Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

Les travaux de la Chambre ont repris le
21 septembre 2017

HANSARD 03-24

DEBATES AND PROCEEDINGS

Speaker: Honourable Murray Scott

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

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

Annual subscriptions available from the Office of the Speaker.

Third Session

THURSDAY, MAY 1, 2003

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS:
Serv. N.S. & Mun. Rel. - Safety Helmet Regulations, Hon. P. Christie 1804
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 987, Sport. (N.S.) - Milk Energy Sport Fair: Production -
Recognize, Hon. Rodney MacDonald 1806
Vote - Affirmative 1807
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 988, Liberals (N.S.) - Insurance: Priority - Explain, Mr. D. Dexter 1807
Res. 989, MacLeod, Chief Edgar: Police Force Order of Merit -
Congrats., Mr. Manning MacDonald 1808
Vote - Affirmative 1808
Res. 990, Relay for Life: Participants - Congrats., (by Mr. W. Dooks)
The Speaker 1809
Vote - Affirmative 1809
Res. 991, Nat. Res. - Forest Demographics: Method - Implement,
Mr. J. MacDonell 1809
Res. 992, Prem.: Service Provision - Inadequacy, Mr. M. Samson 1810
Res. 993, Jessome, Mr. Robin: Talent/Dedication - Applaud,
Mr. F. Chipman 1811
Vote - Affirmative 1812
Res. 994, Insurance - Conservatives: Consumer Protections - Adopt,
Mr. F. Corbett 1812
Res. 995, Gaelic Culture: Importance - Applaud, Mr. K. MacAskill 1813
Vote - Affirmative 1814
Res. 996, Insurance - Rates: Hamm Gov't. - Roll Back, Mr. J. Pye 1814
Res. 997, Fin. - Min.: New Mathematician - Hail, Mr. P. MacEwan 1815
Res. 998, Clarke, Haylett - Curling Team: President's Trophy -
Congrats., Mr. J. DeWolfe 1816
Vote - Affirmative 1816
Res. 999, Willison, Martin: Cdn. Geographic Award - Congrats.,
Mr. Robert Chisholm 1817
Vote - Affirmative 1817
Res. 1000, Gov't. (N.S.): Catastrophic Drug Prog. - Implement,
Dr. J. Smith 1817
Res. 1001, Smyth, Cst. Stephen: Dedication - Recognize,
Ms. M. McGrath 1818
Vote - Affirmative 1819
Res. 1002, Sports - East. Passage Educ. Ctr.: Wrestling Champs -
Congrats., Mr. K. Deveaux 1819
Vote - Affirmative 1820
Res. 1003, Insurance: NDP Proposal - Introduce, Mr. P. MacEwan 1820
Res. 1004, Brannen, Luke/Wickens, Jim: Tri-County Dist. Sch.
Bd. Science Fair - Congrats., Mr. C. O'Donnell 1821
Vote - Affirmative 1821
Res. 1005, Manning, Belinda: Cdn. Geographic Award - Congrats.,
Mr. G. Steele 1822
Vote - Affirmative 1823
Res. 1006, Cook, Judy: Retirement - Congrats., Hon. M. Baker 1823
Vote - Affirmative 1823
Res. 1007, Parent, Mark: Hist. Book - Consult, Mr. M. Samson 1824
Res. 1008, Milburn, Doug - Stadacona Band: Contribution - Thank,
Mr. G. Steele 1824
Vote - Affirmative 1825
Res. 1009, Shannon, Joe: Hartery Award - Congrats.,
Mr. Ronald Chisholm 1825
Vote - Affirmative 1826
Res. 1010, Sports - Truro Hub Club: Girls Volleyball Champs -
Congrats., Hon. J. Muir 1826
Vote - Affirmative 1827
Re. 1011, Penney, Gary - Fed. of Anglers & Hunters: Pres. -
Re-Election Congrats., Hon. M. Baker 1827
Vote - Affirmative 1827
Res. 1012, Harbax Home Hardware: Success - Congrats., Hon. C. Clarke 1828
Vote - Affirmative 1828
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 233, Insurance - Rate Reduction: Legislation - Introduce,
Mr. D. Dexter 1829
No. 234, Fin. - Pension Plans: Status - Table, Mr. M. Samson 1830
No. 235, Insurance - Companies: Abuse - Toleration Explain,
Mr. D. Dexter 1832
No. 236, Educ. - Univ. Funding: Investment - Realize, Mr. D. Wilson 1833
No. 237, Health - Long-Term Care: Seniors Costs - Injustices,
Mr. D. Dexter 1834
No. 238, Educ.: Tuition Fees - Freeze, Mr. W. Estabrooks 1835
No. 239, Energy - Houston Conf.: Attendees - List Table,
Mr. Manning MacDonald 1837
No. 240, Fin. - Casino: EI Decision - Gov't. (N.S.) Action, Mr. G. Steele 1838
No. 241, Health: Suicide Prevention Plan - Details,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 1840
No. 242, Commun. Serv.: RRSS Strike - Actions, Dr. J. Smith 1841
No. 243, Commun. Serv. - RRSS Negotiations: Gov't. (N.S.)
Participation - Confirm, Mr. J. Pye 1842
No. 244, Educ. - Shelburne Sch.: Progress - Update, Mr. D. Wilson 1843
No. 245, Aboriginal Affs. - Millbrook Trailer Ct.: Relocation -
Details, Mr. J. Pye 1844
No. 246, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Meat Cove Residents: Neglect -
Explain, Mr. K. MacAskill 1845
No. 247, Educ. - Families: Student Loan Probs. - Min. Assist,
Mr. D. Dexter 1847
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 36, Financial Measures (2003) Act 1847
Amendment [debate resumed] 1848
Mr. D. Wilson 1848
Mr. D. Dexter 1861
Mr. P. MacEwan 1869
Mr. F. Corbett 1877
Mr. K. MacAskill 1885
Mr. W. Estabrooks 1894
Mr. J. Holm 1906
Vote - Negative 1913
Hon. R. Russell 1913
Debate Adjourned 1913
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Commun. Serv. - RRSS Strike: Min. - Negotiate:
Mr. G. Steele 1914
Hon. D. Morse 1917
Mr. P. MacEwan 1919
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Fri., May 2nd at 9:00 a.m. 1922
NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3):
Res. 1013, Gerrior, Bill - France and Acadie: Publication - Congrats.,
Mr. F. Chipman 1923
Res. 1014, Deveau, Remi: Educ. Wk. Award - Congrats.,
Hon. A. MacIsaac 1923
Res. 1015, Lyghtle, Iris: Educ. Wk. Award - Congrats.,
Hon. A. MacIsaac 1924
Res. 1016, Jeffries, Brendon: Educ. Wk. Award - Congrats.,
Hon. A. MacIsaac 1924
Res. 1017, Morrison, Don: Educ. Wk. Award - Congrats.,
Hon. A. MacIsaac 1925
Res. 1018, Cameron, Owen: Educ. Wk. Award - Congrats.,
Hon. A. MacIsaac 1925
Res. 1019, Digout, Billy: Educ. Wk. Award - Congrats.,
Hon. A. MacIsaac 1926
Res. 1020, Power, Jim: Educ. Wk. Award - Congrats.,
Mr. Ronald Chisholm 1926
Res. 1021, Dunham, Debbie: Educ. Wk. Award - Congrats.,
Hon. T. Olive 1927

[Page 1803]

HALIFAX, THURSDAY, MAY 1, 2003

Fifty-eighth General Assembly

Third Session

12:00 NOON

SPEAKER

Hon. Murray Scott

DEPUTY SPEAKERS

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

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

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Community Services should stop making excuses and instead negotiate an end to the strike at the Regional Residential Services Society.

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

We will begin the daily routine.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

1803

[Page 1804]

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

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

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, today I want to share with the members here details about what the government is doing to improve safety across this province. As of today, new safety helmet regulations are coming into effect. Safety helmets are an effective way for people who use bicycles, motorcycles, in-line skates, skateboards, and scooters, to minimize the risk of their injury.

Mr. Speaker, we are updating the existing regulations for people who use motorcycles and bicycles and introducing new regulations for those who use in-line skates, scooters, and skateboards. By consolidating the existing regulations, the new regulations into one, we are reducing red tape, making it easier for police, for the people who use these devices, for everyone to understand the law.

As well, we are updating the motorcycle and bicycle helmet regulations, as many of the reference standards have changed over the years. The new regulations for in-line skates, scooters, and skateboards reflect the continuing popularity of these devices. These regulations are designed to minimize the risk of injury to people who use these devices. While head traumas are relatively low in this province, the long-term effects can be devastating. To allow people to ensure they have proper safety helmets, we are recommending to our policing partners that there be a grace period until July 1, 2003, for people who use in-line skates, skateboards, and scooters. As safety helmet regulations already exist for bicycles and motorcycles, there will be no grace period for people using these vehicles.

Mr. Speaker, it is important to note that those who already have safety helmets will not likely need to buy new helmets. New helmets will not be required for anyone who is using a certified helmet in the way the manufacturer intended. As I mentioned, as the manufacturer intended is a key point. The regulations are designed to protect somebody who uses a vehicle or recreational device in a normal manner. They are not intended to protect people involved in stunts or competitions. As one would expect, the dangers are much higher in these situations and extra cautions should be taken. Similarly, a helmet certified for skateboard use is not acceptable for somebody riding a motorcycle.

We look to adults to set good examples for the younger members of our society. If children and youth see their parents, their neighbours and their relatives observing the law, it is likely the young people will adopt these safety measures. This is one more step the government is taking to make the roads and the people who use them, safer. Thank you.

[Page 1805]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the minister for both the statement and the courtesy of allowing me to see the statement in advance of his reading it in the House today.

The minister's emphasis on safety for those who are out on the roads and not in motor vehicles is very important. I think everything that has been said is measured and correct. I look forward to actually reading the details of the regulations to get a better grasp of the exact details of how they will apply but the main thrust, which is to emphasize safety for the people who are on scooters, bicycles, and skateboards, is indeed the correct way to go. I'm glad the minister and his department are turning their minds to this important matter. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the honourable minister for sharing an earlier report of his ministerial statement.

I'm pleased to rise on behalf of my colleague, the honourable member for Clare, to respond to the ministerial statement with regard to helmet regulations. When I brought forward a Private Members' Bill, which was tabled in this House in the Spring of 2001, I stated then that I did so not to embarrass the government in any way, I did so because I thought the issue was important enough to prod the government into action.

There are still people out there in our communities who are saying, this is not an issue, people should have a choice. But the studies, and having seen children and people of all ages damaged by injuries from scooters, bicycles, and motorcycles, then that surely is enough to prompt anyone to bring forward this type of legislation. I'm pleased to say that it worked and it worked, finally - a little late maybe, some two years late, but it worked.

I must say from the outset that I'm disappointed that it has taken the government so long to move on this issue. They tabled a bill here a year ago and today they stand in their place and say that they are now ready and I congratulate them on that, finally. However, they have allowed a grace period until July 1, 2003, which I can understand but the grace period could have come earlier if this government had moved on this issue a little faster.

This is a common-sense piece of legislation. Anyone who has seen the effects of a head or brain injury knows full well the importance of ensuring that our children and our adults are well-protected when engaged in recreational activities.

I couldn't help but note the number of bicycle users in HRM who are riding bikes without helmets. I would hope the Minister of Justice plays a role in addressing this issue, as well as insuring that this piece of legislation is enforced. There is a role he must play, and

[Page 1806]

I encourage, very strongly, that the Minister of Justice does so. While, like speeding, the police cannot stop everyone who violates the law, the numbers of those not wearing helmets is far too high throughout the province. They are putting their own lives at risk, perhaps even the lives of others.

This is an education and it's an enforcement issue. In the Spring of 2001, when this government debated the merits of the Private Members' Bill, the then-minister indicated that this is an issue of education and awareness, and not an issue of legislation. They were going to come forward and they were going to act. There was no need for my Private Members' Bill, they were going to take action. It's two years later now and that's why I am so pleased to see this today. I congratulate the government for finally taking some action.

Now that government has seen the errors of their ways with this statement, I hope they will put their money - and put their programs in place - where their mouth is. I would also hope that, given all the money that this government has been wasting on political advertising for their own personal agenda, that they plan to raise awareness on this issue. This is very much an issue that needs a heightened public awareness, and the support and commitment of government. This is indeed an issue of great importance, and one that the minister and this government must support with awareness through advertising and partnerships with enforcement agencies and groups such as the Nova Scotia Safety Council and all stakeholders. Thank you.

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health Promotion.

RESOLUTION NO. 987

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

Whereas the Office of Health Promotion sponsored the Milk Energy Sport Fair taking place at Dalplex for the next three days; and

Whereas thousands of students from HRM will visit and have the opportunity to try over 30 different sports; and

Whereas we must help our province's youth adopt healthy lifestyle habits, such as physical activity, so that we can improve the long-term health of Nova Scotians;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize Sport Nova Scotia for producing this event that will allow Nova Scotia's youth to try a new sport they enjoy and become more physically active.

[Page 1807]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

NOTICES OF MOTION

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

RESOLUTION NO. 988

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

Whereas when the New Brunswick Liberals unveiled their so-called solution to skyrocketing auto insurance rates, they stuck like glue to the private insurance companies; and

Whereas, nevertheless, the New Brunswick Liberal Leader felt obliged to state that he would consider a driver-owned public auto insurance plan as, "the last resort"; and

Whereas driver-owned, non-profit, public auto insurance plans offer Canadians the lowest premiums and the slowest increase in premiums paid;

Therefore be it resolved that this House urge the Nova Scotia Liberals to explain why Liberals put a higher priority on the rapacious insurance companies than they do on ensuring the lowest and fairest insurance rates for Maritime drivers.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 1808]

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton South.

RESOLUTION NO. 989

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

Whereas Chief Edgar MacLeod of the Cape Breton Regional Police Services recently received the Order of Merit of the Police Forces; and

[12:15 p.m.]

Whereas the Order of Merit of the Police Forces is a fellowship of honour that recognizes exemplary police service; and

Whereas the award recognizes the contribution to crime investigations, uniformed patrol, training and development, research and development, research and publications and achievements made over the course of the nominees' career;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Chief Edgar MacLeod on receiving the Order of Merit of the Police Forces.

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 Eastern Shore.

[Page 1809]

RESOLUTION NO. 990

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

Whereas the American Cancer Society developed a Relay for Life as its signature fundraiser in 1992 which was launched as a pilot project in Ottawa in 1999 for the Canadian Cancer Society raising $85,000 and a further nine events across Canada in 2000 raising more than $1.1 million with $3.8 million in 2001 and $10 million in 2002; and

Whereas the first Relay for Life in Halifax, Nova Scotia in 2002 raised $71,790 with 58 teams participating averaging $125 in pledges for each individual participant; and

Whereas five Relay for Life events will be held across Nova Scotia in 2003 in Bible Hill, Bridgewater, Middleton, Sydney and Halifax;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate cancer survivors Eleanor Cormier, Betty Adams, Marilyn Mitchell and event participants, Ann Rushton, Linda Scott, Rob MacDonald, Marion MacDonald, Nonie Brown, Marilyn Fraser, Gloria Thompson, Essie Rushton and Nellie Gilroy of Springhill, Cumberland County for their efforts to keep raising funds to find a cure for that dreaded disease of cancer by taking part in this year's Relay for Life event and wish them much success in their endeavours.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Hants East.

RESOLUTION NO. 991

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

[Page 1810]

Whereas many Nova Scotians fear that our forests are being over cut and could go the way of the once bountiful cod fish; and

Whereas to determine what is sustainable we need to know the make up of our forests; and

Whereas the Department of Natural Resources says their data shows the prime harvestable forest makes up 11 per cent of the total, but also has other data that shows it comprises 32 per cent of the total forest;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Natural Resources implement a standard accurate method of determining the demographic of our forests so that Nova Scotians can plan for a sustainable forest industry.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Richmond.

RESOLUTION NO. 992

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 government of today takes in $1 billion more yearly than it did back in 1999; and

Whereas the government has added $500 million to the debt since 1999; and

Whereas the government, if allowed to continue, plans to borrow another $600 million by 2013;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize that even with an extra $1 billion in its pocket, the Premier still can't provide adequate service and it still can't stop the borrowing binge despite his promises to do otherwise.

[Page 1811]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Community Services on an introduction.

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, as is becoming a tradition now with Evangeline Middle School, I'm very pleased to introduce a number of students and their teacher, Kathy Babcooke and chaperones Mr. Creedor, Ms. Hawley and Ms. Keddy and I wonder if the students could please stand up and accept the warm greetings of the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We welcome our very special guests to the gallery today and hope you enjoy the proceedings.

The honourable member for Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 993

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

Whereas Robin Jessome of Bridgetown, who as a Grade 7 student chose the trombone because there were no trumpets left to play is now the leading trombonist of his age in Canada; and

Whereas this fourth year music student at St. Francis Xavier University recently returned from the Betty Carter's Jazz Ahead 2003 festival in D.C. which identifies outstanding emerging artists, to find he has been chosen as a finalist in the prestigious, International Trombone Association Competitions; and

Whereas Robin will now travel to Helsinki, Finland, in August to compete against three other young musicians from the world's top music schools in the Frank Rosolino Jazz Trombone Competition;

[Page 1812]

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House applaud Robin Jessome on his talent and dedication and cheer him on his upcoming competition and into his very promising musical 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 Community Services on an introduction.

HON. DAVID MORSE: Yes, Mr. Speaker, this was the first half of the class and in a moment there will be another class. I was just indicating that I was hoping to have the opportunity to make a second introduction.

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

RESOLUTION NO. 994

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

Whereas noted consumer advocate Ralph Nader today praised George Jordan for his evident open-minded attitude; and

Whereas the minister for skyrocketing insurance rates was eager to praise the Manitoba NDP for legislation establishing an independent claimant advisor who will assist people in appealing their insurance settlements; and

Whereas Mr. Jordan only has an eight-month contract - unlike a true consumer advocate - and Nova Scotia has no legislation establishing either an independent consumer advocate or an independent accessible tribunal to settle insurance claims;

Therefore be it resolved that before the Conservatives and their minister of skyrocketing insurance rates praise Mr. Jordan or other provinces, they should take care of their own backyard and adopt the consumer protections they pretend to admire.

[Page 1813]

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 Victoria.

RESOLUTION NO. 995

MR. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, this being the first day of May and Gaelic Awareness Month, I would like your permission to read this resolution in Gaelic, followed by in English.

A fhir-labhairt, tha mi mar seo a'toirt airedhuibh gun ghuais me air latha'sa tighinn as run 'sa leanas:

Ochionn gun comharrachaas am mios ceitein mar mios na gaidhlig; agus

Ochionn gu bheil iomadh aite air feadh an albainn nuaidh gu leir far a bhios a'ghaidhlig ri ionnsaich fhathast; agus

Ochionn gum fasas gu mon a' chuid ghaidhlig dhe 'n ghniomh-thuruis gach uile bliadhna;

Mar sin bi e suidhichte gun aideach gach ball cho cudtromach 'sa bhois an cultur seo agus a' toirt mohadh do 'n fheadhainn a leanas ris a' ghaidhlig a chumail beo.

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

Whereas the month of May is celebrated as Gaelic Awareness Month; and

Whereas there are several communities across Nova Scotia where Gaelic instruction takes place; and

Whereas the Gaelic cultural aspect of tourism is growing rapidly each year;

[Page 1814]

Therefore be it resolved that all members of the House acknowledge the importance of this culture and applaud the efforts of those who continue to keep the Gaelic language alive.

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 Community Services on an introduction.

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I was just up a moment ago introducing students from the Evangeline Middle School and their teacher, Cathy Babcooke, and the chaperones. Because there are so many who have come to join us today, we have to do it in shifts - so the second shift from the Evangeline Middle School with teacher Dennis Garrigan and chaperones, Mrs. McPherson, Mrs. Strong and Mrs. Weldon, and the students. I would ask the students to rise and receive the warm ovation from the House. (Applause)

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

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

RESOLUTION NO. 996

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

Whereas this government passed, but never used, the infamous Bill No. 68 to impose a contract on health care workers because it claimed it couldn't afford to meet their wage demands; and

Whereas this government promises swift legislative action against a smoking ban in casinos if it feels its revenue from the casino contract is in jeopardy; and

[Page 1815]

Whereas this government feels compelled to act when its own wallet is getting pinched, but has no such compunction to act while Nova Scotian families are penny-pinching to pay the skyrocketing costs of auto insurance;

Therefore be it resolved that the Hamm Government show as much concern for today's families as it does for its own bottom line, by rolling back unfair and back-breaking auto insurance rates.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

RESOLUTION NO. 997

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

Whereas this government plans to increase the public debt by $600 million over the next 10 years, yet it has "balanced the budget"; and

Whereas current trends show that this government will add to the debt annually at least until the year 2013, yet it has "balanced the budget"; and

Whereas surely this is the new math in action, demonstrating that by accumulation of a series of debits and further increases in debts, one can actually claim to have beaten debt and thereby arrived at a surplus;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Finance be hailed as Nova Scotia's number-one new mathematician, as he has demonstrated how by subtracting and subtracting, you can add and thereby come out on top.

Mr. Speaker, I would request waiver.

[Page 1816]

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Pictou East.

RESOLUTION NO. 998

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 competition for the President's Trophy curling award - a tradition for over a century - was recently held; and

Whereas the competition took place at the Bluenose Curling Club; and

Whereas the winning rink was led by skip Haylett Clarke, with lead John Boutilier, second Bob Wallace, and third Victor Belliveau;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the members of the team on capturing this year's President's Trophy in a sport so loved by the people of this province.

Mr. Speaker, I would request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

[Page 1817]

RESOLUTION NO. 999

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

Whereas Canadian Geographic's prestigious Canadian Environment Awards will be handed out in Toronto June 2nd; and

Whereas Dalhousie educator and noted conservationist Martin Willison is nominated in Canadian Geographic's Conservation Category; and

Whereas Martin Willison's outstanding service to Nova Scotians and Canadians generally, make him a superb candidate well worthy of such recognition;

Therefore be it resolved that this House thank Martin Willison of Spryfield for his conservation efforts, and congratulate him on being selected as a candidate for Canadian Geographic's prestigious Canadian Environment Award.

Mr. Speaker, I would request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

RESOLUTION NO. 1000

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

Whereas yesterday in Question Period the Premier indicated that it is the role of the federal government to come up with a Nova Scotia plan for paying for catastrophic drugs; and

Whereas the Premier encouraged the Liberal caucus to lobby the federal government for funding for such a program; and

[Page 1818]

Whereas the federal government in the next five years will invest in a Health Reform Fund, which can be used for a catastrophic drug program that will, in fact, bring some $475 million to our province;

Therefore be it resolved that it is the role of Premier John Hamm and his government to come up with a catastrophic drug program and not to lay blame on the federal government or the Nova Scotia Liberal caucus.

Mr. Speaker, I would request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Bedford Basin.

RESOLUTION NO. 1001

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

Whereas Constable Stephen Smyth was named the Halifax Regional Municipality's Police Officer of the Year for 2002; and

Whereas Constable Smyth was chosen from a list of nominees for upholding a standard of distinguished public service in policing; and

Whereas examples of his service to our community include, in 2002, helping in the capture of a murder suspect only seconds after the offence occurred, and arresting and recovering stolen merchandise from a suspect following an armed robbery at a jewelry store in metro;

[12:30 p.m.]

Therefore be it resolved that the MLAs in this Legislature commend the heroic and brave actions of Constable Stephen Smyth and recognize his dedication to justice while in service to the residents of the Halifax Regional Municipality.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 1819]

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. 1002

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

Whereas Eastern Passage Education Centre has a strong tradition of excellent athletic teams and has become a formidable force in junior high school athletics in its short history; and

Whereas at the recent Nova Scotia School Athletic Federation Wrestling Championships, Eastern Passage Education Centre won its third straight championship for the Junior Boys and its second straight intermediate girls title; and

Whereas Eastern Passage Education Centre won five individual gold medals, 12 silver medals and four bronze medals at the championship;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the Eastern Passage Education Centre on winning the NSSAF Junior Boys and Intermediate Girls Wrestling Championships and recognize the individual medals won by Bryant Kennsley, Shaun Day-Findley, Brady Richards, Steve Gowen and Kerry MacQueen.

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 1820]

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

RESOLUTION NO. 1003

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

Whereas 15 months ago, the New Democratic Party rejected out of hand a proposal for an all-Party committee to investigate and recommend solutions for rising insurance rates in Nova Scotia, which came from the Liberal Party; and

Whereas since then, the NDP has spent much money, time and effort to convince Nova Scotians that the problem identified by the Liberal Party actually exists; and

Whereas yesterday the NDP sent out new brochures with tear-off postcards asking Nova Scotians to tell them whether Nova Scotia families deserve the lowest and fairest insurance rates;

Therefore be it resolved . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: I can predict your reply, Paul. You said yes.

MR. MACEWAN: I threw mine in the garbage, Mr. Speaker.

AN HON. MEMBER: You did not, Paul.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. MACEWAN: Therefore be it resolved that the NDP do acknowledge that Nova Scotian families do indeed deserve the lowest and fairest insurance rates, stop wasting the public's time with silly exercises in pretend consultation and step up with their proposal to resolve the problem of rising insurance rates.

Mr. Speaker, maybe we could have waiver of notice on that. There seems to be some interest in it.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

[Page 1821]

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Shelburne.

RESOLUTION NO. 1004

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

Whereas Barrington Municipal High School Grade 9 students Luke Brannen and Jim Wickens placed first in the Grade 9 to Grade 10 level competition at the Tri-County District School Board Science Fair; and

Whereas the students' project involved testing various wing patterns for model rockets to determine which design worked best; and

Whereas the duo will travel as part of Team Nova Scotia to the Canada Wide Science Fair in Calgary;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Luke Brannen and Jim Wickens on winning the top prize in their category at the Tri-County District School Board Science Fair and wish them much success in their future scientific endeavours.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition on an introduction.

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, on an introduction, although following the member for Cape Breton Nova, I couldn't help but notice that envy is a terrible thing. (Laughter)

[Page 1822]

Mr. Speaker, I wonder if we could welcome, in the east gallery, the members of Local 66 of the NSGEU. They are obviously here to watch the proceedings today and there are matters before the House that are of great importance to them. I would ask that we extend to them the welcome of the House. (Applause)

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

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview on an introduction.

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, this morning Andrea Skinner was notified that she had won her appeal before an Employment Insurance Board of Referees. The decision stated that she did have just cause for leaving her position at the casino and Ms. Skinner joins us in the House today and I'd like to ask Ms. Skinner, who is in the west gallery, to rise and receive the welcome of the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We welcome our guest to the gallery today.

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

RESOLUTION NO. 1005

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

Whereas Canadian Geographic's Canadian Environment Awards are a prestigious recognition of community environmental action; and

Whereas this year's 17 finalists for the six awards that will be presented on June 2nd in Toronto have just been announced; and

Whereas environmental activist, Belinda Manning of Coldbrook is a finalist in the Environmental Learning Category;

Therefore be it resolved that the Nova Scotia House of Assembly congratulate Belinda Manning of Coldbrook for being selected as one of Canadian Geographic's national award finalists and for working so hard to protect the environment in her community and her province.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 1823]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Transportation and Public Works.

RESOLUTION NO. 1006

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

Whereas the justice system is made up of many dedicated employees who ensure the wheels of justice turn smoothly on a daily basis; and

Whereas Judy Cook of Lunenburg is one of those dedicated employees who has always gone above and beyond the call of duty in doing her job; and

Whereas Judy Cook retired from her position at the Bridgewater Justice Centre after 17 years of total service, following a celebration held at the Justice Centre on April 30, 2003, attended by her co-workers and many friends;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of the House of Assembly congratulate Judy Cook on her retirement and thank her for her many years of dedicated service to 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.

[Page 1824]

The honourable member for Richmond.

RESOLUTION NO. 1007

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

Whereas Tory backbencher Mark Parent uses his weekly column to mock certain people and cultures; and

Whereas it is obvious from the backbencher's column that the John Hamm Government needs a lesson in the history of Canada and they need to show respect for the many cultures in our country; and

Whereas the history of Canada does begin before 1867, but that beginning was not with the Island of Great Britain or the country of England, but the First Nations people and then later the French who settled here and became known as Acadians;

Therefore be it resolved that the John Hamm Government backbencher Mark Parent pick up a Canadian history book or talk to a member of the First Nations or Acadian communities before embarrassing this House, Nova Scotians and all Canadians with his ignorance of history.

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 Halifax Fairview.

