Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

Les travaux de la Chambre ont repris le
21 septembre 2017

DEBATES AND PROCEEDINGS

Speaker: Honourable Murray Scott

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

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

Annual subscriptions available from the Office of the Speaker.

Third Session

WEDNESDAY, MAY 7, 2003

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 1121, Motorcycle Awareness Mo. (05/03) - Proclaim,
Hon. P. Christie 2278
Vote - Affirmative 2279
Res. 1122, CMHA (N.S.): Staff/Vols. - Commend, Hon. J. Purves 2279
Vote - Affirmative 2279
Res. 1123, Educ. - Reading Progs.: Book Infusion - Recognize,
Hon. A. MacIsaac 2279
Vote - Affirmative 2280
Res. 1124, Nat'l. Hospice Palliative Care Wk. (05/05-11/05/03) -
Recognize, Hon. J. Purves 2280
Vote - Affirmative 2281
TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS:
Justice: Civil Procedure Rules - Amendments, Hon. J. Muir 2281
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 46, Civil Service Collective Bargaining Act,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 2281
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 1125, Insurance - Rate Hikes: Action - Overdue, Mr. D. Dexter 2282
Res. 1126, Kyte, Edward: Birthday (90th) - Congrats.,
Mr. Manning MacDonald 2283
Vote - Affirmative 2283
Res. 1127, DND - Afghanistan: Cdn. Soldiers - Situation Condemn,
Mr. B. Taylor 2284
Res. 1128, Lake Dist. Rec. Assoc.: Ollie Perry/Vols. - Congrats.,
Mr. J. Holm 2284
Vote - Affirmative 2285
Res. 1129, Regina Manifesto: NDP - Disseminate, Mr. P. MacEwan 2285
Res. 1130, Reid, Brian - Mental Health Educ.: Efforts - Applaud,
Mr. M. Parent 2286
Vote - Affirmative 2286
Res. 1131, Can. Snow Sculpture Contest: Winning Team - Congrats.,
Mr. J. Pye 2287
Vote - Affirmative 2287
Res. 1132, Marshall, Donald, Jr.: Best Wishes - Extend,
Mr. R. MacKinnon 2288
Vote - Affirmative 2288
Res. 1133, Liverpool Advance: Anniv. (125th) - Congrats.,
Mr. K. Morash 2288
Vote - Affirmative 2289
Res. 1134, Sports - Brookside JHS: Girls Lacrosse Team - Congrats.,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 2289
Vote - Affirmative 2290
Res. 1135, Nat'l. Debating Comp. - Sherwood JHS Team: Best Wishes -
Extend, Mr. Manning MacDonald 2290
Vote - Affirmative 2291
Res. 1136, W. Pictou Cons. Sch. - Cdn. Space Prog.: Contribution -
Commend, Mrs. M. Baillie 2291
Vote - Affirmative 2292
Res. 1137, Marshall, Donald, Jr.: Best Wishes - Extend,
Mr. Robert Chisholm 2292
Vote - Affirmative 2292
Res. 1138, HRM Police Officers: Cancer Fundraising - Commend,
Ms. M. McGrath 2292
Vote - Affirmative 2293
Res. 1139, Shoveller, Dr. Jean (Barteaux): Cancer/Med. Research -
Acknowledge, Mr. F. Chipman 2293
Vote - Affirmative 2294
Res. 1140, Glace Bay MLA: Facts - Verify, Mr. J. DeWolfe 2294
Res. 1141, Hannam, Penny: Atl. Journalism Awards - Congrats.,
Mr. M. Parent 2295
Vote - Affirmative 2295
Res. 1142, Pier 21 Soc. - Nat'l. Immigration Heritage Ctr.:
Transformation - Support, Hon. J. Purves 2296
Vote - Affirmative 2296
Res. 1143, C.B. Post - IHF World Jr. Hockey Championship (2003):
Campaign - Congrats., Hon. C. Clarke 2296
Vote - Affirmative 2297
Res. 1144, Halifax Jr. Bengal Lancers: Fundraising - Congrats.,
Hon. J. Purves 2297
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 263, Environ. & Lbr. - Insurance Rate Hikes: Inaction - Explain,
Mr. D. Dexter 2298
No. 264, Prem. - Sunday Shopping: Year-Round - Allow,
Mr. Manning MacDonald 2299
No. 265, Environ. & Lbr. - Margaret Crouse: Assistance - Details,
Mr. D. Dexter 2301
No. 266, Prem.: Sunday Shopping Decision - Justification,
Mr. Manning MacDonald 2303
No. 267, Environ. & Lbr. - Insurance Freeze: Circumvention Prevention -
Details, Mr. W. Estabrooks 2304
No. 268, Environ. & Lbr. - Discussion Paper: Discriminatory Practices -
Question Include, Mr. F. Corbett 2305
No. 269, Educ.: Debt Service Costs - Effects, Mr. M. Samson 2307
No. 270, Environ. & Lbr. - Draft Insurance Regulations: Table -
Time Frame, Mr. H. Epstein 2308
No. 271, Insurance: Plan - Min. Credibility, Mr. H. Epstein 2310
No. 272, Nat. Res. - Floods (03/03): Victims - Assist, Mr. K. MacAskill 2311
No. 273, Commun. Serv. - Public Housing: Rent Increase - Details,
Mr. J. Pye 2313
No. 274, Educ.: Prog-Based Funding Formula - Time Frame,
Mr. M. Samson 2314
No. 275, Health - Happy Haven Relocation: Families -
Response Time Frame, Ms. Maureen MacDonald 2316
No. 276, Educ. - Teachers: Numbers - Increase Confirm, Mr. D. Wilson 2317
No. 277, Commun. Serv. - RRSS Strike: Replacement Expenses -
Amount, Mr. J. Pye 2318
No. 278, Educ. - Rankin Mem. Sch.: Problems - Details,
Mr. B. Boudreau 2319
No. 279, Educ. - Barrington HS: Blood Testing Costs - Explain,
Dr. J. Smith 2320
No. 280, Agric. & Fish. - Beef Producers: Transport. Subsidy -^^
Provide, Mr. J. MacDonell 2322
No. 281, Environ. & Lbr. - Dorsey Report: Implementation Period -
Adequacy, Mr. P. MacEwan 2323
No. 282, Transport. & Pub. Wks.: Hwy. Serv. Ctrs. - Accessibility,
Mr. B. Boudreau 2324
OPPOSITION MEMBERS' BUSINESS:
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS:
Res. 901, Educ. - Assess. Results: Gov't. (N.S.) Investment -
Failure Acknowledge, Mr. D. Wilson 2326
Mr. D. Wilson 2326
Mr. M. Parent 2330
Mr. W. Estabrooks 2334
Mr. M. Samson 2337
PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 21, Sydney Casino Profits Distribution Act 2342
Mr. D. Wilson 2342
Hon. N. LeBlanc 2346
Mr. F. Corbett 2351
Mr. R. MacKinnon 2354
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Energy - Guys.-Pt. Hawkesbury: Gas Ind. - Boost Recognize:
Mr. Ronald Chisholm 2360
Mr. Manning MacDonald 2363
Mr. H. Epstein 2366
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Thur., May 8th at 12:00 noon 2368
NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3):
Res. 1145, VON - Col.-E. Hants Br.: Service - Applaud, Hon. J. Muir 2369
Res. 1146, VON - Tri-County Br.: Service - Applaud, Mr. R. Hurlburt 2369
Res. 1147, VON - Can. East. Reg.: Service - Applaud, Mr. B. Barnet 2370
Res. 1148, VON - Queens Co. Br.: Service - Applaud, Mr. K. Morash 2370
Res. 1149, C.B. Reg. Hosp. Fdn. - ECBC/MacLennan JHS:
Campaign - Support Acknowledge, Hon. C. Clarke 2371
Res. 1150, ECBC - Farming Rept.: Importance - Acknowledge,
Hon. C. Clarke 2371
Res. 1151, Jones, Victor: Human Rights Award - Congrats.,
Hon. C. Clarke 2372
Res. 1152, Wilson, Billy - N.S./Nunavut Command: Recruiter of Yr. -
Congrats., Hon. C. Clarke 2372
Res. 1153, Sydney River Violence (05/92): Victims - Remember,
Hon. C. Clarke 2373
Res. 1154, Fleury, Marc-André: Hockey Achievements - Applaud,
Hon. C. Clarke 2373
Res. 1155, VON - Greater Hfx. Br.: Service - Applaud, Hon. J. Purves 2374
Res. 1156, Robichaud, Wanda: Accomplishment - Congrats.,
Mr. W. Gaudet 2374
Res. 1157, VON - Lunenburg Co. Br.: Service - Applaud,
Mr. J. Chataway 2375
Res. 1158, VON - Anna. Valley: Service - Applaud, Mr. M. Parent 2375
Res. 1159, VON - Cumberland Br.: Service - Commend, Hon. E. Fage 2376
Res. 1160, River Hebert Vol. FD: Members/Families - Congrats./Thank,
The Speaker 2376
Res. 1161, Hospice & Palliative Care: Workers/Vols. - Applaud,
The Speaker 2377
Res. 1162, Rector, Donna - River Hebert Vol. FD: Dedication -
Congrats., The Speaker 2377
Res. 1163, Wilson, Roy: River Hebert Vol. FD 10-Yr. Service Pin -
Congrats., The Speaker 2378
Res. 1164, Baker & Sons Const. - River Hebert Vol. FD: Dedication -
Congrats., The Speaker 2378

[Page 2277]

HALIFAX, WEDNESDAY, MAY 7, 2003

Fifty-eighth General Assembly

Third Session

2:00 P.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Murray Scott

DEPUTY SPEAKERS

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

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Before we begin the daily routine, there is something I just want to bring to the attention of the members, something I've noticed over the last week, particularly. There are two issues: one, it seems that there is a lot of referring to members in the House by their name, first or last and sometimes both, which I think all members would realize, according to Beauchesne, is certainly against the rules and I think it has been customary in this House as well, when making mention of a member, to call them by the name of their constituency as opposed to their name; the other one, which is in the same rules, is when referring to a Minister of the Crown, to refer to that minister's portfolio as opposed to using other names. I believe, actually, in regard to debate in this House, that it's only right that we adhere to the rules and I would ask all members to reflect upon that when they are in debate in this House.

MR. SPEAKER: Before we begin the daily routine, the subject for this evening's late debate was submitted by the honourable member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury:

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize the tremendous boost the gas industry has provided to the economy of the constituency of Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury.

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

2277

[Page 2278]

We will begin the daily routine.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

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

RESOLUTION NO. 1121

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

Whereas it is estimated that we have more than 13,000 motorcycle enthusiasts in our province; and

Whereas 800 to 1,000 new motorcyclists learn to ride responsibly every year through the efforts of the Nova Scotia Safety Council; and

Whereas motor vehicle mishaps are one of the leading causes of death and injury for the youth of Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that this House proclaim the month of May to be Motorcycle Awareness Month and urge all citizens to take part in observances designed to increase awareness and understanding of motorcycle safety.

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 2279]

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Health.

RESOLUTION NO. 1122

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

Whereas this week, May 5th to May 11th, is Mental Health Week and the Canadian Mental Health Association, Nova Scotia Division, is sponsoring activities recognizing individuals who have contributed to the mental well-being of their community; and

Whereas inclusion and acceptance of people with mental illness is an important social justice that needs to be recognized; and

Whereas the theme, Respect, Don't Reject! is a public campaign that challenges attitudes about mental illness, which will help create a more open and supportive work, family, and community environment for people dealing with mental illness;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House commend the CMHA, Nova Scotia Division, its staff and volunteers, whose tireless efforts ensure that we respect, don't reject.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Education.

RESOLUTION NO. 1123

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

[Page 2280]

Whereas in the past three years we have put more than 700,000 new reading books in Nova Scotia classrooms from Primary to Grade 7 with our Active Young Readers and Active Readers programs; and

Whereas this week 321 schools with Grades 4, 5 and 6 students are receiving another 88 books each, for a total of more than 28,000 new books in our schools; and

Whereas today, I had the honour of delivering a set of these books to the enthusiastic young readers in Karen Boyd's combined Grades 4 and 5 class at Saint Mary's School in Halifax;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize this infusion of books in our schools and the efforts of our teachers in using them to help young Nova Scotians develop a lifelong love of reading.

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 Health.

RESOLUTION NO. 1124

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

Whereas through a combination of active and compassionate therapies, hospice palliative care addresses the physical, psychological, social, spiritual and practical needs of individuals who are dying and their families; and

Whereas hospice palliative care spreads across care settings and involves a variety of health professionals, as well as family caregivers and volunteers; and

Whereas in the Fall of 2002, the Department of Health initiated a project to develop a provincial approach to hospice palliative care;

[Page 2281]

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join me in recognizing this week, May 5th to May 11th, as National Hospice Palliative Care Week, and take this opportunity to thank caregivers across the 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 Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, if we are finished Government Notices of Motion, I wonder if I could have the concurrence of the House to revert to the order of business, Tabling Reports, Regulations and Other Papers.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, in my capacity as Attorney General and pursuant to Section 51 of the Judicature Act, I hereby table amendments to the Civil Procedure Rules that were made pursuant to the Judicature Act by the Judges of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia on April 22, 2003.

MR. SPEAKER: The report is tabled.

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

Bill No. 46 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 71 of the Revised Statutes of 1989. The Civil Service Collective Bargaining Act. (Ms. Maureen MacDonald)

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

[Page 2282]

NOTICES OF MOTION

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

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I wonder if you could clarify for me, if we refer to the minister as the minister responsible for insurance, or would it be the Minister of Environment and Labour?

MR. SPEAKER: As I understand the rules, it would be the portfolio that the minister is responsible for and in that case it would be the honourable Minister of Environment and Labour.

The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 1125

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 Environment and Labour, who is responsible for skyrocketing insurance rates, claims his government's policy is to freeze auto insurance rates effective May 1, 2003, until he decides what to do about them; and

Whereas Nova Scotians renewing their auto insurance after May 1st continue to receive drastic rate hikes, either having been reclassified or lumped into some category insurers had created through their ultra-secret underwriting rules, or forced to take involuntary insurance coverage through the Facility Association; and

Whereas the minister's solution to this confusion is to advise Nova Scotians who have questions to call the Superintendent of Insurance, which they've been doing for two years with no satisfaction because the superintendent has no power to affect rates whatsoever;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Environment and Labour, who is responsible for skyrocketing insurance rates, admit that any measures he takes to stop auto insurance rate hikes are two years past due, too little too late to provide any real relief for today's families from auto insurance rates spiralling out of control.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 2283]

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton South.

RESOLUTION NO. 1126

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

Whereas Edward Kyte of Grand Lake Road, Cape Breton, will be celebrating his 90th birthday on May 14, 2003; and

Whereas Mr. Kyte has been a distinguished community leader for many years, having been a long-time member of the Grand Lake Road Volunteer Fire Department, a municipal councillor for many years, Warden of the former County of Cape Breton Municipality, and Chairperson of the former Cape Breton County Joint Expenditure Board; and

Whereas these accomplishments are only a few of his many achievements over the years;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Legislature congratulate former Warden Edward Kyte on his 90th birthday and wish him many more years of health and happiness.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

[Page 2284]

RESOLUTION NO. 1127

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

Whereas the Prime Minister and his federal Liberal Government in Ottawa have placed Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan in an incredible position where an advance party of our soldiers, our men and women, are walking the streets without guns because a routine agreement under NATO has not been signed; and

Whereas adding insult to injury, the National Defence Minister has responded by dismissing the criticism as "nonsense and a total non-issue"; and

Whereas currently our contingent of Canadian military personnel are being guarded by German soldiers, and according to Maj. Gen. Lewis MacKenzie, a former commander of peacekeeping troops in Bosnia, "Canadian soldiers are more than likely the only adults in Afghanistan who are not armed to the teeth.";

Therefore be it resolved that all MLAs in the House of Assembly condemn the inaction of our federal Liberal Government, inaction which has placed our Canadian soldiers in what is not only an embarrassing situation, but also a very dangerous position for our young men and young women in Afghanistan.

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.

[2:15 p.m.]

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

RESOLUTION NO. 1128

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of myself and the member for Sackville-Beaver Bank, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

[Page 2285]

Whereas tonight the Lake District Recreation Association will host Sackville's 24th Annual Volunteer Appreciation Night; and

Whereas tonight Sackville area volunteer organizations will be given the opportunity to honour a member of their organization for exemplary service over the past year; and

Whereas 83-year-young Ollie Perry, who has been a Legion member for 35 years, delivered for Meals on Wheels for 13 years, and drives seniors to doctors' appointments, among other things, will be honoured this evening as Sackville's Volunteer of the Year;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate and thank all volunteers, especially Ollie Perry who has been selected as Sackville's Volunteer of the Year.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

RESOLUTION NO. 1129

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

Whereas since yesterday's sitting the NDP have become even more dependent on the Regina Manifesto of 1933 as a source of ideas and inspiration; and

Whereas the more dogmatic socialists are particularly impressed by the manifesto's conclusion that their primary purpose is to eradicate capitalism and to put into effect a full program of socialism; and

Whereas the NDP as a Party does not make these ultimate objectives known, but instead poses as a lobby group for improved insurance programs and better care for the elderly;

[Page 2286]

Therefore be it resolved that the NDP should be encouraged to mail copies of the Regina Manifesto to all householders here so that they can better understand where this Party is coming from, rather than being lulled to sleep by pious assurances that the NDP really cares.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Kings North.

RESOLUTION NO. 1130

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

Whereas the stigmas associated with mental illnesses are barriers to the help sufferers of mental health problems need, and perpetuate confusion and misunderstanding among families, friends and co-workers; and

Whereas if those barriers are to be broken down, mental illness needs to be addressed and understood by the public, and education is the key; and

Whereas an associate with the Kings County chapter of the Canadian Mental Health Association, Brian Reid of Kings County, has taken up residence until May 23rd in a 16-square-metre room set up in the New Minas Sobeys store for six days a week, demonstrating symbolically how confined mental illness leaves people, as well as allowing the public to ask questions;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House applaud Brian Reid on his unique way of bringing mental health education to the public and showing those who suffer from mental illness how to cross the barriers to get the help they need.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

[Page 2287]

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

RESOLUTION NO. 1131

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, I wonder if after reading this resolution I may be permitted an introduction? Thank you.

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

Whereas competitors from Canada's 10 provinces and two territories gather in Ottawa to compete in the nation's annual Snow Sculpture Contest; and

Whereas this competition brings out the best of one's imagination and artistic ability in crafting a block of snow into an object that attracts the attention of the public and the judges; and

Whereas the Nova Scotia team of Ray LeFresne, Nigel Maney, and James McMahon, did just that by winning the Artists' Choice Award at this year's competition;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of the Nova Scotia Legislature congratulate the Nova Scotia team of Ray LeFresne, Nigel Maney and James McMahon on winning the Artists' Choice Award at the 2003 Canada Snow Sculpture Contest in Ottawa.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North on an introduction.

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, also I would like to bring to your attention in the west gallery two members of the trio, Ray LeFresne and Nigel Maney. If you would please stand and receive the warm welcome of this House. (Applause)

[Page 2288]

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

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

RESOLUTION NO. 1132

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

Whereas after a five-month wait, Donald Marshall, Jr. underwent surgery for a double-lung transplant Monday in Toronto; and

Whereas Donald is in a critical stage right now and the next 24 hours will determine the success of the operation and the working capacity of his new lungs; and

Whereas the transplant was promoted by chronic obstructive pulmonary disease that forced Donald to rely on an oxygen tank at times to breathe;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House wish Donald Marshall, Jr. the best possible recovery and a safe trip home from Toronto to his native Province of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Queens.

RESOLUTION NO. 1133

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

[Page 2289]

Whereas for a century and a quarter, the Advance has provided news coverage for the people of Liverpool and surrounding areas; and

Whereas between the years of 1878 and 1889, the newspaper was a folded sheet measuring 24 inches by 15 inches . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Do you remember that?

MR. MORASH: Not quite.

. . . and with but a three-day interruption in the presses after the Great Fire of 1895, the paper continued production, this time on a small folded sheet measuring 9.5 inches by 6.5 inches; and

Whereas the building which houses the newspaper was the only structure left standing in the burned area of town after the Great Fire of 1895, a testament to the 125 years of service this paper and its staff throughout those years have loyally provided to our community;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join me in congratulating the Liverpool Advance for 125 years of dedicated, professional service to its readers, spanning across three centuries, and wish them many more productive years of providing news to the people of Queens County and beyond.

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. 1134

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

[Page 2290]

Whereas lacrosse is a growing popular sport in our schools; and

Whereas numerous young women and men are playing this great sport; and

Whereas Brookside Junior High School's girls' lacrosse team captured the Regional Lacrosse Championship by beating Sackville Heights 17-15;

Therefore be it resolved that this Nova Scotia Legislature offer its congratulations to the members of the Brookside Junior High School girls' regional champion lacrosse team.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton South.

RESOLUTION NO. 1135

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

Whereas Ryan MacLeod, Tim Malcolm and Blair MacDonald from the host school of Sherwood Junior High School in Sydney recently competed in the Nova Scotia Provincial Junior High Debating Championships; and

Whereas after winning two parliamentary-style and two cross-examination debates, this team competed as the affirmative side of a debate on whether there should be a distinction between the private and public lives of elected officials, to end the competition with a 5 and 0 record; and

Whereas the next step for these debaters, as well as Brendan Doyle, is to travel to Saskatchewan and represent Nova Scotia at the National Debating Championship;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House of Assembly congratulate these young men for their success and wish them all the best in the upcoming national competition.

[Page 2291]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Pictou West.

RESOLUTION NO. 1136

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

Whereas Grade 8 students at West Pictou Consolidated School have been conducting an experiment in conjunction with the University of Guelph in Ontario and the Canadian Space Agency to learn about surviving on Earth's closest neighbour, Mars; and

Whereas these students are conducting an experiment called Tomatosphere, that involves growing tomato plants from seeds exposed to environments similar to those found on Mars; and

Whereas the goal of this experiment is to answer questions regarding the possibility of growing food on Mars, which would be necessary for space exploration to the red planet to become a reality;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House commend the Grade 8 students of West Pictou Consolidated School for their notable contribution to the Canadian Space Program and wish them much success in their scientific endeavours.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 2292]

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

RESOLUTION NO. 1137

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

Whereas Donald Marshall, Jr. has lived a remarkable life, having inspired a 1989 Royal Commission Report that recommended sweeping and fundamental changes to the justice system in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas Donald Marshall, Jr. also helped to establish that the Mi'kmaq and Maliseet peoples have a regulated right to earn a living from hunting, fishing and gathering; and

Whereas Donald Marshall, Jr. is currently recovering from a double-lung transplant operation this past Monday in Toronto, surrounded by family and friends;

Therefore be it resolved that this House offer its best wishes for a speedy recovery to Donald Marshall, Jr. from his double-lung transplant and its appreciation to the family and friends who are providing care and comfort to him during his ordeal.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

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 Bedford Basin.

