Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

Les travaux de la Chambre ont repris le
21 septembre 2017

HANSARD 03-26

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

MONDAY, MAY 5, 2003

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS:
Commun. Serv.: RRSS - Fund, Mr. W. Gaudet 2007
Environ. & Lbr. - Enviro Depot: Deposits - Allocation Review,
Mr. M. Parent 2008
STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS:
Health Prom.: Events - Highlights, Hon. Rodney MacDonald 2008
EMO - Disaster Financial Assistance Program, Hon. T. Olive 2011
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 1034, Battle of the Atlantic: Participants - Remember, Hon. J. Muir 2014
Vote - Affirmative 2014
Res. 1035, Nat'l. Forest Wk. (04/05-10/05/03) - Recognize,
Hon. T. Olive 2015
Vote - Affirmative 2015
Res. 1036, Fundy Gypsum Co. Ltd.: Ryan Safety Trophy - Congrats.,
Hon. R. Russell 2015
Vote - Affirmative 2016
Res. 1037, Music-in-Medicine: Dr. Ron Stewart/Participants - Congrats.,
(by Hon. J. Muir), Hon. J. Purves 2016
Vote - Affirmative 2017
Res. 1038, Emergency Preparedness Wk. (04/05-10/05/03) - Recognize,
Hon. T. Olive 2017
Vote - Affirmative 2018
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 45, Insurance Act, Hon. R. Russell 2018
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 1039, Insurance - Discussion Paper: Driver-Owned System -
Include, Mr. D. Dexter 2018
Res. 1040, NDP - Opposition: Accountability - Remember,
Mr. Manning MacDonald 2019
Res. 1041, Smith, Dr. Jim - House/Dart. East.: Contributions -
Commend, Hon. T. Olive 2019
Vote - Affirmative 2020
Res. 1042, Mental Health Wk. (05/05-11/05/03) - Recognize,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 2020
Vote - Affirmative 2021
Res. 1043, Mental Health Wk. (05/05-11/05/03) - Recognize,
Dr. J. Smith 2021
Vote - Affirmative 2022
Res. 1044, Nat. Res. - Forest Ind.: Importance - Recognize,
Mr. K. Morash 2022
Vote - Affirmative 2022
Res. 1045, NAOSH Wk. - Recognize, Mr. F. Corbett 2023
Vote - Affirmative 2023
Res. 1046, Commun. Serv. - Bargaining Table: Return - Min. Facilitate,
Mr. W. Gaudet 2023
Res. 1047, Clarica - Organ Donation /Educ./Children's Progs.:
Support - Thank, Ms. M. McGrath 2024
Vote - Affirmative 2025
Res. 1048, IT (N.S.) Wk. (02/05-11/05/03) - Celebrate, Mr. H. Epstein 2025
Vote - Affirmative 2026
Res. 1049, Nat. Res. - Forest Practices: Sustainability - Urge,
Mr. K. MacAskill 2026
Vote - Affirmative 2026
Res. 1050, Spencer, Melissa - CIS Championships: Performance -
Congrats., Mr. M. Parent 2027
Vote - Affirmative 2027
Res. 1051, BLT Rails to Trails: Volunteers (New) - Thank,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 2027
Vote - Affirmative 2028
Res. 1052, Membertou - Self-Gov't.: Leadership - Congrats.,
Mr. R. MacKinnon 2028
Vote - Affirmative 2029
Res. 1053, Grant-Smith, Joyce - Atl. Writing Comp.: Prize - Congrats.,
Mr. F. Chipman 2029
Vote - Affirmative 2030
Res. 1054, Seaside Elem. - DARE Prog.: Completion - Congrats.,
Mr. K. Deveaux 2030
Vote - Affirmative 2030
Res. 1055, IT Wk. (Can.) (02/05-11/05/03) - Recognize, Mr. D. Wilson 2031
Vote - Affirmative 2031
Res. 1056, ReMax Nova (Bedford) - IWK: Contribution - Congrats.,
Mr. B. Barnet 2031
Vote - Affirmative 2032
Res. 1057, King, Sam/J.L. Ilsley HS - Fest. of Knowledge: Performances -
Congrats., (by Mr. W. Estabrooks), Mr. Robert Chisholm 2032
Vote - Affirmative 2033
Res. 1058, Fin. - Pensions: Min. - Info., Mr. M. Samson 2033
Res. 1059, Mosher, Monty: Atl. Journalism Award - Congrats.,
Mr. D. Hendsbee 2034
Vote - Affirmative 2035
Res. 1060, Insurance - Pub. System: Viability - Recognize,
Mr. D. Dexter 2035
Res. 1061, Hospice Palliative Care: Availability - Ensure, Dr. J. Smith 2035
Vote - Affirmative 2036
Res. 1062, Free Comic Book Day (05/05/03) - Recognize,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 2036
Vote - Affirmative 2037
Res. 1063, Gov't. (N.S.): Debt Increase - Preparedness, Mr. M. Samson 2037
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 36, Financial Measures (2003) Act 2038
Dr. J. Smith 2038
Mr. F. Corbett 2049
Mr. D. Wilson 2059
Mr. W. Estabrooks 2066
Mr. K. MacAskill 2071
Mr. D. Dexter 2078
Mr. J. Holm 2088
Mr. J. MacDonell 2101
Mr. B. Boudreau 2109
Previous Question Put 2118
Vote - Affirmative 2118
Main Motion 2119
Vote - Affirmative 2119
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Tue., May 6th at 12:00 noon 2120
NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3):
Res. 1064, Battle of Atl.: Participants - Remember, Mr. J. Holm 2121
Res. 1065, Agrologists' Institute (N.S.): Anniv. (50th) - Congrats.,
Hon. G. Balser 2121
Res. 1066, Taste of N.S. Soc. Awards: Recipients - Congrats.,
Hon. G. Balser 2122
Res. 1067, E. Hants Mun.: Model Vol. Commun. of Yr. - Congrats.,
Mr. J. MacDonell 2122
Res. 1068, MacAulay, Patricia/Versteeg, Vanessa - Forum for
Young Canadians: Participation - Congrats., Mr. J. MacDonell 2123
Res. 1069, Hfx. Bedford Basin MLA - Mental Health Strategy:
Crowing - Refrain, Ms. Maureen MacDonald 2123
Res. 1070, Hfx. Herald Team: Atl. Journalism Award - Congrats.,
Mr. D. Hendsbee 2124
Res. 1071, Plymouth FD Ladies Aux.: Anniv. (30th) - Congrats.,
Mr. J. DeWolfe 2124
Res. 1072, Legere, Mrs. Muriel: Springhill Vol. of Yr. - Congrats.,
The Speaker 2125
Res. 1073, Gilbert Fam.: Vol. Fam. of Yr. - Congrats., The Speaker 2125
Res. 1074, Fletcher, Arden - Vol. Work: Recognition - Congrats.,
The Speaker 2126
Res. 1075, Currie, Jessica/Reid, Gina: Badminton Champs - Congrats.,
The Speaker 2126
Res. 1076, Bishop, Alie: Vol. Work - Congrats., The Speaker 2127

[Page 2007]

HALIFAX, MONDAY, MAY 5, 2003

Fifty-eighth General Assembly

Third Session

2:00 P.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Murray Scott

DEPUTY SPEAKERS

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

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. We will begin the daily routine.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

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

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition bearing the signatures of 37 family members, counsellors and other concerned persons who are concerned about the ongoing strike at Regional Residential Services Society, the operative clause which reads:

"Therefore be it resolved that we, the undersigned family members, counsellors and other concerned persons, call on the Hamm government to show that it cares about the residents of the Regional Residential Services Society by giving that agency a mandate and appropriate funding to negotiate wage parity for their residential counsellors as soon as possible."

Mr. Speaker, I have affixed my signature to that petition.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

2007

[Page 2008]

The honourable member for Kings North.

MR. MARK PARENT: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition, the operative clause which reads: "The Government is funding the municipalities with part of my initial dime deposit. Please review the allocations from the deposit to my local Enviro Depot to ensure that they are properly funded before the profits are divided."

Mr. Speaker, it's been signed by 128 people and I have affixed my name to it.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health Promotion.

HON. RODNEY MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to highlight a number of recent and upcoming Health Promotion events. Last week and over the weekend, Sport Nova Scotia's second annual Milk Energy Sport Fair was held at Dalplex. This three-day interactive event gave youth ages 1 to 17 from across the province a chance to try their hand at over 30 different sports.

We know building a healthier Nova Scotia, Mr. Speaker, begins by helping our young people get more physically active and sport can plan an important role. Over 5,000 students from across the province participated in this event. It is our hope they were able to find a sport they enjoy early in life and stick with it, thus increasing the chances they will grow into healthy, active children.

Mr. Speaker, the Office of Health Promotion is proud to be a presenting sponsor at the Sport Fair. We contributed $10,000. I visited Sport Fair last Thursday and I was truly impressed by the quality of the event. I would like to congratulate the organizers, Sport Nova Scotia, the sponsors and all those involved. Helping the next generation to be healthier through increased physical activity is a priority. We also need to take more responsibility for our own health today and there is no better time than right now. Spring is here. The days are getting warmer and longer. It's the time of year we all vow to get healthier and more active.

Also, last Thursday, I had the pleasure of attending, along with the Premier, another great Health Promotion event at the offices of MT&L Public Affairs. Approximately 200 individuals, representing a wide variety of businesses and organizations attended this event,

[Page 2009]

and were encouraged to put a spring in their step by taking a seven-week walking challenge from May 8th to June 26th.

The idea is to become more conscious of how active (Interruptions) - I'm sure we'll be in here until June 26th - we are every day and to challenge ourselves to make small changes to increase our daily activity levels. That might mean taking the stairs instead of the elevator or having a walking meeting in sunshine and fresh air, instead of inside an office or a boardroom.

At the event, they issued everyone a pedometer, a small device you clip to your waistband that counts the steps and miles you take in a day. I accepted the seven-week challenge, Mr. Speaker, and here is my pedometer. I have here with me five more pedometers and I have given out a few. I have given one to the member for Timberlea-Prospect, the member for Dartmouth East, I know the Speaker has one, and I have one more available here for the Premier, as well. So I extend the challenge to five others in the Legislature that we have given out the pedometers to. I have packages here with me for those five who are willing to accept the challenge and I put those forward.

Apart from the opportunity to extend the challenge to some of my colleagues, I mention this event today because it's an excellent example of some of the great initiatives going on across the province to improve our collective health. As we know, improving the health of Nova Scotians is everybody's responsibility: individuals; parents; schools; communities; governments; and employers.

It is very encouraging to see MT&L and others in the business community taking a lead and being inspired to help create a healthy workplace for themselves and others. I would like to commend them on their healthy idea. They will be tracking the progress of participants over the course of the challenge, so I'm sure there will be more on this.

Moving from Spring to summer, this week we will kick off the annual Summer Active campaign. The Summer Active is an exciting, six-week national community-based campaign, to increase awareness about healthy living. It begins May 9th and runs until June 21st.

Throughout Summer Active individuals and groups across the province register their health promotion events in their schools, their workplaces and communities. On Friday we will hold a walk in the Grand Parade to kick off Summer Active. We have invited everyone in government and I would like to encourage all my colleagues here today in the Legislature, who can make it, to participate - if not on Friday, then perhaps they can be on the lookout for Summer Active events in their community.

Mr. Speaker, before I forget, I also handed a pedometer to the member for Clare and I had forgotten to mention that.

[Page 2010]

Finally, I would like to mention the annual Dragon Boat Festival, which will be held in July. This year the Office of Health Promotion will enter a team and challenge the other government departments, as well as each of the caucus offices, to also enter teams to race for the first-ever Premier's Cup. It's a great way to get a little more active while both setting an example and raising money for amateur sports in Nova Scotia. We will be circulating information on the Premier's Cup in the near future and drumming up support. I hope that some of the members here today will take up that challenge.

Mr. Speaker, I've mentioned but a few of the hundreds of events and activities taking place around Nova Scotia in the coming weeks and months ahead to get people more active. I would like to encourage members of the House and, indeed, all Nova Scotians to participate in an event and get a little more active this summer.

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

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, there's nothing more I like than a good challenge. When it comes to Summer Active events, I hope we have a Summer Active event where I can predictably lose my 12 or 15 pounds and have a photo of various members of the Third Party, and I haven't chosen the government member yet, as we go out and get ourselves busy and have the support of Nova Scotians over the next number of weeks and months. I would like to thank the minister for showing the initiative to be involved in these events. I know the Milk Energy event, from my involvement in the past, is one of worthy note.

In addition, I want to point out that the dragon boat event is one, of course, that we must continue to support as legislators and as Nova Scotians. It's an event of some consequence, as we, as elected officials, serve as an example in so many ways. It's that pedometer that I will step on because I want the minister to know, this morning I was fortunate enough to have a morning meeting on the Beechville-Lakeside-Timberlea Rails to Trails, a great way to start the day. A couple of people from the executive said, let's take a walk and get our day started. In light of those events, the challenge is on. Mr. Minister, eat my dust. (Laughter)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for mentioning to me on Friday that this announcement would be coming. I guess it's part of the Rumsfeld plan, where you add up all the things together and call it a plan. In all fairness, it looks like there have already been challenges (Interruptions) Pardon?

AN HON. MEMBER: People said nice things about you on Friday. (Laughter)

[Page 2011]

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, just for the record, the member across the way said nice things were said about me on Friday. I just want to point out, that was last week. (Interruptions) I'm also being heckled, why do I need this pedometer, because I won't be running in the next election. The other thing about it, too, it's called the Premier's Cup and there is nothing better I would like to see across Lake Banook, or wherever the dragon festival will be, but a Premier Danny Graham challenge in the dragon race, that sort of thing.

We know that even though this is a very simple instrument, it has provided great research data. This alone has demonstrated that many times, particularly in the age group of the older adolescents, that they're not as active as some surveys might indicate. It is a way of giving credibility to research. I want to thank the minister for bringing this forward, and increasing awareness that these are available and, in fact, can be very helpful in gaining research and helping to target programs of awareness and education programs, really an understanding of what the need is out in the community, particularly with the youth and adolescents.

He mentioned the three-day sports fair and moving into the Summer Active. I just wanted to compliment the minister and the government for these initiatives, they are so crucial. Having a variety of programs that are available, because not everyone may want to participate in this type of event so there's not one program that fits all, so a variety of programs, a variety of initiatives, and when you look back at healthy living, those particular initiatives have to do with food, nutrition and that awareness is being increased. Activity is certainly one.

[2:15 p.m.]

As a physician, when I was practicing, I found someone who was 100 years old, I tried to determine how they thought they had lived so long successfully, and it was a variety of things, but certainly walking and activity and controlling your own life is really extremely important. Some said they drank a lot of rum. Some said they didn't drink any at all. So I call that a zero rating, but there are other ones of good nutrition, activity. We know now what is to be done, just let's get on with it. Let's keep our smoking cessation program part of this healthy living. Let's have some more incentives, keep the commitments of government to fund those types of programs and the smoking strategy, and also a clear direction with legislation on those matters where it's necessary for impacting on healthy living.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Natural Resources.

HON. TIMOTHY OLIVE: Mr. Speaker, I rise today as minister responsible for the Emergency Measures Act. On April 1st I informed the House that a Disaster Financial Assistance Program would be instituted through the Emergency Measures Organization for all affected areas in Nova Scotia. That was done and the program has been up and running since then. We have steadily been receiving applications. EMO, through local municipal

[Page 2012]

offices, has been accepting and reviewing applications from individuals to help them restore their primary residence to a basic level to make it fit to live in again.

The program also provides assistance to small businesses to help them get back on their feet and to municipalities to restore essential public services to a pre-disaster condition. The government is offering assistance in accordance with the provincial policy regarding a provision of financial assistance to those who have sustained uninsurable losses. Today, I would like to inform all members of the House, and to announce to the public, that I have extended the deadline for applications by two weeks. Those individuals who have suffered losses during the heavy rains and floods in March have until Tuesday, May 20th, at 4:30 p.m, to apply for assistance under the Disaster Financial Assistance Program.

We realize that many people, particularly in rural areas of the province, have had difficulty getting the necessary information that is submitted with their application forms, such as quotes from contractors, due to the large volume of people who have suffered damage. Others have also experienced delays in receiving information from their insurance companies because of the number of requests.

Mr. Speaker, I can tell you that as of Friday, May 2nd, EMO has received 188 claims from across the province under the Disaster Financial Assistance Program. They are in the process of being reviewed or are completed. I would like to remind Nova Scotians that the applications should be submitted through their local municipal office. At this time, I cannot say what the total cost for the program will be, but that information will be available once we have reviewed and processed all applications.

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

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, may I be permitted an introduction before I do my reply.

MR. SPEAKER: Yes.

MR. CORBETT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. In the east and west galleries, if people were wondering what that white noise is, that is members of Local 66, employees of RRSS here in Halifax, coming to watch the proceedings today and probably in some way encourage the government to change their tack on that strike. So I wish them to stand and receive the appreciation of the House, please. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the minister, I know there was a mixup in getting this over to our caucus office and it was a genuine delay and it's appreciated, because I know the minister tried his best to get it there and I appreciate it was nothing untoward.

[Page 2013]

One of the few comments I want to make about this is the reality of what happens when people are struck with these types of disasters. There are many other factors out there that I hope the government will take a long view of because it was our position that this again, is a reactive measure of the climate changes that are happening within our province. We appreciate that in this instance they're allowing more latitude for people to get involved and have their claims processed.

There are many other residual effects from that flooding, not the least of which is some of the very fertile areas of this province that have been devastated by that flood - washed off topsoil and washed huge trees into the middle of prime farming land.

While I acknowledge the government's help today - and it is appreciated - before I take my place, I would ask the government to really take a long view of this and realize that these types of disasters are happening all too often in this province. It seems to be more related not to us being basically unprepared, but I believe there is a real change going on in our environment as it relates to greenhouse gases and so on. I would wish that the government would take a bigger view of this and would help everybody, and it would be prepared as opposed to reacting. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Victoria.

MR. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the minister for his statement. Any move in any direction by this government is probably a small step forward.

There are many areas in rural Nova Scotia where there are still roads and bridges that are still not repaired, or repaired to a minimum standard or are still waiting. I think that's part and parcel of the minister's responsibility as minister responsible for EMO to see that all these communities have access to all the services that's necessary, like oil trucks and fire trucks. I recall not too long ago getting calls from Pleasant Bay, where they were cut off from special services such as oil trucks and fire trucks. That creates a danger for these communities. I think that's the first thing the government should do is to make sure that the people have the necessary services available to them.

The extension may help in getting the info to some of the applications, and I think that's a good move. But I think it's imperative for the government and the minister to take action and to process these applications as soon as they possibly can to provide the necessary funding to bring back the normal living conditions that these people expect from their government.

I would assume, but I may be wrong, that this extension may take them by the next election. The minister said he had 188 claims. I wonder how many of those were settled to this point. Maybe the minister would, at some point in time, tell us how many of these claims

[Page 2014]

have been settled to this point. The flood damage was done in March, and it's a few months later, so maybe the minister will get around to giving us that information before the election.

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.

RESOLUTION NO. 1034

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

Whereas from the beginning of the Second World War, Britain was in danger of losing strategic supplies due to the threat of U-boats in the Atlantic; and

Whereas the brave men and women of the Royal Canadian Navy, the Canadian Merchant Navy and the Royal Canadian Air Force fought to keep the sea lanes clear for the transport of much-needed provisions; and

Whereas more than 4,200 souls were lost between September, 1939 and May, 1945, including sailors of the first Canadian ship lost in the campaign, the HMCS Fraser;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House pause to acknowledge the incredible courage of those Canadians who helped to triumph in the Battle of the Atlantic and remember those whose lives were lost to assist in this vital role to secure our freedom.

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 Natural Resources.

[Page 2015]

RESOLUTION NO. 1035

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

Whereas May 4th to May 10th is National Forest Week, when all Nova Scotians and Canadians are asked to celebrate our rich forest heritage and to consider the true value of our forests; and

Whereas our forests play a vital role in providing a healthy environment, economy and lifestyle for Nova Scotians and they help support more than 250 wildlife species; and

Whereas this year the focus of the week is on the diversity of life and the many interactions among the living things that call our forests home;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House recognize that our forests are a rich and diverse natural resource and take the time during National Forest Week to think about what this resource means to each one of us.

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 Environment and Labour.

RESOLUTION NO. 1036

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

Whereas the continuing efforts of business and labour to ensure safety in the workplace are worthy of recognition and praise; and

[Page 2016]

Whereas the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum has established an award program to recognize extraordinary achievement in worker safety through the awarding of the John T. Ryan Safety Trophy; and

Whereas the Fundy Gypsum Limited mine has a long-standing record of high achievement in workplace safety;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize and congratulate the Fundy Gypsum Company Limited for being awarded the John T. Ryan Safety Trophy in the Select Mines Category, by having achieved the nation's - and I say the nation's - lowest reported accident frequency for hours worked in 2002.

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. 1037

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

Whereas the Dalhousie Medical School Chorale, the first of its kind in Canada, raises more funds for charitable community projects and for scholarship funds than any other campus organization, last year alone raising $32,000 for health charities; and

Whereas nearly 100 med students, professors and administrators come together in music, learning to live a balanced life and acquiring the patience and communications skills that will help in their medical careers; and

Whereas this program helps display to our medical students that our community can be on one in which to stay and practice;

[Page 2017]

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House join me in congratulating Dr. Ron Stewart, the Executive Director of Music-in-Medicine, and all the participants, for a program that is an immense success and makes Nova Scotia proud.

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 assigned the administration of the Emergency Measures Act.

RESOLUTION NO. 1038

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

Whereas May 4th to May 10th is Emergency Preparedness Week, a week that serves as a call to action and emphasizes the importance of taking steps to improve our preparedness levels for an emergency; and

Whereas this year's theme Prepare Now! Learn How! highlights the need to reduce the potential risks we face by better understanding what could happen and learning how to prepare our family, community and province; and

Whereas this week is also an opportunity to recognize individuals and organizations that volunteer their time to help out during a time of emergency;

Therefore be it resolved that members of the House recognize Emergency Preparedness Week and the importance of preparing ahead of time for any emergency.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 2018]

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

[2:30 p.m.]

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

Bill No. 45 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 231 of the Revised Statutes of 1989. The Insurance Act. (Hon. Ronald Russell)

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

NOTICES OF MOTION

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

RESOLUTION NO. 1039

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

Whereas private auto insurers in Nova Scotia invest precious little of their premium or investment income in the local economy; and

Whereas Manitoba Public Insurance, a driver-owned public insurer, invests $595.4 million, or 46.5 per cent of its $1.3 billion investment portfolio in Manitoba through municipal, health care and education bonds that have reaped huge benefits for community infrastructure and fuelled economic growth; and

Whereas the driver-owned insurance plans in Manitoba, Saskatchewan and British Columbia do not require any subsidy from tax dollars;

Therefore be it resolved that this Hamm Government should have had enough respect for Nova Scotians to include driver-owned public insurance in its auto insurance discussion paper.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 2019]

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton South.

RESOLUTION NO. 1040

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

Whereas the member for Halifax Atlantic sent eight of his colleagues to the political graveyard back in 1999, because he felt an urge to get it on; and

Whereas after four years of wasted attacks on the Liberal Party, the NDP are failing to adequately hold the government of today accountable; and

Whereas this is typical of a Party whose main aim is perpetual Opposition;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize the irrational disdain the NDP have demonstrated towards the Liberal Party, which has blinded them to the real purpose of Opposition, which is to hold the government accountable.

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 Minister of Natural Resources.

RESOLUTION NO. 1041

HON. TIMOTHY OLIVE: Mr. Speaker, unfortunately I was not available last Friday when the honourable member for Dartmouth East made his announcement, so I may appear

[Page 2020]

to be slightly late in passing on my congratulations through the form of a resolution, but I would like to take the opportunity now to read a resolution.

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

Whereas Dr. Jim Smith announced Friday that he will conclude his career as a provincial representative for the constituency of Dartmouth East come the next election; and

Whereas the Liberal MLA has served the constituents of Dartmouth East faithfully for almost two decades, as well as having served in the Savage and MacLellan Cabinets in the key portfolios of Health, Community Services, Housing and Municipal Affairs, as well as Justice; and

Whereas Jim, described by many as a true gentleman, also served the citizens of Dartmouth as a much-beloved family physician before entering the lively arena of politics;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House join me in offering to Jim our sincere congratulations, commend him for his many contributions to this House and to the constituency of Dartmouth East, and wish him all the best 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. (Applause)

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

RESOLUTION NO. 1042

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

Whereas May 5th to May 11th marks Mental Health Week in Nova Scotia; and

[Page 2021]

Whereas mental illness touches on all our lives, as Health Canada suggests, for the suffering of the 20 per cent who will be afflicted in their lifetime with impacts on their friends, co-workers and family, who make up the other 80 per cent of us; and

Whereas mental illness is the largest type of illness affecting Canadians, and we need more research into causes and cures than ever before;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize Mental Health Week in Nova Scotia and commit to providing the resources needed to combat and cure the most prevalent illness of our time, mental illness.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

RESOLUTION NO. 1043

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

Whereas May 5 to May 11, 2003, is Mental Health Week; and

Whereas every year for the past 52 years, Mental Health Week has educated Canadians about the nature of mental illnesses and the importance of mental health; and

Whereas statistics show that approximately one in five Canadians will experience a mental illness during their lifetime and the remaining four in five will be affected by mental illness in family members;

Therefore be it resolved that all MLAs in this House dedicate themselves to creating a mentally healthy society where Nova Scotians living with mental illnesses are able to find acceptance, support and appropriate treatment for their illnesses through access to appropriate mental health caregivers in a timely fashion.

[Page 2022]

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 Queens.

RESOLUTION NO. 1044

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

Whereas Queens County companies like Neilly Holdwright, N.F. Douglas, Bowater Paper Company, and Harry Freeman and Sons play a major role in Nova Scotia's $1.4 billion forestry industry; and

Whereas the forestry industry employs 13,000 Nova Scotians directly and more than 5,000 Nova Scotians indirectly and is a vital industry in Queens County; and

Whereas National Forest Week, highlighted by this year's theme, "Canada's Forest, Source of Life", recognizes the vital role the forest plays in the economy of Canada;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House join me in recognizing the important role our forest industry plays in the economy of Nova Scotia and pledge our support for all those businesses that enrich the many communities in which they reside.

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 2023]

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

RESOLUTION NO. 1045

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

Whereas this week marks Occupational Safety and Health Week, or NAOSH, across North America; and

Whereas an old adage relates that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure; and

Whereas this year's NAOSH week theme, "Prevention is the Cure", takes that adage one step farther;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize this week as North American Occupational Safety and Health Week and support in every possible way, and always as its policy on workplace accidents that Prevention is the Cure.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Leader in the House of the Liberal Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 1046

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

[Page 2024]

Whereas on Thursday, May 1, 2003, the Minister of Community Services indicated that it is his desire not to interfere with the collective bargaining process that is preventing him from doing anything about the RRSS strike; and

Whereas these are strange words coming from a government that introduced Bill No. 68 and the Ground Ambulance Services Act; and

Whereas what the minister fails to understand is that the employer stated that they cannot participate in the collective bargaining process because they have nothing more to offer from the minister;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Community Services stop hiding behind the collective bargaining process and start showing some respect to the families and the workers by providing the tools to get them back to the bargaining table.

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 Bedford Basin.

RESOLUTION NO. 1047

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

Whereas Clarica is a corporate citizen that serves as a positive and inspiring example due to its many financial commitments to programs that improve and even extend the lives of Nova Scotians; and

Whereas Clarica exhibited leadership when it recognized an escalating need for donor organs and rose to the occasion with $100,000 in grants to help ensure that Nova Scotia has strong organ and tissue donation capabilities throughout the province; and

Whereas over the past few years the people of Nova Scotia have benefitted from a total of more than $680,000 in grants for education, organ donation and children's programs from Clarica;

[Page 2025]

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House express our deep appreciation and gratitude to Clarica for its ongoing support of Nova Scotia's organ donation, education and children's programs that make such an enormous difference in the health and well-being of the people of this province.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

RESOLUTION NO. 1048

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

Whereas May 2nd to May 11th marks Information Technology Week in Canada; and

Whereas Nova Scotians can mark this week with pride because of the achievements of our highly-skilled, highly-educated workforce and entrepreneurship; and

Whereas this week marks not only a time to celebrate our vast achievements in IT but also to reflect on the great possibilities and responsibilities that confront us in exciting, emerging fields, such as biotechnology, nanotechnology and the medical breakthroughs soon to come from the mapping of the human genome;

Therefore be it resolved that this House celebrate May 2nd to May 11th as Information Technology Week in Nova Scotia, and salute all those Nova Scotians who stand poised in this century to make this province proud and prosperous through the use and development of information technology.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 2026]

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 Victoria.

