurance rates is, with this compelling evidence that the industry is not serving Nova Scotians well, why hasn't he taken decisive action to lower auto insurance rates?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I would advise the honourable member that we are taking decisive action with regard to insurance.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, and no doubt all those people who are faced with ever-rising insurance rates noticed the decisive action. Yesterday, three insurance companies gave notice that their rates are increasing yet again. People who have been pushed into the insurer of last resort, many who have perfect driving records, are getting hit with a 33 per cent increase. Now the government writes the rules, and they decided that it's just okay that this happened. I want to ask the minister responsible for skyrocketing insurance rates, will you please tell the auto insurance industry that enough is enough, and stop the hikes?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, for the benefit of the honourable member, yes, I will tell them that.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the industry says they want rapid reform to the basic auto insurance product, and they're using high-level talks with governments to get what they want. On the eve of their elections, the New Brunswick Tories and the Newfoundland Liberals caved in to the industry. Will the minister of skyrocketing insurance rates tell Nova Scotians when his government will also cave in to the insurance companies, instead of lowering auto insurance rates as they should?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I'm absolutely delighted that the New Democratic Party, after seeing the futility of their exercise of going around with three of their caucus, talking to people around the province, have finally come across to our direction, which is to go out and ask the public. I have sent out, I believe it's 5,000 or 6,000 postcards (Interruptions) Okay, whatever the number is - to elicit from the public their views on insurance. That's exactly what we're doing. I welcome that. I would hope that the Leader of the New Democratic Party would ask the people who are receiving these cards to forward them to Mr. George Jordan and I will give him your address.

[Page 1724]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

PREM.: DEBT REDUCTION STRATEGY - FORMULATE

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, it's certainly not hard to tell that there's an election looming in the air when the Premier of this province is now saying that he will campaign on debt reduction and education. Nova Scotians will not be fooled by the Premier's sudden interest in these subjects. Unless something drastic happens, if this government continues down the same path it has been on for four years, the debt will continue to grow until 2013 according to officials from the Finance Department. Information from the budget of 1999 and the budget of 2003 clearly indicates that this government is taking in $1 billion more today and yearly from here forward than it estimated in 1999.

Imagine, Mr. Speaker, that's $1 billion more per year in revenue and yet the Premier presents a budget that is still adding $118 million to the debt. My question to the Premier is, given that the Premier has had four years and an extra $1 billion, doesn't the Premier think it's time now that he had a debt reduction strategy in place?

HON. JOHN HAMM (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, I totally agree with the member opposite that it is time for government to have a debt management strategy, something that we promised to deliver during the time of our first mandate and I will take the member's advice and he will see that debt management strategy very soon.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, four years this government has had to put in place a debt reduction strategy. What do we find out this morning from the deputy minister, it was requested from him three weeks ago, three weeks ago is when they were asked to put together a plan to present to Cabinet on debt reduction. Remember that it has been four years now, $1 billion in additional revenue, and yet still no debt reduction plan. The Premier says wait until the election. My question is, will the Premier table in this House any communications which have taken place between either himself or the Minister of Finance indicating to the deputy minister and senior officials in Finance to prepare this last-minute debt reduction strategy?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I know the member opposite, who had earlier in the House been suggesting a lot of misspoken words in the House, would not knowingly misspeak himself. (Interruptions) What he indicated was said this morning is not what was said, but what I can say is what we committed to, because this government does keep its commitments. I will remind the member opposite that if he turns to Page 18 of the blue book, he will find the following words, "Establish practical targets for reducing the provincial debt which has increased by almost $3.6 billion during six years of Liberal Government." For those of you who don't understand the significance of putting $3.6 billion on the debt in six years, it's the most rapid escalation of debt in the entire history of the province.

[Page 1725]

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, once again the Premier goes to Page 18 and bypasses Page 1 where he clearly said: My government will live within its means. I will not mortgage the future of my grandchildren. I will respect Nova Scotian voters. What we have seen this entire session and the last four years is the exact opposite, Mr. Premier, and those are your words that you committed to Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, the Premier promised fiscal responsibility and it is the Premier who said he would not pass the fiscal problems on to the next generation. Eating through $1 billion in extra revenue and still adding to the debt is hardly fiscal responsibility by any stretch, Mr. Premier. My final supplementary is, how can the Premier look Nova Scotians in the eye and say with a clear conscience that all of a sudden he is worried about the growing debt and that he will deal with it in the next election instead of having dealt with it in the last four years of his mandate?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I am sure that the average Nova Scotian looks at this somewhat differently than the member for Richmond because the average Nova Scotian will remember that we were the government that said we would balance the budget in the third year of our mandate - something that eluded the Liberal Government for six years; in fact,

over six years they could not even reduce the deficit. We have eliminated a $500 billion deficit which we faced when we came into office. Nova Scotians will not be influenced by the words of the member for Richmond. Nova Scotians will be influenced by the deeds of this government, and the deeds of this government are, simply put, this government does what it says it's going to do and will continue to do exactly that.

[2:45 p.m.]

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

INSURANCE - DRIVERS: ABANDONMENT - EXPLAIN

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the people of this province will be influenced by the misdeeds of this government. Speaking of misdeeds, I'm going back to the minister responsible for skyrocketing insurance rates. Under this government's watch, nearly 17,000 more drivers can't get auto insurance from the private companies and I'm going to put that in context for the minister - Hants West has 14,000 voters. Why has the minister of skyrocketing insurance rates abandoned the drivers who now must resort to auto insurance of the last resort?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, we're well aware, on this side of the House, of the problems that motorists are facing with regard to auto insurance. I should also point out that homeowners are also faced with the problem of escalating household insurance. Insurance is a problem not confined only to Nova Scotia, it's a Canada-wide problem; in fact it's a worldwide problem. We are working on a solution, we will have a

[Page 1726]

solution, and it's not going to be some crackpot scheme that's brought forward by the Leader of the Opposition.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, this is the minister who thinks that insurance rates are lower in Manitoba because the roads are flat - and he says the crackpots are over here.

I can't believe it. This government is leaving Nova Scotians with no relief from skyrocketing insurance rates. People want lower, fairer rates. The minister's answer is an eight-month contract for George Jordan and a discussion paper that completely misses the point. Insurance rates are going up right now, and yet this government has no answer. Will the minister tell drivers and small-business people why it is he permits such blatant gouging for a record number of drivers who are using the insurer of last resort?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the spokesperson across the way for the New Democratic Government of Manitoba would recognize, I would hope, that the Government of Manitoba is adopting the same process as we have to take care of skyrocketing insurance rates.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, if the minister is going to say something, he ought to at least get it right, because what he just said is completely wrong. Insurance companies are fattening their profits at the expense of Nova Scotia drivers. They sit in Toronto, they crank up their own rates to press the government into cutting for benefits, they push Nova Scotians right out of the private insurance markets, and they hit those folks with higher rates too. My question is, how much longer does this government think that they can be the silent partner in this scheme to give Nova Scotia drivers the worst of both worlds, sky-high insurance rates and lower benefits?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I would advise that the honourable member stay tuned, because he will find out very shortly.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

PREM. - DEBT GROWTH: PUBLICATION - LACK EXPLAIN

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, today, before the Public Accounts Committee, Finance officials gave us a good deal of information which doesn't appear to have been made readily available in this Chamber. For example, the public sector superannuation fund has gone from a surplus in 1999 to a $540 million unfunded liability today. We also learned that the debt under this government will continue to grow until 2013 if a stop is not put to their tenure. What that means is that children in Grade 3, today, throughout this province will be handed a diploma and a bill for all the debt incurred because of the inaction of this government. My question to the Premier is, could the Premier tell the

[Page 1727]

House why he didn't inform people, Nova Scotians in general, that the debt under his government would continue to grow until 2013, when he ran for office in 1999?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, that's one of the easier questions I've faced in this session of the House. The reason I haven't told Nova Scotians that the debt will continue to rise in Nova Scotia until the year 2013 is because, with our debt management plan, it will not continue to rise until 2013.

MR. SAMSON: Well, Mr. Speaker, if you're wondering what kind of document this debt management plan is, today, when the deputy minister was asked to table that plan in front of the committee, what was his answer? We don't have one. They only asked for it three weeks ago and it hasn't even been looked at by Cabinet yet.

Mr. Speaker, the bottom line is, this is the Premier who said that the debt would not grow. He said he would fix health care for $46 million. He said health care only needed $1.5 billion, now he's up over $2 billion and he promised to get more out of the offshore. Instead, the Premier has had an extra $1 billion in revenue each year, health care is nowhere near being fixed and the offshore is stagnant, and to add insult to injury, the Premier still needs to add another $118 million to the debt next year. Now, at the last minute, on the eve of an election, the Premier is ordering Finance officials to come up with a last-minute debt reduction strategy.

My question to the Premier is, after four long years and all of the commitments that he made to Nova Scotians, why has the Premier waited until the eve of an election to start taking the debt of this province seriously?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the answer to this again is very, very simple, because we took a very orderly approach to the fiscal management of the province. The first thing we said was we would achieve something that the previous government failed to achieve, we would come up with a surplus. We did that a year ago. Then we said we would then follow that up with a tax reduction. We have done that with the budget we just passed on Monday night. Then the blue book clearly said then we will come forward with our debt management plan. Everything is unfolding exactly the way we said it would.

MR. SAMSON: Well, what a wonderful, lofty place it must be in the Premier's imaginary Toryland where all is well and leprechauns run freely throughout the country, unicorns are out enjoying the lovely sunny day in Nova Scotia. What a lovely day in the Premier's magical world of Toryland. Mr. Speaker, at the end of the day it is we Nova Scotians and generations to come who will pay for the mistakes of this government and for their inability.

[Page 1728]

Here is a very simple one for the Premier. Let him explain this one. April 17, 2001, in an answer on the budget and on the debt, it said, "Mr. Speaker, what I will confirm is that a year from now this government will introduce a balanced budget, and from that day onward the debt of this province will no longer grow." Here's an easy one, Mr. Premier, why did you give Nova Scotians false information that the debt would not grow when it has clearly continued to grow under your tenure and will grow until 2013?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is really giving me a great opportunity because he has indicated that provincial revenues have grown and that is because of the optimism that we have been able to create, the investments we have made in economic development have been very successful. There are 27,000 more people working today in Nova Scotia than there were three and a half years ago; 436,000 Nova Scotians are now going to work. Nova Scotians are responding to the policies of this government in a very, very positive way and we are going to continue that very positive approach to government.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

INSURANCE - SERVICE DELIVERERS:

COVERAGE - REFUSAL EXPLAIN

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, to the minister responsible for auto insurance. The auto insurance companies have it made in Nova Scotia. Not only can they raise rates whenever they want to, they know that this government turns a blind eye to their unfair practices. Let's take ING, for example, that's the third largest auto insurance company operating in Nova Scotia.

I want rural Nova Scotians to know that ING has decided not to provide private passenger insurance for rural mail or newspaper deliverers. We discovered this by reading their filings at the URB. So I wonder if the minister could tell us, why won't he step in and stop insurance companies from refusing to insure people who provide valuable delivery services?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I recognize the fact that some insurance companies are selective. There is nothing I think that we can do about that. However, we can be sure that there will be a fair marketplace in Nova Scotia. There will be fair rates available for all Nova Scotians and that shall be done in the very near future.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, selective might be one word for it. Arbitrary, discriminatory and unfair might be another term for it. This government is letting auto insurance companies get away with gouging Nova Scotians.

[Page 1729]

Let's take a look at some other examples from the filings. ING has decided that a new driver over 50 is a risk. Royal and Sun Alliance is refusing to insure most cars over 12 years old. They even see vehicles over 10 years old as a risk. Citadel thinks a gap in your insurance coverage makes you a risk. Mr. Minister, what will it take for your government to eliminate the unfair practices of these companies?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, this government will not tolerate unfair practices.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, brave words but the people of Nova Scotia would like to see some action. I remind the minister that ING will no longer write private passenger insurance for rural mail deliverers. That's the hard fact. These drivers provide a vital service to rural Nova Scotia for very low pay. If they are being refused private passenger insurance, their only option is to go to the more expensive and commercial Facility Association insurance. Mr. Minister, what are you going to do about those deliverers? What are you going to do for them?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, we will be doing for those deliverers the same as we are doing for all Nova Scotians. We are going to ensure that they have fair rates available for automobile insurance.

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

INSURANCE - INDUSTRY: UNDERSTANDING - LACK EXPLAIN

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, yesterday the minister responsible for skyrocketing insurance rates said he was beginning to wonder about the insurance prices - beginning to wonder. Nova Scotians have been hammered by skyrocketing insurance for two years and this guy is just starting to wonder about them. Nova Scotians are beginning to wonder if he can do the job, if you are up to it, Mr. Minister. He jokes about skyrocketing insurance and he makes up answers about flat roads. I want to ask you a very simple question, Mr. Minister. Why do you make up answers that only show your lack of understanding for the auto insurance industry?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I object to being called that guy. I'm not that guy, I'm the gentleman across the way who is looking after the insurance problem in this province and I will continue to do so.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, that honourable member, the only group he's looking after are the insurance companies. That minister said insurance rates are lower in Manitoba because the roads are flat. This minister said yesterday he's now beginning to wonder about the cost of insurance, all of a sudden he's beginning to wonder. This minister will allow insurance companies to jack up rates on the eve of the URB decision. I want to ask you, Mr. Minister, when are you going to wake up and face the fact that the insurance industry is

[Page 1730]

walking all over you and all over your government at the expense of auto consumers in this province?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, we still await the result of the deliberations of the URB and their public consultation exercise of last year. We expect to have that report in the very near future and following that, I would suggest that we can then have a firm fix on exactly what the insurance companies are doing with regard to insurance rates.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, this minister is right about one thing, the fix is in. The fix is in for insurance companies. They have been raising their rates since URB had their hearings and you are standing by while they lick their lips and count their money. He doesn't even pretend to understand the issue. He does nothing when they raise their rates in the face of the URB decision. The minister is the insurance industry's best friend, as this government is. My question to you, Mr. Minister, instead of making up answers that have no relation to the truth, can you at least respond to our questions on why that doesn't continue to expose his ignorance of the issue around rate hikes in this province?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, rate hikes in Nova Scotia are not unique to Canada. Every province across this country, every state of the union south of us, every country in Europe is facing the same problem with insurance rates.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

PREM. - DEBT SERVICING CHARGES: INCREASE - JUSTIFY

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, the Premier's own words on fiscal prudence are coming back to haunt him by the day. On March 21, 2001, in a speech before the Pictou County Chamber of Commerce, the Premier said, "The cost of paying the interest on our debt will soon be $1 billion per year. This is money we don't have to invest in schools, hospitals, roads or in a better future for our children and grandchildren.". He went on, on November 28, 2001, to the Metro Chamber of Commerce, "We've done a lot of borrowing over the last 40 years and it's cost us. It's cost us plenty. In fact, if you go back 10 years to 1991 and add up what all the borrowing has cost us, it's crystal clear why it has to stop. In the last 10 years, Nova Scotians paid $7.1 billion to service our debt. While we slowed the rate, our debt is growing, it's still costing us plenty.". My question, very simply, to the Premier is, given that the debt is still costing us plenty, why is it okay to continue adding to the debt and increasing the yearly debt servicing charges to Nova Scotians?

[3:00 p.m.]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Richmond for reminding me what I did say because it was that kind of belief that allowed the government over the last three and one-half years to make the very difficult decisions that resulted in a balanced

[Page 1731]

budget. We must be reminded that we faced very difficult times when we came into government, but we were very clear as to how we were going to address those difficult times. The last commitment that we made in the blue book of 1999 was to come forward with a debt management plan.

It is somewhat different than the debt management plan of the Liberal caucus because initially, the Leader of the Liberals said what he was going to do, he was going to solve the debt problem by taking the money out of health care. He was going to lower the administration costs and that would solve the problem. Then, unfortunately, he saw the CIHI figures that showed that we have the lowest health care administration costs in the country. That wasn't going to work. Then he said that he was going to pare the public sector and he was going to solve the debt problem doing that, but then he met with the president of the NSGEU and he very quickly backed away from that position. Now his position is that he's going to solve the debt problem on the back of the taxpayers. He is going to take it out of the taxpayers' pockets.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, in 1999, the Premier had all the answers. He had all the solutions, everyone before him had done wrong and how right he was going to do. What we see four years later is more debt, more borrowing and no end in sight until 2013. Under this government, the yearly debt servicing charges now surpass what we spend on education, community services, transportation - all of those other departments, only health has more budget than what we are paying in debt servicing costs that goes away to banks. The Premier clearly said that he would not spend money for other generations to pay for. So, I ask the Premier clearly today, who does he think will be paying for his increased borrowing? Is it going to be his grandchildren or his great grandchildren?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, how sad it is the member opposite didn't ask himself that question when he had an opportunity to do something about it and he didn't.

The Opposition Parties are critical of the government, but the government has been able to do something certainly that the previous government has not been able to do. It had not been able to slay the financial dragon that was destroying this province. We are well on the way to doing that - we're doing it the way we said it in 1999 and we'll continue to present to the people of Nova Scotia in our next election platform what the next step is. This is a very logical approach to all of this. Unlike the philosophy of the Liberal caucus, it will not come out of the taxpayers' pocket. We will solve the debt problem with growth and prosperity and new and greater revenues.

MR. SAMSON: The growth we've seen today is more taxes, more user fees, increased costs on gasoline - that is how this government has tried to grow the economy. It is not my picture that is on the blue book, it is the Premier's. How sad it is after four years

[Page 1732]

he must continually go back and attack previous administrations to make up for his own failings as a Premier here in this province. Mr. Speaker, the borrowing must come to an end. We cannot allow our children and our grandchildren to be held responsible for this government's failings today. My question, very simply, billions of dollars continue to leave our province yearly, why won't the Premier as he promised in 1999 simply stop spending beyond his means and leaving his fiscal problems to the next generation by finally starting to solve today's problems with today's solutions?

MR. SPEAKER: The questions and the answers are getting too long. Members are going to start losing time if we don't shorten the questions and answers up so I would ask the members to please respect that. The honourable Premier on the answer.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I will attempt to be brief. The member opposite allows me to remind members of the House that StatsCan just came out with the last figures for Nova Scotia, last year our growth was 3.8, higher than the national average of 3.1. That's why we've had such an excellent improvement in the debt-to-GDP ratio. The member opposite would have us discard growth and prosperity in favour of high taxes that would leave us uncompetitive and absolutely stifle growth.