RESOLUTION NO. 1138

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

[Page 2293]

Whereas the tradition of police shaving their heads to raise money for cancer research began in 1994 in Edmonton when two officers met a boy who had lost his hair during chemo and was being unfairly teased; and

Whereas in the region of Halifax, three top officers - Acting Police Chief Frank Beazley, Acting Deputy Chief Tony Burbridge, and Acting Deputy Chief Chris MacNeil - were recently shorn for this good cause; and

Whereas for these officers, the cause has come close to home as family members and close colleagues battle this fearful disease;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House commend the selfless acts of these metro police officers for such a tremendous cause.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 1139

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

Whereas Ron and Vickie Barteaux of Clarence, Annapolis County, are beaming with pride over their daughter's accomplishments in the medical profession; and

Whereas their daughter, Dr. Jean (Barteaux) Shoveller, was honoured late last Fall when she received national recognition for her work in cancer research and became the recipient of the Dorothy J. Lamont Scientist Award; and

[Page 2294]

Whereas Dr. Shoveller is now an assistant professor at the University of British Columbia in the Department of Health Care and Epidemiology, and credits her success on the education she received at home in Lawrencetown and when she took her undergrad and masters at Dalhousie University;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs acknowledge the tremendous work in cancer and medical research being done by Dr. Jean (Barteaux) Shoveller and wish her every success with all her future efforts.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Pictou East.

RESOLUTION NO. 1140

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

Whereas the member for Glace Bay should attempt to do some homework before painting Nova Scotia's economic picture as close to a recession as he did last Thursday afternoon in the Legislature; and

Whereas if the member for Glace Bay had done his homework, he would realize by knowing that the Greater Halifax Partnership said recently, "Nova Scotia's economy is outperforming even the most optimistic projections"; and

Whereas the Toronto-Dominion Bank, in a forecast analysis a few weeks ago, stated, "the Nova Scotia Government is facing a steady and growing stream of black ink over the next five years, providing it with some additional fiscal flexibility going forward";

Therefore be it resolved that the next time the member for Glace Bay rises to speak in this Legislature, that he make an attempt to get at least some of his facts straight.

[Page 2295]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Kings North.

[2:30 p.m.]

RESOLUTION NO. 1141

MR. MARK PARENT: Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall

move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas the Atlantic Journalism Awards are presented annually to recognize excellence in journalism in Atlantic Canada; and

Whereas each year the awards honour the top students from Atlantic Canada's six journalism schools; and

Whereas this year Kingstec student Penny Hannam is the recipient of the Canada Post Corporation Journalism Prize for excellence in her journalism program;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join me in congratulating Penny Hannam on winning the 2003 Canada Post Corporation Journalism Prize from the Atlantic Journalism Awards and wish her much success in her journalistic career.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

[Page 2296]

The honourable Minister of Health.

RESOLUTION NO. 1142

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

Whereas Pier 21 recently celebrated its 75th Anniversary and, at that time, the Pier 21 Society announced the new five-year strategic vision, set to transform Pier 21; and

Whereas over the next five years, the society wants to expand Pier 21's immigration span of 1928 to1971, to also tell the story of all immigrants to Canada from the initial contact with our First Nations people to present day; and

Whereas the goal of the society is to turn Pier 21 into Canada's national immigration heritage centre, a place where Canada's cultural diversity is celebrated;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join me in wishing those involved with the Pier 21 Society success in transforming Pier 21 into a national immigration heritage 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 Minister of Economic Development.

RESOLUTION NO. 1143

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

Whereas the Cape Breton Post has received second place in the Canadian Newspaper Association's Best Practices competition for marketing and promotion for a small newspaper; and

[Page 2297]

Whereas the Post was awarded this impressive standing for its national comprehensive work marketing and promoting the campaign for the 2003 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship in Sydney; and

Whereas committed to the community, the Cape Breton Post campaign involved a multitude of reader and carrier contests and on-ice promotions;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate the Cape Breton Post on its exemplary work on the campaign for the 2003 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship that earned them second place in the National Newspaper Association's Best Practices competition.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Health.

RESOLUTION NO. 1144

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

Whereas the pink stucco stable on the corner of Bell Road and Summer Street has been a landmark within the City of Halifax for nearly 100 years; and

Whereas the members of the Halifax Junior Bengal Lancers have used this heritage property now for 67 years and, as the old building needs some care, plans have been made for renovations and upgrades; and

Whereas with the help of the municipality, the Bengal Lancers have already raised nearly half of their $1 million goal, with the first stage of upgrades set for completion this summer;

[Page 2298]

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the Halifax Junior Bengal Lancers on their remarkable success to date, and wish them well in their efforts to upgrade their downtown home.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: Question Period will begin at 2:33 p.m. and will end at 4:03 p.m.

The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

ENVIRON. & LBR. - INSURANCE RATE HIKES:

INACTION - EXPLAIN

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Environment and Labour, who, incidentally, also happens to be responsible for the skyrocketing insurance premiums in this province. My office is being flooded with calls from people who just received renewal notices with increases taking effect in the next 30 to 60 days. They have called their insurance companies and they're all being told the same thing, which is pay up. Why? Because, although the increases are taking effect after the May 1st deadline, the insurance companies requested them before May 1st. Will the minister explain to this House why he has done nothing to stop these types of continued rate hikes for Nova Scotians?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the New Democratic Party is the enthusiastic proponent for socialized insurance. I would like to bring to his attention that he is, I believe, promoting a system that has dubious ancestry. The insurance problem is not confined to Nova Scotia. I know that the honourable member opposite finds that difficult to believe, but it extends right across this country, it extends right across North America and, in fact, around the world. In point of fact, there is no province, including the Province of Manitoba, which has found an answer to this problem. I did some checking on . . .

[Page 2299]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the minister should know that Manitoba has had a rate freeze for five years and returned $80 million in premiums to their insured. I want to table the bill of Margaret Crouse, her insurance is going up, effective May 18th. Margaret Crouse heard about the rate freeze, called her insurance company and they told her, pay up. The rate hike affects Margaret Crouse on May 18th but it still goes ahead because her company requested it prior to the minister's May 1st deadline. I would like to ask the question, what are you doing to keep Margaret Crouse's insurance from taking another jump on May 18th?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, if the Province of Manitoba has had a rate freeze for five years, that would mean that their rates back in 1998 would be the same as they are today. If that was the case, then they must have had atrocious rates in 1998 because, at the present time, rates in Nova Scotia are lower than they are, in most cases, in Manitoba.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, he's just making it up as he goes along. The truth is there is nothing this minister can do, he isn't doing anything for Margaret Crouse and all the other Nova Scotians out there because his rate freeze is almost useless. People are reading about a freeze one day and they are paying higher insurance bills the next. So, we are right back to where we started with my question to the minister responsible for these rates, and it's this, why aren't you doing anything to reduce car insurance rates in this province?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, far better than what the NDP is doing, I can assure you of that. We have a plan, our plan is moving forward, we will have some of our solutions announced in about three or four weeks, and we will have legislation in this House, introduced by this government, following the election which will, indeed, produce lower rates for Nova Scotians.

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

PREM. - SUNDAY SHOPPING: YEAR-ROUND - ALLOW

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question today is to the Premier. Welcome to 2005. If there is any doubt a Spring election is coming it should be put aside today. After saying he wouldn't discuss Sunday shopping until 2005, now we have a half-baked measure announced today. With this Premier, flip-flop is now the norm. Here is a list of the Premier's famous last words, that over our first four-year mandate, we will ensure the debt will not increase - promise broken; $1.5 billion is enough for health care - promise broken; next year the borrowing will stop - another promise broken; and, this is my favourite, his last favourite on Sunday shopping, we have made a decision, we intend to stick by it. My question to the Premier is, since he's willing to set aside half his principles with today's half-measure, why won't the Premier simply allow Sunday shopping every Sunday during the year?

[Page 2300]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, obviously, unlike the member opposite who obviously puts no value on giving Nova Scotians a choice, this government is keeping a commitment that is one that was articulated very clearly on Page 19 of the blue book, that a John Hamm Government will listen to Nova Scotians and act accordingly to the expectations and priorities of Nova Scotians. Nova Scotians have been in dialogue with me for over a year now on this issue, they have asked for a choice, and today we have announced to Nova Scotians we will give them that choice.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my first supplementary is to the Premier as well. I'm not the one who broke the promises I alluded to in my opening question here, he did. The Premier has obviously lost his way. He has no idea what he stands for, other than re-election. On July 16, 1999, the Premier said you can't run government on gimmicks and you can't build a province by being glib, that's not respect for Nova Scotians. This is nothing but a pre-election gimmick to carry the Premier into the next election. It's not real policy, it's a gimmick, and that's no respect for Nova Scotians. It does nothing for the tourism industry, it does nothing for the economy, and it still puts northern Nova Scotia at a disadvantage.

My first supplementary to the Premier, Mr. Speaker, is given the fact that the people of Amherst won't like this decision, why won't the Premier simply allow for Sunday shopping on the other 46 Sundays of the year so that the tourism industry and businesses in northern Nova Scotia can survive and thrive?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for Cape Breton South for the compliment, it's the first time in my life I've been called glib. The member opposite fails to realize that this government has had monstrous success in growing the economy. We have had an economy that has been at a high boil since we have initiated opportunities for prosperity and our way to keep our economy going. The member opposite may not have any appreciation for the values and the uniqueness of our province, but this caucus does.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: I'm sure, Mr. Speaker, that that last statement of the Premier will be one that will be repeated over and over again in the future in this province when it comes to the accountability of that government. My final supplementary, this Premier has proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that he believes in nothing. Today the Premier threw his moral values out the window for politics. Nova Scotia has never (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. To question the integrity of any member in this House is unparliamentary and I would ask the honourable member to retract that, please.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, then the Premier has thrown his values out . . .

[Page 2301]

MR. SPEAKER: I would ask the honourable member to retract that, please.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Well, I will retract the word "moral", yes.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton South on his final supplementary.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Even if it is true.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. I would ask the honourable member to retract it or take his place.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: I just retracted it, Mr. Speaker, I will retract . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Enough said, the final supplementary, please.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Nova Scotia, Mr. Speaker, has never seen such a power-hungry Premier. This is a government run by polls. I noticed the Justice Minister was the minister who made the statement we wouldn't discuss this issue until the year 2005 and he sits in his place and he laughs. (Interruption)

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

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

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, this is a government run by polls and not principles and that means bad policy. This half-baked pre-election scheme will help no one. My supplementary is, why won't the Premier tell Nova Scotians why he feels six weeks of Sunday shopping is better than 52 weeks of Sunday shopping?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I would be quite prepared to respond to the member opposite in a very positive way if he would provide us with the answer why overnight, on the direction of his Leader, he reversed his position on Sunday shopping?

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

ENVIRON. & LBR. - MARGARET CROUSE:

ASSISTANCE - DETAILS

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, skyrocketing insurance rates are forcing Nova Scotians to make some very tough choices. Margaret Crouse is 70 years old and, like many people in this province, she is on a fixed income. Margaret Crouse also suffers from arthritis and relies on her car even more than most people do. In April she received the news

[Page 2302]

that her insurance is going up again. Margaret Crouse now says that she's going to have to choose between her medication and her car. My question to the minister is this, and it's very simple, how are you going to help Margaret Crouse?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, we will not be helping Margaret by instituting a system that they have in Manitoba. This honourable member opposite, Mr. Speaker, is suggesting that we have our system the same as the Province of Manitoba. Therefore he is saying that he would adopt a system of no-tort insurance and yet in this House he has stated that he doesn't want no-tort insurance.

[2:45 p.m.]

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the minister well knows that there are many forms of public auto insurance, including no-fault and no-tort insurance and that the key fact is that it is public auto insurance. Thousands of Nova Scotians are making sacrifices to pay for increased insurance rates but this government, frankly, just doesn't get it. In the last two years, Margaret Crouse's insurance has jumped by 100 per cent. Now she has to choose between her medication and her car. There are thousands of people in the province who may be forced to make similar choices. Frankly, it's just not fair. I would like to ask the minister, what will it take for you to show some leadership and really help Nova Scotians by lowering auto insurance rates?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, this government is sympathetic with people such as Margaret who are faced with large increases in their insurance premiums and we are doing everything we possibly can in this Party to rectify that situation. We took a very significant step yesterday when we introduced our bill to freeze auto insurance rates until 2004.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the reality is that the steps taken by this government are almost meaningless. They won't do anything more than delay auto insurance rate increases. These increases are leaving a mark on almost every doorstep. Thousands are driving without auto insurance. Many more are choosing not to insure their children and an unknown number of seniors, like Margaret Crouse, are making decisions to choose between their medication and their insurance. Surely this has to be the final straw. When will the minister finally give Nova Scotians a real break by lowering auto insurance premiums in this province?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, we are giving Nova Scotians a real break because we are doing something which is more than what that side is doing.

[Page 2303]

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

PREM.: SUNDAY SHOPPING DECISION - JUSTIFICATION

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question again is to the Premier. The Premier promised strong leadership and a clear course during the last election. Today's announcement is another flip-flop - and the list is growing - today's announcement proves that the Premier is providing neither. Some people are against Sunday shopping but most are in favour. The measure today will satisfy no one. After telling Nova Scotians he wouldn't discuss the issue until the year 2005, all of a sudden, the Premier has changed his mind. Obviously the polls are telling him what to do, not his conscience. My question is, how can the Premier justify this measure as anything other than a ploy to get re-elected?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I can remind the member for Cape Breton South that it's over a year ago since I publicly announced that I was going to consult with Nova Scotians on the very vexing problem of Sunday shopping here in Nova Scotia. Since that period of time, when I began the consultation, I have literally talked to thousands of Nova Scotians and many of them chose to discuss Sunday shopping with me. They indicated the intense interest of Nova Scotians on that issue. It was an interest that I could not ignore. It is an interest that prompted me and this government to do what we did today to give the ultimate choice on the issue of Sunday shopping to put it to a plebiscite and give the people the opportunity to make that final choice.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the plebiscite issue is one that we certainly would like to discuss with the Premier. In every issue of some problem for Nova Scotians, why don't we have a plebiscite? Why are we just having one on this particular issue? Nova Scotians will be asking what this Premier stands for and it will become apparent to those listening and watching today that he stands for one thing, saving his government. Everything else is secondary. The Premier is proving that he doesn't care about good policy, only good politics. This Sunday shopping measure is neither good politics nor good policy, because it means business in the tourism sector will be at a disadvantage and it means business will not grow in the Amherst area, for example.

My question to the Premier is, why has the Premier sacrificed his credibility by not implementing good public policy which is to allow Sunday shopping all year and not just before Christmas, something the people of Nova Scotia clearly want?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the announcement today that I made indicates that there will be a trial period of Sunday shopping in the upcoming pre-Christmas season for six Sundays, following which, in the Fall of 2004, people will have an opportunity by way of a plebiscite to decide three outcomes: number one, pre-Christmas Sunday shopping only; number two, year-round Sunday shopping; or the third outcome could be no Sunday shopping - the ultimate democracy.

[Page 2304]

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the people of this province want the issue settled now, not after the next election. This is another flip-flop and I attended a press conference in the Red Room. The question was asked, if you have polls, why won't you give them to us, and he couldn't even remember who did the poll, what the poll said and whether or not it was in favour of Sunday shopping or not. Those are the kinds of answers we get from this Premier. My final supplementary to the Premier is, now that the Premier has set those principles aside, will he, at the very least, be honest and admit that this decision has nothing to do with Sunday shopping and everything to do with your electoral chances?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I believe that the electoral chances of the government will depend entirely on its ability to report to Nova Scotians as to whether or not it has kept the commitments that it made to Nova Scotians in 1999. Today I kept a commitment that is on Page 19 (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order. Order, please.

The honourable Premier.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, today I kept a commitment to the people of Nova Scotia, and I will read it to you. It is on Page 19 of the blue book, it reads, very accurately, "We believe Nova Scotians are right to demand greater openness, accountability and participation. A John Hamm Government will be a government that listens to Nova Scotians and acts in accordance with their priorities and expectations." That was a commitment we made, and today it is a commitment kept.

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

ENVIRON. & LBR. - INSURANCE FREEZE:

CIRCUMVENTION PREVENTION - DETAILS

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Environment and Labour. This government's so-called freeze on skyrocketing auto insurance is fooling no one. There are a number of ways insurance companies can continue to gouge drivers. One way is to make young drivers the principal operator of an extra vehicle in the house. I am going to table documents by Perth Insurance that show they reserve this right. Making young drivers the principal driver, if it's a male, will likely add $3,000 to anyone's insurance policy. My question for the Minister of Environment and Labour, using your terms, is, what blunt instrument are you going to use to stop this practice?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, if the honourable member had taken the time to read the bill, he would have discovered that we also have regulatory powers in this bill.

[Page 2305]

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, Christine Poirier, 18 Elmgrove Avenue, Timberlea, knows only too well how insurance companies are gouging drivers. Christine is a single mother, her 20-year-old son still lives at home with her. Christine has two vehicles on her policy, one that's broken and one that she can't afford to fix up and another one that she is using to get by in the meantime. She is being told by her company that her son is going to be listed as the primary driver of one of these vehicles, no matter what she says. The move will cost her upwards of $3,000. My question to the minister - Christine Poirier needs some real answers - how long will it take you, Mr. Minister, to realize that your so-called freeze is full of holes?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I don't know how many times I have to tell the honourable member opposite, he's accusing the bill of having holes in it, I think there are holes in other places in that gentleman's anatomy.

Mr. Speaker, we have the ability within the piece of legislation to enact regulations which will take care of abuses by insurance companies.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Proper tone. We use the proper tone, don't we? Christine Poirier says she feels that her insurance company is twisting her arm. She said she had to tell her son he couldn't get his driver's licence because she couldn't afford the insurance rate it could cause. Have you ever told a teenager you can't get your licence because I can't afford the insurance? Insurance companies are gouging drivers any way they can and in this case, this young man. Mr. Minister, when do you plan to address all the loopholes you've ignored? I've read the legislation, have you?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, we're trying to get the legislation through the House. When we get the legislation through the House, we'll have regulations. When we have regulations, we'll take care of abuses.

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

ENVIRON. & LBR. - DISCUSSION PAPER:

DISCRIMINATORY PRACTICES - QUESTION INCLUDE

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Environment and Labour, who obviously loves to study the sky these days because of skyrocketing insurance rates. The minister has frequently expressed his outrage about the discriminatory treatment of older drivers. The NDP task force on lower and fairer auto insurance premiums reported just today that the only insurance plans that do not discriminate on the basis of age, gender, marital status or family status are the driver-owned not-for-profit plans. So I want to ask you, Mr. Minister, why doesn't your discussion paper ask Nova Scotian drivers if they want to end any and all discriminatory practice on the basis of age, gender, marital status and family status?

[Page 2306]

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, part of the mandate of the consumer advocate for auto insurance is to take into consideration all those matters that are brought to his attention and I'm sure that he is receiving an earful from senior citizens.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, the minister surely knows, he said at his own press conference that was off the table, he said that himself. Now he's retracting it here in this building. But you know, if Nova Scotians were relying on protection that was as effective as this government's approach to auto insurance, surely, the birth rate would double.

The Tories aren't doing anything about discriminating rates set by their friends, the private insurance companies. They're leaving every single discriminatory rule in place, as is, forever. So did this minister responsible for the insurance rates in this province think that discriminating rates have ended in B.C., Saskatchewan and Manitoba just because the roads are flat?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I can tell the honourable member that a gentleman by the name of Keith Heathcliff from Dartmouth heard about a friend of his in Manitoba who renewed the insurance on his vehicle which was a 1999 Chevy S10 4x4 pickup. He saw the cost of the renewal premium, it was $1,350 and he gave the various extras on top for liability et cetera. He checked in Halifax, Nova Scotia, for the cost of that insurance and found it was $1,121, or $230 cheaper. (Applause)

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, isn't it great that they have the CBC Information Morning show do their research for them. As it is, it's half-hearted. The Conservative's discussion papers asked nine questions about how to limit auto benefits. There isn't even a single question about discriminatory rates in this Tory paper. Discrimination isn't even on their radar screen. People want auto insurance rates to be based on their driving record, not on age, not on their gender and certainly not on their marital status. So I want to ask this minister, why has this government ignored the harsh and discriminatory rate categories imposed on Nova Scotian drivers by their friends, the international private insurance companies?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I always appreciate having friends, but I don't know exactly whether or not the insurance companies are friends of mine any more. They're not too happy as I understand it with the actions of this government. I can assure the honourable member opposite that I share his concern that, for instance, senior citizens are discriminated in the rating of their insurance policies by insurance companies in this province.

[Page 2307]

[3:00 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

EDUC.: DEBT SERVICE COSTS - EFFECTS

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, once again today we see that the Premier's own statements and his commitments mean very little in the face of an election. On March 25, 2002, this same Premier said, "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 spend 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?"

My question to the Premier is, why is the Premier after four long years in office continuing to have our education system suffer because of continued high debt-service charges which now outstrip education spending in this province?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite does bring to the attention of the House the difficulty we are having paying the interest charges on the provincial debt and, you know, so much of it actually accrued in the six years between 1993 and 1999. In fact, almost one-third of the debt was accrued in the six years of Liberal rule before we became government and it is quite a burden to deal with that, but we're getting the job done. We're dealing with it and we have brought the fiscal management policies that we talked about in 1999, and those things have come to pass. We will provide the kind of money management that this province needs and certainly didn't have under the previous administration.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, this Premier has had four years yet he continues to blame other administrations for his own failures in his four years in office. That's not what he said in 1999. In 1999 he said he would not increase the debt. He did not continue to refer to previous administrations. What we see is another broken promise. The mere interest on our debt is the equivalent of $6,600 for each student in our current education system. After 13 years of schooling, we will fork out $85,000 in debt-servicing charges for each and every student in our education system today that continues to remain unconstrained by this government. My question to the Premier is, how can the Premier after four long years in office sit there knowing that he has continued down the road of higher debt and higher debt- servicing charges, much to the detriment of our children and grandchildren?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite would not knowingly mislead the House, but he made a reference as to what we would do with debt management back in 1999 and I will again refer to the blue book. On Page 18, I will remind the member opposite of our policy on debt management in 1999 and the management which we would implement

[Page 2308]

during the course of this mandate, and it reads exactly, "establish practical targets for reducing the provincial debt which has increased by almost $3.6 billion during six years of Liberal Government".