RESOLUTION NO. 1008

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

Whereas Doug Milburn of Fairview is the only surviving member of the original Stadacona Band, formed during the Second World War; and

[Page 1825]

Whereas Doug will be honoured on May 2nd during the fifth annual Battle of the Atlantic Musical Gala at Pier 21; and

Whereas Doug and his wife of 61 years, Trudy, have worked hard and raised their family in Halifax, and continue to work to this day at their son's, Rick, business on Dutch Village Road in Fairview;

Therefore be it resolved that the House of Assembly thanks Doug Milburn for his contributions as an original member of the Stadacona Band, and wish Doug and Trudy many more years of health and happiness.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury.

RESOLUTION NO. 1009

MR. RONALD CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of myself, the MLA for Antigonish and the MLA for Inverness, and hopefully supported by the MLA for Richmond, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas in February, the Jack Hartery Memorial Lifetime Achievement Award for Business in Cape Breton and Area was established, and the first of the annual awards was given out recently by the Strait Area Chamber of Commerce; and

Whereas the award goes to someone who is a citizen of Cape Breton or Mulgrave for the majority of their business career, must have continuously operated in those areas for at least 20 years, have high ethical standards in business and personal dealings, and, most importantly, the award recipient should be considered a good employer and have the respect of their community; and

[Page 1826]

Whereas receiving the first-ever Jack Hartery Award is Joe Shannon, President of Atlantic Corporation and member of the Junior Achievement Nova Scotia Business Hall of Fame 2003 Board of Governors, an honoured Cape Breton businessman who fulfills, with distinction, the criteria of the award;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Joe Shannon on receiving the first Jack Hartery Memorial Lifetime Achievement Award and wish him continued success in his future endeavours.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Justice.

RESOLUTION NO. 1010

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 Hub Club won the 2003 Nova Scotia Juvenile Girls Volleyball Championship, beating the Metro Lakers in straight sets; and

Whereas the Truro Hub Club entered the playoff round as the number one ranked team after compiling an 8-0 record in preliminary action; and

Whereas the Truro Hub Club played in eight tournaments this season, reached the finals in each and won five;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly congratulate the Truro Hub Club players and coach Bob Piers, on their outstanding season which culminated in winning the Nova Scotia Juvenile Girls Volleyball Championship.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 1827]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Transportation and Public Works.

RESOLUTION NO. 1011

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

Whereas the Nova Scotia Federation of Anglers and Hunters held its 73rd Annual Convention and meeting recently; and

Whereas the Nova Scotia Federation of Anglers and Hunters is the province's oldest and largest conservation organization; and

Whereas Gary Penny of Upper Northfield, Nova Scotia, has been re-elected for a second term as President of the federation;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of the House of Assembly congratulate Gary Penny on his re-election as President of the Nova Scotia Federation of Anglers and Hunters.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Economic Development.

[Page 1828]

RESOLUTION NO. 1012

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

Whereas Harbax Home Hardware has been named one of the top dealers across the country by Home Hardware Stores Ltd.; and

Whereas chosen from over 1,000 locations from coast to coast, this Glace Bay business was cited for achieving the highest standards in retailing, merchandising, staff performance and overall quality; and

Whereas brother Jamie and Fred Whyte, co-owners of the Harbax Home Hardware, modestly attribute their success to their loyal customers, but they have proven that the key to retail success is providing what customers want;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the owners and staff of Harbax Home Hardware in Glace Bay for their business success, especially through some very uncertain economic times.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: Question period will begin at 12:42 p.m. and end at 1:42 p.m.

The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

[Page 1829]

INSURANCE - RATE REDUCTION: LEGISLATION - INTRODUCE

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the minister responsible for skyrocketing insurance rates. The minister was talking tough yesterday but outside the House the insurance companies were hiking rates, pushing people into the insurer of last resort and arbitrarily setting new rate categories to further fatten their profits. I would like to ask the minister, will he explain why his government is not seeking approval this Spring of legislation to lower the intolerable auto insurance premium rates?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I would like to advise the Leader of the Opposition that we have a plan. (Interruptions) I will tell them once again, I have been telling them for the last month, that we have a plan and I would expect that sometime, perhaps early next year, we will be able to issue the first plank of that plan.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, it's not a plan, it's a scheme. When nurses and other health care workers were the Hamm Government's target, they forced this House to sit 24 hours a day, to try to impose wages and working conditions. This House has the power to outlaw discriminatory practices, the power to outlaw arbitrary rate classifications and the power to lower rates. But you know, this government's theme is we gotta get out of this place. Will the minister of skyrocketing insurance rates explain why his government has decided to leave Nova Scotians at the mercy of the insurance industry?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I understand I misspoke myself a moment ago. When I said that we would have an announcement early next year, I meant early next week. (Interruption) I can assure the members opposite that we have the concerns of the consumers of this province at heart and we are taking action to do something about the insurance rates in this province.

[12:45 p.m.]

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, no wonder the minister is confused. It seems their position on this matter changes every other day so I'm not surprised that he confused next week with next year. The reality is we hope it bears no resemblance to the kinds of approaches they've had to things like long-term care, which have been insufficient and essentially just to placate people long enough to get past the election. When insurance companies are involved, the Tories speak softly and carry no stick, despite the fact that rates are exceeding 65 per cent. My question is, why is this government so beholden to the private insurance industry that it will also run away from decisive action, rather than fight for Nova Scotia drivers?

[Page 1830]

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, contrary to what the honourable member is spouting across the way, this side of the House is not in bed with the insurance industry. We are going to do everything we possibly can to rectify what are atrocious rates for insurance in this province.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

FIN. - PENSION PLANS: STATUS - TABLE

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, yesterday in the Public Accounts Committee we learned that the public sector pension plan and the Teachers' Pension Fund, as of November 30th of last year, had a $1.5 billion unfunded liability. On February 8th of this year, I was told by the Minister of Finance that he would reveal the pension losses to all Nova Scotians by the end of April. The end of April is now upon us and still the minister will not reveal any information on what appears to be massive losses to our public service pension and teachers' pension plans.

Mr. Speaker, in the Public Accounts Committee we learned that we would not know the actuarial report until at least June, but the department did advise that they do receive regular updates as to the status of these pension plans. My question to the Minister of Finance is, will the minister live up to his commitment and table with us the current status and value of these plans, so that Nova Scotians can have the full facts as to what they could possibly be liable for under these plans?

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, to the member opposite, the financial statements with regard to the pension plans, there are two; one is the Public Service Superannuation Plan and the other one is the Teachers' Pension Fund, for which I'm responsible. As he indicated in his question, the statements will be ready in June and I will table them.

I should point out that last year, those financial statements were tabled in the House in the Fall. So actually by coming forward in June, Mr. Speaker, that will be considerably in advance of when it was tabled last year.

MR. SAMSON: What this means is that if all of our teachers and all of our civil servants were to actually retire today and collect what is due to them under these plans, the taxpayers of Nova Scotia would be on the hook for $1.5 billion. Clearly, this is of clear concern to all Nova Scotians as to what the real financial health of this province is. Mr. Speaker, $1.5 billion is a considerable amount of money by anyone's standard, yet the minister doesn't see fit to provide us with any information as regards the status of these plans and has made but one small reference to it in his Budget Speech.

[Page 1831]

Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians are clearly asking why the minister won't give information on these plans. My question is, in the spirit of openness, accountability and transparency, will the minister table any analyses, reports and, most importantly, the most recent updates that your department has received of these pension plans and their performance so that Nova Scotians can have a clear picture as to the financial health of this province?

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, first of all the member opposite is I think, in a sense, trying to say that the pension plans are not healthy. That is not the case. Nova Scotia has one of the best pension plans in Canada in the sense of how much of it is funded. There are provinces in Canada which have almost virtually 100 per cent - I shouldn't say 100 per cent but virtually most of it being unfunded. That is not the case in Nova Scotia.

I should also point out, Mr. Speaker, that they would be in much better shape if the Liberal Government that he was a member of hadn't given the holiday in the pension plans, which basically cost over $200 million. That was part of their election ploy when they were in office and that did not help the situation we find ourselves in today.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, the facts speak for themselves. Under a Liberal Government, the Public Service plan was 100 per cent funded, under the Tory Government it's $0.5 billion underfunded. Nova Scotians will judge for themselves as to that performance. If there's nothing to hide and nothing to fear with these plans, why won't the minister simply table the information that his department has? The deputy minister clearly said yesterday that they receive regular updates as to the status of this plan. He said they receive quarterly updates, yet only gave us the November 30th numbers from last year. They clearly must have more up-to-date information. If there is nothing to hide, then the minister shouldn't hesitate to provide this House today with the exact details they have as to the status of those plans since November 30th in that reporting period.

Mr. Speaker, bond ratings will be looking at this, Nova Scotians will be looking at this. Will the minister finally live up to his commitment to provide us with the detailed information as to the current health today of these two major pension plans instead of continuing to stonewall and delay this information?

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I have indicated to the member opposite that when the financial statements are finalized that I will table them. The member opposite, yesterday, was advised by the controller of the Province of Nova Scotia that they will be finalized in a form by June and, as such, that's when I will table it. The member opposite is asking me to present individual components of that information which will not put it in proper context. He should receive all the information, also the actuarial estimates are incorporated into those financial statements which shows the cost of what the payments will be when they do come out. That's all important information and the proper context is to have the final statements which will be tabled in this House or with the Clerk of the Assembly in June or earlier if they are ready.

[Page 1832]

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

INSURANCE - COMPANIES: ABUSE - TOLERATION EXPLAIN

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I know that the minister responsible for skyrocketing insurance premiums takes a happy-go-lucky attitude toward this issue. The reality is that Nova Scotians can't afford to. More and more, we are seeing the growing discrimination by insurance companies and some of these cases really make you shake your head, like the case of the Lee family from Dartmouth. Ricky and Margaret Lee are both over 50. Over the last 30 years they have had one minor accident. Recently they had a seatbelt infraction and now their insurance is shooting up by 138 per cent. So my question is for the minister who believes that all flat roads lead to Manitoba and to lower auto insurance premiums is, why does your government continue to tolerate such blatant abuse of drivers by insurance companies in Nova Scotia?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, our plan is in place. Our plan is moving forward and the conclusion of that plan will be fair insurance rates for all.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the sad fact is that families like the Lees are becoming less the exception and more the rule. The Fobins, Shirley and Tom, are already paying $1,300 a year for car insurance. They just received notice that a seatbelt infraction will cost them an extra $159. Now this is completely unfair and it is above and beyond the fine that they have already paid. We understand that even minor infractions should be dealt with so that our roads are safe, but fairness also has to be observed. I would like to ask the minister, how does the minister justify the continued gouging of Nova Scotia drivers while his government stands by and does absolutely nothing?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, it's not my intention or the intention of this government to countenance gouging in any form.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, well, if you are insured with ING and you had a moving traffic violation in the last three years, get ready to pay up. I will table documents showing that ING, one of the many companies engaged in this practice, is making new drivers or those who renew, pay surcharges for things like seatbelt infractions. My question for the minister is, why is your government colluding with the insurance companies to allow this discriminatory behaviour to continue?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I consider that question improper. The word colluding has inferences, I am sure, that the honourable member would not want to use, but I can assure him that we are not colluding with the insurance companies.

[Page 1833]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

EDUC. - UNIV. FUNDING: INVESTMENT - REALIZE

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education. For the second time in less than a week, we hear from a national organization that Nova Scotia is not properly funding its universities and it's costing us. Last week the editor for Macleans Guide to Canadian Universities stated that Nova Scotia's funding is almost preposterously low. Now the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives says Nova Scotia is ranked last because of the relatively low amount of government money it puts into higher education. The reason Nova Scotia is last is not because Ontario, which was last, got better, it's because Nova Scotia got worse. My question is, when will this minister and this Tory Government realize that university funding has to be seen as an investment and not a cost to this province?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member, in referencing the Ontario-based left-wing think-tank would do well to note that that think-tank does not truly identify the point at which funding to our universities got worse in this province. In 1993, we were contributing $212 million to universities; in 1998, we contributed $175 million, then that government cut the funding to universities. We have restored funding by an amount of over $30 million in recent years, and we will continue to support our universities.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, the minister clearly doesn't understand the situation, so let me reference the students. Let me reference the students, one of them in particular. The President of Dalhousie University Student Union says: This government has put education on the backburner since the get-go. We have the highest tuitions in the country. We have students graduating with the most debt in the country. Students have to mortgage their future in order to get an education. My question to the minister is, when is this minister and this government going to wake up and realize they can't continue to inadequately fund Nova Scotia's universities?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, students in this province and the people of this province understand that tuition increases began when they slashed university funding from $212 million down to $175 million. We have restored university funding. Indeed, Dalhousie, St. F.X. and Acadia give us credit for having moderated the increase in university funding for the additional $6 million we provided this year. We will continue to support our universities and we will restore funding to the levels they were at before that crew cut them so savagely.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Education may want to check with the president of St. F.X., who did not say that. The president of St. F.X. said he didn't think it would stop tuition rates from going up. Check your quotes, Mr. Minister. This minister is

[Page 1834]

missing the facts in everything. Nova Scotia went from 6th place to 10th place, we have the highest tuition fees, we respond poorly to the financial needs of university students. There is a level of commitment that's required here to address the crisis, and the government doesn't come close to meeting it. My final question for the minister is, will the minister put aside the empty promises and the blaming of others, put all of that aside, and tell us his plan to improve Nova Scotia's reputation when it comes to investing in universities?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member would know, if he would take the time to realize it, that Nova Scotia has the second-highest funding in the country on a per capita basis with respect to university funding. If the honourable member opposite wants to truly do something to assist universities - they couldn't do it when they were in power - they could prevail upon their federal cousins to adequately fund Nova Scotia university students, because if we were to spend all of our money on Nova Scotian students only, then we would be fourth-highest in the country. Go to your federal cousins and get us some help.

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

HEALTH - LONG-TERM CARE: SENIORS COSTS - INJUSTICES

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, my question will be for the Premier. Gerry Harrop is an 85-year-old former minister and teacher. He is suffering from Parkinson's and must enter a long-term care facility. His daughter, Cathy, came to Nova Scotia from Alberta to make arrangements for her father's care. When she got here, she got the shock of a lifetime when she realized that her father would lose everything he has to pay for health care in a nursing home. She didn't realize that seniors pay for health care in Nova Scotia. So I would like to ask the Premier, your government was willing to act quickly when you thought the casino might cost the province money, but why are you willing to drag your feet as seniors continue to lose their life savings?

[1:00 p.m.]

HON. JOHN HAMM (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, I refer that to the Minister of Health.

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, there's no question that there are some inequities and injustices in our present system for caring for seniors and that's why we're moving to address that problem over the next number of years.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, by Cathy's calculations, her father will pay for health care for four or five years before his savings run out. That means that his bank account will run dry just about the time the Tories plan to finally stop taking seniors' assets. Not one single exemption that the government has introduced will apply to Reverend Harrop. He sold

[Page 1835]

his home, his vehicle, and his spouse passed away. Every dime he has ever saved will go to pay for his health care. I want to ask the Minister of Health, why is tens of millions of dollars seniors will lose before 2007 less important to you than the $100 million that the government might lose if people can't smoke at the casino?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, as I said, we are moving to correct the situation with some seniors in nursing homes although the member opposite does realize that about 80 per cent of the people in nursing homes are funded by the government. It's not my place to speak about the casino, but what I would say is a figure of $120 million to $140 million would total just about the whole federal Medicare transfer and that's not something that I'm prepared to throw away as the Health Minister.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, to add insult to injury, Reverend Harrop isn't only paying the $50 a day fee while he waits in hospital for a nursing home bed, Cathy has had to hire a private nursing service for an extra $90 a day because there are too few nurses on her father's floor. While this government drags its feet on this issue, seniors like Reverend Harrop continue to pay and pay and pay. I want to ask the Minister of Health, how can you justify the unfair treatment of seniors when you have the power to end it?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, we are ending the current situation with some of the seniors in nursing homes, but we are doing it over time. I think most Nova Scotians understand that oftentimes plans have to be undertaken over time in order to be sustainable and successful.

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

EDUC.: TUITION FEES - FREEZE

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, this is another sad day for students in this province and it's another day which brings more independent confirmation of what students and their families already know - that the Nova Scotia post-secondary system is in crisis. In fact, it's in the tank as an impressive young woman that I'm fortunate enough to call my daughter said to me as she left for northern Ontario to plant trees. The Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives ranks us last in university support and I will table a copy of these statistics. Not only are we last, we had the biggest overall decline from 6th to 10th , the lowest possible ranking. We're far behind in accessibility, we're far behind in funding and we're far behind in the quality of education and, try as he might, this Minister of Education can't blame someone else for that. My question for the minister responsible for skyrocketing student debt is, when will your government listen to students and their parents and freeze tuition fees?

[Page 1836]

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: I'm not the minister responsible for skyrocketing debt. Mr. Speaker, the honourable member raised the question which has previously been raised in the House and what the Ontario-based centre or institute does not reflect in its figures is, of course, the fact that Nova Scotia contributes on a per capita basis the second highest funding in the country for our students. As I indicated in a previous answer, if all of the money that we contribute toward education in this province were to go to the support of Nova Scotian students, it would be quite a different picture.

Mr. Speaker, we have begun the process of restoring funding to our universities. We have come forward with a debt-reduction plan for our students. We will continue to address this concern and the facts of history are not a matter of apportioning blame, but they are simply facts of history that the funding was severely cut in a time when we were not in office.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, let me inform the minister how Nova Scotia ranked in some of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives categories. On accessibility we're 8th out of 10. I have a young woman who attends the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, and I want you to know how hard working the staff are, how much they prize the reputation of that particular institution, and I know that the minister opposite knows how hard working the professors at the Antigonish campus called St. F. X., or here in Halifax or at the Université Sainte-Anne. They can't continue to do more with less. When will this minister admit that chronic underfunding by his government is preventing many deserving young Nova Scotians from achieving a university education?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for the question. We are, as I indicated previously, working toward restoring the funding to universities. While we're in the process of doing that, we still have in this province among the best universities in the country and they are attracting out-of-province students by the thousands. They are credible institutions; we will continue to do our part to support them as funds become available.

MR. ESTABROOKS: While this minister stands and touts a 3 per cent funding increase for universities, he fails to mention last year's funding freeze. The study found that Nova Scotia's government grants as a percentage of the post-secondary budget were once again lowest in the country - at the bottom of the barrel in this country. The effects of 10 years of Liberal and Tory Governments are shown in this independent report. Will the minister responsible for skyrocketing student debt tell this House why he's making all the same mistakes that his Liberal predecessors made?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member seems to have great difficulty in distinguishing between cutting funding to university and increasing funding to university. We have increased funding to the universities, we will continue to increase funding to universities, we will work with the universities to develop a long-term funding

[Page 1837]

agreement with the universities so that they can plan. There's a huge difference in going from $212 million down to $175 million as opposed to restoring the amount up toward $212 million, which is where are going and we will be getting there and continue to support our universities.

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

ENERGY - HOUSTON CONF.: ATTENDEES - LIST TABLE

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Energy. There was a time when the Energy Conference at Houston was the centrepiece of the year for the Province of Nova Scotia, in the offshore. In the past there were no companies based in Halifax so we had to travel to Houston. When we did travel to Houston, the Premier often led the delegation and we came back with concrete commitments for development and exploration. In fact, even Opposition Parties were invited at one time to go to Houston. I would suggest that the go-forward position for Sable occurred at one of those conferences in the past. We know there were a large number of Halifax-based companies going this year, we hear that. My question to the minister is, will the minister table in this House before the end of the day, information including how many companies from rural Nova Scotia and Cape Breton will be attending the conference this year, who will pay for the junket and how much will it cost the provincial taxpayers?

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I believe the honourable member included all three questions in the first one. (Interruptions) Order, please. The honourable Minister of Energy, would you like to answer one of those questions?

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, certainly as the honourable member said, it is an important conference and many Nova Scotia companies are going. Unlike when the member opposite led it, it was a junket. This time, there are 26 Nova Scotia companies going and they are paying their own way.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: At least when we went, Mr. Speaker, we brought back results. This government has brought back nothing in the offshore in the four years it has been going there.

My first supplementary is to the Premier. Nova Scotians need to know that there are tax dollars being used to foster development, not kill it like this government has done. The offices of Encana are right here in Halifax, at least for now, as are Exxon, El Paso and Heritage Gas. In fact, gas distribution is an issue that concerns Nova Scotians. Last October the Premier said he was disappointed in the Heritage plan to provide gas to 4,000 homes in 10 years. My question to the Premier is, how much closer is Nova Scotia to allowing for a disappointing gas distribution because of the Houston conference?

[Page 1838]

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

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, there were a number of questions there but I choose to answer the one about accomplishments. Certainly there is no question, SOEP is an important project for Nova Scotia and the first one coming ashore, but I want to assure the member opposite that $1.56 billion worth of exploration work already booked is a significant achievement and we will see more.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the truth is that nothing has happened under the watch of this minister or that Premier in regard to the offshore. Leadership for the offshore must be provided here in Nova Scotia. The Houston trip has not amounted to one more project or one new discovery since the current government took office. It has not resulted in an expansion of the industry from the one project. Now we can't even get gas distribution after four years.

I know I run the risk if I ask the Premier this question again, he'll have it diverted to the minister and that will be the 83rd time in this session of the House that that's happened but my final supplementary, and I will try the Premier on in any case, what do you have to say, Mr. Premier, for yourself after four years of missed opportunities and no gas distribution as yet for Nova Scotians?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the misdirected efforts of the previous government in terms of setting unrealistic targets has not worked. We went back to the drawing board and came up with a plan that will have a reasonable chance of succeeding and we are expecting that gas distribution will start to occur in Nova Scotia but it will only occur if, in fact, the situation is reasonable, that the business plan makes sense and, in fact, that gas is affordable to Nova Scotians.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

FIN. - CASINO: EI DECISION - GOV'T. (N.S.) ACTION

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, today former casino employee Andrea Skinner was notified that she had won her Employment Insurance appeal. I would like to table a copy of that decision so the Minister of Health can read it, so the minister responsible for the Gaming Corporation can read it, so the Premier can read it and the Minister of Environment and Labour can read it. This decision should send a signal to this government that exposure to environmental tobacco smoke is a workplace hazard. My question to the Premier is, now that it has been determined by an EI Board of Referees that the casino is a hazardous workplace, is your government still going ahead with the exemption?

[Page 1839]

[1:15 p.m.]

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

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite always seems to admit that the legislation that we propose is permissive legislation. He always seems to put it forward as if this is a done deal. We will only move forward on this legislation if, and only if, the casino puts forward a termination notice to the province. I've also indicated to the member opposite that if that is the case and government does act on that, our intention is to go forward to a dispute resolution process subsequent to that. If that dispute resolution process comes forward and says that that is not a material breach of the contract, this government and this caucus will be only too pleased to let the bylaw that was proposed by the municipalities stand and we would reverse our decision.

MR. STEELE: My gosh, Mr. Speaker, that sound we all hear is the furious sound of backpedalling. The Board of Referees says, ". . . there is sufficient medical evidence to substantiate the hazards of second hand smoke in the workplace." Yet, at the same time, this government is proposing legislation it knows will harm the health and safety of the Nova Scotians who work at the casino. Risking death by tobacco smoke should not be a condition of employment. My question to the Premier is, why is this government creating laws that he knows full well will damage the health of Nova Scotians?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I've just had delivered to the front bench a copy of the decision that the member opposite has made reference to. We will be studying the decision. I think the happy thing about all of this is it is a case about worker protection, and it would appear that the system worked for the worker. I'm happy about that. On the other hand, I'm not happy about a situation that will require the taxpayers of Nova Scotia, the people who pay for health care and roads and education they would have to cough up $120-plus million to purchase a casino, which is what that member is suggesting.

MR. STEELE: Mr. Speaker, Andrea Skinner got out of the casino before her workplace made her sick or gave her a permanent and serious illness. The next employee might be another Heather Crowe, I'm sure the Premier remembers Heather Crowe, who might not be so lucky. The next case could well be for workers' compensation, negligence or every wrongful death. My question to the Premier is, why is it the Premier can come up with creative ways to hide program cuts, but the Premier can't find a better way to protect Nova Scotia workers from second-hand smoke?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, this government did take the bit in its teeth, something which the preceding government did not do, it introduced the toughest anti-smoking legislation in the entire country. Unfortunately, in addition to not coming forward, the previous government did not come forward with anti-smoking legislation, they also tied us in to a very difficult casino contract that we are dealing with in the best way that is possible.

[Page 1840]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

HEALTH: SUICIDE PREVENTION PLAN - DETAILS

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question, through you, is to the Minister of Health. This morning I attended the first-ever symposium on suicide in Nova Scotia at Mount Saint Vincent University. Today and tomorrow, people from across the province are discussing their experiences and knowledge about suicide and its prevention. Suicide rates here are the fourth-highest in Canada. Suicide is the leading cause of death in males between the age of 10 and 49. Yet, Nova Scotia does not have a clear suicide prevention strategy. I want to ask the Minister of Health, if any work is presently being done to create a suicide prevention plan for Nova Scotia?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, suicide is a very sensitive matter, and I will get back to the member opposite on any updates we may have. I do think that part of a plan to address suicide would certainly be some of the work we have done and the increase in the work we will do in the mental health area, something we have devoted considerable resources to this year and in the coming years.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, four provinces in Canada - New Brunswick, Alberta, British Columbia and Quebec have well-defined suicide prevention plans and programs. In Quebec there is even a legislative framework around addressing suicide. Mental health services in Nova Scotia, as we all know, are inadequate, especially in rural communities and untreated mental illness is a major factor in suicides. So I want to ask the Minister of Health, there are many examples out there to use as a framework for a strategy in Nova Scotia, when will such a strategy be developed for Nova Scotia?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, as I said, I'd be glad to supply all the information and policies we have right now in the mental health field that deal with suicide prevention and helping out the families of suicide victims.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, between 1998 and 1999 suicide deaths in Nova Scotia increased by 11 per cent. In 2001 came the disturbing news that gambling is a factor in over 6 per cent of suicides that we know of. So I want to ask the Minister of Health, why are so few resources put into mental health and gambling addiction programs in light of this information?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, the question of gambling I would refer to the Minister of Health Promotion, however I would like to answer the question in more general terms. There are many, many factors in suicide. Gambling is one, drug and alcohol addiction is another, inherited mental illness is another - it's a very complex situation that we are trying to address in a more complete way than we have. But, I will tell you one thing that will not

[Page 1841]

help and that is continued encouragement of a culture of victim-hood in Nova Scotia that the NDP continually asserts in this House.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

COMMUN. SERV.: RRSS STRIKE - ACTIONS

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Community Services. Today, again, we see the classic Tory politics at work. We see the hand of the Premier and the Minister of Community Services playing the familiar game of divide and conquer with the families and with the staff members of RRSS who care for the relatives of family members. They are trying to drive a wedge between those two groups. This is leaving the vulnerable clients in the middle of a very cruel, cruel game being executed by this government. My question to the minister is, why does the minister see this type of government strategy as acceptable?

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for the chance to point out how in this House and outside of this House . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. There's too much noise in the Chamber. The honourable Minister of Community Services.

MR. MORSE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would point out to the member opposite that I've been very circumspect in the way that I've respected the collective bargaining process in this House and outside the House and I will continue to do so.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, we're talking about respect. Respect for vulnerable people in our society, respect for those people who serve them. This government does not do that. The government sees the workers as nothing more than annoying NSGEU members. An annoyance. They don't see them as workers who strive hard to make the lives of our most vulnerable citizens better. My question to the minister is, why is this minister and this government not showing the respect that these workers deserve by putting even a little bit more on the table so that they can get back and negotiate?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for his question. I would point out that if he was to check Hansard over the last several weeks that whenever I have mentioned the care workers that are with RRSS providing service to the residents, that I have often made reference to the wonderful character they bring to the residents. They are very special people and I have always maintained that position both within the House and outside the House.

[Page 1842]

DR. SMITH: This government says the workers only require a community college degree when, in fact, full-time employees need a university degree. I have heard the workers indicate that they feel also that this government portrays them to the public as glorified babysitters, when in fact they save the system money, as well as give excellent care.

Given that this government has, in fact, created a crisis in adult mental health, the role of these workers has become even more vital as they're dealing with adults. My question to the minister is, if this minister believes that workers are earning what they should, will he agree today to perform all the tasks of an RRSS worker for one day so as to produce the proof he needs that the way he is treating these workers is wrong? One day, Mr. Minister, to do all their tasks to convince you to do what is right.