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

NAT. RES. - SUBSIDENCE: GOV'T. (N.S.) - STANCE

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier, also, today. In our gallery we have family and parents from the Town of Dominion, Mr. Premier. They have come to this Legislature to finally get some respect from your government. We have repeatedly asked questions in this House concerning the Dominion Complex. I would say the parents' group has been more than patient with both your minister and yourself. In many of your answers you have said that your deliberations with the federal government were between the Minister for Intergovernmental Affairs, which is you, Mr. Premier. I want to ask you today, what has the federal government said to you about subsidence and its relationship to the closure of that school, and how much money are they going to give you to repair and give a new complex to Dominion?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the issue of subsidence is not one that has been effectively addressed by the Province of Nova Scotia with the federal government for some period of time. I look back at the experience of the previous government in attempting to come to some kind of clear understanding. I'm not aware of any breakthrough that we've had with the federal government over this issue.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, that answer, to put it very lightly, upsets me greatly, because your Minister of Education has said that you've had those conversations. Mr. Premier, can you table today (Interruptions) You were having discussions with the federal

[Page 1733]

minister regarding that school situation, as it relates to subsidence. The Premier says there has been no improvement, why not, Mr. Premier, why not?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I am glad that the member opposite didn't misspeak and he finally did quote me correctly, and I thank him for that. I would refer it to the minister who is more intimately involved with the direct negotiations.

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, certainly the issue of subsidence is one that has been under discussion, as the Premier said, for many years and with many levels of government. Certainly this government's stance on the issue of subsidence in areas of Cape Breton is that it is the responsibility of the federal government. This provincial government will continue to press that issue, that it is their responsibility.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, this is just making me more and more angry. I can feel the frustrations of those parents in the gallery today, because this government has not taken it seriously. If someone had walked by that school on Halloween night and burned that school down, there would be a new one under construction, but because you guys are dragging your feet with the federal government and won't bring the appropriate people to the table, you're leaving these people out in the cold and you're ruining the future of that community. Mr. Premier, when will you stand up and fight for the people of Dominion instead of dragging your feet?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, this government and all its ministers, every day, work in the best interests of the people of Nova Scotia.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

PREM. - HEALTH/GAMBLING: PRIORITIES - STANCE

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, my first question is for the Premier. This morning I went with Andrea Skinner to her hearing before an employment insurance board of referees. Andrea is the young woman who, after seven and a half years of a spotless employment record at the casino, quit because the casino and its smoke-filled atmosphere was making her sick. She went to the hearing this morning to find her employer there, arguing against her claim, and she feels abandoned by her government, which is trying to give the casino a smoking exemption. My question to the Premier is, when it comes to choosing between a health-conscious, hard-working Nova Scotian like Andrea Skinner and a smoke-filled gambling den, whose side are you on?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, this is an issue between a worker and the Workers' Compensation Board and I would refer that to the minister responsible for the board.

[Page 1734]

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, my next question is to the Minister of Environment and Labour. Part of the problem that Andrea Skinner is having in making her case is that she doesn't have provincial rules and regulations to back her up. If we had an air quality regulation, her case would be open and shut, but that air quality regulation has been sitting on that minister's desk, or in his top drawer, from the time that this government came into office. So my question to the Minister of Environment and Labour, when will the minister get on the side of hard-working Nova Scotians like Andrea Skinner and adopt air quality regulations in the workplace?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, we have in this province the strongest smoking regulations in the country. The purpose of those regulations is to curtail or stop people under the age of 19 from smoking and we're accomplishing that aim.

MR. STEELE: My final question is for the minister responsible for the Gaming Corporation. The minister has been telling us about the province's obligations under this contract, the operating contract - and that's a debate for another day - but what the minister forgets to point out is that under this operating contract the casino operator has an obligation to follow the Occupational Health & Safety laws in Nova Scotia. So my question to the minister responsible for the Gaming Corporation is, when is that minister going to call the casino on the carpet and demand that they prove to the minister that they are following Occupational Health & Safety laws in Nova Scotia?

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is aware that the casino is regulated by the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation. It was set up that way to set up an arm's-length relationship between the casino and the previous government was a good example as to why it was set up that way. They didn't follow the rules, but this minister has. In regard to the casino and whether or not it's following Occupational Health & Safety regulations, I'm not aware of any infractions that are there and, if the member opposite has any issues that he wants to bring up, I'm sure that if you forward it to the department, they will take a look at it, but I'm not aware of any infractions which have occurred.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

HEALTH - N.S. HOSP.: ON-CALL STAFF - LOCATION

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. We learned today of a memo from the Capital District Health Authority being circulated to staff that states, effective tomorrow, the psychiatry and medical on-call staff at the Nova Scotia Hospital will no longer be located on-site. That means that if there is an emergency in that hospital, the Nova Scotia Hospital will have to call 911. Now, how much sense does that make when a hospital has to call 911 for emergency services? My question to the minister is, how can the minister just sit there and allow the health and well-being of mental health patients be compromised like that?

[Page 1735]

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, certainly one answer to that question is that the recently completed agreement with psychiatrists, which gives them considerably better pay then they had before. It is one of the ways in which we're going to keep psychiatrists and attract more psychiatrists and provide better service to mental health clients in this province.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, that's amazing that they negotiate away the rights of patients. It's this minister and this government that's responsible. The memo, and I will table it, goes on to say that, "the new contracts negotiated for physicians have no provision for on-site call, consequently, we are no longer able to sustain the current system."

Mr. Speaker, I don't need to remind the minister that it was her government that negotiated that settlement, she was involved, and despite the fact that the government continually pats itself on the back for giving the health care system more money, health districts must resort to cost-saving measures such as this. My question to the minister is, how will the minister ever achieve her goal of recruiting up to 15 psychiatrists when it is clear her government negotiated the contracts that cancel on-site on-call staff at the Nova Scotia Hospital?

[3:15 p.m.]

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the change in this contract, while it is a change and people generally do not like change, is acceptable practice. At the Abbie Lane, across the harbour, we have on-call psychiatrists. The only thing that has changed is the extra payment for a psychiatrist being on-site. A psychiatrist will still be on-call and they will be paid if they have to respond to a call.

DR. SMITH: I would like to go to the Premier on my final supplementary. It really baffles me, more money for psychiatrists, less care for patients. There's something out of whack there. I would like the Premier, and he has heard the details of this situation and he fully understands if a psychiatric or medical emergency occurs at the Nova Scotia Hospital, which is quite an isolated hospital, that time can be of the essence. He understands what he has done to Nova Scotia's chances of recruiting psychiatrists. This is not going to enhance psychiatry, neither will it enhance recruitment of mental health nurses. Perhaps the saddest part of the whole story, in fact, is the issue that this government has placed the nurses and other support staff in a very, very vulnerable position.

My question simply to the Premier is, could the Premier please explain how eliminating site medical and psychiatric staff at the Nova Scotia Hospital fits in with his blue book commitment of putting health care needs of Nova Scotians first?

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

[Page 1736]

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, what I seem to gather from what the member opposite is saying is that he thinks there is no place in Nova Scotia or anywhere else in this country for on-call physician services. If he is saying that, I wonder if they are going to put it in their platform for the upcoming election?

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

ENVIRON. & LBR. - CASINO WORKERS:

SMOKE EXPOSURE - JUSTIFICATION

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I would like to table a letter from Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada. This group has been watching the exemption of the casinos very closely, along with the Cancer Society, Smoke-free Nova Scotia and others. The letter states, "Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada is very concerned that the Nova Scotia government is wilfully disregarding the health and safety of Nova Scotia workers, especially those employed in Nova Scotia casinos."

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the Premier, why are you willing to allow workers in the casinos to be exposed to deadly substances every day as a condition of employment?

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

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, to the best of my knowledge we have had no concerns expressed with regard to infractions of the occupational health and safety regulations of this province.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the letter goes on to say that, "the Nova Scotia Government is undertaking action to ensure that smoking continues in the Halifax Casino, when their legal obligation is the opposite, to ensure protection of workers from second-hand smoke."

Now, Mr. Speaker, even if the occupational health and safety laws aren't enough to convince this government of that obligation, the casino contract itself has a clause stating that the casino must provide for the safety and security of patrons and staff. So, I would like to ask the Premier, again, why are you willing to gamble with the health and safety of casino workers instead of finding some courage to challenge the Liberal casino contract?

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

[Page 1737]

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is very much aware that the proposed legislation that we're debating in regard to this is permissive. It allows the government to react if there is a challenge under the contract. We're trying to position the government to be responsible, to be able to deal with an issue within the 30-day time period that is within the contract. We have also stated that if that were to occur that subsequent to that event - and this is a hypothetical situation - that we would use a dispute resolution after. If we were to win that, then obviously we would respect the bylaw. The methodology that we have outlined is reasonable. The member opposite may not agree but I do believe it is in the best interest of the province and taxpayers if we proceed in this manner.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the letter from Physicians for a Smoke-Free Canada concludes with this warning, "In the light of clear knowledge of the dangers of second-hand smoke . . . politicians and civil servants run the risk of criminal charges for negligence if they fail to act to protect all workers from second-hand smoke." Tobacco companies have gambled with people's lives and they've lost. Health officials in charge of the blood supply in this country have gambled and now they face criminal charges. I want to ask the Premier again, do you and your advisers really think you are so untouchable that you will never have to be held accountable for decisions that your government makes that will negatively impact the health and safety of Nova Scotia's workers?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the government will continue to make decisions that they feel overall are in the best interest of all Nova Scotians.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

EDUC. - HIGH SCH.:

DOMINION CITIZENS - COMMITMENT DETAILS

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education. To date we have seen absolutely no leadership from this government as it relates to Macdonald high school in Dominion. The residents have requested the minister to go down and tour the site but, as yet, he hasn't had the courage to even show up. The minister is hiding on the issue, an issue that residents have been seeking a solution for, I may add, since last fall. My question to the minister is, the indecisiveness has gone on long enough. I want to know, the people of Dominion and surrounding areas want to know and the people who have travelled a long distance here today want to know, what commitment is your government prepared to make to the people of Dominion regarding their school?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, the facts are that I have in fact met with representatives from the community on two occasions in Antigonish and while I met with the school board in Cape Breton. We did indicate to the school board and to the community representatives that we would be taking great care to ensure that the students of Dominion

[Page 1738]

received good, comfortable surroundings in which to receive their education and I stand by that commitment.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, again my question is for the Minister of Education. We know that schools are the heart and soul of our smaller communities and Dominion is a perfect example of that. The residents can't get any solution whatsoever from a leaderless government in this case. The Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board has recommended a Primary to Grade 9 school but it has yet to hear back from the minister. I personally find that shocking that the minister hasn't even replied yet. Again, my question, very simple, to the minister is, is your government going to grant the school board's recommendation or is it going to continue to ignore this issue?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, the fact of the matter is that we will ensure that the students of Dominion are in good schools. The honourable member, it would be well for him to recall that because of the commitment that his Leader has made with respect to matters of debt reduction in this province that there will be no money for new schools under his administration if there ever was any.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, the minister well knows that nothing could be further from the truth. What this government is doing now is simply treading water until the election. That's all the minister is doing right now and on this issue no answer from that minister so I will ask my final question to the Premier, that's if he doesn't defer it. To govern a province you have to be concerned about all 52 ridings, not just the ones that got you here, Mr. Premier. My question is, why have you personally not shown an interest in the concerns of Dominion and offered the residents the solution that they so rightfully deserve regarding the education of their children?

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

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, as I indicated, we will indeed ensure that the education needs of the students of Dominion are looked after. I also want to reference the statement by the honourable member that we build schools for more than just Tory ridings. I have in front of me a list of schools that were announced since 1966 by that group when they were in government, and if you look at this list, 42 of them were ridings held by Liberals when those announcement were made, and the rest were dispersed around the rest of the province. I will table that list.

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

ENERGY - NAT. GAS: FRANCHISE - PROBLEM EXPLAIN

MR. JOHN HOLM: There's enough blame to go between the two of them. Mr. Speaker, through you, I would like to direct a question to the Minister of Energy. It would

[Page 1739]

appear as if there's almost like a new tradition starting in this province. Before the last provincial election, the red team, the Liberals, came out and announced a gas distribution system to Sempra Gas. Of course, after the election, we know that Sempra pulled out, no gas is being distributed. Now, of course, as a new date with the electorate was drawing nearer, this government awarded a contract or the franchise was given to Heritage Gas. Again, unfortunately, Heritage has yet to accept or to take up that franchise. To the Energy Minister, I wonder if he could explain, quite simply, what's the problem?

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, that's a very good question. I would just like to correct a couple of facts in the preamble. The franchise was awarded by the URB, this government supported that franchise. In regard to the franchise itself and when they are formally accepted, what needs to take place, as Heritage Gas said all along, is they have to conclude their business plan. They are currently working with their partners in their negotiation, and I understand that is nearing closure.

MR. HOLM: Of course, I had left out in my previous preamble that this government had actually approved the Sempra distribution plan as well. People in New Brunswick are using our natural gas. People in New England are burning our natural gas and building power plants. We're into a new construction season. If Nova Scotians hope, in a reasonable period of time, to have access to our natural gas, this minister has to be proactive. You can't play Pontius Pilate and wash your hands of any responsibility. My question to the minister is, through you, if I may, Mr. Speaker, has the government given Heritage a deadline, a time frame within which to conclude all of their necessary negotiations, get their business plans, so Nova Scotians can have access to their natural gas in their homes and in their businesses? Have you done that?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member is right, there are a limited number of consumers in New Brunswick. What he failed to mention is there is a large consumer of Nova Scotia natural gas producing power here in this province, so that natural gas is indeed being used to produce energy for Nova Scotians. The two major principals involved with Heritage Gas are working very diligently, they're working hard to make sure the business plan is right so that we do have natural gas distribution in Nova Scotia and it is done on business principles so that it's here to stay.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, the minister said that we do have a large consumer of natural gas in the province. Yes, in fact, Emera does burn natural gas, when they don't sell it to the States so they can make more of a profit on selling that gas than burning imported oil and creating pollution here. In fact, the projections in New Brunswick are much greater to be burning our natural gas than they are here within Nova Scotia. In fact, here they're only suggesting 4,000 homes within 10 years.

[Page 1740]

[3:30 p.m.]

One of the things the minister did in his answer was, he washed his hands of any responsibilities because he didn't answer the last question. So, to make it simple for him I'll repeat it again. Could the minister tell us, tell Nova Scotians, have you given Heritage Gas a deadline within which to develop their business plans and to start delivering natural gas to Nova Scotians? Or is that to wait until after the next election?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, unlike the member opposite and the NDP, we negotiate in good faith with companies. We want it to be a long-standing agreement that supplies gas to Nova Scotia. These are private businesses that make profit. The numbers he's suggesting in New Brunswick, the reason they're using natural gas is to make a profit.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

HEALTH - DRUG PLANS/TAX REBATE:

PRIORITIZATION - JUSTIFICATION

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier. For some time now, there have been individuals in the health charity network who have been urging this government to implement a catastrophic drug program. Mrs. Bonnie Corning has stated that she pays $20,000 to $30,000 a year on a drug for her daughter who has Crohn's disease. When she wrote the Premier she received a letter that stated there was nothing the Hamm Administration was willing to help her daughter with. My question to the Premier is, how can the Premier justify spending $68 million on his $155 cheque scheme when we have situations just like this all over Nova Scotia?

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

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite is quite right. There are many, many individuals in Nova Scotia who are unable to pay for the drugs they need. This is a problem that's been identified across the country and it's one of the reasons that the provinces and the federal government are going to be participating in the development of a catastrophic drug plan for all Canadians that will try to avoid many of the situations that Canadians find themselves in.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, it's all about choices and the decisions must be made now. This government could have implemented a catastrophic drug program, but they chose not to. They didn't. They could negotiate with the RRSS workers so the most vulnerable citizens can return to their homes and they aren't. They could have managed with the unprecedented revenues that they have received, but they didn't. Over $1 billion a year in increased revenues and they can't manage that. Instead they chose to borrow more money and add to the debt, and they chose to spend $68 million to buy the next election. My question to the Premier is,

[Page 1741]

how do you explain to people like Bonnie Corning and others like her that your re-election is more important than a program that would help them pay for life-saving drugs for children?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite brings a very important issue before the House and that is the issue of catastrophic drug cost. It is one of the initiatives that we did discuss with the federal government and they did pay some attention on that particular issue. There will be a program forthcoming to deal with catastrophic drug costs. I hope that the Liberal caucus opposite will continue to lobby at the federal level to make sure that the federal government retains its interest in that particular initiative, because for so long they have been unwilling to accept their responsibilities in funding legitimate health care costs in the province.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, that is really quite a sad response. He knows that the federal government has opened the money chest to this government in a way that was never available to us: an extra $1 billion in revenue coming into this province. This government indicated they were going to work on a catastrophic drug plan over three years ago and here's a letter from the previous Health Minister. I want it tabled. Over three years ago they promised a catastrophic drug plan that they were working on. We see nothing from this government except political opportunism. So my final question to the Premier is, why are the people of Nova Scotia, particularly those who are struggling to pay for catastrophic drugs for their children, not an important part of your re-election?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, this is a very serious subject because while the member opposite brings one case to the attention of members of the House, there are many, many difficult situations around Nova Scotia because of the escalating costs of drugs, but the problem is the business of government is about solutions and I don't hear solutions coming from across the floor. What I hear in the first half of Question Period are members of the Liberal caucus condemning the government for not aggressively addressing the debt, then they spend the second half of Question Period slamming the government for not spending more.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

ENVIRON. & LBR. - GOVERNOR'S BROOK:

DEV. IMPACT - INVESTIGATION DETAILS

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, this question will go to the Minister of Environment and Labour. Residents in the mainland south area of Halifax and of Herring Cove and Purcells Cove are trying to block the Armoyan Group of companies' proposed development for Governor's Brook. These residents are planning to take their case to the Utility and Review Board now that the Chebucto Community Council has approved the development. These residents, however, have very legitimate concerns about the

[Page 1742]

environmental and social impacts of a possible 870-home development in their community. Mr. Minister, your department has been very quiet, all too quiet, on this issue. I want to know, have you investigated the impact that this development would have on the community?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased that the honourable member has brought this to my attention and I will take a look at what we have in the department with regard to the proponents' plan, as well as to the concern of the residents in the area.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I would like the minister to note that more than 1,400 people signed the petition opposing the Governor's Brook development. That petition was tabled by my colleague, the honourable member for Halifax Atlantic, earlier today. This development threatens one of the last sensitive wilderness areas inside city limits, one of the city's few clean freshwater lakes, and also the MacIntosh Run. The development could also damage Williams Lake - a very popular spot for all Halifax residents. Major issues around the environmental impacts have not been adequately addressed. Untreated sewage, for example, could flow into Herring Cove up until 2007. Mr. Minister, given the very sensitive nature of the area in question and its ecological and social value, I'm wondering, are you prepared to order an environmental assessment of the proposal?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the best I can do is to offer the honourable member the commitment to take a look at the particular petition and what is the prayer of that petition and also, as I say, what concerns we have received from residents in that area apart from the petition.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, in fact there's one additional thing that the minister can do and I will tell him in just a moment, but I would like him to note that this was a decision that was made by three people, the members of the community council, three people made that decision, but their decision has the potential to affect thousands. There's mounting opposition. There's a push to go before the Utility and Review Board because too many questions have not been adequately addressed. There are residents here in the gallery today and I would like to know if the minister is prepared to meet with these concerned residents later this afternoon, immediately after Question Period, to discuss this important issue. Will the minister commit to that?