RESOLUTION NO. 1049

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

Whereas May 4th to May 10th is National Forest Week; and

Whereas this week should be a time to reflect on the importance of our forest for both our economic and physical well-being; and

Whereas, unfortunately, the forest services, logging and forestry and support activity experienced a decline in the average annual gross domestic product during this government's four-year tenure;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House salute all those who make their living from the forests and urge sustainable forest practices, so that the forestry sector does not decline in its value to the economy.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Kings North.

[Page 2027]

RESOLUTION NO. 1050

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

Whereas Kentville native, Melissa Spencer capped off a successful first year as a varsity swimmer at Dalhousie University with a personal record-breaking performance at the CIS championships in Victoria, British Columbia; and

Whereas Melissa swam personal best times and qualified for second swims in all three of her events; and

Whereas after her successful swims in Victoria, Melissa is now one of the top 10 swimmers in Canada;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join me in congratulating Melissa Spencer on her admirable performance at the CIS championships and wish her continued success in her future athletic 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 Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 1051

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

Whereas six volunteers have been installed as new trail wardens for the Beechville-Lakeside-Timberlea Rails to Trails organization; and

[Page 2028]

Whereas their training was provided by Terry Norman, President of the Nova Scotia Trails Federation, with assistance from Chief Warden Larry Johnson and Warden Lindsay Gates; and

Whereas these new trail wardens include Cilla Dawson, Bob Conrad, Chris Rankin, Cecil Dunlap, Shirley Taylor and Wayne Taylor;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly offer its gratitude to the six new volunteers of the Beechville-Lakeside-Timberlea Rails to Trails, with best wishes in their duties and responsibilities as trail wardens on the popular BLT Trail.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

RESOLUTION NO. 1052

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

Whereas the Cape Breton Mi'kmaq community of Membertou has proven itself a leader when it comes to Aboriginal self-government; and

Whereas details of a strategic business alliance will be made public tomorrow during a press conference with Grant Thornton Canada; and

Whereas Membertou was the first among First Nations communities to become ISO9001:2000 compliant, and also has a corporate office here in Halifax;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Membertou on its proven leadership of self-government in the Mi'kmaq community.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 2029]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 1053

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

Whereas Bellisle's Joyce Grant-Smith, a Grade 6 teacher at Annapolis Royal Regional Academy, recently won an Atlantic Writing Competition prize for children's writing; and

Whereas Ms. Grant-Smith penned a story, The Latch, based on real-life discoveries made while she and her family were digging around the foundation of their home, likely left behind by Acadian settlers; and

Whereas Ms. Grant-Smith spent years perfecting her novel and is now in the market for a publisher for her award-winning work;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Joyce Grant-Smith on receiving the Atlantic Writing Competition prize for children's writing, and wish her success in all her future endeavours.

[2:45 p.m.]

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 2030]

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

RESOLUTION NO. 1054

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

Whereas the Drug Abuse Resistance Education Program, or DARE, provides students with a knowledge base on the effects of drug abuse that goes beyond the physical ramifications and extends to emotional, social and economic aspects of life; and

Whereas DARE builds decision making and problem solving skills and strategies to help students make informed decisions and resist drug use, peer pressure and violence and provides students with alternative to drug abuse; and

Whereas Seaside Elementary School's Grade 6 students will celebrate the completion of their DARE program on May 6th;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Principal Dave Fowlie, Vice-Principal Peter Balcom, Grade 6 teachers Denise Johnston, Karen Gates, Lynn Coolen, Chris Smith, Wally Foley, Ken Murray and Jim Shatford, RCMP Constable Dan Bretzner and all the Grade 6 students at Seaside Elementary on their successful completion of the DARE Program.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Glace Bay.

[Page 2031]

RESOLUTION NO. 1055

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

Whereas May 2nd to May 11th marks Canada's Information Technology Week, an annual event being held for the third time; and

Whereas Canada's IT week is a national celebration of Canada's innovation, skills and achievements in information and communication technologies; and

Whereas during this 10 day event, communities, businesses, employees, governments, teachers and students are encouraged to work in partnership to share their information, technology successes and accomplishments;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize the upcoming week as Information Technology Week and acknowledge all of its successes over the past three years and for many years to follow.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Sackville-Beaver Bank.

RESOLUTION NO. 1056

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

Whereas the IWK Health Centre employs more than 2,400 staff and over 750 volunteers who care for children, youth, women and families in the Maritime Provinces and beyond, delivering approximately 4,500 babies annually; and

[Page 2032]

Whereas the IWK Health Centre benefits from the generosity of more than 60,000 donors Maritime-wide; and

Whereas the Bedford office of ReMax Nova held a booster night auction Saturday night at Brewster's in Bedford, hosted by local celebrity Peter Harrison of C100 radio, which raised over $10,000 for the IWK Health Centre;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the Bedford office of ReMax Nova and all those who participated in the booster night auction for their significant financial contribution to the operation of the IWK Health Centre.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 1057

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

Whereas the Festival of Knowledge is an annual event combining physical activities and intellectual competitions; and

Whereas the event held this weekend in Bridgewater saw hundreds of parents, educators and students from various communities in the province participate in competitions in mathematics, medicine, photography, books, table tennis, social justice and philosophy; and

Whereas J.L. Ilsley of Spryfield received a community action award of $500 and Sam King, a J.L. Ilsley student, received a $500 education scholarship;

[Page 2033]

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate J.L. Ilsley and student Sam King for their winning performances at the Festival of Knowledge and wish Sam all the best as he goes on to further his studies at Sain Mary's University.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Richmond.

RESOLUTION NO. 1058

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

Whereas on November 25, 1998, then Finance Critic, Neil LeBlanc, welcomed a pension contribution holiday by saying, "I am pleased that the minister announced today that the actuarial report has shown that the pension contribution holiday will indeed take place."; and

Whereas last week the Minister of Finance said that the public sector pension plan would be in better shape had the Liberals not implemented the pension holiday; and

Whereas on April 9, 2001, the Minister of Finance told the Subcommittee on Supply about the pension plan, "That is where it was as of March 31, 2000, 106 per cent, so our Public Service Superannuation Fund is doing very well. We are very pleased with that.", yet today the plan under this government is $500 million underfunded;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Finance was not correct in his assumption about the pension holiday, when in fact the pension plan was in very good shape three years ago, which begs the question, what is the Finance Minister hiding about the pensions today?

[Page 2034]

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

Order, please. The honourable member for Richmond did not request waiver. I am sorry, there was no request for waiver, the notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Preston.

RESOLUTION NO. 1059

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

Whereas Atlantic Journalism Awards have honoured journalistic excellence in Atlantic Canada since 1981 and this year, the AJA's have included a new category - Sports Reporting - for the first time; and

Whereas chosen overall from print, radio and television sports, the Gold Award winner was Monty Mosher of the Halifax Herald for his story about boxer Kirk Johnson, "North Preston in Kirk's Corner"; and

Whereas the Sports Reporting entries were judged according to criteria such as creativity, journalist merit, and the inclusion of novelty, drama, personalization, human interest and humour in the treatment of a sports story;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Monty Mosher as the winner of the AJA's inaugural Sports Reporting Award and commend him for his excellence in the well-loved tradition of sports writing.

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 2035]

The motion is carried.

The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 1060

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

Whereas the Minister of skyrocketing insurance rates continues to compare a public auto system to another Sysco; and

Whereas the minister is forgetting that Conservative Governments have come and gone in British Columbia, Saskatchewan and Manitoba, all of which have public auto insurance systems and those governments chose not to try to fix something that wasn't broken in spite of their ideological preferences; and

Whereas those three provinces are the only ones in Canada to see only marginal increases in auto insurance rates, 8 per cent or less, while Nova Scotia's private systems saw average increases of 65 per cent;

Therefore be it resolved that the minister of skyrocketing auto insurance put aside his ideological bent and recognize the practical truth, which is that public auto insurance is a viable, affordable alternative to a private system that has priced today's families out of the insurance market.

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 Dartmouth East.

RESOLUTION NO. 1061

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

[Page 2036]

Whereas May 5 to May 11, 2003 is National Hospice Palliative Care Week; and

Whereas hospice palliative care provides physical, emotional and spiritual care and support for individuals and their loved ones facing a progressive life-threatening illness; and

Whereas every Nova Scotian has the right to die with dignity, without pain, surrounded by their loved ones in the setting of their own choice;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of the Legislature extend our deepest appreciation to volunteers and health care workers for their professional dedication to this very important component of the health care system and dedicate ourselves as legislators in ensuring that hospice palliative care services are available to all Nova Scotians who choose to access their services.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 1062

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

Whereas comic books are an art form that has pleased generations of Canadians of all ages; and

Whereas many of us cut our reading teeth on the adventures of Spiderman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Tintin and the many other sundry and colourful characters that populate this imaginative world; and

Whereas this genre encourages countless children to read and Saturday's Free Comic Book Day in North America was an opportunity to get kids to read things that pique their interest;

[Page 2037]

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize May 5, 2003, as Free Comic Book Day in Nova Scotia and encourage Nova Scotians to visit a comic book shop near them, such as Strange Adventures Comic Bookshop on Sackville Street in Halifax, who participated in this event.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Richmond.

RESOLUTION NO. 1063

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 will be receiving $1 billion more yearly in revenue than the previous government; and

Whereas despite this, the debt continues to rise as the Finance Minister is forgetting the legacy of the previous government to which he belonged; and

Whereas despite warnings that the day of reckoning was near, the 1988 to 1993 Conservative Government plunged Nova Scotia into a debt abyss which has haunted every government since;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Finance understand that another day of reckoning will occur and that Nova Scotians will be unprepared to deal with the potential crisis because this government continues to borrow more than it earns.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 2038]

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

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 Dartmouth East. You have 47 minutes.

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, thanks for the opportunity to continue comments in addressing matters relative to Bill No. 36, An Act Respecting Certain Financial Measures, commonly known as the Financial Measures (2003) Bill, enabling legislation relative to the budget introduced by this government earlier in this session.

On Friday, Mr. Speaker, I had started my comments relative to this bill and had proceeded to Part III, the Gaming Control Act. It was a matter relative to smoking in the casino, specifically, that this enabling legislation brings in. I expressed concern, as strongly as I might, that the government had early on signaled through the Finance Minister's comments that a material breach, in fact, had taken place by this government relative to this matter of allowing smoking in the casino in that they felt they had no choice in that matter.

Mr. Speaker, when you look at the contract that had been signed and under Section 6.6, Operator Termination Events, there is nowhere in that area from Section 6.6.1 through those matters for several pages that mentions anything about smoking. The bill, essentially, overrides a bylaw brought in by a regional municipal unit. The municipal units, as members know, are often referred to as creatures of the province and very dependent on legislation at the provincial level that impacts on their own legislation. Both of the municipal units in which we have casinos, limited to two in Nova Scotia, have brought in very aggressive anti-

[Page 2039]

smoking legislation and this provincial government has been unable to bring effective legislation before this House and to meet the needs of Nova Scotians and to meet the demands of Nova Scotians.

When this contract was signed and written, regardless of the implications relative to smoking or not, the environment, at that time that surrounded the casino, in this particular municipal unit, was altogether different than it is here today. So the times have changed and how a court would rule on this matter, Mr. Speaker, leaves a lot open to question.

Our plea on this side of the House this session has been, put a muzzle on the Minister of Finance, have him stop speaking about matters relative to material breach and waving the white flag before any challenge that takes place in the courts. The casino would have to make an application and would demand response to that within 30 days, speaking quite simply as to how this might be looked at. My point would be, and certainly if I was arguing, that the environment surrounding the casino has changed dramatically since this contract was signed.

[3:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, it's not only relative to smoking that this section is speaking on; there are many other bylaws, and so by changing the enabling legislation on this matter could bring in many different areas that the casino may well see as impacting negatively on their business. The area might deal with infections even, you could bring that in, and that could be the basis of a challenge that they in fact had suffered a downturn in their business because of something not done by the municipal unit. So you have the municipal units trying to do as well as they can through their union of municipalities. Some have brought very strong voices, individual members representing their municipal units as well as the municipal units themselves. So it's ironic that some of the strongest municipal units on anti-smoking legislation bylaws within their own municipal governments have come from the two that have casinos in their particular communities.

The Cape Breton area particularly, Mr. Speaker, when you have a municipal unit that faced a high probability of a negative reaction in those people that they represent, they had the courage to move forward - much more courage than this government has shown in their anti-smoking legislation. They have permission from the people now to move forward with comprehensive, integrated anti-smoking legislation and they're choosing not to, and here is some concern. I think what has happened is as soon as you see a lack of leadership at one level of government, that has a great deal of impact on legislation and bylaws brought forward by a municipal unit. When you see wavering in one area, you see it trickling down to others and this is exactly what has happened.

We have Alderman Bob Harvey whom I alluded to - I didn't mention by name, but today will, as the nominated candidate for our Party who is running in the Sackville area in the next election - he has been a very strong voice and has stood out and has subjected

[Page 2040]

himself to criticism by the restaurant and tavern associations, and I have heard him ridiculed by people less worthy than he in the media, particularly the electronic media, as being a negative force, but Mr. Harvey is recognizing his responsibility within the municipal function and the bylaws that he's able to impact. I was very concerned to see the number, in my area particularly that I've been watching very carefully how the vote has gone. So while the municipal unit in HRM has passed what some would consider a very strong anti-smoking bylaw, that is certainly not how I see it myself and I know it's very much of a compromise.

As we all know, Mr. Speaker, politics is the art - and there is a bit of a science to it at times but certainly it's an art, but it's also making choices and it's consensus. Sometimes you do have to compromise; that doesn't mean that there's any less willingness to move forward on initiatives, but what has happened here in this area, what I'm seeing here locally, the lack of movement and a lack of leadership on anti-smoking in the HRM community particularly has trickled down and given encouragement to those who would sabotage, who would vote against restricting smoking in public places, those elected officials at the HRM municipal level.

Some of them have gone very quiet, and it's very interesting. They very strongly were against the initial legislation brought forward and it looked like for a period of time that this unit in fact would take dramatic action that would result in no smoking, 100 per cent no smoking, in public places throughout this whole HRM. The ones who were markedly opposed, some have gone more quiet now. What they're doing is allowing legislation to come forward that is not to where they would want to be, where many of the legislators at the municipal level would want to be, but they have had to accept a compromise because there are still those numbers of people on that council who have not seen the light, do not understand or are unwilling to accept their responsibility as leaders. Inaction at the provincial level and this type of material, just gives those councillors who are not in favour of a 100 per cent ban a slick way to slip through, perhaps almost unnoticed, and allow legislation that is not what the people in this area deserve or expect or need.

Mr. Speaker, I'm hopeful that the municipal unit will continue to show strong leadership in this area, and that there will be an understanding of the importance that they must stand alone and not follow the lack of leadership of this provincial government, but to stand out like other municipal units have done and to move forward. I will tell you, right within a stone's throw, and I know it's probably not a good example to use, our son Michael and I went into an establishment on Friday evening at 7:00 p.m. - it was his choice to go and have a particular meal that he liked, and it is very close to this Legislature - we walked in and we sat down, and the first thing that happened was the waitress came with an ashtray. We had walked through an open space, through a couple of smaller rooms and into an open space that was certainly not ventilated and certainly not a closed space, and we were given an ashtray. Lo and behold, we looked around and there were people smoking all over the place. That's just down the street from here.

[Page 2041]

What has happened is the lack of leadership by this government to very clearly define what is right and what is needed and what is the fair and right thing to do on anti-smoking legislation, others have seen this as a weakness and have turned the screw to really move in a direction that is not proper. I just can't believe it. I can't understand what's happening. I'm not talking about putting a bunch of police out there, I'm just talking about being very clear in your direction to people as to what is right, what the legislation is saying, and this is what's happened now. People are misinterpreting and they are using it to their advantage, and they are really subtlety changing, but they're playing with your health and they're playing with my health. I have choices, but my only choice in this situation is not to go back. Certainly, had there been more seats, we would have moved. We decided to stay, and I was very disappointed that was taking place here, within a short distance from this Legislature.

It's this type of inaction, it's a type of giving in to the casino without a fight, the message is well, just challenge anything, this government is going to back down. Well, we have to support the HRM and, therefore, they will come forward, I think, in a period of time to do what is right, and we should be leaders here in this Legislature. We've seen the presentations before the Law Amendments Committee, made by physicians and others, health care workers in this province, who have come to demonstrate the negative effects of tobacco.

It was very clear, last week, the EI ruling on the appeal relative to smoking in the workplace. It was a very clear statement. Now, will this workplace safety, health and safety, override this? Will this government push to enforce that legislation? That, I think, is the question people are asking at this juncture.

Mr. Speaker, the doctors, the physicians, particularly in Cape Breton, have said that the province should stand up and not be pushed around or intimidated by big tobacco companies and casino operators. Make no mistake, they are conjoint, they are working together in this. This makes the tobacco companies very pleased to see this type of caving in by our provincial government to either a casino operator or to the tobacco companies. They are watching and they are monitoring.

But, you talk about changing environment, I mentioned that when the contract was signed how smoking was much more open and I don't believe people were ready for legislation that would make a 100 per cent ban on smoking in public places. They are now, Mr. Speaker. The environment has changed. What is changing is the lack of initiatives by various levels of government to move in that direction. I've made some comments and I don't want to repeat within the whole context of Bill No. 36 relative to the casino, the implications for smoking within the casino. I shall move on.

Part IV, we speak more of the Income Tax Act. Essentially, there are several pages here impacting on the $155 cheque and various implications for that. A lot of the talk at this juncture is when the cheques will be coming relative to the election. Whether it's best for the

[Page 2042]

government to have the cheques come out just before or during - some are saying even after. At least the promise was made, the commitment of this government has been made.

We on this side of the House find it illogical that this government is giving a tax cut while borrowing the money. That's the issue that Nova Scotians are faced with and whether they will, in fact, allow themselves to be encouraged to support this government because of cheques that, albeit $155 may not sound like a lot, but to many people in Nova Scotia it is a considerable amount of money. Will that influence the voting in that direction?

Many of us are amazed. I've stated before in this House, I've been amazed that this government would be crass enough to mail out a cheque. I shared with the House already my experience in B.C. with W.A.C. Bennett's Government that seemed to do almost anything to get re-elected. I had no idea this government would have the nerve to do this, so if that gives them credit in the nerve department then they have my voice on that. I really didn't think they'd be able to do that.

The irony is that in the pre-1999 accounting rules, this budget would be $118 million in the red. However you look at the tax relief and borrowing the money to sustain that, we're also looking at the accounting methods that are being used. That's worked to the advantage and the government's working that to create a perception of a balanced budget, financial management that's in control and everything is balanced and everything is fine.

We know we inherited a government, in my time in government, that had spent way more than what they were able to realize and when you spend more money than you're taking in, then you're asking for trouble. Many people are holding their breath, even on interest rates and if that is increased even partially to the way that we had seen in various downturns in the economy in times of high interest rates, relative to that and all of a sudden the revenues dry up. We noticed this time particularly, this is the first time that the debt service costs are higher than the Department of Education's budget. We mentioned this earlier in the House, other members have as well, the Appropriations Act 2003, indicates the cost of the Education budget, $980,241. The debt-servicing costs for the Department of Finance, $1,062,316. The debt-servicing costs have taken over the number two slot in expenditures. All of this is done, Mr. Speaker, in a time of increasing revenues.

Revenues in this province, be it from the federal government and other matters relative to income, have increased by $1 billion, yet we see the struggle to still borrow money. Then, on top of that, to borrow that money for tax rebates, just to those people who have paid their taxes, that includes the very rich, they will receive the rebate. We know there are many working poor, families (Interruption) An introduction, Mr. Speaker?

[Page 2043]

[3:15 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Yes, we have an introduction.

The honourable member for Queens on an introduction.

MR. KERRY MORASH: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the honourable member for yielding the floor to allow for an introduction. I would like to call your attention to the Speaker's Gallery. In the Speaker's Gallery, we have a young lady by the name of Diana Frietag. She is a former PC staffer from Parliament Hill. She worked for MPs John Herron and Rex Burns, as well as national headquarters. She has just recently moved to Halifax from Ottawa just this past Saturday. I would like to ask her to stand and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Welcome, indeed, to our guest in the gallery, as introduced, and welcome to all our guests in the gallery.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East does have the floor.

DR. SMITH: I, too, welcome our guest on her journey back from Ottawa. She certainly got that right, she is moving in the right direction, I think you would agree, Mr. Premier. We just hope she didn't learn too many bad habits up there. They used to say, when the politicians went up and they came back, they were never really much use sometimes, not that I would ever say that. (Laughter) It's good to see that a couple of the members on the other side are awake, anyway, and listening. They don't miss much when you misspeak yourself on occasion.

Mr. Speaker, I was speaking prior, to the introduction, of the Appropriations Act (2003) and how the money spent on Education, allotted to the education of our children and education in this province, has been surpassed by the debt-servicing costs. Yet the government is going to put out $155 cheques to selected people in this province, not to those in greatest need, this is a rebate on tax paid. Many of our seniors, disabled persons and others who are limited in their income realization will not receive that. Also, those who are the working poor, as we say, who do not make enough, even though working in a steady job, to pay taxes. So it's a very selective tax, even in light of this whole issue of borrowing to give you back some, it will be to give them back their own money. Others will have to watch their friends receive the benefit of the tax. It seems to be a rather crass move.

If there are other explanations of that, Mr. Speaker, I would like to hear that forthcoming, because I have not heard anything that really explains to me the true nature and the reasons behind these $155 cheques. When you have over $1 billion a year in a province of less than 1 million people, as a debt-service charge that is an extremely precarious situation. Almost everyone you talk to is almost holding their breath some days on interest

[Page 2044]

rates climbing again. They are certainly bound to go up in some measure, how high will that be? What if - and we hope that that is not realized - they went up substantively, what sort of impact would that have? Where would it be? On the debt-servicing cost on this Appropriations Act of 2003, the debt-servicing budget might overtake that of Health, even? Would that be possible? Would the debt-servicing costs be number one, ahead of Health and ahead of Education?

That may be farfetched, but that is not that far away. While we have had money flowing in from Ottawa, as opposed to the cutbacks we had in the middle 1990s - I hear the previous Minister of Health over there, following my term in office, I couldn't quite get what he said. Maybe something to do with the fact that I might have a little trouble as a Liberal past MLA or current MLA, whatever the situation would be, in supporting any of those people for Leader of the Party when they were part of that group who did restrict us very markedly in our Health funding. This government, I'm sure they have their favourites in that race, because they've opened the money chest that has flowed into this province, the $140 million extra going into Health this year, almost all has come directly from the federal government. We never had that luxury, it was going the opposite way with us.

I know the Premier and the past minister are sharing a little joke between them, and I am sure they're very happy with this performance of the federal government. We know the staff are leaving Ottawa. I hope that's not a bad sign, that this will not continue. I hope that we will continue to see an increased sharing of the health care budget by the federal government, that we never realized as well as this government is currently realizing here today.

While they can send out their $155 cheques and cry poor-mouth to the federal government, they are, in fact, realizing a much more beneficial sharing of that tax rate, and much more than the 12 per cent to 14 per cent of what the provinces are saying when you

take in the tax points, but we won't get into that. It's better for the argument from the provinces to maintain that the federal government is only putting in 12 per cent, 14 per cent, 16 per cent, 18 per cent maybe some are saying, but we know it's probably closer to 40 per cent or 44 per cent.

But be that as it may, the federal government does have reason to be skeptical, Mr. Speaker, when they see governments like the Nova Scotia Government taking the money that's coming from Ottawa - an revenues increase in revenues up to $1 billion - and distributing it with cheques to buy the next election. We were speaking very clearly on that. We don't want to appear negative as critics, but one has to represent the opinion of your constituents and many of the constituents are asking that of me and they, quite frankly, believe that that is what is motivating the action of this government, that they're trying to buy their vote with their own money.

[Page 2045]

The interest rates are problematic in the times ahead. What is the Appropriation Act of 2004 going to look like, Mr. Speaker? We know that the actions of the government in moving in this direction with the tax rebate and others are sending signals that are not positive to represent good management and a good value for the dollar within this province of less than one million people.

We look back, Mr. Speaker, to what happens when you don't address the issues when the times are better and now the time is better, this provincial government is enjoying benefits that hopefully will be passed on to the people of Nova Scotia that we weren't the recipients of, in our government.

We look back 13 years ago when times were better and there were periods when they were receiving increased revenues in the provincial coffers, and that is the time that if debt had been dealt with at that juncture, then we would not be in the position, in all fairness, that this government finds itself in and our government found ourselves in. People ask why we didn't do more as a government, and I mentioned some of it - that we never had the benefits of the increased revenues, the $1 billion increase in revenues at a time that this government has had.

Also, there were times of a minority government and there are also times - and I think this government has found this out here and what they're demonstrating is that some of it is because of their increased spending that they haven't managed their spending properly, particularly mailing out $68 million in $155 cheques instead of addressing the debt. They found that debt has saddled this province - the highest per capita debt in Canada - that it's not easy to turn the ship of state around and all of a sudden be in a completely balanced position where not only the deficit is balanced, but also that the debt itself is not being increased. That's where this government has not kept its promise to the people of Nova Scotia.

While they can speak in terms of a balanced budget, that is only part of the story. What they're choosing to gloss over and quickly get back on message is that the economy of the province is increasing and we're doing so well with the offshore and there's more people working in Nova Scotia. A lot of this is demographics and whole initiatives that were started either through previous governments or current federal government programs.

In the 1980s, of course, we go back and this is where this government is modelling after the government of the 1980s as well. It was sort of, don't worry, the offshore will save us, we can spend now because the economy is going to grow later. So they got an extra $1 billion this year in revenues, maybe next year it will be over that and continue on. Well, that can change in a hurry. It's not necessarily onward and upward under circumstances over which we have no control. We see cities like Toronto being so negatively impacted all of a sudden by the SARS infection not being adequately dealt with due to a public health system that was not up and running and ready to kick in, that we've chosen to ignore throughout this

[Page 2046]

country, and it's hard to believe 9/11 was going to be upon us and to see the impact of that - even, globally, as we see current events unfolding.

When you have the chance to address the issue of debt and the incomes that are realized are higher, some would be modest on occasion, then that must be addressed. It's not easy to turn it around. Nobody's faulting this government for not doing everything right in the first year, but we're faulting them because they're not doing anything right in the fourth year - that's the issue.

Mr. Speaker, you can't grow your way out of a $12 billion debt simply, it just does not work and it takes some active management and value-for-dollar programs. People will understand that and they will forgive this government if they don't realize on the first year the things that they were promised, but if the money is still there flowing through the system - albeit coming in from the federal coffers - then that is simply not acceptable, and people are concerned about that.

Just simply relying on an ever-growing economy is bad fiscal management. So we have a government here that is mortgaging the future, continues to mortgage the future, with its eye on the next election, is not looking at the fairness and the sustainability of our economy for our children.

[3:30 p.m.]

There are some things that must be put in place now and this federal government, I might add, is recognizing that. I know the Premier was at an announcement on Friday, there was an announcement recognizing, not only the literacy issue, but the bonding between children and mothers. The research and the information is in, and I compliment the Premier for attending that and giving the power of his office to those types of programs. Those are the sorts of things that nobody is going to object to government spending money on, but there are other things, Mr. Speaker, that the government just must get control of and manage and get value for dollar for those children who we are now attending and encouraging and enhancing their well-being through parental involvement and allowing those families to empower themselves to allow the better parenting and a realization of the social and educational development of the children in a positive way, that's a role of government, to allow the people themselves to empower themselves in those matters. That cannot be imposed, but programs such as those allow that to happen and realize, but, at the same time, we don't want to be mortgaging the future of those children because while the children are our future, their needs are now. That's why I'm complimenting both the levels of government in addressing those particular issues.