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I would point out to the member opposite, again, during this debate that has gone on over the last number of weeks that there was a recognition that there had to be standards set across the province. Those standards required certain training, the training requires community college courses. They have been done. There was an agreement that was reached that set what was the appropriate wage and the wage that is paid in Nova Scotia compares favourably with the wages for comparable workers in other Maritime Provinces.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

COMMUN. SERV. - RRSS NEGOTIATIONS:

GOV'T. (N.S.) PARTICIPATION - CONFIRM

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, my question will be to the Premier. Workers at the Regional Residential Services Society continue their job action because the province will not allow RRSS to go into binding arbitration. In the newspaper today, the Premier states, where all of these conversations should be taking place is at the table . We couldn't agree more with the Premier. We couldn't agree more with that Premier. That is what the union has been saying for three weeks. The only party stopping that from happening is this government. I ask the Premier, since you are encouraging both sides to get back to the table, is your government, as sole funder, going to participate?

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

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for raising the point that it is very important to recognize that in the collective bargaining process there is an employer, there is a union and as I just stated in my answer to the previous questioner, we have been very careful to respect the collective bargaining process.

[Page 1843]

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, that minister and the government have to get their heads out of the sand. The union has been asking for binding arbitration before this strike even took place. They didn't want to take the job action but they had no choice. Yesterday the Minister of Community Services said the workers are being paid what they are worth. If that's the case, this government has nothing to fear from allowing RRSS to enter binding arbitration. I ask the Premier, if you're so intent on seeing negotiations resume, why won't you allow a neutral third party to bring this strike to an end?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the government every step of the way has respected the collective bargaining process. We believe that the next step should be a return to the table and to engage in conciliation.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, the Premier says, return to the table. But the Minister of Community Services says there is no new money to offer workers. RRSS says it won't resume bargaining until there is something new to offer. I ask the Premier, if you really want negotiations to resume to end this strike, why won't your government allow RRSS to enter binding arbitration?

[1:30 p.m.]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, as an answer to the previous question, the government's position has been made perfectly clear and it has not changed in the few moments since you asked the previous question. The place to have this continue is at the table and to undergo an appropriate conciliatory process.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

EDUC. - SHELBURNE SCH.: PROGRESS - UPDATE

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education. On May 18, 1999, the then-Minister of Transportation and Public Works, the Liberal member for Shelburne announced the approval of a new high school to staff and students of Shelburne Regional High School. This announcement was approved by the Department of Education and added to the capital projects list. My question to the minister is, will the minister provide an update on the progress of this previously announced school for the region of Shelburne?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I can tell the honourable member and tell the House that that is a project that will be proceeding in the very near future.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, again my question is to the Minister of Education. The completion date for the school was announced by the former Liberal minister for the Fall of 2004. That is only 16 months away and the tenders for the school have yet to be issued. The

[Page 1844]

land has been purchased and cleared. So my question to the minister is, will the minister inform the House and the residents of Shelburne when the tenders will be announced so the next phase of Shelburne Regional Memorial High School can begin?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, as I indicated, we will be in a position to deal with this school in the very near future and there has been work done with respect to the purchase of property. The tender call, I believe, is imminent and I will indicate to the House, as soon as I know the precise date, just when that will be.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, my final question is again to the Minister of Education. The residents of Shelburne are anxiously awaiting on this government for their new school. My question to the minister is, will the minister confirm that the construction of Shelburne Regional Memorial High School is still going ahead and will he guarantee that it will be built by the Fall of 2004?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, as I indicated, the main contract for that particular building is now out and when the tender award is ready, then I will certainly inform the House and that will be imminent.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

ABORIGINAL AFFS. - MILLBROOK TRAILER CT.:

RELOCATION - DETAILS

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister responsible for Aboriginal Affairs. Twenty-seven families who own homes in a trailer court on Millbrook Reserve have been (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, 27 families who own homes in a trailer court on the Millbrook Reserve have been notified they have to relocate by July 1, 2003, due to a planned development on that land. They have been instructed that they will not receive any assistance to move, unlike other residents who live in homes leased out by the Band Council. These homeowners are low income and do not have the funds to relocate. Many have homes that will not be allowed in the other trailer parks. I ask the Minister responsible for Aboriginal Affairs, has he taken any steps to meet with the federal government and Band Council representatives over this issue?

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: I will refer that to the minister responsible for housing, the Minister of Community Services.

[Page 1845]

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite brings up a good question. It is true that the Band Council has given an eviction to the residents. The residents are, as I understand it, trying to work with the federal government to see if they can get some sort of compensation, but in the meantime, provincially, we have gone in there, we've met with them and we've encouraged them to set appointments with Housing Services to assist them.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, these families are asking for $35,000 per family to help them relocate their homes by the deadline. They are asking that that assistance be provided by the federal government in partnership with the province. The province has recently entered into an agreement to administer low-income, off-reserve Native housing and it has a role to play in resolving this situation. So my question this time will be to the Minister of Community Services, what help is his department willing to offer these 27 families to deal with this situation?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I just want to clarify that the Band Council is taking care of the Aboriginal residents. It's the ones who are not Aboriginal that have been displaced by this and it is to those ones that we have encouraged to come. In the case of those who might be on social assistance, to meet with their caseworker and we would work with them to find alternative accommodations. For those who are homeowners, we have also encouraged them to speak with Housing Services to see what assistance we could provide them to find affordable housing.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, this is the only Band-owned trailer court, and this problem is likely never to happen again. Any assistance rendered is a one-time deal. I will ask the minister again, will he commit to working with these families, the federal counterpart, and the Band Council, to resolve this situation as soon as possible?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, the answer is that we've already been working with them. They do have a matter that they're taking up with the federal government, and that is between them and the federal government. In terms of trying to assist them to find alternative accommodations, we're already there working with them.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Victoria.

TRANSPORT. & PUB. WKS. - MEAT COVE RESIDENTS:

NEGLECT - EXPLAIN

MR. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Transportation and Public Works. People in rural Nova Scotia, they're not very demanding, usually, and they don't expect instant service the way many in urban areas do, but they expect at least adequate services. People who live in Meat Cove, for example, are far away from the urban core, but when it comes to emergency services, the Bay St. Lawrence Fire

[Page 1846]

Department is second to none. Unfortunately this past March, the Hines family of Meat Cove were burned out of their house while firefighters stood helplessly by; fortunately, no one was killed. The reason volunteer firefighters couldn't help is that the road was impassable due to the lack of maintenance. There was no sand applied and the fire truck couldn't get into the village. My question to the minister is, why were the people of Meat Cove neglected by your department?

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, it's obviously an important question. I'm not familiar with the particular events that the honourable member refers to. Obviously, I will take that under advisement and provide him with a response in the future.

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Minister, the roads in the area were not kept up, we believe, to at least a minimum standard. There was no front-end loader to disperse sand and crews have only an inadequate, cumbersome truck plow, which is unsuitable for certain conditions in the wintertime, particularly on ice. Residents of the area have met with DOT officials, but yet they haven't heard anything for many weeks. I would ask the minister, would he simply provide the service to the residents - through negotiations with the local DOT - of Meat Cove that all Nova Scotians deserve and expect?

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, this matter had been brought to my attention by the member for Inverness. I will try to find further details about exactly what arrangements have been made with the Department of Transportation and Public Works, the local authority and will provide it to the member.

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, many of us who live in rural Nova Scotia, particularly on dirt roads, we consider this a very serious matter when emergency service vehicles can't get into all these communities. I would ask the minister, will he meet with the residents of the area and the DOT officials, and discuss this issue and address it, so that next winter a tragedy like this won't happen? It may be fatal.

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for the invitation to travel to Meat Cove. I'm not sure when I will be able to take him up on the invitation. I can indicate to the honourable member on a number of fronts, first of all, there are standards for service in rural parts of this province and we are determined as a department and a government to ensure that adequate standards for winter maintenance are maintained and I can also remind the honourable member that it was this government that introduced the funds for rural roads - the so-called RIM program which is making such a tremendous success in improving rural roads that deteriorated when he was a member of the former government.

[Page 1847]

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

EDUC. - FAMILIES: STUDENT LOAN PROBS. - MIN. ASSIST

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education. I contacted the minister last month about the hardships faced by a family in my constituency who have a 3-year-old daughter who suffers from, among other things, a devastating genetic disorder, Hurler's Syndrome. The condition has required that she have bone marrow transplants at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto and she needs constant medical attention. This family of moderate means is struggling to deal with the debts accrued because of their daughter's medical problems. But the mom is being hounded by collection agencies trying to collect on her student loan. The minister has said he cannot intervene and I would like to ask the minister, is the minister still insistent that he can do nothing to help families with student loan problems?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member indeed did write to me with respect to the case he referenced. While I'm not in a position to be able to go into the details on that, we have, in fact, investigated the case to see what we could do by way of providing some relief. We have explored all possibilities with respect to that within the legal framework that is available to me and will continue to do that.

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

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

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

PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 36, the Financial Measures (2003) Act.

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

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

[Page 1848]

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, I was just wondering if there was a question. I was standing to speak.

MR. SPEAKER: Question Period has expired. We're on Bill No. 36.

MR. WILSON: Yes, I know.

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

MR. WILSON: I appreciate the recognition, Mr. Speaker, thank you very much. It's a pleasure to rise and to speak on the Financial Measures (2003) Bill.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable Minister of Tourism and Culture.

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, could I do an introduction if the member wouldn't mind.

MR. WILSON: Absolutely.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Tourism and Culture on an introduction.

MR. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his time. In the west gallery behind me we have a group of students from Dalbrae Academy, Grade 9 students in my hometown of Mabou. Also there are students from the Judique, Port Hood, Mabou and Whycocomagh area and one of my former colleagues is joining them as well as another teacher. We have Nadine Hunt, one of the teachers, as well as Melissa Cummings. I would ask the Grade 9s to rise and receive the warm welcome of the House and welcome to Halifax. (Applause)

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

The honourable member for Glace Bay.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, I join you and the honourable minister in welcoming our guests to the gallery as well. As I mentioned, it's a pleasure to rise and speak on the Financial Measures (2003) Bill, the hoist for the Financial Measures (2003) Bill in this case, asking us to discuss, take the time for a six-month period and discuss exactly what the Financial Measures (2003) Bill will mean to all of us.

[Page 1849]

I guess many will question why we spend so much time talking about these matters and why we spend so much time talking about issues such as debt, issues that are very important but may seem to some to be insignificant. Some will say, why should we care so much about debt when we need better education, better health care - aren't there other, more significant things that we should be spending our time talking about? Who cares about debt when we need such things as new roads? Who cares about debt when we need better health care, better education? I'll be the first to admit that it really won't cross the minds of many Nova Scotians. That is the perfect example of why we have to hoist this bill, because the effect of debt on this province right now is absolutely staggering. So we have to care about debt and we have to care about what it does. Because, Mr. Speaker, for the first time ever in the history of this province debt servicing charges now represent more money than we spend on education, over $1 billion that we now spend to service the debt. I don't think there are too many people who can argue that that is wrong.

[1:45 p.m.]

Imagine, Mr. Speaker, that every year for the foreseeable future, $1 billion will go to the banks just to cover off the interest on the debt and never paying back the principal. Giving a tax cut at a time when we keep adding to the debt is unconscionable. It is wrong and, eventually, in the end, it will have to be paid back. So the tax cut of today is the tax increase of tomorrow. Every dollar that we pay in debt is another dollar that will have to be paid back in higher taxes and higher user fees, as we've seen this government on many occasions not say the word taxes, they use user fees. But for all Nova Scotians, they'll have to pay back the higher tax or the user fee and not just those who pay income tax either, that will apply to every Nova Scotian.

Mr. Speaker, the tax cut the government has proposed goes to over 400,000 income- tax paying Nova Scotians. We can't forget about the countless others who have to pay higher fees and consumption tax on things like electricity, gasoline and home heating oil. So everyone who pays income tax gets a break and those who are left to pay all of the other fees and all of the other taxes will eventually have to pay for the debt, but they don't get the break, they don't get the cheque that is expected next month. Again, that's wrong. That's why this bill, the Financial Measures (2003) Bill, requires the scrutiny of a six months' hoist. That's why we should take that time to take another look at this.

Now, Mr. Speaker, the other thing the government has ignored is that it has not indexed tax brackets and credits to inflation. It is something that our Party has called for in the past and will again, when we can afford it. The lack of indexation means that any tax cut is not going to last. You know what that means; it means more tax, not less. Indexation means freezing tax at current levels, it does not mean tax relief. It means that in the future, governments won't be able to count on those secret backdoor tax increases. Indexation means that people will see their tax cut eroded away by bracket creep.

[Page 1850]

Not a lot of us would understand the meaning of bracket creep, and I probably would be among most of them, although it has been explained to me. It means that the tax cut today will be taken back tomorrow, because of inflation. For instance, in Manitoba, they cut taxes as well, but they failed to index the tax brackets there. That means the tax cut in Nova Scotia, as well as in Manitoba, will all be gone out the window in short order because of inflation. So this is not a tax cut at all. That, Mr. Speaker, is why we need six months so Nova Scotians know that they are not getting a tax cut, but what they are getting is a tax loan. Taxation without indexation is a short-term measure.

Mr. Speaker, my caucus' position on this is clear, we do favour tax relief but not while we're borrowing to pay for it. That's not the solution. It simply does not make sense to borrow more than you earn and still give a tax cut. In the election, the John Hamm Tories promised no new taxes and a $50 home heating rebate for every household in Nova Scotia. It would have cost the province about $17.8 million, in fiscal 1998-99. Taxation was not a large issue. During the 1999 election campaign, tax cuts were not front and centre. In fact the Tory tax cut garnered very little attention, compared to, for instance, the Health Investment Fund or Sysco funding or funding for primary education.

Mr. Speaker, in reality the tax cut issue seems to be a last-minute addition to the Tory platform. When initially asked whether he would promise a tax cut, it was John Hamm who replied that Nova Scotians would not believe that promise because they know that it's not doable. He went on to say that he would run a believable campaign, indicating once again that the tax cut idea was not initially believable. That came from The Halifax Herald, the June 19th edition of 1999.

Surprisingly, when the Premier then announced his platform on June 25, 1999, well, lo and behold, tax cuts were part of the blue book. Perhaps no person was more surprised at the election outcome, Mr. Speaker, than the Premier himself. I'm sure that a lot of Nova Scotians were surprised, it has become more apparent every day, since this government took office. For example, initially, the tax cut promise would cost $110 million. Now that has subsequently risen to $140 million, based on 10 per cent of the revenues.

The 10 per cent tax cut promised was simplistic in that it was never really elaborated on in terms of what it meant until well into the mandate of the Tory Government. Actually, Mr. Speaker, the vagueness of the promise was part of its strength. When or if they ever thought that they would fulfill the promise, nobody would be exactly sure what 10 per cent meant anyway. Now we know exactly what it means. It means that the government has scrapped the tax cut in favour of a one-time vote-buying scheme, a scheme that is being hoisted on Nova Scotia's borrowed money.

Mr. Speaker, it was the February 2000 federal budget that marked a turning point in Canadian history, because it contained the most significant tax cuts in this country's history. At the same time, what happened with that federal budget is that it eliminated what has

[Page 1851]

become known as bracket creep, what I referred to earlier, which is the full indexation of tax brackets and credits to inflation. Again, bracket creep results in people being pushed into higher tax brackets, because their income rises with inflation.

Mr. Speaker, I actually, probably come across as though I know what I'm talking about here. You would have to get an explanation, and it would be complicated, I know, because I found it complicated. When you take a look at the big picture, and you have someone explain it to you, and you see that your income does rise with inflation, then you know it's worthless. The result is that the tax rate rises, even though incomes don't. They don't increase in real terms.

Mr. Speaker, Finance Ministers from across this country, for them the federal tax cut on the end of bracket creep would mean a reduction in revenue because provincial taxes were set as a percentage of the federal rate. That was not the case for the Finance Minister of Nova Scotia because the Finance Minister in Nova Scotia did something called delinking and what he de-linked, or decoupled - I had the wrong word there, I may have the wrong phrase, de-linked or decoupled - in effect what he did, he raised taxes. That's what happened. So for three years there was actually an increase in taxes. The loss of bracket creep would be particularly alarming to any government that promised tax cuts because bracket creep provided a built-in, hidden tax increase over the years. That's where it was, you know. For instance, if you were walking home one night and someone jumped out from the bushes and said boo and you were startled, this is where that hidden tax came from - all of a sudden it was there. You were startled, but the government and the Finance Minister knew about it all along.

Mr. Speaker, even if a tax cut is given, Finance Ministers could always rely on bracket creep as an extra source of income, that's what it was. The only solution for the province was to decouple or de-link from the federal rate and set its own rates. So this new system was called tax on income. How am I doing?

AN HON. MEMBER: Excellent.

MR. WILSON: Okay, de-linking meant that provincial taxes would remain the same, the federal tax cut would have no impact whatsoever on provincial revenues. Well, Mr. Speaker, there are significant advantages to the tax on income because it allows the province to be quite flexible with tax credits, but at the same time it's not very good for a taxpayer. It's detrimental to the taxpayer, because there's no corresponding tax reduction when the federal rate drops.

Mr. Speaker, what's even more insidious is that while bracket creep was eliminated at the federal level, it was continued provincially because of that de-linking even though the province could have chosen to index credits and brackets at that time. That was a choice left up to the province. So the insidious part of bracket creep is that it amounts to, again as I said,

[Page 1852]

a hidden tax increase. Even if there is a provincial tax cut, the province can make it up over time, over a period of three years as they've done in this case through bracket creep.

Mr. Speaker, in order to expose the hidden tax increase, it was the then-Finance Critic for this Party who embarked on a campaign to get the government to commit to end bracket creep. The reason for the call was as follows - full indexation would amount to a tax freeze and a fundamental reform of the provincial tax system. So in taxing tax credits and tax brackets to inflation would provide the following - fairness, transparency and accountability in the tax system. Can you imagine those three words - fairness, transparency and accountability - three words that you have never heard before in the Tory caucus.

Mr. Speaker, the call for a tax freeze was followed up with a bill that would set up a committee to explore possible avenues for some meaningful tax reform while repeating the position. A call for an end to bracket creep received some media attention and even received the qualified support of the NDP Finance Critic. Of course, in the end, the bill was never passed, but it was debated, it was debated.

MR. SPEAKER: Would the honourable member for Glace Bay speak a little more directly to the hoist. We are dealing with the hoist of the Financial Measures (2003) Bill, Bill No. 36.

[2:00 p.m.]

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, I thank you for the reminder because the reminder would be exactly why we need to hoist this bill in the first place, to give us six months to consider all that has gone on in the past, including the subject of bracket creep and what has been happening with this government and how those hidden tax increases have been put into place by the Tory Government. I thank you for the reminder.

The bottom line is when the tax brackets fail to increase with inflation, the taxpayers are hit with a very real - it's very subtle - tax increase. Without first getting rid of bracket creep any tax cut is just eroded over time, that's what happens. In this case over the period of time that this government has been in power.

In the end, the government isn't giving a permanent tax cut, what we have instead is a temporary measure that's going to be lost over time. I would dare say that after this was explained to me - and I'm sure if it was explained in detail to a lot of people in this province, they would become very upset with this government and that's why, Mr. Speaker, again, as you reminded me, we have to hoist this bill.

You know this government likes to bring up issues that are irrelevant like the previous government's record on fiscal matters, that has been the case time and time again. In my personal experience on arriving in this House, over the past three and a half to four

[Page 1853]

years, the government of the day has taken every opportunity it can to say that was the fault of the previous Liberal Administration, that was the fault of the previous minister, it was the previous government that did that. Never, ever, not once, taking responsibility, even now - almost four years later - to say we've been in power for the last four years, we should be living up to our mistakes, we should be the ones taking responsibility for what has happened over the past four years, because we are the ones who should be taking responsibility. Nobody from this government has ever done that, all they've done and continue to do is point the finger across the way. Sometimes they even point to the Party that has never been in power and they blame them for their ideas and their concerns; unfair, totally unfair.

The reality is that this government, and every government since 1993, has been trying to deal with the legacy of the 1980s.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Most everybody in the Chamber, except for maybe one or two, are engaged in conversation and it's very difficult for the Speaker to hear the member who has the floor, the member for Glace Bay. I would ask all members just to turn those conversations down a decibel or two and perhaps we all can carry on.

The honourable member for Glace Bay has the floor.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, as I was saying, the reality is that this government, and every government since 1993, has been trying to deal with a legacy that was left from the 1980s and early 1990s.

In the Auditor General's Report of 2001, for instance, the Auditor General said:

"In the early 1990s Nova Scotia was running huge deficits and debt was skyrocketing. Actions by successive governments from 1993 on have slowed the pace but the goal of achieving a balanced budget has still not been met, and the Province's debt continues to grow. There are other overriding questions which remain to be answered. Is balancing the budget enough? Aren't significant sustained surpluses necessary to really start reducing the debt?"

Much has been done in the last 10 years but it was a result of actions by every government since 1993, including the Russell MacLellan Government, that had to wrestle with the legacy of people like John Buchanan and Don Cameron. Those are the facts.

Now we're told by this current government, and the current Finance Minister, the debt is going to continue to increase into the year 2013. I dare say that's not a very good thought when you look at our children. When you take a look at them in future years, whether they be our children or our grandchildren, in the year 2013 they're going to be left with a legacy of still paying a debt, a debt that continues to grow under this government.

[Page 1854]

Everybody knows the current Minister of Finance was part of those governments, but I will acknowledge that was a long time ago. It was a long time ago.

AN HON. MEMBER: He had dark hair then.

MR. WILSON: Yes, he had dark hair and I had some hair, that's how long ago it was.

Mr. Speaker, the lessons of that time should have been learned by now, that's where the mistakes are being made. This government made some great strides in the last couple of years, as had previous Liberal Governments. In less partisan moments, the minister has acknowledged this. The tax scheme went forward, the budget tabled, and something all of a sudden went horribly wrong. The last budget marked a turning point in Nova Scotia history, because the lessons of the past have been thrown aside and now we've re-opened the floodgates of spending, which puts us in a very dangerous position.

The borrowing continues, it continues to put future generations at risk, our children, our grandchildren. A promise that the Premier of this province, when he was campaigning in 1999, in the blue book, a promise that the Premier of this province made that he would not let happen - he would not continue to borrow, the debt would not continue to increase. We would not mismanage this province, and the future of our children and our grandchildren, a promise from John Hamm. What we have is an unprecedented tax scheme that has been unleashed upon the people of Nova Scotia. The floodgates have opened, the borrowing continues, and we have put future generations at great risk.

Mr. Speaker, I think if you went through the coffee shops and the restaurants, the bars or whatever, sat down and had a chat with ordinary Nova Scotians over the past few weeks, they would tell, almost to a person, that the $155 rebate cheque that this government is about to hand out in the next month or so is nothing more than a vote-buying scheme. It's an indication of that kind of cynical politics that the Premier promised he would not engage in, that kind of cynical partisan politics that Nova Scotians are sick and tired of, the kind of politics that Nova Scotians have said, time and time again, they want no part of anymore. They've given that message to all three Parties in this province.

Again, it's almost election time, it's just around the corner. That kind of cynical politics - those kinds of promises made by the Premier are thrown out the window. The Premier said the other day in Question Period, with a great amount of glee, that it's time, almost time for blue book 2. Oh, Mr. Speaker, I'm scared. If blue book 2 is anything like blue book 1, I don't want to see the sequel. I don't need to see it.

Turning to the past, let's go back a bit, if we shall, let's go back to 1989 for instance, in particular, on May 5, 1989, there was a very optimistic and glowing budget tabled by the honourable Finance Minister at the time. In that budget, the economy was growing, unemployment was down, but there were some signs at that time that it would not continue -

[Page 1855]

for those of you who might wonder, I think it was Greg Kerr who was the Finance Minister at the time. Now it might have been recognized at that time, but by that time it was too late - and I mean to recognize the signs that that recovery would not continue. That day the government was warned by the Liberals that the day of reckoning was near.

The day of reckoning did come and it hit the Tory Government at the time, it hit that Tory Government over the head like a hammer. In 1991 another budget showed that there was a recession - unemployment was up, revenues were down from transfers, interest rates were about 13 per cent at the time and the ground fishery was on the verge of collapse. The John Buchanan Government was warned by one Bill Gillis that the day of reckoning was coming and he was right. He was right.

Let me tell you, before the heckling starts, what did the two Finance Ministers for the Liberal Party do - and that's to be expected. Let me tell you about the relevance of 1989 to today. Today we're back to where we were in 1989, thus we have to talk about hoisting this bill for six months because we don't want the day of reckoning to come again. Well, partly we do, we want to get rid of that government, but we don't want to borrow anymore on the future of our children and our grandchildren. We've learned that lesson. We've learned that lesson is wrong. We've learned that to do that is wrong.

The government is relying on a growing economy instead of sound fiscal management, which is what's needed. The borrowing continues unabated. Borrow away. You need something? Borrow some more money. You need something else, borrow some more money. Education? Borrow some more money. Health? Borrow some more money. Roads? Borrow some more money. We know that in our own little worlds when we leave here, in our own little private worlds and in our own little homes, in our own little families, we know that if we lived that way it wouldn't take too long for the end to come.

Alarm bells should be going off all over this province because this government is not ready when the next day of reckoning comes. It's around the corner, it's around the corner and it's Nova Scotians that are going to suffer. Interest rates are at their lowest level since the Depression. In the United States, the economy is slowing and the growth in the offshore has stalled. It's practically kaput. This, among any time, is not the time to all of a sudden open up the floodgates and say, let's go ahead with all of this spending. It's not the time to keep borrowing and it's certainly not the time to implement a tax scheme that is aimed at buying votes. It's not the time. This government has bragged because it's spending $250 million on capital and they have justified that borrowing by saying that it's for schools and roads. Well, let's go back in time again a little bit. Let's go back to the budget of May 14, 1991.

At that time, the government borrowed $260 million for capital. Imagine, 10 years ago the province borrowed $10 million more than the Government of John Hamm for schools. Schools that are now - well, they're falling apart. Some unfortunately have even

[Page 1856]

fallen into the ground. Although, I must admit, that's through no fault of the budget. Adjusted to today's dollars, that $10 million, that figure is probably much, much higher.

[2:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, we cannot justify borrowing by saying that it's an investment. It doesn't work. They did the same thing under John Buchanan. Go back, look at the mess at the time, look what happened. Every government since 1993 has had to deal with that legacy, I referred to before as the legacy of debt, that was left by the Buchanan Government. Again a lesson to us all why we have to take the time now and debate the hoist amendment on this bill to delay it for six months because we have the opportunity not to make the same mistakes. Every government, make no mistake, has to realize that the day of reckoning is not far off, but you don't have to get there in a hurry. You don't have to get there in a hurry. If interest rates go up, if the economy shrinks, then this province is going to be in big trouble, big trouble. The most alarming part of the whole budget, it's not the numbers, they're not the most alarming, not even the attempt to buy votes with the $155 cheque, that's not one of the most alarming parts of this budget. It's the attitude of the Premier, it's the attitude of the Finance Minister, it's the attitude of the whole government and if they continue to dig in, it's going to be their attitude that will ruin Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, the Finance Minister of this province said, yes, we are borrowing and we make no apologies for that. We make no apologies - the words of the Finance Minister. Well, my question is simple, who's going to pay it back? It won't be us. Most of us will not be here. It will be our children, it will be our grandchildren, it will be their children that end up paying a debt that continues to grow, a debt that the other day the Finance Minister and his officials admitted is still going to grow into the year 2013. The minister will be collecting his pension by the time the bill comes due for the reckless borrowing of this government. So I find not only the Finance Minister's attitude, but the Premier's attitude and the attitude of the government very disturbing.

Mr. Speaker, it was the Premier of this province who said he would not add to the debt. He said he would not borrow against his grandchildren and he said he would not cynically try to buy votes. Those promises were all made in the blue book to kick off the election campaign of 1999. Now what we have with this cavalier attitude that is shown by the government and its Leader, the Premier, is an attitude that could bankrupt this province. It's an attitude and a position that has been taken that will mortgage our grandchildren's future.

So the tax issue and the debt issue, although to some, may be somewhat boring and mundane. Not a subject that you want to talk about all the time, tossing around all of those figures and all of the acronyms that go with it, the tax system, the TONI, is that what they call it, and also the bracket creep. You throw around all those things and everybody says this isn't really exciting, this really doesn't get anybody's attention. What does get their attention

[Page 1857]

is the moment when they look at their children or their grandchildren and they say I'm going to leave them behind a nice, great big, fat debt to pay in the year 2013, 2020, 2025. You know they're going to be running around reaching into their pockets and looking for money to pay the debt and to pay for the mistakes of this government.

Mr. Speaker, I'm pretty sure if you wanted to take a look and say what this government has tried to sell this whole thing with, it's the $155 cheque, you know, the rum-bottle budget and the $155 kickback, here's your cheque, and I'm sure, I know that a lot of Nova Scotians can use $155.