MR. RUSSELL: Absolutely.

[Page 1743]

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

ECON. DEV. - MARINE ATL. (N. SYDNEY):

EMPLOYMENT - UPDATE

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier. Early in this government's mandate I brought to the attention of the Premier community concerns regarding the Marine Atlantic facility located in North Sydney. Cape Breton The Lakes residents continue to call me with concerns regarding new hirings and new employment opportunities. My question to the Premier is, could the Premier please provide an update as to what he has done to protect the interests of Nova Scotians who seek new employment opportunities at the Marine Atlantic facility in North Sydney?

THE PREMIER: That's a good question and one that the member has asked in the past and I will refer it to the Minister of Economic Development.

HON. CECIL CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for that question. It's a very relevant one that needs to be asked on a continuing basis. Recently we had an opportunity to speak with the Chairman, Sid Hynes, of Marine Atlantic and the Premier has been in consultation with him to constantly monitor the employment levels between Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, to ensure a balance. We will look into his question and ensure that those numbers are being maintained.

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, in June 2000, Marine Atlantic Board of Directors made a pledge to maintain a best business practice, which would protect millions of dollars in spinoffs, such as supply contracts for local businesses. Also, a commitment was made for a one-on-one policy, Mr. Premier, shared, of course, with Newfoundland. I will table the newspaper article from Newfoundland which says that, from Mr. Hynes.

Mr. Premier, I will also table a document indicating hirings for 2001, which indicate Newfoundland is enjoying a 60 per cent hiring rate, and Nova Scotia got 40 per cent of the hirings. I would like the Premier to explain to me, Mr. Speaker, how this is a one-on-one hiring policy?

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

MR. CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, again to the member, I said I would provide an update with regard to the employment numbers. The actual percentage of hirees that are brought on, obviously, there are various units of opportunity. For instance, in North Sydney, they have the call centre for reservations there and the different operational jobs that are there as well as on-ship. Again, so to reiterate, he has a very good question and it bears confirmation before the House and I will report back.

[Page 1744]

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, this Premier, and his government, I believe, are being possibly snookered, manipulated and outmaneuvred by the Newfoundland folks. Records for 2002 indicate hirings are now 70/30 in Newfoundland's favour. So, I will ask the minister once again, not only agree to review this file but table his findings in this House.

MR. CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, again I want to reiterate how important that balance is. I am sure the two federal Members of Parliament - of which Marine Atlantic is a Crown Corporation and reports to them, I'm sure the Member of Parliament for the riding of Sydney-Victoria, of which Marine Atlantic is resident in and a former director on the board of directors for Marine Atlantic - would want to make sure those numbers are maintained. So I will say to him that we will advocate and ensure that the Government of Canada's representatives are very well aware of it and are adhering to their part of bargain in ensuring that Nova Scotians are getting their fair share.

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

INSURANCE - DISCUSSION PAPER:

PRE-ELECTION RELEASE - UNDERTAKING GIVE

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier, today. This morning we read again that three more insurance companies are raising their auto insurance rates. We know that Nova Scotians have until May 15th to comment on the discussion paper and that this government will issue a preliminary report sometime in June, quite probably during or after an election. When Nova Scotians are looking to this government for answers on this important issue, it appears that the June timing of this Tory Government's report would no doubt appear suspicious to voters. My question to the Premier is, will the Premier give an undertaking to Nova Scotians who are feeling the sting from high insurance rates that he will release the report before he calls an election so they can know what options are being presented?

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

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, we're not going to be rushed into coming out with a report just for the sake of putting out a report. When we have a report, it will be a report that will have some substance. We would hope to have that in the middle of June.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: If I wanted an answer from that minister, I would have asked a question to that minister. I want an answer from the Leader of that government as to this report and this is 10 times today that he has deflected questions in this House, which makes it a total of 80 questions he has deflected to ministers since this House started.

[Page 1745]

Mr. Speaker, we know the Premier has made many financial commitments and construction announcements during the last number of months but the reality is that most of them won't even start until well after the next election. At the same time, Nova Scotians don't know the state of pension plans, they don't know the fine details of this government's $700 million spending spree and they don't know what insurance options are open to them. My supplementary question is again to the Premier. Will the Premier provide Nova Scotians with full and open disclosure with respect to insurance rates in this province before the election?

[3:45 p.m.]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I'm not sure what the member opposite is driving at. I guess he wants me to tell him when the election is, and I have been asked that question on many occasions and my answer today is exactly as it has been over the last number of weeks. When the House rises, I will start looking at a date for the upcoming election. I have not done a lot of thinking on that issue up until now. I will start that process when the House rises.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, what I want from this Premier is for this Premier to finally come clean with Nova Scotians as to what his intentions are, and stop dodging the issues. This very important issue of insurance rates and the increasing costs to Nova Scotians. It's not good enough that this government is going to study this matter right through the election and then take another year or two to deal with the issue. I want to know from this Premier, is he going to deal with this issue prior to the election, whenever this election is called?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, that's one of the easier questions. We've already started to deal with the issue.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

GOV'T. (N.S.) - VULNERABLE NOVA SCOTIANS:

TREATMENT - JUSTIFICATION

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, since it came to power, the Tory Government has made it clear that it has no time for the weak and vulnerable in our society. I will attempt to refresh the memory of members. In 1999, the Tories snatched $2.2 million from a budget earmarked for charities. Then they cancelled $700,000 promised to improve disabled access to public buildings. I ask the Premier, how can you justify your government's treatment to the most vulnerable members of our society?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite brings an interesting question to the House. This government literally has dozens and dozens of programs that are available to Nova Scotians of limited means. In case the member opposite has forgotten - and I doubt

[Page 1746]

very much because I know he is attentive to the needs of his own constituents - I would like, for example, to remind the member opposite and remind members of the House of some of the programs that this government does provide. For example, the Family Modest Housing Program, the Parent Apartment Program, the Small Loans Assistance Program, the Senior Citizens Assistance Program, the Access-A-Home Program, which is very relevant to your question, the Emergency Repair Program. If the member opposite continues to ask me the question, I will continue with my list.

MR. SPEAKER: I would ask the honourable Premier to table that document he read from.

MR. PYE: To the Premier, you will get your opportunity. Mr. Speaker, the Tories didn't stop there. In 2002-01, they slashed Victims Services and family violence initiatives. Then in 2002, they attempted to cut $897,000 from Family Violence Programs and women's centres. They hinted at closing several transition homes. Programs such as Community Services for Adults and services to help families cope with the disabled have been cut as well. I ask the Premier, do you honestly think that the voters of Nova Scotia will forget your treatment of disabled and victims of family violence in the next election?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, would the member opposite repeat just the question, not the preamble?

MR. PYE: I ask the Premier, do you honestly think that the voters of Nova Scotia will forget your treatment of disabled and victims of family violence at election time?

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

HON. JAMES MUIR: I'm astonished that that member could stand up in this House and talk about the lack of activity in this government with reference to family violence. We have done more than any other government in this country, and he knows it.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, I'm surprised, if this Legislative Assembly had a steeple it would probably cave in on every one of us here. The disrespectful and nearly negligent treatment of disabled continues with this government allowing a strike at the Regional Residential Services Society to drag on because they refuse to enter into binding arbitration.

Hundreds of vulnerable mentally and physically challenged individuals suffer every day while the Minister of Community Services refuses to take any action. I ask the Premier, will you admit your government didn't care about the vulnerable members of the society in 1999 and it doesn't care today?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, over the course of my previous life and certainly during the course of my political life, I have always been conscious of disabled Nova Scotians and the particular problems that they encounter. I had an opportunity to meet with

[Page 1747]

representatives of the family groups that have loved ones that are being affected by the strike. I certainly hope that reason prevails and the two parties get together very soon, settle the issue and have the residents go back to the system that does serve them very well.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Victoria.

EDUC. - RANKIN MEM. SCH.:

CONST. SCHEDULE - DELAY EXPLAIN

MR. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Education. In June 2000 this government acknowledged that need for a P-12 school in Iona. It was followed by an announcement that 17 new schools would be built by the province, one of them being Rankin Memorial, and the completion date was September 2004. To my surprise and many others, it has been learned recently that the school completion date would be delayed until September 2005. So my question to the minister is, what happened to the funding that was set aside to build Rankin Memorial which was originally scheduled to be completed in September 2004?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I can assure the honourable member that when the problems associated with the Rankin Memorial School had been sorted out and he would understand that the community wants it to be a destination and therefore the location of that school is of significance. But, because of the location that is desired by the community, it has some difficult infrastructure related problems - that is, getting three-phase electricity to the site, or, in collaboration with the National Research Council, finding alternate ways of addressing the energy concerns of that school. So, indeed, we intend to proceed with it and there will be funding to do it.

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for the answer. My question is again for the Minister of Education. My colleague, the member for Cape Breton West tabled a report on the School Capital Construction Committee last evening in this House. In this report, the 12 top priorities for the new school construction were listed by this government and unfortunately, Rankin Memorial is not among that list. Will the minister confirm today then the completion of the construction date for Rankin Memorial - is it definitely 2005 or before that date?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, what I can tell the honourable member is that the properties have been identified and purchased. We are in communication with the National Research Council with respect to getting funding which would be unique with respect to that. It's part of the federal government's Kyoto initiative to find alternate ways of providing funding. We intend to incorporate that within the school and when all of that is in place, then we will proceed with the school and it should not be delayed more than a year in order to do that.

[Page 1748]

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, my final supplementary is for the Premier. The Minister of Education doesn't give us a very clear answer of where the money went that was scheduled for the construction of the new Rankin Memorial School in Iona. I think that Nova Scotians know the Premier has pinned his hopes of re-election on a $155 cheque that will go to less than half of the Nova Scotia's workforce and the Premier thinks he can finance this plan on the backs of communities such as Iona, Barrington and Dominion. My question to the Premier is, why have you put your government's political priorities ahead of new schools that would aid the education of our children in this province?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I'm glad the member opposite has indicated that schools are a priority and they certainly are a priority of this government. Unlike the policies that are now being put forward by that caucus, those kinds of things will rapidly come to an end. We believe that those kinds of investments make sense and are glad to hear that the member opposite agrees that they make sense and we will be pursuing that school as we will other schools on the list.

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

ECON. DEV. - N. SYDNEY SPORTSPLEX: CONST. - TIMETABLE

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Economic Development. The Northside community continues its efforts to replace the aging North Sydney Forum. The minister is aware that this facility also serves residents of Cape Breton The Lakes. Management at the forum indicates it requires a Fall 2003 construction start to defray a potential shutdown of this current facility. Can the minister please provide an update as to when he believes construction of the new sportsplex will begin?

HON. CECIL CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the honourable member for that question, and it's actually very timely because today is the deadline with regard to the proponents for the millennium sportsplex to respond back to the Canada-Nova Scotia Infrastructure Committee as to the financing options for that project. I just spoke this afternoon with a representative of the local committee and obviously said we have to analyze the financial capacity for it to go forward because of the pressing need for the North Sydney Forum and, once the review is done by the officials, we will report back.

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, residents continue their efforts to work with all levels of government to achieve this community goal. Other communities, such as Port Hawkesbury, have successfully obtained more funding than is being provided to the sportsplex committee. Can the minister explain how funding levels were determined by your department for this project?

[Page 1749]

MR. CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, in response to that, there are some complexities, but I want to start by saying that the offer that's on the table to the committee right now is $3 million in core funding under infrastructure. Their project that they have is for a double-ice surface as presented, and that would cost, in all assessments, upwards of $14 million, as the member knows. The project that he is referring to in Port Hawkesbury is a civic centre and a community convention centre built together in a $14 million project with a different funding approach and a higher community financial commitment towards that project, so obviously we have to evaluate the proposal that has been put forward by the committee and see if the financial wherewithal is there to proceed. If not, we have to look at other options.

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, the project at Port Hawkesbury is obviously a good project and I do support the project, but the deadline is, as the minister indicated, today and many people in the community feel that perhaps this deadline is unfair. So my final question is, will the minister agree, if progress is being achieved by this committee, to support this deadline extension?

MR. CLARKE: Mr. Speaker, as the member knows, there have been extensions provided already with this project. This project now is four years in the making. What he also knows is the North Sydney Forum is under a great need to be replaced. The committee and the organizing board that oversees that have stated it cannot continue operations any more. They've now closed operations. We have to move forward. They had a deadline to meet. We have to see if it's feasible. If it is we will proceed; if it's not we will proceed with an alternative.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

COMMUN. SERV.: RRSS STRIKE - RESOLVE

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, during Community Services' estimates, the minister indicated that it would cost $100 million to meet the contract demands of the Regional Residential Services Society workers. That's $4 million for each of the 250 striking workers - $4 million for each of the 250 workers. It must be that new math, Tory math, the same math they used to say that Hamm's Government would invest $140.3 million in health care when $141 million was the Romanow money. I ask the Minister of Community Services when he will he stop playing games with numbers and step in and resolve the RRSS strike?

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for pointing out that the consequences of straying from what has been put in place for the sector would be substantial. Indeed, he's absolutely right, the ripple effects from this on the other 377 service providers and, in fact, the ripple effects that would go beyond the department into other departments, such as Health, would have an impact of over $100 million. He's quite right.

[Page 1750]

[4:00 p.m.]

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, the Tory Government can find money for Sobeys or Xerox, multi-million corporations, but the workers who do the job that many of us would not be willing to do day-to-day can't get a fair wage for the job they do. The workers have to obtain and keep a list of qualifications up to date. They can face violence and unpleasant working situations when residents have behavioural problems. I ask the Minister of Community Services, why do you choose to continue devaluing the work of these counsellors by playing games with numbers?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for allowing me to point out that the most important attribute of the care providers is in fact that very essence of their character, that they have to be caring, compassionate people. They are special people. Yes, the member opposite is quite right, they do have to take some community college courses and this is part of what was done to determine what would be an appropriate wage within the sector. That is what has been done, and that is what has been honoured by this government.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, the minister knows what would be an appropriate wage. They've already told him. For many years, these staff members were paid minimum wage and they had to fight to get to the point where they are now. The Minister of Community Services doesn't think these workers should have a fair wage for the job they do. It also appears he thinks the residents of small options homes don't deserve the same care as residents of institutional settings. I ask the Minister of Community Services, how much longer are you going to hide behind these false figures, instead of resolving the labour dispute?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for allowing me the opportunity to point out that one of the important things with the $28 million that was invested in this sector by this government was to bring up a geographic wage equity across the sector to stop the competition between the 378 service providers for these caring individuals and to bring them to a decent wage that reflects the training and the responsibility that they assume in their roles, caring for these residents.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

EDUC. - LIBRARY FUNDING: FUNDING AGREEMENT - FULFILL

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education. In the year 2000, the Department of Education agreed to a funding formula with the regional libraries of the province. Since that time, the regional libraries have had to cope with funding levels that are much lower than what was agreed upon in 2000. For example, the Western Counties Regional Library has not received the agreed upon amount, as suggested by the Funding Review Committee of 2000. My question to the minister is, since this government

[Page 1751]

has failed to live up to its agreement, how does the minister expect the libraries in Nova Scotia to provide the essential services that Nova Scotians have come to expect from them?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, the funding formula to which the honourable member refers, if it were to be implemented, would have resulted in significant declines in payments to some of our library boards while others would have been increased. Therefore, we have, in consultation with the library boards, continued to use the existing funding formula.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, in the year 2001, the government published the second edition of Standards for Nova Scotia Regional Public Libraries. In that report, there are many standards proposed to be implemented by libraries across the province. Yet this government continued to ignore the agreed upon funding formula. I don't have to remind anybody that people rely on our libraries as their main access to information. So my question to the minister is, how does the government propose that libraries implement these standards without removing resources from some other very important services?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for the question. While we are continuing to review the funding formula and its impact and alternatives, we have, in fact, increased funding to our libraries across this province in the amount of $250,000. While we recognize that there are challenges to the libraries, we will continue to support them and more importantly, we will continue to work on a funding formula that is adequate and meets the requirements of our libraries.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, regional libraries across the province are a community's primary location for access to information for the purpose of life long learning. So my final question to the minister is, how can his government expect the people of Nova Scotia to take their Learning for Life initiative seriously when you only provide the basic resources to our provincial libraries?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the honourable member for raising the Learning for Life program because that is the basis of our approach to ensuring that our students in this province are receiving the basics in education and we will continue to fund that.

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

Before we go to Opposition Members Business, the honourable Minister of Tourism and Culture on an introduction.

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I would like to bring to the members' attention, in the Speaker's Gallery, two people that we have here visiting the

[Page 1752]

gallery today. Two friends, not only of this side of the House, but I'm sure from all sides of the House as well. I would ask that we welcome both John and Barbara Shaw and ask them to rise and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

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

The honourable Minister of Education.