[Page 2047]

So when it loans people $155 today when their cheque arrives, essentially that is a loan that this government is making and will have to get back from those people whom they loaned it to over the next few years or, heaven forbid, would be getting it back from people who don't even get the cheque, because they pay all matters of tax, increased fees that this government has increased, user fees, freedom of information fees, all of that, Mr. Speaker. Some of those are paid by people who don't even qualify to pay income tax, to receive this $155 cheque. It's ironic that people who are poor enough that they don't qualify to receive the cheque will, in different ways over the next few years, have to pay that money back.

The debt is really a deferred taxation and, not only taxation, but fees and revenues that come into a government. It means tax breaks today will mean a tax increase tomorrow. Borrowing $118 million to give back $68 million is bad math, it's bad public policy and it's bad politics.

In leaving this subject and putting this aside, I will just hope that Nova Scotians see this. It's an insult to the intelligence of our people. I believe the people will understand and we will say (Interruption) The honourable member says that they see through it and I believe, personally, that they will. There's lots to be done, there's lots of need, particularly in children, adolescents and youth, and there are many ways it can be done.

It came to mind today, when we have the Canadian Cancer Society and the great need we have in that area of programs and a volunteer basis that has sustained the health care system in a particular area of cancer care. They have circulated their annual report in January of this year, speaking in terms of cancer research and the great need of that area, in a broad spectrum. Cancer isn't one disease, as we know. That's why in this Legislature, from our side of the House, and as our Leader Danny Graham has encouraged us so many times to do, to speak out on matters, we know that chronic illnesses such as lung disease and cancer of the lungs, directly from smoking are able to be prevented. We know that 40 per cent of chronic illnesses can, in fact, be prevented, are directly related to lifestyle. That's a tremendous challenge.

Those are the types of reasons that we need to have those debt services of over $1 billion in the Appropriations Act 2003, to be not escalating and continuing to displace Education in the lineup, then if it keeps going, even Health. Where will we be with such things as cancer care? We have such an appreciation for Cancer Care Nova Scotia, a program that as minister I was pleased to be part of, and I compliment this government on their commitment to keeping those programs. Dr. Andrew Padmos and all of the board and Jack Keith and all the others are doing a great job in that area. There is so much to be done, providing information, addressing quality of life issues, all of the others.

[Page 2048]

I know I am speaking from a booklet here of the Canadian Cancer Society, but this blends, Mr. Speaker, with other groups, such as Cancer Care Nova Scotia. The whole issue of fundraising and how, throughout Nova Scotia, children are saving pennies and working in modest endeavours to help programs that impact on children with cancer, a major issue. We have lots to do, not only in research, but also in programs. Families who live in rural Nova Scotia have to travel, leave their homes and seek shelter and parking all the other costs that go with a chronic illness, particularly an illness such as cancer.

Mr. Speaker, there's lots to do out there, there's lots to do with that $68 million, rather than going into $155 cheques to mail out for many of those people who really don't need that extra money. Throughout all of this, the real positive is the volunteers and we enjoy throughout various societies like the Canadian Cancer Society and all those initiatives that go to make this province so great. One of the initiatives that has come across my desk recently was the Cancer Society's questions to the various Parties, probably getting ready to lead up to an election. In fact, it's called Election 2003, Moving Forward on Cancer Control.

The various questions; what will your Party do to reduce tobacco use? There is much to be done there, and I commented on that earlier. What will your Party do to ensure that no cancer patient experiences economic hardship in order to cover the cost of all aspects of cancer treatment and care? That's all-inclusive, that goes far beyond the hospital care, that we are very fortunate in this country to have a Medicare system that addresses many of the acute needs. Getting into the system and getting your early diagnosis, whether it makes a difference in the outcome. I've always wondered how anyone would expect the answer to satisfy someone who has recently been diagnosed with cancer, to say, well, it's very unlikely that it's going to spread in the next while, in fact, that you have to wait three weeks or six weeks for a diagnostic test isn't really going to make a difference. Studies have shown - and the story goes on.

That's not terribly comforting for someone who has just gotten probably the worst news they've ever gotten in their life, affecting them personally. The waiting times, the access into the system, that's why we don't want to see this debt-servicing cost increasing. That's very relevant to this Financial Measures (2003) Bill, that is enabling legislation that allows the government various actions that have come in to enable that to come forward and, in fact, be written into law.

Another of the questions, what investment will your Party make to address preventable chronic diseases in Nova Scotia? I have already addressed that. The evidence is in, Mr. Speaker. Groups are speaking out, and they're asking all Parties, not just this government, what their position is. These are the issues that must be addressed in this type of legislation that allows programs that are comprehensive and integrated throughout this province with our health care system. There's lots to do. We don't have to be mailing out $155 cheques on the eve of a provincial election.

[Page 2049]

Mr. Speaker, we did debate here in the House a few nights ago, and it's all tabled in Hansard, but it was the Adjournment debate and it was a good topic. It was brought in by the MLA for Kings North and it was:

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

I guess this is what I'm trying to speak a bit to here today, Mr. Speaker, because I thought it was a very relevant debate. I just intended to listen when in fact I had to speak to it through no fault of my own. But it was, I thought, comprehensive because it dealt with what we're talking about, the sum and substance of this bill reflects the morals and the ethics of not only this government, but also the people of Nova Scotia. It is ethical, and where is the morality behind the certain actions of government? So is this $155 cheque supposed to have some trickle-down effect that somehow or other - well, are the cheques really going to go to people, some of them very rich, who really don't need the money but - somehow or other this is going to trickle down in some magical way? The economy of Nova Scotia will take off like a shooting star and then everybody will benefit.

If in fact that did happen, yes, there's nothing like a strong economy, Mr. Speaker, to benefit those working poor, as we call those persons and those persons who don't make enough money to pay income tax. Those disabled persons, those people who are off with mental illness and nothing will drop a family into poverty deeper and longer. We're all concerned about heart attacks and cancer, but mental health issues and mental illnesses and a main money earner in a family . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member's time has expired at this time.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, I would like to stand in my place today and say a few words about Bill No. 36, the Financial Measures (2003) Bill.

Before I get too far into the text, if I may vary off the subject just for a small minute, just to put on the public record congratulating the member for Dartmouth East when he said that he will not be reoffering. The member certainly treated me with respect all the while I was in the House, both on this side of the House and when he was minister. Sometimes this seems like some sort of self-congratulation, but sometimes this can be a fairly thankless job from time to time. Sometimes the member and I crossed swords on subjects, but it was never personal and I always appreciated his candor in the House. I wish he and his family all the best in his future endeavours. The House will be a lesser place with his absence. So I thank you for your indulgence on that, Mr. Speaker.

[Page 2050]

Bill No. 36, well, you know, Mr. Speaker, I look in the gallery and I think the Financial Measures (2003) Bill is obviously the roll out, the ways and means if you will, of the government's budget and how it's going to be applied and how funds are going to be accessed. I look around and I think, well, that's what it's all about, governing and looking after the lives of Nova Scotians. So I think the last three weeks we've had people who are involved in a labour dispute at the RRSS and they're here. They're trying to get their government to listen.

I thought about that over the weekend, Mr. Speaker, and I thought, for basically a small group, less than 300, that Local 66, just off the top, in that small group there are at least five members who were born and raised in my constituency. That's clear at the other end of the province and I think why are they here? What's happening? I don't mean the context of a strike, or a lockout, I mean why are they here physically in metro and why are they doing the job they're doing? Well, let me answer the second question first. I think it's probably a salute to the way they were brought up and raised in the New Waterford area which is a caring and giving community. For them now to go on to a life calling to work in a caring atmosphere is just exactly where you go when you grow up in that type of environment. You're attracted to stay in that type of environment. That's why some of these young men and women are here in this industry.

[3:45 p.m.]

I guess then the other side of it is, why are they here in metro and not in Cape Breton providing this same sort of need? Well, since as long as I can remember, there's been an outflow of our best and our brightest from our communities. Whether it was in my younger days, the attraction of the New England States or Toronto or the western provinces and metro, you left after high school or you came here for university and you made your life here. Certainly, Cape Breton's loss was, I think, whether it's Boston, Toronto, different parts of Ontario, Alberta or metro, it was their gain. These are people who have brought with them the caring and compassionate nature that they have and probably another strong intangible, a work ethic that's second to none. These people get up in the morning to work and they work hard and they earn every cent they get.

In that context, this province is supposed to be looking after these people, supposed to be looking after the residents. I want to talk about three young men in particular who I know very well, who now live in metro, and kind of give this House a feel for what type of people they are and why government, through the Financial Measures (2003) Bill, Bill No. 36, should be looking after this group.

All three of these gentlemen - myself and the member for Timberlea-Prospect have had time to sit down and chat with them on lengthy occasions. The first young man is a young fellow by the name of Craig Martell. Craig's dad and I grew up together and I've known Craig since he was a young fellow - I'd say since he was a little fellow but he's

[Page 2051]

almost 6'6". Mr. Speaker, you and I are at a height disadvantage when it comes to him. I think if you were on top of my shoulders, we may get to his nose. I bring up Craig, because a young fellow like that, and the stock he comes from - I know you understand when I use that word "stock", it's a good, hearty breed he comes from. In New Waterford on his grandmother's side, on the White side, their family in that area is known as the "Big MacKinnons", so that's where I think Craig gets his height from.

AN HON. MEMBER: The Big MacKinnons?

MR. CORBETT: The Big MacKinnons. They're from down around (Interruption) No, they're from down around Inverness County, and I'm sure the Minister of Tourism would know the folks well.

On the other side, Craig's grandfather is a man by the name of Otto White. Otto has passed on. Otto was one of the finest gentlemen that you'd ever want to meet. Otto was the general manager of No. 12 Colliery in New Waterford, and I'm not going to bore you with the details about the mining industry, but what I've got to tell you is, it's this thing here, the idea of being a mine manager in a small community can make life very black and white for people. It's like you're for us or against us. You're the union, you're the management.

Otto White had the respect of everybody - from the upper management over him in the Cape Breton Development Corporation to the newest hire - in the mining fraternity. This took a very special person. If you were the general manager of a car plant in Windsor, well, that's fine, because there's really no interaction between you and your workers, every day. You go to maybe one far side of Windsor and you never see your assembly-line workers. Quite possibly, none of those assembly-line workers would know you to even see you. But in a small town of about 9,000 people, everyone knows each other. Mr. Speaker, you come from rural Nova Scotia, you know what that's all about. You've travelled to a great many parts of this great country and, indeed, probably quite a bit of the United States, so you know small towns and how they differ from the large, homogeneous type of municipalities where you don't know your neighbour.

Otto was raised, he started as a bare-faced miner with many of the men that he would come to be their boss. Mr. Speaker, all the way through . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: What's a bare-faced miner?

MR. CORBETT: A bare-faced miner is someone who works right on the coal-cutting surface. You're being inundated with coal dust and the conditions are deplorable, it's wet, it's cold, but you brave forward. That's what a bare-faced miner is.

[Page 2052]

Otto worked this balance as he worked his way up through the system, going through the system, and became manager of one of the collieries. He lives in the community. There are places like New Waterford, they don't have gated communities, you live there with everybody else. Your kids go to school with everybody else. There are no secrets, as they say. This man could have easily distanced himself from the workers, he could have easily said, no, no, I used to be one of you, but I am this today, and therefore the two are incompatible.

The essence and the strength of this man is that he made the two work. He made that very hard kind of balance work, between being a manager and being a friend to the miner. These workers will tell you, being in the union position, you cannot always get what you want. There is never a 100 per cent solution, but somewhere there is always a solution. That's true leadership. True leadership is finding that solution.

I don't think this government does that. This government doesn't do this with Bill No. 36, and trying to be the balanced fair individual, like an Otto White had brought to his community, he showed leadership. He said, I'm not always right, you're not always right, let's find out where we can come together. Let's get together, because at the end of the day we have to bring our families up here. This community is important to me. I use that in a broader context, our province is our community, and we have to bring everybody together.

This is what this is all about. It's about a government being able to govern with fairness. It's a government and purports itself to govern with a velvet glove, but that soft touch of that velvet glove covers an iron fist. That iron fist is being used against workers in this province, Mr. Speaker, as justified by the noise entering this building today, from workers that, I think, with a fairly reasonable push from this government could be back at the table, they could be helping RRSS put it back on some financial obligations, move it forward, and we would be working towards a resolution. That's what I would say if there was an Otto White-type of individual running this government, that's the type that Craig's granddad was, and that's why we find ourselves in here, because there's not that caring, compassionate, realistic style of leadership, so we've lost out on that.

The second young man I want to talk about also was born and raised in my community, a young fellow by the name of Carlton MacDonald. I think again, if the lineage is wrapped around properly, Carlton also has a connection to the "Big MacKinnons" somewhere, but Carlton is an interesting fellow by himself. He's a bright young fellow, a gifted athlete and so on, Mr. Speaker, but I want to talk a bit about Carlton's father who is deceased now. Carlton's dad, Gary, was recreation director in New Waterford for many years and he was the very first one there. He was given that position by probably one of the finest mayors to ever take office in any municipality in this province, if I may say, and that was Dr. Danny Nathanson, who has passed on, but is revered by many for his foresight around education, around various infrastructure projects and so on, so you know it was not kind of unbelievable when he brought forward the idea of hiring a recreation director for the Town of New Waterford, and through his leadership they hired Carlton's dad, Gary.

[Page 2053]

Gary, himself, was an athlete of some stature, Mr. Speaker. He was a fine basketball player, a fine soccer player, and a very fine baseball player back in the late 1970s, when the Nova Scotia Senior Baseball League was revived. Gary played for quite a few years for the Sydney Sooners, both at third base and shortstop and a bit of pitching, but Gary's mark on society, besides his three children, is what he was as a human being.

He took basically an area that was very fertile soil - but never tilled properly - in the area of recreation and volunteerism, and Gary wasn't the type of recreation leader who would say, okay, I'm 9 to 5, turn the lights out in the gym when you're finished guys, or when you're finished with the ballfield, roll the infield yourself. No, Gary was the type of guy that he was there, whether it was lining the field for a baseball game, finding someone to be linesman for a soccer game, or just basically maybe - you know, for years Gary had participated in refereeing at the high school level in basketball and he refereed many of the Coal Bowl games, which is a nationally recognized high school basketball tournament in my home town of New Waterford at the Breton Education Centre. (Interruption)

Yes, he was a very good referee. I would suspect there were some guys in Glace Bay were good, some guys weren't, and we will leave it at that, but, Mr. Speaker, I bring up Gary and Carlton in this light - these are the types of people that, you know we talked about stock before, this is the type of person we have here now. We have Carlton who is here and he realizes the employment opportunities aren't in his hometown and he's now making his life here and, like his dad, is willing to give because he's working in this caring job, this job that has seen people less fortunate in some ways than he, to find themselves needing some extra care, care that, you know, I believe it takes a special person to give, and Carlton has answered the bell on this call.

But what I'm afraid of is his government hasn't answered the bell for him when it comes to a fair wage, that they can't come and see that these people aren't looking to break the bank, Mr. Speaker, they're looking for a fair wage.

[4:00 p.m.]

I know there's not one person that has withdrawn their labour services who wouldn't go back tomorrow if the government would just say, look, we're willing to negotiate. We know who we are, we know we're the ghost at the table and we're the only ones that can rectify this problem. If they took that compassion that Carlton's dad exhibited in New Waterford many years ago when he took an unknown - not too many recreation directors from Cape North to Yarmouth in this province, there may have been a handful at that time, there were very few of them - he basically said, I'm going to show leadership, I'm going to show what this is all about, I'm going to show you what community need is. The only way I could do that is rolling up my sleeves and getting involved and doing it, not talking about doing it, not showing somebody how to do it, but doing it, hands on.

[Page 2054]

That's the challenge to this government, show the compassion and respect that Carlton's dad gave his community and by virtue of giving it to the community, he gave it to this province. I believe that's what this government has to do. It owes people like Carlton's dad to do those types of things.

A third young man from my constituency I want to talk about is a young fellow named Danny Romard. Danny, like the two previous gentlemen I talked about is here for various reasons, not the least of which is the economic opportunity that the Metro area provides a young man in his late 20s, early 30s for employment. Danny's dad is still alive and Danny's dad's name is Charles Romard. But Charles doesn't go by Charles - he has a nickname. His nickname is Ripper.

I've known Ripper, it must be . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: What about your name?

MR. CORBETT: My nickname's Nanky. The Finance Minister wants to know my nickname, it's not Ripper. So, Ripper is your quintessential Cape Breton character. He loves life, he lives it to the fullest, maybe sometimes a bit too full, but he loves it, feeling the way he experiences all life's experiences. Ripper is a coal miner, he's a cancer survivor, his wife died relatively young from ALS, he was left to raise his family. I look at the Minister of Tourism and he'll know this - typical thing of the older kids looking after the younger kids because there was quite a spectrum when Mary passed away. But Ripper's the type of guy who loves a good time, he loves his family and he loves his community. He would tell you himself if he were here today, if he ever hurt anybody, it was only himself. Well, he probably hurt some other people, because he was a pretty darn good boxer in his day. I believe that's where he got his nickname.

He was the type of neighbour everyone would like to have next door. If there was something on his plate and there was nothing on yours, his plate would be at your house. That's the way it is. I think that says a lot about New Waterford and Nova Scotians because I think I could go into your community, Mr. Speaker, and you could show me examples of that. It's not that I'm trying to bolster one area over another, I think it goes back to the idea of stock and what it's all about.

What I want to do, again, drawing the example of what that's about, that's about a fellow that's kind of different than the other two gentlemen I spoke about earlier, of giving to your community. It's being there and saying, I'm responsible. This is what the government should be doing in its Financial Measures (2003) Bill is saying, I'm responsible fiscally for what's going on in this province as much as Ripper Romard is in his way or Otto White when he was alive or Gary MacDonald when Gary was alive. All these things, there is a real, "I am my brother's keeper".

[Page 2055]

Yet, I think the government has missed this. I think if Ripper were here today he'd tell you that. He'd say, look, you're wrong, it's all about being fair. You have choices, it's about being fair. I'm sure, today, if he had Danny home with him, he would be much happier, but he also knows that's the reality, that Danny probably couldn't make a good wage at home, if he could find a job at home.

He's already asked to pay one side of this province's debt, and that's to have his son leave his home. I think we all aspire to have our children around us, and to be able to enjoy our own time with our family. Ripper is willing to look to the other side. He's saying to this province today, why? Why isn't my son, for all the hard work he has done and for all I have given, personally in my work life, in my personal life, through being a cancer survivor, to an early death of his wife through ALS, one of his daughters died very suddenly, it's a hard life. He's lived a hard life but a full, fun life all the same. He is not complaining, but he is asking his government to treat us fairly. We are as equal here as we are anywhere.

I bet you he is saying, my son, Danny deserves this. I know what he is like. He's a hard worker, and his first priority is not his wage envelope, it's the care of the residents at RRSS. Mr. Speaker, that's why we're here today and we're talking about Bill No. 36. I will give you three lives if you will, three families, how they are affected and how they've come to the table differently. I suppose some people could critique this and say, well, really what impact, what correlation does this have to the Financial Measures (2003) Bill. What I would say is caring people would understand that.

If we don't have compassion in legislation, and I mean some could say, you can't have compassion and financial responsibility on the same table, I disagree. If you can't have it together, then it's a cold, heartless government, no matter what stripe it is. For those who would say, you can't have both, I say, you're wrong, and I pity you where you're going with your life. It is important and it is a necessity that the two of them are put together. We have those three little stories, Mr. Speaker. I want to lay that out to you and hope that that kind of seeps through to the government.

I am going to change just a bit here, because I want to now talk about, not so much just the straight labour issues around the Financial Measures (2003) Bill and the compassion and the leadership the government should show, but I want to talk about the idea of the bill as it respects casinos and smoking in particular.

The government can say all they want that this is enabling legislation. I don't disagree with them one iota when they say they're working in the confines of a bad deal. I don't disagree at all. They're absolutely right. I just cannot believe that you would sell the farm like this in a deal. I could not imagine ever trying to negotiate a deal when you handcuff not only your own government but governments clear into the foreseeable future. Why would a government do that? The only thought could be that it was a mean-spirited government that

[Page 2056]

said, look, if we can't have it, nobody is going to have it. Invariably, they chopped the deal in such a way that people cannot afford to get out of it.

There's a part of me that sympathizes with this government on that, but with that said, they're using the proverbial maul hammer to kill an ant. You sit down, and I guess it flows with the RRSS strike, because of their failure to negotiate. They want to take this unusual step of bringing in this piece of legislation that would override a lot of good details in various bylaws, whether it's CBRM or HRM, respecting workplace safety.

This is North American Occupational Health and Safety Week, Mr. Speaker. I don't want to hold this up because it would be considered a prop - on our desks today we were given a tabloid, newspaper-style brochure on it being North American Occupational Health and Safety Week. The government, I would say, boldly hands these out without a thought of what they're doing in the workplace to workers in casinos. We can say all we want that this is enabling legislation and that if they're not going to abide by the municipal bylaws, then we're going to yank them in and get the process going.

Well, I'm sure the Premier knows very well that you're playing Russian roulette very literally with people's health there. Some people, I'm sure in the Premier's previous life, smoked nearly all their lives and were not really bothered with either smoking or second-hand smoke. Other people are exposed to it for a very, very short while, and to disastrous consequences. So we can't say, well, look, we will let you as a worker be exposed to it for a determinant amount of time until we get this straightened out. I think the more prudent thing would have been to say, well, if the casinos want to put us on notice, well, let's start talking now about some sort of negotiation, keeping in mind that we're not going to reduce the bylaws around smoking in public places either in CBRM or HRM. If we remember, when this legislation, when the smoke-free places legislation came forward, there was never any talk of this, Mr. Speaker.

As a matter of fact, the big discussion from this government was the ability that it gave municipalities to go farther with their own bylaws. It wasn't talking about taking anything back. Its talk was that the municipalities wouldn't be encumbered by any provincial Statute, that they were certainly free to go out and make it even tougher and with the government's blessing. That's what I was led to believe. I sat in on the Law Amendments Committee and I heard various speakers go on and worried about it and it seems that this government has kind of just said, well, that was then, this is now, it's not working.

So let's now look at what the government is doing also by way of saying, look, we're going to enable the casinos to allow smoking in areas. What type of level playing field is that? We - again, and I will go back to my experience at the Law Amendments Committee - had very many bar operators come in here, particularly around the Smoke-Free Places Act, and talk to us about, well, I may not agree with it and I think it will hurt my business, but I

[Page 2057]

want it to be fair and I want it to be the same in Wolfville as it is in Yarmouth, as it is in Halifax, as it is in Sydney, as it is in Ingonish.

Well, the government assured them that that could be done, but now it's taking a different tack. I think the bar owners thought, when this bill was first presented, that they would ramp it up more, but actually what they're doing is pulling it back from one group and allowing groups to have a special circumstance. So for those people who, for whatever reason, do their gambling in bars and for whatever reason continue to smoke, now have basically been told you can now keep doing that, but you have to do it at the casino. So what you're literally doing is chasing business out of a lot of these smaller bars.

[4:15 p.m.]

Why wouldn't the government come in and negotiate? Mr. Speaker, I think it's a very simple question to answer, in that it looked at its track record around banging out deals with private corporations, whether it's Orenda, whether it's Michelin, whomever, they never come out on the good end - Nova Scotian's don't anyway - on the good end of banging out deals as it reflects to these measures. Last week Andrea Skinner took this fight to another level. She took it to the board of referees at EI, and she won her appeal. Now EI has basically, at that level, made the creed that it considers those sites, as unhealthy work sites. They're allowing you, for the purposes of drawing EI, to say this. As someone who has had some experience, not as much as some other members in this House, around EI appeals, we also know that that could be appealed to a further level, which is the umpire's decision, and then on to a ministerial appeal or a Supreme Court appeal. That may be in the offing.

As of today, the ruling stands that Andrea Skinner has been allowed to draw her EI as it relates to her employment time at Casino Nova Scotia, and it will also be considered her reason for leaving was a valid one because it related to her health and safety. Where does that leave this government now? For instance, tomorrow if 10 people quit Casino Nova Scotia, what happens? What we have now is actually a real problem for the casino, you end up with a shortage of workers, people not wanting to work there because they don't want to be forced to inhale second-hand smoke, Mr. Premier.

These are topics that I think this government should look long and hard at, that there has to be another method of getting a deal out of the casino operators. We don't need to compound a bad Liberal deal with a bad piece of Tory legislation. I ask the Premier and the Finance Minister to rise above that, to do what's right for the workers in Nova Scotia and give them the protection that they deserve. Don't capitulate, don't give in to some kind of higher threat from the casino operators who say, if you don't do this, we're going to saddle you with $110 million. I don't think they're going to do that.

[Page 2058]

They're not here for - pardon the pun - their good health, they're here to make money in Nova Scotia. I don't think in any way, shape or form their business is encumbered any more than any other establishment in this province that also sells alcohol and has gaming machines. Therefore, it shouldn't be given any more protection than these people - don't forget, the people who own, and I'm not doing the bidding for these people in any way, shape or form, but these people who own those other places are Nova Scotians. They live in Nova Scotia, they hire Nova Scotians, they pay Nova Scotian taxes, their corporate headquarters, if they're incorporated, are here in Nova Scotia. Unlike the casinos who are an international corporation, who have no allegiance to this province, that could just as well close shop and go to Biloxi, Mississippi, go somewhere offshore. They would just as soon slough off Nova Scotia. They have no ties to Nova Scotia, not like the hundreds of bar owners here who have built their businesses over the years, have seen the changes, have kept up with them and have been willing, maybe not always agreeing with government, to work with government, to make their business grow, so they would make a profit.

By making a profit they could hire people and employ these people and these people would therefore put their money back into the economy. This isn't offshore money - a lot of these people could rightfully be described as mom-and-pop operations. By and large they employ probably, outside the metro area, 8 to 10 people on a full-time and part-time basis. They provide the more rural type areas with much-needed jobs, yet we're turning our backs on them. But the big international company that runs Casino Nova Scotia, you're exempt because you were given a favour by the former administration and we're beholden to that. As opposed to sitting down with those people and saying, this is not right. Two wrongs don't make a right, Mr. Speaker.

There's nothing in this Financial Measures (2003) Bill that would help those bar owners. As a matter of fact, there's only stuff in here that would hurt those people. So, we want this government to realize that there are Nova Scotians out there who really don't see this government being responsive to them. There are Nova Scotians out there who see that this government is working away from them and not toward them. We see a government that in the very near future will be asking Nova Scotians, what do you think of us by way of a general election.

If this is the type of question being posed to Nova Scotians, well, I would think there's going to be a resounding negative vote to this government because they're not here asking and answering the types of questions my Nova Scotia represents. My Nova Scotia wants fairness, it wants fairness for workers all across this province. It wants a province that represents them.

In closing, I want to tell you, I think we want a Nova Scotia like the one I talked about that Craig Martell's grandfather, Otto White, worked for, that Carlton MacDonald's father, Gary, worked for, that Danny Romard's father, Charles "Ripper" Romard, worked for. One of fairness, compassion, honesty and hard work and a balance for everyone, that people

[Page 2059]

are looked after, whoever they work for and that they're rewarded financially and so on. I thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, just before I get into debating the actual Bill No. 36 itself, I wanted to comment on a few of the comments that my colleague, the member for Cape Breton Centre, made today. In particular, in this case they were wise comments and in particular about the people he was talking about that are here from Cape Breton and even more so, from New Waterford. I wanted to say, although not knowing all of the people that the member for Cape Breton Centre talked about, I did have the pleasure of knowing Gary MacDonald. I say this with all honesty, he was perhaps one of the finest individuals I've ever had the pleasure of knowing. To this very day if you want to get a picture of something comical, then picture - you didn't know Gary MacDonald, Mr. Speaker, but as the member for Cape Breton Centre would know, he was quite tall - and get a picture of Gary MacDonald and myself refereeing a basketball game in your head. We were known as Mutt and Jeff at that time. Gary did a lot of the jump balls and I handled the line. It was a pleasure to be associated with him over the years.