Give me the money, Mr. Speaker, you're going to take that $155 cheque and I've talked to constituents in Glace Bay, my home constituency, who say, yes, I will take the money, give me the money, I will take the $155 cheque and I will go buy something that normally I couldn't buy, you know, I might go down and buy an article of clothing, I might go buy a couple new pairs of shoes. I might go to the liquor store, I might buy a bottle of rum because this is the rum-bottle budget, or I might not. Everybody has said that I've asked, yes, I will take that cheque but, do you know what, the ironic part is not one person that I've talked to has said I will take the cheque and I'm changing my vote to Tory, not one person, not one person has said that.

As a matter of fact, they've gone as far, Mr. Speaker, to say I will take the cheque and I will never vote Tory, or I don't appreciate what they're trying to do with this, I know the difference, but I need the money. The sad part is that those who need it the most in this province and there are over 300,000 of them, over 300,000 people in this province will not get one red cent back. They won't see that $155 because they don't pay provincial income tax. They don't pay provincial income tax because they are the people in this province who are on social assistance. They are the people who are on low fixed incomes. They won't see a dime. Pensioners, absolutely nothing.

Mr. Speaker, as I said, the people who need it the most, and I'm sure every, every Tory MLA on the government side, including the backbenchers, they know in their riding that there are people who need that money, that if you gave them that extra $155, they would run out and they would spend it in shops and on services in their community that would be a huge boost to that area in particular, to businesses or whatever the case may be, but think about the numbers. Yes, granted, 400,000-some will get the cheque and they will do the same thing, but those 300,000-some people who need it the most, as I said, will not get a dime from this government.

Mr. Speaker, every member, every member of the Cabinet, every member of the Executive Council, every Cabinet Minister in this province is going to get a $155 cheque, but not those 300,000-some people who need it the most. They're not going to get it. Is that fair and that's not progressive. As one of the honourable members has mentioned, is this the speech from the NDP? No, this one makes sense.

[Page 1858]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member shouldn't get sidetracked by (Interruption) Yes, the rabbit tracks, and the honourable member knows that. Order, please.

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I believe that if the member is going to continue to quote from our speeches, he should have the decency to table them.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would like to rule on that point that the honourable member brought to the Legislature. I would like to say that it does not meet the conditions of a point of order.

The honourable member for Glace Bay does have the floor.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, I take your wise advice, I'm not following those tracks. Let's take a look at the tax cut itself. I've heard the Finance Minister talk about how Nova Scotia is going to have the lowest taxes in the country. That's not going to hold water. The minister did not do and say what they have done, for instance in New Brunswick, is index their tax brackets and credits to inflation. I mentioned before what we end up with is a short-term tax loan. So that means that over time the tax cut will be clawed back by that insidious thing, bracket creep. Well, New Brunswick has indexed their tax brackets and credits, meaning that fewer low-income people pay taxes in New Brunswick. Let me give you example, we will take the basic personal amount in taxes. In Nova Scotia it's going to remain at $7,231; in New Brunswick it's $7,756, for a difference of $525. The other most common non-refundable tax credit is the spousal amount, $6,140; in New Brunswick, it's $6,568, for a difference of $428.

Mr. Speaker, all told, in New Brunswick, a family in New Brunswick where one spouse works has $953 more in tax credits available to them, and that's just one part of it. The tax brackets in New Brunswick, they have a higher threshold than Nova Scotia. So, as I said, the Finance Minister's claim doesn't hold up to scrutiny. Today's tax cut is a temporary measure that's going to be eroded away because of hidden bracket creep taxes which are caused by inflation. Those hidden taxes. Remember, I've referred to them two or three times now. Inflation will wipe out the tax cut in short order.

Mr. Speaker, last year alone, inflation was close to 5 per cent. Take it from there. The Metropolitan Halifax Chamber of Commerce recently chided this Finance Minister for not dealing with the debt. As a matter of fact, they now have instituted a debt watch - is that what they called it, a debt watch - and the clock is ticking. (Interruptions) It could be. I said debt, d-e-p-t, but you could mistake that to mean a death watch for the government, d-e-a, (Interruption) I said d-e-p-t. (Interruptions) B - that's what I said. Did I say that, I'm sorry. It's like having one of my good old teachers correct me (Interruptions) I accept the member

[Page 1859]

for Timberlea-Prospect correcting me, d-e-b-t. I knew it was d-e-b-t. That's hard to say. (Interruptions) Instead it's a death watch, d-e-a-t-h. Let's get on with it, okay.

The Metropolitan Halifax Chamber of Commerce measured the state of the province's finances, and one of their key measurements, if I'm not mistaken, was sustainability. Well, if expenses are growing at 4.1 per cent but revenues are growing at 3.8 per cent, could any member of the government look Nova Scotians in the eye and say that is sustainable. Over the long term, it will be trouble.

Mr. Speaker, as I said, and again the reason why we are taking the opportunity to say, let's hoist this bill for six months and think about it again is because the Minister of Finance in this province has made no apologies whatsoever for borrowing. As he says, and I quote, "For a decade or more, the vital public works of this province were allowed to fall into disrepair. Roads, bridges and ferries are essential elements of our economic future." Well, perhaps the minister would like to explain to Nova Scotians why there was no money for roads over a decade and, if not, I will provide the explanation for you. It was because John Buchanan overspent and spent money that he didn't have. He overspent.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Senator Buchanan.

MR. WILSON: I mean no disrespect, of course Senator John Buchanan. I mean no disrespect. The fact of the matter is, and the facts are always there to go back and look at - in fact, we will go back in time just one more time, in 1996, after being attacked by a guy by the name of Frank McKenna as the worst government in Canada, a former colleague of the minister, the honourable Terence Donahoe said there was nothing wrong with the Buchanan debt because it was spent on roads, schools and hospitals. Well, those are pretty familiar words, aren't they, Mr. Speaker? Very familiar. Nothing wrong with the debt because it was spent on roads, schools and hospitals.

[2:30 p.m.]

A couple of days later, it was Senator Buchanan who jumped in to defend his record by saying that $400 million deficits were okay because, as he said at that time, we built hospitals and roads from Sydney to Yarmouth and it was the right thing to do.

Yes, our Finance Minister at the time was (Interruption) I wasn't aware of that, I couldn't go back that far, but he was, perhaps, Solicitor General in the Cabinet at the time. Perhaps that's where he recalled those words from and perhaps that's where he got a lot of his advice from? Perhaps that's the financial strategy that we're seeing now, the same strategy that was used back then in 1996 and earlier.

[Page 1860]

It wasn't the right thing to do then and it's certainly not the right thing to do now. What we have hit here - the government is pretending that there's not a problem - but what we have hit in Nova Scotia at this time is the danger zone. That's why you have the Metropolitan Halifax Chamber of Commerce coming up with a debt watch. Because they know we're there. That hand is going to go into the red and the alarm bells are going to start ringing and it's going to happen - maybe, as I said, not to us, but it's going to happen to our children and it's going to happen to our grandchildren and they're going to be left with our legacy and the legacy of this government and the legacy of this Premier and the legacy of this Finance Minister.

The legacy of a debt that will bring them down. The legacy of a debt that will not allow our children and our grandchildren to live the way they should in the future. That's why we're in the danger zone. That's why Nova Scotians need time to digest this tax measure. That's why we're trying to hoist it so that they know what they're getting. You have to know what you're buying, you have to be a very careful consumer in this day and age. For instance, Mr. Speaker, there's some places you just shouldn't go. I'm not prepared to go to a lot of places, but one place that I'm prepared to go is to try to prove the point that this government is making some huge mistakes that our children, not us, are going to pay for in the future.

You can't overstate something like this. You can't say it enough that you have to handle our debt. You cannot not get worried when the debt-servicing charge starts to cost more than what we actually spend on education in this province. We all know where education is right now. We know the problems that we're having and unfortunately, we know that national institutions are starting to rank our universities now, where we've fallen to last place in some instances. We can't go there. We can't afford it. But we certainly cannot afford to leave those mistakes right in the laps of our children in the future and have them pay for our mistakes.

How can anybody accept that as being the right thing to do? Again, I make reference to the blue book because at the time it was the Third Party, which is now the government, and the Leader of the Third Party who came up with this glorious list of promises that were going to cure all of the problems in Nova Scotia and compiled them into this blue book that has now become infamous in Nova Scotia. We await the arrival of blue book 2, Heaven forbid. The book of shame as one of my colleagues says. You a colleague? Sure you're a colleague. The book of shame.

If we are to continue on this road, in this province and from time to time it's okay to laugh because you have nothing else left but to step back and laugh at something so ridiculous. Something that you say, oh they can't be doing that, they honestly can't think that's the right thing to do. That's laughable. You can't continue to increase the debt into the year 2013 and leave it behind for our kids so that they can deal with it. You can't believe that's possible. You would have a little giggle and you would move on from there. Then you

[Page 1861]

suddenly realize that yes, it is true. Not only is it true, they're actually going to follow through on it.

Then, on top of all of that, they're going to do this ridiculous little thing by saying, we can win you over by giving you a $155 cheque. If you get that cheque and it says Premier John Hamm on it and it says $155 and the first thing you do is run out to cash it so that you can spend it, then, supposedly, what the government is hoping you will do is say, oh - please make note on refrigerator to vote for John Hamm in next election. If you look at the refrigerator door, that note won't be there because you have made a note elsewhere to remind you - please remind self that John Hamm tried to buy my vote. So when I go to the poll, I am not going to vote Tory in this election, but ps. thanks for the $155. It was good while it lasted and probably should have been more. Most people would say that, I dare say. I'm not stating policy at this time, I'm just saying most people would say that.

Mr. Speaker, in all seriousness, I don't have much time left and I intend to wrap up my comments in the next minute or so, just to give my colleagues advance notice. We have, in all seriousness, reached a danger zone. This government is pretending that there is not a problem. This government is leaving a legacy that is not a proud legacy at all. It's a legacy that, unfortunately, our children will live with forever. It's a legacy that could be stopped, again, why we are asking for the support on our hoist motion, to take six months and reconsider this. Step back, look at the mistakes that are being proposed here, look at what could be done to make things better, stop spending, stop increasing the debt, stop mortgaging away the future of our children once and for all.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I thank you for your time to address the House and I take my seat.

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

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I certainly welcome the opportunity at this time to join the debate on the hoist motion, this motion to set aside the Financial Measures (2003) Bill for a period of six months in order to allow for appropriate consultation. To try to determine whether or not there are better ways in which we ought to be able to administer the financial affairs of the province. I couldn't help but notice that my colleague, in his speech, made constant reference to a former Premier in this House, John Buchanan, Senator Buchanan, who is now located in the other place. It is true that we will be forever in his debt, there is no doubt of that.

I should remind my colleague that when that mortgage does come due, part of it will bear the name of Bernie Boudreau and of Don Downe. Part of that legacy is the result of the actions taken by the former Liberal Government. I couldn't help notice, Mr. Speaker, that the Liberals have constantly been talking about this budget and about the Financial Measures (2003) Bill as the rum-bottle budget. I can't help but think that that has to be the most ironic

[Page 1862]

characterization because, of course, the Liberal Party sits upon a fund that was generated by tollgating on rum bottles for years while they were in government. It is incredible that they would refer to this as the rum-bottle budget.

Mr. Speaker, if they really wanted to do something about the debt of this province, they could return, to the people of this province, the money in that fund.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I just wonder if he's going to go into that in a little bit more detail, about the source of that fund. I was just wondering if the honourable member was going to do that.

MR. SPEAKER: It's not a point, it's more a question directed to the Leader of the Official Opposition. He's being asked if he would engage more dialogue on the issue he raised. The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition does have the floor.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, you know they're pretty touchy about this, because they have said that they want to change the culture of politics in Nova Scotia. Well, if they want to change the culture of politics, give that money back to the people of Nova Scotia, where it came from, because if they would give us back the money from that trust fund, we would be able to pay people at the RRSS what they're worth. If we had that money back, we could put it on the debt, as they suggested. If we had that money back, we could reduce the cost of tuition in this province. We could take virtually any cause that they espouse and apply the money to that and it would be in the public good. But will they do it? No, no, they won't do it. I just find it more than just a little bit ironic that they would take the time in this House to castigate the Party. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I think I should, in all fairness, remind the honourable Leader of the Official Opposition that before us today we are debating the hoist motion on the Financial Measures (2003) Bill which is Bill No. 36. Although obviously some members find the comments somewhat engaging, they are bordering on irrelevant to the debate.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, we're talking about the Financial Measures (2003) bill and what I'm suggesting is that if we had six months, that there are financial measures that could be taken in order to bring those trust funds into the possession of this province and be used for the public good. I think that's very relevant, very, very relevant to this debate. You know something, there's an old saying that if you throw a stone into a pack of dogs and you hear a yelp, they say you've hit something. Now, I wouldn't compare this to a pack of dogs, don't get me wrong, but I just note that there's an awful lot of yowling going on over there.

Mr. Speaker, I think it's time to move on because, today, Andrea Skinner . . .

[Page 1863]

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, on a point of personal privilege. On behalf of all honourable members in this House, I take great exception to being referred to as a pack of dogs. (Interruptions) If I may continue my point of privilege, I don't think it would be fair of anyone to refer to any honourable member in this House in such a way, and I would think it's appropriate that the honourable member be asked to present an apology to us.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I don't really think an apology is necessary. Quite honestly, I think all members realize that the member was speaking figuratively, not literally, and the honourable member knows that and, in fact, he prefaced that comment by that and perhaps during so much din the honourable member for Glace Bay didn't hear that. The Leader of the Official Opposition does have the floor.

MR. DEXTER: Yes, that's a metaphor because he used the word like. (Interruption)

Like or as, as is a simile, I don't know. I'm sure there's somebody out there who will phone in and tell us.

Mr. Speaker, I wanted to get on from that because, although it was a stirring diversion, it was nonetheless somewhat of a diversion because we have to deal with serious matters contained in the Financial Measures (2003) Bill. I wanted to mention, because there was much discussion today around the case of Andrea Skinner and the Finance Minister has said that there is a section in the Financial Measures (2003) Bill that in particular needs to be examined. It has to deal with an exemption which would allow the casino to operate in defiance, essentially, of the bylaw of the Halifax Regional Municipality. I know that the minister has said that this is preemptive in nature, and permissive, I think he said. This gives them the power to do something that they may have to do but don't want to do. Of course, the other alternative to that is that the minister could have brought forward a piece of legislation that simply said that that element of the contract doesn't apply in this circumstance. He could have done that, he could have amended the contract by legislation.

[2:45 p.m.]

Before the minister says, oh my goodness, we could never do something like that, well, when it came to Bill No. 66, and they were going to impose an entire contract on health care workers, they had no problem. They had no problem amending the contracts of working people, they do that all the time. This government shows no compunction about managing and amending their contracts, but when it comes to the contract of their buddies operating the casino, well, that is a completely different matter. (Interruptions) I said Bill No. 68, I believe.

Mr. Speaker, I wanted to point that out because given the fact that if this motion is successful, the Minister of Finance will have six months to draft that kind of legislation, which I think would be much fairer than what he's presently undertaking in order to confer - and I say this with all seriousness - a preference on the casino operator. You might know that

[Page 1864]

that is actually, in some areas of law, not allowed by Statute. You are unable to confer a preference on creditors, for example.

I think the minister ought to take these six months under the hoist motion to consider that. I think it's also important to have a look at what the blue book said and compare that to the measures that actually exist in the Financial Measures (2003) Bill to see if what they're doing now is actually in the manner of executing a plan, which they said they were going to undertake. Of course, they said that they were going to establish a long-term funding base for our schools.

Mr. Speaker, in 2002-04, there was a $6.4 million enrolment clawback from the boards. Of the total injection of $43 million for public education, the teachers union has said that they will barely cover the negotiated salary and benefit increases. Not only was there an enrolment clawback, but the province has downloaded $2.9 million more onto the boards, and that is to say that municipalities - the position the province takes, I guess is a better way to put it - were supposed to have been paying that additional $2.9 million and weren't, so they're going to pass this along to them.

The blue book recognized what I think were some salient facts about the situations in our schools prior to this government coming to power. They said that too many teachers are faced with overcrowded classrooms and scarce resources. They went on to say, that our schools must be functional, environmentally safe and must reflect the needs of our community. Well, how do you make those statements from the blue book work in the context of what we now know about the policy of this government?

Let's look at Barrington, let's look at the Barrington Passage School. Would you say that a school that is making people sick is environmentally safe? Do you think it's providing a good learning environment for those children? I don't think so, and I don't think that the parents of those children in Barrington Passage will agree with this government. I think, as the member for Shelburne knows, that these people are very upset at what they see as a lack of attention to one of the most basic, one of the most fundamental requirements for receiving a decent education in this province, which is that the buildings to which they send their children to school are going to be environmentally safe, that they are not going to miss time from the schools because they are ill.

What about the other requirement that they set up? The government, the then Third Party, running to be the government and eventually successful said that these schools must reflect the needs of their community.

How does that apply in the context of what's going on in Dominion? The community has made it very clear that school is a part of the fabric of their community. That it is part of the glue that holds the community together. It's used for any number of community events. It helps provide part of their identity and yet when subsidence causes this school to sink into

[Page 1865]

the ground and to no longer be useable or functional, what does the government say? Does the government say that they are going to recognize their responsibility - one that they set out in black and white in the blue book? The blue book - I'm sure they remember that, Mr. Speaker, I'm sure you remember it. I think it was called a strong leadership, a clear curse. Was that it? No, no, no. A clear course, I'm sorry, it was a clear course. Probably better known now as a clear curse.

The reality is, the Dominion school is not going to be rebuilt by this government. Despite the urging of the school board, this minister refuses to commit to the rebuilding or to the building of a Primary to Grade 9 facility in that community. If they do eventually announce it, you can be sure that it will be in the middle of an election campaign when they feel they can reap whatever political reward out of making the announcement. This is a terrible shame and not consistent with the stated aims and goals of the Third Party, as they then were, running for government.

They attacked the Liberals. I remember the attacks on the Liberals at the time. They said that at the same time - they're still touchy, I understand it - as the government is talking about building 100 new P3 schools, Nova Scotians are hearing about cuts to Primary class time and teachers. Mr. Speaker, you may remember the cuts that were proposed to Primary class time.

In fact, this year this government has clawed back $6.4 million because of enrolment declines. Now, what does that mean? What does it mean? It is the equivalent of between 122 and 132 full-time equivalent teaching positions. That is what is being cut from the schools of our province. This is at a time when they're trying to boast about adding 127 new teachers. Can you imagine? The reality is that we could very well end up in a deficit position in terms of the number of teachers who will be in the system after this government is through.

In 1998-99 there were 9,620.9 full-time equivalent teaching positions in the school system. The latest statistics for 2000-01 shows that there were 9,443.9 full-time equivalent teachers in the system. So, there has been a pattern of decline in the actual numbers of teachers of between 150 and 200 a year on the watch of this government. It's a far cry from enhancement to the school system. You don't have to look any further than the implementation of the Special Education Implementation Review Committee - the SEIRC - has recommended to this government and let's remember, this was a committee established by this government to look at the implementation of the integration policy in schools of this province and to report back to them. They did so, I think almost two years ago, maybe longer.

The government has not acknowledged the study, has never made any attempt to try and respond to the recommendations that were there. As a result, the children who are in our schools who are in the integration program, many of them who have special needs - those who suffer from attention deficit disorder, those who suffer from hyperactivity disorder or a combination of both, those children who suffer from anxiety and depression and from other

[Page 1866]

maladies that make school a challenge for them, they are not receiving from this government the attention or the resources to allow them to be a success in their schools.

Mr. Speaker, this is an abandonment of those children. I can tell you from the experience that I have had in my constituency that people have come forward to me and said, you know something, the only time my child ever got attention from the government was when they became a problem with the justice system. When they were in the education system, they weren't willing to deal with them but when they got to the justice system, they were sure as heck willing to deal with them. Well, that's too late, because at that point these children are lost. This government has failed in one of its most fundamental and crucial obligations, which is to look after those who, in the long run, will be charged with the responsibility to look after us.

Mr. Speaker, I say that this is a tremendous deficit that this government has created through its own actions. I would like to turn my attention now, if I may, to what the blue book said about the finances of this province. It said, ultimately, if Nova Scotia is to be competitive, our tax environment must also be competitive. This has been the subject of some debate already in this House. I find that it's a debate that takes place in a very manufactured way, and I have said before and I will say again that the taxation adjustments that have been made are essentially the government's weapon of mass distraction. It's designed to distract people from the real issues of the day, from issues like long-term care and from rising auto insurance rates and the fact that most of the other taxes they are paying are all going up.

But look at the fundamental question, is this a tax-cut budget, is this a budget in which the tax burden on the people of Nova Scotia will actually go down? No, Mr. Speaker. That's not what's going to happen. My colleague in the Liberal Party pointed out that bracket creep is going to eat up $28 million of the so-called tax cut that the minister is proposing. Sales tax, the HST, is going to up by $37 million; the tobacco tax is up $21 million; the gas tax is up $8.5 million; the Liquor Corporation tax goes up an additional $6.5 million; the Registry of Motor Vehicle fees are up $1.1 million; and if you can believe it, apprenticeship fees are up $326,000.

You may remember, Mr. Speaker, because I certainly remember very well that there was a little, tiny promise that was made over and over again in this House, they said that they were going to make fishing licenses free for the seniors of this province. You know something, they are still charging seniors for fishing licenses because they want to generate as much revenue as they can and they don't care who they get it from. They don't care.

AN HON. MEMBER: Don't identify the member who did that, though.

[Page 1867]

MR. DEXTER: My colleague says not to identify the member who was so passionate in his demonstrations on this matter, and I won't. As I know, you know him well. Let me just leave it at that.

Mr. Speaker, a running total in this budget of an increase in taxes is $75 million, there will be $75 million more paid in taxes by individuals, even if you net out the tax deduction. People aren't getting a tax cut, they're going to pay more in tax. They're going to pay more to be a citizen in this province. Well, the reality is that other fees will also increase, community college fees, university tuition is going to go up. University tuition, already the highest in the country at over $5,000, more than $1,500 more than the national average. It's the young people of our province being saddled with debt. Do you know something, this government is the same government that cancelled the Loan Remission Program and for four years added $10 million worth of debt a year onto the backs of young people. That is the legacy of this government. We know that the park fees are going up. We have seen through the district health authorities, the responsibility of the government, the imposition of parking fees in the lots of rural hospitals. We know that woodlot training fees are going up. We know that underground mining fees are going up. All of these fees are designed to generate additional revenue.

[3:00 p.m.]

There's one salient point that we should take from this, Mr. Speaker, and that is this, that the estimate to estimate increase in the revenue of this province in this coming year will be $296.68 million, almost a $300 million increase in revenues. Over the past four years this government has had the opportunity to spend more than $1 billion in new revenues and the question for the families of today, the question for Nova Scotian families is pretty simple, do you think that you're better off today than you were four years ago? And what we hear day in and day out, almost universally, is no, no, they're worse off. We pay more in every area. We get less service. We have fewer people to provide what we need in our hospitals, in our schools. We have fewer staff. We have higher taxes.

Mr. Speaker, a government that was truly committed to the people of this province would not allow seniors to pay for health care in long-term care facilities, for example, and today I think this is important because this is something that should absolutely have been addressed in the Financial Measures (2003) Bill and would be if I think the government had time to speak about it. This afternoon I had the opportunity to bring to the attention of the Minister of Health the case of Gerry Harrop, the Reverend Harrop who is going to lose everything that he worked his lifetime for in order to pay for health care. Gerry Harrop is not just anybody. Gerry Harrop - and this is the irony of Mr. Harrop's case - Mr. Harrop was a personal friend of Tommy Douglas. In fact, he was his pastor. He's the reverend who baptized Tommy Douglas' daughter, Shirley. Tommy Douglas worked a lifetime and stands in this country for a simple proposition which is that if you are ill in this country and if you need medical care, nobody is going to look at how much money you make, or how much you

[Page 1868]

have in the bank, or what your ability to pay is, you are going to receive that health care at the same level with the same expertise and in the same timely fashion as everybody else.

Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, if Tommy were here today, he would have to acknowledge, I am afraid, that when it comes to senior citizens in this province, that is not the case because when it comes to senior citizens in this province, they are required, as no one else is, Mr. Speaker, if you wind up in the emergency room, nobody at the emergency room is going to say, look, I'm sorry, you're going to have to go away and come back in 2007 and that's when we're prepared to pay for your medical care. Nobody is going to say that to you. They're going to provide you with appropriate medical care right there, but if you are a senior in this province and you are unfortunate enough to have to go to a long-term care facility, the people in that facility are going to say to you that until the year 2007 we are going to continue to take everything that you have in order to pay for care that everybody else gets as part of the publicly-funded Medicare system.

This, to me, Mr. Speaker, is a travesty and I believe that a government that really cared about people, that cared about people more than they care about budgets, would have taken this opportunity with $1 billion more in revenue to see to it that that did not stand. A government that really cared about the people of Nova Scotia would bring forward in the Financial Measures (2003) Bill and in the other Acts of the House, provisions that would provide a system of auto insurance in this province that would mean that the compulsory product that is necessary for everybody in this province would be affordable and available to everyone.

But that's not the case. Instead, this government decides to stick its head in the sand and do nothing while people continue to be charged outrageous amounts for auto insurance that they are discriminated against for the most fictitious of reasons. Government decides to do nothing and the minister responsible for the skyrocketing insurance premiums simply says, you know, in Manitoba, the rates are lower because the roads are flat, displaying his misunderstanding of what's going on in the insurance industry.

A government that really cared about the people of this province would know that by amending the HST agreement, they could benefit the broad sector of society, including the 300,000 people who will receive nothing as a result of the present tax measure. They would understand that if they took the HST off home heating oil, off electricity, off children's medication. I believe, and I think many people believe that there are some things which by their very nature ought not to attract tax. Surely, medicine is one of those. Even if it's only across-the-counter medicine for children. Or, children's clothing. The amendment of the HST agreement would allow for a broad-based tax break which would give the families of today, would give Nova Scotian families a real break. I believe that the people of Nova Scotia are ready to stand up and to say to the government, we demand a new contract with our government. We demand a better deal from our government.

[Page 1869]

That's where I'm going to leave it because the people who make up the government caucus are going to find out all too soon why it is that the measures contained in the Financial Measures (2003) Bill do not meet the obligation which they have set forth and is not satisfactory to the people of this province. I thank you very much for the opportunity to speak on the Financial Measures (2003) Bill today.

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

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, in rising to speak on this amendment that Bill No. 36 be not now read a second time, but be read this time six months hence, I would like to offer a few words of - hopefully - wisdom and insight. I know we're supposed to speak strictly to that proposition and not respond to what other honourable members have contributed to the debate. I was struck by the speech I just heard from the Leader of the New Democratic Party. Historically, it is not accurate. His contention was that T. C. "Tommy" Douglas believed in having universal free Medicare and I think that as far as that statement goes, it's true. Unfortunately the fact is that while Mr. Douglas was Premier of Saskatchewan from 1944 - 1961, never at that time was there universal free Medicare implemented in the Province of Saskatchewan.

I remember when I was a young man working at the Sydney Steel in the summer of 1962 that there was a doctor's strike in Saskatchewan because the Government of Saskatchewan had carried out the belief that we heard about to actual implementation. At that time, Tommy Douglas was not the Premier of Saskatchewan, he had advanced, he thought, to federal politics and was running in the riding of Regina City where unfortunately he received 12,000 votes to the Conservative winner's 20,000 votes. Thereafter he had to go out to the West Coast to find a new home and did get elected to Parliament.

All that notwithstanding, the fact is that historically speaking, the Premier of Saskatchewan, when the Medicare plan was put into implementation, was Woodrow Lloyd, a name that is hardly even remembered these days although I think his contribution to the upward advancement of Canadian social legislation was immense. Woodrow Lloyd got the Medicare through, overcame the doctors' strike, was able to get other doctors to come to Saskatchewan that had not previously been there, so that the net effect of the situation was that there were more . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: . . . from the U.K.

MR. MACEWAN: Yes, from the U.K., that's right - there were more doctors in Saskatchewan than ever before as a result.

Further, in the election of 1964, Woodrow Lloyd's Government was defeated. That government was not an NDP Government, Mr. Speaker, it was CCF, which stood for the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation, a term that very few people today remember, except

[Page 1870]

maybe the letters that stood for that. I might say this - I don't want to get too far into dogmatism, but the Cooperative Commonwealth was maybe a misnomer, a term that implied a socialist state. That's what it meant, the Cooperative Commonwealth was like heaven, the ideal, the place where you finally get when you've done it all. The Cooperative Commonwealth had nothing to do with the British Commonwealth of Nations that many people may associate that term with, but rather with a socialist state, as outlined in the Regina Manifesto of 1933.