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. Earlier in an answer to a question I apparently used a date other than the date I'd intended. The date that I should have said was 1996, in which the Liberals were in power and they announced a crop of schools at that time, 32 of them which went to Liberal held ridings in that time.

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

The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. During Question Period, there was a discussion . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

MR. DEXTER: . . . until the Public Insurance Corporation. I would like to table an explanation for the minister responsible for skyrocketing insurance rates. It will explain to him that the Manitoba Government has just introduced claimant advisors to help people receive better benefits under their policies, and not a consumer advocate with respect to rates because that would be unnecessary.

MR. SPEAKER: Obviously not a point of order, but certainly information for the House.

OPPOSITION MEMBERS' BUSINESS

MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS

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

MR. JOHN HOLM: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, that was a very good bit of information that my Leader just provided to help the Government House Leader so that he will now be better informed when he answers questions.

[Page 1753]

I've passed out the schedule to yourself and to the other two House Leaders with the resolution, order and numbers. So, Mr. Speaker, would you please call Resolution No. 17.

Res. No. 17, Educ.: Dominion Crisis - Tories (N.S.)/Liberals (Can.) Condemn - notice given Mar. 28/03 - (Mr. F. Corbett)

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

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, this resolution speaks to responsibility. It speaks to the fact of what happened to the Macdonald Complex in Dominion. The be it resolved says, ". . . that this House condemn the provincial Tories and the federal Liberals for the crisis in education now facing the Town of Dominion."

I want to round off some of the corners on that statement because it's important that we realize what's going on here. We're going to step back a bit and show what happens when a town the size of Dominion loses its education centre. Schools often define the communities, and, I guess with that said, it revolves the other way, that communities are defined by their education.

Mr. Speaker, what we have here is a government that's saying no to a community. It's cutting off a large section of its lifeblood and saying, no, we don't think that this community deserves a fully-functioning school, although up to and including October 31st, there was a fully-functioning school there that everyone agreed should exist. To that point, everyone agreed it should exist. But what happens is, through no fault of their own, through an unnatural tragedy, they lose their school. I'm going to get back to subsidence and its responsibilities in a moment, but what I want to get into is what happens when the community loses a facility like that.

It's not just a matter of well, there's excess facilities in the Breton Education Centre in New Waterford, or that there's excess facilities at Glace Bay High, or that there's a junior high complex somewhere else where these people can go. That's not what we are here to discuss. We're here to discuss, today, what the loss of a facility like that means to the economic and social aspects of a community. What happens here, Mr. Speaker? Without a school, young families will not be attracted to those communities. What they will do, when young people come and want to build new homes and raise families, what happens is that they will raise their families somewhere else, and it will add to the out-migration of that community. So we have problem number one.

Another problem, Mr. Speaker, if you listen to various governments, whether it's provincial or federal, they're forever telling us that we've turned the corner economically in Cape Breton, that the better days are here, that we've gone through the lean years, the years of the federal government shutting down our coal mines, the provincial government closing steel mills, we've turned the corner, economically and that we should all be forging ahead

[Page 1754]

now, and that communities can look forward to a bright future, and keeping our young people at home, young people will no longer be leaving their parents and going to Ontario and Alberta.

No, Mr. Speaker, quite the opposite that happy days are here again, so to speak. No, those kinds of words ring hollow when you to talk to government. Government looks at a plan and says, oh no, you don't deserve a school. Here's where you're at, you're population base is not going to increase, people aren't going to come to your town, therefore, we're not going to look at giving you a new school or rebuilding the existing school. We're not talking about areas, right now, that see exponential growth, as we see in parts of metro. Just look at the latest electoral boundaries review, we see an area decline population-wise because, I would say, implementation of the very ideas put forward by the two levels of government, both the federal Liberals and the provincial Tories, have seen a negative impact in those communities.

Let's buy into their theory, as I hope to do, that the economy is turning around. It would do well for governments to invest in that school, to build that school and say, look, as we know it today, as we knew it in the past and as we should know in the future, Dominion is a good place to raise a family, it's a good place to get an education, and move forward with the community. But no, in questioning the Premier today, what did the Premier say in response to the question when we asked, in your role as Intergovernmental Affairs Minister, what have you pursued or how have you pursued the federal government regarding subsidence. It was, for all intents and purposes, well, we've talked about it but nay, we haven't pursued it. Then that begs the next question, why not? Why not pursue the federal government on this matter? It was a subject pursued in Pictou County where the Premier is from, and it resolved an issue around a couple of homeowners. To their credit, they were looked after.

[4:15 p.m.]

We're not saying it should take anything away from anybody, but what I think myself and the good residents of Dominion are saying to this Premier is what's fair over here is fair over there, Mr. Speaker. That's all we're looking for, fairness. This government, when we asked them to go and do some bidding on behalf of these residents at the federal level, because there are negotiations going on with the Cape Breton Development Corporation about bringing home the coal leases, why couldn't that be put down on the table, that we will not accept those leases back until you bring forward a plan that would include assurances against subsidence. The prime example would obviously be the Macdonald high school.

A former Tory Government built that complex, knowingly, over that coal seam and that mined-out area, yet, when it comes to responsibility, they walk away from it. This is the same government that from its inception has taken the position of dollars follow students. What they've done, again, is basically not been able to back up what they're saying. I will

[Page 1755]

go back to what I said previously, if they were, indeed, being open with the people and if, indeed, the economy has made that big turn in the road, as they're telling us, then they would say, look, we have to be in front of this population spurt, this growth that's going to happen because the economy is growing. We have to be in front of it, and to be in front of it, what do you need, you need infrastructure. Your infrastructure, obviously, is highways and roads and water and those types of things. You need hospitals and medical attention, and obviously you need schools.

Yet this government is willing to walk away from a huge investment in that community, because it sees it as getting off the hook from a financial obligation as opposed to seeing it as an opportunity. It's moved away and it has told the people of that area, no, you people in Dominion do not deserve a school. You don't deserve what most of us in this province take for granted, a community-driven school where people can go and gather for community events, whether it's something as simple as the holiday-type play or choral festival or a larger arena for people in the community to gather as they did last summer. Macdonald district high had celebrated its 50th Anniversary last summer. It was, in no small part, due to the tenacity of local residents who pitched together and made that probably one of the largest social successes in that community in some time. It seems that it's almost heartbreaking when, after that amount of work going into that facility, to have a government walk from its responsibility.

I also want to put on the record today, because this certainly has a large part to do with this resolution, the role the federal government has played. While I'm more than disappointed that the province hasn't pursued the government as vigorously as it should, it's the complete lack of response from the federal sector to come in and say, well, you know what, they're our responsibility. The local MP said we took over the resources, but we didn't take over the liabilities. Well, I've never heard that said that way, I've never heard you buy into a contract and all we're doing is taking the upside but, you know, all the downside, that's somebody else's problem. Then the management of the Cape Breton Development Corporation will say silly things like, well, we never really operated that mine, but that makes absolutely no sense because the provincial cousins of the Liberals here have agreed to the fact that flooding was the cause of that subsidence. The flooding was caused by the federal government through its Crown Corporation, the Cape Breton Development Corporation, turning off the pumps that would have kept those mines clear.

It's always good to see yourself in the Chair, Mr. Speaker, because when we speak of a subterranean mine, you know, having lived in Springhill and in another life, an emergency officer, a police officer in that community, you know the devastation that a mining disaster can wreak on your town. So I'm especially happy to see you in the Chair today because I think you may have a better understanding and a bit more compassion towards what's facing the people of that town. There may be some others and I'm not saying the other members are particularly uncaring, but I think you bring an understanding of the gravity of the situation more so than others because you lived it.

[Page 1756]

Mr. Speaker, my time is almost up. There are really two things that can happen here and what I'm afraid is not going to happen is that this government will just take the full brunt of the responsibility and go forward and rebuild at least a middle school and a high school or a Primary to Grade 9 school in that community. If they're not going to do that, to take on the full cost of it, then they should be willing to take on the federal government for their fair share of this disaster. As I said in a question earlier today, if indeed some other misdeed had happened, if someone had burned that school, or if it had been wrecked by some other havoc, we would be talking about when is the rebuilding going to take place, if not today, when?

So I want to say that we in that community, all we want to do is be treated fairly as the people in Westville were, as the people in other communities are. This disaster is not of the making of those citizens. It's of the making of uncaring federal and provincial governments that instead of punishing these people, have to come to the fore. Because I'm going to tell you right now, if that was a private sector company in there, the government would be shouting from the top of the hill that you have got to do it, but it won't use the same litmus test on itself. So I advise this government to build that school and do it forthwith.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Education.

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the honourable member for bringing this resolution forward. While I don't accept his characterization of us as being uncaring, I do however wish to acknowledge the work that he has done with respect to promoting the issue and to the people of that area in expressing their concerns. He has been very effective with respect to that and I have heard from him on more than one occasion.

Mr. Speaker, I've also met with representatives from the area on more than one occasion and I have had an opportunity to listen to their concerns. The events in Dominion have been very difficult for the community and there's absolutely no question about that, as has been indicated by the honourable member. But I can assure you, as I have assured many Nova Scotians who have written to me, that the educational needs of the Dominion students will continue to be well met. The Macdonald Elementary School and nearby schools with vacancies are meeting these needs. Our students are in a safe and healthy learning environment and that's what's important here. Sadly, the Macdonald high school was a great school and only 15 years old. The loss of the school has been devastating to the community. Subsidence has affected other buildings in Dominion and the community continues to be troubled with the potential loss of other buildings in the future.

Mr. Speaker, throughout this distressing episode the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board has made notable efforts to assist the community and ensure that its children continued to have a safe place to learn. I want to now say a few words about the board's efforts. When the subsidence event occurred last October and after cracks were found in

[Page 1757]

walls and the foundation, the school board responded and removed the students and staff from the building.

Mr. Speaker, 250 students in Grades 7 to 12 were relocated to the nearby Breton Education Centre, the 44 Grade 6 students were moved into the elementary school building next door to the damaged facility. The school board continued to show leadership throughout this very difficult situation. They have managed the transportation of the students, the evacuation, the removal of equipment from the high school, making important and tough decisions each and every time.

Mr. Speaker, my department has supported the school board throughout this series of events. The department paid for the cost of removing equipment from Macdonald school to Breton Education Centre. We're paying for additional busing. We arranged for buses from other boards to be sent to the Cape Breton board at no cost to the board or the department. We paid the cost for added teaching staff, and we've paid for a lunch and bus supervisor.

When an engineer's report concluded subsidence as the reason for the damage, a $3.5 million price tag was placed on repairing the school, that is the building itself. After our review of that report and my staff's meeting with the board and the consultant in January, it was determined that the $3.5 million was only for repairing the building and did not take into consideration what it would take if structural damage was found or stabilizing the site so that damage wouldn't occur. That estimate was $5 million to $6 million with no guarantee that it wouldn't reoccur. That brought the amount to $8 million to $9 million.

After considering this, we advised the school board and community representatives that the school could not be rebuilt in Dominion. We also could not replace the damaged school on its site, as there was no guarantee that subsidence would not occur. In response, the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board decided the school was not salvageable and would demolish it. I believe that will occur this summer.

Mr. Speaker, our government is not building a new school in Dominion because ample vacancy exists in nearby schools. Elementary students in Dominion will continue to go to their school in the community, and Grades 7 to 12 students will choose between schools in New Waterford and Glace Bay. The Department of Education will provide a portable addition to the elementary school that can be removed in case of a future subsidence event. That is very important because we have no guarantee that there would not be such an event. We will also continue to provide support for busing. The school board has a contingency plan in case of a subsidence event at the Macdonald Elementary School.

As for the future, if the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board submits a priority list with a request for a new school in Dominion, then the School Capital Construction Committee will consider it. As a note, the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board is investigating the potential for subsidence at other schools in the area,

[Page 1758]

following reports on old mine workings provided by the Department of Natural Resources. The school board has done the prudent thing and hired consultant engineers to review the potential for subsidence in these schools.

Subsidence is a big issue that affects communities in several parts of Nova Scotia. We have to consider the event in Dominion as part of a larger picture. As I mentioned earlier, a safe and healthy learning environment for students and school staff is most important, and that's what we're doing here and across the province. Mr. Speaker, I'm going to yield the remainder of my time to the honourable member for the beautiful Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

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

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable Minister of Education for giving me a few moments to speak on this extremely important matter. I, too, would acknowledge the hard work of the member for Cape Breton Centre for bringing this issue to the forefront at the Nova Scotia Legislature, and I would also like to recognize and acknowledge the member for Glace Bay for bringing this area of concern to the Nova Scotia Legislature. I think that I would like to read into the record, as well, the second whereas of the honourable member for Cape Breton Centre's resolution. The second whereas is: "Whereas the federal government has shirked all responsibility for this damage even though it ran the subterranean coal mines whose collapse caused the subsidence."

[4:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, speaking of the federal government and more especially the two federal Members of Parliament, the one for Sydney-Victoria and the one for Bras d'Or-Cape Breton, I would like to note that the honourable Minister of Economic Development and the honourable Minister of Natural Resources have held meetings and will continue holding meetings with the Member of Parliament for Bras d'Or-Cape Breton regarding subsidence and I suppose, more particularly, subsidence as to how it relates to residences as well. A number of people in Cape Breton and I suppose more especially in the Dominion area, are extremely concerned about subsidence and the fact that it was the federal government that shut the coal mines down, it would only be appropriate then that the federal Members of Parliament take those concerns to Ottawa, and likewise the members here in the Nova Scotia Legislature.

Again, I do acknowledge the work of the member for Cape Breton Centre and the member for Glace Bay for bringing these issues to the Nova Scotia Legislature. This government, and particularly the Minister of Education, has been working extremely hard on this file and it is very, very difficult. I know in the 52 ridings across this great province that members of all political stripes are advocating and supporting new schools for their ridings. It's a very difficult and onerous task for the Minister of Education to deal with, but

[Page 1759]

there is a unique situation in Dominion and this government recognizes that and acknowledges it. We're very concerned, all members of this Legislature I would submit, especially the Minister of Education is concerned about a safe and healthy environment for students and school staff and we feel that that is most important. We're not only doing that in Dominion, we're doing that right across this province.

I do take issue with the honourable member for Cape Breton Centre standing in his place, getting on his pins and suggesting - well, perhaps more than suggesting - that the government is saying no to the community of Dominion. That's what the honourable member said, when in fact the . . .

MR. FRANK CORBETT: I didn't suggest it, I said it.

MR. TAYLOR: You didn't suggest it, you said it, but I am saying as well that that's not the case.

The Minister of Education, the Minister of Natural Resources and the Minister of Economic Development have met, Mr. Speaker, with a lot of individuals and the Minister of Economic Development representing Cape Breton North is pushing the agenda of subsidence appropriately with the MP for Bras d'Or-Cape Breton, Rodger Cuzner. Now, I think that the honourable member opposite would be aware of that, but he didn't stand in his place and acknowledge that. Now, I shouldn't prejudge and I haven't heard the dissertation of the honourable member - I expect it'll come from the honourable member for Glace Bay, but the fact of the matter is that subsidence in this province is a big issue and it affects communities across this province, several communities it affects.

Mr. Speaker, another whereas - and I'd like to again, for the record - the honourable member brought this forward in this Resolution No. 17 and I did expand a little bit on his "whereas the federal government has shirked all responsibility" and I can only take the honourable member at his word for saying that. I think he knows of what he speaks. The fact of the matter is perhaps the federal government should look at the federal gun registry, the $1 billion boondoggle, there's $1 billion (Interruption) Oh, so the honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect thinks that there's some justification in spending $1 billion on an ineffective gun registration - it can't put 5 cents into the community of Dominion to find out what's wrong with the subsidence.

The member for Timberlea-Prospect should, in fact - well, I'd better not get side-tracked by the rabbit tracks. You know that there was a $1 billion boondoggle in HRDC, there was a $1 billion boondoggle in the gun registry, I mean the Prime Minister had no difficulty buying - what was it, a couple of Challenger jets? He couldn't replace the Sea Kings and, I'm sorry, yes $100 million, $100 billion - what was it? - I don't know, I guess it was $100 billion. (Interruptions)

[Page 1760]

The fact of the matter is, we have to set priorities and this is about priorities. This government has made education a priority, will continue to make education a priority, is concerned, will work with the school board down there, has worked with the school board down there, but our primary concern, the primary concern of this government, is the safe and healthy learning environment of the students and the teaching staff in all schools across this province.

Mr. Speaker, that may be difficult for the member for Dartmouth East to acknowledge and support, but that's a principle that we strongly believe in, not only on the front benches, every member in the PC caucus believes in a safe and healthy learning environment for students and the teaching staff. The member for Chester-St. Margaret's certainly does believe in that. I would just like to thank you for giving me this opportunity. It is a difficult and sensitive issue, and this government is working hard with the community members and all stakeholders related to that problem.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, I want to apologize, first of all, to the people from Dominion who have made a very long trip here to have to listen to the likes of that. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. The honourable member for Glace Bay knows full well that he is not to speak to strangers in the House. He is to put his comments directly to the Chair and is not to speak to people in the gallery. The honourable member for Glace Bay has the floor.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, I apologize for that slip. You might not want to take the advice of some members, but I want to say to the people from Dominion who have been watching this, perhaps on Legislative TV or perhaps some people have been watching it here in the gallery, that this is not a good example. That was not a good example of what we should be doing here in this Legislative Assembly. Unfortunately I made the prediction that this could turn political, and unfortunately that's exactly where debate on this resolution has gone.

Mr. Speaker, I'm not going to follow those tracks. I think the people of Dominion deserve more. I think the people of the surrounding areas of Dominion deserve more, that this issue should be dealt with strictly on its merit. This is a crisis situation that faces the people of Dominion and surrounding area, that they have lost their school. Not only a school, they have lost the community centre as well, a centre that had a gymnasium, for community events, a centre that was part of the community itself, and a school that was a major part of that community itself, a school that for 50-some years had graduating classes go through it and students, not only students from Dominion may I add, but students from Glace Bay and surrounding area also attended Macdonald High School.

[Page 1761]

Mr. Speaker, I would dearly love to stand here and say, as the member for Cape Breton Centre has made a point in his resolution, that the federal government would step forward and say, let's build a new school in Dominion. Let's be realistic and let's not throw the people involved here and the students involved here any curves. Education is a provincial responsibility. The Minister of Education knows that, and the Premier of this province knows that, even the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley knows that education is a provincial responsibility.