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, the Premier can read from Page 18 or other pages of the blue book until the cows come home. What we have here are comments you made last year, Mr. Premier, where you said you did not believe we should continue borrowing. You said it was wrong. You said it was immoral. You said it was irresponsible. You said you would not do it. These are your words, sir, they're not mine and they're no one else's. They are not the previous administration's. They are not the Lieutenant Governor's nor anyone else. They are your words, sir. You have failed in your commitment to Nova Scotians, made last year. Regardless of what you want to say in your blue book, we now spend more money to foreign banks than we spend on the education of our children, after four years under your administration. Shame on you, Mr. Premier. You are the person who led this government to this day where we now pay more to foreign banks than we pay for our children's education. My question is . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. I will just remind the honourable member to direct his questions through the Chair please. The honourable member for Richmond on his final supplementary.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, four years under this Premier's Administration, I ask why has this Premier, with all the commitments he made in 1999 and even last year, allowed both the debt and debt servicing-charges to grow, thereby breaking his promise to our children and his grandchildren?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, when I speak with passion about the debt, it is with real passion because that is what drove this government to make the hard decisions to balance the budget, at the same time to find funding for health care and roads and for education - and we have a question coming from a caucus that in six years did not reduce the deficit of this province by 1 cent.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. (Interruptions) Order, please.

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

ENVIRON. & LBR. - DRAFT INSURANCE REGULATIONS:

TABLE - TIME FRAME

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Environment and Labour. The minister, of course, is also (Interruptions)

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

[Page 2309]

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto has the floor.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Environment and Labour, the minister also widely known as the minister responsible for skyrocketing insurance rates. The minister has tabled his draft regulations on automatic assumption for firefighters stricken by cancers related to that occupation, and that was very welcome information for the firefighters and for everyone who supports them. The minister is promising regulations on the circumstances in which an insurer must maintain, renew, or issue an automobile insurance policy. I would like to know from the minister when the minister responsible for skyrocketing insurance rates will table his draft insurance regulations - when?

MR. JOHN HOLM: After the election.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the House Leader for the New Democratic Party just said after the election. In point of fact we will not have the revised legislation until after the election because it will be in the Fall session, which will probably be after the next election. I can assure the honourable member that we are going to receive an interim report from our consumer advocate and, based on his recommendations, it's quite possible that we will be formulating some regulations very shortly to take care of some of those problems which he is enunciating.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, when this government thinks it has good news, it is very eager to share, and every driver in Nova Scotia wants to know how the government proposes to require insurance companies to provide fair, non-discriminatory coverage, and every driver deserves an opportunity to know what is in those draft regulations before we go any further. What I would like to know from the minister is why he did not release draft regulations when he first announced his government's decision to postpone insurance rate increases until next January.

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, "formulation of regulations 101" - for the honourable member. First of all, you must know and you must derive from the comments of the constituents you are serving, exactly what the problems are and then, within the framework of your legislation, frame regulations. We have been very clear about this all the way along. We said that we are freezing rates of insurance so that we have an opportunity to go out and speak to the people of Nova Scotia and determine what they want, which is more than this crowd over there did. They took three of their caucus, walked around the province, talked to some of the members of their Party and then came back with a perfect solution, socialize the insurance industry in Nova Scotia.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, that's a non-answer that I hope gets widely circulated. Every day the minister responsible for skyrocketing insurance tells this House that his Party has a plan, and every day drivers can see for themselves that this government is making it up

[Page 2310]

as they go along. People have discovered the minister's legislation is full of loopholes. They deserve an opportunity to see just how bad the regulations are going to be. I would like to ask the minister, when you promise regulations to protect drivers from unfair discrimination, I would like to know, why should we believe you now?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member asks why should they believe us now, because the public knows they can trust this government. We came forward with 231 recommendations, and we have implemented all but about two, probably, since we came to power.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

INSURANCE: PLAN - MIN. CREDIBILITY

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, a question to the same minister. My Party put the public's concern about automobile insurance on the agenda 15 months ago, and then this government knee-jerked by asking the URB to examine the issue. Rates continued to skyrocket. The second knee-jerk came two months ago when the minister issued a biased consultation paper. Rates continued to skyrocket. The third knee-jerk came a month ago, when the minister appointed George Jordan. Rates continued to skyrocket. Now we have knee-jerk reaction number four, legislation staying execution until January 1, 2004. Does this minister expect Nova Scotians to be fooled by a series of knee-jerk reactions into believing he has a plan for actually lowering auto insurance rates, lowering them?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, this Party on this side of the House is not going to react in a knee-jerk fashion to the problem. We are going to come to a reasoned solution. I know that the Party opposite is the Party of simplistic, socialistic-type answers to every problem that comes along, either put more money to it or else nationalize it.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, let's be clear, the minister's plan is not about lowering insurance rates, it's about trying to trick Nova Scotians into believing that skyrocketing auto insurance is not an election issue. The biased consultation paper rules out any other option except the status quo in which the big insurance corporations continue to provide the insurance. The best that paper says is that they might contain rising insurance premiums. Mr. Minister, that's the system we have right now, and it's not working. Will the minister admit that he was so embarrassed by the actions of the insurance companies that he was forced to take his most recent knee-jerk reaction before daring to go to the polls?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I don't know how often we have to tell the member opposite that we have a plan. We are working on that plan, and we're taking the steps necessary to put in place an insurance regime that will satisfy all Nova Scotians.

[Page 2311]

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, here are a couple of hard facts for the minister. Citadel Insurance increased its rates by 12.9 per cent in the last two months, Economical increased its new business rates by 10.1 per cent on April 1st, Co-Operators raised rates by 15 per cent in March. These skyrocketing insurance increases are already in place. This minister's latest knee-jerk reaction offers no hope for lower auto insurance premiums. I would like to ask the minister, how does your knee-jerk plan of delay and deception forced upon you by widespread public outrage . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. The use of that word is unparliamentary and I would ask the honourable member to retract it.

MR. EPSTEIN: Yes, Mr. Speaker. Mr. Minister, how does your knee-jerk plan of delay forced upon you by widespread public outrage offer any hope at all for lower auto insurance premiums?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, when we introduced that legislation into the House on Monday or Tuesday of this week, there were 13 applications for increases that were before the Utility and Review Board that had not been approved, and the hundreds and hundreds of Nova Scotians who would have been affected by those increases will now not get an increase in their insurance policy.

[3:15 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Victoria.

NAT. RES. - FLOODS (03/03): VICTIMS - ASSIST

MR. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier. Following the floods in March, the Premier and his ministers travelled the province in helicopters with all the bells and whistles, offering so much help. Still, all we see is an extension for the flood disaster applications, even though it seems more to do with politics than policy. Elizabeth and Robert Young of Glenelg, Guysborough County, suffered $48,000 in damage, yet disaster relief is still stalled on whether it will cover the costs or not. They have $10,000 in insurance but that simply will not repair their home. My question to the Premier is, how can your government justify a $68 million tax scheme and not help out hardworking families like the Youngs?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I refer that to the minister responsible for the federal program. (Interruptions) For the information of the House, I knew that the minister was to be late for the House but I thought he had joined us a few moments ago, and I apologize to the member opposite, but he will be here.

[Page 2312]

What I will say to the good member opposite, we are concerned that the citizens of Nova Scotia who were affected by the recent disaster look at all of the options that are available to them under the Disaster Financial Relief Program and if their situation, in fact, qualifies, to be sure to get their information in. The minister just recently extended the deadline by two weeks.

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, again to the Premier, Robert Young was working in Alberta, so he's not going to get the $155 cheque. He lost $8,000 worth of carpentry tools, which he relies on for his livelihood. They lost, among other things: their freezer; their furnace; an air exchanger; a propane tank was pulled from the side of the house; and a neighbour's oil tank overturned, possibly contaminating their drinking water. In fact, the Department of Environment and Labour wouldn't even provide an assessment of the contamination, so the Youngs were forced to pay $200 out of their pocket. My question to the Premier is, will this government cover losses of the Youngs, like carpentry tools, which are so vital to the Youngs' employment?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I refer that to the Acting Minister of Natural Resources. (Interruptions)

HON. JAMES MUIR: Yes, indeed, I do know about floods, Mr. Speaker, my area was very much affected. I want to tell you that it was this government that adopted the federal financial disaster assistance scheme and if it hadn't been for what this government did, there would be no assistance available for your constituent or for the other constituents. I can tell you that that scheme is pretty well put out by the federal government, there are strict parameters around it and from what you have said to me, obviously, there would be a number of things that would be included in that. Now, if this is his summer home, it does not cover summer homes, it covers primary residences.

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable minister, no, it's not their summer home, it's their home. Again, I guess the Premier will defer the question to whomever he wants but it's still going to the Premier. The $155 will not help the Youngs, even if they could get it. That wouldn't even cover the cost of testing their drinking water. Why won't this government provide adequate disaster relief so that families like the Youngs can move forward and rebuild and get on with their lives?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I do know a number of people around this province who have been very significantly affected negatively by the flooding; the member opposite brings to the attention of the House another one. All we can say to the member opposite, he should encourage that Nova Scotian to put in his application because, if I'm reading what you said correctly, there would be a number of items that could be covered under the program, but until you see all the details, it is impossible to make a commitment.

[Page 2313]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

COMMUN. SERV. - PUBLIC HOUSING:

RENT INCREASE - DETAILS

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, this government boasts about the numbers of people leaving Employment Support and Income Assistance to join the workforce. The reality is that supports for families leaving assistance for employment have been cut and it is difficult for them to make ends meet. One family left Employment Support when the mother found work, and, as a reward, their rent in public housing increased retroactively by $200 even though their income is the same. I ask the Minister of Community Services responsible for housing, why would this family's rent increase when their income is the same?

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member opposite for his question. I'm not sure of the specifics of the case but I do acknowledge that Community Services does not pay as much to Housing Services for the rentals. It all comes from within the same department. There are some very positive things that we have done with the Employment Support and Income Assistance Program to assist people in getting back to a career. The specifics of this case, I would have to see before I could comment.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, I would remind the minister that this is a negative and he should take a trip to the office. This family is now $2,000 in arrears and they are in fear of being evicted. They did what they had been encouraged to do, they found work, and they got off Employment Support. With children living at home and with no ability to pay the bills because their rent increased, they were better off when they were on the system. I ask the minister, why has his department turned its back on this family as they try to leave the welfare system?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, again the honourable member is referring to a specific case. Until I can see the case, I'm not sure I'm able to comment with any sort of authority on it, and, of course, I'm not able to do that publicly anyway. But I would say that one of the things about the new Employment Support and Income Assistance system is that I met many people who have used it, that previously under the old systems, whether it was the old municipal system or Family Benefits system, they were frustrated because they were not able to take jobs because maybe the cost of child care or the cost of transportation or the cost of getting supplies precluded them from doing this. With the new system, those people and the caseworkers are telling me that it's working much better and it's been a real godsend for many Nova Scotians.

MR. PYE: I acknowledge that the minister ought not to speak on specifics on this floor but I would remind the minister that this is not the only case in the Department of Community Services and it is time to take a visit. This is just one family that is finding it hard to get out of the employment trap. Their income is the same as it was when they were

[Page 2314]

on assistance but there is nothing in place to help them until their prospects improve. I ask the Minister of Community Services, how he can expect families to make the move to employment when this is the kind of treatment they can expect from his department - and, Mr. Speaker, there is more than one.

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, there are a number of other very positive things that have happened during the term of this government to assist people in getting off Community Services and developing a career and the self-esteem that comes from that. One was the end of the clawback and now, with the new monies that the federal government have announced to augment the provincial monies that go into the National Child Benefit, all that flows through to those families. That would be the case here, that would be over $3,000 per child, per year. Housing Services does provide a wonderful service to low-income Nova Scotians to help them with affordable housing. There are a lot of wonderful things that are going on within the Department of Community Services.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

EDUC.: PROG-BASED FUNDING FORMULA - TIME FRAME

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, today we read that the Halifax Regional School Board is talking about the problems with the education funding formula. This is an issue that has been raised consistently by other boards across this province, including the Strait Regional School Board, which is in the Minister of Education's own riding. As the minister knows, the Strait board alone is losing 15 teaching positions next year. This is a board that has been consistently arguing for a funding formula that is based on program needs and not student numbers. Yet, we continue to see this government put their own re-election ahead of the education needs of the students throughout this province. My question for the Minister of Education is, when can students, parents and school boards in this province expect to see a new program-based funding formula as promised by your government?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for the question. The fact is that parents and students and the people of this province are seeing increased funding for education in this current fiscal year. We will continue to address the needs of students and the needs and problems created as a result of declining enrolment are being addressed by the department. We will be coming forward with recommendations from a group that is studying that particular situation in the very near future.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, they've had four years to keep this commitment and yet, on the eve of an election, they tell us we will come with a plan just before an election. Fifteen teaching positions again cut from the Strait board this year. A quick review of the Department of Education's statistics tells us the tale - total enrolment in Nova Scotia schools is projected to drop from 150,733 students in the current school year to 138,124 students in

[Page 2315]

the years 2006-07. In this five-year period, that means that Nova Scotians will lose 12,609 students from our education system. With an outdated funding formula that eliminates one teacher for a drop in enrolment of 26 students, that translates into 485 fewer teachers in this province by the year 2006-07 under this government's current formula. My question to the minister is, what assurances will this government give to parents, students and school boards across this province that they will not be losing teaching positions due to continual declining enrolments?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member would know that despite declining enrolments, we are increasing funding to education in this province. We will continue to address the needs of education and make it a priority. The honourable member would also know that 127 new teachers have been hired this year in order to fill specific objectives of this government to address the needs of students based on the basics of reading, language and of mathematics computations. Those are the priorities of this government and we will continue to fund the needs of the students of this province.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, what a great track record they have. One just has to look at the last set of standardized tests in this province and they can let the minister stand up and brag about what great results they've shown for education. The numbers speak for themselves. He says that he wants to hire 127 new teachers. What he doesn't tell us is how many teachers are retiring and will not be replaced. That is the real number that this government is not showing.

On Page 16 of the Premier's infamous blue book - he can flip through it as he's sitting there smiling - it says that he is committed to "reviewing funding formulas to protect schools and areas of declining enrollments from detrimental and untimely reductions in the teaching staff." Mr. Speaker, the problem is that students are not having access to the programs they need in our system. I ask again, to the Minister of Education, will he commit to a new funding formula for the 2003-04 school year so that all students in this province, including the Strait board, will have access to the same quality of education regardless of where they live in this province?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, what we will commit to is continued accountability to the people of this province for the performance of our education system. The results that the honourable member refers to, the basis of those results are steeped in the years in which they had control over the education of this province. We are addressing those concerns and we're accountable to the people of the province. We will continue to be accountable and we will continue to provide the sort of measurements that are required so that people can see that accountability. That's a far cry from what the people got from that crew when they were in office.

[Page 2316]

[3:30 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

HEALTH - HAPPY HAVEN RELOCATION:

FAMILIES - RESPONSE TIME FRAME

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is for the Minister of Health. Happy Haven is a community-based small care home in Petite Rivière. It made headlines earlier this year when residents were threatened with forced relocation. The families were left out of the process, their role as legal decision makers was ignored, and they questioned the motives behind the action. In a letter dated April 4th to the Minister of Health from the families, which I will table, several comments and recommendations are made. However, the families have not yet received a response. So I want to ask the Minister of Health, when can these families expect to get a response to their correspondence of April 4th?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, staff in my department as well as other departments have been reviewing that report and discussing their response to it. My information is that we will be releasing our response to the families sometime next week.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the families raised some very important issues about residents' rights and the manner the Department of Health officials and the Fire Marshal's Office intervened in this situation. Families, in fact, say in their letter that one department official states - families were only keeping their parents at an unlicensed home so they could protect their inheritance. These concerns about the treatment of the owners of Happy Haven, their residents, and the families must be addressed. So I want to ask the minister if she has undertaken to investigate any of the complaints or the concerns that were raised in this correspondence by the families?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, some of the things that happened, or were alleged to have happened down at Happy Haven, were of great concern to me when I first got into this portfolio. That is the reason that I have met with the families at the office, why I had visited Happy Haven, why we've set up a working group to look at how our department officials and the Fire Marshal's Office work together or don't work together, as the case may be, to make things easier for seniors and their families. That is precisely the reason why we are doing this report and it is of utmost importance to me that this be accomplished.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I look forward to seeing the report. I want to ask the minister if there will be any kind of an action plan from the department put in place because I know that there are other similar situations around the province and the families do not want to see this situation occur in some other part of the province.

[Page 2317]

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, yes, part of the action plan will be a new code of conduct, if you will, about involving families and seniors more, in decisions to move them. But, I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge that the situation with some of these unlicensed and even some of the licensed boarding homes is an issue that is quite large across Nova Scotia and it is a problem that it will take a number of years to solve in its entirety.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

EDUC. - TEACHERS: NUMBERS - INCREASE CONFIRM

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education. Last month this government announced that their Learning for Life plan will hire 127 more teachers for September 2003. I believe that maybe the House could use some clarification on what the announcement actually means for Nova Scotia. So does it mean 127 new teachers on top of the number of teachers we will have at the end of June of this year or does it mean these new teachers will only be for Grade Primary and resource as dictated under the Learning for Life plan. My question to the minister is, yes or no, Mr. Minister, will there be more teachers teaching in September of this year than the number of teachers we will finish with at the end of June?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I can tell the honourable member that there will be more teachers committed to the priorities of this government, the Learning for Life priorities. Next year, 127 more than there are this year, committed to the priorities of this government and delivering their commitments.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, the minister didn't answer my question. Enrolment is going down across the province every year, the number of teachers we have in the classroom continues to decrease, and next year is going to be no different. School boards across the province have indicated they will be looking at reducing the number of teachers they have on staff. Why then is this government issuing press releases that state there's going to be 127 more teachers next September, when it's truly not the case? My question to the minister is, when did the definition of open and accountable government change to one where a government is issuing misleading press announcements?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, we have put forward a plan to address the priorities of this government, and those priorities relate to the basics of education, literacy, writing, computations, looking after the needs of Primary, the following year Grade 1, the following year Grade 2. To meet those commitments, there will be 127 teachers, additional, dedicated to those commitments, the commitments of this government. That's what we are telling the people of this province, and we're very proud of the program that we have and that we're committed to.

[Page 2318]

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, the minister told Nova Scotians there would be 127 additional teachers starting in September. Now he's telling us that's not necessarily the case, or he's just refusing to answer the question altogether. Here are some of the facts that we know, this province funds its education system the second-lowest in the country, our enrolment is declining, we're aware that our test scores for our children are abysmal. We also know this government has not seen children as an investment. My question to the minister is, I have asked him to simply give me the number of teachers as of September, but I want to know, when will the minister admit, finally, he and his predecessor have failed to give our educational system the proportionate amount of funding that our children so rightly deserve?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, when the members of that caucus were over here as government, they had a Department of Education that was directionless. There were no priorities, nothing was happening, and the test results that we see are as a result of a lack of dedication on their part to the priorities of education. We're committed to the priorities of education, and we're putting money in order to hire additional teachers committed to those priorities. They never had a plan, we have a plan, and we're very proud of it.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

COMMUN. SERV. - RRSS STRIKE:

REPLACEMENT EXPENSES - AMOUNT

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, there continues to be no movement on the labour dispute between the Regional Residential Services Society and its careworkers who have been off the job for nearly a month. Residents and their families continue to suffer while this government sits idly by, refusing to take part in resolving this job action. We know the RRSS has been sending its bills to Community Services, its sole funder during the strike. I ask the Minister of Community Services, how much money has his department spent to date for the replacement services and other expenses incurred during this strike?

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I have not gotten an up-to-date bill as of this week but the last time that I was briefed on this, there were no additional invoices that had been sent to the department because of the strike.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, this government appears to be intent on breaking the union, once again thumbing its nose at organized workers in this province. It's quite willing to spend thousands of dollars a day to pay the replacement workers and other expenses, rather than allow RRSS to enter binding arbitration with the union. In spite of the willingness to rush the arbitration for big businesses like P3 school operators and the casino, this government is refusing to end this strike. I ask the Minister of Community Services, why won't you simply authorize RRSS to enter binding arbitration so the residents can go home?

[Page 2319]

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, in addition to the comments made previously about the substantial resources that this government has put into funding that sector, I would point out that when the decision was made to go on strike, there was no provision in the contract that provided for binding arbitration. That is something that is sometimes part of the agreement between the employer and the unions, under special circumstances. The union would have known that at the time, that binding arbitration was not part of the collective bargaining process.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, I would remind that honourable minister that there doesn't need to be a provision in the collective agreement. The minister has the responsibility to do that. This government's treatment of the vulnerable residents is reprehensible. The minister indicates that he's tired of answering the questions about the strike, but I am here to tell him that we will keep asking those questions until he starts giving answers that show one iota of concern for the residents and their families. I ask the minister, how many more months are you willing to sit idly by and allow this strike to drag on before your government allows binding arbitration to go forward?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, there are a number of points that I would like to touch on there, but I think the important one is that it is the care of the residents and trying to address the concerns of their families that is of paramount concern to this government. We recognize there is a difficult situation with the labour dispute, and we are doing all that we can through our care coordinators, and I know RRSS is doing the best that it can, to try to assist the residents and their families.

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

EDUC. - RANKIN MEM. SCH.: PROBLEMS - DETAILS

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education. On November 22, 2001, in response to a question from me, the Minister of Education at the time, Minister Purves, indicated the construction of the Rankin Memorial School in Iona would be built according to the timelines indicated on the construction schedule. Now issues have arisen with the site chosen for this new school. According to legislation, the minister's staff must have been involved in this process from day one. My question is, why, minister, has your staff failed to recognize these issues before now?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for the question. As I understand the situation, the community has a preferred site. In order to use that preferred site, there are access problems with respect to three-phase power. That would add considerable expense to building the school on that particular site. However, we are working with the National Research Council to see if we cannot find alternate sources of power that would permit the school to proceed on the site identified.