I think it's an excellent point to be made in terms of compassion that could be shown - Gary MacDonald was a very compassionate person. I'm sure the other people that the member talks about are very compassionate. In the issue of the Regional Residential Services Society and this current strike, I think perhaps compassion is a word that should be used a lot more than it's being used. Compassion is not just an idea or a word, but a concept that should be applied right now at this point in time.

This strike has dragged on for too long. We all realize that as legislators. We all realize that there's nothing that you cannot negotiate. There's nothing that you cannot sit down and talk about. There's nothing you can't work out when you really want to get to a solution and find a solution for a problem. That applies to this strike, as well as it would apply to any debate that we're having in this Legislature or any topic that we may bring up.

Mr. Speaker, I did have the pleasure of just casually talking to a couple of people who are on the picket lines on a regular basis outside. Nothing serious, but I did have one very nice woman offer me a cookie, and the last thing I need in the world is another cookie, but she was nice enough to offer me a cookie as I went through the people who were on the line out there to come into work. I met a couple of people who have made their point. I think we've all - well, I did anyway - received a letter, which is called, a day in the life of a residential counsellor. I read the letter, and a lot of people in this province would not be familiar with what the work of a residential counsellor involves. They wouldn't know.

[Page 2060]

This letter was a good eye-opener, so to speak, of the everyday occurrences that these workers have to put up with and go through. The residents have never let them down, was one of the statements contained in that letter. There were examples of the continuity of care, of the relationships that are built and the trust between the residents and between the workers themselves. I guess when we look outside and we see the picketing and we see the marching and, anybody who is watching on television right now would not hear the chanting that's going on outside. The most frequent one that I've heard today, of all the chants, has been, don't debate, arbitrate.

What these workers are saying and calling on this government to do is simply sit down and let's talk, maybe arbitration is the answer, but they know there's an answer out there somewhere. But what they have found is a total unwillingness on behalf of this government to listen to what they're saying. We know and the workers know right now that the only people who are suffering from all of this are the residents themselves.

Mr. Speaker, it's an unfortunate situation, but it is not a situation that cannot be solved, as I said. It's a situation, I would think, we are on the eve of a provincial election in Nova Scotia, does that Premier and that government want to go into an election campaign with that strike occurring? Is that going to get them any votes? I think not. I would think that as we draw on, as every day goes by, we draw closer and closer to a provincial election, I would think that it would be incumbent on the Premier and incumbent upon his minister responsible and incumbent upon every government member, that they would say, it's time we settled things between ourselves and the Regional Residential Services Society workers.

I would imagine, and I would hope, and I have seen, in some cases, that government members are outside talking to the workers today, and I would hope that each and every one of them gets a chance to listen to the team of people that is talking to the MLAs and pays attention and thinks about exactly what they can do to apply pressure from within their own, from within their own caucus, to finally bring this to a head, to bring this to a just and fair settlement of this strike, so that everybody can get back to the business that they love to do, not just work.

[4:30 p.m.]

We've seen this instance before in this House. Remember Bill No. 68? Remember nurses? Those are caring people too. These are caring people, shoved, pushed up against a brick wall by this very same government, and we saw what they had to go through and we saw the end result. The end result is that you have a group of people in this province who will never forget what this government did to them no matter how many years pass. Perhaps the only time they will remember is when the election day finally does roll around this time and I'm sure that it will come to the forefront of their minds.

[Page 2061]

Mr. Speaker, as I said I wanted to talk about, in particular, Bill No. 36. I had the opportunity to sit down recently and flip through something called the Alternative Provincial Budget, which is put out by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. I imagine some would say - what are you doing reading this, isn't this perhaps aligned with another Party, so to speak? Wouldn't the policy initiatives that are contained in that document not necessarily, well . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Makes it all the more worth reading it.

MR. WILSON: Well it's very interesting reading, one of the excerpts that I found that I'd like to pass on here today from that document, "Over the past three years, the Nova Scotia government has proceeded to move away from fair taxation by increasing user fees. We have the highest university tuition in the country. The government has raised the amount seniors pay for drugs. It has increased home health care costs, ambulance fees, the cost of driver's licences, car registration, cigarettes, alcoholic beverages, registering births, deaths and marriages, deed registration, inspections and international adoptions. The list goes on and on."

Through all of those user fees they amount to a tax increase, because those hurt the people who can't afford it most of all. Some taxes are increasing because these are user fees, and the fees are charged to all Nova Scotians, regardless of income. It doesn't matter what your income is when the user fee increases are passed out, you will still pay for those increases. Lo and behold, when it comes time to get your rebate though, your $155 rum bottle rebate on behalf of this government, it will at that point in time matter how much you make. As I've stated before, there are just over 300,000 who will not be getting a cheque. They won't be getting a cheque because they don't pay provincial income tax, and they don't pay provincial income tax because they don't make enough money to pay provincial income tax. Some may be on social assistance - they wouldn't pay provincial income tax.

Mr. Speaker, I'll ask you the question - and you don't have to answer - but do those people not deserve some form of a rebate? Could they not use some form of a rebate? Would they not be in need of a $155 cheque from this province to go out and spend it on some things that they would consider - we wouldn't consider them luxuries, perhaps, but they would - they'd be able to go out and purchase some things and contribute towards the economy, but because this government has decided to do that kind of a rebate in the manner that it has, they do not get that opportunity.

Over 400,000 Nova Scotians will get that rebate. Ironically, every person in this Chamber will get that rebate, every Cabinet Minister will get the rebate, and the Premier will have the pleasure of signing a cheque to himself that says, here's your $155. That's what's happening leading up to and primarily because - and probably only because - we are on the eve of a provincial election. That's why all of this is taking place.

[Page 2062]

As I said, Mr. Speaker, when it came to Bill No. 68, if you recall, when it came to Bill No. 68 and the nurses, the government had no qualms about it then, so this bill in effect is nothing but a symptom of a much larger problem. What it means is that this government, before any kind of sound policy, what they put before it is politics. When they have a choice sometimes between policy and politics, this government wins every time with politics, they will put that forward. Now, we know that you can have some pretty nasty consequences when politics is allowed to rule the day. So it should not be the prerequisite that's there.

Mr. Speaker, fundamentally, this bill is about whether you believe that Nova Scotians are going to truly be getting a tax cut. Now, we have to remember that with inflation this one- time tax measure is going to be eroded because the tax brackets and credits are not indexed to inflation. So, as of this March, the consumer price index in this province stood at 6.8 per cent over last year. Unless there's at least some protection from that kind of inflation, taxes are going to go up as well. So what it means is that $155 vote voucher that the government's going to pass out is not even going to cover the cost of living this year.

As I said, even worse for those who are not going to get the $155 cheque, they will be completely exposed to inflation this year. That's wrong. (Interruption) No, it's wrong. The Premier may say its not big enough, so maybe there are plans before the election to hand out another $155 cheque. I don't know. As I said, I haven't found a person in this province who said, $155, you've bought my vote, you got my vote. I haven't found anybody yet - and I've been searching since the other day - who will say, give me that money. I have found, in a lot of cases, a lot of people who said, look, we don't need $155, put that toward where it should be put toward. Put it towards education, put it towards health care, put it towards better roads. Why are you sending it to us when we don't need it in the first place? What are you trying to do, buy our vote? Mr. Speaker, I haven't found anybody who said that to me as yet.

Now maybe the government members are hearing exactly the opposite, I don't know, and indeed, to say that maybe it should be more, what purpose would that serve? What purpose would it serve? The reality about the government's tax scheme, the reality about that tax scheme has never been told to the people of Nova Scotia because the government is refusing to tell Nova Scotians about the impact of inflation on tax rates.

Mr. Speaker, every province except Manitoba, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland has indexed their tax rates to inflation because those provinces recognize that a tax cut is nothing but a public relations measure unless you have indexation. Exposing the tax brackets and credits to inflation is the common-sense-first measure before any tax cut can be given. What we have in this bill is, as I said, nothing more than a tax scheme. If the government was really and truly concerned about high taxes, then they would implement some true tax reform.

[Page 2063]

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal caucus believe in tax cuts but only when we can afford them. Now, that's pretty clear. Borrowing money for a tax cut does not make any sense because when the borrowing ends then you would give a tax cut, that makes sense. What happens here is that the Tory credit card has to be cut up and that's what we've said, as Liberals, that's what we will do, we will cut that credit card up. So, again, if you go back to the $155 vote venture that's contained in this bill and labelled as nothing more than a cynical ploy to try and buy votes, but you know, I should say that's not completely fair for me to say that, not completely fair, and it really doesn't give the Tories enough credit. It's not really a cynical ploy to just buy votes, it is probably one of the most blatant ploys to try to purchase an election that I have ever seen. But, as I said, anybody that I've talked to, but I haven't heard from anybody else, but each and every Nova Scotian who has watched this over the past number of weeks knows better and they're not going to be bought.

Mr. Speaker, the government, to give you an example, is taking a credit card, but it's a credit card with your money, and then they're giving you a cash advance, right, but it's the same as anybody else's credit card, you're going to get a bill. You will eventually get a bill. Unlike a credit card, the bill won't come due though for a few more years which will allow a lot of interest to accumulate, a lot of interest, and as of last week, it was just last week, this government admitted that they're going to continue to borrow money and borrow more than they earn until the year 2013 so we might get a cheque today for $155, but the class of 2013 is going to be handed a bill for a heck of a lot more than that.

If you're a Nova Scotian, you pay taxes, your children receive $155, then their sons or daughters, Mr. Speaker, will be handed a bill for $300 in 10 years, for instance, down the road. It doesn't make sense for one generation to get a tax rebate today so that we can pass that bill onto the children of tomorrow. It simply doesn't make sense. Can you imagine if you went out and got a cash advance on your credit card for $155 and then go home and tell your kids you owe me $300. It doesn't make any sense. It just doesn't cut any mustard, but it's what the government is doing and it's why it all makes no sense.

The Premier, Mr. Speaker, knows full well that the debt and the legacy that that debt is going to leave is something that has to be stopped. He made that promise. He made that promise in the blue book and he made it clear, he made it crystal clear, open, accountable, transparent government, we will stop borrowing and mortgaging the future of our children and our grandchildren. Well, the Premier used to say that he cared about the legacy of debt. This bill makes it clear that he no longer cares. Here's what the Premier used to say, on March 26, 2001, in a speech before the Pictou County Chamber of Commerce, the Premier said,"The cost of paying the interest on our debt will soon be $1 billion per year. This is money we don't have to invest in schools, hospitals, roads . . . or a better future for our children and grandchildren."

[Page 2064]

Then again on November 28, 2001, the Premier told the Metro Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Speaker, "We've done a lot of borrowing over the past 40 years and it's cost us - it cost us plenty. In fact, if you go back 10 years to 1991 and add up what all the borrowing has cost us, it's crystal clear why it has to stop. In the last 10 years - Nova Scotians paid out $7.1 billion to service our debt. And while we've slowed the rate our debt is growing . . . it's still costing us plenty."

The words of the Premier, Mr. Speaker, even more, on March 25, 2002, the Premier said this to The Chronicle-Herald, "Last year, you and I and all Nova Scotia taxpayers paid $900 million in interest on our debt. We pay $2.5 million each day. This is more money than we spent to educate all children in grades Primary through 12. To be sure, there are some people who suggest that government should continue borrowing on its debt and spending beyond its means, I don't believe there is merit to this argument. Such an approach might feel good today. However, we need to ask ourselves, who pays for it tomorrow?"

[4:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I would love to ask the Premier, what changed? What happened between March 25, 2002, March 21, 2001, November 28, 2001 and probably many more occasions? What changed? Why does the Premier no longer care about his legacy of debt that's going to be passed to the next generation? It's a question that Nova Scotians will be asking at the doorstep, I can assure you, in the next election campaign. Again, from the document that I quoted before, the Alternative Provincial Budget, under the heading, "Do People Really Want Tax Cuts?" and to summarize, three or four years ago was poll after poll showed that the Canadian public had no great desire for tax cuts, especially if it came at the expense of needed services and programs, for example, health care, education, infrastructure and paying down debt. These were all priorities ahead of tax cuts, according to every poll that was done.

"There is evidence . . .", Mr. Speaker, according to this document, " . . . that support now is even lower." than it was then, that "'the promise to cut taxes no longer packs the same punch'" that it used to. "Even in Quebec, with the highest provincial taxes in this country, the tax issue is far behind health and education." It has gone below the line, where people actually care about that kind of - I can't call it anything else but - an attempt to buy votes. People care more about the services that they're being offered. We've seen in this province that those services are not adequately funded, Mr. Premier. We did. I don't know if you've read the Alternative Provincial Budget or not, but it says that it has fallen off the radar screen altogether, tax cuts, across this country, Mr. Premier, across the country, off the radar screen. The only place that it surfaces now in this province is when it comes time, just before election time, to try to buy some votes with $155 cheques.

[Page 2065]

Mr. Speaker, as I said, it is cynical to some extent. It's not laughable to any extent, because the $155 cheque, that goes to those Nova Scotians who are going to be lucky enough to get it within the next few weeks, is going to be like that, gone. Of course, it will go back, hopefully, into the economy. It's the people who are not getting it that worry me the most, the people who could use it the most, the people that this government, for four years, has continued to ignore, not pay any attention to whatsoever.

Mr. Speaker, if you look about, and at the first of my debate here, we mentioned the word compassion and tried to tie it in to the compassion that's not there on behalf of this government, on behalf of a lot of situations that they have faced over some four years. We've seen it time and time again. We saw it with paramedics, we saw it with nurses, we're seeing it now with residential counsellors who are currently on strike, and we've seen it in a lot of instances just within general Nova Scotians, ordinary Nova Scotians, who, no matter what kind of tax cut this government comes up with, are going to be paying more out of their pocket anyway, because everything else has gone up. User fees from this government, insurance rates, you name it, it's out of control.

What this government's solution has been, the only solution that the government has said is going to help us all is to get a $155 cheque. It would be, as some of the members are saying, they gutted it, you're right. They gutted it. I can't say the other Cape Breton expression, Mr. Speaker, that applies to this situation, because it would be improper language for the Chamber, and I won't go there.

I will say, and I should, to my colleagues, that I will be wrapping up very shortly. I look forward to hearing from the next speaker on the various matters in this debate, but I would say that as we draw nearer and nearer to a provincial election, Mr. Speaker, more people the Premier knows are starting to climb onto the fact that the monster that we call debt, according to The Chronicle-Herald, needs some taming. It needs some taming, Mr. Premier, Mr. Speaker. Indeed, if you look today in The Halifax Chronicle-Herald, you will see an editorial there, the end paragraph in that editorial says, "It would be unwise for the Hamm government to underestimate the potential reaction by voters to this issue. . . .", the issue of the debt. "The last time the Tories were tossed out of office, a ballooning provincial debt was central to their defeat."

That should hit home, Mr. Speaker, to indicate to the Premier and to the government that, indeed, it's not something that can be swept under the rug any longer, it's not something that people don't talk about, it's an issue that is forefront in people's minds because they know it affects each and every thing that this government does and that future governments will do and, more importantly, it affects our children and our grandchildren and what we are leaving as a legacy to them and the generations to come. With that thought, I will take my seat.

[Page 2066]

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

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I take my spot this afternoon with a few comments. I want you to know I could say I'm under a little bit of pressure here today because in the gallery opposite, I have one of my past students. I had the occasion to be meeting with her in the last couple of days on certain occasions. I know that she has taken time out of what she has been involved in outside. I was wondering if it would be appropriate at this time to ask Brookside Junior High School graduate, Cheryl Joyce to stand in her place. (Applause) Thank you, Cheryl.

I guess the question always comes down, when you have one of your past students watching you in a different situation, at times it's important to frame the debate, to point it out to people in the gallery, although we're not speaking to the people in the gallery, we're speaking in here in an important debate on Bill No. 36. The litmus test for this MLA is always simply this, is there anything in this particular bill, the Financial Measures (2003) Bill that is worthy of support, that will help the people of Timberlea-Prospect, that will help that young woman from the RRSS labour interruption that is taking place? Are there things in this legislation?

So often, Mr. Speaker, in Opposition, we're criticized for always being negative, opposing everything, so I think it's important that we look at some of the issues that we have before us and we look at some of the things that have to be decided with regard to this piece of legislation, Bill No. 36. I want to tell you, Bill No. 36, in my opinion, is an omnibus bill, which means it includes a lot of different clauses that will inevitably end up over in the Law Amendments Committee. When it's in the Law Amendments Committee - that wonderful tradition that we have in this Legislature, this Legislature that sets the example for other Legislatures when it comes to the Law Amendments Committee, and Mr. Speaker, as you well know, I am proud to say that I'm on that committee, that over in the Red Room - when this particular piece of legislation goes to the Red Room, there will be an opportunity for Nova Scotians to come forward and have their say on some of the important parts of this piece of legislation.

I want you to know that upon review there are some parts of this legislation that I find really quite despicable. I can mention some specific examples, I can point out to the members opposite that if they know some of these names they should be well aware of the fact that we are talking workers who work in the casino, workers who have been concerned about their health, been concerned about what they feel is going to be a safe place to work. Yet when it comes to this piece of legislation, we see that this government is prepared to make exceptions. Prepared to make exceptions when it comes to the occupational health and safety of workers such as Andrea Skinner.

[Page 2067]

Now I had the opportunity, and our caucus had the opportunity to meet with Heather Crowe. Heather of course is that woman from Ottawa who worked in the businesses, in the Ottawa area restaurants, where of course she suffered from second-hand smoke and, putting it rather graphically, she's dying; she's dying. Ms. Crowe has taken upon herself this campaign to point out to governments, to point out to elected officials such as our self what we have to deal with an issue such as the casino's second-hand smoking problem.

The member for Sackville-Beaver Bank is quoted as saying, you know I wish the people from the HRM would have just left it all alone, that they wouldn't have brought it up again for public debate. That after all is our role as legislators to bring forward legislation that can be debated openly and that we can discuss one way or another what would happen to that piece of legislation when we look at second-hand smoke at the casino in Nova Scotia. That exception being made, that is one reason I can tell you that under no circumstances am I interested in supporting Bill No. 36.

Now we can get down to this $155 analogy that my friend, the member for Cape Breton Centre brought forward before and I can think of a lot of other reasons to use that $155. I've run into people this weekend who said to me, because I was out doing some door knocking, I want to tell you, they're saying keep that $155 Bill, keep it. Pave the road in Haliburton Hills, take care of where the bus gets stopped on MacDonald Lake Road or more importantly, give that $155 so that this settlement can take place and this RRSS company can get in there and get these young men and women, that we see in this building or out on the street, back to work, get them back to work. Take that $155, instead of taking that $155 and giving it to Nova Scotians, many of them are saying, we don't need that $155, that $155 can be used in a lot better way.

For example, I want you to know that I'm proud to say that my friend from Cape Breton Centre introduced me to some outstanding young men from his community in New Waterford. When Carlton MacDonald says to me, incidently Carlton MacDonald is named after Carlton Fisk, Carlton Fisk, that legendary Boston Red Sox catcher who waved that ball fair, waved it fair. Well, I want you to know that when Carlton MacDonald sits in the Midtown, sits in that particular restaurant that we were sitting in and says, there's the way to use that $155, take that $155 instead of having this enticement so that you will have to vote for a particular Party, and put it there in the hands of this company so that they can offer a fair wage settlement to these hard-working young men and women that we see in this House, that we see outside, that have been here all the time.

Or, take that $155, take that $155 as the principal of Sir John A. Macdonald High School says, we can use that money at Sir John A. Sir John A., whose librarian Grace Rogers has said to me, we have a library with renovations on the way that I might not even have windows for and yet I'm going to get a cheque for $155. The donation will be made to Sir John A. Macdonald's High School library by Grace Rogers, by the MLA for Timberlea-Prospect. We do not want to be insulted with $155 enticement, and I won't use the "B" word,

[Page 2068]

because I know you've corrected me before, we don't need that $155. It should be used in areas throughout the province, and in the constituency of Timberlea-Prospect in particular, where it could actually have some real impact.

Now, Mr. Speaker, it was a busy weekend, as it always is for us, as you well know. One of the hot topics that I had the occasion to deal with is, I was fortunate enough to mail out 8,000 mail-outs on insurance rates in this province. The response has been phenomenal. When you get responses that are given back to our office that are addressed to us personally, when you get a response to the Leader of the NDP that said, "Rock on Darrell, go get em." That says to me that young men and women, maybe because of the expression they use, Rock on Darrell, go get em, but let me tell you they're engaged, they're involved and they are going to remember when they go to the ballot box, $155 or else, that insurance rates in this province are disastrous and that this government has done nothing about it. Yet, today, they come forward with one of these half measures and that that was the plan that we've been waiting for by the member for Hants West who is responsible for skyrocketing insurance, I will tell you, Nova Scotians and the people of Timberlea-Prospect will not let this government forget that, they will punish them at the ballot box because they feel they're being insulted. They're being treated disrespectfully.

[5:00 p.m.]

I can mention some examples, Mr. Speaker, as you're expecting me to bring forward, some of them are classmates of Cheryl Joyce. Tony Roeding cannot get back and forth to his university classes because he can't get his vehicle insured. Robert Butler cannot get his van insured because he customized it, of all things, he put stripes on it and got it customized and, therefore, the insurance rates went up. What about the complaint that I hear from some people, particularly the member for Chester-St. Margaret's should know this, that at one time the postal rate was BOJ 1T0 and now the postal rate is B3Z and all of a sudden we have higher insurance rates? Now, has Bill No. 36 addressed this issue? The answer is no. That's the sort of thing that the people in Dover, the people in McGraths Cove, the people on the Peggy's Cover Road are going to remember and that's the sort of thing that a $155 enticement is not going to under any circumstances have their vote for this particular political Party.

Mr. Speaker, do you want another use for $155 and it might be a bit self-serving on my part, but let me tell you, and I know that Cheryl will be aware of who this young woman is, I'm proud to say that I have a daughter who is currently planting trees north of Témiscaming I must tell you I didn't know there was much north up there except for trees, but she's there planting more trees and her response, and the response of students that she attends the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design with is, if you want a good use for $155, help university students in this province with their tuition. Help them with a meaningful Loan Remission Program, use that $155 for that reason instead of saying here's $155, and it arrives

[Page 2069]

two days before we're going to actually get in there and put our x in the ballot box and they're going to remember that.

Nova Scotians are insulted by that type of old-time politics and that's the message from my daughter and graduate students across this province. They are looking at one particular thing, that $155 could be used a lot better when it comes to that particular issue of assisting students when it comes to the debts which they are facing. I can go from my daughter at 21 years of age, to Rufus Covey, 82 years of age, Rufus Covey who lives in the riding of Chester-St. Margaret's, is quoted in The Daily News today about an ongoing concern. Does Bill No. 36 do anything and has this government done anything about the problem of assessments?

The answer is no and Rufus Covey, that $155 is not going to be of any particular assistance to him. I'm sure instead Mr. Covey would like to see an answer given to the problem of assessments. He would like some form of direction from this government because Rufus Covey is one of those legendary characters on the St. Margaret's Bay who owns property on the saltwater. I know those young men and women are aware of the fact if they will actually ever have the opportunity to own property on saltwater any more, or even on freshwater when it comes to lakes, Mr. Covey would like to be able to pass this land on to his grandchildren. Instead, the assessment is through the roof because of where he is fortunate enough to have lived for these 80 plus years and what has this government done about that issue? They have done nothing, four long years, and I know there are members opposite, members who represent constituencies along the South Shore, they must be tired, sick and tired of hearing me talk about this topic, but this government has done nothing about the issue. Assessments continue to rise. There seems to be no leadership at all from the ministers involved and lots of excuses.

We had a Voluntary Planning system. The Voluntary Planning people went around this province. They listened to Nova Scotians. I attended many of those sessions, Mr. Speaker. I was present. I heard Nova Scotians upset, but what does this government do and what does an omnibus bill such as Bill No. 36 do? When it comes to addressing this issue, the answer is nothing and coastal communities continue to suffer, coastal communities that are in no circumstances going to be enticed by $155. They're going to say I would rather have it so that I could use this piece of land to pass on to my grandchildren or my great-grandchildren and I can't even pay the taxes when it comes due again this year. That's an issue that this government should have taken on and dealt with. as opposed to RRSS and the strike and the deadlines and the various other things that are not being dealt with by this government.

Mr. Speaker, I could go on at length with various other things that the $155 could be used for. I could point out to the members opposite that Nova Scotians are insulted, to say the least, when it comes to this particular, let's say, political agenda. People are going to see through that, they have seen through it. They are not going to accept that when it comes to

[Page 2070]

having terrible roads, a library in your local high school that's inadequate, tuition fees that are through the roof and an unfortunate labour strike taking place outside of our door, that instead. this $155 is going to, after all, just allow Nova Scotians to forget about it. We'll take care of you.

Let me tell you, that paternalistic approach, doesn't work any more in this province. Voters, the electorate, they want to be served. They want a form of delivery which says they are being listened to. Is this government listening to Nova Scotians? I say they are not. I've received numerous e-mails on various topics, from schools to subdivisions to the lack of planning, to tuition. I've heard these, I've brought these e-mails forward in this House and let me tell you, Nova Scotians want to be listened to, they want to be treated respectfully.

I heard the member for Cape Breton Centre stand in this place many times and I want to tell the members here, particularly some of the young men and women who are here from Cape Breton, nobody has a deeper feel for the history of this province and the history of Cape Breton than the member for Cape Breton Centre. I want to thank the member for Cape Breton Centre for giving me a book - actually a Christmas gift from a caucus member, I was impressed and, in return, well, we won't say what I gave him for a gift. I had the opportunity to read Red MacLauchlan's book, and the member for Cape Breton Centre gave me that book.

I don't know if you've read that biography but let me tell you something, there is a book that members opposite should read. Oh, my God. He was a Labour member, and, yes, he spent a few weeks in jail. In fact, to be very clear, he did time in Dorchester, but the lessons he could give. The lessons he could give members opposite because of the deep connection that he had with the people of Glace Bay and the New Waterford area and the collieries that he represented. That's what's missing from this government, they are not connecting. They are not listening to Nova Scotians.

They're certainly not listening to young people when it comes to the Loan Remission Program. They're certainly not listening to insurance concerns that are being brought up by this Party that we're hearing back from, and they're certainly not listening to these people who are in the gallery, who are out on the street, who've been here day after day.

Now, the reputation of a government is based on not what words you deliver, but do you listen to Nova Scotians? The verdict will be delivered soon. This government has not listened to Nova Scotians, it has not listened to the people of this province. I will assure you that when the time comes and when they do go to the ballot box, Nova Scotians will punish this government because they have not been listening. They have not been listening in New Waterford, they've been not listening out here on the street, they've been not listening down in New Minas and Kentville and a government that does not listen will reflect the arrogance that will eventually turn to defeat.

[Page 2071]

Mr. Speaker, as you are well aware, I can't talk at length today because of a medical appointment that's forthcoming. I want the members opposite to know that I have many other comments to make when it comes to this particular bill. When it goes over to the Law Amendments Committee it will be an opportunity to listen to Nova Scotians. I'm proud to say that this is a piece of legislation that I cannot support. It does nothing for Timberlea-Prospect, more importantly, it does nothing for a daughter who's working her way back into university, it does nothing for a young person who sits in our gallery today who I'm proud to say is a student. I want you to know that that legislation will come back to haunt this government when the time comes, when we go out there and actually ask for Nova Scotians' votes. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Victoria.

MR. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, it's always a hard act to follow when the member is going full steam ahead, but however, I will attempt to come as close as I can. I want to talk for a few moments today on Bill No. 36, the Financial Measures (2003) Act. I won't take an awful lot of time, but there is a lot to say about Bill No. 36 and there is enough information before all of us today to keep us going for quite a period of time.

There are several aspects of this bill besides the tax rebate and the tax cut schemes that affect Nova Scotians. For this government, the Financial Measures (2003) Bill has become a centrepiece of this government's last gasp before going to the polls. Many of us will say that this government's plan to paint a rosy picture for Nova Scotians before they go to the polls, as the former speaker made reference to, could very well backfire. With this government's negotiating skills, it's no wonder that this government has made so many mistakes in the last number of years. Let's begin with the negotiating skills they used on the casino, relative to the smoking issue. That's one example. They lost that one hands down.