Mr. Speaker, this government has been given a recommendation by the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board to build a Primary to Grade 9 school in Dominion to replace Macdonald Complex. It's very simple, this government is over there thumping its chest and boasting about how great it is doing on the subject of education and on the subject of building schools, it's easy, just simplify it totally and build a school. I may add, I want to thank the people of Dominion for not following the rabbit tracks that have been set down and the playing off of one community against another, as this government would dearly love them to do.

It's not a question of one community versus another. It's a question of a community, a small community, in this province that had a school. There are many small communities on that side, Mr. Speaker, that have similar schools, that if they should have the unfortunate tragedy of them falling into the ground, burning or whatever may happen to them, that those members who represent those smaller areas would be here pounding on a desk saying, build us a new school. It's part of our community.

That's all the residents of Dominion and area are asking for, Mr. Speaker. Exactly that, because of the crisis they face. We know, and the members on the government side know, that education is not just a cost, education is an investment, an investment in our children, an investment in our future and an investment in our community. This community, the community of Dominion and surrounding area is not asking for anything major. What they are asking for is their fair share, to replace what was there. As a matter of fact, this community, in negotiations with the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board, has gone down from what was there. Originally it was a Grade Primary to Grade 12. Now they've said, we will accept Grade Primary to Grade 9, because it's important to our community to have that facility, to have it. We need it, we want it. It's ours, rightfully so, it was and should be in the future.

What they've received from this minister so far, Mr. Speaker, is that yes, they met with him and he said, I will think about. It didn't take him long to think about it. He stood here in this House today and he told the residents, no, you're not getting a school, final. What he has tried to do is play off other areas against the former Town of Dominion and it's not working. We're not falling for it in Glace Bay. They're not falling for it in Gardiner Mines or Reserve, or anywhere else, because they know, as well as the residents of Dominion know, that they deserve that facility for that area.

[Page 1762]

Mr. Speaker, you have to treat those residents and their children and their families and their educational needs, but you also have to treat their community needs as well. Education, as I said, is extremely important, we all know that, and education comes in the form of a building, of students in a school being educated, teachers and parents, we all play a role in education. If you take away what was the very heart of a community, in this case their high school, their Primary to high school, you take away the heart of that community, then indeed you have threatened the very community itself and that's what's at stake here.

Handed a report, and I hope that the minister will read this report in full, which is entitled Dominion - Macdonald School Complex - A Second Look, which was prepared by the Save Our School Committee. I don't know if it has been tabled here, Mr. Speaker, but I will table it before the House so all members of the House can get an opportunity to read that report. I hope the minister gives it a very careful perusal. I hope the Premier takes a very careful look at what has been said in this report because, as I mentioned and as I've said many, many times before, what we are dealing with here is the very heart of a community and this government has from the very start said we're not going to listen to anyone in that community. If they were listening, they would still be negotiating about a school, but this minister has put the hammer down and said no. This minister stood here today and then shared the time with the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley who decided to play politics with this issue.

Mr. Speaker, where are the other good members from Cape Breton? Where are they?

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

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Yes, Mr. Speaker, the member for Glace Bay seems as if he's prepared to stand in his place and promise a new school to the people from Dominion. Now, will he tell the people from Dominion if that's backed up by his Leader?

MR. SPEAKER: That's a question I guess for the honourable member for Glace Bay if he wishes to address it.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, as I was saying, the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley stood in his place and played politics with this issue. Let me tell the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley (Interruptions)

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

MR. WILSON: Let me tell the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, and I will answer his question and I will ask him to ask his Premier the same question and ask him to build a school for the people of Dominion, but when the time comes and Danny Graham speaks on this issue, you will be listening. (Interruptions) You will be listening, Mr. Speaker.

[Page 1763]

That member will be listening and that member and that government will know exactly where we stand on the issue of Dominion. It will be as clear as a bell when the time comes. There'll be no doubt whatsoever where we stand because our Leader has sat down with the residents of Dominion and talked to them and listened to their concerns and he's gone to the community on two occasions and he's listening. He's listening because he's a Leader who cares about the people in that community.

[4:45 p.m.]

The residents have requested, and on a compassionate basis, on a compassionate and reasonable basis, backed up in that report were statistics that show that their community is not in total decline, their community is prepared to grow. Their community is prepared to get larger. Their community is looking towards economic development and when it does happen, they're saying, we need a school in our area to help build on that. It's how economic development is achieved.

Tell me a company, tell me an operation, tell me a business that's going to stay located in Dominion if there's no school where the people who run those businesses and companies can send their children. Tell me that won't affect the former Town of Dominion, that people won't start moving away because there's no longer a school. You can say it until you're blue in the face, as the Minister of Education has, that they can go to other schools, but that is not the same. The minister knows that and the people of Dominion and area know that as well. What they had was theirs, they're asking for it back. On a reasonable basis.

I know I don't have much time left, but I wanted to say that I'm not shocked, I'm not particularly shocked to see how this government has treated this whole issue. I'm not shocked to see how this government has ignored the requests of the people of Dominion. I'm not shocked to see how this minister really, I don't think, could care less about what's going on in that area. I'm not shocked by any of that because we've seen time and time and time again how this government treats people. We've seen it on many issues and now we're seeing it on the issue of education - an issue that is so important to the people of Nova Scotia that it should be, and all of a sudden it is, the new-found number one issue of their Premier.

MR. SPEAKER: Order. Order, please. The honourable member for Glace Bay has the floor, you have about two minutes left.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, as I was saying, all of a sudden the issue of education, among other issues - debt management is another one - is the new-found important issue and will be contained in the blue book part two of the Premier and the Leader of the government. It should be a priority every day of the year - not just all of a sudden before it's election time.

[Page 1764]

Unfortunately, because of the timing and because this government has delayed so much on this issue, this is not a new issue - the government has had plenty of time to take a look at this issue - but because of their delaying tactics, what's going to happen now is that smack dab in the middle of an election campaign the issue of Macdonald - it won't be a high school anymore, the school board has not made that recommendation, but the issue of Macdonald School Complex will now become an election issue. An election issue.

An election issue, because this government will not make a decision. It wouldn't even be an issue if this government did the right thing, right now, and said, we're going to build a new school for the people of Dominion as recommended by the Cape Breton-Victoria District School Board. It doesn't get any easier and it doesn't get any simpler than that. You follow the recommendation of a duly elected school board that said here's our recommendation, please do it. That government, go ahead, take it to Cabinet, Mr. Minister, take it before your fellow Cabinet colleagues from Cape Breton and let's have them fight for the people of Dominion so that they can get a new school.

I can't make it any simpler than that, any simpler than that. If you had attended, Mr. Minister, the public meetings that took place in Dominion, you'd understand just how committed those people are. I can guarantee you their fight is not over. Thank you.

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

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I want you to know that I think I was about six at the time when I first visited the legendary coal mining community of Dominion.

My father was fortunate enough, after the war, to play in the fabulous Cape Breton Hockey League of the time. As a player for the Sydney Millionaires, he constantly talked about what a wonderful reception you will always get in Cape Breton. I can remember, as a young fellow, going first to Sydney and then to New Waterford, but finally into the community of Dominion. It was at that time, because of the fact that my own grandmother and grandfather had grown up in the community of Westville, I saw firsthand what the legendary coal mining communities are all about.

It was just five years ago when I had the opportunity to take junior hockey team back to Cape Breton, and we ended up playing in the rink, the rink just across the way from the school, as the St. Margaret's Mariners played the Cape Breton Alpines and won the Atlantic Championship and it was a good way to go, it was a good run. You saw it again, the rink was full, and you saw how important the rink, along with the school and along with the church and churches in the small communities of Nova Scotia, how important they are.

As you well know, Mr. Speaker, from where you worked and lived for so many years, those three vital components are so important in communities, such as Springhill, such as Dominion. I want the residents of Dominion to know how fortunate they are to have an MLA such as the member for Cape Breton Centre. I make no bones about the fact that it was just,

[Page 1765]

similarly, about five short years ago, although some days I'm quite reminded that it was about five short decades ago, that I had the opportunity to meet that member.

On the first occasion, I began to realize that the people in New Waterford, the people in Dominion, the people in Reserve will be well served by this member, and of course I can't use his name in Hansard, but the MLA for Cape Breton Centre. I know he's sitting there, and he's not going to turn around and heckle me. I know how many times he has said to me, would you please tell, to reassure the people that live in my community, how important that school is.

Macdonald school has just had its 50th Anniversary, a valuable tradition in that community, because of the role of that school and not just because of what goes on in the classrooms. The member for Cape Breton Centre has brought to our caucus and he's brought to this House, to debates in this House, to Question Period, to the Premier and to the Minister of Education, the importance of dealing with this issue. I am aware of the fact of subsidence, because, of course, again, my grandparents grew up in the Town of Westville. Westville suffered, a number of years ago, a problem with subsidence. It is a federal issue.

I think it's of real consequence that when you look at the whereases that are in this resolution and when you read them clearly, the federal government does have a responsibility to be involved in this process. Let's look at it this way, heaven forbid that this happens, but what if the rink is next? What if the arena in that community is next and there's further damage because of subsidence? What if we're looking at private homes, as we were in Westville? The government took action. Now there's pointing fingers and there's the grandstanding of one political Party as opposed to another, provincial cousins or federal brothers or whatever we call them in this House. But here is the crucial issue, the crucial issue is this community deserves a school, and the school deserves to be in that community. Because of the fact that there is a tradition of involvement with the young people in that community, parents feel part of the ownership, parents feel part of the solutions in that school.

Mr. Speaker, as you well know, in a previous life I had the wonderful opportunity to be a school principal. The schools that are the most effective, the schools that communicate most regularly with the parents, the schools where parents have an ownership in the process, those are the schools that are the effective and successful ones. Dominion had a very successful school, a successful school based upon involvement, based upon commitment, based upon the young people.

When you see young people show up at a political rally with their school uniforms on, when you see basketball players with their school uniform on at a rally to save their school, those young people are proud of their roots. They're proud of their school, they're proud of their community. Those young people want to have the opportunity to continue to

[Page 1766]

attend a school in their community. An effective school is a community school. That's not rocket science. An effective school is a community school.

Mr. Speaker, I've worked in schools where they bussed them in from all over, if I can use that expression. The further removed that children are, the further removed from the parents and the school, the less connection there is with the school, the less involvement there is with the school. No matter what the grade, the key thing is that young people and their parents have to feel that they are part of a school. You've heard me use this and I always make the correction to my own grammar - big ain't better when it comes to schools; big is not better when it comes to schools. There is an optimum size for schools. The school that's the most effective, the school that is the most efficient is where the young people can walk to school in a safe manner. I understand that there has to be a certain number of buses in some of our bigger high schools, but the children can walk to school and be part of the school in that community.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Kings North on a point of order?

MR. MARK PARENT: No, I have a question if the member would entertain one.

MR. SPEAKER: Would the honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect like to entertain a question?

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, this is an important topic. This is a topic for the member for Cape Breton Centre and, no disrespect to that member, I'm not really interested in questions. At another time perhaps I could engage him on his question.

MR. SPEAKER: The member for Timberlea-Prospect has the floor.

MR. ESTABROOKS: I think it's of crucial understanding that whether it's the Minister of Education or the Premier or members opposite, you don't have to be a teacher, if you are a parent you know exactly from where I come. We are talking about the fact that in a community such as Dominion, a community such as Dominion has to have ownership in this school.

Now I want to go to a key factor and I know the members of the Third Party can get upset with this, but does the Member of Parliament not have a role in this? Does the Member of Parliament, because of his federal relationship to the particular government that's in power in Ottawa, does he not have a role? Can he just step back and say, no, that's for your MLA? That Member of Parliament has a responsibility. It makes no difference what his political stripe is, he has to be fully involved in the process. He has to be fully supportive of the parents. He has to be fully supportive of the community.

[Page 1767]

There is no use pointing fingers back one way or the other. The last thing that can happen is that when the writ has finally dropped and there are doors being knocked on in communities all across this province, that schools are not part of the election process. I want the community of Dominion to know that I have suffered through one of those debates. I've suffered through one of those elections, where two or three days before the election, suddenly, on Liberal signs, it came out - we build schools. They were plastered all over these Liberal signs. Well, the people of Timberlea-Prospect did not accept that bribe, they did not accept that falsehood that was given to them because I want you to know that the campaign team that put those "we build schools" signs up, that did not persuade the people of Timberlea-Prospect.

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

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, I think it's unparliamentary to describe anything in this House, especially on behalf of another Party, as a bribe. (Interruptions).

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I thank you for the offer of help from a former speaker, but I think I can handle things. Obviously, I missed that word. Again, the honourable member for Glace Bay, what was the word?

MR. WILSON: Bribe, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. That would be unparliamentary. If the honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect did use that I ask him to retract it, please.

MR. ESTABROOKS: I would use the word enticement. An enticement where they put on those Liberal signs in the middle of an election, we build schools. They didn't add that it was George Armoyan building the schools and thank God the people of Timberlea-Prospect decided to return this particular member. I want you to know, and I want it to be clear that in the campaign that will take place in Cape Breton Centre, the key issue will always be, whether there is a community school that has community support, that has a community MLA who's willing to step up and be involved in the process, the community MLA who is saying I am going to do everything possible to bring it to the floor of this Legislature, to bring it to the Premier's attention, to bring it to the Minister of Education's attention, to bring it to the federal Member of Parliament's attention, that this community should be treated fairly.

[5:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, that's the key word because these parents from Dominion, these municipal people, these school board members, they're looking at other communities. They're looking at other communities around this province and actually, do schools play a role in the politics of Nova Scotia? Does paving the roads play a role in politics in Nova

[Page 1768]

Scotia? Does the building of recreation facilities play a role in the politics of Nova Scotia? Well, unfortunately, the answer is yes to all three, yes, and that after all is a shame when it comes to patronage paving politics. It's a shame when it comes to announcing recreation and it's a shame when it comes to the building of schools.

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect should know that Elmsdale, Lantz, Enfield and Milford are in an NDP riding and some of the first schools that this government built, if not the first, was in Elmsdale, financed by the conventional, traditional method of financing where the parents and the taxpayers of this province own those schools so that I think that member should stand up and apologize to this government for insinuating that schools are only being built in Tory ridings when the first school built was in an NDP riding. Shame on him.

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

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect, you have about two moments.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Two moments. I want you to know the thing that concerns most about this process. I hear from the MLA for Glace Bay who speaks in this House on this topic. I hear of course from my friend, the member for Cape Breton Centre. I do not hear from the members of that caucus who are members of the government on this topic and I find that unfortunate. If there's going to be a school problem in a particular region of this province, we will speak up. We will have our say.

HON. CECIL CLARKE: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, we've been on this side of the House and I've heard the diatribe from the NDP and the Liberal caucus about the members from Cape Breton not speaking on this. Well, this entire caucus cares about this issue. So if the member wants to address this to my colleague from the mainland who cares enough to get up and address this issue because of the lack of leadership from the Government of Canada on the fundamental issue of subsidence in dealing with the problem, then I suggest I will be happy to speak in this House as a Cape Bretoner any time about any issue or the issues especially for the good people of Dominion.

MR. SPEAKER: It is not a point of order.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect, you have about 40 seconds left.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I have 40 seconds, let me tell you I look forward to going back to Dominion. I look forward to having the opportunity to visit with the parents and the children. I look forward to being in the school in that community, a school that is built because of the right reasons, not because of political reasons, it's built because the community deserves this school, the kids deserve a school. The people of the community

[Page 1769]

have a long rich tradition of involvement and they should have that school in Macdonald High in Dominion. I thank you for your time.

MR. SPEAKER: The time allotted for Resolution No. 17 has expired.

The honourable House Leader for the Official Opposition.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Resolution No. 906.

Res. No. 906, Educ.: Special Educ. Implementation Review Comm. Rept. - Implement - notice given Apr. 28/03 - (Mr. D. Dexter)

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

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, for an opportunity to speak to Resolution No. 906. So that those who are following this debate will know what it is that we're talking about, I would like to begin by just reading the operative clause of the resolution.

You would know, Mr. Speaker, that it reads: "Therefore be it resolved that after 10 years of shameful neglect, this government and the Liberals should commit themselves to the implementation of the Special Education Implementation Review Committee Report so that every child in a Nova Scotia classroom gains the attention and resources they need."

Mr. Speaker, the Special Education Implementation Review Committee was struck in order to look at the implementation of the special education policy of the government that was released in 1996. I think in order to be able to properly situate this, we should understand that a report filed on February 6, 1998 after five years of Liberal Government, stated as follows and I'd like to read this and then I'll table it. This is the work of the Education Funding Review Work Group Report, dated February 6, 1998 and it says, special education is significantly underfunded in relation to current levels of expenditures and needs that are not being addressed. In 1997-98, school boards budgeted to spend $57.3 million on special education programs and services compared to the current funding level of $40.8 million. The work group was advised that school boards should be spending $73 million in this area, representing an overall funding shortfall of $32.2 million.

So, when this government came into office there was already a shortfall in special education funding to the tune of some $32 million. Well, since that time there has been very little in the way of progress made to support students in special education. If I may, I'd like to talk a little bit about those students just to start with.

[Page 1770]

Many of those who require additional resources and assistance in schools are children. Often from the very day that they enter school suffer from difficulties that are not of their own making. These are children who suffer from a hyperactivity disorder, these are children who suffer from attention deficit disorder, these are children with deficits some of which cause disruptive behaviour in the classroom. That does not speak to all those children who suffer from other kinds of problems - both depression and anxiety which may not necessarily lead to behavioural disruptions, but nonetheless create significant challenges for both the teacher in the classroom and for the student themselves. These children need and deserve the best possible resources in order to be able to complete in a reasonable fashion, the education that should be available to all.

For a long time, the first problem we had with special education students was the whole question of identification and diagnosis. A child would go into the school system and have problems. They would have difficulties, but because of the lack of resources, the first problem would be simply trying to figure out what the problem was for this particular child.

As I think everyone knows, because we have better standards for diagnosis, because we have more attention spent on these particular issues, it is now the case that many of these children are diagnosed at a fairly early age. Perhaps not as quickly as we would like to be able to do it, but they are diagnosed at a fairly early age. So early on we identified children who suffer from attention deficit disorder or from hyperactivity or from many of the others. The problem is, after we identify these children, we don't put anything in place in order to assist them. It is only in extreme cases where the disability or the deficits cannot be ignored that the children get the resources that they require.