[Page 2320]

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, I would like to table the reply that Minister Purves provided to me in November 2001. This is a rural area in Nova Scotia. It is hard to believe, according to a newspaper article yesterday - and I will table that article as well - that local school board members believe this government has cash flow problems or that Nova Scotia Power does not have the ability to develop a three-phase power line in a rural community. My question is, will the minister please agree to approach Nova Scotia Power officials personally in the hopes of keeping the school project on time?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, perhaps I was remiss in my response to the first question when I didn't add Nova Scotia Power as a group that is working with the National Research Council and the Department of Education in order to attempt to find a solution to this problem. I can assure the honourable member it is something that we're taking a very keen interest in.

[3:45 p.m.]

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, that certainly doesn't answer my question. I have been previously involved in a project involving three-phased power in which I was successful as a lone municipal representative at the time, a lonely one, one only, and I was able to convince Nova Scotia Power to construct a three-phased line on a street that's half the length that's required for this new site. My question to the minister again is, if I can do it as a municipal representative, he has the authority of the entire government in the Province of Nova Scotia. Will he approach Nova Scotia Power in an effort to request Nova Scotia Power to construct this line to ensure that this school is built on time?

MR. MACISAAC: I want to thank the honourable member for the question, Mr. Speaker, and again I can assure the honourable member that we are very anxious to have this matter resolved. If we are successful in employing new technology through the National Research Council, there are considerable advantages, not just for this particular school, but advantages that would have province-wide impact. We are anxious to explore these possibilities, but we are doing so without a view to unduly delay the construction of the school. We will, of course, work with Nova Scotia Power and if the problems associated with it are not resolved through our work with the National Research Council, then obviously we need to take a new approach to the problem and we will do that.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

EDUC. - BARRINGTON HS: BLOOD TESTING COSTS - EXPLAIN

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Education. Yesterday it was revealed that the government is going to spend $10,000 to collect blood samples from teachers and students from Barrington Municipal High School, send them to a lab in Beverley Hills, California, U.S.A., to be tested. They are attempting to identify health

[Page 2321]

problems. Parents know the answer - mould and other environmental contaminants. They already tried to clean the school last year and the children are still getting sick. My question to the minister is, why are you wasting $10,000 of taxpayers' money when students, teachers and parents all know what is causing the problem? Why are you wasting $10,000 of taxpayers' money, Mr. Minister?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, we had the advice of the practising medical doctor who has worked very closely with the situation in Barrington and that practising medical doctor advised that we conduct these tests. We were told and believe that the results of these tests may assist in determining what the problem is with the students affected. If we can, by conducting these tests, assist in an analysis and a determination of what is causing the illness, we're quite prepared to do that. I would point out that it is a voluntary test and we will learn a great deal from this process.

DR. SMITH: He talks about likely and then 'will learn a great deal', that's very problematic at this juncture. So my question again to the Minister of Education, students who attend this school have been getting sick since before last Spring. When the parents moved their children to another school, Mr. Speaker, their health improved. It's pretty clear to the parents what is causing their children to get sick and it's that school. For this government to send samples to Beverley Hills, California, U.S.A., is nothing more in our opinion than a delay tactic to get this government through the next election, another scam to get them through the election and my question . . .

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

DR. SMITH: Scam is unparliamentary - I will retract that. I'm at a loss for words right at the moment, but I will try to replace them as soon as I (Interruption)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East on his final supplementary.

DR. SMITH: Yes, scheme would be good. To the minister, given that it has been well over a year since this problem developed, I want to know, what plan does this government have in place to correct the problems the Barrington Municipal High School?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I want to, first of all, say to the honourable member and to the House that the information we will gain from the testing may, in fact, provide some considerable relief to the students and to the parents of those students if it determines that they are not suffering any further from the effects of the school. It may give us additional information with respect to the causes relative to the school and I can indicate to the honourable member that we will be indicating our attention with respect to that facility in the very near future.

[Page 2322]

DR. SMITH: I thank the honourable member for that response, but this government, Mr. Speaker, has already carried out over $400,000 worth of tests at the Barrington Municipal High School. Now they are going ahead and spending another $10,000 on the tests of Beverly Hills. I repeat, this has only been done so that the government can use these tests as a convenient excuse during an election campaign for failing to act, and this is not acceptable. My question to the minister is, what is it going to take to convince the minister that the students and staff from the Barrington Municipal High School deserve to learn and to teach in a safe and healthy environment?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I can tell the honourable member and the House that we are conducting these tests on a voluntary basis on the advice of a practising medical doctor whose specialty is environmental illness. That was very sound advice and we were prepared to listen to the physician and we took the physician's advice. We are committed to ensuring that the students at Barrington have a safe environment in which to attend school and we will take a decision that will ensure that that environment is safe.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

AGRIC. & FISH. - BEEF PRODUCERS:

TRANSPORT. SUBSIDY - PROVIDE

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries. Hub Meat Packers in New Brunswick stopped slaughtering beef some time ago and Atlantic farmers have to ship their beef to Ontario. Co-op Atlantic is building a beef processing plant in P.E.I. to be completed this year or early next which will be able to process beef production in the Maritimes, including Nova Scotia. In the meantime, however, our beef producers face increased transportation costs which further reduce already razor-thin margins for many producers. Can the minister tell the House if he will provide a transportation subsidy to our beef producers until the local processing capacity comes on-line?

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for the question. He raises a very good issue in that we all recognize that there is an opportunity for the beef industry in Atlantic Canada. We are working with our counterparts in other provinces to try to develop an economically-feasible model. Everyone also recognizes that subsidizing industry does not work in the long run so what we need to do is put together a business plan that will stand on its own merits. We are attempting to do that with the industry.

MR. MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I am glad to have on the record that he is going to say subsidizing the industry doesn't work, but they are sure willing to give out money whenever they feel like it. The P.E.I. Government recognizes that its beef producers are hurt by having to ship beef for processing to Ontario so it is providing a transportation subsidy

[Page 2323]

to its producers until the Co-op Atlantic plant is up and running. The total subsidy for P.E.I. beef producers is 4 cents per pound. Is the minister prepared to allow P.E.I. producers, who receive a transportation subsidy, to hold a competitive advantage over our producers?

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, as I said in my previous answer, what we are prepared to do as a government is work with the industry to make a model that works. It is my view, and it is being supported in other jurisdictions, that subsidies are not a long-term solution to industry's needs.

MR. MACDONELL: Well, if the minister was listening, he would have heard my question when I stated that it was until the Co-op Atlantic plant was up and running, so that's not long-term. Mr. Speaker, we've seen that this government was not prepared to give support to pork producers until we opened the eyes of the former minister to the real crisis that the pork producers faced. Now that we have put this before this minister, will this minister open his eyes to the plight of beef producers here and match for our producers a transportation subsidy received by P.E.I. beef producers?

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, in terms of the issue related to the pork industry, the model and solution that we put forward is one that is being looked at by New Brunswick and they are using it as their model. Again, it was a solution that worked on the merits of the business plan and that's what this government is attempting to do, work with the industry in the various sectors to make models that are long-term viable without continued reliance on government subsidy.

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

ENVIRON. & LBR. - DORSEY REPORT:

IMPLEMENTATION PERIOD - ADEQUACY

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, a question to the Minister of Environment and Labour. Yesterday, I introduced in the House The Nova Scotia Workers' Compensation Program Response Plan dated July 2002 - I've tabled it already yesterday, I trust I don't have to table it again today - I didn't have a chance yesterday to get into what the implementation plan stated, but I do find that Pages 1 and 2, one sentence, that "The Dorsey Report acknowledged that the workers compensation system could not be 'fixed' overnight and recognized that the recommendations would need to be implemented over time." The implementation plan does not identify a span of time that they are referring to, they simply make that statement. I'd like to ask the minister if, in his opinion, the 15 months that he estimates, from July of last year to the Fall of this year, constitute an appropriate period of time for implementation of the proposals contained in the Dorsey report?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, taking into account the complexity of the report, yes, that is about the right time span.

[Page 2324]

MR. MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, we know the government has already implemented actually two proposals of the Dorsey report because they introduced a bill here last Fall on supplementary benefits and they've also appointed a new Chairman for the Workers' Compensation Board during the intervening time - so that's two that they've carried out. There are a number of other relatively simple matters identified by Dorsey, such as on Page 4 of the implementation report: "That the Deputy Minister not be part of the Board of Directors. That the Chief Appeal Commissioner not be part of the Board of Directors. That the Workers' Advisers Program report directly to the Deputy Minister. That the OHS Executive Director continue to report to the Deputy Minster." Why could simple proposals like that be enacted at this time? What is the great complexity there that those things could not be done?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, those are the administrative matters to be implemented and they're well underway.

MR. MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, I have one final supplementary. On Page 6 of the Response Plan, under the heading Summary, appears a statement: "The Government recognizes the complexity of workers' compensation program and the range of issues affecting so many different interest groups across the province. The Dorsey Report recognized that for many of the recommendations there would be a need to do further analysis, study and review to determine the best way to implement the report."

I'd like to ask the minister if he could advise the House whether the further analysis, study and review recommended in this report, dated almost a year ago, are underway and, if so, what form do they take?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, yes, I can confidently say that they are underway and they're taking the form of a consult.

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

TRANSPORT. & PUB. WKS.: HWY. SERV. CTRS. - ACCESSIBILITY

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, you know every week I travel to and from Cape Breton - and many residents of mine with disabilities brought this issue to light - in fact, I checked today at 11:04 a.m. and the previous minister approved a project in New Glasgow, on Route 105 where the service road, a new development was created and the minister approved a private developer a $200,000 project. This new service road, which is Exit 21, is an exceptionally well-designed ramp and its appearance is very nice, but there is one problem. The problem is this is a self-serve facility and people with disabilities have a great deal of difficulty, obviously, obtaining gasoline and other services from this retail outlet. My question to the minister - and being fair with the minister, it's not his file, it was

[Page 2325]

done with the previous minister - I would like to ask the minister, would he review this file and table a report as to how he intends to deal with this issue?

[4:00 p.m.]

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for bringing the matter to my attention. The honourable member would recognize the importance of service centres to the travelling public, and I appreciate him bringing the matter forward. I will take the matter under review.

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, again, I want to bring it to the attention of the minister, the construction on Trans-Canada Highway No. 105, through Cape Breton, basically the gateway to Cape Breton or to Newfoundland. The redesign of the Seal Island Bridge is in its final stages and workers are doing an exceptional job there replacing the deck, and they can take a lot of pride in their workmanship. The problem with that project is the redesign. There are no sidewalks now, they're being eliminated because the road surface is being widened. Again I would ask, would the minister review this file and table a report as to how he feels people walking and riding bicycles can safely cross the span?

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, again, for the benefit of the honourable member, I wanted to indicate to him that the Seal Island Bridge project is one of the most significant capital expenditures undertaken by the Government of Nova Scotia. It is literally a massive project costing many millions of dollars. It's something that this government is very proud of, because what it will do is ensure that that vital transportation link is maintained in a useable form for many years to come.

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, my last question is to the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries. In 2002, a parasite threatened commercial oyster stock in the Bras d'Or Lakes. This industry contributes approximately $1 million to the local economy in Cape Breton. My question is, and I will table a copy of the report, will the minister table an update as to what his department has done to deal with this parasite?

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, I will take that question under advisement. I don't have the information with me. I will make it available to the member opposite.

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

The honourable Minister of Justice on an introduction.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to draw the attention of all members to the west gallery and to the Speaker's Gallery, where there are some members of the family of our Sergeant-at-Arms. Noel's daughter Edna, who happens to be a constituent of mine in

[Page 2326]

Truro-Bible Hill, her son Ross, who was up there in the Speaker's Gallery a couple of minutes ago. Actually you may have seen a young person in a wheelchair, that was Ross. (Interruptions) I can't see him, okay. As well, up there with Edna is Samantha and - oh, they're gone now. Anyway, I would ask them to rise and receive the warm welcome of all members of the House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: We certainly welcome our special guests, the family of our Sergeant-at-Arms. We hope you enjoy the proceedings today.

OPPOSITION MEMBERS' BUSINESS

MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS

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

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Resolution No. 901.

Res. No. 901, Educ. - Assess. Results: Gov't. (N.S.) Investment - Failure Acknowledge - notice given Apr. 28/03 - (Mr. D. Wilson)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, it's a pleasure to rise and speak on Resolution No. 901, a resolution that states:

"Whereas earlier this year the government (Interruptions)

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

The honourable member for Glace Bay has the floor.

MR. WILSON: Mr. Speaker, Resolution No. 901 states:

"Whereas earlier this year the government released Nova Scotia's student assessment results; and

Whereas this government announced our junior high school math scores which were an appalling 32 per cent, and our elementary math students scored 42 per cent; and

[Page 2327]

Whereas the Tory Government's Learning for Life plan is a hollow empty plan conjured up by the previous minister to appear as though she had done something during her time as Education Minister;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House acknowledge that this government has failed to invest in our children over the last four years, as evident in the recent assessment results."

Mr. Speaker, this government has failed to treat our children as an investment and instead treats our children as nothing more than expense. (Interruption) Yes, as one of my colleagues has stated, that's because of our Finance Minister and the position that he has put us all in, that we look more at the bottom line, at the figures, instead of at our students, instead of at children, instead of the education level that they should be achieving.

Mr. Speaker, imagine if you came home at the end of your school day and said, gee, mom, gee, dad, look at me, you should be proud of me, I made 32, or I made 42, isn't that a great mark? Well, in reality, no, it's not. Anybody would know that. This government can't sit back and say, well, 32 per cent, 42 per cent is indeed a great mark, we're doing well. Over the last four years our kids are making 42 per cent average in math in elementary and 33 per cent average in junior high, isn't that great? No, it's not. As a matter of fact, we're well below the Canadian average in almost all areas according to that standardized testing.

The government likes to say that we're well ahead internationally which they have quoted but, Mr. Speaker, my question then would be to the minister, what countries are we well ahead of, that would be a very important point to make in this debate and how does the government announce those results as well. We've had four years under this government and the marks have steadily declined, but the government says, well, don't worry, we're on top of things, we have a plan.

Mr. Speaker, our students stand at the lowest level of testing in the country. We have the second-lowest level of funding per student in the country. That's the second-lowest level. This government has failed to invest in our children over the last four years and what is it that the government is going to do about it? Well, one of the solutions this government has had to everything these days is to pass out a cheque for $155, that will solve the educational problems in this province, when we give you a $155 cheque, or what has become commonly nick-named the rum-bottle vote, the rum-bottle-vote voucher.

Mr. Speaker, if you will take, for example, how much that costs, that $155 cheque, to send out to some 400,000 Nova Scotians, I think I would know a lot of teachers, I would know a lot of administrators and a lot of parents in this province who would say, well, wouldn't it be a good idea and come up with a list of great things that we could do with that money if we were to put it directly into our educational system. Think of the things that we

[Page 2328]

could do if we could just inject that directly into the educational system and how that would help our children.

Mr. Speaker, we know that we're faced with a situation, although the Minister of Education will work his way around it when you ask him a question, but we're faced with a situation where declining enrolments will leave us with less teachers in this province come September of this year. The minister may issue press releases that say we will have 127 more teachers next year, the reality of the matter is, no matter what school board you ask across this province, they're all facing the same problem - declining enrolments. They all have varying ways of dealing with those declining enrolments, but one of the things that they will have to deal with on a regular basis next year will have to be that they simply will have to look at the issue of doing away with teaching positions. That's the reality of the whole thing.

What the government has done in this case, Mr. Speaker, in this case the previous minister has done, is delay and conjure up a program which they have called Learning for Life. I'm not going to be harsh on the people who were involved with putting together that report, but it's basically a pretty empty plan. The problem is that it is not adequately funded and it leaves a lot to be desired. We have, for instance, a maintenance deficit for our schools which now amounts to some $500 million. We have children in this province going to schools that are making them sick. Barrington is a perfect example of that. We have schools in dire need of repair and upkeep. Another example that we heard from, we debated last week in this Chamber, was the issue of the Macdonald Complex in Dominion, one that the government is doing nothing about. It has just delayed, delayed, and has not told the people of that area exactly what they are going to do.

Mr. Speaker, I need not go any further than the blue book in which the Premier is quoted as saying that our children deserve to learn in a safe and healthy environment. I have no doubt in my mind that if we ask the Premier if he agrees with that statement today, that the Premier would say I certainly do. Our children deserve a safe and healthy environment in which to learn. It is not the case in a lot of instances in Nova Scotia today. It is not the case in Barrington, it is not the case in Dominion and a lot of areas where our schools are in such dire need of repair.

Mr. Speaker, there are no targets or measures to see how our students are doing in that program Learning for Life. It does not address the needs of students. There is nothing that even remotely shows that this government is concerned about our children's education as a matter of fact. I revert back to my original statement regarding this resolution that indeed, over the past four years, there is nothing to show that this government has always viewed our children not as an investment, but an expense, and something that is getting in the way of education progress in the Province of Nova Scotia.

The declining enrolment problem is a severe problem in Cape Breton. Declining enrolments have indeed been brought about by a number of factors, none the least of which

[Page 2329]

is the fact that a large number of Cape Bretoners are leaving home to go and find work elsewhere. Of course, when they do that, they take families with them. When our young people leave the Island, Mr. Speaker, they not only take themselves off the Island, they take our future as well. Of course, nothing speaks louder about the future of a province, or an individual area of this province, than its educational system. Without that education system, how can we possibly attract the business and the industry that's needed to make this Province of Nova Scotia greater.

So we are left with a situation here, as I've mentioned, Mr. Speaker, and the resolution speaks to that, that we have math scores and math students, in particular, who are coming in with a 32 per cent score. We have elementary math students who are being scored at 42 per cent. There is a correlation there between how well students do in math and how it relates to how well in general things are going throughout the entire province and how well this government is doing. That correlation can be made.

Our educators are saying things are not right. Our educators are crying out for help. Our educators are saying we need that help, Mr. Speaker, but over the last four years, this government has not been there when indeed they were called upon to be there. What the government has failed to realize, as I said, and this is quite typical of this government, quite typical that this government has failed to realize over the last four years what it has failed to do. In this case, it's failing, not only do we have failing grades that are quite evident in standard testing, but a failing grade for the government in its reaction, in its reaction to everything from education to insurance rates to you name it. This government has failed to come up with the solutions that the people of Nova Scotia are desperately seeking.

[4:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, it's been four long, hard years under a Tory Government. Four years and when for instance the Minister of Education is asked questions in Question Period, the minister's response to everything is well, that bunch over there, they didn't do any better four years ago, they didn't do any better six years ago, they didn't do any better back then. The reality of the matter is that this government has had four years to do something, and they've failed to do it. What we have watched over the last four years is things seriously decline and things seriously erode in this province.

As I mentioned, it's one thing for government members to stand up and thump their chests and say, aren't we great, we're handing out the cheque. We're handing out the cheque in June, just before we go to an election. We're going to give you all a cheque. But if you think about it for a minute how much more use that money could be put to instead of just handing out that cheque, and, again, especially in the area of education. Mr. Speaker, it's high time that this government started paying more attention to the topic of education, to put more into the education system and to stop failing the children of this province.

[Page 2330]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.

MR. MARK PARENT: I want to thank the member for Glace Bay, because his resolution underscores, I think, in a backhand fashion, but nonetheless underscores that this government is on the right track. It's on the right track in determining what level students are performing at presently, because unless we know what levels students are performing at presently, we can't know how to help them progress and improve in the future. Really, the resolution, honourable member, underscores that we're on the right track, we're doing the right thing.

Will Durant, the famous historian and humorist, some time ago said these words, "Sixty years ago I knew everything; now I know nothing; education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance." That's the problem, Mr. Speaker, we're ignorant about where our standings are now, and unless we determine where our standings are now, we can't improve in the future. Speaking about ignorance reminds me - just as an aside - of an old saying, if you're not a Liberal before age 30, you have no heart, but if you're still one after age 30, you have no head. Back to ignorance, I need to go back to my comment about ignorance, this is the problem, that we're ignorant of where we're going. There is the old saying that a politician is one who when sets out doesn't know where he is going, when he travels he doesn't know where he is, and when he arrives he doesn't know where he has been, and he does it all on other people's money. I heard my honourable colleague, the member for Digby, say it sounds like the previous government.

We need to know where we are in order to know where we're going to go, and in order to do a proper job of it. A recent study came out showing that very little is known about the standards of education from P to 12 in the Province of Nova Scotia. We don't have the objective data that we need. We know, for example, that Canada spends more of its GNP on education than the other G7 nations, according to Stats Canada studies in 1997 and 1999. We don't know, as accurately as we should, where this money is going, where it should be going and how well it's being spent.

So we need to do these tests. We need to engage in tests. Tests, if used wisely, are a very important tool in helping a government to direct its money properly and to create a proper educational system and to help its students improve pedagogically. The tests, if they're done properly, will allow for comparability not only between the Province of Nova Scotia, but within Nova Scotia between various school boards. It will allow for standardization, so that students in Cape Breton will get the same level of education in mathematics as students in the Annapolis Valley, for instance, and it will allow for equality.

[Page 2331]

I really want to come back to my original statement that I want to thank the member, because I think he really underscored, through what he had to say that this government is on the right track. We are finally getting a handle on - not just anecdotal evidence, Mr. Speaker, we are getting a handle on statistical evidence that will help us know where we are so we can do the proper things to get us into the place where we want to be.

Some of those tests that have been referred to by the honourable member in the minister's report: the plans; the program of learning assessment for Nova Scotia students which tests language and math for elementary and junior high and senior high students; the Nova Scotia examinations directed at Grade 12 students in language arts, science, and math; math is in development, right now it's language arts and science; and the school achievement indicators program which are national assessment tests that our 13-year-old and 16-year-old students take in mathematics, reading, writing and science. The results are here, published for everyone to see, so that everyone knows the standards, so they know where we are at now and where we can improve. The honourable member would want to see this booklet.

The honourable member also mentioned the international tests that we engage in - and I should have mentioned that as well. The PISA tests, the Program for Integrated Student Assessment. We came 14 out of 42 countries and the honourable member wanted to know one country we're ahead of and that country is the United States, our neighbours to the south. We are ahead of our neighbours to the south in our educational standards. Now we're not at the place we want to be, I'll admit that, Mr. Speaker, I'll admit that quite readily. We want to be further along. These results that appear in this booklet are not acceptable, but, as I said, we need to know where we are now so we can plan where we want to go in the future and we are starting to do that planning.

That plan came out and there is a book we have here, Learning for Life. Obviously the honourable member hasn't read it properly because if he had read it, he would have read the wonderful things that this government is doing to improve and to start from this level that we have now established and to help improve the mathematical and the language skills of Nova Scotia students. If the honourable member wants a copy of it so he can read it, I would be happy to send it over afterwards.