Now the honourable member was reproved before for saying that some of us were dogs. I don't want to be a dog and I don't want to be dogmatic either, Mr. Speaker, so I won't get too far down that path. I just wanted to make that point and I also wanted to make this point about the Liberal Party. The Leader of the Liberal Party in 1964 in Saskatchewan was Colin Thatcher's father, Ross Thatcher. Ross Thatcher led the Liberal Party, and the Liberal Party of Saskatchewan at that time was considered to be very right wing and if they got into power they were going to denationalize the boot factory and several other people's industries that had been set up under public ownership, and they were going to make things right.

Well, they got in in 1964, the Liberals. And did they abolish Medicare? No. They kept it in exactly the same form as they had inherited it, showing all-Party support in a two-Party system where the CCF and the Liberals were the two major political Parties. The Tories at that time had, I think, one seat in the Saskatchewan House. They later rose to power under Grant Devine, who's rule was anything but divine, and they were pretty well annihilated as a result, those who weren't thrown into jail.

Now, let me not get distracted any further with the history of Saskatchewan, I just wanted to make that one point that it was Woodrow Lloyd who did all this and not Tommy Douglas - mind you, the Douglas Government did make advances in that direction. As we all know, it's one thing to make small advances, it's another thing to actually do it. I see my speech has driven the Leader of that Party out of the House, so perhaps I will now return to the amendment.

AN HON. MEMBER: He's not gone yet, Paul.

MR. MACEWAN: No, he's not gone yet. I agree. I know he's going somewhere else very important - I believe it's to a nominating convention. We all have to attend to those things.

So, now back to the bill. The amendment is that the bill be not now read, but be read this day six months hence. The question is, why should we do that and not pass it right now? Well, I can broach that from two aspects. One is to go through the bill clause by clause, which I know I'm not supposed to do, but I mean you have to give reasons why. So you have to look at what's in the bill, the concept of the bill anyway to deal with that from that point of view. The other thing is to look at the objective evidence that's available. This bill

[Page 1871]

purports to be a Financial Measures Bill that's going to straighten up or tidy up or improve the finances of Nova Scotia, and if you support the bill you want to see it passed.

If you don't support the bill, there might be reasons why, such as the demonstrated evidence of this government in power now for four years and what they have done over that time that might convince you that these guys don't quite know how to do it. Their financial measures might not be worth supporting in the sense of give us more, approving them, applauding them, and encouraging them as they march onwards.

I picked up today's Halifax Herald - the Chronic Error I call it sometimes - but anyway I picked up The Chronicle-Herald today and found on Page A3, I think it is, A3 it is, my memory is right even if my eyes are not that good, Page A3, "N. S. debt will grow $600 million in 10 years." That's the headline and since I've read the headline out, I think I'm supposed to table the newspaper article so put that on the table if you could, and those who haven't read it yet, Page A3 of today's Chronicle-Herald will give you the story. It's up at the top of the page.

[3:15 p.m.]

Now, what does this article say? It says that Nova Scotia is going deeper and deeper into debt. Nova Scotia's debt will keep growing for the next decade Finance Department officials said Wednesday. The Deputy Minister of Finance, Howard Windsor, said that current trends and requirements in capital spending, projected revenue growth, and other factors mean that the government will add to the public debt into 2013 - 10 years away. Mr. Windsor told the Legislature's Public Accounts Committee "the government has directed the department, to develop a realistic debt-reduction plan that accelerates that timetable, and we intend to provide the government with debt-reduction options in the very near future.

Now, I'm further told, I wasn't at the meeting and I haven't read the Hansard of it yet, but I'm told by those who were there that the deputy minister was asked if he could produce the financial action plan and said, well, it's not quite ready yet, we're working on it. He was asked, well, when did you start working on it? I believe, I could be wrong and if I am they can correct me, but the answer was - about three weeks ago I was asked to start coming up with a plan for reducing the public debt. Now, if that's true, that means that they've been in power for four years yet only three weeks ago did they start coming up with the idea that it was time to reduce the public debt to the extent of asking the Deputy Minister of Finance to prepare a plan for doing that. That's the record, four years in power, three weeks that, I don't know if you can say stepped on the brake, or shifted gears and geared down, but they finally decided to do something about the uncontrolled prolific growth of the public debt.

I tabled a resolution in this House earlier this afternoon commenting on this thing from a mathematical perspective. I know how keen these people opposite are as students of mathematics because they believe that the deeper into debt we go, the more your budget is

[Page 1872]

balanced. That's a strange belief. Don't ask me to explain it. You know it reminds me of William Aberhart in Alberta who tried to come to power on the A + B Theorem, that was the name of it, and when asked to explain what the A + B Theorem actually meant, he got very flustered and couldn't quite explain it, but said put us in power and we will show you all right. So it is with these, I was going to say these lads opposite, with these people opposite. These people opposite say, well, we go deeper and deeper into debt every year, yes, until the year 2013, but at the same time, for the first time in 40 years, we have balanced the budget. That's the essential Tory doctrine as they're going out into this upcoming election.

Mathematically can you demonstrate it? Could you go to the blackboard, Mr. Speaker, and with your chalk show us how you go deeper and deeper into debt and that brings you up at the same time, up and down, all at once, and equals a balance? I don't know how. I've seen their budget. I've seen their Financial Measures (2003) Bill. None of it demonstrates to me how you can go deeper and deeper into debt and still have achieved a balanced budget for the first time in 40 years. Now, if I'm wrong, I'm sure they will all get up, look at all of them as compared to only us over here, two of us, all the manpower, all the people power, women power, they have. (Interruptions) Yes, all they have to do is explain themselves, you know, it's like in court. I thought he was going to get up to retort. No.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I have given the member a fair bit of leeway in the way that he has been approaching this debate and I appreciate that, as usual, the member for Cape Breton Nova has a very entertaining speech prepared, but at the same time he has on more than one occasion recognized members who may or may not be here and may or may not be leaving and I'm going to ask the member to refrain from doing that.

MR. MACEWAN: I shall try to be good, Mr. Speaker, it's a challenge, but I will try to be good.

I will look here strictly at the mathematical aspect of this and it had nothing to do with the subjective aspect. That means the same thing as you just said.

How can you go deeper and deeper into debt and yet have a balanced budget? That's the question that I raise. Now, it involves addition and subtraction. Addition being the accumulation of wealth, subtraction being the loss of wealth. I think that much is easily agreed upon and demonstrable. The public debt is part of the budget. It may not be in a direct sense, but indirectly it is very much a part of the budget. If we vote for the Financial Measures (2003) Bill especially to give it speedy and rapid approval, because that's what they're asking for. They don't want a six months' hoist, they don't want a three months' hoist, they don't want a three days' hoist. They want the bill put through now so they can get out and do other things that may perhaps to them be more important.

[Page 1873]

That being the case, what is the role of the Opposition in all that? Is the Opposition to sit over here and say, yes, yes, give us more? There are countries where such a system of government prevails. I don't want to get too far astray, but you may be aware that in the Peoples' Chamber, that's the English translation of it, of the German Democratic Republic, there was not one Party, the Socialist Unity Party represented in the Chamber at all. There were small representatives of other Parties that were legally allowed to exist so long as they supported the government. So there was a contingent of Christian Democrats and a contingent, not of the Social Democrats, but of other Parties. I think they had a Farmers' Party, the Bauern Partei for the farmers to vote for. They had other such little Parties in their Chamber. But all of these members voted with the Socialist Unity Party to support the Socialist agenda. That was why they were allowed to exist.

We in the Opposition in this Chamber don't work the same way - if we don't like the government, we will say so. If we don't like the government we will vote against the government. That is our right and unless they have the situation that I think Joe Ghiz came to in Prince Edward Island and if not Joe Ghiz, at least Alex Campbell's father in 1936 where the Liberals held every seat in the House. Unless another Party can do the same thing, they will have an Opposition that will oppose their legislation and will say so and say so perhaps at some length such as by addressing an amendment of this type. I'm just explaining all that to give the broad picture in which I speak.

I had dealt with The Chronicle-Herald's version of this situation - I've tabled their article, it's there for anyone to read and the article was by David Jackson, Provincial Reporter and within its contents, the government's agenda is described within quotation marks as being, I thought I had it here, "If anyone's thinking this government's got long-term vision, not at all. They're looking at getting past the next election . . . They're prepared to do whatever it takes to convince Nova Scotians to give them a second mandate." That was a quotation from my honourable friend for Richmond, it wasn't a quotation from someone on that side of the House. That is how the newspaper today described, within quotation marks, what this government is up to and what this bill represents.

Let's turn over to The Daily News.

AN HON. MEMBER: Ah, you read the paper.

MR. MACEWAN: Yes, I read The Daily News too. I won't tell you what John Savage used to call it, but that's another issue. "Finance Staffers to look at faster debt reduction" is the headline. Well, it sounds good, but also if you look at it, it says that they're going to look at faster debt reduction. It doesn't say they're going to do it. They're going to look at it. Is looking at a serious problem of this magnitude the action that is appropriate for a government to take on the very brink of an election?

[Page 1874]

I suggest to you, sir, in all seriousness that it is not. They should have an agenda. I was earlier referring to the Cooperative Commonwealth Federation that had an agenda, as laid out in the Regina Manifesto - they say they have an agenda as laid out in blue book 1. Have they adhered to it? Well, we've subjected that to a lot of examination and we demonstrated, point after point after point, they haven't. In fact, I think they picked Page 27 of blue book 1 as the first page inside it that they say they have actually followed. What about Pages 1 to 26? Well, they were ignored, as they marched onwards to Page 27. I don't think it is a good record.

Now, they're going to want to put all this to an election quite soon, and I don't mind that. I think there should be elections every four years. I know that as we get into the month of July, Mr. Speaker, you will know that we will be going into year five. In a democracy it is normal to have an election every four years. I know there are some such as Brian Mulroney who lost sight of that, but the extra wait for Brian didn't do him much good. I think the results of that election were the worst in Canadian history for the Tory Party, as they elected two members, Elsie Wayne, and who was the other one?

AN HON. MEMBER: He's now the Premier of Quebec.

MR. MACEWAN: Jean Charest? No, I don't think it was Jean Charest.

AN HON. MEMBER: It was.

MR. MACEWAN: It was? All right. There it was. I was more familiar with Ms. Wayne's victory in Saint John because that's a little closer to here. But Mr. Charest later on saw the light, changed his affiliation and is now the Premier of Quebec and Leader of the Liberal Party of that province, and his victory in Quebec is a great benefit to Canada, I submit.

Now (Interruption) well, even the Tories, I think, deep in their hearts, still like what Jean Charest has done more than dislike it and wish the Parti Québécois was still in power. I just submit that for your consideration, yes.

Mr. Speaker, I was asked by somebody - I forget who - it might have been an emissary from the NDP - if I wanted to go the full hour. I said I don't have any prepared speech (Interruption)

AN HON. MEMBER: You never did.

[Page 1875]

MR. MACEWAN: No, no, they get in my way. I remember when Angus MacLean was Premier of Prince Edward Island and addressing a huge pre-election rally and there was a speech handed to him about that thick to read, word for word, and he threw it in the wastebasket and said, I'm going to speak from my heart and that's what I do. But I think that the evidence is there to show that this government has not met the need of the province on the financial front. That's my essential thrust here; that's my submission.

Have they done the job well? Well, if so, the voters will support them, I suppose. I can't deny that. I don't think the way to approach the people is by way of $155 cheque. It strikes me as something that Maurice Duplessis would have done in the Province of Quebec. I have never been a person that was profoundly appalled and shocked by Duplessis' record in office, he was a practical politician who knew how to win votes and how to win elections. He was supported in his political life by, among others, Maurice "Rocket" Richard. Richard supported Duplessis, it's a fact. But I don't think the kind of politics that they practiced in Quebec during that period represented the best period of Quebec history at all. It was stated - I can't demonstrate it to be true - that as you drove down the highway, you could find out which areas were represented by the Union nationale as compared to which areas were represented by Liberals membre du l'Assemblée nationale, or député - whichever way you want it - because the pavement would be there in a Union nationale riding and then, when it ended, suddenly you would be on an unpaved that was in terrible shape.

Now, that's the kind of politics that the Quiet Revolution of Jean Lasage overcame in 1960 and stood, instead of that approach, for equal benefits for all. I think that equal benefits for all is a much better way to go than the $155 cheque to the income tax payer only and not to all the people. Equal justice for all, that's supposed to be an important concept in the field of jurisprudence. You either believe in it or you don't.

[3:30 p.m.]

The opposite of equal justice for all is discrimination. I've seen enough of discrimination in my life. I happened to have travelled in the states south of the Mason-Dixon line prior to the 1964 Civil Rights Bill, and I know how things were legislated then by law and that the population was divided into different categories based on their race. It wasn't just a matter of people who were of European origin versus people who were of African origin, because this had applied also to people of Asian origin. So a person who was Chinese was considered to be Black, and a person who was Japanese was considered to be white. I don't know how the other nationalities fit into that, but they had everybody divided these two ways, even although it wasn't accurate, but I've seen that discrimination.

I remember Governor Lester Maddox was elected to power in the State of Georgia in 1964, he had an ax handle as his campaign symbol. It stood for what he intended to use, an ax handle, against those who were of a different race than himself, and he got elected. That's the same state that produced Jimmy Carter, if you will. It doesn't reflect in any way

[Page 1876]

on President Carter, but it does reflect on a mentality that certainly I have personally experienced and witnessed. I don't support it, and I don't support the extension of that principle to public programs that are of a beneficial nature. I say if there's going to be $155, let it be equal justice to all. Let everybody get it.

You might say, well, does that mean the children as well? Well, if you want to say to every adult, to every person of the legal age of majority by election day or whatever payment day is, I suppose I could go along with that. It may seem unfair to the children, but you have to draw the line, I suppose, somewhere. To take the adults of Nova Scotia and segregate them into two categories, those who pay income tax and those who don't, and the ones who pay income tax get the rebate and those who don't pay it don't. I suggest that that's going to create a lot of anti-feeling, a lot of backlash once people realize what's going on.

That's why the prognosticators think that the election will be held on June 24th, because the cheques are going to go out, according to government advertising, at the end of June. I don't have an ad here to table, but I've seen it in the paper. That's the ad that has pictures every so often and it says that the cheques will go out at the end of June. Well, you can't pay the cheques, let the people realize that half the population is not going to get them, and then have the election in that order. It doesn't make any more sense than the Tory fiscal formula of going deeper and deeper into debt while claiming that the first time in 40 years to have balanced the budget. It shows a perversity of thought that I don't believe even the Tories are capable of. They're going to go before cheque day, not after. And they don't deny it, and why should they. Who would find fault with speaking the truth in this House? Nobody, not even me.

I don't know what more I can say, Mr. Speaker. It's not my desire to tie up the House or to prevent the bill from being dealt with in one way or the other.

AN HON. MEMBER: Did you say anything about the Mensheviks?

MR. MACEWAN: I didn't say anything about the Mensheviks . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Or the Bolsheviks?

MR. MACEWAN: Well, the Mensheviks, actually that means the majority, no, it means the minority, but the Bolsheviks, based on the word bolshoi, meaning big. In Russia you have the Bolshoi Ballet, it means the big ballet, that's what it means. If you say, Ja bolshoi sviniya ( ), that means, I am big pig. (Interruptions)

Anyway, I'm not going to start getting into foreign languages, the point is that the bill, we feel, is not worthy of support. That's why we're speaking against it, that's why we're supporting this amendment. Who moved the amendment? Manning? Good. Oh, I'm not supposed to refer him by his first name. The honourable member for Cape Breton South, I

[Page 1877]

commend the honourable member for Cape Breton South for having presented it, but at the same time, if they had told me it was the honourable member for Halifax Needham, or one of those up there, I would still support it because the sense of the amendment is, in my view, worthy of support. I rest my case.

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

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, I would like to add my voice to this debate too on a six months' hoist as put forward by the member for Cape Breton South because, you know, obviously, the idea of what's in the Financial Measures (2003)Bill is of great concern to me as it relates to financial matters, but I guess one of the things that really makes me want to rise to my feet on this occasion is, why is a clause pertaining to the Gaming Control Act in the Financial Measures (2003) Bill?

That's the crux I think of why we're here talking about a hoist motion, Mr. Speaker, because, you know, there is a history in this short-lived government of omnibus style bills, that they really don't ever, this government never really wants to take an issue on and to define it in such a way that Nova Scotians can clearly see what it's all about. It has been their style, if you will, to bring legislation in and to put a hodgepodge in there and hopefully cover up what they really want to do. They got kind of caught out on that in this Financial Measures (2003) Bill by putting forward in this bill - around the Gaming Control Act, in particular what it is - the idea of allowing the casinos in the province to have smoking.

The very base level of that and the result of that is obvious and it has been proven today by a federal tribunal, if you will, Mr. Speaker, by granting Andrea Skinner her appeal. She is now allowed to receive EI benefits because of the condition of which she left work which makes perfect sense. It falls in line, if we had reasonable labour standards in this province and protection for workers, this wouldn't have even been an issue, but what the government is attempting to do in this Financial Measures (2003) Bill is to take what few rights workers do have and make the bar even lower, that what they're going to say is if you worked at the, we will say the Toronto Moose Bar in downtown Sydney, that in that bar you're not allowed to smoke, they have got VLTs there, but you're not allowed to smoke and they like to tout themselves as being, well, we're doing a couple of things here by not doing that, we're making the environment better for everybody plus we're protecting the workers. But that worker leaves that employ and goes to work in the hospitality industry, just I would say less than half a kilometre away, at our casino in Sydney. That person is a beverage server on the floor and all of a sudden they're exposed to second-hand smoke and why is it? Because a government capitulated, a government has said, no, you know, we can't allow that because something might happen.

[Page 1878]

Now, what we do know, and it's proven, is that second-hand smoke causes cancer. So that's not something that might happen, it's something that will happen. Now the government would have you believe that they are being proactive and they're saying, look, we can do this and we're only going to use this hammer if the casinos use their hammer. It's

like a little kids game, quite obviously, it's like poking each other and saying I dare you, I dare you, as opposed to realistically trying to find a solution.

Now, I sympathize with the government having to manoeuver around just an extremely inadequate contract with Casino Nova Scotia, signed by the former government. I agree with this government on that. On that point, we do not disagree. It's not only a burden on this government, it's a burden on all Nova Scotians. It's a deal - do I hear what the government is saying about being on the hook for over $100 million, yes, but when we're talking about human life, I find that argument is - the only word I can say - a base-type argument. But I hear where they're coming from.

As someone, myself, who had been involved in a different form but have been involved with negotiations, I understand, I think I do anyway, that in those negotiations, there's a form of give-and-take. I'm going to get up to the RRSS workers, about give-and-take, but I want to make a point here, first of all, about what atmosphere was that deal struck with the casinos? That's a pretty big clause to give to any one side in negotiations. Why would you give them that? I think it would be important to see those negotiations tabled in this House, so you could actually understand the contextual form those negotiations took.

Why would you give so much away? Other than it was by kind of a deathbed confession by a government that knew they were in trouble, the casino operators knew they were in trouble and said, look, we're afraid that somebody else, if another government comes in behind you, if another Party takes power, that they're not going to buy into this scheme that's not good for Nova Scotians. So what we need is a guarantee beyond your mandate. We need a guarantee that will inhibit any government to come in and say, look, casinos are not good for Nova Scotians, that this is not a good deal for Nova Scotians, and we're going to get out of it.

The government of the day says, well, what will it take? What will it take for you guys to sign on this dotted line? And this is what they lay out. They lay out parameters that go beyond the scope of even, probably, hamstringing provincial governments because what we see here is they've obviously even gone on to the realm of the municipalities and said, even if there's bylaws, if the municipalities don't find that they're good business for their community, they're never going to inhibit us here. Were they gracious enough to say in negotiations, you know what, there will be a period here where we will get our money back and that these will be enforced for, let's say, arbitrarily, five years. We will have made our money back and the penalties are scaled back.

[Page 1879]

Was that the style of negotiations? No, in 100 years, when probably everybody in this room ceases to exist, that will still be in force. That will still be in force on the residents of this province. That would be almost, I would suspect, in some ways probably more binding than a lot of things in our own reconstituted Constitution, when we repatriated the Constitution, that we cannot get at this.

Mr. Speaker, that's why I'm saying that we can't allow an indeterminate amount of time, that's why we need six months to come and look at what this impacts.

MR. SPEAKER: I wonder if the member for Cape Breton Centre would allow an introduction?

MR. CORBETT: Certainly.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Preston on an introduction.

MR. DAVID HENDSBEE: Mr. Speaker, in the east gallery, I would like to introduce to the House a very young constitute of mine from East Preston, Mr. Nicholas Brooks. He has taken an interest in politics and community affairs. I would like to have him recognized in the House. Welcome to the House today. (Applause)

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

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, I want to go on, because when we're talking about hoists and hoist motions, there's a definable period of time we talk about. We talk about using the six-month term, and I'm not as learned as some of my colleagues who are members of the Bar and so on, or have been in this House long enough to realize - if hoist motions can go longer than six months, I'm not really sure if it can go longer than six months. We see, and it is evident in and around this House in the last couple of weeks, and even I would suspect in the gallery today, we have people who are here from RRSS and they're victims of a system again that is antiquated and it's time for a change.

[3:45 p.m.]

I talked to that, about two particular things. One is the Trade Union Act and the other is the Labour Standards Code. Mr. Speaker, I'm talking about a Trade Union Act that has not had any serious revision in over a quarter of a century. The only time they've really come into it to do any tinkering with it was, one, as they say, loaded the bases, and the other Party, the Tories, hit the home run as far as draconian efforts around labour standards; and that was the infamous Michelin Bill which is clearly a piece of legislation designed to prevent workers from organizing. So it's as simple as that. The Gerry Regan Government started it and certainly the John Buchanan Government put the cherry on top for industry. This is not an anti-union employer, as someone would want to purport it to be, what it is - when you're

[Page 1880]

talking about negotiations - is what I said previously, everybody has to start off on an even playing field. That is, I would say to you, the essence of even our judicial system, that everybody is treated fairly and equally, that there's no weight given in any one direction, and then we have to come and find common ground.

But, Mr. Speaker, this government and its predecessors from the late 1960s to the early 1970s, to the 1980s, the 1990s and into this millennium will not recognize that for workers. It's a fundamental right that workers and workplace democracy has to have a place. We want to go and talk, if that is something that's so far removed, it's hard to talk in these terms even now because that's almost 20 years removed - Orwellian-type atmosphere. We see that these things should be fair. These workers, for instance, are here today wanting to get to the table and bang out a deal. Yet, we have a Premier who says that they should go back to the table, but doesn't want to provide any weight. We have a minister who tells us that they're adequately paid, but yet what we have here is two parties who are at the table, one saying no, remuneration for the work we do is not adequate and it's not adequate for various reasons, not the least of which employees in other settings get paid more, that it's not adequate in the setting of the reality of being able to buy goods and services and help the economy grow.

Mr. Speaker, we often lose sight, especially governments and preceding governments in this province, of what workers do with their pay envelopes. I would willingly bet that I could look up in that gallery there today and say that not one of those people have an offshore bank account - and what they do with the meager salaries they're getting, if they're fortunate enough to have a private RRSP - well, as you know, tax rules say, I think it's 80 per cent or 75 per cent of that has to be invested in Canadian funds, whether growth funds, mutual funds and so on. Again, that's all within our economy so it's our money that's being generated and those people, they don't trundle off to Florida to buy a car, they do it within, probably, 20 or 30 kilometres within where they live. They buy their car off their neighbours and they buy furnishings, they rent or mortgage to buy a home, so this just makes so much sense that workers are paid properly in this province because that's where it stays.

There's been much talk earlier in the day about the member for Glace Bay and his fairy tales regarding how the Liberal Party did such an admirable job with the finances of this province. But what everyone seems to lose sight of when they talk about these types of things, whether it's the debt ratio we're carrying or whatever, is the income earners in this province that are saddled with this.

If we put a six months' hoist on this and delayed the $155, most of the people that are on the street today, they're not going to be mad at you. If we said we're going to wait six months to give you the $155, if they could see a clearer vision for themselves and their families, they would gladly do that. They would gladly put that aside and say, use it. Money in their pockets and money to let them help grow the economy is very important and that's

[Page 1881]

what I find particularly amusing from the Finance Minister in this province, when he talks in terms of we have to put more money in Nova Scotians' pockets.

To me, that line is shorted a bit. It's shorted in this way - it has to be said that more money should be put in the pockets of all Nova Scotians. That's where I think the idea of this Financial Measures (2003) Bill and the foibles of the budget that this government has passed in this House is lacking. Because he doesn't say that. He doesn't say all Nova Scotians. To use a phrase, my Nova Scotia includes all Nova Scotians, whether they live in Cape North or whether they live in Yarmouth, they should all be. Whether they're a multi-millionaire or whether they're someone living well below the poverty line on the pittance they get from Community Services in this province. It's all about respect.

Respect isn't something you can buy, you earn it. That's what this should be all about. They should be respecting Nova Scotians. But this government, in my estimation, doesn't truly respect all Nova Scotians, that my world includes and I think most right- thinking people would include. So, why wouldn't they? Why doesn't the idea of putting more money in the pockets of the RRSS workers, why doesn't that make more sense? Why doesn't that make more sense? When we talk about these other things that the government wants to do why doesn't it make ultimate common sense that these people, by having more money, would put it back into the economy? I think that's just crazy that they don't follow that line.

The idea that both parties - the employer and the employees - have talked about binding arbitration and bringing the real money to the table, which is the government, bringing them to the table and asking them to get truly involved. Why wouldn't they do that? I would ask a much more learned man in this House, the Minister of Environment and Labour to explain that to us. Clearly, it could fall under his category as Minister of Environment and Labour. One thing he could do today is he could call for an industrial inquiry into that strike, but he won't. You know why? Because it'll be exposed for the sham that it is because an industrial inquiry will come back and say it's a shame on this government. It's a shame on this government because the government was the one clearly with the purse strings and hid, would not come to the table with meaningful offers that would allow the employees to go back to work and look after those residents.

That's why I would challenge the Minister of Environment and Labour to come forward and bring forward an industrial inquiry into that strike to find out why these people are still out. That's what the problem is because they know, much like what we're saying about the insurance industry, they know that's going to be the end result, that they are the ones indeed at fault. When the dominoes finally end up dropping and the last one is uncovered it will be bearing the name of the John Hamm Tory Government.

So we need six months for things like that. I think we could do an industrial inquiry in a month on this one. It would just be a matter of getting people together. It's a matter of from the starting gate to the post on issues around labour in this province. It's pretty abysmal.

[Page 1882]

It's been a long and arduous half-century on workers. We went through a growth in this province of workers organizing and being allowed to organize. I often think of one of the nastiest strikes in this province. It occurred, I believe, in the backyard of the Minister of Environment and Labour. It was a company called Fundy Gypsum, and Fundy Gypsum was a particularly cantankerous multinational company. Now Fundy Gypsum would never ever, ever in the course of collective bargaining, when the collective bargaining went past the date of the collective agreement, if they signed, Fundy Gypsum would never ever go back and pay back wages and those things.

They had one of the ugliest strikes in this province over that. What had happened over that, Mr. Speaker - and it's chronicled in many areas - was the former Tory Government, basically the Stanfield Government capitulated and one of the things they did to get that strike resolved is something similar to what the former Savage Government did with the casinos. It went well beyond the necessary inducements to get it settled. It gave that international company just unlimited, almost, access to our gypsum resources to resolve that work stoppage.

Is that a smart way to do business? They quite literally sold the farm, because I am sure there were some farms that ended up being mined out of the gypsum. This is the type of idea. It goes back to the point of gaming, because it's all about negotiations. We heard today the Minister of Finance saying this is what we're doing, we're doing this in a time that will allow us some negotiating room. Well, excuse me for not jumping and clicking my heels when this government and its predecessors are going to negotiate deals on my behalf. They don't take in my concerns, they don't take in concerns of workers, they don't take in concerns of people who are on fixed incomes - they are quite happy to sit down and negotiate with multinationals, because that's the language they speak.

It's very cold comfort when I have the Minister of Finance telling me, or more directly all Nova Scotians, don't worry, we will do what's best. Well, I don't believe they will do what's best for Nova Scotians. They will do what's best to expedite a situation for themselves, but not for Nova Scotians. Now, they will come out and tell us this is the best deal for Nova Scotians, but why should we believe them now?