The special education in this province is dramatically underfunded. This is a major problem, certainly in most schools in this province. The problem is that because these children don't get the resources dedicated to their improvement that they need, the first time they really start to get attention from the system is when they become a Justice problem.

It is at that point that the government decides they're going to start paying attention to these children who have special needs. This happened to a child in my own constituency. I dealt with her mother on numerous occasions. She watched while this child moved from grade level to grade level in the system, not receiving the assistance that she needed in order to be a productive student. The result was that eventually she began to have trouble not only in the school but outside of the school until she became a problem that was then going to be handled, not by the school system, not by the Department of Education, not by the Department of Health, but by the Department of Justice. When you fail to put in place the appropriate resources on the front end, that's where you end up dealing with these children.

Now, we know that many difficulties that children have which are identified when they go to school, can be dealt with and remedied if there is early intervention. The problem, Mr. Speaker, is that although we oftentimes identify the difficulties that particular students

[Page 1771]

are having, we rarely provide enough resources in order to be able to help those children to achieve the results that they could achieve if given a fair opportunity.

Mr. Speaker, the Special Education Implementation Review Committee produced a report that was tabled, I believe, some years ago, I think it's been at least two, maybe more, maybe two and a half years since the Special Education Implementation Review Committee's report was received. It made 34 recommendations. Some of those recommendations were to deal with some fairly straightforward matters. They dealt with things like access to buildings, ensuring there was an appropriate barrier-free access throughout schools. Many of them dealt with programming.

I would like to deal, Mr. Speaker, if I may, with a few of them that I think are particularly important. That's not to say they're more important than others, but they're just ones I have identified, that I see as critical in assisting young people who are in our schools today in achieving the utmost success through their public school career. One of the recommendations on resources and support says, that the Department of Education should define core services and desired service ratios based on recognized professional standards for professional staff at the school board and school levels.

Mr. Speaker, I wouldn't think that this would be a revolutionary approach, that the standards that should be applied to the treatment of children in schools should be the kind of professional standards that we would use in any other setting. That doesn't surprise me that that would be a recommendation of the SEIRC. That isn't the case in our province, not at all. The reality in our province has been that there are significantly less resources available, certainly, than in most other provinces. I know that the minister made a number of announcements recently with respect to investments in special education.

Mr. Speaker, to give you an example, the recommendations of the SEIRC called for an investment of an immediate injection into special education in the order of $20 million. What the minister has announced is $17 million over three years, so essentially a significant significant shortfall in the funding that was recommended by the SEIRC but that's not the only thing. In addition, of that $17 million that was to go toward the implementation of the Special Education Implementation Review Committee's recommendations, two of the things that are going to be funded with the money that the minister announced are something called pilot projects, which are undefined, and something else which is reading recovery. Reading recovery is no doubt a very important thing to be funded, but it wasn't part of the recommendations. Even the announcement of the money that's going to be spent does not address the actual recommendations themselves.

[Page 1772]

[5:15 p.m.]

There are many other very useful recommendations here, Mr. Speaker, but before I wrap up, the one point that I wanted to make and I think it's key to all of this, is that we are committed to the implementation of the recommendations of the Special Education Implementation Review Committee. We have said it over and over again, that it will be a priority for our government that, if we are elected, the $20 million that is outlined in this document, we will invest that because these children deserve to have the attention of their government to meet their needs.

I would like to challenge the government to make the commitment to spend that money on special education, as recommended by their own committee, and I would further like to challenge the Liberal caucus to commit to the full implementation of the SEIRC recommendations. Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, for time today.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.

MR. MARK PARENT: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, and I want to thank the minister for the opportunity to speak on this topic. For some time now I've wanted to say something about the hard work and the emphasis that's given to special needs students in the Annapolis Valley Regional School Board. I want to congratulate the Annapolis Valley Regional School Board for this emphasis. It's one that they've had for many, many years and it's well-known throughout the province that the emphasis on special needs students is one that is very special in the Annapolis Valley Regional School Board.

Hugh Segal, in his book No Surrender, Reflections on a Happy Warrior in the Tory Crusade, has these words to say, and I think these words are exemplified by the people whose names I'm going to mention. He writes government is not for helping the wealthy, the powerful and those with vested interests, last anyone checked they were doing okay. Government is for people who don't have a large union to protect them on their job sites, it's for low income people. It's for coming to the rescue when the odds are so stacked against the little guy that only the government could come to the rescue.

These people whose names I'm going to mention are people who've given yeoman service, above and beyond the call of their jobs in order to care for the vulnerable, to the special needs students, many of whom we know are vulnerable people in our society.

In the Annapolis Valley Regional School Board, Cindy Giffen-Johnson is the coordinator, she oversees the direction of delivery of services to special needs students and that's a delivery that takes place across 42 schools including nine high schools and over 17,200 students. The consultant for students is Greg Mackin, who does excellent service as well and I know him personally, he's a neighbour of mine and he's devoted much of his life to this.

[Page 1773]

Some of the programs that we have that I want to mention are the teacher assistant programs that there are in other school boards as well. In our particular school board, there are 180 full-time teaching equivalent TAs serving 324 category A students. Those are students who require assistance with toileting, mobility, feeding, medical procedures arising from severe learning disorders and medical disorders such as PDD, cerebral palsy or autism.

Another program that is directed to special needs students that really is a model that could be used across the province, Mr. Speaker, is the assistive technology program. The Annapolis Valley Regional School Board has - and I'm not boasting, I really mean this when I say this, I think it's truthful and any objective study would bear this out - the finest assistive technology program in the province, it's called START - Special Needs Technology Assessment Resource Support Team. This team partners with the technical resource centre operated by Mr. James Roy, another neighbour of mine in Canning and it's located within the Kings Regional Rehabilitation Centre. This partnership between Community Services and the Department of Education should really serve as a model for all of us on how to do technology assistance for special needs students.

A third program that we have in the Annapolis Valley Regional School Board that forms a part of the orbit of services for special needs that's made our school board known throughout the province for this emphasis is the career access program for at-risk students, students in Grade 10 to Grade 12. This program, because of the grade level, is found in our high school settings and has had a 10 year history of great success. In fact, the employment rate - and I think this statistic is really quite amazing - the employment rate is 70 per cent for these at-risk students who enter the program. These students, by and large, most of them would not graduate, would not go on to employment and the rate is 70 per cent for this particular program.

A fourth program that we have in the Annapolis Valley Regional School Board that is targeted towards special needs students is transition planning. This is on the opposite end of the scale from the other program I talked about. It addresses the needs of children coming to our schools from early intervention programs. It monitors needs from grade to grade, from school to school and from school to work and to adulthood. We have three transition teams in the Annapolis Valley Regional School Board representing Annapolis, Kings and West Hants. These three teams ensure optimal services are put in operation for needy children. These could range from alternative transportation to seeking appropriate residential and vocational placements upon leaving school.

A fifth program that we have that's an important part of this orbit of services to special needs students is the behaviour intervention and prevention program to ensure safe schools and to try and promote a healthy and a positive learning environment within our schools. Greg Mackin, who I mentioned, is the student consultant services co-ordinator and the staff under him work very hard to intervene early in the lives of young children and their families to help effect positive change. They're also involved with the Department of

[Page 1774]

Education's Code of Conduct Initiatives and are one of the three boards across the province that are participating in a pilot in this particular area. They're in the midst of initiating day services for youth program for students ages 12 - 15 and this is really quite exciting because one of the problems I've seen in my time in government is we silo. Because we silo we don't serve the needs of the citizens, the students in this case, and parents of our society as well as we should.

In order to overcome this, we have a collaboration between family and children's services of Kings County, mental health and justice come together in this committee known as the CAYAK Committee. The CAYAK Committee is chaired by Dr. Jim Gunn who is the superintendent of the school board for the Annapolis Valley regional school society. So the CAYAK Committee is one that has some real potential to bring together and to avoid the siloing and to bring together different resources to help meet the students' needs.

These are just some of the programs, Mr. Speaker, and along with Cindy Giffen-Johnson and Greg Mackin who serve these special needs students, I should mention Kym Hume, she's a consultant with student services who's been seconded until June of this year and to focus specifically on programming with students who suffer from autism and programs for students who require enrichments. She's well known. Kym is well known in local and also in provincial circles for her expertise in these particular areas.

We have speech and language pathologists - we have six of them with the school board who, as I said, these are people who go above and beyond service to help with special needs students - Pam Shelton, Thea Burton, Krista Lunn and Nancy MacKenzie-Childs, Dr. Christine Sloan and Nancy Nuschke. Then we also have learning disability specialists - we have three of these, Marilyn Reeve, Mairi MacIsaac - I don't know if that's any relationship to our Minister of Education - and Karen Dyke. These learning disability specialists provide direct service to students and each of them carry a caseload of 15 students.

We also employ the services provided by APSEA, we have the services of seven personnel through this program who provide services to children who are hearing and/or visually impaired: Ann Marie Leadbeater, Lori Moore, Phyllis Blanche, Lorraine Fisher, Shelly Cue, Peter Fyfe, and Graham Swain, and all these are backed up by Administrative Assistant, Daphne Moore.

We have excellent workers, dedicated staff. These are staff who go above - they don't go home when the job is not done and say their time is over, they put in extra service. I know many of them personally. It's no wonder that our school board has this wonderful history of emphasis on special needs. It's a difficult task. They can always use more resources, I'm sure. I did want to laud them. I've seen them at work for three and a half years now, and I've wanted to have the opportunity to say something about them.

[Page 1775]

On the larger picture, Mr. Speaker, the member opposite has suggested that funding has been cut to our special needs students, but in reality the budget that was passed this past Monday invested more money, targeted to fund school boards for students with special needs. Special education funding has increased from $40.8 million in 1998-99 to $48.5 million in 2003-04 - that's an increase of 19 per cent, which is an excellent increase and one that we should be very proud of. That's the money - just to make it very clear - that the Department of Education tells school boards they must spend on special education. School boards such as mine, indeed, spend more. They choose to spend, across the province, another $30 million. That comes out of the $826 million provincial and municipal funding they receive for the year.

In essence there's really $70 million going to special education through our school boards, and that's a substantial amount of money. As I said, the Annapolis Valley Regional School Board does an excellent job with this and is really a model, I think, in many ways for ministering, for dealing with families and children, for serving families and children, students who have special needs. I know that the minister, in the few minutes left, will be able to give us a little wider picture of this.

I really do appreciate the opportunity to go on, Mr. Speaker, because I've seen this emphasis. I've tried to find out why we have this emphasis, historically, and many people have pointed to the military personnel who have come into Kingston-Greenwood from other areas, who have seen services in other areas and have replicated them and helped to encourage the Annapolis Valley Regional School Board to start such programs. No one has been able to tell me, really, the reason or the rationale, why the Annapolis Valley Regional School Board has this emphasis and is well known for this emphasis, but it's there.

It's an emphasis that's backed up - I've mentioned the staff who are the front-line people there and I've mentioned Dr. Jim Gunn who, in my opinion, is one of the best superintendents in the Province of Nova Scotia. Whenever I'm in the company of the deputy minister - he's a former student, too, of our Minister of Justice - for the Department of Education, he's always talking about the hard work that Dr. Gunn does. He's backed up by a very good board of volunteers. Two from my area, Shirley Jackson, representing Port Williams and part of Canning, and then next door to her, Jennie White, who has come back. She served in the past and has run again and been re-elected. Jenny White lives in Halls Harbour and she has shared responsibility for the Canning High School and for the Kentville schools, Aldershot and KCA, where she has to work with various people.

These are just two of the many board members who, again, are people I cannot say enough about. We work well with them and co-operate with them. Sometimes we have different opinions on things, but we have a wonderful relationship. I think that working together of various departments of the government and various levels of government, in the CAYAC committee, Justice as I said, Mental Health, Family and Children's Services, Department of Education, all coming together so there's not this silo. Then, on the other

[Page 1776]

hand, the school board representatives working with the provincial representation and working with the staff.

I really appreciate this opportunity that the minister gave me, because it is an excellent job that is done in the Annapolis Valley Regional School Board, and I want to laud them for the work that they've done.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Glace Bay.

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, I will just inform you at this time that I will be sharing some of my time with the member for Dartmouth East during this debate.

[5:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, it gives me a great deal of pleasure to stand and debate Resolution No. 906, a resolution which deals with a very serious topic. The resolution itself is somewhat puzzling as well because, as you well know, the resolution by the Leader of the Official Opposition calls eventually for both the government and the Liberals to commit themselves to the implementation of a Special Education - Implementation Review Committee Report. Now, why I find that puzzling is, is it going to be the government that commits itself or is it going to be the potential government that commits itself to that resolution and why the NDP has left themselves out of the mix, so to speak, because perhaps they already know that they really don't have any chance whatsoever of forming the next government?

It is the only conclusion that I can come to, Mr. Speaker. I say that in jest and I say that lightly, but on the topic of special education or special needs, indeed, I don't think, and I know as a matter of fact that former Liberal Governments do not have to take a backseat to anyone on this subject because I know that former Liberal Governments took special needs and special education out of the Dark Ages and that's a fact in this province. I don't think there's anybody who can dispute that, that it was former Liberal Governments that started the ball moving, started the ball moving, and where we're left right now is we're left with schools and school boards currently attempting to provide a very wide range of programming and services for students with special needs, but within financial and other resource limitations and therein lies the problem, that is the problem itself.

Mr. Speaker, we know that educators have made comments on the positive impact on students having a fellow student with special needs in their class and we know educators have observed that inclusion promotes awareness and acceptance of some very diverse needs and at the same time increases a student's knowledge about individual differences and tolerance as well. So those are some very important issues that we deal with on a daily basis on the subject of special education and special needs.

[Page 1777]

Mr. Speaker, you know it's the goal of inclusive schooling to make sure that the membership and the learning of students in school programs and activities and so on - the participation is there, but it's the lack of resources that is jeopardizing the implementation of that goal. That has an impact on not just special needs students, that has an impact on all students in this province.

MR. JERRY PYE: And more so with special needs students.

MR. WILSON: Yes, I agree with my colleague, the member for Dartmouth North, more so with special needs students. That's absolutely right. This is not a matter where there's great disagreement between Parties on what should be implemented and what should be there, but there is a great deal of disagreement, for instance, with this resolution and in the way it is worded. That seems to be the problem.

It's easy for me to stand here and say that inclusion is a major, major part of being a Liberal, period. I could say that politically and say it quite - I could say this is a major part of our Liberal Party's platform, we're proud of it, and would be a major part of any future Party platform as well. This is what Liberals stand for, Mr. Speaker. It's very easy to say that but, you know, as we've said, among many other things lately, such as all of a sudden education and debt reduction, all these great ideas now are so important to the Tories that they've made them a major part of their campaign to try to get re-elected because there's an election coming. It doesn't take much for the light to go on. There's an election coming, soon, very soon, as our Premier once said. I certainly don't know the date or anything, I wouldn't ask that of you - maybe you do, but I wouldn't ask you anyway.

Mr. Speaker, it's coming and that's why, all of a sudden, we see those topics coming up. As I said, I want to share the majority of my time with the member for Dartmouth East because he is a member who has a great deal of experience and a great deal of respect on this subject, as well, and I want him to get his opportunity to speak on this subject. As everyone knows, indeed, this is the right of all of our children, to have open, free access to education. It's not just something that we think of every day, it's in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms in this country. It's also there for equality rights, it's one of the foundations of the whole subject matter.

On that note, Mr. Speaker, as I said and as I stated, we certainly do not take a back seat to anybody on this issue. The fact of the matter is that we started the ball rolling, and we will continue to have that ball move in the right direction. We will continue to see that important things, such as the Special Education Implementation Review Committee Report, are treated as the priority that they should be treated. Having said that, I would now pass over the remainder of my time to my colleague, the member for Dartmouth East.

[Page 1778]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East. You have about six minutes.

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague, the member for Glace Bay who entered in the debate on this very important issue. I agree that this, of all the issues that we discuss in this House, the one that warrants, not of a political intervention, is this issue of education in general, but particularly that of special needs. As other members have mentioned, the special needs is a part of that larger, that bell-shaped curve of students who, on either end of the bell-shaped curve, have special needs. That may well be, as they're called, the gifted children or those who have particular skills in learning and achievement, and also those who have dyslexia, learning disabilities of various types and natures, and mental challenges that have special needs.

The resolution itself was noteworthy. The member for Glace Bay mentioned it as well, that the government and the Liberals seem to be linked there. I expect the NDP have been reading the polls as well. In more likelihood the former government will be between those two Parties, so I suspect that's why they were concerned about our commitment. Our commitment is clear. We have been a Party that has addressed these issues. From 1993 to 1999, there was an 111 per cent increase in teachers' assistants in the school system in Nova Scotia. The number, in that period of time, went from 718 full-time employees to 1,515. That was a significant increase, and I think that speaks well of the commitment.

Our Party is on side, our Leader, Danny Graham and our Party are extremely committed to the special needs of all children, because all children have special needs, some are just different and have more special needs than others. With the inclusion in education that has followed and developed over a while and enhanced the education and development of all children, this has dramatically impacted on the behaviour within the school rooms, the classrooms, and the impact of teaching and the learning of students.

Many times the resources that are required for children with special needs have been outside of the classroom. Whether those services are going to be provided within the Department of Education or the Department of Health or Community Services or whatever has always been and continues to be an ongoing battle. As a practising family physician, I developed a lot of interest in, particularly, learning disabilities. We thought it was a male disorder at that time, we know that not to be true. I look back over my 30 years, after having graduated and working as a family physician from 1964 on - how much knowledge we have now. So the 34 recommendations that were mentioned earlier on the review committee now need to be addressed and followed.

The concerns that I brought to the House of Assembly in 1984, having 20-some years of experience there with trying to coordinate and work with families with children, particularly with special needs and challenges, was sometimes one of frustration, and that frustration still remains to this day. Currently the special education grant provided to the

[Page 1779]

school boards for this current year by the Department of Education is $46 million, and the school boards across the province spent $75 million essentially; in other words there was $29 million that was more than what the department funds for this particular need.