But let me just very quickly talk about some of the things in that Learning for Life booklet because a great deal is being done to improve teaching and learning in mathematics. Let me give you some highlights, Mr. Speaker. We now require board accountability for progress action plans and targets to increase student achievement. The member for Glace Bay said that we're doing nothing, there is nothing there. Well if there is nothing there, how come we are requiring board accountability for progress action plans and targets to increase student achievement? It doesn't sound like nothing to me, it sounds like something, but that's just one of many things. I'm going to run out of time talking about the things that we're doing. He says there is nothing there.

[Page 2332]

Let's go on to something else. We are continuing elementary and junior high math program assessments in elementary and junior high. He still says there is nothing there. We are introducing Grade 12 mathematics examinations in January 2004 - there is nothing there. We are informing parents of student progress in mathematics as a priority and we will continue to plan to publish this minister's report to parents, telling them how their students are doing so they can know, so we can plan, so we can improve, but he says there is nothing there. We are implementing minimum daily time requirements for mathematics in Grades Primary, 6, 7 and 8, requiring five minutes of mental math daily for Grades 1 to 9, but the member says there is nothing there. He says there is nothing there. I've already talked about four things. My mother loved this one, to tell the truth, my mother, when she heard that we were emphasizing the basics: reading, writing and arithmetic, she told me to give the Minister of Education at that time, the Honourable Jane Purves, a big hug, which I did, because she says we are on the right track. (Interruptions) We are on the right track. I won't tell you what the minister said.

But he says there is nothing there, we're going back, and he says there is nothing there, doesn't he? We are targeting funding for math leaders in every board in the province to help them teach this, but he says there is nothing there. We are investing in professional development for math leaders in every school . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I just want to remind the honourable member for Kings North that you are not to be using props. Order, please. I would just remind the honourable member that he is not to use props so I would ask him not to use the props and put them down. (Interruptions) The honourable member has the floor.

MR. PARENT: . . . he hasn't read the booklet because he says there is nothing there and I'm just trying to tell him that there is something there, so I will give it to him after I speak.

We're developing resources for parents to help their children at home, but he says there's nothing there. We have a mathematics strategy to include smaller classes from P-2 so that teachers can spend more time at those very early years when they need to spend the individual time with the students. We put $18 million, I think, getting to this, but he says there's nothing there - $18 million is nothing.

We've invested in math leaders, $1 million. Here's the breakdown - of course, it's nothing according to that honourable member, but to Nova Scotians it's a lot. Sixteen teachers working directly with the department to launch the math strategy from P to 9, $225,000, nothing there according to him, a lot there to these math leaders for doing the job; 880 school-based mathematics school teachers trained in May and June; 34 workshops alone to help teachers teach mathematics better there, but he says there's nothing there. Targeted funding provided for board-based math leaders in every program, $555,000, but he says there's nothing there. We're providing more than $1 million in classroom mathematics

[Page 2333]

resources, we've conducted five summer institutes for teachers serving 233 teachers, but he says there's nothing there.

This is just in the year 2002-03, 2004 will continue this targeted funding for math leaders. We'll introduce new accountability mechanisms, that is requirements for board reporting on actions to improve student achievements in mathematics. We'll conduct another program assessment of elementary mathematics and we'll introduce mathematics examinations for Grade 12 students and conduct mathematics workshops for every principal, about 440 in total and he says . . .

SOME HON. MEMBERS: There's nothing there.

MR. PARENT: Mr. Speaker, I still have four more pages of things that are in this - sorry, I can't refer to this booklet, but four more pages to go on of things that we're doing to help improve the math and the reading and writing abilities of students. For instance, we'll provide practical, comprehensive, grade-level-specific teaching resource for every math teacher in Grades Primary to 9, with sample math lesson plans, combined classes, assignment tasks, homework assignments, home support activities - worth $130,000, but he says . . .

SOME HON. MEMBERS: There's nothing there.

MR. PARENT: We'll begin a multi-year, multi-million dollar investment in new math resources for students, Grades Primary to 9, $500,000 alone in that for credit allocation and resources that link literacy and mathematics together and that costs $65,000, but he says there is . . .

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Nothing there.

MR. PARENT: We'll invest more than $100,000 in resources for parents. Let's talk about math booklets, pamphlets, homework, other materials, better links between the math classroom and the home student, but he says there's . . .

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Nothing there.

MR. PARENT: We'll introduce an on-line question bank for Grades 10, 11, and 12 in mathematics, over the Internet, to strengthen these classroom assignments, but he says there's . . .

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Nothing there.

MR. PARENT: It sounds to me that really it's not the problem that there's nothing there in our plan, but there's nothing there in his criticism. That's where there's nothing there.

[Page 2334]

In addition - I could continue, I'm going to run out of time here - we have a new calculus Grade 12 course. We'll introduce 220-hour course options for Grade 10 mathematics. He says there's . . .

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Nothing there.

MR. PARENT: I think . . .

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

The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect.

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I want to assure the previous member there is something here. I'd like to point out to you that as far as I'm concerned, if we are going to use test results, achievement test results of our children, to take shots at a local MLA contest in Halifax Citadel, then the resolution is out of line - the resolution is out of line.

Because test scores in classrooms are continuously misused, and how have they been misused? Let me tell you. First of all they're used to rate schools - wrong thing to do. They're used to rate teachers - wrong thing to do. They have been used in this situation to take a cheap shot at a previous Minister of Education because of local politics - wrong thing to do, absolutely wrong thing to do.

[4:30 p.m.]

I would like to give a quick history lesson to the members of the Third Party. I endured Robbie Harrison. Let me tell you about Robbie Harrison - the Minister of Education in a previous government - and I know there are some members opposite who can give the same history lesson. We endured the excuses, the delays and some of the worst decisions that were made in education. So I think there's enough blame to spread around without particularly turning to a previous Minister of Education on an issue that today she is not responsible for. I think that has to be made very clear because when it comes to test scores, let's face it, test scores can be misused. They can be misused.

There are some teachers opposite, there are teachers in this caucus, and I think it's of real importance to realize that if you're going to wave around test scores and going to say that's the reason the test scores have been down, then if the Grade 8 test scores are down in Brookside Junior High School, do I turn to Jamie Stewart, the teacher, or do I turn to the MLA for Halifax Citadel to blame? What am I supposed to be doing? If I'm a parent, do I go to the teacher and I say to Mr. Stewart, Jamie, what's the story here, do I have a problem, does my son or daughter have a problem? Or, does that particular parent make an appointment with the MLA for Halifax Citadel and say to that MLA in her office, you are the Minister of Education, how come my son or daughter's test scores have been in the tank?

[Page 2335]

You know the answer and I know the answer. The answer is that when it comes to test scores, it should be relegated within the school, within the classroom with the teacher and the student. So let's get that out of the way right from the get-go, Mr. Speaker. I want previous speakers and speakers to join in. If we are going to use our kids, if we are going to use our schools, if we are going to use our test scores to score cheap political points, then we might as well not stand in this place and have a debate on a topic of this importance. If we're going to look at test scores, let's look at some of the factors that are involved.

Let's not say that this particular government has done everything. In fact, in some cases their lack of consultation with teachers truly alarms me and I can point out examples - I know the minister and I have had these conversations before - when it comes to curriculum changes and how often they're made, Mr. Speaker. I can tell you as a school administrator and as a classroom teacher - I often said to math teachers, I wouldn't do your job, I would not do your job because the reason is - and I know those of us who have children in the elementary or the junior high system, I notice the member for Inverness is shaking his head, is nodding in agreement, because the curriculum changes in math are just ongoing.

They're ongoing and I could use the example of a young man whom I was fortunate enough to recruit into the teaching profession. His name is Cal Jakeman. He lives on Westwood Boulevard in the community of Upper Tantallon. He teaches math. He told me of a number of outcomes that he has to have to measure his success for his students. Now, Mr. Speaker, if we're talking curriculum changes that mean something, a young, progressive teacher such as Mr. Jakeman should be consulted. Instead the results come in, the curriculum is laid on the desk, this is what you're going to try to do, Cal, you're going to try to handle this amount of curriculum in a math course.

Mr. Speaker, how do we measure success? Well, I would encourage the members of the Third Party and the Liberal critic, in particular, to accompany me tomorrow to a workshop that's going to be held over at the Holiday Inn at 99 Wyse Road in Dartmouth - What Makes an Effective School. There's the invitation and I hope you don't consider it a prop, What Makes an Effective School, Mr. Speaker, and let me tell you that is going to be a session that I would encourage as many members of this Legislature to be present. One of the things that it takes to have an effective school is to make sure that you measure the success of your students. When you measure the success of your students, it does come down to academics, it does come down to pass or fail, it does come down to 90s as opposed to 80s. I will agree with the member for Glace Bay, when he stands in his place and brings out those horrendous numbers, and there's no use mentioning the numbers, they are disappointing.

Mr. Speaker, the point of this is that an effective school is more than just having those test scores as low as they are. The effective school will take those test scores and they will improve upon them. They will learn from what they have been doing correctly and what they have been doing wrong. In education, we must admit that we have to learn from experience. As you well know, we always learn from our mistakes. When you are teaching math, in

[Page 2336]

particular, students learn from the experience of having a mistake, but they mustn't be afraid of making a mistake.

I want you to know that test scores, many young people take it quite personally. We, of course, have been aware of some recent scores, some results, when it comes to ranking of schools. I have been approached by students in my community who are concerned about that sort of use of rankings and test scores. How does a teacher feel? How does a student feel? How does a school community feel when they see these test scores that are suddenly made public? They have to be put in perspective. Test scores have to be put in perspective.

Let's look at some of the uses that have been in the past of these test scores. In some situations, particularly in schools where you have teachers who have no tenure, you can go to a teacher and say, I saw that your Grade 8, Section A - let's use that as an example - had a failing mark, but Grade 8, Section D - and we no longer use those A and D categories, I think that members opposite would be aware of the fact that, again, there is that stigma to the letters, in some cases you go by the homeroom teacher's last name, in some cases you go by other codes, but the important thing is that when the school administrator goes to the teacher and says, are you concerned about the test scores? Are we concerned about how we are doing from one school to another?

Inevitably, Mr. Speaker, that's what happens. Teachers, students, and parents compare test scores. So it's of real import that the teacher says to the administrator, says to the superintendent or says to the MLA, yes, I have concerns about the test scores, but by waving them around and saying, we're not getting enough books, we're not getting enough money, instead the teacher has to feel that he or she is being listened to. Let's have a curriculum change. Let's look at a particular curriculum change that has caused some real problems in elementary schools in the community that I represent, the new science curriculum in the elementary schools.

There has been a progressive step made. Let's call it like it is. If the members of the Third Party aren't willing to do this, we have to admit, in Opposition, when a good move has been made by the previous Minister of Education, by this administration, that there was the wise decision made that in Primary and Grade 1 there would be a restricted number of students in each classroom. That is a progressive step. I attended the press conference. I sat there and listened to the minister as she made that announcement, and afterwards, I want members present to know, I publicly and privately, congratulated the minister and her staff on that issue.

Mr. Speaker, and members present, that is one step. There must be a plan in place so that parents can have faith in the fact that their teachers and they, as parents, are going to be listened to on this issue, so that we can go from Primary and Grade 1 and continue to move along, as we look at other student-teacher ratios in other grades, particularly at the junior high level.

[Page 2337]

Here we are, and we're talking about Grade 8 math scores. I know the MLA for Inverness will agree with me on this, and I would hope that there would be parents present who would be listening to this, but I want you to know that Grade 8 is a tough year. It's a very tough year in the school system. It's a very tough year, particularly if you're a junior high young man, but then again, that's another topic. In the midst of this, I want you to understand that test scores cannot be taken in isolation. Test scores cannot be suddenly waved around publicly when you compare one school to another school, one teacher to another teacher, or one candidate for the riding of Halifax Citadel or another candidate. That is not the use of test scores. That is not, after all, how this debate should be unfolding.

There should be a way to look at these items, to look at them realistically without using test scores to score cheap political points. That resolution was intended for that reason. That resolution was brought forward because the current member for Halifax Citadel in her previous role in Cabinet, as the Minister of Education, is in a tight fight in Halifax Citadel and, of course, we do know that Mr. Delefes, the previous member for Halifax Citadel will win that when the time comes because he has the experience.

I wouldn't admit today that I would probably think that Peter Delefes probably took the day off, unless he's in an apartment building, he's out knocking on doors. Peter Delefes doesn't need cheap political points with test scores to prove that he can be the MLA, and I discourage the members of the Third Party and the current Leader of the Liberal Party. This is not the way to go. He should rise above this and not use our children and their test scores in such a manner.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Well, hearing the member for Timberlea-Prospect become the chief apologist for the Tory Party - how ironic, to say the least. Talk about cheap politics, this is a Party, the NDP, whose Leader was referred to as an ambulance chaser, this is a Party who has gone out and asked Nova Scotians to send them their uglies, this is a Party that has continually used seniors' examples for their own political gain, and tried to distort facts. Yet, he has the unmitigated gall to stand up here and accuse others of cheap politics. Mr. Speaker, I would urge the member to go to the washroom and to hold onto the basin and look directly in the mirror if he wants to see cheap politics. Again, I digress on this important issue.

I want to tell you what I found also very interesting was to hear the member for Kings North stand up here and accuse others of ignorance. If there's one member who lives in a glass house when it comes to the issue of ignorance, it would be the member for Kings North. One need look no further than his article of last week to see true ignorance in its purest form. To hear the member for Kings North accuse others of ignorance and to accuse the member for Glace Bay, through his resolution, of being ignorant, how ironic. How ironic. One can only hope that it's certainly not the member for Kings North who will be called upon to review the history courses offered in this province, considering what we saw last

[Page 2338]

week, and to hear him today stand in this House and accuse others of ignorance and not having all the facts and misrepresenting the facts, truly, it is unbelievable.

MR. MARK PARENT: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I just want to clarify that I never accused any member of being ignorant. What I simply said is that we were ignorant of the standings of where students are and that's why we needed to do the testing. The testing was done so that we would know where to improve and how to improve. That's what I said and to twist my words, I think is (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order. Order. I appreciate the member for Kings North's intervention. I wasn't in the Chair during his debate and I guess I want to make clear that we are debating a resolution, not necessarily a dispute between members. So I would suggest that the member for Richmond focus on the resolution and not on the individual members and their comments.

MR. SAMSON: Well, Mr. Speaker, with all due respect, I think your colleague for Timberlea-Prospect used a considerable amount of time pointing out and pointing the finger to our caucus here and to my colleagues, so I would just point out again how ironic it is that we would have the member for Kings North stand up and accuse someone of distorting the facts or distorting history and not accurately reflecting it when one looks at what we saw last Thursday written by that member himself, something absolutely disgraceful to say the least. If his colleagues on that side support the comments that he made, I would urge them to stand in their place and indicate that they do support the exact comments that came from that member. I believe I've used the opportunity to personally express what my feelings were towards that column and towards the author of that.

[4:45 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, as a member who comes from the Strait Regional School Board, to say that our education system is not in crisis is certainly not an accurate reflection of what we face and what the students face in our particular board. For the member for Kings North to stand up and say they have a wonderful plan and all these lofty goals, yet I would ask him to explain, to take one of those goals and explain what it means in practical terms. Explain what it will do to help the students in the Strait board or anywhere else around the province.

Mr. Speaker, their Learning for Life plan was not established by educators, it was done by spin doctors. Like so many of their other plans, it's fluffy messages, it's meant to put out this feel-good message, that this government has a plan to address the real needs of our students. We all know, such as their health plan, that is not actually intended to accomplish that.

[Page 2339]

Mr. Speaker, when I hear the Minister of Tourism and Culture, the member for Inverness, say that the education system in the Strait area is not in crisis - how ironic, for a former educator who saw exactly the situation that we face. Again, this year, 15 fewer teachers in the classrooms of the Strait Regional School Board. Now that's 15 this year. If one were to go back for the last four years under this administration, each and every year there have been fewer teachers in the classroom. More and more what has happened as a result, our students, in order to take what one would consider to be typical courses, such as honors math, for example, are now having to resort to taking those courses through distance education. Is this what the plan of this government is? More distance education, fewer teachers in the classroom? (Interruption) What the minister has shot back is that we have a great teacher/student ratio in the Strait board because of the declining enrolment. What he does fail to talk about are the programs that are being offered, how many programs are under distance education and how many programs actually have teachers in the classrooms to provide instruction for those students.

Mr. Speaker, that is what it comes down to, and as I've said before, in the past, the Strait board has a proud history of producing some of the most talented, competent, intelligent students who have gone on to different professions, and have gone on to make our province proud. It causes us great concern that we might be slipping in those efforts and that the proper attention and the proper resources are not being directed to the classrooms in our area to make sure that that success continues.

While the Strait board has undergone a great deal of reduction because of declining enrolments within a number of years, it is happening right now. The Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board will be under the exact same situation as they also are faced with a significant declining enrolment. I can tell you that this is something that unfortunately will probably be encountered by school boards through the province, that they will have to face. I can tell you right now, Mr. Speaker, and I would challenge the member for Inverness to say that it's not so. It has now come to the point that in many ways our students in the Strait board are not receiving the same programs that are being received by students in Halifax, for example, or other parts of this province. They are having to rely upon distance education whereas students in other boards have teachers in the classroom for those same programs.

Mr. Speaker, at that point you no longer have equality in the education system here in this province. Never did any of us want to see the day that our students would be disadvantaged based on geography or that students in other areas of this province would be at an advantage over them. That is not what we envision in our education system and we must work, together, as elected officials, to make sure that that doesn't happen.

Officials are being called upon in municipalities to provide more funding to the Education Department through the funding criteria that is established. Yet at the end of the day, when I asked the Minister of Education, who is from Antigonish, who is an educator, himself, would he step in and intervene to ensure that those 15 teaching positions in the Strait

[Page 2340]

board would not be cut, he said no, I'm not going to do that. The minister tells us he is going to hire an extra 129 teachers. What the minister does not tell us is how many teachers are going to be retiring and leaving the system, who won't be replaced. I would submit to you, Mr. Speaker, that at the end of the day, even with the 129 teachers starting in September 2003, if we are to believe that is correct, I assure you, we will have a loss as to how many teachers we have today and what we will have starting September 2003.

This government knows that. That's why the Minister of Education refused to answer that question. That's why the Minister of Tourism and Culture won't get up and speak on that point, because they are aware that their government is finding a way to try to gloss over this and say we're hiring more teachers, without admitting the fact that they're not replacing retiring teachers. Again, at the end of the day, we will see a loss in the number of teachers and, again, I would submit to you, a loss to the students, the parents and the communities throughout our entire province.

Mr. Speaker, in my question today, I indicated that over the next five years we are going to lose a significant number of students, such that by the year 2006-07, I believe the total figure was 485 fewer teachers than we have today, if we are to follow the funding formula currently employed by this government. That is almost 500 fewer teachers from one end of this province to the other. Yet this government would have us believe that everything is great in the education system. They would have us believe that they're hiring more teachers. They would have us believe that more Nova Scotians are able to stay here and teach in our schools.

Mr. Speaker, 500 fewer teachers. Let the member for Kings North stand on his feet and say how the Learning for Life plan is going to deal with that. Let him stand on his feet and indicate why students in the Strait Regional School Board are not being offered the same programs, with teachers in the classrooms, as is being offered in other schools in other boards. That's the point; that's the reality that they don't want to talk about, yet giving out these fluffy messages of how they're going to fix all the school problems and how everything is going to be better. What is that meant to do? That is meant to try to get re-elected rather than trying to solve the problems faced by the students of today.

Mr. Speaker, as elected officials, we all know if our province is going to be able to turn things around, if our province is going to be able to be independent and able to grow our economy where we wish to grow our economy, one of the solutions to that is continuing to have a competent, highly-qualified educated workforce. That begins in the classrooms of this province, from Primary forward.

Mr. Speaker, that is why we continue to say that this government must pay attention to that. That is why, today, we've used the opportunity. One example is the test scores that have been provided, which clearly indicate that we have a serious problem. Maybe the member for Timberlea-Prospect doesn't believe there are problems in our education system.

[Page 2341]

That is for the NDP to decide going into the next election, if they also want to go on the doorstep and congratulate the member for Halifax Citadel for her great tenure as Minister of Education. That is their choice. One will see what type of reaction that member and even the Tory colleagues of the minister will encounter when making that sort of claim.

Mr. Speaker, in 1999, the blue book speaks for itself. This government had all the answers. This government had all the solutions. The Premier said, I will fix the problems in education, as I will fix the problems with health care, roads, hospitals and everything else under the sun that he could possibly think of in his 240 promises. At the end of the day, the results are in. This government has failed in their commitments to the students, the parents, the teachers and the school boards of this province. That is the reality. The test scores are but one example of that failure. The point is, though, who pays for that failure? I would submit to you, all of us will pay for the failure of this government by not properly being able to address the issues faced in our school boards and faced in our schools.

Unless we continue to graduate, from our schools, the top-quality, highly-educated students that this province has such a proud history of, then we are doomed, doomed in our efforts to try to turn this province around, and to become a have-province that can be independent and that can grow on its own. Without a properly-funded education system, it simply is not possible.

Mr. Speaker, for four years the Minister of Finance has continually viewed education as an expense rather than an investment, and he has had to have the member for Halifax Citadel and not the member for Antigonish be the chief apologist for him in his efforts to fail to address the problems in education. That will be part of the legacy that the Minister of Finance will leave as he leaves this Chamber, knowing that the problems continue to exist in our boards, they continue to exist in our classrooms. Our students are not getting the education they deserve and should so rightfully have. At the end of the day, it's a loss for all Nova Scotians, and one of the best examples of the failed legacy of this government.

MR. SPEAKER: Before I call on the Liberal House Leader, can I ask the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries for an introduction?

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the members opposite for allowing me to do this. I would call the members' attention to the gallery opposite. We have a visitor with us today, the new President of the Nova Scotia Agricultural College, Dr. Philip Hicks. He's currently working with the federal government in Japan and has agreed to take a position, and will be starting there in June. So he has dropped in today. He attended a graduation of NSAC and is looking forward to taking up his role and responsibilities there. So I would ask the members to give him a warm welcome to Nova Scotia. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Welcome to our guests.

[Page 2342]

The honourable Liberal House Leader.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, would you please call the order of business, Private Member's Public Bills for Second Reading.

PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Liberal House Leader.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 21.