Before I get off the casinos, I want to read from a letter - and I will table it, Mr. Speaker, when I'm finished reading from it - it just so happens that it's from a woman in my constituency and, while I have not been able to contact her to see if I can read it into the record, the letter is cc'd to me, the Cape Breton Post, Mayor John Morgan of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality, Dr. Andrew Lynk who is one of the finest pediatricians in this province and a true advocate for smoke-free places in this province, and John Malcolm, CEO Cape Breton District Health Authority. She writes to the Premier: Dear Premier Hamm, I am vehemently opposed to any relaxation of the no smoking by-law for casinos in Nova Scotia. That this matter should even be given any consideration by your government is deeply disappointing. Dr. Hamm, for the sake of our health, please find the courage and the moral

[Page 1883]

fortitude to withdraw your government's newly introduced bill that will exempt casino operators in the Province of Nova Scotia from any legislation that bans smoking. It's signed, Katherine Goodwin, 373 Kings Road, Dominion, Nova Scotia, B1G 1J8.

[4:00 p.m.]

Katherine Goodwin is not a particularly big political activist, but she speaks for Nova Scotians. She speaks for people who are worried about Nova Scotians' health. Yet, this was sent out on April 27th, I received it here in Halifax and one assumes that the Premier has received it. Is this going to add as much weight to his bill as a phone call from a multinational corporation saying well, Premier, I think we've got a problem here?

A letter from a Nova Scotian means a heck of a lot less to this government than a phone call from a multinational who says, whoa, boys, put the brakes to her, we have to stop. We have to stop today, we have to protect our interests. We don't care about the interests or the health of Nova Scotians, but we may have a problem here with a little bit of money. Money walks and it does something else too.

Nonetheless, with this government that's all it's about. It's about telling people what the direct cost of a bad Liberal agreement is going to do to Nova Scotians and as I stated earlier, that's absolutely true. That's the one position I agree with, but two wrongs don't make a right here. I think they have to sit down, invoke the provisions and sit down and find out in reality. It's the other side of this. If you can remember what a great job they did selling the Sydney Steel Corporation, remember what a great job that was and what they did with Nova Scotia Resources Limited? They go and make a statement saying, we're out of this business and so, who wants to buy it? Do you think that people are going to line up and try to buy it at market prices? No, they're going to get it at bargain basement prices because they've already tipped their hand.

Remember the big Sysco sale? They were going to do this and they had Duferco on the hook. The province, what I like to call him is their great liquidator, Matt Harris comes in - and he looks like he would make the lead character from the Music Man look like an entrepreneur. So Duferco comes in and plays the government like a cheap violin and then they walk away from the deal. These are the types of deals this government has foisted on Nova Scotia.

Quite literally, they couldn't negotiate themselves out of a wet paper bag. So what they're going to do is they're going to capitulate and give in to big business once again. They won't give the due to their workers, they're hard, they're tough, they're not going to let these workers run this agenda - no, sir, man. The workers of Nova Scotia can't frighten this government, no way, we're not going to give them a buck or two more in a raise. No way. One second, the casinos call, what will it take? You know they can't get to the bank quick enough and they can't wait.

[Page 1884]

We need a six months' hoist to bring some rationale to this argument to find out the government can find a little burning ember of wisdom and find out that this is not right, that we're playing with the health of Nova Scotians.

Now, is it a large number of Nova Scotians? Not particularly, but that's not what this argument is all about. This argument is not all about numbers and I know the government will tell you that it is because it's not about numbers in the sense of human lives, it's in the numbers as it reflects in dollars and cents. That's what they see. It's the idea of - we realize now that the health care of Nova Scotians is somewhere less than $110 million. That's now the benchmark that they've set. They've set that and we're just trying to find out the finite, now, what each individual case would be.

Mr. Speaker, I suppose if one had to be really sarcastic one could say you could take each person that works at every one of these casinos and divide that into $110 million and then we'll get a finite number of what a life costs in this province. It would be, I would suspect, a very sad commentary but nonetheless, I think that's the idea where the government is taking us. They run and make great delight in saying we have to do something here - we just can't allow this to go on. It's $110 million.

Well, you know, why is it then that it's become such a problem when HRM implements it and CBRM has implemented it and it was coming forward this year? There was not a word about this last year when we were talking about the Smoke-free Places Act. There was nothing. I didn't see the Finance Minister getting all exercised about this last year and saying look, we've got to do something. I didn't see at that point casinos coming in and making a point.

The public hearings they held for the smoke-free places in CBRM, casinos didn't even make a representation on their own. I'm told by the committee members there they were part of a collective that fought this, as we saw in the Law Amendments Committee here, we saw various groups come in - whether it's the hotel and restaurant associations or the other food and beverage associations throughout the province - and talk about this and that's fine. The casino, never once did they come to CBRM and say, here's a clause and we're going to invoke it if you go to the Smoke-free Places Act, or something similar.

You have to wonder about the timing, so let's look at timing and say, let's give it six months and see what's going on. It will give them the window to operate in, right? You know what, Mr. Speaker? I wonder if it has more to do with the smell of an election in the air. It's a government bound on trying to get all the little impediments out of the way, you know. For months they've been dragged into the debate around auto insurance kicking and screaming, now all of a sudden the minister tells us that we're mere days away from the plan.

[Page 1885]

I think that's going to be such an interesting plan. It kind of reminds you of little kids in the back yard saying they've got a plan, they're going to do something a little evil - they've got a plan. No one knows what this government's going to do, I would say least of all the minister. He's going to be handed a two page memo on whatever day and he's going to come and make an announcement and it's going to be hurried. It's going to be hurried like they did around announcing the advocate, it's not a true advocate. I mean, Mr. Jordan's a fine fellow and personally I think he's beyond reproach and - it's interesting, even on the day that was announced, you remember he made that he made the big statement, well, I'm looking at everything, but the minister says, but driver owned is off the table. Everything has to be vetted through the minister's office, so it's not a true advocacy because he is not, like an ombudsman, that he can be at arm's length. Clearly the contract shows that he has to report right back to that minister, and not only report back to the minister, but vetted.

I get a kick out of this because most of us know their federal cousins get quite angry over the commissioner in the federal arena when he has to vet things through the Prime Minister's Office. That's an awful thing - which I agree with them - and they certainly could learn and be leaders here in Atlantic Canada and say, we've seen how distasteful the PMO is and we are not going to allow that. We are going to allow these people to be true advocates for the consumers in this province and they are going to answer directly to the people and not to an elected official. But no, when they had the chance to take the high road, as so often is the case, they took the low road and one could say, not the flat road like Manitoba, Mr. Speaker.

I won't speak much longer on this, Mr. Speaker, because while we are each allotted an hour to speak on this issue, we can use it, but I also realize that sometimes to speak an hour, just for the sake of speaking an hour, is somewhat of an abuse of privilege in this House in a roundabout way. So I don't want to belabour too much more but to say that a six months' hoist will allow us, and more importantly, allow this government some time to be reflective and hopefully do some things around the Gaming Act. It would allow it to be fair with the RRSS workers. I would say that the ball is clearly in the court of the Minister of Environment and Labour. If he doesn't want to bring forward an arbitrator, I would think from my humble position that he would have an industrial inquiry into that strike because that would shine a lot of light on why these workers are in the gallery instead of at the workplace.

So with those few words, Mr. Speaker, I want to thank your indulgence. I want to thank the indulgence of the other members. Thank you very much.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Victoria.

MR. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, I want to take a few minutes of the time of the House this afternoon to address Bill No. 36, and the motion which I think reads something like this, that the bill be not read now, but six months' hence.

[Page 1886]

Mr. Speaker, let me begin by saying we have many questions why we spend so much time talking about this bill and particularly talking about the debt of the province. I'm sure you've heard it said and I'm sure many people in the Chamber have said, who cares about the debt when we need things - better health care, better education. Is the debt important? Who cares about the debt when our roads and our highways are crumbling, our bridges are falling in the river. Do people care about the debt? I think they do.

Do we care about it, of course we do. Why do we care so much about it, Mr. Speaker, because of who is going to pay this debt. Not us, not likely, it's our children and our grandchildren will be faced with this debt and will eventually end up paying the piper, so we say. That is why we must ask to hoist this bill. To hoist the bill for six months, Nova Scotians will have an idea, they will be further informed of where this province is financially.

[4:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, we believe the effects of the debt on this province is staggering. Why should we care about the debt? Debt-servicing charges will present more money than we spend on education, and that is wrong. Imagine every year for the foreseeable future, $1 billion will go to banks just to cover off our interest on the debt and never start paying back on the principal. This government believes that giving a tax cut when we keep adding to the debt is fine, but we don't. The Opposition Parties - I'm sure both Parties - believe this is inconceivable, it is wrong and eventually, as I said before, it will have to be paid back. The tax cut of today is a tax increase of tomorrow. Every dollar we pay in debt is another dollar that will have to be paid back in higher taxes and higher user fees for all Nova Scotians, and not just those who pay income tax.

The tax cut goes to over 4,000 income-tax paying Nova Scotians, but what about the countless others who will have to pay higher fees and consumption tax on things like electricity, home heating fuel, oil and gasoline, car insurance, and the list goes on and on. So everyone who pays income tax gets a break, while those who pay all the other user fees and taxes will eventually have to pay for the debt. That is why this bill requires scrutiny for a six months' hoist.

Mr. Speaker, the other thing this government has ignored is that it has not indexed tax brackets and credit to inflation, something our Party has called for in the past and will again when we can afford it - and only when we can afford it. The lack of indexation means that any tax cut is not going to last. You know what that means? It means more tax and not less. Indexation means freezing taxes at current levels; it does not mean tax relief. It means that in the future governments won't be able to count on secret, backdoor tax increases. Indexation means that people will see their tax cut eroded away by bracket creep, and it means that the tax cut today will be taken back tomorrow because of inflation.

[Page 1887]

In Manitoba they cut taxes as well, but they failed to index bracket creep. That means a tax cut in Nova Scotia, and in Manitoba, will be gone in short order because of inflation.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I wonder if the honourable member for Victoria would allow an introduction?

MR. MACASKILL: Sure, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North on an introduction.

MR. JERRY PYE: I thank the member for Victoria. Mr. Speaker, in the east gallery today, are members of the NSGEU Local 66, the Regional Residential Services Society counsellors. A lady by the name of Sherry MacIsaac is one of those employees on strike with the Regional Residential Services Society workers, and today I would like this House to give a warm welcome to each and every one of them, but before we do that, I also want to mention that Sherry had sent me a letter which she wanted me to read in the Legislature, and it's not possible to do that during this business, so I will pass it on to the Minister of Community Services. I would hope the House would give them a warm welcome. (Applause)

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, I too want to welcome our guests, and all guests who come to our House.

Mr. Speaker, where I left off - this is not a tax cut at all, and that is why we need six months so Nova Scotians know they are not getting a tax cut, Mr. Speaker, simply a tax loan. Taxation without indexation is a short-term measure.

Mr. Speaker, our caucus position is clear. We do favour tax relief, but not now while we are borrowing to pay for it. Until we stop borrowing, then I think it's time to give tax relief. It simply does not make sense to borrow more than you earned. It simply does not make sense. In the 1998 election John Hamm promised no new taxes and the $50 BST home-heating rebate for every household in Nova Scotia that would cost the province $17.8 million in the fiscal year 1998-99. Taxation was not a large issue although the Leader of the NDP at that time offered to scrap the BST according to a document in The Chronicle-Herald of February 24, 1998.

During the 1999 election campaign tax cuts were not front and centre. In fact, the Tory tax cut garnered very little attention compared to the Health Investment Fund, Sysco, funding for primary education. Those were the issues, Mr. Speaker, of the election of 1999. In reality, the tax cut issues seems to be a last minute addition to the Tory platform. When initially asked whether he would pursue a tax cut, John Hamm replied that Nova Scotians would not believe that promise because they know it's not doable. He went on to say he would run a believable campaign indicating, once again, that the tax cut idea was not initially believable according to The Chronicle-Herald, June 19, 1999.

[Page 1888]

Mr. Speaker, surprisingly, when the Premier announced his platform on June 25, 1999, tax cuts were a part of the blue book. Perhaps no person was more surprised at the election outcome than John Hamm himself. This has become more apparent every day since he took office. For example, initially the tax cut promise would cost $110 million. That has subsequently risen to $140 million based on 10 per cent of the revenues. The 10 per cent tax cut promise was simplistic in that it was never really elaborated on in terms of what it meant until well into the Hamm mandate. The vagueness of this promise is part of its strength. When and if they ever thought they would fulfill the promise, nobody would know exactly what a 10 per cent tax cut meant. Now we know what it means and that is why we're asking for a six months' hoist. It means that the government has scrapped the tax cut in favour of a one-time vote-buying scheme, a scheme that has being hoisted on Nova Scotians with borrowed money.

Mr. Speaker, Paul Martin's February 2000 budget marked a turning point in Canadian history as it contained the most significant tax cuts in the country's history. At the same time he eliminated what has become known as bracket creep which is the full indexation of tax brackets and credits to inflation. Again, bracket creep results in people being pushed into higher tax brackets as their income rises with inflation. The result is that the tax rate rises even though incomes do not increase in real terms.

For Finance Ministers across Canada, the federal tax cut and the end of bracket creep would mean a reduction in revenue because provincial taxes were set at a percentage of the federal rate but, Mr. Speaker, not for the Finance Minister in Nova Scotia, he de-linked and, in effect, raised taxes. We want Nova Scotians to get this message, and that's why we believe that this hoist is necessary to give Nova Scotians a further insight of what's in this budget and what it means to their incomes. The loss of bracket creep would be particularly alarming to any government that promised tax cuts because bracket creep provided a built-in hidden tax increase over years. Even if a tax cut is given, Finance Ministers could always rely on bracket creep as an extra source of income.

The only solution for the province was to de-link with the federal rate and set their own rates. This new system was called tax on net income or TONI. De-linking meant that provincial taxes would remain the same, that the federal tax cut would have no impact on provincial revenues. There are significant advantages to TONI because it allows the province to be flexible with tax credit but at the same time it is detrimental to the taxpayer because there is no corresponding tax reduction when the federal rate drops.

Mr. Speaker, what is more insidious is that while bracket creep was eliminated federally, it was continued provincially because of the de-linking, even though the provinces could have chosen to index credits and brackets at that time. The insidious part of bracket creep is that it amounts to a hidden tax increase, even if there is a provincial tax cut, the province can make it up over time through bracket creep. That is why we want this bill to be

[Page 1889]

hoisted, to go to the people of Nova Scotia for six months so they understand what it's all about.

In order to expose the hidden tax increase, our Finance Critic, the member for Lunenburg, Donald Downe, embarked upon a campaign to get the government to commit to end bracket creep. The reason for the call was as follows: full indexation would amount to a tax freeze and a fundamental reform of the provincial tax system. Indexing tax credits and tax brackets to inflation would provide fairness, transparency and accountability to the tax system.

The call for a tax freeze was followed up with a bill that would set up a committee to explore possible avenues for meaningful tax reform while repeating the above position. The bill and the call for an end to bracket creep received some media attention and qualified support of the NDP's Finance Critic. Of course, the bill was never passed, it was debated.

Mr. Speaker, the bottom line, however, is that when tax brackets fail to increase with inflation, taxpayers are now hit with a subtle but very real tax increase so that any tax cut without first ending bracket creep will erode over time. Again, we are asking for a six months' hoist so Nova Scotians will understand or we will try to make Nova Scotians understand our message as an Opposition Party.

Mr. Speaker, as pointed out by Ken Battle and Sherri Torjman of Ottawa's Caledon Institute, March 1999, this is what they say, "Canadians should beware of governments bearing gifts in the guise of tax cuts: Tax reductions will quickly be eroded by the same stealthy mechanism that has imposed years of hidden tax increases on an unsuspecting public." In another study done by the Caledon Institute in Ottawa, June 1998, Ken Battle wrote, "Partial de-indexation has proved to be a potent though secret weapon in the war on the deficit. The mechanism has steadily boosted revenues from federal and provincial income taxes.

[4:30 p.m.]

In the end, Mr. Speaker, this government isn't even giving a permanent tax cut. What we have instead is a temporary measure that will be lost over time. When people understand that, they will be very upset with this government. That is why we believe we must hoist this bill. You know this government likes to bring up issues that are irrelevant, like the previous government's record on fiscal matters. They love to find a scapegoat for the fiscal woes that they are in today. The reality is that this government and every government since 1993 has been trying to deal with the legacy of the 1980s and the early 1990s.

Mr. Speaker, in 2001, the Auditor General's Report said, in the early 1990s Nova Scotia was running huge deficits and debt was skyrocketing. Actions by successive government from 1993 on have slowed the pace, but the goal of achieving a balanced budget

[Page 1890]

has still not been met. The province's debt continues to grow. There are overriding questions which remain to be answered. Is balancing the budget enough?

Apparently, Mr. Speaker, the Auditor General says balancing the budget is not enough - aren't significant sustained surpluses necessary to really start reducing our debt? Much has been done in the last 10 years, but it was a result of actions by every government since 1993 including the MacLellan Government, the Savage Government, who had to wrestle with the legacy of previous governments in the . . .

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

MR. MACASKILL: Sure, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Preston.

MR. DAVID HENDSBEE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for Cape Breton-Victoria for allowing me to do an introduction of a couple of constituents of mine, who are with the Regional Residential Services Society. Sherry MacIsaac from Creighton Hill, Westphal and Martina Estabrooks from Lake Echo are in the audience. I would like to welcome them here. (Applause)

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

The honourable member for Victoria has the floor.

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, we all know, in this Chamber, and many Nova Scotians know that the Minister of Finance was part of those governments, but I would acknowledge that that was some time ago, maybe some would consider it a long time ago. The lessons of that time, however, have not been learned. This government made great strides in the last couple of years, as had previous governments - and in less than partisan moments, the minister has acknowledged this. When this tax scheme went forward the budget was tabled, then something went terribly wrong. The last budget marked a turning point in Nova Scotia's history, as the lessons of the past have been thrown aside and the floodgates of spending have again been opened.

Mr. Speaker, why are we asking for a six months' hoist, because we believe the borrowing continues to put future generations at risk and that an unprecedented tax scheme has been unleashed upon the people of Nova Scotia. The $155 rebate cheque is nothing more than a vote-buying scheme, and it is an indication of the kind of cynical politics that the Premier promised he would not engage in.

[Page 1891]

Mr. Speaker, turning to the past, let's go back a bit to 1989. On May 5, 1989, the honourable Greg Kerr tabled a very optimistic and glowing budget. In that budget, the economy was growing, unemployment was down, but there were some signs that would not continue. Greg Kerr might have recognized it at the time, but by that time it was probably too late.

Also, the former member for Antigonish, Bill Gillis, warned that the day of reckoning was near. Well, the day of reckoning did come and it hit this Tory Government over the head like a hammer. In 1991, another budget by Mr. Kerr showed that there was a recession. We all remember that. Unemployment was up, revenues were down from transfers, interest rates were about 13 per cent and the ground fishery was on the verge of collapse. The government of John Buchanan was warned by Bill Gillis that the day of reckoning was coming and he was right.

Today, Mr. Speaker, we are back to where we were in 1989. The government is relying on a growing economy instead of sound fiscal management. We believe and we know and we ask for a six months' hoist so we can get this message to Nova Scotians. We want them to get the message that borrowing continues unabated, the warning signs are there, alarm bells should be going off all over Nova Scotia because this government is not ready when that next day of reckoning comes. It's around the corner and it is Nova Scotians who will suffer. Generations to come, generations unborn.

Interest rates are at their lowest level since the depression. The U.S. economy is slowing and the growth in our offshore industry has stalled. This is not the time to open up the floodgates of spending, and this is not the time to keep borrowing. It's not the time to implement a tax scheme aimed at buying votes. This government is bragging because it is spending $250 million on capital investments. They have justified the borrowing by saying it's for schools and roads.

Let's go back to the budget of May 14, 1991. At that time, the government borrowed $260 million for capital. Imagine, 10 years ago today, the province borrowed $10 million more than the Hamm Government for schools - schools that are now falling apart and falling into the ground. Adjusted to today's dollars, that figure is probably much higher. We can't justify borrowing by saying it is an investment. That's the message we want to get to Nova Scotians and that's why we're asking for a six months' hoist.

This government is doing the same thing as the government of John Buchanan, and look at that mess. Every government since 1993 has had to deal with the Buchanan legacy of debt. Every government since 1993 has faced debt servicing charges based on the incompetence of the late 1980s and early 1990s.

[Page 1892]

Mr. Speaker, make no mistake, as Bill Gillis said, the day of reckoning is not far off. If interest rates go up, if the economy shrinks, our province is in big trouble. But the most alarming part of the budget is not the numbers, it's not even the vote buying, it's the attitude of the Minister of Finance and the Premier. I believe that their attitude will ruin our great province. The Finance Minister said, yes, we are borrowing and we make no apologies. Well, who will pay that back? The minister will be collecting his pension by the time the bill comes due for the reckless borrowing of this government.

I'm sure their attitude disturbs many Nova Scotians. The Premier said he would not add to the debt. He said he would not borrow against his grandchildren and he said he would not cynically try to buy votes. The Premier's cavalier attitude will bankrupt this province and he is mortgaging his grandchildren's future.

Mr. Speaker, the tax issue is an important issue and no question about it, but let's first look at the $155 vote kickback. I'm sure many Nova Scotians could use $155 and we agree they can. The sad part is that those who need it most may not receive any money. Those on low fixed income and social assistance will not see a dime while every member of the Cabinet will get $155 and I will probably, too. It's not fair. It's not progressive. Let's look at the tax cut itself. I heard the Finance Minister talk about how Nova Scotians will have the lowest taxes in Canada.

Mr. Speaker, that will simply not hold. What the minister did not do and what they have done in New Brunswick, is index their tax bracket and credits to inflation. As I mentioned before, what we end up with is a short-term tax loan. Again, that means that over time the tax cut will be clawed back by bracket creep. New Brunswick has indexed their tax brackets and credits meaning that fewer lower income people pay taxes in New Brunswick. Take for example the basic personal amount. In Nova Scotia it will remain at $7,231, in New Brunswick it is $7,756 for a difference of $525. The other most common non-refundable tax credit is the spousal amount of $6,140 while in New Brunswick it is $6,568, for a difference of $428.

Mr. Speaker, all told, a family in New Brunswick where one spouse works have $9,953 more in tax credit available to them than in Nova Scotia, but that is only part of it and that is why we're asking for a six months' hoist. The tax brackets in New Brunswick have a higher threshold than Nova Scotia so the Finance Minister's plan does not hold up to scrutiny. Today's tax cut is a temporary measure that will be eroded away because of hidden bracket creep taxes caused by inflation. Inflation will wipe out the tax cut in short order. Last year alone inflation was close to 5 per cent.

Mr. Speaker, many of the members on this side of the House have already mentioned the comments of the Metro Halifax Chamber of Commerce who recently chided this Finance Minister for not dealing with the debt. They measured the state of the province's finances and one of the key measurements was sustainability. Expenses are growing at 4.1 per cent, but

[Page 1893]

revenues are growing at 3.8 per cent, a vast difference. Could any member of the government look Nova Scotians in the eye and say that this is sustainable? Over the long term there is going to be trouble and we want to warn Nova Scotians of the trouble on the horizon and that's why we're asking for a six months' hoist. Again, as I said before, the Finance Minister makes no apologies for borrowing. As he says, for a decade or more the vital public works of this province were allowed to fall into disrepair. Roads, bridges and ferries are essential elements of our economic infrastructure. Perhaps the minister would like to explain to Nova Scotians why there was no money for roads for over a decade. Is it because John Buchanan overspent and spent money he didn't have?

[4:45 p.m.]

In fact, in 1996, after being attacked by Frank McKenna as the worst government in Canada, a former colleague of the minister, the honourable Terence Donahoe, said there was nothing wrong with the Buchanan debt because it was spent on roads, schools and hospitals. A couple of days later Senator Buchanan jumped in to defend his record by saying that a $400 million deficit was okay because we built hospitals, we fixed roads from Sydney to Yarmouth; he said it was the right thing to do. Well, it wasn't right then and it certainly isn't right now. We have hit the danger zone and the government is pretending there is no problem. That is why Nova Scotians need time to digest this tax measure, so they know what they are buying. That is why we need this hoist.

Mr. Speaker, there are several important aspects to the bill besides the tax rebate and the tax cut scheme that will affect many Nova Scotians. For a few moments I want to talk about our trades training in the province. I think it's important that young Nova Scotians get better trades training through improvements in the apprenticeship program. Indeed, we need to ensure that the needs of existing and anticipated new employers and the potential for greater career opportunities for Nova Scotians in the field of skilled trades. Industry and business are anticipating that the number of certificates for qualification being issued each year will need to triple by 2007.

There is, however, a concern, that the fees for training exams and certifications are extreme. Many Nova Scotians who want to become tradespeople will soon be paying higher fees because the province is expanding its apprenticeship program for industries such as construction. Mr. Speaker, I hope this doesn't send a mixed signal. On the one hand you want more young people to choose the apprenticeship program, but on the other you are charging more for it in the amount of fees that will be expected, to pay fees for registration, exams, and certificates. For example, we know that the cost of a one-week training course will jump to $70 from $40 - that's almost double. Registration for the program, which used to be free, will now cost $100.

[Page 1894]

Mr. Speaker, as well the businesses that hire apprentices will have to pay a $1,000 accreditation fee every five years, and an annual credit fee for $500. This government talks about the fees as a cost recovery measure and how all revenues generated from the fees will go back into the apprenticeship system - well I hope that is correct, but I have some doubts.

Another measure in this bill which has stirred up controversy is the provision that makes it easier to cave in to casino demands to be exempt from smoking legislation. The bottom line here is that the government has given in to casino demands without a fight. The minister has given away his position. You know, with negotiating skills like that it's no wonder the government lost to Newfoundland in the Laurentian boundary dispute, no wonder the offshore is at a standstill.

Mr. Speaker, we want to get this message out to Nova Scotians. We want to relay that message that we want a six months' hoist so that this bill will go out to Nova Scotians so they will understand its content. The bill simply raises the white flag without standing up for Nova Scotians. Simply put, this provision in the bill was not necessary. If the government requires legislative change, then there is no reason the government couldn't call back the legislation to make a change.

Mr. Speaker, it's a very big issue today with Nova Scotians. I think Nova Scotians are looking for a 100 per cent smoke-free environment including casinos, and I think it's time that this government took a very serious look at the workplace and the environments where all Nova Scotians have to work. If the casinos are exempt, this government should act to change that and give all Nova Scotians a smoke-free environment so we can provide for Nova Scotians a healthy workplace as well as a healthy environment and a healthy province.

We believe that this bill, if left with the six months' hoist, Nova Scotians will have a chance to digest it. They will bring us information where things could be added to this bill to make it more attractive to Nova Scotians, more environmentally friendly, and a greater outlook for the people of our province. With that, Mr. Speaker, I will take my seat and turn the floor over to another speaker.

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

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I look forward to sharing my thoughts on this important hoist during the next few moments. I want members opposite to know, and other people, of course, who might be watching this event on Legislative TV to know how important this process of the six months' hoist is. It's important, as we begin this particular conversation, to point out to people that this is part of the parliamentary process. This is part of the legislative history of this wonderful historic building because of the numbers that happen here.

[Page 1895]

When it comes to this six months opportunity, this government will probably defeat it, it's unfortunate, but then, of course, it will eventually end up in the Law Amendments Committee. It is over in the Law Amendments Committee where we will have the opportunity again to hear from Nova Scotians, but the real value of the six months' hoist is that we have the opportunity to listen to Nova Scotians. I want people to be aware of the fact that's one of the most important things that people in our position can do, is, instead of doing all the talking, to do some listening.

Mr. Speaker, it would be a wonderful opportunity during the next six months if we had the opportunity for some of the more prominent Cabinet Ministers, maybe even some of the backbenchers, to join us around the Province of Nova Scotia, to have the opportunity, so that some of these so-called celebrities that they might see on TV or they might hear on their radio, it would be an actual opportunity for Nova Scotians to have a chance to speak to these respective Cabinet Ministers. That could all be done during the next six months. I want you to know that that six months would be a very opportune time for a number of Cabinet Ministers to have an opportunity to listen to Nova Scotians.

So I want to point out to the members opposite, and I want to point out to Nova Scotians who are watching and listening to this, that the six months' hoist would be an opportunity for them to have an opportunity, one-on-one, to talk to some of those Conservative members opposite. There are some of them who would be much needed in my community, let me tell you. I would tell the member for Kings North, he would be a star attraction in Timberlea-Prospect. The member for Kings North during this six months could absolutely fill Exhibition Park. It would be a wonderful opportunity for the members of that government, but particularly the member for Kings North, to have the opportunity to defend some of this garbage that we see in the press.

I want you to know the last one was offensive to the degree that I've heard from constituents about it, but the one I want to reference and the one that I hear from my constituents about, was the one that was written on Thursday, December 13th. Being an MLA is not the fun job it used to be, the fun job it used to be. Well I know that we have people here again today, people out on the street, this is supposed to be a fun job. Well during the next six months I would look forward to having the opportunity to have that member come to my constituency so that the people in Timberlea-Prospect would have the opportunity one-on-one to make that member listen to some of the ideas that they have, instead of writing this

sort of drivel that, of course, we get subjected to once a week, if you happen to subscribe to that particular paper.