I don't want to dwell totally on funding, but I think this is important because basically this money is coming out of property taxes in our various communities. We have committed as a Party to address those funding formulas and the funding that is targeted for special needs.

The children are at higher risk, generally speaking - those with special needs - and they are in need of quick assessment, whether that's provided by the Department of Education or the Department of Health or whatever. We need coordination by the four departments, Community Services, Health, Education, and Justice, because when those needs are not met and dealt with accordingly those children often come in contact with the Department of Justice. We need within our hospital settings, and whether services are provided, speech pathologists, we need coordinated scheduling and we need coordination. That's why we need the coordination of departments and we need it with the service providers.

Some members spoke of the rights of the child and I think that demonstrates very clearly the rights of the child to be matters relative to literacy, shelter, nutrition and, most of all, personal safety. Those are the needs of all children, but particularly those with special needs. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I want to inform members this morning that I had the wonderful opportunity to visit a school in my community. After Public Accounts it's always convenient, and I know the outside members don't have the opportunity to do this, but you do have that chance on Wednesday to slip out and do some important constituency work.

When I was in Ridgecliff today I had the opportunity to run into an exceptional young man by the name of Martin DeLeon and Martin was a past student of mine and he is a teacher's assistant at Ridgecliff Middle School. Martin has the responsibility of dealing with a high-needs child in that school and the responsibility is one that he, of course, takes very, very seriously. When I was in the school for the few moments this morning, they were planning a musical, and I thought it would be appropriate that I give them some assistance through a donation.

I had the opportunity to visit this young man that Martin DeLeon, the teacher's aide, is responsible for, and let me tell you, I know how proud Martin is of the job that he does. The major concern that has happened in the curriculum in schools across this province in the

[Page 1780]

last 15 years or so is inclusion. It's of real consequence that members present understand inclusion and how valuable it is to young people in our schools. I can tell you that as a teacher you have the wonderful opportunity to deal with children of all kinds of abilities, all kinds of interests and all kinds of capabilities. In each and every classroom that I've been responsible for in my years as a school administrator, there have always been children with special needs. These children with special needs bring special interests to the other children that are in the class. It is truly a learning process. It's a learning process because of the teachers, many of them of my vintage who were in a position of being responsible for children with high needs.

[5:45 p.m.]

Did we have the background? Did we have the expertise to be able to deal with young people with these special needs so different from so many other students in our classes? Some of the same social skills, some of the same social expectations, but for other reasons, academically a different set of skills completely. I think it's really important that we look carefully at this resolution. The concern that comes out and I know that members in the Third Party will be perhaps rather perplexed with this, but let me tell you that when we look at the Education Funding Review Work Group, which is a committee that in February 1998 reported, and I'm quoting from the resolution if I may, Mr. Speaker, "special education is significantly underfunded". That was in 1998.

We just can't continue, as you well know, whether it's the medical system in this province, whether it's the justice system in this province or whether it's the education system in this province, we just can't continue to throw money at it and that will solve the problem. The concern comes down to the fact, particularly when it comes to people in the classroom, people who are directly involved with these young people who are challenged for one reason or another, those are where the dollars must be given priority.

I heard the member for Kings North stand and speak of Dr. Gunn and the good work that he does. I went to university with Dr. Gunn and he is one of the better superintendents in this province. He's accountable, he knows what goes on in his school, but Jim Gunn is a long way away from the student who has high needs or special needs in a particular classroom. It's fine for the member for Kings North to stand in his place and talk about these issues, but I challenge the member for Kings North to walk a mile in the shoes of a teacher that has some of the problems that we can look at today and to look at the limited resources that are available to teachers when they take on this particular issue.

Look at the size of the class first of all. The size of the class can be a contributing factor, whatever that number would be. Let's make it in excess of 30 for the case. In that class you could have three or four children with high needs, with special needs. Maybe you're fortunate enough to have one of those young people who has an aide, who has someone there who can assist that particular young person with some of the work that's

[Page 1781]

available that day to make sure that they're organized and ready to go to the next class. Then when you look at the fact that you also - depending upon the class level, of course, and the course that you're teaching - have a lot of different lesson plans.

Those days where the teacher came in, wrote the lesson on the board and said, that's what we're doing today, class. That doesn't happen any more. It can't happen any more because of the expectations of parents, the expectations of children and the various needs that have to be met in classrooms across this province. The concern however, comes down to the fact that the Special Education Implementation Review Committee confirmed recently that it would cost $20 million to meet minimal improvements that have been recommended.

The concern that comes up with that committee - and I know that the minister and I talked about this during estimates - is that we have to move away from the pilot projects and we have to make sure that the true people involved, the parents, the people that have the most at stake with these young people, are truly feeling that they are part of the process, they are part of the process, they are consulted and they are listened to. It's those parents, the love that they have for these children, the love that they have for all their children.

I can tell you of some tremendously moving school graduations that I've attended. School graduations, of course, Mr. Speaker, there are a lot of awards that are handed out. I'm sure in your duties as the MLA for Cumberland South, you have the opportunity to attend school graduations. I've had the opportunity to attend Sir John A. Macdonald's graduation and I've seen the major awards be presented in physics, in social studies and history and political science.

Then I'm aware of the fact that a young man or a young woman with special needs

of one reason or another comes up onto the stage to receive his or her diploma and the reception that that young person receives from his or her fellow graduates is truly emotional, because many of these other children - young people by the time they're getting out of high school, I should call them more appropriately - many of them have gone to school with some of these young people with special needs who have been included in the regular school system, in the regular classroom where they should be. They have invested in time and in effort in assisting these other students and when they see their fellow graduate walk across that stage and get their diploma, their diploma as a special needs student who is graduating from a school, it is a truly moving moment because those young people in that school appreciate what that student with high needs has taught them.

That student with special needs, high needs, whatever we wish to call it, Mr. Speaker, they've taught the other students in that class patience. They've taught them the fact that you should listen to other people when they have a special need and a special concern. They've also taught them the fact that there is, after all, that opportunity, every class and every day, just to say something special to a certain student who you're in a class with, a student who might need your assistance, not necessarily in the way of a lot of curriculum assistance, but

[Page 1782]

a smile saying you're doing good, I enjoy having you in my class, those are the sorts of special moments that students in schools across this province are benefitting being from because there are these special needs children in our classrooms.

Mr. Speaker, I want to be clear with this and, as you well know, I have many friends - who will still admit that I'm a friend of theirs - who are teacher friends, and they're getting burnt out, they're getting burnt out. They are getting to the stage where they are saying, I don't know if we can just continue this sort of patchwork approach to meeting the various curriculum needs of students who have been included in my classroom. The inclusion process has resulted in the fact that there are many teachers, the caring teacher who is concerned about the progress, the measurable progress of every student. No longer do we teach the middle-needs kids and just allow the high-needs kids - well, they will take care of themselves, or the teacher aide will take care of that. The concern comes down that the curriculum was put in place, the changes were made, but the necessary dollars that are important when you make a curriculum change, such as was decided over a decade and a half ago, that the dollars have to follow those programs and in a substantial way to make sure that the teacher has input, to make sure that a teacher has the assistance but, most importantly, and this is the key thing and I know the previous Minister of Education addressed it during her tenure in the department, the issue of class size must be addressed.

It can no longer just be the magical number, that in Grade 9 there's going to be 30 students or in Grade 7 there's going to be 25. Let's not play that number. Let's look at the composition of a particular class and if in a class of, again let's use the example 25, there are two or three special needs students, then you're looking at a different sort of set of demands upon that particular teacher and you're looking at a different set of demands on the teacher aide who has to work carefully and closely with the set of teachers that he or she is working with.

I want you to know, Mr. Speaker, Martin DeLeon is a special young man. Martin DeLeon works at Ridgecliff Middle School. He has the respect of the teachers. He has the respect of the students that he works with and Martin DeLeon is a valuable component in the successful implementation of curriculum in that school. But there should be more Martin DeLeons and the Martin DeLeons should - and Martin will agree with me on this - receive more training so that he should be able to handle, independently from the teacher, some of the other expectations that parents are placing upon teacher aides. It is a demanding position, a demanding position that requires the assistance of additional funds to make sure that this curriculum change can be put in place.

Mr. Speaker, I can bring to your attention the success of the many challenged young people whom I have had to work with, and I want you to know that it is a wonderful opportunity to see them meet with success, because when they meet with success, our schools, our community, the people who live on their street, they share in that success, Mr. Speaker. They share in that success because they have attained a goal which is measurable,

[Page 1783]

which is attainable, and which makes them feel that they are truly part of the community in which they live and the school they attend.

To the many teachers and the teachers' aides and the parents who have worked so hard to make sure that this funding remains in place, I encourage them to keep up the fight. We will make sure that when the time comes, there will be proper funding, there will be proper staffing, there will be a proper class size, and these young people will not be forgotten.

MR. SPEAKER: The time allotted for Resolution No. 906 has expired.

The honourable House Leader for the Official Opposition.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, that concludes our business for the day. I will turn it over to the Government House Leader to announce tomorrow's hours and business.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government Leader on tomorrow's hours and order of business.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move the House do now rise to meet again on the morrow at the hour of 12:00 noon. The House will sit from 12:00 noon until 8:00 p.m. Following Question Period, the order of business will be Public Bills for Second Reading, and we will start with the continuance of Bill No. 36, the Financial Measures (2003) Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that the House do adjourn until 12:00 noon tomorrow.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The House is adjourned.

We have now reached the moment of interruption.

[Therefore be it resolved that the government's plan for tax relief meets criteria for social fairness and economic effectiveness.]

[Page 1784]

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.

FIN. - TAX RELIEF: SOC./ECON. CRITERIA - COMPLIANCE

MR. MARK PARENT: Mr. Speaker, it will probably surprise no one that I'm not the first in line to speak in favour of tax cuts. In part that's because of what I saw as the ineffectiveness of tax cuts under the Reagan Government in the States in the early part of the 1990s, in part it's also my own lack of clarity and experience about different types of tax cuts, and in part it's because of what some of the leaders in my community are calling for, although I suspect that many of the individuals who don't speak out on this issue really do want a tax cut.

More study and reflection has led me to conclude that there is room for tax cuts and stabilization policies, that is policies in which activated GDP is kept near potential GDP. Specifically what's changed my mind and what's been important to me as I've reflected on this is the effect of globalization on economic planning. I was reading Bob Rae's book, the Three Questions - rereading his book, The Three Questions. This is a point that Bob Rae makes after his own experience as the Premier of Ontario, and he makes it quite strongly, that we are at the end of capital controls.

What he means by that, what Bob Rae means by that, is that we can no longer be isolationist in our economic policies, that Nova Scotia has to watch very carefully what other provinces are doing and has to keep in some measure and in step with other provinces. And when other provinces such as B.C., Alberta, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, New Brunswick, and we're now hearing the new PQ Government not the PQ Government, the Liberal Government in Quebec are also advocating tax cuts, that we really have to take that very seriously because we can't be economic isolationists any more.

This is a real problem, I think, not just in between the provinces, Mr. Speaker, but it's a problem between Canada and the United States. This is an issue that I don't have any answers for, but it's one that I struggle with an awful lot, and that's how we can maintain and enhance a just society in Canada when we live in proximity to the largest economic superpower in the world, a superpower that has a very different perspective on what a just society is all about.

The differential gap between the high- and low-income people is much higher in the States than it is in Canada, and much higher in Canada than it is in a country such as Norway, which has the advantage of being geographically somewhat removed from the United States. Even more frightening than that, and something that we need to wrestle with because of the

[Page 1785]

fact that our trade is so dependent upon the United States, and this was struck home to me in the last episode of the Gulf War number two where there was such fear amongst Canadians and amongst Nova Scotians of the position, the stance that Jean Chrétien took because of the effect that it would have on trade.

[6:00 p.m.]

That was on a moral issue of whether to go to war or not, but the influence from the States and the reprimand that was given by Ambassador Cellucci was such a threat to us because of our dependence economically upon the United States. The fact that 70 per cent of our trade is with the United States. How can we maintain a just society and yet live in this global economic situation next to the United States where most of our trade goes? It's very difficult.

In Ed Broadbent's book, "Democratic Equality: What Went Wrong" there's a very frightening - to my perspective - table or chart in which the question was asked, should the government try to reduce the income gap, the disparity between the rich and the poor? The only country in this chart that more people said they shouldn't than they should was the United States. 69 per cent felt this laissez-faire - leave it alone - and Canadians, 47 per cent said, no, leave it alone; 51 per cent said yes, do something. In Norway, for example to continue in my example, 17 per cent said, no, leave it alone and 80 per cent said yes, do something about it.

So living next to the United States is an issue that as Canadians I'm not sure we know how to deal with in ways that will allow us to be good neighbours and yet to maintain a different tenor within our society and to help out those who are less fortunate.

One of the things that's changed my mind about tax cuts is Bob Rae's comment about living in the end of capital controls and having to take seriously what other jurisdictions are doing. The other is the growing existence of tax loopholes and tax evasions. What those mean when you look at them is that sometimes less is more. Sometimes if you simplify and ask for less tax, you bring more people in so that in the end you end up receiving the same amount of tax or perhaps even more.

There's an interesting biblical story about this less is more in the Book of Judges where Gideon wants to take on his enemy, the Midianites and he gets 32,000 men and God supposedly says, no, you can't do that because if you win the battle everyone will think you won it because of your men, get rid of some of your men. So Gideon gets rid of 22,000 and has a force of 10,000 and God says again to Gideon, no, that's too many because they'll still think that you won this battle because of your own right arm and the force of the army with you so get rid of more of them. Gideon ends up taking on this huge host with 300 men and winning. It's an example of how sometimes less can be more.

[Page 1786]

That's what lies behind - some people call for a flat tax. Henry George called for a flat tax. Henry George was certainly back in the early 1900s, and no right wing ideologue, in fact he was on the opposite side, because he felt if you got rid of the tax loopholes and leavened out the tax field that you would end up with those who had the money paying more tax than they do now because the loopholes would be closed.

The third thing that's influenced me is the rediscovery of Keynesian economics, of the importance of fiscal policy in helping smooth out unemployment rates. That rediscovery has really come about I think because of the low interest rates which mean that monetarist policies where you change the interest rate can't really work any more. People were disenchanted with Keynes before. Keynes basically was, in bad times the government spends through infrastructure or it has tax cuts to put money into the hands of the people and then in good times the government does the opposite.

The problem, of course, with Keynes is that in bad times the government was doing what it was supposed to do, but in good times it wasn't doing the opposite and so countries got into debt. Keynes fell out of favour but he's come back into favour now because when the interest is so low as to 1 per cent, 2 per cent - particularly in China - there is very little that the monetarist policy can do in order to stimulate the economy and in order to help unemployment go down.

The rediscovery of Keynesian economics has influenced me to look at tax cuts once again along with the global nature of the economy and the existence of so many tax loopholes. The question is, Mr. Speaker, what type of tax cuts? I forget what episode it was of The West Wing, but I remember watching it and the staffers at the White House democratically controlled the White House in that TV show and were talking about tax cuts and they said, "our tax cuts are different than theirs" - they were comparing them, I guess, with Reagan's tax cuts and saying Reagan's taxes were different.

All tax cuts aren't the same. Tax cuts must be big enough to provide an economic stimulus, but not too big. They must be given quickly in order to provide psychological stimulus and they must be targeted to the lower economic groups because of the principle of justice and the greater likelihood that that group will spend the money and get the money recirculating in the economy.

That's why I want to speak very quickly - I'm running out of time, Mr. Speaker - in favour of the $155. Many people have derided this, but actually this fits. James Tobin, the great economist, really said that the Reagan tax cut was all wrong. What was needed was to give money to the lower classes and to do it in a way because they would be the ones who needed to spend it, it would circulate faster, and it met the principle of justice. The $155 does that in a way that is really unique, and I've run out of time talking about it, but I would like to defend it more.

[Page 1787]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member's time has expired. Thank you.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the honourable member for Kings North for bringing this resolution to the floor and I want to read the resolution so the public out there who may be watching Legislative TV fully understands what the resolution says. The resolution states:

"Therefore be it resolved that the government's plan for tax relief meets criteria for social fairness and economic effectiveness."

That member for Kings North, Mr. Speaker, stood here and spoke about the global economy and our need to tie, to fit into the global economy. The member can very well speak about that and he can speak about a number of issues around the economics of this. The fact of the matter is that he said nothing with respect to the resolution and why he felt that his government in this tax relief meets the criteria for social fairness and economic effectiveness. He said nothing about the criteria that his government has set out to justify the $155 tax relief going to 464,000 Nova Scotians, and 300,000 Nova Scotians will not benefit from the spoils of this government - 300,000 Nova Scotians, which that member for Kings North knows because he works at a parish and he works in a community where many people work on behalf of individuals who are the less fortunate in our society.

Mr. Speaker, I would speak about Feed My Lambs, which is a non-denominational organization that works on behalf of those less fortunate individuals in the Annapolis Valley area, and I know the member for Kings North has attended a number of public meetings with respect to what that honourable member knows that the Feed My Lambs organization has requested of the government. He also knows that the money is better benefiting the economy by going to those 300,000 less fortunate.

Mr. Speaker, yesterday I made comment with respect to the honourable member for Kings North and why he, as a professor of ethics, could not convince his government that this was a right approach, that everyone benefits in the spoils of a government's balanced budget and a surplus, but that honourable member had the opportunity to do that. He knows full well that the 300,000 Nova Scotians who will not open their mailbox to a $155 cheque are those individuals who are disabled, who have no other source of income, those individuals who are impoverished, who have no money, but are receiving a monthly income from the Department of Community Services. He also is very much aware that there are working poor who will not receive a $155 cheque because their income is supplemented by the Department of Community Services - as well as seniors.

[Page 1788]

Mr. Speaker, that member and that government is very much aware that if that money is put into the hands of those individuals, it is more likely to flow through the economy. Those individuals won't spend that money to take a vacation to New York, or any other part of this province. Those individuals won't spend that money to purchase an antique, or an artifact, or something that may not have the kind of value that those individuals think, but have important value to others. Those individuals - 300,000 Nova Scotians - who will not be receiving this cheque, those individuals would have spent that money in the small businesses that would keep the economy flowing. Those small businesses, in turn, would pay the tax dollars which in turn would come back to government.