Let's talk about smoking for a few minutes. A healthy workplace is one of the most important things you hear people talk about today. What do they look for in a healthy workplace? A smoke-free environment, that's one of the things. Why? The numbers that are before us today, particularly with lung cancer and other forms of cancer, heart disease and other illnesses related to second-hand smoke and smoking. I wonder, has the Minister of Health - I'm not sure if the Minister of Health smokes or not - seen somebody die with lung cancer, as many of us have.

Also, why is this government so stubborn in fighting with the municipalities on this issue? The municipalities are way out front when it comes to smoke-free legislation. Most municipalities across the province are 100 per cent smoke-free, but our casinos are not. But we may have learned a lesson last week in the decision by the lady who fought her case with EI. That may open the gates to further repercussions to this government relative to the smoking.

[Page 2072]

I think that's the least a government could do today. That's the least they could do, is try - make an attempt to provide a healthy environment for Nova Scotians. It doesn't cost much and I do believe the government that will enforce I do believe that the government that will enforce a 100 per cent smoke-free environment will be the winner when we go to the polls next time. This bill simply raises the white flag about a government standing up for Nova Scotians; simply put, this provision in the bill is one of the most important ones. If the government requires legislative changes, then there is no reason the government couldn't call back this legislation and make this change.

[5:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, do you remember Bill No. 68? We all remember Bill No. 68 in this Chamber. When it came to browbeating nurses, the government had no qualms about that, but when it comes to protecting the health of Nova Scotians, it shows contempt.

Mr. Speaker, this bill is nothing but a symptom of a larger problem. It means the government is putting politics before any sound policies. When it comes to a choice between policy and politics, politics wins out every time under this government. We all know the deadly consequences when politics is allowed to rule the day, especially when it comes to occupational health and safety, whether it be second-hand smoke or in a coal mine. I find it completely illogical that this government is giving a tax cut while it still spends more money than it is taking in. Now, that's called good management. I wonder if any of us managed our affairs at home like that - you spend more money, you keep adding on to your credit card and you spend more money than you're taking in. That, in my view, is not very good. That's not sound management.

The great irony here is under the pre-1999 accounting rules, this budget would be approximately $118 million in the red. Now, think about it, Mr. Speaker, under the old accounting the government would be $118 million in the red. You see, we didn't have tangible capital assets accounting like today and we think it is a good change; many of us believe it's a change in the right direction. But just because you can amortize your capital, every capital project doesn't mean that you can spend more than you earn. The way this Finance Minister talks about capital assets, you would think they found a money-printing machine somewhere, only for them. When you spend more than you earn, you're asking for trouble. If the economy falters, if interest rates go up, all of a sudden government revenues dry up with that.

Many of us remember - and we were here back in 1992 - when the Government of Nova Scotia hit the wall. Anybody around at that time will tell you that government could not sustain itself and it was in a free fall. Not because of what they did in 1992, but for the overspending in 1989 when the economy was sound and it was in good shape. So what happened in 1993? We ended up with a $1.1 billion deficit for one year. Mr. Speaker, think about it; $1.1 billion deficit for one year. At that time every government had to deal with that

[Page 2073]

legacy, and even this one, so why repeat the mistakes of the past? That's a question on the minds of many Nova Scotians today. Why didn't we learn from the past? Why are we making the same mistake again?

Mr. Speaker, while the economy is relatively healthy, now is the time to pay down our debt, now is the time to find ways to save some money. In that way, we'll be ready in case of another recession Mr. Speaker, we can't go on forever. There's bound to be recession. It took most of a decade to recover from the last recession. In some ways, we are still paying for it. It's not an accident the debt-servicing costs are almost at $1 billion, that's no accident. It happened because 13 years ago, people decided it was okay to spend when they should have paid or at least made an attempt to pay on our debts. In the 1980s, the attitude was don't worry. We have gas offshore, Sable is going to save us. We can invest now because the economy will grow later. That was the theme of the 1980s, don't worry, it's onward and upward.

Mr. Speaker, at least Premier Buchanan said he had a plan, albeit a faulty one. You can't grow your way out of a $12 billion debt problem. It doesn't work that way. Counting on an ever-growing economy is simply bad fiscal management. What we have here is a government that does not care about the future. It cares about the election around the corner, but not the welfare of our children and our children's future. The growing debt threatens a whole generation and the government is saying, don't worry, don't worry, our future is bright, be happy.

This bill gives a tax cut that we simply cannot afford. Worse, it loans people $155 today that a government will have to get back from them over the next number of years, if not them, their families or their children or grandchildren. You see, debt is not just a deferred taxation. It means that the tax break of today will mean the tax increase of tomorrow. Borrowing $118 million to give back $68 million is bad math, it's bad public policy, and it is bad politics.

Mr. Speaker, we believe Nova Scotians can't be bought. I do believe that this bill is an insult to their intelligence, shame on the Premier and shame on the Minister of Finance. Who cares about the debt? Some people will say, who cares about the debt when we need better health care? When we need better education, does anyone care? Who cares about the debt when we need new roads? I will be the first to admit that debt in itself will not cross the minds of many Nova Scotians. The effect of debt on this province is staggering, and I think it's the government's responsibility and it is their duty to get the message out to Nova Scotians, where we stand with this staggering debt.

Why should we care about our debt? Because debt-servicing charges represent more money than we spend on education, and that's wrong. Imagine, every year for the foreseeable future, $1 billion will go to banks to cover off interest on the debt, and never paying back on the principal. Giving a tax cut while we keep adding to the debt is inconceivable, it is wrong,

[Page 2074]

and eventually it will bring this government into very serious trouble. As we said before, the tax cut of today is an 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 taxes on things like electricity, home heating fuel, oil or gasoline and what about car insurance? So everyone who pays income tax gets a break, while those who pay all the other fees and taxes will eventually have to pay for the debt. That's wrong and we believe that is why this bill needs some scrutiny.

Mr. Speaker, the other thing that the government has ignored in this debt is it has not indexed tax brackets and credits to inflation, something our Party has called for in the past and will again when we can afford it. Give a tax break 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 taxes and not less. Indexation means freezing taxes at the current level, it does not mean tax relief, it means that in the future governments won't be able to count on the secret backdoor tax increase.

Mr. Speaker, indexation means that people will see their tax erode away by bracket creep. It means that the tax cut today will be taken back tomorrow because of inflation. In Manitoba they cut taxes as well but they failed to index tax brackets. That means the tax cut in Nova Scotia and Manitoba will be gone in short order because of inflation. This is not good at all and that is why we need to continue to hammer home what's wrong with this bill.

Taxation without indexation is a short-term measure. But out Leader and our caucus position is clear. We do favour tax relief, but not while we have to borrow to pay for it. It simply does not make sense to borrow more than we earn. As I repeated early, borrow more than you earn and still talk about tax cuts.

Mr. Speaker, 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 fiscal year 1998-99. Taxation was not a large issue although the NDP Leader offered to scrap the BST, as stated in an article in The Chronicle-Herald from 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 and funding for primary education. In reality, the tax cut issue seems to be a last-minute addition for this government's platform. When initially asked whether he would promise a tax cut, the Premier replied that Nova Scotians would not believe that promise because they knew it wasn't 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's what the Premier said when he was campaigning in 1999.

[Page 2075]

Mr. Speaker, surprisingly, when the Premier announced his platform on June 25, 1999, tax cuts were part of the blue book. Perhaps no person was more surprised with the election outcome than Premier 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 this government's mandate. The vagueness of the promise is part of its strength. When and if, they ever thought, they would fulfill the promise, nobody would know exactly what this 10 per cent meant. We know now what it means. It means that the government has scratched the tax cut in favour of a one-time vote buying scheme. A scheme that has been hoisted on Nova Scotians with, guess what Mr. Speaker? Borrowed money.

[5:30 p.m.]

The Paul Martin budget of February 2000, marked a turning point in Canadian history as it contained the most significant tax cut 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 of 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 income does 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 revenues because provincial taxes were set at a percentage of the federal rate. Not for the Finance Minister of Nova Scotia. He de-linked and in effect, raised 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. 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. The new system was called tax on income. De-linking meant that provincial taxes would remain the same and that the federal tax cut would have no impact on provincial revenues. There are significant advantages to tax on income because it allows the province to be flexible with tax credits, but at the same time it is detrimental to the taxpayer because there is no corresponding tax reduction when the federal rate drops. What is more insidious, while bracket creep was eliminated federally, it was continued provincially because of the de-linking even though the province 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.

In order to expose the hidden tax increase, our Finance Critic at the time, the member for Lunenburg West, embarked upon a campaign to get the government to commit to ending bracket creep. The reason for the call was as follows. Full indexation would amount to a tax

[Page 2076]

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 the qualified support of our fine NDP Finance Critic. Of course, the bill was never passed, but it was debated. The bottom line, however, is that when tax brackets fail to increase with inflation, taxpayers are hit with a subtle but very real tax increase so that any tax cut without first ending bracket creep will be eroded over time.

In the end, this government isn't giving a permanent tax cut. What we have instead is a temporary measure that will be lost over a short time. When people understand that they will be very upset with this government.

Mr. Speaker, you know this government likes to bring up issues that are irrelevant like the previous government's records of fiscal management. 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. In 2001 the Auditor General's Report said this: "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?"

Mr. Speaker, much has been done in the past 10 years, but it was a result of actions by every government since 1993, including the MacLellan Government, who had to wrestle with the legacy of the John Buchanan and Donald Cameron Governments. Everybody knows that the Minister of Finance was part of those governments, but I know that was a long time ago. The lesson of that time, however, has not been learned. This government has made strides in the last couple of years, as have previous governments. In less partisan moments the minister has acknowledged this.

When this tax scheme went forward and the budget was tabled, then that's when things went wrong. The last budget marked a turning point in Nova Scotia's history and the lessons of the past have been thrown aside. The floodgates of spending have been opened again. The borrowing continues to put the future generations at risk. An unprecedented tax scheme has been unleashed upon the people of Nova Scotia. The $155 tax 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 2077]

Turning to the past, let's go back to 1989. On May 5, 1989 the honourable Greg Kerr tabled an optimistic and glowing budget. In that budget the economy was growing, unemployment was down but there were some signs that that would not continue. Greg Kerr might have recognized it at that time, but at that time it was probably too late. Bill Gillis warned the government of the day that the day of reckoning was near. Well, Mr. Speaker, 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. Unemployment was up, revenues were down from transfers, interest rates were at about 13 per cent and the ground fishery was on the verge of collapse. The government of the day was warned by Bill Gillis that the day of reckoning was coming and he was right.

Today we are back to where we were in 1989. The government is relying on a growing economy rather than sound fiscal management. Borrowing continues unabated and the warning signs are there. Alarm bells should be going off all over Nova Scotia because this government is not ready when the next day of reckoning comes. It's around the corner and it is Nova Scotians who will suffer. Interest rates are at their lowest levels since the Depression, the U.S. economy is slow, and the growth in the offshore has stalled.

This is not the time to open the floodgates of spending, this is not the time to keep borrowing, and it is not the time to implement a tax scheme aimed at buying votes. Mr. Speaker, this government is bragging because it is spending $250 million on capital. They have justified the borrowing by saying it's for schools and it's for roads and it's for education. Well, 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 Government of John Hamm, 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's an investment. They did the same thing under Buchanan and look at the mess we're in today. Every government since 1993 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 the early 1990s. Make no mistake, Dr. Gillis said that the day of reckoning is not far off. If the interest rates go up, if the economy shrinks, Nova Scotia is in big trouble. The most alarming part of this budget is not the numbers, it's not even the vote-buying, it's the attitude of this government and this Premier.

Their attitude, we believe, will ruin Nova Scotia. The Finance Minister said, yes, we are borrowing and we make no apologies. Well, Mr. Speaker, who will pay it back? Who will make the payments, the children and our children? The minister will be collecting his pension by the time the bill comes due for the reckless borrowing of this government. The Premier's attitude is very disturbing. The Premier said he would not add to the debt. He said

[Page 2078]

he would not borrow against his grandchildren. He said he would not cynically try to buy votes.

Mr. Speaker, the Premier's cavalier attitude will bankrupt this province, and he is mortgaging his grandchildren's future. The tax issue is an important issue, no question, but let's first look at the $155 vote kickback. I'm sure many Nova Scotians could use that money, no question. The sad part is that those who need it most may not receive it. Those on low, fixed incomes and social assistance will not see a dime, while every member of this Legislature, every member of Cabinet, the Premier, all the members in this House will receive that $155 cheque. Is that fair? Is that progressive?

Let's look at the tax cut itself. Now I've heard the Finance Minister talk about Nova Scotia, that Nova Scotia will have the lowest tax in the country. Well, Mr. Speaker, that simply will not hold water. As I mentioned before, what we end up with is a short-term tax loan. Again, that means that, over time, the tax will be clawed back by bracket creep.

Mr. Speaker, New Brunswick has indexed their tax brackets and credits, meaning that fewer low-income people pay taxes in New Brunswick. Take for example the basic personal amount, in Nova Scotia it will remain $7,231, in New Brunswick it will remain $7,756, for a difference of $525. Mr. Speaker, that's just one part of it. The tax brackets in New Brunswick have a higher threshold than Nova Scotia, so the Finance Minister's claim does not hold up under 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.

[5:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, it was because of the Buchanan Government's overspending, spending money that we didn't have. It wasn't right then and it certainly is not right today. I think we have hit the danger zone and this government is pretending that there is no problem. That is why we speak on this bill at every opportunity we get. Hoping this government will see that Nova Scotians are not in a position to accept a $155 cheque so this government will be re-elected and go on with their overspending, continuing to spend money that we don't have.

I thank you for your time, Mr. Speaker, and I will turn the floor over to another speaker.

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

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I'm very pleased to rise this afternoon to participate in the debate on Bill No. 36, also known as An Act Respecting Certain Financial Measures. Now, the last time I got up to speak in relation to this bill it was of course with respect to the hoist motion that, no doubt, you will recall very well. At that time I took the

[Page 2079]

opportunity to explore some of the things that my colleagues in the Liberal caucus were saying and to point out various contradictions in what they were saying. Mr. Speaker, I must say that was rather entertaining to do, but in the end not very instructive because I see that the Liberals are continuing along that vein. I think its unfortunate because they could engage in a constructive debate on this bill and I think we're all worse off when it simply becomes rhetorical and frankly is without any kind of real substance at all.

Mr. Speaker, the one thing that I will note is that the honourable member for Glace Bay did begin his speech by talking a little bit about the workers who are here at the Legislature today. In relation to the fact, with respect to An Act Respecting Certain Financial Measures, there's nothing in the budget that deals appropriately with those workers. So, in that regard this is a valid point to be made in respect to this Act because it points out something that is missing as opposed to something that is here. Of course debates around the principle of the bill are very important. I wanted to point out there are certain things that I think the Minister of Community Services in particular, but other members of the Cabinet, are doing a great disservice - and I think showing a profound disrespect - to those people who are here in continuing to try and spin the illusion or to paint the picture that somehow the package that is being put forward on behalf of the Department of Community Services through their agents are fair to the workers with the RRSS.

They keep talking about a pension plan for example, and this is I think one of the things that they find most annoying because the reality is, its not a pension plan at all, Mr. Speaker. What they are proposing is to increase contributions to an RRSP and in and of itself that only applies to less than half of the bargaining unit, Mr. Speaker. So many, many people in that bargaining unit won't reap any benefit whatsoever from the proposal that's being made by the Department of Community Services through their agent. The reason why they object so strenuously to this, and the reason why it is so disrespectful is because it paints a picture to the public which is essentially untrue. What greater disrespect could you have for working people than to try to go over their heads to the public and misrepresent the facts about the negotiations that they are engaged in? This is tremendously disrespectful and I think given the opportunity to comment within the context of financial measures, it is important that we do that, that we get that information out to people, because if collective bargaining is to take place appropriately, it has to take place in an atmosphere of good faith and when you mislead and misrepresent the position of people, you are not bargaining in good faith no matter what you say.

So I think the first thing that the government has to get over, the first hurdle they have to get over, is the idea that they are somehow going to be able to spin their way out of this, that if they can just say it over and over again enough times, that somehow people out there will believe that the situation is somehow different than it actually is.

[Page 2080]

I wanted to point out, and I think it's interesting, Mr. Speaker, to just for a second think about the history of this because, you know, many of these facilities have been around for a long time. I was speaking with one of the workers who was telling me that his particular facility had been around for some 17 years and so this is not something that has been created recently. It has a long history to it and I always find it instructive, whenever I'm looking at a labour dispute, to look back at the history of the development of those circumstances and sometimes they're quite revealing. Although the members of the Liberal caucus haven't mentioned this, the reality is that back in 1996 when the Liberals were in power and one of the things that they promised to do and that many of the people working at those facilities really wanted to see happen was the government of the day to bring in legislation that was going to govern those facilities. In fact, as I understand it, I wasn't here at the time, but as I understand it, there was a commitment made at that time that legislation would be coming forward so that many of the problems that were developing around these facilities would be dealt with.

Instead, Mr. Speaker, only interim standards were brought forward in the Fall of that year and still to this day there has not been legislation brought forward to deal with many of these outstanding practical issues. So the history of this is that this has been a sector which the government by and large has not paid attention to and I think our responsibility is to point out to people that when you reach an impasse like you have on this, often times what you're seeing is really just the tip of the iceberg, that things have been building for many, many years and there is a continuity and a long history of problems that have arisen over time.

So I wanted to make those points and I wanted to make them more or less in the context of this bill and in the context of what my colleague, the member for Glace Bay, had said earlier and I also think it's just worthwhile that we keep reminding these guys over here that the employees of Local 66 aren't going anywhere, Mr. Speaker, and if you've been down to your office lately, you know they're not going anywhere. So that was the first thing that I wanted to mention.

Many people who are watching this, whether they're watching it on television or whether they're in the gallery, or whether they're watching it, I understand you can get it through the closed circuit on the Internet that the government has, no matter where they're watching it, they should know the importance of this piece of legislation. This Financial Measures (2003) Bill is a matter on which the government could fall if they were to lose a vote in this House on the Financial Measures (2003) Bill. That would essentially be a crisis in the confidence of the government and, as you know, this is essentially the route that happened the last time the government fell. It was a crisis of confidence in the then-Liberal Government and the result was an election that you no doubt remember well, ending in July 1999 and in fact it was that very election, of course, which put you in the esteemed position that you're in now, Mr. Speaker.

[Page 2081]

So these issues are of tremendous importance and weight when it comes to the operation of this House and the operation of government. It is this section of legislation that puts into law the statutory requirements that implement the budget that was read by the Minister of Finance. It deals with those initiatives that were announced and the ones that were ferreted out as a result of the examinations of the estimates of the various ministers, both in this Chamber and in the subcommittee. Interestingly enough, that's not all that this piece of legislation does. It also deals with initiatives that, in fact, had nothing to do with the budget, wasn't part of the Throne Speech, wasn't part of the Budget Address, wasn't part of the estimates, but came up as a matter of course over the time that the business of this House was being transacted.

The example I want to give, Mr. Speaker, is, of course, that piece of this legislation that deals with the casino contract. What this government is engaged in, is it is engaged in this bill in bringing forward a piece of legislation that will essentially allow the casino and the casino operator to escape the terms of the bylaw of the regional municipality, which says that they won't be allowed to have their patrons continue to smoke in that facility. Interestingly enough, the Minister of Finance seemed to be overwhelmed by this suggestion. He felt, somehow, that this would lead to the immediate termination of the operator's contract with respect to the casino, and somehow the government would then lose tens of millions of dollars and perhaps more, and that they weren't prepared to do that. They were going to bring forward this piece of legislation.

That was the submission made by the Finance Minister. I must say it caught many of us here by considerable surprise because, of course, the casino contract, which the minister refers to in this legislation, this year is not the first time we've seen this contract. Quite the contrary, the casino contract has been the subject of discussion in this House and in the Public Accounts Committee for a considerable period of time, specifically with respect to the penalties around the original building of the casino, the penalties that weren't levied as a result of what was essentially a backroom deal by the former government with the casino operators. It was designed, at the expense of the taxpayers of this province, to confer a considerable benefit on the casino operators.

We undertook a lengthy examination of the casino contract over that period of time. We had many witnesses appear before the Public Accounts Committee, including those who negotiated the terms of this contract. This wasn't a surprise to anybody here in this House, except, apparently, the Minister of Finance. Almost immediately after the HRM bylaw came forward, the Minister of Finance indicated that he was willing to bring forward legislation, and indeed it is contained within this particular piece of legislation, to essentially allow the casino operator to escape the HRM bylaw.

[Page 2082]

[6:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, it's ironic. I feel confident in saying that this is probably the only government on record bringing forward legislation to allow smoking in a public place. That's the irony of this piece of legislation. Not only that, I guess what was so stunning about it was not only were they prepared to do it, but they were prepared to do it when quite clearly they were wrong in their interpretation of the application of the terms of the contract and the terms of the contract that the Minister of Finance was so concerned about dealt with the ability of the operator to be able to terminate their agreement.

I'll paraphrase - I won't bother to actually read the clause - but essentially what it said was that in the event that some piece of legislation should come forward that would materially impair the ability of the operator to operate or to substantially impair the ability of the operator to operate a first-class casino, the casino operator could give notice and then, after 30 days if it wasn't repaired, they would be able to terminate their contract.

Well, Mr. Speaker, the problem with that, and looking at that piece of the contract in isolation, is that of course the first question that has to be answered is, how do you determine whether or not the HRM bylaw, as it is promulgated, whether or not that in fact would do what the casino operator alleges, which is to somehow impair the ability of the casinos to operate?

In order to determine that you would have to go to another portion of the contract; in fact it is all laid out in Section 9 of the contract. And you may think that this is not at all related to the people in the gallery or the people who are downstairs - I'm sorry I suppose I shouldn't refer to people in the gallery - but those interested individuals from the RRSS, you would think what does the casino contract have to do with those workers? Let me tell you, because what's in this contract is binding arbitration. That's what is in this contract. It's good enough for the casino operator and, in fact, this was a clause that was insisted upon by the government, they're the ones who made sure that binding arbitration was in the casino contract because they wanted an orderly way to be able to resolve disputes.

Well, that seems like a perfectly reasonable thing to me, Mr. Speaker. Surely to goodness, if it was reasonable when the government signed the contract with the casino operator back in 1995, surely in the year 2003 it is a reasonable thing for us to expect the workers with the RRSS would be entitled to at least equal treatment as the casino operator, and the government would expect. So I just wanted to point out that in all of these things there is a connection.

Now, over and above that, of course, it is also important just for the reason that it is there, because it demonstrates that the Minister of Finance, in reading the casino contract, read it wrongly, and is overreacting by bringing forward a piece of legislation that is unnecessary and, at the very least, the government ought to move its way through the

[Page 2083]

arbitration process that is set out in the contract in order to determine whether or not there is a violation of the contract.

That would be a reasonable thing to do, but very much like its attitude with respect to the RRSS and with respect to many other things like the transition houses - that issue, you'll remember last year - as with Bill No. 68 and the health care workers and the nurses who were forced to strike, as with the paramedics in the first year of the life of this government, as with each one of those items this government has decided to take a confrontational view, not to exercise discretion and respect, not to come to the table and negotiate in good faith. but rather to play hardball and to say that we have taken a position and we're not prepared to move off it, no matter what.

If you're the owner of a professional baseball team, perhaps that's a good strategy because you're dealing with people who make millions of dollars and if they go out on strike for awhile, maybe the fans will suffer, but they'll get by. But here we're dealing with people who, everyday that they're out on strike, their lives are profoundly impacted for all of the reasons you might expect with respect to economic stress and the stress that it places on families. I have to tell you, one of the problems I think we have is that many people don't understand what a strike is like unless they've actually had to live through one. If you had to live through one, then you would understand the tremendous stresses that it places on families as they are trying to continue to meet their obligations - whether to their financial institutions through their mortgage and their car payment or to their children or to their loved ones. These are obligations that don't end just because a strike is called.

I know only too well. My father was a sheet metal worker and I remember living through a strike when I was very young and the tremendous stress that placed on our family at that time. We were lucky enough, as I hope many of these people are, to have good friends and lots of family who were always there to support us and to say, you're doing the right thing, you're in a struggle, you're in a struggle about the quality of your life and that they would support us in that. I sincerely hope that's the case. It causes a tremendous amount of disruption and stress on people's lives.

In this case, it not only does that for the individuals who are involved in the contract dispute, but it also causes a tremendous amount of stress and disruption on the people who are cared for by these individuals. So, in this case, it's not a strike of convenience, it's a strike of necessity. It's a strike of necessity to ensure that the people who are in those facilities get the care and attention they require and that the people who supply that care are treated with the appropriate amount of respect for doing the job that they do.

So, that may have been a long road to travel, all the way through the casino contract back to here, but when I was reading through this, I couldn't help but be struck by the fact that in the wink of an eye, the Minister of Finance was prepared to put legislation in place to deal with the casino contract that has an arbitration process, but yet wasn't prepared to do

[Page 2084]

anything to facilitate that same process with working people. That's not the first time. We've seen it on many occasions.

Much have been said about what this budget is about. For the Minister of Finance and for the members of the government, they like to portray the Financial Measures (2003) Bill as a way to implement a promise that was made some years ago about tax relief for Nova Scotians. I think the Finance Critic for our Party ably set out why this is just an illusion and why it is that the reality of life in Nova Scotia is that next year people will pay more in personal taxes than they did last year. The minor tax adjustments that are being made by the Minister of Finance will leave out some 300,000 people who will not qualify either for the cheque that they intend to send out or for the tax relief that they are proposing. All of those people who will not benefit, I would point out, are those who need it most.

The richest person in Nova Scotia, whoever he or she may be, the person who has the largest personal income - I don't know who it is, but somebody out there holds the distinction of having the highest income in the province - that person, whoever it is, will receive a cheque for $155 and next year will receive a tax break from this government.

The poorest person in this province - and I must say I'm not sure who that is, although I know there are many candidates. I don't know who the poorest person is and I don't want to make light of this because I think it's very serious - the poorest person, as a result of this piece of legislation, will receive absolutely nothing. They will not get a cheque from this Minister of Finance. They won't get any benefit from the tax adjustments because they don't make any income. You know what's going to happen to them? They're going to be sent to the food bank to feed their families. They are going to be treated differently.

This is a government that has decided on so many occasions that the road to success is to divide people into categories, just as they have with health care workers under Bill No. 68. As they are doing now with the RRSS workers - as they have done with many others - is to try to divide them off and defeat them individually. The roots of this strategy run right back to the last election when they were pitting the mainland voters against those in Cape Breton.

In this instance, this government has decided to divide people by income. They have said some people who make money, some people who make a certain income, are more valuable to us in the sense that we are going to confer a benefit on them but not on other citizens of this province. Whether or not that is the intended result of the Financial Measures (2003) Bill, it is the actual result because there are 300,000 people in this province who will not only not receive the tax break, but who next year, because of the increases in personal taxes - and those take many forms - will actually pay more.

[Page 2085]

Whether they're paying it because they have to get in their car to try and go to work or to go to a doctor's appointment or to pick up groceries or whatever it is, they're going to pay more in motor fuel taxes. They are going to pay more next year in motor vehicle charges, they're going to pay more in many, many categories. The HST revenue in this province next year is going to go up. I don't know what it was like in your neighbourhood but in my neighbourhood my neighbours were telling me that when they got their oil bill this year and they looked at the portion of it that was HST, they just couldn't believe it. Of course, the reality is that as the price of oil goes up, because HST is based on a percentage, the amount you pay in tax goes up as well. So this government reaps a windfall off of the increases in the cost of gas and in the cost of home heating oil, on the increases in electricity.

This is not the only way that government picks your pocket, this government in particular. This is the government that brought in the 911 fees. Every time you get your phone bill - and you may remember that the cost of setting up the 911 system was estimated at somewhere in the vicinity, I think at the time the minister was telling us the changes were going to cost them somewhere in the vicinity of $1 million at the time - the tax was going to bring in $7 million. So it was just a tax grab out of the pockets of the people of Nova Scotia. That's all it was then when it was introduced and it is what it is today.