But there is a member opposite, I think, who would gain much value, if during the next six months he had the opportunity to listen to Nova Scotians, to make sure that they actually have their say. That, of course, is the member who is the current Minister of Community Services, the minister from Kings South, it would be a wonderful opportunity for that minister, and we can arrange the meeting during the next six months. You name the

[Page 1896]

place, we will have the people there who would like to speak to that minister, so he could listen to the concerns of average Nova Scotians about this government, about the direction that it's going and how unfortunate it is.

I know, particularly, there is one person who would love to have the opportunity during the next six months to talk to that particular minister. Her name is Sherry MacIsaac. Sherry MacIsaac, in an important letter - and I will table it for you in a moment, Mr. Speaker - writes, ". . . how can you sit there and say that we, the employees of the Regional Residential Services Society make a fair wage? Do you know what we do on a daily basis? We ensure the quality of life for those with disabilities - unlike you." Now, there's an opportunity for an average Nova Scotian to have the opportunity to talk to a prominent Cabinet Minister, to talk a decision maker in this government, to make them listen on an important issue.

During the next six months, that could take place. Are you aware of the fact, Sherry says, "I've sat with my resident and cried because she was told she had cancer. That's what having a heart is all about . . . I have never had a Christmas alone with my family. I've had to work and bring a resident home with me. Once again, it's called having a heart . . . We are not in it for the big bucks, we're in it because we DO care. However, we have to survive as well. I'll trade you jobs for one day and then let's meet back here and see if you think we make a fair wage." Now, there's an opportunity for a conversation over the next six months between someone who is affected by the RRSS strike, an opportunity for that particular Cabinet Minister to have an opportunity to listen to an average Nova Scotian.

There are members of my constituency who are intrigued with the opportunity, and they do ask, on occasion, so what exactly is the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley like? What is he actually like? Why can't we have the opportunity to have a debate in our constituency, perhaps at the St. Margarets Arena, where it would be that member and the member for Timberlea-Prospect, maybe the member for Chester-St. Margaret's. Well, during the next six months, what a wonderful opportunity it would be to have the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley. He might actually learn something about the school situation at Sir John A., he might actually learn something about some of the disadvantages we've had to put up with, with the growth in our community and the level of services we receive.

Another member who could learn a great deal over the next six months if we had the opportunity is the member for Shelburne. The member for Shelburne is a popular member, I want you to know, with people who ask me in the coffee shops, so what exactly is - and they use his name, and I'm not during Hansard allowed to use his name - but they ask, what exactly is that member like? I say it would be an wonderful opportunity if over the next six months we had that member in my constituency so that we could sit down or he could sit down and listen to Nova Scotians about the concerns that they have. They, at one time, saw that member stand in his place and vote as a constituency man, vote on an issue that he felt

[Page 1897]

deeply about. In this situation, should not that member do the same admirable thing. It would be a wonderful opportunity during the next six months.

The one opportunity, of course, that I would encourage members to take is to get out there as Cabinet Ministers, and during the next six months have an opportunity to listen to Nova Scotians. There are some Cabinet Ministers - and I know the Premier is very busy doing other things, I'm not particularly concerned about the Premier over the next six months because I know that he, of course, will be busy making his plans. But we want to give other Cabinet Ministers the opportunity to listen to Nova Scotians. I want to take a few of them, if they would, in particular, I want to talk to the Finance Minister about the opportunity over the next six months. Over the next six months it would be very appropriate if this particular senior Cabinet Minister could explain to Nova Scotians why he is not re-offering, why he is abandoning the ship.

[5:00 p.m.]

We understand he's moving on to - shall we say - bigger and better things, but he is leaving a memory that will stick with Nova Scotians for a long time. He's leaving a legacy of the $155 cheque that after all, needs to be explained to Nova Scotians. But I'll tell you a topic that people in my constituency want to talk to that member over the next six months about and that's VLTs. It's the continuing addiction of this government to VLTs and the fact that there are numerous Nova Scotians who have major problems with addiction to those machines and that's the minister responsible.

We can name the place, he can name the time and we will make sure that it's an opportunity for people - people involved in the churches in my community. I know the member for Kings North talks about the fact when he looks at some of the issues, when we have a conversation in Timberlea-Prospect and the Finance Minister, the MLA for Argyle is there, present to discuss this issue, I would love to have the member for Kings North join us at that meeting. Join us at that meeting, along with the other ministers and the other priests from the congregations in my riding. There would be an opportunity so that we could have the chance to express our views to that particular minister and to that particular member over there so they can understand, that over the next six months, there's probably no more an important time to talk about the continuing addiction of VLTs in this province.

There are members of this Cabinet who are absolutely, I shall say, maybe in their own way, celebrities. The member for Hants West intrigues many of the members of my community. I have constituents who are absolutely intrigued with this survivor of the Buchanan days and how he continues to serve now in this next Conservative Government. The member for Hants West and the many long years that he's given in service to this province is currently involved in a very, very emotional issue. I can point them out to you, Mr. Speaker, I thus far have had 98 responses in two days to a mail-out that went to all the

[Page 1898]

people of Timberlea-Prospect and the minister for skyrocketing insurance. That minister in my constituency, that would be a wonderful opportunity over the next six months.

We don't need George Jordan involved in the process, we don't need the URB involved in the process. We need the minster involved. The minister who is responsible for this particular issue to have a chance to listen to Nova Scotians. He could go to Dartmouth North, we can set the meeting up momentarily because there are Nova Scotians all across this province who want to have the opportunity to talk to the minister for skyrocketing insurance so they can tell him of their personal cases. They can tell him of some of the unbelievable jumps that they've had in insurance rates. That veteran Cabinet Minister, he would learn first-hand without having to wait for a report, without having to wait for any particular expert - he could be the minister who could show the leadership, who could become directly involved.

Mr. Speaker, I know that the member for Hants West, during the next six months could be all over this province because he would know first-hand how to get from one rotten road to the other. He would know that over the next six months there would be an opportunity in his area, there would be an opportunity whether it's in the Dartmouth area or Cole Harbour, but certainly in Timberlea-Prospect, I want you to know and I want that member to know that there are people who live in my constituency who are absolutely intrigued with that particular member. They're also intrigued with his lack of knowledge of geography.

He is, after all, the member, is he the new president of the "Nova Scotia flatters' society"? Is that the member who said insurance rates are different in Manitoba as opposed to Nova Scotia because there is a flat rate, or is there a flat road in Manitoba?

What an opportunity over the next months because you know, Mr. Speaker, as elected officials, we suffer from a public relations image. The public relations image is that we don't listen to Nova Scotians. The member for Preston is a perfect example of how he could be, in my constituency, and I would return the opportunity over the next six months if the MLA for Preston would come to Timberlea-Prospect and if he would listen and that would be a wonderful opportunity for that member to come into the community of Beechville, to look at that historic community and listen to the concerns of the development that is springing up around that community of Beechville.

In return, I would make the same offer for that particular member to go over to his constituency over the next six months and have an opportunity to listen to Nova Scotians about the concerns that they are having, whether it's the RRSS group, whether it's overcrowded schools. That member was a municipal councillor and over the next six months he should take the opportunity, he should welcome the opportunity or over the next six hours it would be even more appropriate if that member for Preston would stand in his place and

[Page 1899]

have his say on this particular issue and the importance of listening to Nova Scotians over the next six months.

Mr. Speaker, there are other examples that I want to bring to your attention. I know that other ministers opposite, at times, feel rather neglected. I wonder how the current Minister of Health felt when, in a recent article by the member for Kings North, she wasn't even mentioned. Well, I want you to know that the member for Halifax Citadel, the previous Minister of Education, she came into the community that I represent. She toured the high school that I've spoken about so many times, Sir John A. Macdonald High School, and it would be a welcome opportunity over the next six months if that particular minister, if she could take the new Minister of Education and reacquaint him with some of the problems that we have at this legendary high school, this legendary high school that continues to suffer because of overcrowding, because of portables in back of it, because of delays and lack of commitments to a tendering process that we agreed to as a community.

Now those two ministers in the constituency of Timberlea-Prospect, at any time over the next six months, would be a welcome opportunity for positive public relations as two senior Cabinet Ministers are going out of their way to listen to the concerns of Nova Scotians, to listen to the concerns of average Nova Scotians. During that open forum on that evening or afternoon - I would prefer the evening because that would be the chance for working Nova Scotians to have their chance to speak to these senior Cabinet Ministers - it would be a wonderful opportunity for them to have the chance to listen to the average Nova Scotian about his or her concerns, about insurance rates, about overcrowded schools, about roads that have been neglected for many years.

I make the offer over the next six months and I'm giving the offer to those members over there but it's these members over here, the members of the Third Party, how welcome it would be if some of them would accompany us on this tour. Would it not be a wonderful opportunity for those members of the Liberal Party to have an opportunity to listen to average Nova Scotians who after all have concerns that linger back over the years, not just with this government but with previous governments. I want you to know that the community that I represent, the previous Minister of Education, the current Minister of Education and maybe somebody would have the nerve to come into Timberlea-Prospect to defend P3 schools. What an opportunity it would be to listen to Nova Scotians over the next six months, to listen to the concerns of Nova Scotians over the next six months.

Now who would know what would be on the agenda during that time, Mr. Speaker? Whatever is brought up. We're not going to be there to control the agenda, we're going to be there to listen to Nova Scotians. So, for example, if the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley came into the constituency of Timberlea-Prospect and he had the opportunity to listen to seniors and they said to him, the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley at one time used to talk about free fishing licences for seniors. Whatever happened to that could be the question and the concern could be there.

[Page 1900]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley on a point of order?

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: No, Mr. Speaker, the honourable member wanted me to reply to his question. He took his place very quickly and I would answer that question. Would the honourable member like the explanation?

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

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect has the floor.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I want that member to know that there would be concerns and I know that member opposite and I know that members of this House, they are intrigued at times by the people where I make my regular two-coffee stops a morning, I must tell you that. Some days when I arrive in here you can tell I've had two coffees, okay? I want you to know when I go from the Tantallon Tim Hortons to the Timberlea Tim Hortons, it's often brought up: what are these particular Tories, or what are these particular backbenchers really like? And that member is one of the questions that's constantly asked. He is, after all, the member . . .

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, I should give that honourable member some factual information. When this government came to power, the price of the fishing licences for seniors in this province (Interruptions) Well, the honourable member asked the question. It was $17.25 for freshwater fishing licences. This government reduced that fee for the seniors by $11.50, and all the seniors are paying for is conservation, same as everybody else's, and the seniors are happy to support conservation . . .

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

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid on a point of order?

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I'm really responding to the previous member's point of order. I have had the privilege of being in this House for quite some time and I even enjoyed the time when the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley sat quite eloquently on this side of the House. When he was over here, he wasn't talking about reducing the price of fishing licences for seniors, he criticized the previous government - quite legitimately - for charging and he said they should be free.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Neither one is a point of order. I hope the member for Timberlea-Prospect doesn't mind that the members are using his time.

[Page 1901]

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. After that very misleading dissertation by the honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid, I do want to say that the seniors in Nova Scotia support conservation measures and they support the environment. I'm surprised that the NDP caucus doesn't. Thank you.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I apologize to my colleague, I'm just giving him time to gather a second wind. The member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley is implying that our caucus does not support conservation, but certainly we do. The point is, it's not a matter of whether seniors do or don't support conservation, it's a matter of what that member said when he was in Opposition and what he and his colleagues have delivered once they formed government. He has what you call a selective memory; what he forgets is what he said.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Again, that's not a point of order. I bet the honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect regrets that he brought that subject to the floor. (Interruptions)

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect has the floor.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, it's always important when you speak in this historic Legislature that you're bringing up comments of interest and, you know, over the next six months, that's when the opportunity would be there, that would be the opportunity for Nova Scotians to be able to listen and have their say with that particular member, or any of the Cabinet Ministers opposite. Now I know that member opposite is discussed oftentimes in my coffee stops. I want members to know they're intrigued with the fact that when he sat on this side, he never kept quiet. But where is he now? We don't hear him now, he's not speaking up now. Over the next six months it would be a great opportunity for that member, after all, to resurrect his political career and begin by going to the Timberlea Tim Hortons and have a conversation with Nova Scotians; more importantly, listen to Nova Scotians.

I want you to know there are some Cabinet Ministers, and people ask me on all occasions, people ask me - and I have been asked this question, I want you to know - did I teach the Minister of Health what a naked bootleg was? That was a question that was directed to me, and I think a bootleg is a football play, Mr. Speaker. A naked bootleg of some consequence, it's very important that people across this province are aware of the fact that members opposite or members of the Third Party, that in six months there's the opportunity for that Minister of Health to not only learn more football plans from this particular old football player, but during the next six months she would have the opportunity to sit down with some nursing graduates, particularly those who live in McGraths Cove, particularly those who live along the Prospect loop who have invested big time, now have a degree, and now have to leave this province for jobs.

[Page 1902]

[5:15 p.m.]

That would be the opportunity over the next six months because many of those health workers, I want you to know, Mr. Speaker, have not forgotten Bill No. 68. They have not forgotten Bill No. 68 and it would be a wonderful opportunity for that Minister of Health, when she was the Minister of Education, she took the time to come to Timberlea-Prospect to listen to the students of Sir John A. Macdonald. Well, now her public relations image is even more important because of events that will be happening in this province over the next few weeks or months where it's very important for her positive public relations, that it can be said that the Minister of Health came to the church hall in McGraths Cove and sat down and listened to Nova Scotians about their concerns about the health system, that actually she took the time in the middle of her busy schedule to be able to listen to Nova Scotians, health workers in particular, and this recent graduate of the nursing program here in our province.

Mr. Speaker, there are many other examples that I can bring forward. In particular, however, I think it would be of real importance that a certain member, the member for Dartmouth South, takes the time to reacquaint himself with issues that he has sadly neglected. Over the next six months there would be the opportunity for that minister, the ambitious Minister of Natural Resources, who has shown absolutely no leadership on an issue that I just dealt with this afternoon - and I know that George Katsos says I can bring his name up during this debate - here is a Nova Scotian concerned about another piece of coastal property that has slipped from our hands. What a wonderful opportunity for that Minister of Natural Resources to come right down into the Village of Prospect, right next to the High Head, right there where he could see first-hand how we must continue to protect our coastline, how we must get control of coastal access, and for that particular minister over the next six months, it would be a wonderful opportunity. If that minister wants to move on to other . . .

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

MR. ESTABROOKS: What if I said no? Oh, of course, of course.

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

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, I would like to draw the attention of the House to the Speaker's Gallery and with my wife, Joan, today is one of my cousins, Andrew Robb and his wife, Mary Catherine. They're down from Kingston, Ontario, to see how Nova Scotia works, to breathe some of the beautiful salt-sea air and to see all the progress that's going on in this province. So I would ask them to stand and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

[Page 1903]

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

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

MR. ESTABROOKS: I welcome our visitors from Kingston. I could tell them right from the beginning that I enjoyed two wonderful years in Kingston, but it was in the public school system. I want you to know that's because I am the proud son of a penitentiary guard. I welcome you to this particular exercise we're going through today, this is voting on a hoist bill and it's very important, you know, that whether you live in Ontario or Nova Scotia, that you have faith in the elected officials that we have in this province, that they are actually listening to Nova Scotians, and it's of real concern that because we, as elected officials, do not listen, that's the bad rap that we get, that we do not listen to Nova Scotians. We do not listen to them, but over the next six months, if we took this piece of legislation and we went to the people of Nova Scotia, as opposed to them coming to the gallery, as opposed to them marching around this Legislature.

I don't know whether you heard this or not, but I want you to know we have been visited recently by the RRSS people. These people have a major concern because they haven't had the opportunity to have the minister responsible listen to them. So they have to come here, but instead if that minister showed leadership over the next six months, he could go to them. He could go to them and listen to their concerns so that they could bring up one of many concerns that they're constantly involved in right now with the labour interruption, but I remember exactly where I was, Mr. Speaker, because it's a concern of importance to me. That Minister of Natural Resources, and perhaps he should be joined by the member for Bedford-Fall River, and they would have an opportunity to present the facts, over the next six months, exactly what is the situation with how much of Nova Scotia's coastline is actually owned and controlled by non-residents? There's an issue that Nova Scotians would have the chance, over the next six months, to speak to.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would just remind the honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect to direct his comments to the Chair.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect has the floor.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I understand your correction, and I know that I got carried away a bit by our visitors from Kingston, and whether it's Kingston, Dorchester or Springhill, we all have something in common. However, I would like to move from the member for Dartmouth South and what he could be doing over the next six months.

I think of a major concern, I had the opportunity today to meet some students who were here from Mabou. When we look at the intrigue of how infamous or how famous some of the Cabinet Ministers are, over the next months, what a wonderful opportunity it would

[Page 1904]

be for the Minister of Health Promotion and Tourism, oh and I think he's also responsible for Sports and Rec, if we even have such a department any more, but it would be a wonderful opportunity for that member for Inverness, to come to my constituency on any given day over the next six months and tune in to the fact that physically active lifestyle in the compulsory courses in high schools across this province cannot be delivered in any way, whatsoever, at the current high school where it's being offered, Sir John A. Macdonald High School.

What a wonderful opportunity for that young minister to have the opportunity to be able to report back that when it comes to Health Promotion, when it comes back to healthy lifestyles for young people, we have to do something about this physically active lifestyle. Over the next six months, he would have the opportunity to be able to listen to physical education teachers, after all, Mr. Speaker, he was one of them. He sits at the Cabinet Table, and over the next six months, he would have the opportunity to be able to say, they have a common concern. We are not really helping when it comes to healthy lifestyles for young people with this physically active lifestyle course. Instead we should have a compulsory physical education course at the high school level.

But there is one member opposite who would be welcome all across this province, and I'm far from wrapping up my comments, Mr. Speaker, but I want to wrap up my tour by saying to that particular member and that particular minister, the Minister of Transportation and Public Works, if, over the next six months, he would take the opportunity, and I know it would be hard to book in his schedule, what would we do with him, because if we began this tour over the next six months in places around this province, I am sure that there are backbenchers who would say to the member for Lunenburg, we need you to come to our constituency over the next six months, so that you can listen to the concerns that average Nova Scotians have about our roads.

I want the member for Chester-St. Margaret's to book the hall now, in Peggy's Cove, to book the hall so that the people from Indian Harbour, from Glen Haven, from Glen Margaret could sit down and have the Minister of Transportation and Public Works listen to them about the concerns of that particular road from Indian Point to Indian Harbour. Now the same name for both, but let me tell you that this is a number of kilometres apart on one of the most embarrassing stretches of road in this province. Over the next six months, it would be a wonderful opportunity for that particular minister to tour the province and listen to Nova Scotians.

Listen to Nova Scotians about concerns. Listen to Nova Scotians about VLTs. Listen to Nova Scotians about overcrowded schools. Listen to Nova Scotians about control of our coastal properties. That's what we need, positive public relations for us as elected officials when the opportunity would be there for us to listen, and for a change, not stand and do all the talking.

[Page 1905]

You could say, well, Mr. Speaker, that's exactly what I'm doing here today, but I want to bring these concerns to the members opposite, to the Cabinet Ministers opposite, so they would have the opportunity, in particular, to listen to Nova Scotians.

Now there is a backbencher I haven't mentioned yet and that's the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank. The member for Sackville-Beaver Bank, over the next six months, would have a wonderful opportunity to come into the community that I represent and talk one topic, and that would be schools because there is, unfortunately, those nasty rumours out there, and those nasty rumours are that if you're not in a Tory riding you don't get the new schools that you deserve. Now, there is one way to dismiss that nasty rumour; there's one way to do it. You pick the time over the next six months so the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank could listen to the people of Timberlea-Prospect, he could listen to the people of Five Island Lake, he could listen to the people of Terence Bay and he could explain to them, after he listens to them, for sure, the politics of building schools in this province.

That would be positive public relations, and the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank would be welcome at any time in any part of my constituency, because we do share part of the constituency.

I want you to know the Hammond Plains school is a welcome addition; it is an addition that has to be built. The location however now there's another concern altogether. Let's look at the issues as they are, Mr. Speaker. MLAs across this province would learn much from Nova Scotians by listening to them, but not just the members of that government, the members of the Third Party should also have the full opportunity - and we could arrange it in such a way based upon the membership in this House that two Conservative members, a member of the Liberal caucus, a member of the NDP caucus from the Official Opposition, we could set up these opportunities where you announce the fact that we are going to Stellarton - no, we're going to Westville, we're going to my mother's hometown so that we would have an opportunity to listen to Nova Scotians over the next six months.

We could listen to the people of Westville and their concerns. Perhaps the member for Cape Breton Centre could join us, because I know the people in Westville could give him some good advice on the subsidence problem and how it was solved in Westville, and how it doesn't seem to make a big difference at all in the community of Dominion. That would be a wonderful opportunity for that particular group of MLAs, for us, to listen to Nova Scotians about the concerns they might have in Westville or Stellarton or Parrsboro or, of course, in Timberlea-Prospect.

Mr. Speaker, I mentioned various issues that could be of concern for Nova Scotians over the next six months. I want you to know that there are Nova Scotians who I have the great pleasure to represent who would love to have the opportunity to meet the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, who would love to have the opportunity to meet the member for Dartmouth South, to have the opportunity to meet the MLA for Inverness. And

[Page 1906]

over the next six months what a wonderful, positive public relations it would be, the opportunity to listen to Nova Scotians, whether it is about insurance rates - now, there's an issue of concern to Nova Scotians - whether it's about the RRSS strike, whether it's about any other issue, when it comes to what we, as political leaders, and that's, after all, what we're supposed to do, we're supposed to be leading from one issue to another by bringing forth progressive legislation, by bringing forward ideas that are going to make this province a better place.

And what better way to do that, Mr. Speaker, than to have the opportunity for Nova Scotians to speak to us in a one-on-one situation in their communities. They don't have to come out of their way, they don't have to come to downtown Halifax, we go to them. That's the advantage of a six months' hoist. I brought that to the attention of members previously; I bring it to them again. I will look forward to arranging the tour. I look forward, in particular, to having the member for Hants West in the community of Timberlea-Prospect to listen to an issue that is of absolute crucial importance today, and that, of course, is insurance rates. That would be an example of positive, demonstrable leadership. An example we need more from this government, from members of the Third Party, from members of the Official Opposition, to listen to Nova Scotians and after that six months - that six months will be after all, in my opinion, a wonderful opportunity for Nova Scotians to have their say with us as elected officials. I thank you for your time.

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

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, the eloquent comments of my colleague are a difficult act to follow. As I begin my remarks, I quite honestly don't know if I am going to be on my feet for five minutes or ten minutes or how long, depending upon how motivated I become during my remarks. There are a number of things that I certainly want to put on the record and get off my chest.

[5:30 p.m.]

The first thing I want to say quite honestly, I am extremely disappointed, disappointed I have to say even more than I am angry, I am disappointed in our Premier and in the members of the Tory caucus. Mr. Speaker, even though I am a member of the Opposition, when governments change, you have a feeling of optimism. You like to think that the new bunch that is going to come in is going to be better than the bunch that Nova Scotians booted out. Nova Scotians, and I include myself in that group, had some optimism that the Premier was going to be leading a new and a different style of government, one that was going to be genuinely compassionate, looking at the true needs of Nova Scotians in general. It's as if the Premier, when he crossed from this side to that side, as if his body and his mind were taken over, possessed by somebody else, another force has taken him over.

[Page 1907]

I remember the things that the Premier as a Leader of the Third Party was saying when he was on this side. I was optimistic, Mr. Speaker, when the Minister of Finance was starting to make different noises about the tax cut, and saying that the tax cut was necessarily going to come in the form that people expected in terms of a 10 per cent tax cut, but that it could come in different ways and I'm one of the first to say that Nova Scotia's families need and deserve a break.

That break can come in the way of a tax break, but there are many different ways that you can assist Nova Scotia's families. What I call this budget, Mr. Speaker, is a glass-turkey budget. Now in the old days when there were elections, people - you'll remember stories of this, Mr. Speaker, about the pints that used to be given out, the boxes of chocolates and the nylons - but I guess inflation has struck, and you will know what a glass turkey is. I know that a lot of people don't nowadays but I know what glass turkeys are because, quite honestly, I've bought tickets on raffles for glass turkeys over the years and that's that great big bottle, I think it's like four litres . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Oh, it's at least that.

MR. HOLM: . . . at least four litres or more of liquor, Mr. Speaker. It is interesting that about the same time we started the debate on this bill, the Government House Leader in his capacity as the head of the Liquor Commission, a release came out from the commission talking about a new campaign, rums of the world. Nova Scotians are going to get, just about the time they go to vote, a cheque, which should be about just enough to purchase, should they wish, a glass turkey. So I call this the glass turkey budget.

Now, there are many ways that instead of trying to give Nova Scotians a glass turkey - some Nova Scotians the equivalent of a glass turkey - for encouraging them to vote for this government, there are many ways that working families like those in the gallery behind us and other Nova Scotians could be getting far more benefit. Figure it out, Mr. Speaker. I'm not what you would call the most affluent in the world, but I remember a number of years ago, before I was elected to this House, being in a public meeting in my community. In those days there used to be area rates that could be levied to assist in education. There was a discussion about providing resource teachers in the classrooms and it was talked about to continue an area rate to pay for the salaries of the resource teachers to assist those children within the community of Sackville. It was talked about how much that would cost in the tax rate, and a certain politician of the same stripe as this government was arguing that we shouldn't be doing this because it's going to cost so much on the tax rate.

I did a quick calculation on what my property tax assessment was, and I figured out how many cents on the dollar he was saying it would increase, that my taxes would have to pay for it, and I worked it out, it was a two-four of beer a year. So I stood up and I said, you know, if we approve this area rate, that will have cost me the equivalent of one two-four of

[Page 1908]

beer a year. I said I'm quite willing to forgo my two-four of beer so that the children who are in need of special services within the community can get the help they need.

This $155 cheque, that will buy me, should I wish it, instead of a glass turkey, I can get a dozen beer a month and maybe a cheap bottle of wine thrown in. And you know what, Mr. Speaker? I, like many Nova Scotians, am quite willing to forgo my dozen beer; I can afford that on my own. I would far rather see that money go into other forms of tax breaks to assist the people who need it most, and it would even assist me; take the HST off home heating oil, do all kinds of different things that could be done, and you're helping today's families.

Mr. Speaker, before I go too far down that road, I want to make reference to what I consider to be one of the most disgraceful situations this government has allowed to drag on, and I'm referring to the RRSS strike. I have no hesitation in saying that I could not do their job. I could not do their job, I'm not proud of that, but I honestly don't have the patience, the skills to do the kind of work they do each and every day of their working lives, with some of the most challenging, high-needs, vulnerable members of our society.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Eastern Shore.

MR. WILLIAM DOOKS: Mr. Speaker, I would ask the honourable member if he would permit me to make an introduction.

MR. HOLM: Certainly, but I was hoping he was going to say he agreed with me on that, but I will give you another chance.

MR. DOOKS: Mr. Speaker, it's my pleasure tonight to introduce a very special lady in our gallery, four-and-a-half-year-old Megan Lynch, and with her is her mother Crystal. We welcome you here. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Hi, Megan, we certainly welcome you here this evening.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid has the floor.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I also welcome our special guests who are here, and all the other special guests who are here, as well, this evening because they too are very special people.

Mr. Speaker, I want to just continue on this strike for a minute. I have had the pleasure of visiting small options homes and I have witnessed the care, the love that these people display towards their charges.

[Page 1909]

Mr. Speaker, I know that some of these workers on holidays, like Christmas, if those in their charge have nobody, no family members to whom they can go home for special days, will take them to their own homes, to their dining room table to share their holidays with them. You talk to the people outside and what do they talk about? Not just themselves, their genuine concern for those who are in their charge and the concern about what is happening to them.

Is calling somebody pig-headed unparliamentary, Mr. Speaker? You're nodding yes? Well, then I won't say that the Premier is that, Mr. Speaker. Let me just say that he is very stubborn because I don't want to be unparliamentary - because then I'd be in trouble. That's why I sought your advice before, but I think you know how I feel.

Mr. Speaker, the Premier tells the workers that he doesn't want to establish a precedent by getting involved in the strike. Mr. Speaker, I think that you were here, in fact I know you were, when Bill No. 68 was debated on the floor of this House. We sat for 24 hours a day. Those people weren't provincial employees. The health care workers don't work for the Minister of Health. She can stand in her place to correct me on a point of order if I'm wrong but she can't, because I'm right. The teachers in this province don't work for the Minister of Education, they work for the individual school boards, but the teachers in this province have binding arbitration on the wage issues.