Bill No. 21 - Sydney Casino Profits Distribution Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, I know this bill speaks to a very important issue as far as I'm concerned. The Sydney Casino charity trust was a fund that was set up for charity and as some of the government backbenchers spent, during a period of debate today, with, I must say, some light-hearted jest, when we talked about the Learning for Life document, they said that I said there was nothing there.

Well, lo and behold, Mr. Speaker, the 50 per cent of the Sydney charity that was set up, I can really say there's nothing there now because there's nothing left because this government made sure of that. The profit from the Sydney Casino was to be divided 50 per cent for charity and 50 per cent for Native people in this province. No additional tax dollars were to be needed for that program, it was to be self-sustaining. Instead, what we found when this government came to power, Mr. Speaker, one of the first moves that it initiated was to get rid of the 50-50 sharing of the profit from the Sydney charity casino.

Mr. Speaker, the ink wasn't even dry on the advertisements that were already ready and it was already advertised for charitable groups to apply to get money from the charity trust fund. As I said, the ink wasn't even dry when this government put the axe to it and said we're going to take that money and put it into general revenue. It has been estimated that would probably amount to over $5 million by now, that would have been money that was destined for charities in this province.

Mr. Speaker, I don't know, if we can't appeal to the mind of government and we can't appeal to a sense of common decency, then maybe we should make the plea to the bottom line of this government, which is always money. Charities have to have money to sustain themselves. So with a charity, a little bit of money actually goes a very long way; $5 million, for instance, could have provided 5,000 charities in this province with $1,000 each and with volunteers, the charities would have made that money go a thousand times farther than government could make it go.

[Page 2343]

Mr. Speaker, I don't have to tell you or anybody in this House about the importance of volunteers and how much they contribute towards the economy. As a matter of fact, they contribute nearly $2 billion to the provincial economy. That's according to the GPI, the Genuine Progress Index. GPI Atlantic, in 1998, did a study and found that some 81,000 jobs and 10 per cent of the gross domestic product is a direct result of volunteer charitable work. What they estimated, the real value of volunteer work is about $2,500 for every man, woman and child in this province. So as I said, appealing to the Finance Minister's bottom line, at least recognize the money that was meant for charities, the money would have been money for the economy, which would have been money for his bottom line.

Mr. Speaker, of course, the Finance Minister can't tax charities. Not yet anyway, he hasn't yet, but I'm sure if he could, he will find a way. That $5 million that we're talking about here could have gone a very long way. It's a very small sum compared with, on average, $100 million, $100 million that average Nova Scotians commit to charity every year. In fact, we have some of the most generous people in this country. Nova Scotians give more of their time to volunteer work than any other Canadians, about 134 million hours to helping those in need, caring for their environment and contributing to their communities.

[5:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I know at the point in time when this program was stopped, when the charity trust was wiped out, I know at that point in time, for instance, that the Glace Bay Food Bank had applied to that charity trust. They had filled out the application and they had, indeed, been ready to put it in the mail and send it off so that they could get, perhaps, whatever their fair share would be, and it would go toward the operation of the Glace Bay Food Bank. What happened was because that charity trust was cancelled, they got absolutely nothing from the charity trust fund. That's the exact reason, the only reason that it was set up.

The Sydney Casino was to be a charity casino, and 50 per cent of the profits were to go to charities throughout this province, not just in Cape Breton, not just in the Sydney area, but charities across this province would have been able to apply for monies that they could have used. It was so crassly taken away by this government that it almost goes against any common-sense argument that you could make. I don't know anybody who could argue and make sense that it actually made sense to take what would have amounted to by now well over $5 million that could have been used. Perhaps there are some members over there who support the way that was done. If that's the case, then we will be hearing from them.

This was actually the first swipe that the Tory Government took at Nova Scotians, when they came to power. Something happened, Mr. Speaker, to this government between that election and now, because we have seen the red carpets being rolled out and the announcements that are being made, leading up to the next election. In their blue book, stated on Page 23, "We recognize the particular knowledge and understanding of people who work,

[Page 2344]

both as volunteers and as employees, with community-based agencies and non-profit organizations that are on the front lines of service delivery. Because they are close to the action, they see, first hand, the needs and have a unique appreciation of the requirement to make every dollar count, as an investment in 'quality of life'. They must be properly supported." Those are words from the blue book.

Mr. Speaker, those are pretty hollow words. Noble but very hollow in this case. Because those were the exact people they struck out first when they decided to do away with the charity trust. They still have the opportunity to restore the Sydney charity trust, it's an opportunity for the Premier and his government, a chance to redeem themselves. If indeed the Premier is a man of honour and integrity, then it's a chance for him to show that he is a man who lives up to his word. He has a chance here to take the moral high ground or, at the very least, he and the Finance Minister and the Cabinet have a chance to show that they have some heart, there is still some heart left in this heartless government. It's a time to do the honourable thing, it's a time to do the right thing, it's simply a time to just put the money back.

I don't think there's a Nova Scotian who would say that they've done anything wrong if all of a sudden they decided, look, we may have made a mistake. It may have been a little hard and perhaps a little too harsh to take that money from what it was intended to do - to help charities and volunteers throughout the Province of Nova Scotia. Mr. Speaker, I am sure there are many members who have found their way here on the political scene because they were involved at first with volunteer organizations. I think of, perhaps, members who are members of the Lions Club in their constituency, or any other charitable organization, and the great work that those organizations do throughout this province, the Kinsmen, the Lions Club, you could go on forever naming them. I'm sure that there are members who know that those organizations are under some tough times in this day and age, that perhaps a couple hundred dollars, perhaps a thousand dollars, perhaps more, would go a very long way in sustaining the fine work that those clubs do.

Here was an opportunity, a perfect opportunity, to get money from somewhere that it wasn't there before. Organizations have a difficult time on the streets of our province right now, going out, whether they go door-to-door collecting - I know a lot of organizations in Glace Bay that will go and bag groceries at the various grocery stores, and they may make, on a good weekend they literally make maybe a couple thousand dollars, which goes toward their yearly operational costs. It makes the difference between whether or not their organization continues, because they're totally charitable, non-profit organizations. They get no money, for the most part, from the government. The government doesn't donate money to keep the Kinsmen or to keep the Lions Club or the Scouts.

AN HON. MEMBER: It gives them grief.

[Page 2345]

MR. WILSON: In this case all it has given them is a little more grief than what they actually needed, because this was an opportunity, simply by writing out an application, if you were a charitable, non-profit organization in Nova Scotia the applications were printed - in some instances the applications were sent out - by the former Liberal Government, may I add, to help charities in the Province of Nova Scotia. Then along came John.

AN HON. MEMBER: Buchanan?

MR. WILSON: No, along came John Hamm, and all of a sudden cut, cut, cut. The first cut, the most heartless cut of all, that this government made was to say to those hard-working, dedicated volunteers in this province, the people who run non-profit charitable organizations, the people who work with our seniors, the people who work with our children, the people who work with people with disabilities in this province, to those people this government said, we're going to take any chance whatsoever you get of making a little headway with a little extra money, and we're going to rip that right out of your pocket and put it into the general coffers of the Province of Nova Scotia so that we can use it for whatever purpose we want.

Mr. Speaker, I guarantee you not one red cent of that money has ever found its way back to charitable organizations in this province. Not one red cent, and you can be guaranteed in a lot of instances that charitable organizations and non-profit organizations are having a tougher time even surviving in this province right now, under this government.

AN HON. MEMBER: User fees, user fees.

MR. WILSON: Everything has gone up, user fees - they'd be paying more, and some of them are in jeopardy of just being obliterated because of the actions of this government in the last four years.

It was a perfect opportunity, but as I said - I know I don't have much time left - this is also a perfect opportunity for the government to step forward and put its best foot forward . . .

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Repent.

MR. WILSON: And actually, yes, as my colleague, the member for Richmond says, a time for this government to repent. There are some things that are unrepentable, but in this case, maybe not. In this case this is something that can be fixed rather quickly - all it would take is to put the Sydney Casino Charities Trust back in place.

I may add that it would be a good opportunity to take that $5 million, over $5 million, that's been taken from the trust, and perhaps kick-start it and put it back into the trust and let's build on it from there so that charitable organizations and the volunteers, the heart of

[Page 2346]

communities across this province, can say finally this government has done something right. Finally this government has shown that it has a heart. Finally this government has shown that it's a government of integrity and that we believe this government will help the people of Nova Scotia simply by reinstating the Sydney Casino Charities Trust. It would be the right thing to do, the honourable thing for this government to do. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance.

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I was interested in hearing the member opposite's comments in regard to the Sydney Casino and talking about the fact that under the previous regime, that they had promised the people of Cape Breton and especially Nova Scotians that they would give half the casino profits to charities.

Before you get into this discussion, we should also get into the whole discussion of casinos. When the member opposite is talking about integrity and talking about being open with Nova Scotians, I seem to recall - and I wasn't a member of the House at the time - that the former Liberal Government with Mr. Savage at its head and the former Finance Minister, with Bernie Boudreau at the helm of the Finance Department, said, we're going to go out and we're going to consult with Nova Scotians in an open forum. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe Gerry Fogarty who turned out to be Speaker after that, actually headed the select committee that went around and listened to Nova Scotians from Cape Breton all the way to Yarmouth and throughout Nova Scotia.

What did they say? They told that committee overwhelmingly that they didn't want a casino in Nova Scotia. I find it amazing that when they came back and they reported to the Cabinet which received the report and it was a very clear recommendation, it wasn't a whimsical type of recommendation that was vague, it's amazing that the Liberal Government of John Savage and Mr. Boudreau decided that Nova Scotians had spoken - and also Jim Smith was there - and that they would put a casino in place.

We should always remember where these casinos came from. The member opposite is saying, why do you still have a casino? They also signed a very thorough contract with the casino. I could go over at length some of the discussions that took place in this House in the Public Accounts Commitee of how the Liberal Party of Nova Scotia dealt with the casino operator. There are many records on file that spoke about how Mr. Fiske, who was the head of the Gaming Corporation, which was established to be an arm's-length organization so that the casino would not have direct contact with the government. Those hearings will show that there were discussions directly between the minister and also the Premier's Office, those were the things that were said in this House. Not what I'm saying, that's what was documented in this House and the members can read the record of Public Accounts. (Interruptions)

[Page 2347]

He says by the NDP. I will say that if anybody believes that this is just generated by the NDP, you should go back and read the Public Accounts because anyone saying that didn't listen to the discussions that took place in this House when the whole controversy was about how the Liberal Government had allowed itself to deal directly with the casino operator during negotiations.

I might not do everything right in my capacity as Finance Minister, but I respect the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation's authority and I don't deal with the casinos, they deal with them at arm's-length, the way that it was supposed to be.

That is a bit of the history of how things evolve. Why do we have one in Cape Breton? Probably because Mr. Bernie Boudreau represented that area. The big question, a lot of times, is to say why would they put a casino in that small market? If you want to get down to the facts, I think the facts speak for themselves.

In that, there was an announcement by Mr. Boudreau that half of the profits would go to the Native people of this province and the other half would go to charities. The member opposite, when he did say that, that is an accurate reflection of what Mr. Boudreau promised. That was probably an easier sell in Sydney to get a casino there than not to do that. I guess you could say I am imputing motive for Mr. Boudreau, I wasn't here at the time, but in retrospect, that is probably the justification for doing so. Mr. Boudreau can answer for himself, I have no problem doing that.

[5:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, in regard to the casino and the fact that half of the profits were to go charities, when we became government back in 1999, one of the things that we faced was about a $0.5 billion deficit, and we had told Nova Scotians that we would bring about some financial stability to the finances of this province. When we defeated the government, we didn't know the magnitude of the problem. I will say, when we put the budget together and it was $0.5 billion deficit, one thing that our government didn't do, we didn't stand up and say the problem is bigger than we thought and because of that we've changed our mind. With the leadership of our Premier, we kept to our commitment. We didn't change our mind, we didn't change our time schedule, but it made the problem altogether more serious for us to deal with.

Mr. Speaker, the members opposite talk about the Liberal Party's conviction toward charities, but it was amazing that they passed this bill, the bill just laid there for years and nothing happened and they just said it was all ready to go. It's amazing how their memories can be skewed over time. If it was such a good idea, if it was so good for charities, why in God's name didn't they start it two years earlier; and they had to wait until somebody else inherited it. It's just amazing how their memories have been skewed over the years.

[Page 2348]

The other thing that happened today, Mr. Speaker, the member for Glace Bay said, I think that the Glace Bay Food Bank could have used that for its ongoing operations. Obviously, he hasn't done any research, because this type of money was not for ongoing operations of charities or non-profit organizations in this province. It shows that he didn't do his research, because he's a member of a Party that put the program in place that never, ever initiated it. That is a matter of fact, and the members opposite can check Hansard, they can check the bill, and the fact of the matter is they had ample opportunity to do so and they never did. If it was so important, if it was so important, why didn't they do it?

Now, it's amazing, when they get on the Opposition side, that somehow they become the saviors of Cape Breton, become the saviors of Halifax, they become the saviors of Nova Scotia. We made some difficult decisions to bring about financial stability in this province. This is one of those decisions, and we did make a choice. We did make a choice. The fact of the matter is, Mr. Speaker, that that bunch ducked their responsibility when they were in government, and the audacity of the Liberal Party to go in the Red Room when the minister is talking about his speech and to say that he balanced the budget, and a surplus of $1.5 million. By the time he crossed that room, across the foyer to this room, he had a $0.5 billion deficit. It's amazing how Mr. Downe calculates things, you know.

So, today, the member for Glace Bay is saying that we should spend $3 million more, or whatever the number is, towards charities. They are good causes, I don't argue that. At the same time, his Leader is going out and he's saying that debt is the overwhelming problem and we can't add one dollar to the debt, and that is his personal commitment and if he was elected he would do it this year. Now, you know, you can't have it both ways. Yesterday, in Question Period, some of the first questions were concerning the debt. The funny part about it, the second half of Question Period was, where we could spend more money. That member, the member for Glace Bay, was saying that we should be spending more in higher education and more in education. You know, you can't have it both sides. If you want to be a responsible Opposition, you have to keep singing from the same song sheet from the start to the end. The Liberal Party has not done that.

For the Liberal Leader to stand and say that he will not add a cent to the debt, the only way he could do that, Mr. Speaker, is to either virtually cut most of the capital program spending in this province or to cut the program spending for some of the things that they are asking for more money in this House. So when I look at it, they say it's all about choices. You're darn right. People made a choice, they made a choice that they wanted some financial stability. Did we deliver that? The answer is overwhelmingly, yes. The fact of the matter is, did we please everybody by doing that? Of course, we didn't. There were difficult decisions to be made, but today we made decisions to spend money, whether or not it was in education, we made decisions to spend money, whether it was in health care.

[Page 2349]

Do you know why we did that? We did that because we brought about a balance. Mr. Speaker, two years in a row, we have balanced our budget. Once you start doing that, you get into a position where you can see the forest for the trees. Another thing that I really find amazing, from the Liberal Party, is that they've been speaking against the tax cut. Mr. Graham says, if we're elected government and I am Premier - the probability is so minuscule that it's like winning the 6/49 - we will increase the taxes - back to where they were before. He said that, that's a matter of record. The stimulus to the economy is not of concern to him. They're against giving tax relief to Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, on the record, we will find many members of that Liberal caucus who on record, about two years - I could get the exact quotes if you want - were asking this government to index and to deal with bracket creep and to give income tax reductions, two years ago. They were asking for us to do that when we had a deficit. This is the Liberal Party saying, give tax relief when we have a deficit. That's a matter of record. That's not me saying that. That's the Liberal Party saying that.

Today, after we've balanced the budget for the second consecutive year, they are suddenly against giving Nova Scotians tax relief. (Interruptions) I look at the Liberal Party Leader, Mr. Graham, and I know it's difficult to espouse very clear policy, and I know it's difficult to be a Leader, every new Leader who comes in gets a honeymoon. But you can't have a honeymoon forever. Eventually, this Spring and this winter, that's when everything sort of hit the fan. Mr. Graham changed his mind with regard to tax policies, it must have been about six or seven times in a week and a half. He was changing (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order. Order. Order. The honourable Minister of Finance is speaking on Bill No. 21. I have given him some leeway, but I think in the more recent moments he has been speaking more on an issue that isn't directly related. If he can either bring it back to the bill or wrap up, I would appreciate it.

The honourable Minister of Finance has the floor.

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I will bring it back. What has happened here is that the member opposite is asking for us to spend money. He is asking for us to give monies toward charities. To do that, that is part of an overwhelming budget. That means that we have to make decisions, because money doesn't come from just anywhere. I'm trying to explain to the members that the same Party that was making the proposal is also saying that we shouldn't give tax relief. They're also saying that we should be spending more. They're also saying that they won't add to the debt. They're also saying that they probably won't be building very many capital projects, because for them to achieve the goals they have espoused, that is what will happen.

[Page 2350]

We look at the situation, where they're going in this regard. I go back to the original program, it was set up by the Liberal Party. It was going to be given to non-profit organizations. They call them charities, charities is really not the proper analysis of what the original bill was to do. It was to go to non-profit organizations. That could be ball parks, whereby they could get money for that. It could be green areas. So when people look at that, they have this impression that this program was meant to help only with things such as food banks or other types of organizations. I go back, this program and the criteria that they had set out the first time, was never meant to be for ongoing operations. It was meant for special types of projects, which meant that it would not be given to fund an organization in an ongoing way.

When we look at that, if people in Nova Scotia feel that they should get money for ball parks, they should get modifications to other types of community buildings, we have programs for that. We have it in the Sport and Recreation Commission, and we also have it in other types of departments. When we looked at this area, we looked at this as an area where we could make some changes, and to say that I didn't expect it to be controversial, of course I did. I will say some of the other decisions that we made were very much controversial.

Nova Scotians told us that we should concentrate on the areas of spending that they considered to be of a priority. What were they? They were things such as health care, education, and they also asked us to deal with transportation issues. So where have we gone? Those are the areas. We have also invested huge amounts of money in Community Services to try to get people who are in need back on their feet, to get a job and to have dignity. We made many initiatives in that department, things such as training, providing people in need, people leaving social services with Pharmacare benefits for a year after, when they go back to work. Those were not cheap initiatives for us. It paid overall because we've increased the number of jobs in this province, 27,000 over the last four years, and about 80 per cent of those are full-time equivalent.

Have we made progress? The answer is yes. For the member opposite to say that . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Would the minister entertain a short question based on his recent comments?

MR. LEBLANC: No.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance, you have 30 seconds left.

[Page 2351]

MR. LEBLANC: I will say in regard to the member, I don't altogether blame the member for bringing it forward, I know that he is concerned with charities. I have explained the position of the province, that overall we made the decisions for the betterment of the province. I will say that we have other programs which they can use, and I am hopeful that they will. Overall I think the investments that we have made are for the benefit of the province as a whole, and we're prepared to deal with the decision we made because I believe they were well thought-out.

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

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, first of all, I want to start off correcting something that the Minister of Finance said, that this was a money bill. We all know that it can't be. The Opposition can't put forward a money bill, it would be ruled out of order. It wasn't a money bill. This is not a money bill.

Now, I have a problem, and I hear what the minister was saying, that there were some decisions that had to be made. I fully agree with the minister on that, that there were tough decisions that had to be made. There is a definite line between a tough decision and a mean decision. I think this was a mean decision. To understand the culture of this province before casinos, one must look at the to-ing and fro-ing of what was going on with gambling machines, particularly VLTs, in a lot of our areas. It started out as a truly unregulated industry. People in corner stores had them and bars had them, and there was no control. They were wide open. It was literally the Wild West when it came to the proliferation of VLTs.

Then, around . . .

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. The member opposite brought to my attention that this was not a money bill. I would refer you to Clause 9. I do believe that this is a money bill, and as such I'm not really sure whether or not it's appropriate to be discussing it. I'm just bringing that for attention. If it's not, I'm more than prepared to stand corrected.

MR. SPEAKER: Order. We have already had first reading on this bill, so obviously the Speaker has already ruled that this is a bill that is in order. We are in the middle of debating second reading. I wouldn't say that's a point of order, but I appreciate the minister's intervention.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, again I thank the minister for his intervention but, as usual, he is wrong. (Laughter) Was he wrong or did I get lucky? (Interruptions)

[Page 2352]

Mr. Speaker, before I was so keenly interrupted, we were talking about VLTs and gambling machines. What happened, as I stated, is that a lot of these were in corner stores and bars. Then we started to see regulations and the next thing you know, these were moved strictly into licensed establishments. They were put in bars and there was an acceptance of these machines within licensed establishments. They were no longer permitted in convenience or corner stores. At that point, government had a hand on it.

From that point, we came on and we found that there was indeed a problem with gambling in this province. There were horror stories after horror stories of what was going on with people around VLTs. So what we did was, again, government moved forward on a plan to introduce casino gambling in the province.

[5:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, casino gambling in this province was a strange concoction to start with, that it clearly became a direct competitor with established licensed premises in this province. It clearly became that. But you know what? If you remember, the Savage Government of that day told us that this was going to be a panacea, that we would be Vegas North, that we would have tourists beating down our paths to come here. I would contend to this day that the majority of patrons at the casino in Sydney are residents of CBRM. They are not tourists, they are not even people from outside the County of Cape Breton by and large.

I would put forward today that that great panacea, we're going to be as Reno, Nevada portrays itself, The Biggest Little City in the World, we've never become that and we have never been allowed to become that, and I don't think we ever wanted to become that. Part of the inducement to bring casino gambling to the Cape Breton area was, one, negotiations with the Native population who said, well we don't see you have any rights over us as a federal entity, so let's talk about this, and the other side was, let's appease the locals, and one of the sides of appeasing the local residents was that this would not be run as a for-profit casino, but indeed that it would be run as - a certain amount, 50 per cent of the profits, would go to charities.

The Minister of Finance may be exactly right in his interpretation of what that money was to be spent on and what it couldn't be spent on, and I would contend that he is accurate; he is informing the House of what is fact. What I find nonetheless offensive, what the government has done is, no matter how bad the previous government had acted around those casinos, it took the good faith of the people of industrial Cape Breton and turned it around on them and said that that $2 million or whatever - or the $5 million that was projected by the member for Glace Bay - is better spent in their capacity than in somebody else's. That went a long way to determining the financial nature of this province.

[Page 2353]

Well, I would say that other things had a greater role to play, and I think we talked in this House just yesterday of the extra $7 million last year that balanced the budget from the taxation - the 4 per cent tax paid on automobile insurance. The $4 million gained in the first three-quarters of last year in monies spent on drivers' abstracts, when the fees went from $7 to $8. These are monies that I think the government has taken off the backs of Nova Scotians.