Therein lies the inequities. If a government is prepared to make sure that all of its citizens benefit from its administration during its term in office, and if that government is going to introduce programs and services or take away from programs and services that may affect individuals in this society, to produce a balanced budget, then everyone should benefit from the spoils of that balanced budget. The member for Kings North is absolutely right. There are people out there who will be expecting this cheque and rightly so. They might very well deserve that cheque of $155. There may very well be a need for some kind of a tax break for those individuals, but what I'm saying is there is a need for everyone to benefit from the government's advantage to reduce the debt, to balance the budget and create surpluses.

It's extremely difficult at times to be before this Legislative Assembly when you witness what appears to be some inequities. Here, in my opinion, is the greatest inequity because those individuals have suffered more - I mean those individuals being the 300,000 Nova Scotians - have paid a greater price for this balancing of the budget than any other Nova Scotian. Those individuals saw the reductions in the services and programs. Those individuals witnessed the reduction in their standard of living and their income. If one can only believe that Statistics Canada and the report from the National Council of Welfare, which specifically stated during this government's term in office that Nova Scotian children and families living in poverty have become poorer in the last four years.

Those are not my statistics. That's Stats Canada and the National Council of Welfare, an extremely reputable group which I know the honourable member for Kings North would not take exception to the data that they have produced with respect to Nova Scotia. The evidence is before us. We can choose not to agree or we can choose to ignore it, but when you go to your constituency and when the member for Kings North goes to his constituency, the member for Dartmouth East or this member for Dartmouth North, we will meet with advocacy groups and agencies who do the job of government and who do the job quite well. Those advocacy groups and agencies out there will tell you that the government could have very well designed the surplus that it has generated over the last couple of years into a more fairer social justice and a greater economic balance by providing those individuals in Nova Scotia who could very well need it.

[Page 1789]

I can sit here and I can name some 47 different agencies that deal with persons with intellectual disabilities. I can deal with probably 120 different agencies and organizations out of the Department of Community Services, all who can speak quite more eloquently than I on the issue of social fairness and economic justice and all know the kind of role which it plays with respect to our role in the global economy. All who know full well that if we look south of the border and because we have to take that trek south of the border, the many towns and cities which are now collapsing and going broke in the United States as a result of people

wanting to pay their own way and not asking for fairness in property taxes, State governments that have turned around and reduced individual taxes, and so on and so forth, as a way to go. All of that is crumbling before them. There are many reports that can identify and pick that out.

[6:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, we can go down that road, and every time you provide tax relief rather than put those tax dollars into social programs, then somebody pays. Those people who can least afford to pay the most expensive price of all, because they don't get the social programs, nor can they afford to pay their own way. It's okay if you have the dollars to pay your own way, but it's extremely difficult if you don't have those dollars.

Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for Kings North for giving me the opportunity to speak to an issue that I find extremely dear to my heart.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Dartmouth North for his comments, and also the member for Kings North for introducing this resolution at the adjournment hour. It's an attempt, I think, to put a human face on what many members of this Legislature have been calling quite a crass election ploy to buy votes of Nova Scotians through two programs, basically; one that seems to be of some urgency, the mailing out of $155 cheques to those who have filed income tax - as the member for Dartmouth North has mentioned, that would exclude 300,000 people in Nova Scotia - and also the 10 per cent personal tax relief that would start somewhere in the following year.

So we're looking at social fairness and economic effectiveness. That is fine. The honourable member for Kings North, the two books I heard him quote, particularly the one by Bob Rae, who I think we all have to have respect for across this country, although his term in office in Ontario was not one of a star-studded cast, when he lost about 13 Cabinet Ministers somewhere along the way and brought the richest province in Canada to its knees, economically, I'm not quite sure what provided the light on the road to the Damascus for the member for Kings North from Bob Rae's comments. Recently, I heard Mr. Rae speak at a lecture, and following that he was on a panel. I always listen to what he says, and I think how

[Page 1790]

someone can sound so good and do so badly. Sometimes this whole idea of what is social fairness, and economic effectiveness is sometimes misrepresented along the way.

I have no such criticism of the Old Testament. I think it stands on its own. It's been around for quite a while and has done quite a good job. I think the point that he made was, smaller can sometimes be better.

What we're looking at in the resolution is some sort of a trickle-down effect. Well, you can't have a trickle-down effect when you're putting this so-called tax relief program into effect, and it will really impact on the rich. If you look at the amounts the 10 per cent will impact on the rich, it's going to be far greater than those people on the lower end of the scale, and those who need relief, the working poor, as was mentioned earlier, also those people who will not receive any at all.

In our time in government, from 1993-99, we had many struggles, and Premier Savage at that time did bring in a three-point tax relief for Nova Scotia personal income tax I think on July 1, 1997. That was an initiative there under difficult circumstances, financially, that we tried to do, similar to what is being proposed here. I don't think many Nova Scotians realize that that took place at that time, unless their accountant happened to point it out to them at the time of their income tax.

Anyway, this sort of social fairness and economic effectiveness coming from these two types of programs, I think it's a good attempt, and that's why I compliment the member here this evening for having this on the agenda. I think it should be debated from that particular point of view. Is it socially fair to borrow money to send out $155 cheques, probably just before an election, I would assume within maybe weeks or days or whatever? While it's commendable, is that getting to where the tax relief is necessary? I look at the Appropriations Act of 2003 and we see the first time, I believe, that the debt service cost in this province will be over $1 billion and it will go ahead of what is being spent for education.

I don't want to dwell on the negatives the same way, either in education or in health, I think we have to look forward and try to do better. There's been challenges and we have made great progress in both, but we have our challenges with education. With education, I think there will be better use of our health care system. More smoking is hurting people with less education so the whole wellness issue of people being responsible for their own health, this all ties in with a good education program. When we're suffering in education, in the programs, either in achievement tests or standards across this country and shaping up in comparison to other provinces or it's just that it lacks a core curriculum. What is not necessarily fringes or frills of music programs, activity, sports programs. We know, for instance, in Saskatchewan, a province with a similar population as Nova Scotia, there's twice the number of students involved in sports than what there are in Nova Scotia. So we have great needs and we don't need to be adding to that debt unnecessarily.

[Page 1791]

This is a government that is realizing $1 billion more in revenues than previously. That's the total increase in that. I just find it difficult to believe that is so, but we've seen more money coming from Ottawa, there's increased revenues within the province in taxation and fees and that sort of thing. The money is there and our question on this side of the House, at least from our caucus, is why can't it be better managed? To have poor management of all this increased money that's coming into the province, then you add the borrowing, then you increase your debt services that overtake the money you're spending in education. As I tried to mention earlier, without a comprehensive, broad, integrated education program that allows children to be educated and to develop and to empower themselves to an enriched life, then the future is not optimistic if we're not achieving there.

So we're really saddling them not only with debt, but we're saddling them with a less proper education and ways to tackle their own lifestyles. We know that chronic illnesses - 40 per cent of them are preventable. Those are the things that you must learn as a young person. You can learn them in your family, from your home, from your friends, your peer group, but it needs to be a good education system that will support those initiatives. It will be a total, educated, healthy person and then there's social fairness there and there's also economic effectiveness in better survival rates, healthier, more active people. People that will not have to depend on home care programs, long-term care, and even palliative care.

The 10 per cent really impacts on the rich, the $155 cheque many will not get and it's going to be interesting around the coffee shops and the seniors' clubs and that. Let them see what they think is social fairness when some are getting the cheques and some aren't. You can say, well it's fair if you didn't pay any income tax, you don't deserve it, but I don't think that's the way it's going to be perceived. I think the government has a little concern about that. If that's what the honourable member for Kings North's position is on social fairness, then I think he and I are coming from different backgrounds and different philosophies as to where the real needs are and what social fairness and justice is.

The crux of the matter, I guess, specifically is the issue of borrowing money to give this particular tax relief. The money, the revenues of the province, whether it's from Ottawa or from the sales down the street in the corner store, this government has had an opportunity. If they can manage their spending and do it in an effective way - I still can't figure out the health care system. I happened to have been a Minister of Health for a period of time. I don't know where all that extra money is going in this system. We learned today that we have a hospital and our most vulnerable people are in that hospital in an isolated community and they're not going to have medical and psychiatric coverage during particular hours of the day. That is just - I cannot understand. That is not social fairness and that's just another example.

[Page 1792]

MR. SPEAKER: The time allotted for the debate has expired. I would like to thank the members for taking part in the debate this evening.

The House is adjourned until noon tomorrow.

[The House rose at 6:26 p.m]

[Page 1793]

NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)

RESOLUTION NO. 970

By: Hon. Cecil Clarke (Economic Development)

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

Whereas Royal Canadian Legion Branch 12 has now served veterans for over seven decades and become an integral part of Sydney's community; and

Whereas this year marks the 75th Anniversary of Branch 12, it is a good occasion for veterans, community leaders and friends alike to acknowledge the role and hard work of Legion members over the past years; and

Whereas to mark this milestone, events are planned throughout the year and a souvenir book is being developed to depict the 75-year history of Branch 12;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the members of the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 12 on their 75th Anniversary and salute them for their long and outstanding service to the community.

RESOLUTION NO. 971

By: Mr. Frank Chipman (Annapolis)

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

Whereas residents and neighbours of Granville Ferry have proven that they are happy and willing to financially support the things that make their community vibrant; and

Whereas reflecting their strong community spirit and their value for the performing arts in their area, the second annual International Feast raised almost $8,000 in support of the Granville Ferry Summer Dance Program; and

Whereas this successful dinner and auction didn't come about without a great deal of effort from many people including the organizing committee, at least 80 volunteers, as well as dozens of people who donated items and services for the auction and prepared dishes for the meal;

[Page 1794]

Therefore be it resolved that all the members of this House applaud the great effort of those who made Granville Ferry's International Feast such a success and thank those who came out in support of this worthwhile event.

RESOLUTION NO. 972

By: Mr. James DeWolfe (Pictou East)

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

Whereas the Joe Lamontagne Memorial Tournament was recently held in Cole Harbour and two boys on the Westville Miners' Atom B hockey team picked up major awards; and

Whereas Blaine Gordon was runner-up for best goalie in the shootout; and

Whereas Chance Lays was named top shooter;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Blaine Gordon and Chance Lays on their success at the tournament and wish them continued success in their future endeavours.

RESOLUTION NO. 973

By: Mrs. Muriel Baillie (Pictou West)

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

Whereas participating students of West Pictou High School were the winners at the annual Call to Remembrance held at the Pictou Legion; and

Whereas the competition commemorates the military history of all Canadians; and

Whereas also participating in the event were students from Stellarton Junior High School and McCulloch Junior High School;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the participating students of West Pictou High School on winning the annual Call to Remembrance competition and commend all those who work to preserve our military history.

[Page 1795]

RESOLUTION NO. 974

By: Hon. Rodney MacDonald (Tourism and Culture)

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

Whereas Nova Scotia has celebrated Education Week since the 1930s, this year honouring the province's educators at an awards ceremony to be held at Sackville Heights Junior High School; and

Whereas 23 teachers received a nomination under this year's theme, "Physical Education: stimulating the mind and body", all having made significant contributions in the area of physical education; and

Whereas Kevin MacRae of Riverside/George D. Lewis is one of these skilled educators making inroads with Nova Scotia's youth;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Kevin MacRae on receiving one of this year's honours and wish him continued success in the future.

RESOLUTION NO. 975

By: Mr. Cecil O'Donnell (Shelburne)

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

Whereas Nova Scotia has celebrated Education Week since the 1930s, this year honouring the province's educators at an awards ceremony to be held at Sackville Heights Junior High School; and

Whereas 23 teachers received a nomination under this year's theme, "Physical Education: stimulating the mind and body", all having made significant contributions in the area of physical education; and

Whereas John Roscoe of Hillcrest Academy is one of these skilled educators making inroads with Nova Scotia's youth;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate John Roscoe on receiving one of this year's honours and wish him continued success in the future.

[Page 1796]

RESOLUTION NO. 976

By: Mr. Richard Hurlburt (Yarmouth)

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

Whereas Nova Scotia has celebrated Education Week since the 1930s, this year honouring the province's educators at an awards ceremony to be held at Sackville Heights Junior High School; and

Whereas 23 teachers received a nomination under this year's theme, "Physical Education: stimulating the mind and body", all having made significant contributions in the area of physical education; and

Whereas Bruce Hobbs of Arcadia School is one of these skilled educators making inroads with Nova Scotia's youth;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Bruce Hobbs on receiving one of this year's honours and wish him continued success in the future.

RESOLUTION NO. 977

By: Hon. Gordon Balser (Agriculture and Fisheries)

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

Whereas Nova Scotia has celebrated Education Week since the 1930s, this year honouring the province's educators at an awards ceremony to be held at Sackville Heights Junior High School; and

Whereas 23 teachers received a nomination under this year's theme, "Physical Education: stimulating the mind and body", all having made significant contributions in the area of physical education; and

Whereas Alan Ferguson of Islands Consolidated School is one of these skilled educators making inroads with Nova Scotia's youth;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Alan Ferguson on receiving one of this year's honours and wish him continued success in the future.

[Page 1797]

RESOLUTION NO. 978

By: Mrs. Muriel Baillie (Pictou West)

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

Whereas Nova Scotia has celebrated Education Week since the 1930s, this year honouring the province's educators at an awards ceremony to be held at Sackville Heights Junior High School; and

Whereas 23 teachers received a nomination under this year's theme, "Physical Education: stimulating the mind and body", all having made significant contributions in the area of physical education; and

Whereas Terry Hilchey of West Pictou Consolidated School is one of these skilled educators making inroads with Nova Scotia's youth;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Terry Hilchey on receiving one of this year's honours and wish him continued success in the future.

RESOLUTION NO. 979

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 Nova Scotia has celebrated Education Week since the 1930s, this year honouring the province's educators at an awards ceremony to be held at Sackville Heights Junior High School; and

Whereas 23 teachers received a nomination under this year's theme, "Physical Education: stimulating the mind and body", all having made significant contributions in the area of physical education; and

Whereas Wayne Burke of Windsor Regional High School is one of these skilled educators making a significant contribution with Nova Scotia's youth;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Wayne Burke on receiving one of this year's honours and wish him continued success in the future.

[Page 1798]

RESOLUTION NO. 980

By: Mr. Frank Chipman (Annapolis)

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

Whereas Nova Scotia has celebrated Education Week since the 1930s, this year honouring the province's educators at an awards ceremony to be held at Sackville Heights Junior High School; and

Whereas 23 teachers received a nomination under this year's theme, "Physical Education: stimulating the mind and body", all having made significant contributions in the area of physical education; and

Whereas Ruth Gaudet of Bridgetown Regional Elementary School is one of these skilled educators making inroads with Nova Scotia's youth;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Ruth Gaudet on receiving one of this year's honours and wish her continued success in the future.

RESOLUTION NO. 981

By: Hon. Ernest Fage (Energy)

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

Whereas Nova Scotia has celebrated Education Week since the 1930s, this year honouring the province's educators at an awards ceremony to be held at Sackville Heights Junior High School; and

Whereas 23 teachers received a nomination under this year's theme, "Physical Education: stimulating the mind and body", all having made significant contributions in the area of physical education; and

Whereas Robert Nogler of Pugwash District High School is one of these skilled educators making inroads with Nova Scotia's youth;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Robert Nogler on receiving one of this year's honours and wish him continued success in the future.

[Page 1799]

RESOLUTION NO. 982

By: Hon. Neil LeBlanc (Finance)

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

Whereas Nova Scotia has celebrated Education Week since the 1930s, this year honouring the province's educators at an awards ceremony to be held at Sackville Heights Junior High School; and

Whereas 23 teachers received a nomination under this year's theme, "Physical Education: stimulating the mind and body", all having made significant contributions in the area of physical education; and

Whereas Kevin Gallant of École Beaubassin is one of these skilled educators making inroads with Nova Scotia's youth;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Kevin Gallant on receiving one of this year's honours and wish him continued success in the future.

RESOLUTION NO. 983

By: Hon. Neil LeBlanc (Finance)

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

Whereas Nova Scotia has celebrated Education Week since the 1930s, this year honouring the province's educators at an awards ceremony to be held at Sackville Heights Junior High School; and

Whereas 23 teachers received a nomination under this year's theme, "Physical Education: stimulating the mind and body", all having made significant contributions in the area of physical education; and

Whereas Laurent Landry of École Jean-Marie-Gay is one of these skilled educators making inroads with Nova Scotia's youth;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Laurent Landry on receiving one of this year's honours and wish him continued success in the future.

[Page 1800]

RESOLUTION NO. 984

By: Mr. Kerry Morash (Queens)

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

Whereas Nova Scotia has celebrated Education Week since the 1930s, this year honouring the province's educators at an awards ceremony to be held at Sackville Heights Junior High School; and

Whereas 23 teachers received a nomination under this year's theme, "Physical Education: stimulating the mind and body", all having made significant contributions in the area of physical education; and

Whereas Sue Smith of Hebbville Academy is one of these skilled educators making inroads with Nova Scotia's youth;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Sue Smith on receiving one of this year's honours and wish her continued success in the future.

RESOLUTION NO. 985

By: Mr. Kerry Morash (Queens)

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

Whereas Nova Scotia has celebrated Education Week since the 1930s, this year honouring the province's educators at an awards ceremony to be held at Sackville Heights Junior High School; and

Whereas 23 teachers received a nomination under this year's theme, "Physical Education: stimulating the mind and body", all having made significant contributions in the area of physical education; and

Whereas J. Leo Campbell of South Queens Junior High School is one of these skilled educators making inroads with Nova Scotia's youth;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate J. Leo Campbell on receiving one of this year's honours and wish him continued success in the future.

[Page 1801]

RESOLUTION NO. 986

By: Hon. Rodney MacDonald (Tourism and Culture)

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

Whereas Nova Scotia has celebrated Education Week since the 1930s, this year honouring the province's educators at an awards ceremony to be held at Sackville Heights Junior High School; and

Whereas 23 teachers received a nomination under this year's theme, "Physical Education: stimulating the mind and body", all having made significant contributions in the area of physical education; and

Whereas Mary Lou Andrea of Florence Elementary School and a CBVRSB Consultant is one of these skilled educators making inroads with Nova Scotia's youth;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Mary Lou Andrea on receiving one of this year's honours and wish her continued success in the future.