People are going to continue to pay more in tax and it's one of the reasons why I haven't really understood the position of the Liberal Party, mainly because this is not a tax break budget and you shouldn't go about telling people that it's a tax break budget; it's not, you're going to pay more. You're going to pay more in personal taxes next year. (Interruption)

MR. SPEAKER: Order. There's another honourable member on his feet. I believe the member for Cape Breton West is on a point of order?

The member for Cape Breton West.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: I will, perhaps, Mr. Speaker, ask the honourable member if he could give me some clarification on his observation there. Is he suggesting the Liberal caucus is saying it's a tax break budget? Is that what he's saying? I don't know anybody in this caucus that came to that conclusion.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The intervention by the honourable member for Cape Breton West does not meet the terms and conditions of a point of order, however, the honourable Leader of the Opposition certainly can provide more clarity if in fact he so chooses.

[Page 2086]

[6:15 p.m.]

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I guess (Interruptions). Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker, my point is this, the Liberals stand up and say, we are going to oppose the Tory tax cut, and we are going to oppose it because it is harsh and unfair and benefits, disproportionately, people in this province, which is true. This is why we're going to oppose it. Now, then they say, this of course, is unlike the Liberal tax cut that came down a couple of years ago, which, although harsh and disproportionately benefits the rich in society, was compassionate. Well, I think you have to draw a pretty long bow to get to that conclusion. That's why I don't understand how they draw a difference. In my mind, it is a distinction without a difference.

Mr. Speaker, it doesn't really matter, because as I pointed out when we started out, this whole thing is just an illusion. There is going to be a minor adjustment in the tax rate, which is going to give back, to some people, some of what the government has taken. That is the net result of the Financial Measures (2003) Bill. I want to point that out because the estimate-to-estimate increase in the revenue of this government is going to go up by something like $250 million this year, somewhere in that vicinity.

What the government is undertaking, in no way, impairs the ability of a future government to implement the kinds of reforms that ought to be made. It doesn't impair the ability of a future government, for example, to give HST relief, to take the HST off home heating oil and electricity and children's medication and the necessities of life. A tax break that would actually be meaningful to people. It doesn't impair that. It doesn't impair the ability of a future government to be able to deal with the question of long-term care. To say to the seniors of this province, just because you get elderly and ill does not mean that you should have to sacrifice everything that you have worked your lifetime for in order to pay for health care that everybody else gets as part of the publicly-paid Medicare system.

Mr. Speaker, these measures do not impair the ability of a future government to actually fix that system. Not in the way that's suggested by the government opposite, who says that we have to wait and that seniors in this province have to wait until the year 2007 before they are entitled to relief. As I pointed out before, if one of us were to end up in the emergency room, and we got into the emergency room and the nurses or doctors who were there said, I'm sorry, Mr. So-and-so, you're going to have to go away, but if you come back in 2007, we will provide this service to you free of charge. Now if that actually happened, I think anybody would consider themselves to be fairly harshly done by. Of course, it doesn't happen.

But it does happen to seniors who have to go into long-term care facilities, because if they're not prepared to sacrifice everything they have to pay for those costs, they are not allowed in a long-term care facility. Do you know that? Do you know that they are not accepted into a long-term care facility unless they are prepared to go through the assessment

[Page 2087]

process and accede to the demands of the government that they give up everything they've worked their life for? Mr. Speaker, it's a tremendously unfair system, perpetuated by this government but not outside the reach of a reasonable government, given the reasonable resources of this province.

Another reason why my colleague pointed out that this whole budget was an illusion around the tax cut was because there are many things that just don't appear on the books of the province. For example, and I think this is a very relevant thing for us to think about, the deficit in school maintenance. Right across this province, I think there are 466 schools from one end of this province to the other. They require more than $500 million in maintenance. This is deferred maintenance, maintenance that needs to be done but hasn't been done. I think those figures came forward through an audit with the Auditor General. So it's not a figure we've made up, it's not something we're saying, this is something that comes from the Auditor General who says that there's a deficit of $500 million that should be on the books of the province that is in deferred maintenance in our schools. The longer we wait to do something about fixing up those schools, the worse it's going to get.

Do you know what's interesting, and I don't blame the government for being shy about this, but the reality is that if they are going to do the appropriate renovations, do the appropriate maintenance to those schools, I think we're all under the impression, and I think quite rightly, that what you see in terms of the debt that goes on the books of the province is money that is being used for capital infrastructure. Now, the reality is, although I think most people understand this, you're buying a capital asset, it's unlikely that you're going to pay for it all in one year.

When you buy a capital asset that's going to last you 25 years, like your house, Mr. Speaker, you put a downpayment on it and then you pay your monthly mortgage payments and, over 20 years, you pay off the mortgage. That's very much the way that infrastructure works within the province. Do you know something? There is a better way to do it then simply going out on the money markets and saying we need to borrow x number of millions of dollars in order to build the infrastructure in our province.

Mr. Speaker, Manitoba has a public auto system, that is a way to provide to the people of Manitoba, at a reasonable cost, the compulsory auto insurance product that they are required to have in order to be able to be on the streets and roads of Manitoba. You say, well, what does this have to do with the province and their ability to borrow money? Well, over the years, The Manitoba Public Insurance Corporation has managed to build up a reserve of $1.3 billion, and that's money that, of course, they need to invest because they need to have investment income as well. They're not just going to sit on that money. They're going to invest it. So where do they invest it? Well, they invest 46.5 per cent of it with the Manitoba Government.

[Page 2088]

Mr. Speaker, $595 million of that premium pool is invested right back in the Province of Manitoba through bonds that support infrastructure, community infrastructure, like schools, like health care. Those facilities are financed right within the capital pool that exists within the province. So rather than having the interest on that money paid by the people of Manitoba going to shareholders around the world, or outside of the province, it remains within the Province of Manitoba.

Now, this is something that the government opposite could do. They could do that. They're right to say that this would not be an immediate benefit, Mr. Speaker, but it would be a long-term benefit that would add to the ability of the province to manage their debt. It would be a progressive step to help capture the interest that we pay on debt that otherwise just goes out of the province. We have provided this advice to the government now on numerous occasions, and I was pleased to hear the minister responsible for skyrocketing insurance premiums say today that this is part of the debate - some people say that there ought to be a driver-owned, publicly-owned system, and he said some people don't say. Well, that supposes that there is in fact an actual debate that's going on within the government around whether or not we ought to have an independent not-for-profit auto insurer.

Mr. Speaker, the problem, of course, is I don't actually think that's true. If you look at the documentation put out by the government, they never mention an independent, not-for-profit public auto insurer, not once. In fact, it was specifically excluded from the document prepared by the minister responsible for skyrocketing insurance premiums when he published The Road Ahead, which is the document that they asked the people of Nova Scotia to read.

Mr. Speaker, I am going to yield the floor at this point in time. I know that there is much more that could be said and probably will be said before this debate is over, but I wanted to have the opportunity to add my voice to that of many others who have spoken out in opposition to the Financial Measures (2003) Bill and in favour of a better Financial Measures (2003) Bill that would have adequately assisted the people of this province. Thank you very much for the opportunity to join the debate.

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

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, there's so much competition to get up to speak on this. I think that as I was getting ready to leave my seat, I noticed some movement on the other side, on the government benches, and I'm not sure if that was them waking up or getting ready to get to their feet to speak on this legislation. Surely to heavens somebody on the government benches is going to get up, some of them are going to get up, and speak, not just write columns but are actually going to get up to speak on this legislation.

[Page 2089]

The member for Kings North says he already spoke about it. That was the day, I think, I ended up getting a headache and having to leave, just as he was speaking, because the topic was how this tax break was going to be economically stimulating for the province and also bring social justice or something like that, which I had some grave difficulty comprehending, given the fact that those who are in this province who are the most disadvantaged, which, of course, the member for Kings North, from his former profession, should understand their plight, those people are going to get absolutely zip. I thought there would be some members on the government benches who would be anxious to get up and try to defend this election budget, and that's really what this is part of, the budget.

Mr. Speaker, as I begin, I want to tell you a true story.

AN HON. MEMBER: All your stories are true.

MR. HOLM: All of them, of course, are true, yes. This happened actually this morning. While I was standing in the garage in Sackville this morning, getting my car, which is ailing a little bit, assessed to find out what exactly was wrong with it. Not being overly mechanically inclined myself, I wanted somebody who was very capable, and there is a garage that I go to that does excellent work, to find out what exactly was wrong with it. During the course of my stay there, I happened to meet and get involved in a conversation with another gentleman who was in there having his car repaired. What came up, of course, were several issues related to politics. One was insurance rates, and another was, apparently he read something in the paper about what I had said last week about this budget, in which I called it the glass-turkey budget.

He said that it reminds him of the days when he was younger and he was working - and I won't name the company - involved in construction. This gentleman was an engineer. He pointed out that at Christmas time, the company that he worked for gave to all of the management and the engineers, a turkey for Christmas. But to those who were the labourers, those who received the least pay, they received nothing. They weren't given the Christmas turkey bonus that was given to the management or the engineers and the higher-ups in the company.

[6:30 p.m.]

That gentleman said, this government reminds him of that company. They are giving something to those who need it less than to those who need it most.

That's really what this is all about. I said before and I am still going to stand behind it, I think that the election in Nova Scotia is going to be held on June 17th. I say that because I believe that the $155 cheques will be in the mail on June 13th; that's a Friday. Those cheques should start arriving in people's mailboxes therefore the following Monday and Tuesday. Therefore, those people who receive the cheque, I can't say the government is

[Page 2090]

trying to bribe them, because, Mr. Speaker, if I said the government was trying to bribe them, you'd rule that out of order, so I wouldn't say that. What I would say, and hopefully this is politically correct, is that the government is trying to curry the favour of certain voters by having a cheque arrive in their mailboxes.

Those approximately 300,000 Nova Scotians, those who are of the lowest incomes, those people, for example seniors who receive the annual supplement, those as the Minister of Finance knows, those who work for the minimum wage in Nova Scotia - which is grossly inadequate and even with the very modest increase that is supposed to be starting after the next election, it's still going to be woefully inadequate - those people are going to be earning so little money that they won't be paying Nova Scotia income tax, therefore they will get zero.

What the government wants to do is to have the vote being held when the cheques are in the mail and going out so that those who get the cheques are going to be happy and those who haven't gotten them - let's say by the Tuesday - will be believing the cheque's in the mail and they will get it on Wednesday or Thursday.

Some people might say that I'm a little bit cynical. That's what being in here sometimes for a period of time causes one to become. I haven't spoken with one individual, literally I can say quite honestly, not with one single person who has suggested to me that they will vote Tory because of that $155 cheque. I haven't spoken with one single individual who has said to me, outside of the Tory caucus benches or Tory staff, not one, not one has said that they believe that this is a government fulfilling an election promise to give a tax break.

I have spoken with many people who have told me that they see it and believe it and, hopefully this isn't unparliamentary because what I'm doing is reporting what I was told, what they said, they see it as a crass attempt by this government to buy their vote. That's what they have said to me. I haven't had one of those people who told that to me say that they wanted that money - all of them said that there are better ways to spend that money - $155.

Let's figure, let's just on a few things figure out what we could do with that. Let's just take the workers who are outside and downstairs, workers who work in these small option homes across this province. The people outside who are on strike work in the RRSS in metro. We have other workers doing similar jobs to what they do across this province, working with the most vulnerable members of our society - the mentally and physically handicapped. They do a job that I hazard to say I couldn't do. I don't know how many members in this Legislature could do it. The government is saying we can't afford to go to the table, because if we provide a fair wage offer to those who work for RRSS, we would have to provide fair wages to people right across the province who work in the same business.

[Page 2091]

Well, what would that cost? It would cost about $5 million, about $5 million. So, $5 million off of the $68 million that you're planning to send out Mr. Minister leaves you $63 million left. You would have to $10 or $12 off that glass turkey that you're sending out. That $68 million - and the Minister of Finance had actually caused me to have some encouragement before because the Minister of Finance had said that there wasn't necessarily going to be a straight-across-the-board 10 per cent income tax cut this year. Well, he followed through on that, because the $155 cheque of course doesn't work out to a 10 per cent for everybody. It's about 10 per cent for six months of the total income tax pie, but certainly it's not across the board for everybody. But, he indicated in some of his earlier interviews, he seemed to be waffling a little bit or deviating that maybe the break might come in some other ways rather than an income tax cut.

I have to admit I wasn't expecting him to send us a glass turkey. I wasn't expecting him - in the old days there were flasks, there were mickeys, there were nylons, there were chocolates given out at election time. I wasn't expecting the minister to be sending out cheques that would be enough to buy a Texas mickey or a glass turkey, as I'm used to calling them. You know, Mr. Speaker, there are other ways that that money could have been used that would have been very helpful, that would have helped to build the infrastructure in this province and that I think that Nova Scotians, I feel quite confident, would have supported.

Just as an example, you could have provided a half decent wage increase for those who work for the RRSS, and provided parity across the province for all other workers. You could have taken another $20 million and put that into education to meet the special education needs for children in our schools who have learning disabilities and who we are failing year in, year out, so that those children would have had a chance to maximize their educational opportunities and become productive in society, as productive as they could be.

The members on the Tory benches, the member for Preston, the members for Pictou East and Pictou Centre, Digby, Chester-St. Margaret's, they've obviously decided that those workers and those children are not as worthy and don't have as high a priority as sending out your glass turkey cheques at election time. You are making that decision, each and every one of you on those Tory benches, you're making that decision.

You know, if they'd given that $5 million, give or take a few dollars - and I'm just throwing that figure out, that's probably high - and if you would put $20 million into the special education fund that is desperately needed, you still would have had $43 million extra with which to do something. That could have done a whole bunch of things. The member for Hants West, the Government House Leader, former Transportation and Public Works Minister, he would know that that $43 million would have been enough to twin another 43 kilometres of Highway No. 101, Mr. Speaker, saving lives, improving infrastructure, all of those things that I've mentioned, and there are many other options as well, improve either the physical or human infrastructure in this province, but they have chosen not to do any of those things.

[Page 2092]

Mr. Speaker, if they didn't want to do some of those things, they could have taken the HST off home heat fuel, but of course the Minister of Finance wouldn't be too keen on that because you know this winter when today's families in Nova Scotia were being killed by the higher heating costs, the Minister of Finance was wringing his hands in glee and dancing, sugar plum fairies were dancing in his head as the loonies and the toonies flowed into his coffers from the higher HST he was collecting on that home heat oil. Nova Scotia families were suffering and the Government of Nova Scotia, the Tories, were profiting.

Mr. Speaker, that's a shame. The government could have agreed and could have set up a way to compensate those Nova Scotia families. Instead of having them profiteering off of their disadvantage, they could have done something to help those families who were deciding will they feed themselves and their children or will they have some heat in their homes. But they're more anxious to get their loonies and toonies, and that's wrong. The government could have, with that money, instead of saying wait until the next election, because you notice it's 2007 that they say they're going to be taking care of the health care costs of those seniors and others who are in long-term care facilities because they just don't have the money for it, and they can't do it all at once because it takes time - so between now and 2007 they're going to strip away the assets that families have worked their lives to build up to pay for health care costs that nobody else pays for unless you're in a long-term care facility in Nova Scotia.

But do you know what? Without touching the tax break that is coming next January, that $68 million fund could have taken care of those health care costs now, could have provided the monies that are necessary to get a fair settlement at the table for those who work in the small options homes and, Mr. Speaker, put $20 million into the funds to help children with special learning difficulties in the school. And Nova Scotians would have understood that and I think that if you were to ask Nova Scotians, the vast majority of them would say that they would be very happy, they would have preferred to see that money going to help those people. But, instead, those who are living with the supplement, those who are disabled, on low incomes, those who are working at or just slightly above the minimum wage, many of them trying to raise a family, trying to raise children, facing these higher heating costs, they will get nothing, they will get absolutely nothing.

[6:45 p.m.]

Tory priorities. I would like to ask the member for Queens, are those your priorities? Would you rather have $155 in your pocket, or would you rather have those who are in your community that you were elected to represent be able to afford to have heat in their homes, and the children in the schools to be able to get the resources that they need? Surely that's not a difficult question to answer. I don't know who has taken over the Premier. Has some alien from Ontario, from the old Mike Harris team come down and possessed him? (Interruptions) I'm being told it's Donald Rumsfeld, well, maybe.

[Page 2093]

It's the politicos, the political masters who seem to be pulling the strings. They're the puppet masters now, overall. The main thing that counts is election strategy. I hear members on the government benches, I won't name them, Mr. Speaker, but when announcements are made, when they're asked by the media and others, is this being prompted by the soon-to-be announced election, and the members say, oh, look, people ask me that all the time, and of course the answer is no. This has nothing to do with the election. I want them to give profiles when they make those statements, because I want to see how much their nose is growing.

Anybody who thinks for one minute that the Premier and others who are travelling around this province, making these grandiose announcements on the eve of the election, to think that they have nothing to do with the election, come on. Hey, some of us may be a little bit naive and gullible, heck, obviously quite a few of us were because the Tories got elected. Obviously, there were a lot of gullible people out there. But those who were born yesterday can't vote.

If the Tories really think that anybody is so gullible as to believe that all these announcements that are being made, almost all of which are in the future, somewhere out there on the horizon, they might conceivably happen next Fall - might - or in a year or two years or three years, it's a litany of so-called good intentions, while real issues that you could be dealing with now are left unattended.

Mr. Speaker, nobody for a minute believes that it has nothing to do with the election. It's like the old days, stories were - and maybe it's not the old days, the Tories are back - but you know they used to have, as the elections were taking place, companies would be hired to go out and park your equipment on the side of a road, you put a grader out there, you stick up a sign that says, construction zone, and you have a grader sitting there, and you might even go along and pay somebody to stick some signs in, like survey stakes, the vote is held and the day after the equipment is recalled to the depots. Ha, ha, but the message was there, vote for us and we're going to pave. We're going to do that work. Yeah right.

Mr. Speaker, we had the minister, as my colleague - and hopefully, for Nova Scotia's sake, the next Premier of this province - referred to the Government House Leader as the minister responsible for skyrocketing insurance rates. Well, I'm sure the Minister of Finance, as those rates continue to go through the roof, depriving many Nova Scotians of the ability to operate a vehicle, meaning also that many Nova Scotians who would have a very legitimate claim for insurance because of damage that was done, say, no way am I going to claim that $2,000 or $3,000 accident because if I do, my insurance is going to go up by close to that amount a year, but the Minister of Finance, of course, is raking it in, with every increase more in the way of tax dollars.

AN HON. MEMBER: Four per cent in taxes.

[Page 2094]

MR. HOLM: Four per cent. So I don't know what that works out to, Mr. Speaker, but let's say, as we figured it out - we do know that from the time the government finally followed the advice given to it by this caucus and referred the insurance issue to the Utility and Review Board - from February 1, 2002, to February of this year, rates in Nova Scotia went up by 66 per cent. When those rates went up by 66 per cent, remember the rates are 66 per cent higher, so the Province of Nova Scotia, the Minister of Finance is collecting 4 per cent more on that 66 per cent increase.

I don't know, Mr. Speaker, I don't have - what do you call it? - a Ouija board to do the math and calculation, not a Ouija board, no, what do you call that little - well, you have a calculator. I'm trying to think (Interruption) Yes, what do you call it again?

AN HON. MEMBER: Abacus.

MR. HOLM: Abacus, yes, abacus. Oh, oh, I heard somebody over there woke up. You know that's what's fun about this sometimes, Mr. Speaker, I was obviously following the Minister of Finance. (Interruption) He uses a Ouija board to do his budgets. It's called the dreaming board, right, something like that, the dreamer's board.

Mr. Speaker, the reality is that's a lot of dollars and so the Minister of Finance has been collecting this additional 4 per cent on that 66 per cent increase rate.

AN HON. MEMBER: Putting it in his pocket.

MR. HOLM: Putting it in his pocket and shoving it in that little special account so that you can turn around at election time to write cheques, and I'm sure he won't write them himself. Maybe the Premier is going to fire the Minister of Finance and take over the Minister of Finance's job before the election because then he could put his signature on the cheques, but even that might be a little bit too crass for the Premier.

Mr. Speaker, so they can turn around and pretend they're giving something back. Home heat fuel, everything that's going up, look at what has happened to licences and fees in this province. Approximately $300 million more that this government has been taking out of the pockets of each and every individual Nova Scotian who purchases anything, gets a driver's licence, gets a motor vehicle registration, buys a fishing licence, you name it, they take it. So they're doing that and then they're pretending that they're giving money back equally. Well, you know, if somebody goes in for a driver's licence and you're somebody who's working and making $6 an hour, that driver's licence costs you as much as if you're making $60 or $160 an hour. If you have to buy 200 gallons of oil and you're making $6.50 or $10 an hour, it costs you as much as if you're making $100 an hour at your place of employment. But it sure takes a much bigger bite out of your wallet as a percentage if you're making $6 an hour or $10 an hour or $20 an hour, than it does if you're making $100 an hour.

[Page 2095]

So, Mr. Speaker, those kinds of taxes, those kinds of fees don't treat Nova Scotians equally. People from rural Nova Scotia should know that. The member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury should know, you have a lot of people in your constituency who are hurting. You know that better than I do; you know the unemployment rate there.

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: The Town of Canso, under great stress.

MR. HOLM: Communities like Canso, as my Leader reminds me, under tremendous stress. How many of the people in that town are going to receive the $155 cheque?

AN HON. MEMBER: Not many.

MR. HOLM: You can go, I can assure you, into my community and I can take you into neighbourhoods where people are very proud, they are working, they are struggling, often working one and two jobs, trying to raise a family, but you know what? Because of circumstances, economic situation circumstances that they can't easily alter, they're not making high wages. They often contribute tremendously in the community, volunteering and helping, but they don't make enough money to be able to get back the government's cheque.

Mr. Speaker, I'm not going to insult the Minister of Finance this time, but just put it this way, the Minister of Finance has within his department some very capable, credible staff members who, if the Minister of Finance were to give them the direction, could come up with a scheme that would provide genuine relief to Nova Scotians and do that in a way that would bring maximum benefit. It could be done if the political will was there. It may not mean a cheque in the mail, but it may curry a lot more favour with Nova Scotians than the cheque in the mail that some will get, and others will get nothing. I throw the challenge to the Minister of Finance, go back and speak to your staff and ask them if they could come up with a plan, a program that would do that.

It's not as if we don't have money in this province and we talk all the time about the deficit and the debt. Mr. Speaker, let's not kid anybody, the debt in this province is very real and it certainly is something that Nova Scotians must get a handle on. But one of the things certainly, one of the ways that debts are paid off is by growing the economy and so the amount of the dollar, the total debt value may not go down but if the earnings go up as a proportion of your net income, the debt shrinks. And that basically is the way that the federal debt which had been so large after World War II was paid off. It wasn't actually paid off, it just shrank as a percentage of the GDP of Canada.

You know, Mr. Speaker, the economy of Nova Scotia is growing, the revenues will increase. As the Leader of the New Democratic Party said a little bit earlier - and hopefully, I say, the next Premier of this province said a little earlier - the revenue projections for the province are expected to grow by $250 million. So we . . .

[Page 2096]

AN HON. MEMBER: Next year.

MR. HOLM: That's next year, so we do have room to assist today's Nova Scotia families. So we do have that opportunity. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. We welcome our guests to the gallery, but obviously we don't, we appreciate that they not respond either positively or negatively to what's happening on the floor please. Thank you.

MR. HOLM: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. While I am very sympathetic to the message that they're trying to bring forward and I may wish myself to repeat that outside, I know that we can't do that inside the House, and therefore I won't go there at this point in time. As I said earlier, there is more than plenty of room if the government wished to resolve the impasse that is taking place right now, an impasse that is occurring simply because the government refuses to accept the responsibility and go to the table.

[7:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I want to go this way first of all. I have heard the Premier, I have heard the Minister of Community Services, and I have heard other Tory members go out and spout the Tory line. You get these briefing notes, and these are the lines that you're supposed to spin when you're asked questions. (Interruptions) I'm sure the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank will bring them my regrets that I can't come in at the moment, thank you very much for reminding me that they're coming, they're here.

Mr. Speaker, the line that is being used is that we cannot interfere with the collective bargaining process. This is from the same bunch, the same ones who had so much respect for the collective bargaining process that we sat here 24 hours a day, day after day after day, to pass legislation to do away with collective bargaining for health care workers. This is the same bunch who did the same kind of thing to the paramedics in this province.

Don't insult the workers who are outside, don't insult Nova Scotians, members of the Tory caucus, by going out there and saying this has something to do with you respecting collective bargaining, because that's hogwash. I could put it a little bit stronger but not in here, and I don't want to take my seat yet, Mr. Speaker, which you would probably tell me to do if I were to really tell you, in the kind of graphic terms, what I think.

Mr. Speaker, those health care workers, after all of the bully tactics used by this government to railroad that legislation through, many of them were NSGEU members too, what did the government decide to do? Oh, let's solve it, let's go to arbitration. Teachers in this province were at an impasse with this government over things like wages. What did the government do? Offered arbitration. Those who work in the community colleges, arbitration. Novel.

[Page 2097]

The government now, somehow, doesn't believe in arbitration. They say, well, go back and meet with your employer. Health care workers don't work for the Minister of Health, never did. They have another employer, it's called the district health authorities, funded by the province, and who do you think funds RRSS? They don't go and spend $2 in the lottery hoping to win the jackpot to get money to pay these people. They are paid by the Treasury of Nova Scotia. They're a non-profit organization hired to provide this service, getting all of their funding from the Province of Nova Scotia. Teachers don't work for the Minister of Education, they're not hired by him, it's the individual school boards across this province. The province is involved in negotiations, but as the Minister of Tourism and Culture will know, like myself, a former teacher, that you're employed by a school board.

If the province has nothing to fear, if you believe that the wage offer that is on the table and the benefits that are being offered are fair, why wouldn't you go to arbitration? In fact, the refusal of this government to be willing to take it to arbitration is an admission on your part that you believe you're low-balling them. That's an admission. Obviously, you're considering that there aren't that many people involved and you're not overly concerned about the workers and obviously - and this I say with a heavy heart - not concerned about those very vulnerable residents who are in their care, many of whom have now had to be institutionalized or taken home into families that are struggling to cope. There is absolutely no reason for this to be continuing and going on if you genuinely believe in the collective bargaining process.

They're not just out there on strike saying, we want more wages. They're saying, sit down and negotiate and go to arbitration. It's not a gun to the government's head and saying, give us absolutely a certain amount. They want to go to arbitration. It's very different. I say to the members on the government benches, yes indeed, those in the galleries and those outside and those downstairs, are focusing their attention, the names of the Minister of Community Services and the Premier are the ones who are foremost off their lips.

But, the truth is, each and every one of the Tory caucus members bears equal responsibility, each and every one of you. The member for Chester-St. Margaret's - you can go to the Premier and say, I want this settled at arbitration and you could tell the people that I am going to go to the Premier and say, I want it settled by binding arbitration. He doesn't have to listen to you, but you can make the commitment and make a public stand, a public statement that that's what you believe. As can the member for Annapolis, Queens, Halifax Bedford Basin. Each and every one of you can do that and should do that, in my opinion.

It's not just the Premier or the Minister of Community Services, each and every one of you bears an equal responsibility because each and every one of you are members of government. That's something that the members of the Tory benches may not realize, but the people outside, downstairs and in our galleries - they do. It's not only their votes you're going to lose. What concerns me tremendously, unless there is going to be better treatment

[Page 2098]

given to these people, hard working, extremely challenging jobs requiring tremendous patience and skill and constant upgrading, we're going to lose them.

More importantly, our residents are going to lose them because like us in here, they also have families. They also have to be concerned about their loved ones, their children's future. They also want to be able to put food on the table for their children. They also are facing those obscene insurance rates that are being charged, the higher taxes, the HST on fuel and all these other fees and things this government keeps cranking up. Mr. Speaker, we have, by and large, young and enthusiastic people working in these facilities and I'm very much afraid we will lose these dedicated people, not because they don't want to do what they're doing, but honestly, they will just feel they cannot continue. But when the casino snaps its fingers, the Tories jump.