You know, it's interesting, whenever we get into a debate about casinos, it's never one that we can debate in complete openness, because again I find myself in agreement with the Minister of Finance that these negotiations were held - and it's on the record, we have it within Hansard and it's a record of this House, it's a record of a committee of this House, that there was interference by a level of government as opposed to the arm's-length group that should have been running it. We have that problem.

Nonetheless - I digressed for a moment - I believe that the government had no moral right in touching that money. We can sit here today and we can argue about the bad deals and we can argue about whether there should be smoking or no smoking in casinos and we can also talk about judicial law as opposed to moral law. I would tell you judicial law is not worth a thing if we don't live by a moral code. A moral code tells us that we entered into that deal, that the government accepts the premise that it's an irrevocable deal, that they entered in, although it's bad, the former Liberal Government entered in with the casinos and they're willing to uphold it, then I think they have that obligation on this side, the moral obligation to have kept that money for charities.

For the minister to say if a not-for-profit group wants a baseball field or if they want a basketball court, we have programs for that. In some respects, there is a program for that, but it's not really what this is meant to be. When we're talking about not-for-profit, we're talking about whether, as the member for Glace Bay stated that it was possible that the food bank in Glace Bay could access that and the minister flatly denies that it could. I categorically disagree with the minister on this. It's clear.

Like it or not, food banks are becoming a part of our neighbourhood and part of that is that it's becoming not a one-meal-a-day type of institution, it's becoming breakfast, dinner and supper for a lot of Nova Scotians. I think in a lot of places, it's going to necessarily mean at some time they may need those types of facilities like the minister spoke about. Kids are coming home from school and being fed at one of our food banks, there may be some hoops set out back so they can shoot some hoops while they're waiting to get, probably, their only good meal of the day. That's the sinful side of this, that we do not acknowledge the level of poverty in this province, but yet, the $5 million, if you look at the Liberal's projection, assuming they're accurate, what that could have meant to some of these organizations.

[Page 2354]

Again, I hear what the minister says, but the minister is not thinking in a larger umbrella, he's just thinking in very narrow terms and saying, oh, they can't buy a stove or fridge with it. He's probably right, the way it was written. I agree with him in the sense that when he says, if it were so important - and this is why I argue with this government today - why not when you say it, put it in legislation and entrench it. It doesn't wash with me when they say there were no profits there then, there was no sense of entrenching it in legislation. Darn. If you put it in legislation, it stops these foolhardy things.

It's like my argument recently with the Minister of Environment and Labour around workers' compensation changes and he's putting everything in the regulations. Put it in the bill. Put it in the bill and then it's not open to the discretion of an Order in Council, it's there and if they want to change it, it has to be brought back to this House for real negotiations. But, no, the Liberals decided in their haste, they certainly made waste. They didn't allow this to be put in here for us to argue and that does not make their bad bill, or their lack of a bill, does not make it right what the Minister of Finance did. The Finance Minister I contend could have made other changes that would have balanced this book in this province but, no, he decided to do it on the backs of the most vulnerable.

So we have a problem with that, Mr. Speaker. The minister wants to have us believe that that was the only way Nova Scotians could have a balanced budget. Well, there's not a person in this province who really believes that, that's the only way we could have had a balanced budget was taking away something from the most vulnerable in this province just because I can do it. So what we have here, I believe, is a position by the government in power that was basically not a moral act, that they should not have had the moral ground to do this, you know, that we have had problem after problem with gambling in this province and it has caused enough concern and had we even taken that money and done something to help those people, we could have done something useful, but they took that money and put it in the bottomless pit and used it as their daily capital.

I fundamentally agree with the bill, the essence of it, and I know the member for Glace Bay who brought it forward talked about forgiveness and atonement. Well, part of atonement is accepting your sins and the one thing that member didn't do was take his own Party's sins in this and atone for those and then ask this government to do it. So, Mr. Speaker, I certainly say hate the sin and love the sinner and I thank you for your time.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton West to close the debate on Bill No. 21.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I'm pleased to rise in support of Bill No. 21 which essentially deals with the issue of charity casinos in Nova Scotia. Before I get into the essence of some of the issues surrounding this particular piece of legislation, I think it's only befitting that we put on the record our concern as a caucus of the Minister of Finance's comments about those who are receiving social assistance in this province,

[Page 2355]

indicating that they, as a government, put a lot of money into helping people on social assistance so they could get off and have some dignity. Is the Minister of Finance suggesting that anyone who receives social assistance does not have dignity? That, to me, is perhaps one of the most patronizing, condescending statements I've heard a Minister of the Crown make towards certain people in Nova Scotia who have had the misfortune . . .

MR. DAVID HENDSBEE: What did you say when you were minister?

MR. MACKINNON: Well, Mr. Speaker, never once did I belittle someone because of their level of income, never once did I chastize them because they didn't have the certain advantages that other people in society and this province have had. The member for Preston should stand and apologize for that type of attitude because that neo-conservative attitude, divide and conquer, and make those who don't have the advantages of the wealthy and the big business and the more fortunate in society, make them feel like they're inferior or some type of a liability in this province, I think that is shameful which is all the more reason why that member for Preston and the Minister of Finance should stand and support Bill No. 21.

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance was talking about a balanced budget. By his own admission, he has indicated with his truly balanced budget that he has borrowed $118 million more than he took in. So if you're spending $118 million more than you take in, obviously, you must be in a deficit position. Well, the Minister of Natural Resources says he wouldn't expect me to understand or the people of Nova Scotia to understand that if you borrow $118 million more than you take in, then that's not a deficit.

[5:45 p.m.]

Is it any wonder that he was party, part and parcel, to the Ben McCrea deals of the 1970s and 1980s, where they near bankrupted this province. The antics of the John Buchanan Administration, where they gave millions, tens of millions of dollars away to rich people in this province but won't give a nickel to the poor people of this province. Absolutely shameful that he would try and make the people of Nova Scotia believe that that's okay. Is that the type of Nova Scotia he wants? Shame on him. What about the electric toilet seats, he was in the department when they spent millions of dollars on those. Shame on him.

They talk about how they've saved money on the Culture Division, through the Nova Scotia Arts Council, by getting rid of that arm's-length council. Okay, let's say that they did save the money. What did they do with that $1 million they said they were going to save? Let's take a look at the Public Accounts for the Province of Nova Scotia. You know what they did? They put it into the minister's office and the corporate structure surrounding the minister so they could further politicize the arts and culture of the province of Nova Scotia for political opportunity.

[Page 2356]

What are they doing for the poor people? Nothing. They make them feel guilty because they're not going to get the tax rate, because they said they're not worthy of it. They're not going to do anything for the poor people because they're receiving social assistance so they don't have dignity, they're not worth it.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. There are something like 26,000 more people working in Nova Scotia now than there was four years ago. The number of people working in Nova Scotia in the last month was the highest in this province's history. That's what you do to get people, he's talking about poor people - you create economic opportunities so they can go to work, because people want to go to work. (Interruptions) Not what that bunch wants to do.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. (Interruptions) Order, please. On the point of order, I have to say, as referenced in Beauchesne's Parliamentary Rules & Forms, 6th Edition, Fraser, Dawson and Holtby, that the point of order that the honourable Minister of Justice raised does not meet the terms and conditions of a point of order.

The honourable member for Cape Breton West has the floor.

MR. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. That would be referenced as a social contract.

Mr. Speaker, yes, we're pleased to see people to be able to go to work. The more people, the better. But for that minister or his colleague, the Minister of Finance, to say that people don't have dignity or shouldn't have dignity unless they have a job, I think that is terrible. The Minister of Justice, who just spoke - if he would refer to a press release that his own government put out yesterday on Crossley Carpets - indicated that it had created 16,000 jobs in Nova Scotia, not 26,000 jobs. I would please submit, would they get their figures straight? (Interruption) Well, in Truro alone. Maybe there's 26,000 people wanting to leave Truro with the type of leadership that's being provided.

Let's look, before we get right to some of the ways that they could have spent that money and still derived a benefit to the taxpayers of Nova Scotia. The Minister of Finance says it's a balanced budget and, yes, the debt's going to continue to grow. Well, if the debt's going to continue to grow, then this Strong Leadership . . . . a clear course - the blue book, which the Premier says he will not add one cent to the debt of this province, is a fantasy.

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. Somebody, a colleague, actually, placed this newspaper in front of me, which I'm prepared to table. It's an objective opinion.

I see the title - I don't know if the honourable member agrees with this: work is the most effective antidote to poverty and that's what this government has . . .

[Page 2357]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. It's not necessary to table that newspaper. That, again, does not meet the terms and conditions of a point of order. The honourable member for Cape Breton West has the floor.

MR. MACKINNON: Really what the Minister of Justice is trying to do is to deflect the attention away from the real feeling of this government towards the disadvantaged and the poor people of this province. They're saying that you shouldn't have dignity unless you get a job. I don't dispute the fact that every job that's created is an advantage for anyone who has the opportunity and the good fortune to have one. Not at all but, let's look at the issue of the charity casino. All the people in Nova Scotia - and we know volunteerism in Nova Scotia is equivalent to close to $2 billion in savings to the taxpayers of Nova Scotia, and if we were to translate that into a cost of government, whether it be volunteer firefighters, volunteer police service, volunteers at food banks, or what have you, translate that into a job description and what do you have? You have an additional cost to the people of Nova Scotia of $2 billion.

So, what's $5 million? What's $5 million in relation to $2 billion? Think about the people just here in Halifax alone. What about all the different Boys and Girls Clubs in Dartmouth North and Dartmouth East, in Sackville, in Spryfield? All these organizations are very worthwhile organizations and, since this government came to power, what did they do? They cut back funding for these organizations. They did, and the record will show that. (Interruption)

Are you talking about an opportunity? These organizations could have very well applied for funding from this charity casino fund. The Minister of Finance says you had it for two years and you did nothing about it. The fact of the matter is there wasn't a profit, so you couldn't take money out of a fund that wasn't there, and the Minister of Finance knows that. The first opportunity with this board to work . . .

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. The member opposite said there were no funds there to distribute. That is not the case. The member opposite should be much aware of the fact that there were funds out of the profits. When we came to office, there was $3 million in that fund, they never distributed it. It was there for a considerable length of time. Don't tell me that you couldn't distribute it because it wasn't there, because the monies were there, you didn't do it, and the fact of the matter is now that you're in Opposition, you've changed your mind.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Once again, that doesn't meet the conditions of a point of order. The honourable member for Cape Breton West has the floor.

[Page 2358]

MR. MACKINNON: The board that was being set up, which was appointed by Cabinet, was having its first meeting to decide all the applications that had just come in to do that, and what did this government do? They surreptitiously removed all legal entity and they claimed that money. They sucked it away from the poor people of this province.

This is the same Minister of Finance who forgot - I'm not sure if he even knows - what the true debt of this province is. He said it's $11.6 billion, but he's not sure if $1.5 billion of unfunded liability should be added on to that or not. So he really can't even tell us the true debt of this province. How can we believe what this man says? How can we believe him when he's borrowed $118 million more than he took in? How is that a balanced budget? That's voodoo economics that he learned under the John Buchanan school of economics. We're not interested in that at all.

What about some of the women's shelters here in metro? Adsum House, Bryony House, all these are very worthwhile organizations. Female members of the PC caucus, they should only know some of the real concerns that have been raised by these organizations complaining about the government not doing enough. (Interruption) We have another bite, let's go for it.

MS. MARY ANN MCGRATH: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. Just for the member's information, I personally championed a new centre for women seeking to get off welfare and improve their lot in life, a commitment of this government to the tune of nearly $0.5 million. That member ought to recognize (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member for Halifax Bedford Basin raised an interesting point. I'm being advised by my colleague here that the time for this debate has expired, but due to the number of inappropriate - and I say that with all respect - interventions, I will allow the honourable member one minute to sum up in his dissertation. It will be 5:57 p.m.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I would commend anyone who would support those types of initiatives, and the members know that. I think we should go back a little in time. That process was initiated under a previous administration. What about the Avalon Centre? (Interruptions) Why are the representatives from the Avalon Centre coming here looking for funding? (Interruptions) Why isn't that member for Halifax Bedford Basin . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. Look, I think in the interest and spirit of co-operation and fairness that will conclude debate on Bill No. 21. It may have been a mistake to add on an extra minute.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. You made reference that the time allotted has expired. I don't know where you got that, but the time allotted is to 5:59 p.m. 5:59 p.m. is on here, and that was presented to the Speaker before.

[Page 2359]

MR. SPEAKER: Yes, I have the document.

Time has elapsed on the bill, and we are going to move on.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: The Opposition Members' Business is finished, completed? (Interruptions)

Mr. Speaker, I move the House do now rise to meet again on the morrow at the hour of 12:00 noon. The House will sit from 12:00 noon to 8:00 p.m. Following the daily routine and Question Period, we will go into Public Bills for Second Reading, commencing with Bill No. 45. Following Bill No. 45, if we get that far, we will go to Bill No. 43, and then to Bill No. 1 and then Bill No. 28. Somewhere along the way we will get into Private and Local Bills for Second Reading. That sounds like a host of work, but that will be accomplished over Thursday and Friday. For the benefit of members of House, for planning purposes, on Friday we will sit from 9:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m., however, on completion of business, if it's any earlier, we will adjourn.

Mr. Speaker, with those words, I would adjourn the House.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion, honourable members, is to adjourn, to sit tomorrow from 12:00 noon until 8:00 p.m.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

[The motion is carried.]

We stand adjourned.

[We have reached the moment of interruption.]

MR. SPEAKER: The late debate this evening has been sponsored by the honourable member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury.

[Therefore be it resolved that members of this House recognize the tremendous boost the gas industry has provided to the economy of the constituency of Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury.]

[Page 2360]

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury.

ENERGY - GUYS.-PT. HAWKESBURY:

GAS IND. - BOOST RECOGNIZE

MR. RONALD CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, it does give me great pleasure today to rise and speak about the exciting new opportunities that Guysborough County is experiencing and will experience in the future. Many of these new opportunities have been and will be made possible because of 37 trillion cubic feet of gas reserves, 200 kilometres off the coast of Guysborough County.

Mr. Speaker, one member rose in this House last week and said, nothing has happened under the watch of this minister or this Premier with regard to the offshore. Well, I would have to say that this has not been my experience in Guysborough County. This government has developed and implemented an energy strategy that is realistic, forward-thinking and puts Nova Scotians first. This government established the first department solely dedicated to energy and energy issues. The Department of Energy is working with industry and other stakeholders in order to maximize benefits to Nova Scotia for all aspects of the emerging oil and gas industry.

Mr. Speaker, it is well known that the people of Guysborough County have experienced hard times. Closures in the fisheries have impacted on the area terribly. While one door is closing, another one is opening. As fishermen look to the sea for their livelihoods, we look to the sea once more but, this time, not for fish. This time the product is natural gas.

The people of Guysborough County are hard-working, dedicated, intelligent and are keen to take advantage of the training programs that will prepare them for future opportunities. Mr. Speaker, Guysborough County is home to one of the largest gas processing plants in North America, Sable Offshore Energy Incorporated. Sable Offshore Energy Incorporated's Goldboro plant has brought 30 good-paying, long-term jobs into a very small community and is making a difference in the lives of many of those who live in that community. Today Goldboro has a substantial advantage over many communities when it comes to attracting business because of that plant.

[Page 2361]

[6:00 p.m.]

We all know that energy is one of the major costs to large operations. Because of Goldboro's unique access to natural gas, its transmission costs are the lowest anywhere in Atlantic Canada and the northeastern seaboard of the United States. That will attract business to the community and this government is actively seeking opportunities in this area.

The SOEI plant is located in the municipally-owned Goldboro Industrial Park. The $200 million natural gas processing plant averages 554 million cubic feet of gas daily and has more capacity for processing and expansion to accommodate the many reserves surrounding Nova Scotia. Gas liquids such as ethane are to be extracted at Goldboro as well. This increases the value of locating an ethylene and polyethylene plant in that community.

Mr. Speaker, the Goldboro Wharf was completely reconstructed by SOEI to facilitate the transportation of large structural elements to the gas plant. This type of construction will continue to benefit the community for many years to come. Emergency services in Guysborough County have also improved because of the existence of the Goldboro plant. The increase in the local fire tax levied for District No. 7 has enabled Harbourview Volunteer Fire Department to obtain new equipment and I'm glad to report tonight that they have a $175,000 new fire truck that's being delivered, probably this week. (Applause) SOEI has also provided volunteer firefighters with the Jaws of Life because of their proximity to the gas plant.

Mr. Speaker, this government has worked hard to protect Nova Scotia and Guysborough County's interests. It was able to negotiate a deal with Maritimes & Northeast Pipeline and is very close to negotiating a deal for assessment on the Goldboro gas plant. This means that residential and business taxes will remain low and another good news item for Guysborough County as far as the taxes go; Guysborough Municipality I believe had the lowest tax rate in the province at 60 cents per $100 of assessment for that municipality. In the District of St. Mary's the tax rate for residential is 84 cents per $100 of assessment.

Mr. Speaker, this means that those municipalities will have a lot more money to spend on things like recreation and infrastructure. For example, take the Little Dover sewage and water treatment facility. The project, funded by the provincial and federal governments and the Municipality of the District of Guysborough, made the construction of a centralized sewer collection and treatment system to serve the 150 homes in that community possible. This project cost almost $3 million.

The municipality was able to contribute almost $1 million to the construction of this facility thanks to the increased municipal tax dollars brought into the community because of the Sable gas pipeline. If it wasn't for the tax dollars paid by the Sable gas project, the people of Little Dover and the Municipality of the District of Guysborough would not have been

[Page 2362]

able to afford to contribute to the construction of this important facility and the project would not have been possible.

Mr. Speaker, I would also like to point out that the Municipality of the District of Guysborough won the municipal InNOVAcorp award for their creative solution to fix the water sewage treatment problems in that community. Today the people of Little Dover don't have to worry about the safety of their water. The oil and gas industry can take some responsibility for that.

Mr. Speaker, the Municipality of the District of St. Mary's has been able to contribute more than $40,000 in addition to the funds provided by the province and the federal government for new water metres and utility upgrades for 142 customers of the Sherbrooke water system. The Sherbrooke water and waste water utility upgrades will allow the water utility to quickly detect and repair leaks, resulting in less wasted water. Improvements will also further reduce operating costs by using less power and chemicals. The community will benefit from a consistent level of service for all customers and improve water appearance and quality. The Warden of the District of St. Mary's has said that this project will definitely have a positive impact on our community and make the community a better place to live, work and visit.

Another example of infrastructure that we have today, thanks to increased municipal revenues, are the sidewalks in the town of Guysborough. Residents and visitors alike can now enjoy safe and enjoyable walks throughout the town.

Mr. Speaker, this government recognizes that we need to be prepared to meet the needs of our developing industries. That's why this government has increased funding to the Nova Scotia Community College to ensure our citizens have the skills they need to compete and prosper in the developing industries of this province; 80 new seats will be created at the Strait campus of the Nova Scotia Community College. This $2.7 million investment will bring additional trades and forestry programs to the area so students can stay closer to home to get the skills they need.

Infrastructure programs in Guysborough County have taken on new urgency and priority. While the oil and gas industry is still in its infancy in this province it is up to us to create infrastructure so that we sustain industries here. Over the past three years this government has spent more than $7 million in capital expenditures throughout Guysborough County. Driving along Routes 16, 211, 374 and 344 is becoming easier and this year we will pave another 13 kilometres along the Highway No. 7 as part of this government's $70 million investment in the only major highway along the Eastern Shore. (Applause) This year we will also see additional improvements made to Route 16, making the trip to and from Canso much easier.

[Page 2363]

Mr. Speaker, the same member whom I mentioned earlier also said in this House, "Leadership for the offshore must be provided here in Nova Scotia." and on this I cannot disagree. Fortunately, here in Nova Scotia we do have leadership, strong leaderships, leadership from a Premier who has stood up for the rights of Nova Scotians. (Applause) To make sure that decisions are made based on the best interests of the people of the province, that Premier is our Leader, John Hamm who, unlike the previous government's Leader, has a realistic view of what is attainable in this province and will make the appropriate decisions to maintain a viable oil and gas industry in this province.

Mr. Speaker, Guysborough County has an expanded potential for growth (Interruption)

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

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and join this debate and I have to say that this motion by the government member here is nothing short of a last-ditch attempt to try to get re-elected. Anybody who would bring this motion to the House, knowing full well that the only offshore activity that ever took place in that county was a Liberal-sponsored activity with Sable prior to this government coming to office.

You know, one of the champions of that project in the Strait area was Gordon MacDonald, who worked long and hard with our government to make sure that that Sable project became a reality and that that county that that member represents benefited from it. It was Gordon MacDonald and the people in that area, the good municipal people down there and the people who were on side with us with the Sable project; they were the group. They were the group that ensured that the Sable project would come to fruition in that part of Nova Scotia.

The member talks about what's happened in his county, but he hasn't talked about what has not happened since his government took office. I want to read something that came from the Halifax Herald, by Judy Myrden, when she was in Houston writing about the offshore activity, what's been happening there with the technology conference where the minister is. Here is what the Mines and Energy Minister of British Columbia states, "Nova Scotia's become a textbook case on how not to develop its offshore industry, says British Columbia's Mines and Energy Minister Richard Neufeld, at the largest oil and gas event in the world . . ." That's quite an indictment for one Energy Minister to say about another Energy Minister, that Nova Scotia has really missed the mark here.

You have to look at what happened down there since the present Tory Government took office. Nothing. Where is the petrochemical industry that was supposed to be developed in the Strait area? It was well underway to becoming a reality when this government took over, and there has not been a word said about it since, not a word. Where is the aluminum

[Page 2364]

smelter? Where is the vibrant offshore supply base? Where are the electrical generation facilities and secondary industries?

Mr. Speaker, this government has done nothing to promote the offshore industry in the Strait area of Nova Scotia or, for that matter, anywhere else in Nova Scotia. It took us a whole year of prodding in this place, prodding the government to finally set up a Ministry of Energy in this province. Before that, we had a part-time Minister of the Petroleum Directorate, who had no idea what was going on in the offshore, didn't do anything to try to enhance the image of his department.

The Premier made a public statement in a public place that the economy of Nova Scotia will grow in the future with or without the oil and gas industry. Now the member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury stands in his place and he touts all that's being done by his government, when, in fact, the Premier has said he doesn't need it, doesn't need the oil and gas industry to grow the economy in this province.