The government railroaded Bill No. 68 through here to force health care workers to accept what they wanted, but they were a large body, a large group, thousands across this province. The Tories thought, this isn't going to be good politically for us, if we continue to take them on. There's going to be havoc in the health care system, which is going to have everybody in a state of panic across this province, so we'd better back down. What did they get? Arbitration. Who pays for it? The province does, because they provide the money to the employers. RRSS, are they an independent corporation which gets their money from some unknown source? No. They get the money from the Minister of Finance. The same as the hospital boards, the same as the school boards.

I'm not allowed to say the Premier who is, I'll say he's stubborn, has decided that on this case all of a sudden he can't get involved. I suggest that he thinks that the workers, those who work in the small option homes, being a smaller union - a smaller group, I should say - won't have the major public support and therefore he won't pay the political price, therefore he's going to have a different standard for them than he had for all of the others. Look into the eyes of those - I say to the members on the government benches, look into their eyes and tell them that you honestly believe that they are being treated fairly. Look them squarely in the eye and tell them that they don't deserve the same kind of arbitration that others received from this government. Look them in the eyes and say that.

[Page 1910]

[5:45 p.m.]

Look at their ages. Many of these workers are very young. They have worked hard to get their training, to get their education and continued to upgrade their skills. They are compassionate, they are dedicated and they want to continue to serve those they love and the work they enjoy and which they're good at. But you know, they also have families. Some of them are single-family members, the sole breadwinner, and they have children to feed. Some of them have children with special needs. But do you know what? They can't afford to continue to work if they aren't going to be able to get a fair wage. Because they also have the same aspirations that each and every one of us does for our families, and that's reasonable. Look them in the eyes and tell them why they should not have binding arbitration the same as others. Provincial employees, they haven't got the right to strike, in place of that they have arbitration, if it can't be resolved. But we get glass turkeys to pass out.

Let me give you a prediction on the date of the election, Mr. Speaker. My prediction is that the cheque is going to be mailed on a Friday, those cheques will start to arrive in people's mailboxes on Monday and on Tuesday. The Tuesday that people are getting their cheques in the mail will be the date that the vote is held. Those approximately 300,000 people who will not get one red cent - they pay taxes, but not provincial income tax - those people who don't pay one red cent will be hoping, because they aren't going to be realizing - and I'm sure the Tory candidates when you go around knocking on doors, you're not going to say, hi, how much money did you make last year? Did you pay provincial income tax? Oh, I'm sorry you're not going to get it. They'll be leaving the impression that if it came out on Monday or Tuesday, well yours is probably still in the mail, you'll probably get yours Wednesday or Thursday.

After the vote has been held and people might have been - conned is unparliamentary? Is it? That's unparliamentary. What word can I use instead of conned? Duped? Duped into doing something. Misled into believing something. Then, after the vote has been held and they didn't get their cheque, their glass turkey, it's too late.

There are many ways that the government, if you truly want to help Nova Scotians, you can do it. I tell you, the Nova Scotians who I talked to, certainly the residents in my community of Sackville-Cobequid, are a very generous, caring community, they want to know certainly, if government is operating effectively, efficiently, but they also want those who care for the most vulnerable within our community, who we entrust those people to, to be treated fairly.

I'm ashamed. I'll put it that way, as I leave this topic. I'm ashamed of this government. I'm ashamed that the Tories would not provide these workers with the same arbitration they did to others. I say to each and every one of you across the way, to the Minister of Justice, to the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, to the gentleman who writes a column for The Daily News and always likes to be on a pedestal, to the member for

[Page 1911]

Bedford-Fall River, and to all other Tory MLAs, look in your heart, look at the notion of fairness, and then talk to your Premier and ask him to do the right thing. I'm not suggesting what any settlement should be, but put it in the hands of an independent third body.

Do you know, Mr. Speaker, if that cost me $5 out of my glass-turkey cheque, so be it, I'm more than happy to forgo my glass turkey so that people who need it can be treated fairly. I say to the Minister of Education, and we've had discussions about this in this House before about the children in this province who are in classrooms without the special resources that they need. Children whose educational needs are not being met, who will not be able to be successful in school because of a learning disability. Do you know, Mr. Speaker, that glass-turkey cheque could help an awful lot of those young people get through school, to be successful, so that they can contribute in a positive way to our society.

Mr. Speaker, the list of what we could be doing with that money is endless. The casino down here, again over this six-month period of time, we had HRM going through long and lengthy public discussions about smoking in public places. Now when they brought in this ban on smoking in all public places to include the casino, lo and behold, the Minister of Finance and the Premier jump because they have to protect the casino. The Minister of Finance said because he has received legal opinions and I stood on one of those points of order and I asked him to table the legal opinions. Where did the legal opinion come from? It came from the Gaming Corporation. That's the government's body whose job it is to maximize and make as much profit as they can from VLTs, one-armed bandits and gambling in this province. That's where the legal opinion came from. It didn't come from any independent legal source and, of course, the Minister of Finance refused to table that.

And what does that do, Mr. Speaker? It means that each and every other establishment in this province where smoking is now going to be banned is placed in a disadvantaged position courtesy of the casino, but if the casino's business goes up, then so do the loonies and toonies roll into the Tory coffers. We have the "flat earth society minister" who talks about the flat roads in Manitoba and why they have so much cheaper automobile insurance there instead of doing something to assist Nova Scotians who are being faced with these obsessive, obscene insurance rate increases to make up for the losses that the insurance companies have suffered on the financial markets.

Do you know, Mr. Speaker, if I had a legitimate insurance claim and the insurance company had to pay me let's say $10,000 and I had put that into the stock market, bought mutuals with it, over the last couple of years I'm sure I would have lost the money. So let's say I lost on that $10,000 that I put in, all of a sudden it went down to $7,000, do you think I could go back to the insurance company and say, look, I lost money in the stock market, I lost $3,000 so how about giving me an extra $3,000? Do you think I would be successful? Yeah, right.

[Page 1912]

Mr. Speaker, that's what's happening with the insurance rates in this province. Now, an election is rolling, it's getting closer. So the Tories may do something there. I have to say, I don't think that Nova Scotians are going to be bought by it. I know what I'm going to do with my glass-turkey cheque, I'm going to write on the back of it, sign it and then I'm going to say, make payable to, and I'm going to put my favourite political Party on that, so the Minister of Finance can make a donation to a certain political Party.

Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians who I've spoken with, who will be getting a tax break, that glass-turkey cheque, they will take it, but they aren't being impressed. What we're seeing over the last, in fact this whole session, there is virtually nothing in the way of legislation, the government agenda is virtually void of anything. We have this bill, which is strictly an election bill. I don't know who is running things over there. I don't think it's Cabinet anymore. It's certainly not the backbenchers. Who is running it for the government right now? The people who are advising the Premier, the back-room spin doctors, the so-called political experts.

Before the last election, I knew how the government was going to vote - and I don't blame them for voting against the last budget the Liberals brought in, the Merlin budget with the $600 million hidden off books, it supposedly wasn't debt and all that stuff - but people were wondering, how were the Tories going to vote? Well, you knew when out in the streets you saw people running around in jackets that said, the Harris team. The Harris team, the blue team from Ontario had flooded down here. (Interruptions) Guess not.

Mr. Speaker, what's running government now is not good policy, it's not aimed at good government, all of the decisions that seem to be made now are what the government thinks are going to be something that can get them through the next few months, when that vote is going to take place. There are many more things that one could say in this bill, but I think that my sense or my sentiments have gotten through.

If you don't like six months and I can understand that could interfere with your date that you want to have, my guess is that the date will be about June 17th, that's a Tuesday, I will be so specific as to say that, that's when I think it's going to be because I think the cheques will go out the Friday before that. (Interruptions) I think it's going to be the 17th, I'm betting on the 17th and that the cheques will be out on the 13th.

Mr. Speaker, we could, if the government wants to go in the Fall, amend the six to three, but surely to heavens the government should be amending this legislation and amending the budget to actually put the money into those uses that are going to generally benefit the vast majority of Nova Scotians. With those comments, I will, as we are reaching this time, take my place.

[Page 1913]

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I would call for the question on the amendment to Bill No. 36.

MR. SPEAKER: The question is called on the hoist amendment.

Is the House ready for the question?

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

The motion is defeated.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, on the main motion, I move adjournment of the debate.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is to adjourn the debate.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

The debate is adjourned.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, we have a late debate. I don't know if we're going to have that debate this evening or not. (Interruptions) Yes, we are.

Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now rise to meet again on the morrow at the hour of 9:00 a.m. The House will sit from 9:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. The order of business will be Second Reading of Bill No. 36, the Financial Measures (2003) Act.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 1914]

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

The motion is carried.

The House is adjourned.

We have reached the moment of interruption.

[6:00 p.m.]

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

COMMUN. SERV. - RRSS STRIKE: MIN. - NEGOTIATE

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, for the benefit of the members present, I wish to read the motion that is on the floor tonight in the Adjournment debate. It reads:

"Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Community Services should stop making excuses and instead negotiate an end to the strike at the Regional Residential Services Society."

One of the things that has disturbed me the most about the government's approach to the strike are the excuses that they're making for not dealing with it. I wouldn't mind so much if any of these excuses had substance and merit, but they don't. What is equally disturbing is that which excuses one hears depends on which member on that side is speaking. Over the past days and weeks, the members of the NSGEU who are on strike and the families and even some of the residents of these group homes, have spoken to members on that side and without identifying any particular member on that side, they know who they are, they will offer different excuses.

What they all have in common is that none of them has any merit when they're examined more closely. The minister himself, the minister on whose shoulders the resolution of this strike squarely rests, says - and this is excuse number one - I can't talk to the strikers. That minister says in essence, he would love to talk to them, but he's not allowed to. Let's be very clear about this, that minister can talk to the strikers if he chooses to. He is making a choice, he is making a deliberate choice not to deal with them face to face. It's a way of dehumanizing the picketers, to deal with them as some mass. They're real people with names, with homes, with families of their own. I've met one striker who's a single mother trying to get by. I've met another young man who has a young family, lives in my

[Page 1915]

constituency and works in my constituency - they're just trying to get by. They're real people, real families, real homes that they're just trying to keep going. But the minister refuses to speak to them. Let's be very clear about that, it's an excuse. There is no legal or other reason why the minister can't talk to them. He simply chooses not to.

The minister and the Premier say, let the collective bargaining process go on. That's excuse number two. The collective bargaining process is going on and it has broken down. There is nowhere else for the collective bargaining process to go. The two sides are not talking. The collective bargaining process goes on when they're back at the table, but the government refuses to put anything new on the table. That's why it's just an excuse, as if there's some impersonal process that goes on here that somebody's not engaged in.

That leads to excuse number three which is equally without merit and that is when the minister and the Premier say, it's between the society and the union. But it's not. As my colleague, the member for Sackville-Cobequid, so eloquently pointed out, this government didn't mind getting involved when they chose to. They got involved with the health care bargaining units in Bill No. 68, even though they were not the direct employers then either. They brought this Legislature together and sat them here for 24 hours because that government decided that they wanted to get involved there and this time they say, oh, they can't get involved because they're not the employer.

There's no merit to that excuse because everybody knows the government funds the society 100 per cent. The society has no other source of funds. If the minister won't put any extra money on the table, then there is nothing to discuss. There's nothing to discuss at the bargaining table. It is between this government and the workers who are on strike.

Another excuse, and probably the cruelest one that I've heard, but it was only stated at a private meeting with the families, I won't identify the MLA who said it because it was a private meeting, but I do think it needs to be said because this is what the MLAs are telling their constituents and it is simply not true. In fact, not only is it not true, it's cruel. What it is saying is that if the strikers get what they want, the number of spaces in the group homes will have to be cut.

So what members of that government are saying to the families is that they would love to give the strikers more money, but the threat is directly to the residents, because this excuse was given to the families, saying that if we do what the strikers want, then your relative - your son, your daughter, your nephew, your niece, your grandson, your granddaughter - may no longer have a place. That is wrong. It's wrong to say it; it's wrong to make anybody believe it. It's cruel and it should never, ever have been said in the first place.

[Page 1916]

Mr. Speaker, this minister says - here's his excuse number five - he went to Simpson Hall and he thinks that they're being well looked after. What the minister forgets to say is that he went to Simpson Hall in the very, very early stages of the strike when there were, I'm told, three people there. There are now many more than three. How many people are there now?

AN HON. MEMBER: About 30.

MR. STEELE: There are about 30, double-bunked in rooms, for people who have issues where that's not an appropriate arrangement. The minister went when there were three people at Simpson Hall. Not only that, but I'm told - and have no reason to doubt - that when the minister went to Simpson Hall, those three residents were still under the care of bargaining unit members; they were still receiving the care of the people who are now out on strike.

So the minister goes to Simpson Hall and says I personally have visited this place where 30 people are now and everything looked fine to me. Well, has the minister been back? Has the minister been back today? Was the minister back yesterday? Does he plan to go tomorrow? I think that he would see a very different situation at Simpson Hall if he were to do that.

The final excuse that the minister uses is that it would cost over $100 million to settle this strike. Now, the minister knows that's not true, but he says it. He said it repeatedly in this House. The minister knows, and I know, that settling the issue with this bargaining unit, even giving them everything they want, would cost about $1.5 million a year, but the minister refuses to state that fact. He says over $100 million, because there are 40 other bargaining units that would expect and demand exactly the same thing.

But the minister has never given us any evidence of that, he's never backed it up by saying which bargaining units he believed would ask for the same thing. He's never indicated why it is that he believes that the jobs of Local 66 are exactly the same as those other bargaining units, why the other bargaining units - whoever they may be, because they've never been identified - would reasonably expect to get the same settlement. The minister wants people to believe that this is $100 million problem but it's not, it's just an excuse.

The other day when I stood up in this House and spoke about Stephen, one of the group home residents, and Stephen's mother, I referred to the fact that I asked Stephen's mother what she would ask the minister if she had a chance to stand up in the Legislature. Her message then and her message now is get to work. Get busy; get to the bargaining table. This is not being resolved when nobody is talking, and that minister has a responsibility to settle this dispute, and the excuses that he and his colleagues have offered are not good enough.

[Page 1917]

There are concrete things that minister can do and he can do them right away. He can do them today, he can do them tomorrow. He can appoint a mediator, somebody with real authority. He can authorize binding arbitration, and let's remember the thing about binding arbitration is that if the minister is right, he'll win. So what's he afraid of? What the minister is afraid of is that he is wrong. He is afraid that the arbitrator will see through the excuses that this government has offered and will give the strikers a just and fair settlement. That's what the minister's afraid of. Thank you.

MR SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Community Services.

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the chance to get up here and spend a few minutes talking about this labour disruption with the provision of services for the residents of RRSS. The NDP resolution for the debate reads:

"Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Community Services . . .", which would be me, ". . . should stop making excuses and instead negotiate an end to the strike at the Regional Residential Services Society."

While the member opposite may have taken an interesting interpretation of the situation and the labour laws in the province, I would start by pointing out, Mr. Speaker, as has been done a number of times in this Chamber and indeed outside this Chamber, that this is a disagreement between an employer which is funded as part of a sector by the Department of Community Services, but they are the employer and they have a union. Their negotiations clearly are between them and their union. So it would not be appropriate for third parties to be interjecting themselves in these negotiations.

We are disappointed that agreement could not be reached between the employer and union in this case. We do understand that this is difficult for both the residents and their families and the member opposite has correctly pointed out that I have been out and I have met not only with some of the residents, but I've also met with the families as best as I could when they asked me to meet with them. It is not possible for me to be meeting with the parties that are involved with the negotiations. That could be easily perceived as interfering with the collective bargaining process and, Mr. Speaker, I would suggest that as a former Minister of Environment and Labour, I have some appreciation of the sensitivities in that area and I am trying to respect them.

We are also aware, Mr. Speaker, that the care providers, the counsellors are very committed to the residents. There's no question about that and, in fact, they almost form a surrogate family for them. So the residents are blessed, hopefully, with their natural family plus they have their acquired family which is made up of the counsellors and the other people who are there to care for them and that makes it very difficult not only for residents, it makes it difficult for the families and it makes it difficult for the counsellors. The counsellors also

[Page 1918]

I know have a great deal of trouble with the idea of withdrawing their services because they miss the residents.

I would say, Mr. Speaker, that when we standardized the services across the province and we brought in a geographic wage parity, that this government is now spending $28 million more every year to fund the wages and salaries of the counsellors and the other people involved in delivering those services as they do so very well to the counsellors. That is a substantial amount of money and in fact over the last five or six years the amount of money that has gone into community supports for adults has in fact doubled and with a good portion of that going to wages. The purpose of setting the standards was an attempt to provide a uniform level of care for all the residents across the province and with that the training requirements of the counsellors in some cases needed to be upgraded, to take some community college courses, and based on the expectations on those counsellors and the responsibilities that they carry out, $13.70 an hour was chosen as the wage which was appropriate for the sector and there are 378 different service providers scattered across the province, RRSS happens to be the largest one in the province, and they were all getting the same level of support from the Department of Community Services.

With the additional monies, Mr. Speaker, that had been put on the table, that would take the package which includes the two-two-and-two, which has been recommended as a benchmark across government-funded agencies and other organizations and the Civil Service, plus an enhanced benefits package and a pension plan. With that, it would take base wage to one which, in fact, compares rather favourably with the other Maritime Provinces. It is proposed that it would be about 12 per cent more than what the comparable counsellors are paid on Prince Edward Island, and 18 per cent more than their counterparts in New Brunswick.

[6:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I would suggest that this government has recognized the wonderful contribution made by all the service providers and the counsellors in this sector, and that we have funded them accordingly, and I suspect that my counterparts in New Brunswick and P.E.I. are probably having to deal with the question as to why Nova Scotia values its counsellors to a degree that would be difficult for them to match. I'm not trying to make life difficult for them, but I think it is important to bring some perspective to this, that as a region, it would appear that we are more than competitive and we do recognize the importance of the wonderful work that is done by the employees who care for the residents.

Mr. Speaker, the current wage works out to $28,500, that's the amount that's allocated per FTE, full-time equivalent. Every resident is assessed for what is required to properly care for them. With that, a formula is made up using that as the cost of a counsellor and, accordingly, individual plans are made up for them and their service provider - in this

[Page 1919]

case we're talking about RRSS, which stands for Regional Residential Services Society - is provided with that per diem to care for the residents.

The funding for the increase in this package was included with this year's estimates. It was substantial. During the debate in the estimates, it was by far and away the largest increase in the Department of Community Services budget, at $12.8 million. That is there. I am advised that the NSGEU was asking for a 33.5 per cent increase, and I think in view of the fact of the very substantial increase that has just been put into this sector and trying to put an appropriate valuation on the services that are provided by the counsellors, and that this had been done with the sector, that an additional 33.5 per cent over three years is a very substantial ask, and the monies that have been allocated to fund this sector, not only RRSS, are substantial, they compare very well with the other Maritime Provinces.

I would point out, Mr. Speaker, that this offer has been deemed to be acceptable to other unions and other service providers. The government's concern during the strike interruption is about the residents and the families and trying to help them cope during the labour disruption, and as minister, my staff, we were briefed regularly on what is going on with the contingency plan, and care coordinators from the Department of Community Services have visited all sites, they're meeting with families and have taken residents home to discuss specific concerns and to offer support during the strike. We're doing all that we can, Mr. Speaker, to try to make this as easy as possible on the residents and the families. I thank you for this opportunity to speak this evening.

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

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, I've listened with interest to the minister's remarks. I don't agree with him. The wage that he cited, I think it was $28,000 a year, if you translate that into a 40 hour work week, it comes out to $548 a week gross from which income tax, Canada Pension, EI, other deductions are taken - the net pay on that would vary from person to person, depending on their marital status and so forth. But I can't see it translating into much over $325 a week net, if that.

I've listened to what he's saying and comparing what's paid here with what's paid in Prince Edward Island and what's paid in New Brunswick and I don't know if I've ever said this to the House, but my family is from Prince Edward Island. I've lived there and I know that if you live on the Island you get less than if you live in Alberta or in Ontario or in Quebec. That's just the way it is. People who live on the Island know that and accept that and they don't expect to get Toronto level wages.

But this isn't Prince Edward Island here and it's not a fair comparison to make. To take Canada's smallest and poorest province and say, well, we're doing better than they are, good for us, vote for us. That's not the comparison the people who work in this city make. They compare themselves as one of Canada's leading communities with other leading

[Page 1920]

communities in Canada and say, it costs just as much to live here as it does to live in Edmonton or it does to live in Winnipeg or in Saskatoon, I would think.

We've heard from the minister crying poor-mouth. Dear, dear, but we can't afford it, we're doing all we can to help the families et cetera, but at the bottom line the government has said repeatedly it does not have one cent to advance above and beyond what they've proposed in their budget. Anyone who's familiar with the process of collective bargaining would know that a union going into labour negotiations sets a target - I'm not saying it's always achieved, but they set a target to try to bargain towards. That's the nature of the process. If you study it in university and a course in labour economics at the undergraduate level you'll learn that - probably in Chapter 2 or something. You don't have to go to Chapter 18, like they do in the blue book to find something they actually did - you find it right up front.

So, I would explain the union's position from that point of view. That's simply a target. In the next upcoming election, I see the minister is gone now, they would have a target, across the way of winning every seat in the province.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member knows he's not to acknowledge the presence or absence of a member.

MR. MACEWAN: I don't recall that I - oh, forgive me. I forgot about that.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you. The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova has the floor.

MR. MACEWAN: They will want to win every seat in the province. I suppose that's the target, that's why they run 52 candidates. Do they actually achieve the target? Probably not. It's been rare in Canadian history - it was done in P.E.I. in 1936 and maybe under Joe Ghiz once in P.E.I. although I think there was one Tory in one of his assemblies and a few more in the other. Pat Mella was the one Tory they had. (Interruptions) What? Alright, Frank McKenna in New Brunswick, but it's rare. That's the point. It's rare and they're probably not going to elect all 52 candidates in the next election, but they'll run 52 candidates and try for that. So, what's fair for them is fair for somebody else to say, we're going to try to get wages equal to what's paid in Regina. Or what's paid in Victoria, B.C. It's fair.

It doesn't always happen, just like getting 52 seats out of 52 doesn't always happen, but you've got to allow people in a free country to have objectives towards which they try to work. So, I don't know what the argument is there, but the big argument as I see it from the government's point of view is that they haven't got the money.

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On the one hand they're painting a picture with pamphlets like that in every mailbox, lower taxes, a stronger economy, Nova Scotia, let's keep growing and we're doing so good. They've got bar graphs and all these fine things to illustrate that point.

MR. SPEAKER: No props as the honourable member knows.

MR. MACEWAN: I tabled it, it's a document.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova has the floor.

MR. MACEWAN: They run ads in the paper like this nice ad that I propose to table. The ad says, "On April 3rd the Nova Scotia Government introduced a budget that includes a three year plan to put more money into health." Isn't this health that we're talking about here?

AN HON. MEMBER: Yes.

MR. MACEWAN: Health, it's indicated by a red cross, but that means health. It's like hieroglyphics, if you can read hieroglyphics you can read the Tory ad. It also includes a plan to help working people in Nova Scotia through lower taxes. Your personal income tax will be down by 10 per cent. In the meantime, if you pay Nova Scotia income tax, you will receive a $155 Tax Payer Refund, mailed directly to your house in late June. Nova Scotia Department of Finance".

I don't question the truthfulness of that ad. I think it tells it the way it is. They have money, they're going to give you some, $155 in late June. How can they have that kind of money, totalling $85 million, on the one hand, and have no money, not one penny, for this service on the other? It's inconsistent. It's like the new math that I lauded the Minister of Finance for earlier today, proposing he be made Nova Scotia's number one new mathematician because of his new discovery, like Einstein's theory of relativity explaining the universe, E=MC2. Well if E=MC2 over there has discovered how subtraction and subtraction and subtraction to the very bottom of the barrel equals balance, equals a surplus, equals mathematical totality, I guess.

He's made that discovery and I commend him for it, but I still would like to see how it works. Mr. Speaker, here is an example of how it works in practice. They balanced the budget, they say, for the first time in 40 years. Where is the evidence? Why is there no money to pay for those things that are needed? Why do we have such a state of chaos as this Legislature has met within with people all around the outside, upset and making statements and hanging balloons, that floated by the way, unlike the balanced budget. The balloons floated, they were up not down.

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It goes on, and the government doesn't seem to care. They're planning for an election anyway. I don't know who they're trying to fool. They're not fooling the press. I have here an item from The Chronicle-Herald of April 6th, the heading is, "Poorest won't see any of $155 rebate". Let me table this one. There are two copies there, one for the Speaker, for the table, and one for the government. All right. It points out that with all their generosity, they have no money for the poorest, the ones who need it the most. In other words, the government is a demonstration in action of the old saying, the rich shall get richer and the poor shall get poorer. There we have it. The new math. The new Tory math.

Mr. Speaker, I don't know what more I can say on this, except shame on them. This is terrible. We were the government not too long ago. I thought we were a pretty good government, but we weren't the perfect government, because you won't find a perfect government in this world in which we live. The perfect world ain't here.

AN HON. MEMBER: Where is it?

MR. MACEWAN: Well, some say it's up thataway, but I haven't been up there yet so I can't report back to you. Let me say that when we were in government we, too, had to face our lumps. We too had strikes, we too had labour problems, but we solved them, and that is what I would call on the government to do here, this government. It takes more flexibility than to say, nothing we can do, we walk away, not our concern, it's a private employer over there, go see them.

When you are the sole sponsor of the employer, that makes you directly responsible. I'm sure that anyone who studies the laws of cause and effect will realize that. Now here comes the former Minister of Community Services, I'm glad to see his interest here tonight. No harm in welcoming someone. (Laughter)

Let me say, Mr. Speaker, without prolonging the debate because the clock is rapidly approaching the hour of conclusion at 6:30 p.m., that I think they could do better; binding arbitration, I do support that suggestion, yes, it would work. They have nothing to lose except possibly losing the arbitration. I would say, let them do better than they have done to this point.

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

We are adjourned until 9:00 a.m.

[The House rose at 6:30 p.m.]

[Page 1923]

NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)

RESOLUTION NO. 1013

By: Mr. Frank Chipman (Annapolis)

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

Whereas it was a class trip to the Nova Scotia Archives that sent Bill Gerrior, a retired school principal, on a 20-year journey to uncover his roots; and

Whereas on that trip Mr. Gerrior discovered his ancestral family, the Girouards, who first came to Acadie from France in 1640 settling in what is now Granville Ferry, living there until they were scattered after the deportation of 1755; and

Whereas Mr. Gerrior has compiled his extensive history and research into a series of books entitled Acadian Awakenings - the first of these, France and Acadie, has just been published and recently launched;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Bill Gerrior on the publishing of the first of his books detailing the lifestyles, trials and success of his ancestral family, people who are part of our rich Acadian history.

RESOLUTION NO. 1014

By: Hon. Angus MacIsaac (Education)

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 Remi Deveau of École Pomquet is one of these skilled educators making inroads with Nova Scotia's youth;

[Page 1924]

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

RESOLUTION NO. 1015

By: Hon. Angus MacIsaac (Education)

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 Iris Lyghtle of Rawdon District 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 Iris Lyghtle on receiving one of this year's honours and wish her continued success in the future.

RESOLUTION NO. 1016

By: Hon. Angus MacIsaac (Education)

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 Brendon Jeffries of St. Agnes Junior High School is one of these skilled educators making inroads with Nova Scotia's youth;

[Page 1925]

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

RESOLUTION NO. 1017

By: Hon. Angus MacIsaac (Education)

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 Don Morrison of Colby Village 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 Don Morrison on receiving one of this year's honours and wish him continued success in the future.

RESOLUTION NO. 1018

By: Hon. Angus MacIsaac (Education)

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 Owen Cameron of Dr. J.H. Gillis Regional School is one of these skilled educators making inroads with Nova Scotia's youth;

[Page 1926]

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

RESOLUTION NO. 1019

By: Hon. Angus MacIsaac (Education)

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 Billy Digout of West Richmond Education Centre is one of these skilled educators making inroads with Nova Scotia's youth;

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

RESOLUTION NO. 1020

By: Mr. Ronald Chisholm (Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury)

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 Jim Power of St. Mary's Academy is one of these skilled educators making inroads with Nova Scotia's youth;

[Page 1927]

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

RESOLUTION NO. 1021

By: Hon. Timothy Olive (Natural Resources)

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 Debbie Dunham of Dartmouth 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 Debbie Dunham on receiving one of this year's honours and wish her continued success in the future.