Mr. Speaker, I don't think there is any piece of legislation that I spoke more on in Opposition than the casino legislation. The one-armed bandit bill introduced by the Liberals when they were in power as they had visions of - we're supposed to have all kinds of tourists - all kinds of high-rollers flying in from all round the world to be putting their loonies and toonies into the slot machines down on the waterfront. Of course, that hasn't happened. What they have been doing is taking money out of the pockets of Nova Scotians, many of whom have become, unfortunately, addicted. So much of the grandiose scheme that we were sold - or tried to be sold, I didn't buy it, so I can't say they sold it to me - that the Liberals of the day now they say, that was a different time and a different government. We really shouldn't be judged by what we did or what the Liberals did a few years ago, but that was supposed to be this great saviour.

Now, apparently, the City of Halifax and the community I should say because they're not cities any more - we got amalgamated by the Liberals too - we have HRM in Halifax. In Cape Breton, of course, we have the Cape Breton Regional Municipality and they have introduced anti-smoking legislation. How radical, they must be terrorists to be concerned for the well-being and the health of the citizens. They've introduced legislation that bans smoking in public places. Of course, its been in place for almost two years in Cape Breton. The Tories didn't seem to notice it, nor it doesn't appear as if the casino seemed to have noticed it, because they didn't object. But now, that's being phased in, its finally in effect in July. The Minister of Tourism and Culture over there says it has been phased in. It's being phased in now for almost two full years and nobody - the Minister of Tourism and Culture is from Cape Breton, can you tell me, do you have a letter from them, do you have correspondence from the casinos that are saying, oh, this is devastating our business? Can you table something, provide us a piece of paper to show us how they're saying it's hurting them?

Guess what that contract has? The contract with the casinos has an arbitration clause in it. So if they decide that they're being harshly treated by the Government of Nova Scotia, they can grieve it and then go to arbitration. Now, the Minister of Finance, of course, when

[Page 2099]

he was introducing the bill, we had a friendly little chitchat across the floor (Interruption) He says, it wasn't that friendly, Mr. Speaker. Let's put it this way, it was more like I got up on a couple points of order and the minister responded to my points of order. My points of order were really like questions. He was saying that their legal opinions were that the casino could turn around and say that imposing the anti-smoking or the non-smoking policy in the casino would harm their business and they could give termination, announce that they're cancelling the contract within 30 days. Now, of course there is an arbitration process and if we remember the old issues that went before arbitration before, they didn't happen within 30 days. The arbitration dragged out for months and in fact, I think in one case, well over a year.

[7:15 p.m.]

You know, the legal opinion that the Minister of Finance referred to - and which of course he told me he wouldn't table - didn't come from government lawyers, it didn't come from an independent legal firm hired to give advice, looking at the contract. The legal opinion was given by the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation. Now, we should remember what the responsibility of the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation is. The responsibility, their job, is to maximize the number of loonies and toonies flowing into the pockets of the Government of Nova Scotia from the casino. They're in charge of maximizing profits from gambling, that's what their job is.

So do you think that that is an independent body that you should be asking for legal advice? I mean, conceivably yes, having a no-smoking policy in the casino might reduce the profits from gambling by a few dollars. I certainly haven't seen any evidence that it would cause the casino to walk away from any kind of a profitable operation and it's not as if there aren't other casinos in North America, in fact there are quite a few of them, that do not permit smoking in those facilities. I don't buy for a minute that they're going to run and hide. It might slightly reduce the take for the government, which is addicted to gambling, but it certainly - I think it's stretching it to the extreme to suggest that the casino with its monopoly is going to be hitching up its team and hauling out of town. It just ain't going to happen.

You know what will happen, we will have a yet even more uneven playing field. We have, for example in downtown Halifax, many facilities, many bars and entertainment facilities that people go to. Those facilities are all going to be smoke-free. So those who like to smoke and who are unwilling to go out for a night on the town and give up the smoking completely if they have a choice, those people will be migrating away from the other clubs in downtown Halifax and around, to migrate to the casino so they can have a cigarette. That of course might have the added benefit to the government of being able to get a few more loonies and toonies flowing into your one-armed bandits. What you're doing, in effect, by exempting the casino, is giving the casino a competitive advantage aimed at increasing the gambling revenues flowing into the Province of Nova Scotia.

[Page 2100]

I wonder, and I would invite the Minister of Finance, the Premier or any member of the Tory benches, show me wrong, prove me wrong. Put something out there, put some evidence out there, something, anything that would disprove my cynical view that what is really motivating you is an opportunity to maximize your gambling profits. I'm not hearing a single soul on the other side even beginning to challenge me, not even the member for Kings North, but maybe that will appear in an article in The Daily News, saying how socially responsible it is to have smoking in the casinos, just as it's socially responsible to give those who are the most disadvantaged nothing in the tax breaks, despite the fact they pay taxes every time they go to the stores, buying children's clothing, clothing for themselves, you name it, life insurance. They get nothing. Could you tell me how much time I have left?

MR. SPEAKER: The member has five minutes.

MR. HOLM: Oh, time has gone. Of course, by unanimous consent, Mr. Speaker, the members of the House, including the government members, could decide to give me more time. I would even be willing to give up my last five minutes if the Minister of Community Services was willing to get to his feet and address how he will resolve the issue that's going on outside and tell us about the strategy to get people back to the bargaining table, have arbitration. That would be wonderful, but he will have his time anyway, to get up and speak on this bill. I certainly hope that we will be hearing something in that regard.

Mr. Speaker, honestly, I look at this legislation, this bill, and it's nothing more than a veiled attempt to curry the favour of voters, to try to make Nova Scotians forget about all of the things that you haven't done. The Minister of Finance, as my colleague, my Leader pointed out, and as the Auditor General has said, the debt of Nova Scotia, the deficit should be increased by $500 million to reflect the increased costs or the future costs to repair school buildings in this province that have been allowed to deteriorate because of deferred maintenance. But that didn't happen. I will say, the one thing that they did put on the books a number of years ago, were funds - they haven't spent it yet, but they did put it on the books to show an increase in the debt - the cost to do cleanup in the Sydney tar ponds.

But, to my friends in the Liberal caucus, they would know this quite well, they did that in such a way as to make it reflect on the books from the former government, to make them look worse when they were going out and to get that off the books and put it on the Liberal Government books, rather than put it on the Tory Government books, because that wouldn't look good for them. They won't put the deferred school maintenance on it, nor will they put on the books other known costs that are just being pushed off, but they will come up with hundreds of millions of dollars worth of election goody promises that are going to be fulfilled in year one, two, three or whatever, sometime out there in the future.

They talk about being fiscally responsible, as they continue to increase revenues, raking in more and more from today's Nova Scotian families who are struggling, taking that in all the hidden ways, increased fees, increased service charges, raking it in off taxes as

[Page 2101]

insurance, as I pointed out earlier, that has gone up by 66 per cent in the last year, and the province, of course, takes in 4 per cent of that. That's millions of dollars. They want to look good as they go to the election.

They talk about how they're going to be cutting about 3,000 people in Nova Scotia who now pay income tax, but after the budget is passed next year, they won't pay a cent. Those are people - I'm glad they won't because they shouldn't be, that's positive - who are paying marginal taxes right now, $5, $10, $20, $25 a year, a lot less than the $155 and certainly it doesn't begin to compare with what a 10 per cent or 9.2 per cent tax break is going to mean to somebody who's making $1 million a year in this province. And, we have those families.

Honestly, it's out of whack. I've been a little bit harsh on government members in some ways, I feel, this evening as I've been talking. I've talked to a lot of Tory members and you talk to them, they aren't bad folks. But do you know what, Mr. Speaker? They, I don't think, have really thought through what's happening and maybe it's time that they do think it through and go back and tell the Minister of Finance and the Premier and those who are behind the scenes pulling their strings as the election appears, let's back off and do it right and let's not be so heavy-handed on those we should be trying to help.

I think you're moving forward in your seat to tell me my time has expired, so I will take my seat.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I am glad to have an opportunity to speak to this bill. I have to say that to follow my colleague, the member for Sackville-Cobequid, doesn't make my job any easier.

I want to tell you, Mr. Speaker, and the members on the opposite side of the House that in five years of being in this House that as yet, I'm not a cynic. Nova Scotians may well be, but when it comes to the experiences that I've had here, I recognize what it is to have power. I didn't expect the Tory Government to use that power differently than they have. This has been a Mike Harris Government in many ways and they're going to try to go to the polls and tell the people, I think very soon, and the Premier will be saying that we did what we said we were going to do. That's what Mike Harris did to try to get re-elected for a second term, and it worked.

I think the Premier thinks that by following Mike Harris' plan, that it will work for him but I think the Premier has underestimated that the times have changed in five years. Nova Scotians are not as gullible as they were the first time around. Nova Scotians were looking for change, Mr. Speaker. Nova Scotians would like to have a government that finally makes decisions based on its people; all of its people.

[Page 2102]

This government has not done that. It has made its decisions based on a few and it still caters to a few. It's said that Tory times are tough times. Well, that's true, but it's not tough on everybody. There is a certain group of people or a certain class of people in Nova Scotia that Tory times are good times. They get the advantages of Tory Government. The Sobeys, number one, first off the mark; in 1999 they were given a tax payroll rebate for $3 million.

Now, the RRSS who are here today are asking for arbitration. Do you know why the government won't go to arbitration? Because they think the arbitrator will agree with those people. That's why they won't go. This government has been burned every time it's gone to arbitration. It doesn't matter whether it's been paramedics, nurses, but these are the people that the government has chosen to abuse.

Mr. Risley's company that creates neutraceuticals, fish oil, et cetera, got a break on their loan payments; if I remember right, $6 million, or maybe even more. Now, the people in this House today, to settle their dispute with the government would take $5 million. But that's not worth it to the government.

I don't know what it is that the Tories think people do with their money. As a matter of fact, I often wonder when they go to their communities, when they go out and talk to people on the street in their communities, what is it about their world that is so different from the world of everybody else? Don't they expect that these people will take their paycheques and spend their money in their communities and return that money back into the economy, or, do they think they'll bury it in a hole in the back yard, that somehow it will be lost forever. Well, I think they're going to spend it. I think those people have needs and dreams and hopes and families and they use their job like everybody else uses their job - to try to achieve those dreams, to try to get them from point A to point B, to cover five years, 10 years, 25 years down the road so they can make their plans and move their family forward.

[7:30 p.m.]

I know some of the people who are involved and actually there's a group home in my constituency in Lantz. It has been there for 20-plus years, but they're not unionized and the people who work there don't have a pension. I don't know what their thoughts are, I know they're worried, Mr. Speaker, they're worried about themselves, but they're more worried about the residents there. They haven't had a budget, they haven't had a budget that they are going to operate that group home with since 1994. They haven't had a budget given to them by the government to work with since 1994. We're coming up to 10 years and they haven't known what their budget is going to be from year to year. They run deficits up to $50,000. Community Services will give them a lump of money to eradicate the deficit and then they will go on for another part of the year and run up another deficit. The run their group home out of a line of credit, you might as well say, at the bank.

[Page 2103]

That wasn't initiated by this government, Mr. Speaker. That was initiated by the previous Liberal Government, but this group over here had a chance to change that when they came in in 1999. They weren't interested in doing that. I know right now that the Lantz group home's van which they use to carry the residents into programs, because there's Corridor Community Options in Enfield which has a program for the residents there, and they use that van to carry the residents to programs. Well, that van won't pass inspection, it can't, it's worn out. They need a new one and they've been after Community Services to let them know what's happening around their budget so they can make some plan because if that vehicle shuts down, the whole system shuts down there.

AN HON. MEMBER: And what does Community Services say?

MR. MACDONELL: Community Services isn't saying anything. These people live in those homes with the residents. They take care of them. They take them to funerals. They take them shopping. They take them to their programs. They live there. You have to commit a lot of yourself to carry out this job, Mr. Speaker. You have to commit in the most unselfish way to people who are unable to take care of themselves and you have to restructure your life around their lives. Now, that's asking a lot and there are very few people in this world who are willing to do that and who are willing to do it for the pay that this government is willing to pay them. I want to tell the minister they're worth more.

Now, if you think you're right, if you think they're not worth more, then why not go to arbitration if you're so sure. If you're so sure that you can win, if you're so sure that you are right, why not go to arbitration and let an arbitrator decide? I want to say to the minister, do you actually believe that $5 million is going to break the bank for this province when the Premier can give out $68 million in $155 cheques? I don't think that should be a problem, Mr. Speaker. We always seem to be able to find money for somebody who doesn't really need it - $9 million to Orenda Recip to create airplane engines in Debert, a company out of Mississauga, Ontario.

Well, these are people who are here in Nova Scotia now, committed to this province and the lives of the people here. So why don't they rate, why aren't they worth as much as strangers from away? Because you can't put that on a news release or a ministerial statement and think you're going to get as many votes, I guess. Make an announcement about a few jobs that never show up and that seems to be worth something to this government. I heard my honourable colleague from Sackville-Cobequid, he talked about the members on the opposite side, how some of them were good people. I think he's probably right, matter of fact, I think a lot of the members on the Tory side are good people. If you get them alone, have a chat, you can find their almost as good as New Democrats.

Mr. Speaker, I think if we can convince the people in their constituencies that these are good people, I think we can try to convince them to keep them home in the next election and let them do their good in the community and send someone else here to represent them.

[Page 2104]

That, I think, would be a good plan. The members on the opposite side aren't here to represent everyone, they're only here to represent a few.

Mr. Speaker, it has become an interesting world lately. We hear about globalization, it seems that what happens at home is not really as important as what's happening somewhere else. Corporations are wanting to come in from other jurisdictions, they want to be able to work and avoid the laws of any sovereign nation, your labour laws and your pollution laws or environmental laws don't have to apply to them. It seems that everywhere you look someone is at the mercy of someone else. I'm always amazed at what people will do to other people just because they can.

Mr. Speaker, that's what this government is doing. It is really not willing to sit down with Nova Scotians who are offering a service and have done that with good will for the people that they care about, because you can't do the job that the people in the RRSS do without caring. You can't go to work everyday without caring about the people you serve. So, why is it that the government can treat them as badly as it is just because it can do it?

AN HON. MEMBER: They don't care, John.

MR. MACDONELL: No, they don't care. Now, Mr. Speaker, this Financial Measures (2003) Bill, or an Act Respecting Certain Financial Measures, is one that has a few interesting points. I want to say that the Minister of Finance won't be back to this House after this next election, so certainly the impact of this bill, he won't be around for that or to take the abuse. Actually, I'm hoping that if there's any abuse for the members on the opposite side, it will be that they're on this side after the next election, if there's any of them to come back. As both my previous colleagues have spoken, as well as our Finance Critic, this budget isn't balanced. There was a lot that hasn't been put on the books and the government is aware of that, the Auditor General is aware of it and there's been enough downloading from the federal government to the province, to the municipalities and by the province again through school boards, to district health authorities, that its obvious that we are working under a deficit.

Now, we have a monetary deficit in terms of the infrastructure problems in schools, maintenance that's been deferred up to a level of $500 million. We have a social deficit in terms of how people have been abused by this government. How Nova Scotians have paid and paid and paid through the nose since this government came into power and John Hamm said no new taxes. Well, I think one of the first ones was the 911 fee but, you know, I heard the honourable member for Cape Breton West stand and question my Leader when he raised this, and my memory, if it's right, back in 1999, if that was when that happened, 1999 or 2000, I forget the year, that the Tories brought in the fee on 911 calls.

[Page 2105]

I think it was actually the honourable member for Cape Breton West who was sitting somewhere in this area, because the Liberal caucus was in this place at that time, and our caucus was there. I want to say that the honourable member for Cape Breton West stood in his place and he raised this issue, he railed at the government and said, how can you do that, how can you bring in that fee, it's unjust, it's unfair? I remember the then-Minister of Health, the member for Truro-Bible Hill, he stood and held up a piece of paper and said, you signed it before you left. Now, that seemed to quiet the honourable member for Cape Breton West, considerably.

Mr. Speaker, I want to say, the Tories didn't have to go through with it, but anything that they were able to do that made it harder for Nova Scotians, they've done it. I want to give you an example, and this is something I think members opposite can relate to, because I couldn't believe it when I was approached recently at a breakfast, put on by the Lions Club in Milford, in my constituency. One of the gentleman going around pouring coffee or tea in the morning, he said to me, when you go back, will you mention to your Finance Critic that two years ago, when we applied for a licence for our bingos, it was $50. Last year it was $150, this year it's $300.

Now this is a non-profit organization, trying to do work in its community and actually doing good work in the community, but this is an example of how not just Nova Scotians going about their everyday business have been stung by this government, but this is an example of how this government has targeted everyone, especially those doing volunteer work. If it was thought that somebody was making 5 cents, then they were targeted. There was an action taken to ensure that part of that, probably 3 cents of 5 cents, was going back to the government.

The government would feel good now, actually, I think, these days, because they're going to spend $68 million to buy the votes of Nova Scotians. Well, I'm really glad that I'm around to witness this. I think this government is going to get an education like it hasn't gotten in a long time. It's going to get a lesson on the lack of respect that it has for Nova Scotians. The question, who do they think they're kidding, I think nobody. There's nobody who I've talked to that is impressed by the $155 handout.

Now the Premier says, well, I said I was going to do it and I'm going to do it. Now the Premier said he was going to give a 10 per cent tax break. Unless everybody makes the same wage, I can't see how everybody is going to get $155, if that represents the start of the 10 per cent tax break. I am sure there was a lot of number crunching before the government ever made an announcement about that. I would be really curious to know, Mr. Speaker, what the government's plan is on this, because I would think that even the members opposite must be realizing in their communities that this is not going to pay. I've heard people say, oh, I'll take the cheque and I'm going to spend it, but I'm not voting for the Tories.

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: It's going to backfire.

[Page 2106]

MR. MACDONELL: Yes, it's going to backfire, as my honourable colleague, the member for Timberlea-Prospect tells me. I think it is going to backfire, and I wouldn't be surprised if at some point there will be some backpedalling before we ever get to that date. The government has done its work, I think they realize that this isn't going to cost them exactly $68 million. As our member for Halifax Fairview, our Finance Critic, has stated, it's really going to cost the government about $40 million, because they're going to get some of that back through bracket creep and the freezing of the personal exemption.

The government has done its work to say, okay, here is what we want, here is what we're going to spend, so here's the payoff at the end of it. So it's weighing the dollar value compared to what the upside is going to be. I don't think they've actually calculated what the downside is going to be.

Would you be able to sell to Nova Scotians that this government hasn't been a tax government? Well, probably not. I think Nova Scotians aren't aware that they are taking in an additional $74 million in personal taxes, not to mention an increase in corporate taxes - another $70 million. From $200 million last year to $270 million this year, and I expect that that hasn't been raised and flagged and discussed - no ministerial statement about that one and certainly not presented to the Chamber of Commerce.

[7:45 p.m.]

I've got to say that this government doesn't deviate from its plans much. In other words, earlier in their mandate, I thought, when they took the money away from charities, boy, that was the dumbest move I've ever seen, but you know, that was only the start of dumb moves. I thought it was stupidity, it wasn't, it was a plan - well, it was a stupid plan. I just thought they didn't realize, they weren't really aware of the impact of what they were doing. They weren't worried about the impact of what they were doing; they were doing it. They were going to attack the people who either they thought would have the least impact on their re-election or that the rest of society would kind of slough them off and say, well, it doesn't matter anyway.

They were thinking something, I mean there was a plan. Time and time again, whether it was the paramedics or the nurses or now the residential society, it's just been one hit after another on the people of Nova Scotia, and they would refer to these people as interest groups. Nurses would be an interest group. These workers who are in the gallery today or in this building today, they'd be an interest group. Even the people paying these high rates in auto insurance, they'd be an interest group. I think that most people that I know, if you're 16 and older, you have automobile insurance. That's a pretty darn large interest group. It's a pretty large group to try to slough it off and say they don't matter.

[Page 2107]

That's actually what the government's announcement today indicates. They really weren't interested in dealing with the issue of auto insurance. This is a serious flaw in their plan because as much as they won't go against big business, they're sending that message to Nova Scotians over and over again that they're willing to let business gouge them so the government can get a benefit. That, I think will be the undoing of this government. They've tried it with seniors and long-term care facilities and I have to say that I'm amazed at the band-aid approach that the government has taken.

If it wasn't raised by this Party, there would have been nothing done by the government on these issues. Yet to do so little, I can't believe that the approach that this government would take to the long-term care issue was to leave it to 2007, to do the assessment of the people going into these facilities, to go back two years instead of three. What this government has done in terms of changing the process to benefit seniors has been zilch. It's been so difficult for the government to defend it I can't understand why they did it. Even under pressure, even with 19,000 signatures, this government was not willing to back down. That is what has amazed me, that in the face of mounting opposition, when it actually could mean the difference between government or not, this government was willing to gamble with the people and gamble that we wouldn't be able to get the message out to the people. No wonder they've gotten in bed with the casino, if they're going to gamble at those odds. Because this affects peoples' lives, every day, where they live it is taking money out of their pockets and people are starting to recognize that. You go to the bank and get $100, it seems like its gone before you go out the door and Nova Scotians are noticing this. Money goes nowhere today, and the government has had a large part in seeing that it goes nowhere unless it goes to their friends or to them, and Nova Scotians are tired of that and they are looking for a change. I'm going to tell you this, Mr. Speaker, this Party is willing to offer them that change and we're going to.

Let's take a look at the legislation before us and the government's attempt to protect the casino operators. Mr. Speaker, I wasn't in this House when the casino deal was signed. I, probably like most Nova Scotians, saw the news stories and even I was amazed at what the government at the time, the Liberal Government, was willing to do, what concessions it was willing to make for the casino operators. As a matter of fact, I'm amazed that the businesses downtown here didn't raise more of a fuss, because it was a disadvantage to them. That casino was given a break every which way that other businesses in the area were never given. Actually, the casino got a competitive edge over local businesses; now when the HRM brings in a bylaw that's going to impact those businesses regarding smoking, the government jumps to its feet to bring in legislation to protect the casino - even without the request of the casino. Now that's even more amazing.

As my Leader earlier said, this has to be the only province in the country that actually brought in legislation to continue smoking, which is unheard of, especially brought in by a doctor who's the Premier. Now if Nova Scotians were to ever wonder who it is this government works for, they should know by now that it is not for them. This is not a

[Page 2108]

government that is in any way at all interested in doing what it can to ensure that Nova Scotians are taken care of, to ensure that they have a few extra dollars in their pocket, that Nova Scotia families, working families know that the decisions that are made by their government are done on their behalf, Mr. Speaker, and they have come to realize that and they're going to realize it more in the next few days or few weeks. I expect that the members on the opposite side will have a chance to debate their Party's record and their vision of the future, whatever that might be, on the doorsteps in their constituencies. If they can defend this government's record, then it is going to have to be without giving the people on the doorsteps all the facts or denying the facts - one or the other - because nobody can go to Nova Scotians and defend the record of this government and how it has abused the people of this province.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to see some changes in this legislation. I would like to have seen the government's budget actually take into account my constituency a little more. I would like to have seen the $68 million go to roads. I'm not asking the government to spend it all in my constituency, but I would like to see them spend more than one fifty-secondth of it in my constituency, which I think would have given me over $1 million anyway, that we could have used to address problems that have not been addressed for some time and I think it's unfair for the people in my constituency to have to do without simply because this government wants to bribe them with their own money.

Mr. Speaker, how am I doing for time or is there an issue of time here?

MR. SPEAKER: The member has until 8:26 p.m.

MR. MACDONELL: Until 8:26 p.m., longer than I anticipated, and I think maybe that was your point. (Interruption)

Also, Mr. Speaker, I mentioned the other day about my constituency being part of the northern health board, or northern health district, and I am quite pleased to see that the members in the other constituencies that are part of that district seem to have been able to get some money spent by the province in their area, a new hospital in Amherst, a planned new hospital in Truro, a new facility in Tatamagouche, but nothing in Hants East. Actually the district health authority has agreed that it will put some of its facilities that are presently in my constituency, blood collection, et cetera, that they're willing to move those into one facility if the municipality will build it.

During budget estimates I questioned the minister and she said, well, we may build that. Well, I haven't heard anything to indicate that that's for sure. The district health authority had a meeting in my community the other evening and they certainly didn't offer that they were willing to build that with money from the province. Considering that my constituency is part of that district health authority where so much provincial money has been

[Page 2109]

spent in other constituencies, I think it would only be fair to spend the money that they're asking the municipality to spend to build this facility in East Hants.

I want to tell you, Mr. Speaker, I think it's the cheapest, it will be the least amount of money that has been spent in those constituencies compared to what has been spent or planned to be spent by the government in those constituencies that are held by Tory members and we certainly have the population. In the corridor area we have 10,000 people. I think there are about 6,000 in the Tatamagouche area where they're building a new facility and I would say we have almost twice that population in that section of my constituency who could actually make use of a really top-notch facility. They know they're not going to get everything they want, but they're willing to start with something and then build toward more over time and I think it's unfair for the government to expect the municipal taxpayers to pick up the tab for that facility.

Mr. Speaker, with those comments, I will wind up. I want to tell the members opposite that there's so much in this bill that's bad, they could have redone their budget and actually used the budget to actually indicate what the state of the province's financial situation was, to use conventional accounting practices, whatever the term that they use. Certainly it doesn't account for the $500 million in deferred maintenance on the schools in this province and that's something that nobody can escape from. I know that the people of Nova Scotia deserve to get a better accounting than they're getting. With that, I will hand the debate to another member.

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

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, the Financial Measures (2003) Bill is before this House and there has been a lot of debate over this particular bill. I believe it's important for me to rise in my place and express why I voted for this budget and why I am going to vote in favour of this bill this evening.

[8:00 p.m.]

There are many aspects to the legislation, but I want to talk about the most important point first and that is the tax cut. I am speaking in favour of the tax cut and I am in favour of Nova Scotians getting more of their tax dollars back in their own pockets. I am in favour of lowering taxes and I am in support of Nova Scotia becoming more competitive. Mr. Speaker, it leaves me with the question, who wouldn't be in favour of these things?

Some members here on this side of the House go back to their constituencies and they say you're not in favour of giving money back to your constituents, especially if it's their own money. If you look at the increases since 1999 when I was elected to this House, the people that I represent pay more for everything from airplane tickets to postal stamps. I believe that the $155 will come in handy for many of the people that I represent.

[Page 2110]

If this government produced two balanced budgets and is collecting more revenue from personal income taxes than ever before, then why not put money back into the hands of hard-working Nova Scotians? People in my constituency, I believe, are looking forward to receiving this $155 and I expect most of them will spend it right in Cape Breton. This will be good for the economy, not only to the local economy in my constituency, but the economy in Cape Breton Island as a whole. Next year when the income tax rates will be reduced, Cape Bretoners will have more money to spend on their families and in their communities. I believe that's a positive step in the right direction.

I can't for the life of me sit here and vote to allow our province to fall behind every other province in this country. That's what will happen if this bill, the Financial Measures (2003) Bill does not clear this House. How can we be proud of being the only province that has not cut income taxes in the past few years? Where would that leave us? What impact would that have on our economy here in Nova Scotia?

I would suggest that this is a positive measure that will allow our province to move forward and not to fall behind. I believe our economy is good, it's getting better and I hope it gets better. More money in people's pockets, I believe, will help make it better.

Being more competitive will help our economy. Can we afford not to vote for this bill? Do we want to continue being the only province not to give its people a tax cut? We want to look good to people who may want to move here from outside the province and this may be one incentive that at least makes them look upon Nova Scotia on an even par with other provinces in Canada.

The Finance Minister indicates that the tax cut will improve our competitive position and our future economic growth and I do agree with that statement. How can we not be in favour of that? If we can have a balanced budget and still cut income taxes, that's got to be a good thing. It's got to be. I would suggest to the members of the House to reconsider what they're saying. I believe that the people who live in their constituencies, as well as in my constituency, that these Nova Scotians deserve a tax break, just like any other Canadian that have enjoyed tax breaks over the last few years. You know, there's good news in this budget, it's not all doom and gloom in my opinion at least. I just want to touch on a couple of issues, I know that the hour of debate is growing and my time just started.

Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotia continues to invest in its capital projects and it's obvious the government has exposed what their capital projects are. The capital budget this year, 2003-04, is the total of $250 million and it's an increase of $31 million or 14.2 per cent increase from last year. Investments in roads, bridges, ferries, land and equipment purchases are higher than the previous year with a budget of $106.2 million and increase of $16 million over last year. This includes an additional $11 million to complete a three-year $31 million commitment that the government has committed to increase funding for road improvements. Mr. Speaker, that is what my constituents want to hear, we want to hear about road

[Page 2111]

improvements. Rural areas with real, real road commitments and improvements and a plan to ensure that rural areas receive the attention that is necessary.

The Department of Transportation will spend $10 million to improve provincially owned buildings across the province which is important to keep up the maintenance on these facilities to ensure that in future years the overhead costs are the lowest that they can possibly be. Capital spending in the Department of Education, that's another issue that's important to my constituents. It's increasing to a total of $93.9 million, an increase of $3 million or 3.3 per cent over last year. This includes $62 million for eight new schools, $18.5 million for additions to schools and alterations to existing elementary and high schools, $9 million for the expansion of the Nova Scotia Community College and $4.6 million for school buses.

The province, this year the budget also includes $10.8 million for the Department of Justice and I believe that would be for the Yarmouth Correctional Centre and the Port Hawkesbury courthouse which are two important facilities throughout the province; a $7.7 million will go for the Department of Health in purchasing ambulances, hospital information systems.

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

MR. BARNET: Mr. Speaker, if I may be permitted to do an introduction.

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

The honourable member for Sackville-Beaver Bank on an introduction.

MR. BARNET: First I want to thank the member for Cape Breton The Lakes for allowing me to do this introduction today. In the Speaker's Gallery opposite we have a number of constituents from Sackville-Beaver Bank and Sackville-Cobequid representing the 8th Sackville Scout Troop and the 2nd Beaver Bank Scout Troop. We have with us today Leader Dale Roddick, parent Bernie Whalen, we have scout Sean Roddick, Brian Whalen and Kelly MacNeil. If I could ask the members to give the usual warm welcome to our visitors. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you. We certainly welcome our special guests to the gallery this evening and hope they enjoy the proceedings. Welcome boys.

The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes has the floor.

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, as I indicated, $7.7 million is allotted for ambulances, an information system for hospitals. Also, which is important in my riding I believe is the $5.5 million for the Department of Tourism and Culture, it's capital

[Page 2112]

improvements to three resorts actually, one including the Keltic Lodge in Ingonish and after the next election I hope to have a direct interest in that lodge and I believe that's a good issue and it's a good one to move forward and it's positive.

Mr. Speaker, another issue within my constituency for the last three years has been when medical appointments are required here in Halifax. The wait times are just exorbitant. They're just terrible. There's no way to describe them. The Finance Minister has come forward with a plan which will soon have faster access to tests and surgeries here in Halifax. There's approximately $5 million reinvested into the health care system for these purposes and the funding will be used to hire more staff and purchase equipment for diagnostic tests and surgeries for cardiac patients from all across Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, that's an important issue for the residents of Cape Breton the Lakes from whom I've continually received calls over the past three and a half years in regard to delays in appointment times here in Halifax. I'm convinced that this will have a positive impact on Nova Scotia. Patients who need tests from hospitals across the province will be transferred here in Nova Scotia by the air ambulance. Approximately $400,000 is being invested to get perhaps as many as 200 more patients to Halifax and returned to their local hospitals and their families much more quickly. This is positive, very positive - I believe good, positive news for the people in my constituency and the people I represent who are waiting for appointments or surgeries here in Halifax. I believe that the residents I represent are in need of this service.

Community supports for adults is another issue, Mr. Speaker. This government has demonstrated its commitment to improving the supports for Nova Scotians with disabilities and long-term mental illnesses. They have increased the community supports for adults budget by $12.8 million this year. Community supports for adults provides a wide range of services including homes for special care, small options homes, supervised apartments, adult residential centres, regional rehabilitation centres, adult service centres, there are many more. I feel this is also positive and will have a positive impact on Nova Scotia.

The debt management, of course. Debt is something that I have a personal concern about. I'm really concerned about how governments borrow money. I came from a municipal world, I was always concerned about borrowing money as a municipal unit and since I've become a provincial representative I'm really very concerned about whether my grandkids or their children will have health care in this province because of the money we owe. There's more money being spent to service the debt here in this province than we spend on education and I think it's pretty clear that we recognize that there is a problem.

Mr. Speaker, it's not fair for me to stand here and blame this government for the whole debt problem in this province and certainly not this Finance Minister. I believe, at least, in the last two years he has made a very strong effort to bring the finances of this province under control. To some extent he's succeeding. Now, I know some people don't

[Page 2113]

want me to say that, or hear that, but that is my honest opinion and I believe after watching for three and a half years that the government is making positive steps. Now, it may be good news that the Finance Minister is going home and is not re-offering in the next election, but that is not my opinion. I believe that the Finance Minister has put a strong effort in and I believe that government in particular is going to miss that Finance Minister when he leaves. I honestly do believe they have big shoes to fill, particularly when, after the next election, if they're lucky enough to form the government again.

[8:15 p.m.]

I'll tell you two points that I have to agree that the minister is moving forward in. One, he has provided two successive balanced budgets. That's clear; accountants have accepted this - I'm not a certified accountant and I can only accept the opinions that are provided to me, and everything I can find according to the financial sheets is that this government is having some success in balancing the budget from year to year. It's obvious that the government is on the right path.

In the past three years, as a result of careful control in spending I believe, and a growing economy, one of the most important economic indicators which shows a net direct debt as a percentage of the province's overall economic activity has improved. What this means is that the burden of debt carried by taxpayers is less onerous. We have a greater ability to repay our debt. That is a very important item to have on your side when you're dealing with the type of debt and the amount of debt that this government has been forced to deal with since it came to power in 1999. The ratio to net debt shows that the province's strategy of managing the debt is working.

I'm not going to get into too much about the $155 rebates. I believe most of the people that I represent will receive that - as I indicated earlier - they've experienced increases in anything from airline tickets to postal stamps. I believe you can look at insurance rates, power rates, yes fees have been increased by the government. It's obvious the government had to impose their direction and create a fee structure. That will be accepted or rejected by Nova Scotians. But it is clear that this Finance Minster has put a plan in place that is having an impact on the finances here in this province, and I believe it's important to recognize his efforts.

The foreign currency has been reduced to 20 per cent - 18 months ahead of schedule. That's pretty positive; it's a positive step in the right direction for this government. I know the government has taken heat on a lot of different issues and I think it's fair to recognize that they're standing pat in the direction that they want to go in, but it's important to recognize that it works. It's working; it is having this impact. When you can reduce the foreign currency by 20 per cent 18 months ahead of time, to me that provides some confidence in the people in charge of the books.

[Page 2114]

Students, our young people are our greatest assets, that's obvious. Mr. Speaker, $5.1 million has been earmarked for the Student Debt Reduction Program and $6 million more for universities. A new $5.1 million Student Debt Reduction Program will help post-secondary students manage their debt. The program is designed to be flexible in the many ways in which students complete their post-secondary education. It aims to help the greatest number of students possible with the resources that that particular government has to deal with. Half of our students have their own means of financing their post-secondary education. There are approximately 18,000 students each year who receive Canada student loans. About 98 of these students also receive Nova Scotia loans, Mr. Speaker, and these are the students who are in greatest need of financial assistance and they are also the students who have the higher debt loads upon graduation, and statistics indicate that very clearly. The amount of the debt reduction will change for each year of the loan. For example, if a university student has loans, and studies for four years, he or she will receive 1.5 per cent of the debt reduction for the first year, 25 per cent for the second, 35 per cent for their third and 45 per cent for the fourth. If this student studies for another year and has a loan, he or she would get 15 per cent for that fifth year.

Mr. Speaker, in my opinion that is a reasonable plan. It's at least a plan and an effort to assist our students, our greatest asset. There's no doubt our youth are our greatest asset. So the government has come forward with a plan and they listened to the students in this province and it's obvious, and I feel that this plan will have a positive impact, given some time to allow it to work.

Mr. Speaker, another issue where I have received a lot of calls in the last three years is in regard to legal aid. Nova Scotians who need a lawyer but can't afford a lawyer, of course, need, from time to time, legal assistance. An additional $3 million has been put into the Nova Scotia legal aid. This additional funding is a very positive step for the people who I represent, I believe, at least. It's important to recognize that successive governments, including the federal government, have decreased payments in regard to legal aid in this province. I believe the federal government cut approximately $50,000 at one point in time.

Mr. Speaker, also, another important issue is the municipal equalization grant system process. I represent an area in Cape Breton, of course, Cape Breton The Lakes, and Cape Breton is a poorer area of the region, of this province. I believe it's a positive step, the former Municipal Affairs Minister listened to the municipalities. They took in some consultation with the UNSM. I know the minister did discuss with individual municipal units a plan in regard to Nova Scotia Power and the payment to the municipalities, and the payments have increased. Now, the payments by Nova Scotia Power to the municipalities will increase by $4.6 million to a total of $31 million; $1.8 million of this money will be paid to municipalities that are home to major NSP properties and $2.8 million will be put to use to fund municipal equalization.

[Page 2115]

The province, with this plan, Mr. Speaker, is ensuring that municipalities receive no less equalization this year than they did in the previous year, and that is important for the property taxpayers that I represent back home. You know, the last thing that I want to see is another property tax increase in my area. The regional municipality down there, in a lot of ways has its hands tied, and their tax base is eroding. It's not the greatest in the province, and this particular issue goes a long way to sustaining that municipal unit, particularly without increasing property taxes, and that is important to the people I represent.

Mr. Speaker, the $1.8 million to be paid to municipalities with major NSP components. The Cape Breton Regional Municipality received $704,000, a very important issue and one that I believe the mayor of the CBRM is on record as endorsing. In reviewing all the statistics with regard to the increased payments for Nova Scotia Power, I would be surprised to see if any rate increases are imposed by Nova Scotia Power because of this issue. When they had projected their bill last year, the rate application at the Utility and Review Board, it did not indicate any power rate increases as a result of this issue. I don't see that. I think that's a good plan. I think the Finance Minister, obviously, got together on the same page, and municipalities actually did (Interruptions) That was a very important issue for this government to conquer, and it was one that they inherited, by the way. In 1999, when they came into power, this problem existed and the government took it on itself and they conquered the problem, I believe, at least for today.

Mr. Speaker, our roads and bridges are a very important issue for me, particularly in rural Nova Scotia. The people I represent, at least, they're really interested in the Department of Transportation and Public Works' budget and for the fourth consecutive year, this government is increasing its capital investments in roads, bridges and ferries right across Nova Scotia, with $106.2 million, an increase of $16 million over last year. That's a significant amount of money. The province has made a commitment, the Finance Minister has made a commitment to continue to dictate all the funds raised by last year's 2 cent per litre tax increase to capital road construction. The estimate is it will generate approximately $25 million this year to reinvest in safer, better roads throughout Nova Scotia; that has to be positive news for rural Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, transportation is one of the keys to economic prosperity here and community development in Nova Scotia. A strong transportation network sets the stage for the safe movement of people and goods, and it also supports regional, national and international trade. Roads are important. Bridges will also receive more attention with a promised $4 million in capital funds for this year. One of the ferries will be replaced. I believe that must be one of the ferries on the mainland, I'm not familiar with the name.

There is also money for maintenance, especially for local roads. Mr. Speaker, that is a major issue, particularly in my area and, I know, right throughout rural Nova Scotia; particularly, I can stand here comfortably and say rural Cape Breton in particular, because I have been on those roads, and they're just unreal, they're unbelievable. This government

[Page 2116]

has earmarked more money for maintenance, particularly on local roads. The road improvement money program will invest $10 million this year in rural roads across the province. Hopefully this will mean improved road shoulders and ditches and asphalt patching, and gravel upgrading, shoulder work and guardrail replacement. That's $10 million there, it's really a necessity for this province.

Drinking water is another issue I would like to speak about, Mr. Speaker, particularly, representing an area like Coxheath and Westmount that has a water supply with cancer-causing elements in it. I've discussed the issue with the minister several times, the Finance Minister. I have to give the government credit, they've come up with a plan to deal with the protection of our drinking water. Through the provincial drinking water strategy, $800,000 will be spent this year. The government continues to work with municipalities, which is important, and I know that to be true, particularly in the CBRM, where the government is in regular contact with administration personnel down there to deal with the issues that are important, particularly water issues that are important to that municipality. Coxheath is included in the planning for new water treatment, and I believe that this is a major positive step for my riding and that's another reason why I voted for the budget.

[8:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, since 9/11 I think it's very clear that emergency responses are vital to any community throughout not only Nova Scotia, but throughout the entire country, the world in fact. The Office of the Fire Marshal is investing $190,000 more to train and equip first responders to deal with hazardous materials. Another $71,000 has been committed by the Emergency Measures Organization to hire a crucial infrastructure coordinator. This, of course, complements the $566,000 that has been invested by the federal government for these purposes, they go hand in hand with each other and I believe a good positive step for at least the firefighters I represent.

Mr. Speaker, $33 million more to enhance seniors programs. Seniors' programs have been devastated since I've come into power; since I've been elected in 1999 I've received many calls from concerned residents and constituents in regard to seniors' issues, and I see this as a positive step. It's at least some direction to deal with the issues that affect seniors. This year an additional $33.1 million will be invested to protect the quality of nursing homes and home care, expand access to home care and make nursing homes and drugs more affordable for Nova Scotia's seniors. The long-term care budget will increase by $18.1 million, to a total of $222.5 million this year, of that amount $8.5 million is being invested to continue government's efforts to reduce the costs of nursing homes for seniors; that is a positive step. Also, $9.6 million is being used to meet increased costs and protect the quality of care for seniors.

[Page 2117]

The budget contains $9.7 million to meet this government's commitment to freeze the premium and co-pay within the Seniors' Pharmacare Program, a major issue for seniors I represent. As well, the co-pay will be capped at a maximum of $30 for prescriptions, and that's at least a cap. It may be a little high, uncomfortable with the amount, however, it's a cap. This means that seniors will continue to pay 33 per cent of individual prescription costs but to a maximum of $30 per prescription. For example, seniors now pay $49.50 for a prescription that costs $150. Starting April 1st, hopefully, they will only pay $30, a saving of $19.50. Mr. Speaker, that's $19.50 in the pockets of my residents, and I feel that they can find another real purpose for that money, put it into a government drug plan. and I will go back to the postage stamp increases and everything from postage stamps to airplane tickets. Everything has increased. So that $19.50 will go a little way in assisting them, hopefully, in other struggles that they have in their daily lives.

Mr. Speaker, small business, and this is good news for at least the business people that I spoke to over the weekend back in my riding and I visited several. I spoke to them about this issue and they think it's positive. Small businesses in Nova Scotia will have more room to earn taxable income before moving into the higher tax rate and that's effective this year. The small business tax I believe is set at, the limit is around 5 per cent. It gets a little complicated, but when you look at the fact that businesses support this initiative, I believe it could become very positive for the businesses in the riding.

Mr. Speaker, the tax relief, you know, lower personal income tax, and I'm not going to say too much more this evening, I think there's at least one more speaker I believe. Lower personal income taxes in other jurisdictions have proven to build stronger economies. Nova Scotia taxpayers will save an estimated $147 million in 2004 because of lower personal income taxes. They will save another estimated $68 million from a one-time tax rebate of $155. The refund will ensure that the tax deductions make it to the hands of individual Nova Scotians as soon as possible and that's important. The lower tax rates also mean that more than 3,500 Nova Scotians will no longer pay personal income taxes. Tax relief is an important plan, it can be an attractive plan and this government is obviously attempting to put that plan to work.

Mr. Speaker, I spoke to the Minister of Education the other day because I have many, many requests for special aids, requests for students throughout the school system. I have spoken to the administrative staff at the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board and they indicate, one case in particular, and I know the minister is working on the case in Ingonish at the moment with a school down there with an individual who needs special aid. This particular child has some learning disabilities and it's not a bad thing really, she just needs some special aid. So I asked the minister the other day what this budget would mean for teachers' aides throughout the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board. The minister indicates that it should add up to more teacher aides. I know the request for teacher aides is quite high and I don't know if every child will get a teacher aide next year, but at least more next year will get teacher aides than last year. That's an improvement.

[Page 2118]

Mr. Speaker, the Northside General Hospital continually for three years has been under threat of closing the emergency ward because of staffing issues mainly. I spoke to the minister. The minister indicates that the increased spending in health care should deal with these issues at this particular facility as well as neighbouring facilities, like the Buchanan Memorial, the hospital in neighbouring Victoria, there's Baddeck, there's Richmond, there are hospitals throughout. This budget should have a positive impact on those issues facing those facilities.

Mr. Speaker, I guess we have to wait a couple of months to see if that impact is positive or not. I feel good about the direction the government is going in. I'm certainly no scholar, but I have been around politics for 12 years. I have to give the minister and the Premier and the front lines credit over there. They took a lot of heat, and this - although it may not be a perfect budget, there may be a budget that could be produced that is better, I'm not suggesting that - is a reasonable and decent budget under the circumstances in this province. That's why I'm voting for it, and I believe that's why the people of my constituency will vote for it come election day. With that, I will take my place.

MR. SPEAKER: If I recognize the minister it will be to close the debate on (Interruptions) Order, please. Order, please.

The motion for second reading has already been introduced for Bill No. 36, we are now on the previous question. Is the House ready for the question on (Interruptions)

A recorded vote is being called for on the previous question.

Ring the bells until the Whips are satisfied.

[8:42 p.m.]

[The Division bells were rung.]

MR. SPEAKER: Are the Whips satisfied? (Interruptions) Order, please.

Are the Whips satisfied?

A recorded vote has been called on the previous question, moved by the honourable Government House Leader.

Is the House ready for the question?

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

The motion is carried.

[Page 2119]

The motion is now on second reading of Bill No. 36.

Is the House ready for the question?

A recorded vote is being called for.

[8:43 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Is the House ready for the question?

The Clerk calls the roll.

YEAS NAY

Mr. Rodney MacDonald Mr. Corbett

Mr. Russell Mr. MacDonell

Mr. LeBlanc Mr. Dexter

Mr. Muir Mr. Holm

Mr. Balser Mr. Manning MacDonald

Mr. Parent Dr. Smith

Ms. McGrath Mr. MacAskill

Mr. Ronald Chisholm Mr. Wilson

Mr. Olive Mr. Samson

Mr. Morse Mr. Steele

Mr. DeWolfe Mr. Deveaux

Mr. Taylor Mr. Estabrooks

Mr. Dooks

Mr. Chataway

Mr. Hendsbee

Mrs. Baillie

Mr. Carey

Mr. Morash

Mr. Barnet

Mr. O'Donnell

Mr. Hurlburt

Mr. Boudreau

THE CLERK: For, 22. Against, 12.

The motion is carried.

Ordered that this bill be referred to the Committee on Law Amendments.

[Page 2120]

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move the House do now rise to meet again on the morrow at the hour of 12:00 noon. The House will sit from 12:00 until 8:00 p.m. The order of business, following Question Period, will be Public Bills for Second Reading, commencing with Bill No. 45, the Insurance Act, and then continuing on with Bill No. 1 and so on through the order paper. I move we do now rise.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

We are adjourned until 12:00 noon tomorrow.

[The House rose at 8:47 p.m.]

[Page 2121]

NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)

RESOLUTION NO. 1064

By: Mr. John Holm (Sackville-Cobequid)

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

Whereas the Canadian Navy and Merchant Mariners played a principal role in the Battle of the Atlantic and suffered grievous losses in so doing; and

Whereas this Atlantic lifeline fed Britain and enabled the eventual victory of Allied forces in Europe; and

Whereas this week many veterans of the battle gathered with other Nova Scotians to pay tribute to the many Canadians who died and suffered in the Battle of the Atlantic;

Therefore be it resolved that this House join in solidarity with the veterans and other Nova Scotians who paid fond and thankful remembrance this weekend to those who fell and suffered in the terrible Battle of the Atlantic.

RESOLUTION NO. 1065

By: Hon. Gordon Balser (Agriculture and Fisheries)

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

Whereas the Nova Scotia Institute of Agrologists is a provincially legislated authority that monitors the credentials of professionals working in the province's agri-food industry; and

Whereas the Nova Scotia Institute of Agrologists was established in 1953 and is marking its 50th Anniversary on May 7th to May 8th at the Nova Scotia Agricultural College; and

Whereas a wall of honour is being unveiled in Cumming Hall at the Nova Scotia Agricultural College to recognize the many distinguished individuals of the institute for their dedication, hard work and valuable contributions made to the agriculture history;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize the Nova Scotia Institute of Agrologists on its 50th Anniversary.

[Page 2122]

RESOLUTION NO. 1066

By: Hon. Gordon Balser (Agriculture and Fisheries)

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

Whereas the Taste of Nova Scotia Society Awards were introduced in 1999 to encourage the pursuit of excellence within the Taste of Nova Scotia membership and to recognize commitment within the culinary profession; and

Whereas the Taste of Nova Scotia Society honoured the 2002 Taste of Nova Scotia Society Awards recipients on Wednesday, April 30, 2003, at the Prince George Hotel in Halifax, Nova Scotia; and

Whereas the 2002 Taste of Nova Scotia Restaurant of the Year Award was presented to Gabrieau's Bistro in Antigonish, the 2002 Special Merit Award was presented to the staff at MacAskill's Restaurant in Dartmouth and the 2002 Alex Clavel Educational Award was presented to Annalesia Waito;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize the recipients of this year's awards and all members of the Taste of Nova Scotia Society.

RESOLUTION NO. 1067

By: Mr. John MacDonell (Hants East)

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

Whereas the 2003 Provincial Volunteer Awards Day Ceremony and Luncheon was held recently in Halifax; and

Whereas the Municipality of East Hants was named winner of the province's Model Volunteer Community of the Year; and

Whereas the award recognizes "a community that has shown ongoing support for volunteers, that has worked together as a community on projects to enhance the lives of its residents";

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the Municipality of East Hants on receiving this recognition and commend all the East Hants volunteers for all their superb efforts to make their community a better place in which to live.

[Page 2123]

RESOLUTION NO. 1068

By: Mr. John MacDonell (Hants East)

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

Whereas the machinery and workings of our federal government are often a mystery to many people; and

Whereas the Forum for Young Canadians brings students from across Canada each year to the nation's capital to be introduced to government institutions such as the House of Commons, the Senate and the Supreme Court among other important and interesting foundations of our form of government; and

Whereas Ms. Patricia MacAulay of Enfield and Ms. Vanessa Versteeg of Hardwood Lands, students at Hants East Rural High School, were accepted by Forums for Young Canadians to travel to Ottawa this past March to observe how government works;

Therefore be it resolved that this House of Assembly commend Patricia MacAulay and Vanessa Versteeg, students at Hants East Rural High School, on being chosen by the Forum for Young Canadians to travel to Ottawa this past March.

RESOLUTION NO. 1069

By: Ms. Maureen MacDonald (Halifax Needham)

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

Whereas the member for Halifax Bedford Basin lauded her government on May 10th last year during Mental Health Week for its commitment to mental health issues and its release of a working paper entitled, "Mental Health - Time for Action"; and

Whereas this study of a study of a study made many recommendations but this government is yet to implement the vast majority of them; and

Whereas since this government came to power, the suicide rate has climbed in Nova Scotia and the Tories have not even implemented a suicide prevention strategy;

Therefore be it resolved that the member for Halifax Bedford Basin refrain from crowing about this government's mental health strategy until it actually has one.

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RESOLUTION NO. 1070

By: Mr. David Hendsbee (Preston)

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

Whereas since 1981 the Atlantic Journalism Awards has been an annual celebration of journalistic excellence and achievement in Atlantic Canada - providing awards in 23 different categories; and

Whereas in the category of Enterprise Reporting - Print, stories and series, judges look for initiative, the degree to which reports go beyond the obvious, how well issues are put in context, the perspective and how complex issues are made clear; and

Whereas this year in the Enterprise Reporting - Print category, the gold award was presented to a team from the Halifax Herald, including: Amy Smith, Tera Camus, Susan LeBlanc, Dean Jobb and Paul Schneidereit for their series "Sydney Tar Ponds";

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate these journalists - Amy Smith, Tera Camus, Susan LeBlanc, Dean Jobb and Paul Schneidereit and commend them on the care, detail and perspective they bring to issues facing Nova Scotians.

RESOLUTION NO. 1071

By: Mr. James DeWolfe (Pictou East)

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

Whereas the members of the Plymouth Fire Department paid tribute to their Ladies Auxiliary on Saturday evening at the fire hall, commemorating 30 years of service; and

Whereas six women - Marie Doyle, Edie Owen, Charlotte Matheson and Sheila, Jenny and Pearl Conway - have served as members since the inception of the auxiliary in 1973; and

Whereas the Plymouth Fire Department Ladies Auxiliary has undertaken a considerable amount of fundraising work over the past three decades, assisting in many ways, including the expansion of the fire hall as well as the addition of a new kitchen;

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Therefore be it resolved that MLAs commend the members of the Plymouth Fire Department Ladies Auxiliary for their outstanding work over the past 30 years and wish them every success with their latest project, the purchase of a new fire truck for the department.

RESOLUTION NO. 1072

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Muriel Legere lives by the motto "Dedication to the betterment of our youth" and has lived by that motto for many years; and

Whereas Mrs. Legere has been a familiar and popular face at Junction Road Elementary School for more than a decade. She has helped countless children with her tutoring skills, braved many adventures by chaperoning on class trips and given that extra cheer at the sporting events in addition to spending countless hours instilling the love of reading to our future leaders at the school library; and

Whereas Mrs. Legere extends her volunteer activities by committing time and effort to the Springhill Music and Drama, is a member of the Ecumenical Choir and her church, therefore she has been named as the Representative Volunteer of the Year for 2003;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Mrs. Muriel Legere on being named Springhill Volunteer of the Year for 2003 and wish her all the best in the future.

RESOLUTION NO. 1073

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas the Gilbert family of Advocate, Nova Scotia, was honoured on April 16, 2003, for volunteering by the Municipality of Cumberland County; and

Whereas the Gilberts were recognized for their work with the Heart and Stroke Foundation, especially the softball tournament fundraiser named in memory of family member Wanda Gilbert Horton who suffered a fatal heart attack over nine years ago; and

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Whereas the entire family pitches in to schedule the games, register the teams, select prizes and manage the concession stand for the weekend-long event;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the Gilbert family on being named "Volunteer Family of the Year" and wish them all the best in the future.

RESOLUTION NO. 1074

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Arden Fletcher of Advocate, Nova Scotia, was recognized for his work with the Advocate District Development Association; and

Whereas Arden, a military man who returned to his home in 1977 after retiring from over 20 years of service across Canada and overseas, organized a softball team, served on the hospital board and turned around the ADDA's low membership; and

Whereas Arden Fletcher raises money for various local causes and has made a tremendous difference in his community's growth;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Mr. Arden Fletcher of Advocate, Nova Scotia, on being recognized for his volunteer work and wish him all the best in the future.

RESOLUTION NO. 1075

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas the Junior Girls Double Badminton Team of Jessica Currie and Gina Reid are heading to provincials after undefeated play at Northumberland Regional Championships on April 12, 2003; and

Whereas Jessica Currie and Gina Reid finished first at regionals earning the right to represent their school at provincials in Sydney; and

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Whereas Jessica Currie and Gina Reid are calm and collected about their achievement and looking forward to the competition ahead of them in Cape Breton;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Jessica Currie and Gina Reid on being undefeated at the Northumberland Regional Championships and wish them continued success in the provincials in Sydney.

RESOLUTION NO. 1076

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Alie Bishop of Collingwood, Nova Scotia, was recognized for her volunteer work on April 16, 2003, by the Municipality of Cumberland County; and

Whereas Alie was the youngest volunteer that was honoured. The eight year old is part of a community group with adults which plan activities such as fundraisers and she leads a group of Beavers; and

Whereas Alie Bishop takes the role as a young leader with pride and she is keen at whatever she does;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Alie Bishop on her volunteer work and wish her all the best in the future.