What he forgets to tell people, Mr. Speaker, is how the economy is going to grow without oil and gas. He conveniently forgets to tell people in Nova Scotia how the economy is going to grow. We, in the Opposition, know how it is going to grow - by increased user fees, increased taxes, larger debt in this province, larger costs for just about everything that consumers need - that's how it's going to grow. They're going to continue to pick the pockets of Nova Scotians and put it on their balance sheet. That's how it's going to grow. They're still borrowing money, and the member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury talks about all that's happening in the Strait area.

Mr. Speaker, big deal, they're going to pave a few roads in an election year down there to get the member re-elected. It's not going to work. The people in that area have seen nothing more than a stall in the offshore activities in that part of Nova Scotia. The truth is, here we are four years into the mandate of this government, four years and Nova Scotians still aren't getting natural gas in their homes. New Brunswick is getting our gas. The United States is getting our gas. Our feedstock gas is probably going to be used in petrochemical industries elsewhere, in the States, not in the Strait area.

The member who spoke here today, the member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury has not said one word inside or outside of this House in four years, about promoting his area for petrochemical industry or for jobs in the future. The only activity that took place was an activity from the MacLellan Government on the Sable project. I happen to be proud to be the minister of the day when we went down there and told the people of that area that we were going to promote that area in the future; we were going to promote the Strait area with the benefits of offshore gas and oil.

[Page 2365]

What happened? This government came into office and nothing happened. Nothing happened. You couldn't even get an answer out of the previous minister as to whether or not the oil companies were, in fact, going to be around Nova Scotia in the future. He didn't seem to care. He didn't seem to know. Now the present minister says everything is okay. Well, oil companies are leaving, if that's okay, fine, with him, that's okay because the Premier of this province says he doesn't need oil and gas. The minister doesn't know whether they need oil and gas or how they are going to get in into people's homes in Nova Scotia. What we've been saying consistently is that the people of Nova Scotia deserve an alternate energy source if they so wish to use it. We didn't want to bring our gas ashore in Nova Scotia to have New Brunswick people use it or have people in the eastern United States use it. You would hope that the availability of the gas would be here in Nova Scotia, for consumers.

[6:15 p.m.]

People in Guysborough have tried to make a difference there. They have been very proactive and I congratulate them for that. I know the warden there, and I will refer again to Gordie MacDonald who has championed the cause of promotion of the oil and gas industry in the Strait area. He will be the next member coming from that area. I'm sure, Mr. Speaker, that he, as a valuable member of the Graham government which will be taking over office here in Nova Scotia following the next election, will have an opportunity to really do something for this area because he will have a voice in our government. He will be a voice. Not a voice in the wilderness like the present member, not a voice in the wilderness of a desperate member trying to get re-elected by saying everything is all right in Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury. Everything is not all right in Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury because his government, under the leadership of his Premier, has done absolutely nothing to promote the oil and gas industry in the Strait area, or, as I said before, anywhere else in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, it is nothing short of a sham in this province, the little attention this government pays. They have an Energy Department which they finally set up, and they have a $7 million budget to run the entire operation dealing with the oil companies in Nova Scotia. The oil companies and the gas companies are being strangled by this government. They are being strangled in regulations, strangled by a government that doesn't seem to want to do business with them. If there is one thing the oil and gas industry asks for, it's certainty. They want to know where they are heading in the future whenever they set up shop anywhere. They want to know they are dealing with a government that is going to pay attention to that sector of the economy. They want to know that any money they invest here is going to be money well-invested. They want to know that a government will try to protect an area like Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury and, indeed, make it grow. That hasn't happened.

The last time any significant development took place in this province was the Sable Project, in terms of actually being a project that Nova Scotians could point to and say, this project is creating jobs both onshore and offshore. This project is contributing to the economy of the Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury area and other parts of Nova Scotia. It was

[Page 2366]

a deal made with the offshore that is enabling these municipalities that he talks about to get more revenue. But the government, again, has held that up in red tape. For over a year they have been arguing and fighting over who is going to get the revenues. So that Minister of Energy should tell that member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury that he had better be more vocal if he is going to get anything in that area, because the government, I feel, has no intentions of doing anything there except to try to con their way through the next election. Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, this debate is a very sad end to the day's proceedings. It must make for very poignant reading for the very few residents who are actually left in Guysborough County to read the speech that their member gave us this afternoon. I don't often agree with the honourable member for Cape Breton South but I have to say that a lot of what he spoke in response to this resolution was quite accurate. He exaggerated, of course, his own government's achievements, and I don't think he was entirely accurate in his observations about what we might expect from the offshore but when it came to making observations about the failures of the present government with respect to Guysborough County he was entirely correct.

What was particularly poignant, I think - and I have to say I hope the member didn't actually write this speech himself, I hope that on this very rare occasion when we actually had the opportunity to hear the member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury speak in this Chamber, that he was invited to read into the record something that someone else wrote. Mr. Speaker, listen to what he said to us. He said one door is closing and another is opening. What he meant by that was that the opportunities in the ocean that have traditionally been represented by fishing should be seen as the door closing. He was trying to suggest to us that Guysborough County could still look to the sea, but they should look to the sea for natural gas.

Even if the benefits of natural gas for Guysborough Country were at the level that the member suggested they were, they would not be adequate to replace the lost opportunities for richness from the sea that should flow to the people in Guysborough County and that have flowed to the people in Guysborough County for hundreds of years. It's only with respect to fishing that there should be a long-term future for people in those communities. I think particularly about a community like Canso that's fighting for its life. There has been a resounding silence, unfortunately, from that member and unfortunately from his whole government when it comes to trying to do something long-lasting for communities like Canso.

The truth about natural gas is that it isn't going to last for very long. The best we can hope from the SOEP project is that it might last for 25 years. Even now, though, with the revised forecasts, we're looking at probably 20 years, perhaps less. There are no new offshore

[Page 2367]

gas fields that are actually being developed at the moment. The offshore has stalled. I want to tell the member that unfortunately, from his perspective, the real part of the province that has benefitted the most from offshore exploration and development, has been metro. It hasn't been Guysborough County. Certainly the case that there have been some good things in terms of short-term stimulus for Guysborough County, but most of the benefits have been right here in metro, in my constituency and in the other core metro constituencies.

This is where the shipbuilding gets done. This is where the service industries are. This is where the engineers are. This is where the oil and gas companies have their headquarters, this is where their professionals are buying their homes. This is where most of the people who work in servicing, in exploring, in doing the background information, in doing the professional studies that are associated with exploration are located, right here in metro. The offshore oil and gas companies were completely upfront from day one when they came with the SOEP proposal about that fact. They made it clear in their socio-economic impact studies that most of the benefits were going to be here in metro. Now it's true. But, having a plant that you can tax for municipal purposes is a big benefit as long as it's there in Guysborough County.

It's equally the case that some of the jobs that go with servicing that plant clearly are for people who are going to be living in that area and do live in that area. That's fine. That's a stimulus. But look at the unemployment rate in that area. Whenever we look at the figures that come on a regular basis from Human Resources Development Canada, we see that area of the province has a much higher unemployment rate than does metro or does the provincial average.

So the problem has not been solved. We know and we've just seen it demonstrated in the redrawing of provincial boundaries, there is a severe loss of population in that part of the province. The young people are moving out and the people who are left are aging. The young people see that there is no future for them. The kind of future that really would be appropriate - I mentioned Canso, St. Mary's, other fishing communities - would be something that's oriented towards the traditional activity of fishing, that supplies jobs for people who go fishing, for people who outfit those ships, for people who process the fish when the fish come ashore. That is something that is sustainable, ongoing and can provide jobs in abundance. That is not what we see, unfortunately, in Guysborough County with respect to natural gas and the government has failed to do what needs to be done in order to stimulate jobs in the fishery in Guysborough County. What we've seen is a strategy that has been relied upon in several other parts of this province.

I've heard a number of speakers on the government side point, apparently proudly, to the job creation record of this government. They keep saying 26,000 jobs have been created over the four years of their government and in a way that's accurate but, do you know what, 50 per cent of those jobs are in call centres, fully half of those jobs are in call centres in different parts of the province, and call centre jobs are notoriously mobile. The companies

[Page 2368]

are induced to come here with grants and subsidies, but they could be induced to go anywhere with grants and subsidies and at some point when those grants and subsidies expire, those companies can easily pick up and move. They're mobile. They don't have to be here. They will go wherever they want to go. They will go wherever they can get the best deal from a local government.

I don't think that this is the kind of business we want to be in. It certainly isn't a replacement for something like the fishery that has been here for 500 years and longer. It can't be. The jobs aren't nearly high-paying enough and they don't have the potential to go on forever the same way fishing jobs do. That isn't an answer but, unfortunately, it's been the kind of answer we've seen from that government.

We've heard mention about the government's energy strategy as if this was going to somehow benefit people in Guysborough. I have to say this is lost on me. It's far from obvious that there is a robust future for us based on the offshore. It may be, but it's far from proven and no one should have stars in their eyes, least of all people who live in a very poor and depopulated part of the province like Guysborough County. What you have to recognize is that the natural gas industry is also mobile and however attractive it might be to find good supplies of natural gas off our shore and sell to that ready market in the United States, however attractive that might be, it's far from clear that we're going to be the big beneficiaries.

The number of jobs we get are really tiny, the royalty regime is not good, and there has been no improvement in that. There's nothing in that energy strategy that's really going to change that and, as correctly pointed out earlier, there's no petrochemical industry present or on the horizon so the prospects are not good. There has been no real industrial development based on the initial injection of capital into Guysborough County. That is the hard and inescapable fact. That government should be lobbying Mr. Thibault and lobbying Mr. Thibault very hard to get sustainable, long-lasting fishing jobs for Guysborough County.

MR. SPEAKER: That concludes the late debate.

[We stand adjourned.]

[The House rose at 6:28 p.m.]

[Page 2369]

NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)

RESOLUTION NO. 1145

By: Hon. James Muir (Justice)

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

Whereas the Victorian Order of Nurses for Canada is a national, charitable community-based health care organization delivering health care services to over 1 million Canadians and their families annually; and

Whereas VON Canada nurses, health care workers and community volunteers are situated in approximately 1,300 Canadian communities and have been caring for the lives and well-being of residents of Nova Scotia since 1897; and

Whereas the VON Colchester-East Hants Branch serves those in need in Colchester County and the surrounding area;

Therefore be it resolved that all the members of this House use this week - VON Week - as an opportunity to applaud the Victorian Order of Nurses and congratulate its staff for the tremendous service they provide to our communities.

RESOLUTION NO. 1146

By: Mr. Richard Hurlburt (Yarmouth)

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

Whereas the Victorian Order of Nurses for Canada is a national, charitable community-based health care organization delivering health care services to over 1 million Canadians and their families annually; and

Whereas VON Canada nurses, health care workers and community volunteers are situated in approximately 1,300 Canadian communities and have been caring for the lives and well-being of residents of Nova Scotia since 1897; and

Whereas the VON Tri-County Branch serves those in need in Yarmouth, Digby and Shelburne Counties;

[Page 2370]

Therefore be it resolved that all the members of this House use this week - VON Week - as an opportunity to applaud the Victorian Order of Nurses and congratulate its staff for the tremendous service they provide to our communities.

RESOLUTION NO. 1147

By: Mr. Barry Barnet (Sackville-Beaver Bank)

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

Whereas the Victorian Order of Nurses for Canada is a national, charitable community-based health care organization delivering health care services to over 1 million Canadians and their families annually; and

Whereas VON Canada nurses, health care workers and community volunteers are situated in approximately 1,300 Canadian communities and have been caring for the lives and well-being of residents of Nova Scotia since 1897; and

Whereas the VON Canada Eastern Region serves those in need throughout the Province of Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that all the members of this House use this week - VON Week - as an opportunity to applaud the Victorian Order of Nurses and congratulate its staff for the tremendous service they provide to our communities.

RESOLUTION NO. 1148

By: Mr. Kerry Morash (Queens)

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

Whereas the Victorian Order of Nurses for Canada is a national, charitable community-based health care organization delivering health care services to over 1 million Canadians and their families annually; and

Whereas VON Canada nurses, health care workers and community volunteers are situated in approximately 1,300 Canadian communities and have been caring for the lives and well-being of residents of Nova Scotia since 1897; and

Whereas the VON Queens County Branch serves those in need in the Municipality of Queens and the surrounding areas;

[Page 2371]

Therefore be it resolved that all the members of this House use this week - VON Week - as an opportunity to applaud the Victorian Order of Nurses and congratulate its staff for the tremendous service they provide to our communities.

RESOLUTION NO. 1149

By: Hon. Cecil Clarke (Economic Development)

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

Whereas MRI technology is considered the number one diagnostic tool by physicians today and when the province announced over $2 million towards the purchase of an MRI through federal medical equipment funding last summer, the Cape Breton Regional Hospital Foundation also launched a capital campaign to meet the remaining need; and

Whereas Enterprise Cape Breton Corp. has recently announced a grant of $100,000 toward that capital campaign; and

Whereas MacLennan Junior High School students from Westmount have also shown their support by working to raise a $1,000 donation and by challenging other Cape Breton junior high school students to do the same;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House acknowledge the importance of diagnostic tools, like MRIs, to the well-being of Cape Bretoners and commend ECBC and the students of MacLennan Junior High School for supporting the Cape Breton Regional Hospital Foundation's important capital campaign.

RESOLUTION NO. 1150

By: Hon. Cecil Clarke (Economic Development)

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

Whereas an Enterprise Cape Breton report has been released, citing the need for new and inventive ways to market farming, and suggesting the farm be used as an educational tool to teach people about agriculture; and

Whereas there is hope that bringing school classes in to teach them about farming may rejuvenate interest and perhaps raise extra money for the farm; and

[Page 2372]

Whereas other recommendations included in the report were developing an innovation centre to act as a business resource for local farmers, and possibly setting up displays at Cape Breton Island entry points to showcase local agricultural products;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House acknowledge the importance of the Enterprise Cape Breton report and encourage farmers to embrace the study to learn about new business ideas.

RESOLUTION NO. 1151

By: Hon. Cecil Clarke (Economic Development)

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

Whereas the fourth annual Harmony Breakfast has recently taken place at the University College of Cape Breton; and

Whereas the event was in celebration of the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination; and

Whereas at the breakfast, Glace Bay's Victor Jones was presented with the Human Rights Award, for his work in combatting racial discrimination;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Victor Jones on receiving the Human Rights Award, and commend him for his hard work in eliminating racial discrimination.

RESOLUTION NO. 1152

By: Hon. Cecil Clarke (Economic Development)

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

Whereas Billy Wilson of the Royal Canadian Legion John Bernard Croak VC Branch 3 has been named the top recruiter for the Nova Scotia/Nunavut Command for 2002; and

Whereas as chairperson of the membership committee, Mr. Wilson has brought in 90 new members to his Legion, and will receive a Legion jacket, watch, pen and a plaque for his efforts at a ceremony in Glace Bay; and

[Page 2373]

Whereas Mr. Wilson, regarded as an honest and upstanding Legionnaire, has been a Branch 3 member for 15 years;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Billy Wilson on being named the Royal Canadian Legion recruiter of the year for the Nova Scotia/Nunavut Command, and thank him for the dedication he gives to the Legion.

RESOLUTION NO. 1153

By: Hon. Cecil Clarke (Economic Development)

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

Whereas on this day, 11 years ago, three young lives were lost in a senseless act of violence in Sydney River; and

Whereas that night vandals stole not only money but the lives of three employees: Donna Warren, 22, of North Sydney; Neil Francis Burroughs, 29, of Glace Bay; and James Fagan, 27, of Sydney; and altered forever the life of Arlene Marie MacNeil, 20, of Point Aconi; and

Whereas the victims' families, Sydney area residents and all Nova Scotians were also forever changed by that tragedy;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House take a moment to remember the victims, their families and their loved ones on the anniversary of what was a very dark day for the residents of the community of Sydney River 11 years ago.

RESOLUTION NO. 1154

By: Hon. Cecil Clarke (Economic Development)

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

Whereas Marc-André Fleury, the 18-year-old goal-tending sensation, who faced more shots than any other No. 1 goaltender in the league, won top honours at the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles sixth annual awards dinner; and

Whereas winning the Cape Breton Beverages trophy for Most Valuable Player for the second straight season, Fleury also claimed the CJCB-1270 trophy as the Fans' Choice; and

[Page 2374]

Whereas this young goaltender is well remembered for his outstanding play at the 2003 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships where he backstopped Team Canada for a silver medal win and earned the tournament's MVP, was the tournament's top goaltender and secured himself a spot on the first all-star team;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join fans across Nova Scotia and Canada in applauding Marc-André Fleury for his achievements and sensational goal-tending skills.

RESOLUTION NO. 1155

By: Hon. Jane Purves (Health)

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

Whereas the Victorian Order of Nurses for Canada is a national, charitable community-based health care organization, delivering health care services to over one million Canadians and their families annually; and

Whereas VON Canada nurses, health care workers and community volunteers are situated in approximately 1,300 Canadian communities and have been caring for the lives and well-being of residents of Nova Scotia since 1897; and

Whereas the VON Greater Halifax Branch serves those in need throughout the majority of the Halifax Regional Municipality;

Therefore be it resolved that all the members of this House use this week - VON Week - as an opportunity to applaud the Victorian Order of Nurses, and congratulate its staff for the tremendous service they provide to our communities.

RESOLUTION NO. 1156

By: Mr. Wayne Gaudet (Leader in the House of the Liberal Party)

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

Whereas Wanda Robichaud of Lower Saulnierville was crowned provincial queen for TOPS (Take Off Pounds Sensibly) in Halifax on April 5, 2003; and

Whereas Wanda was recognized by TOPS Canada Inc. for her determination during the competition, beating over 3,000 other TOPS members in Nova Scotia for the crown; and

[Page 2375]

Whereas with her perseverance and courage, Wanda lost 115 pounds to win this recognition;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House of Assembly congratulate Wanda on her personal accomplishment and wish her all the best in the future.

RESOLUTION NO. 1157

By: Mr. John Chataway (Chester-St. Margaret's)

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

Whereas the Victorian Order of Nurses for Canada is a national, charitable community-based health care organization, delivering health care services to over one million Canadians and their families annually; and

Whereas VON Canada nurses, health care workers and community volunteers are situated in approximately 1,300 Canadian communities and have been caring for the lives and well-being of residents of Nova Scotia since 1897; and

Whereas the VON Lunenburg County Branch serves those in need in Lunenburg County, New Ross, and New Germany;

Therefore be it resolved that all the members of this House use this week - VON Week - as an opportunity to applaud the Victorian Order of Nurses, and congratulate its staff for the tremendous service they provide to our communities.

RESOLUTION NO. 1158

By: Mr. Mark Parent (Kings North)

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

Whereas the Victorian Order of Nurses for Canada is a national, charitable community-based health care organization, delivering health care services to over one million Canadians and their families annually; and

Whereas VON Canada nurses, health care workers and community volunteers are situated in approximately 1,300 Canadian communities and have been caring for the lives and well-being of residents of Nova Scotia since 1897; and

[Page 2376]

Whereas the VON Annapolis Valley serves those in need in Kings County, Annapolis County, the Municipality of West Hants, the Town of Windsor, and the Town of Hantsport;

Therefore be it resolved that all the members of this House use this week - VON Week - as an opportunity to applaud the Victorian Order of Nurses, and congratulate its staff for the tremendous service they provide to our communities.

RESOLUTION NO. 1159

By: Hon. Ernest Fage (Energy)

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

Whereas the Victorian Order of Nurses for Canada is a national, charitable community-based health care organization, delivering health care services to over one million Canadians and their families annually; and

Whereas VON Canada nurses, health care workers and community volunteers are situated in approximately 1,300 Canadian communities and have been caring for the lives and well-being of residents of Nova Scotia since 1897; and

Whereas the VON Cumberland Branch serves those in need in the Town of Amherst and surrounding areas;

Therefore be it resolved that all the members of this House use this week - VON Week - as an opportunity to applaud the Victorian Order of Nurses, and congratulate its staff for the tremendous service they provide to our communities.

RESOLUTION NO. 1160

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 River Hebert Volunteer Fire Department will be holding its annual banquet to honour its firefighters, auxiliary and families this Saturday, May 10, 2003; and

Whereas this is an opportunity for all residents to pay honour to a very dedicated group of individuals who give so freely of themselves for their neighbours and community; and

[Page 2377]

Whereas we should also remember the commitment and sacrifice of the families of these courageous and professional firefighters who allow their loved ones to provide a much- needed and important service to our community;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate and thank the members and families of the River Hebert Volunteer Fire Department for their willingness to set aside their own lives to ensure the safety of their neighbours and their property and wish them a safe and successful year in 2003.

RESOLUTION NO. 1161

By: Hon. Murray Scott (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, has been recognized as National Hospice Palliative Care Week; and

Whereas for those facing life-threatening illnesses, hospice palliative care is an invaluable service, providing physical care, emotional aid, and dedication to their patients, and is an important aspect of our health care system; and

Whereas the Palliative Care Units in Springhill, Parrsboro and Advocate are model examples, providing patients with such a crucial service - respect and dignity in their final days;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House applaud the tremendous hard work and dedication of the hospice and palliative care workers and volunteers, and join me in celebrating their integral part in our health care facilities.

RESOLUTION NO. 1162

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 River Hebert Volunteer Fire Department will be holding its annual banquet on May 10, 2003; and

Whereas Donna Rector will be recognized with an appreciation plaque from the fire department at this banquet; and

[Page 2378]

Whereas Donna has continuously volunteered her time to the department for many years with the most important being answering the fire phone;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Donna Rector and thank her for her dedication and service to the fire department and wish her all the best in the future.

RESOLUTION NO. 1163

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Roy Wilson of the River Hebert Volunteer Fire Department will be honoured at its annual banquet on May 10, 2003; and

Whereas Roy Wilson will be presented with a pin for 10 years of service to the department; and

Whereas Roy Wilson has shown exemplary service and dedication to the River Hebert Fire Department;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Roy Wilson and thank him for his dedication and service to the fire department and wish him all the best in the future.

RESOLUTION NO. 1164

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 River Hebert Volunteer Fire Department will be holding its annual banquet on May 10, 2003; and

Whereas Ron Baker & Sons Construction will be recognized with an appreciation plaque from the fire department at this banquet; and

Whereas Ron Baker & Sons Construction continuously supported the department by volunteering their time and equipment whenever needed;

[Page 2379]

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Ron Baker & Sons Construction and thank them for their dedication and service to the fire department and wish them all the best in the future.