Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

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26 octobre 2017

HANSARD 03-30

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/

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Third Session

FRIDAY, MAY 9, 2003

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES:
Law Amendments Committee, Hon. J. Muir 2557
TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS:
Educ. - Parents and Their Children's Education, Hon. A. MacIsaac 2558
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 1272, Environ. & Lbr. - Westray Mine Disaster: Victims -
Memory Respect/Honour, Hon. R. Russell 2558
Vote - Affirmative 2559
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 50, Interior Designers Act, Ms. M. McGrath 2559
No. 51, Crosbie Memorial Trust Fund Act, Mr. M. Parent 2559
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 1273, Environ. & Lbr. - Westray Mine Disaster: Victims -
Memory Respect/Honour, Mr. F. Corbett 2560
Vote - Affirmative 2561
Res. 1274, Elizabeth Fry Soc. - Rebels With a Cause Award:
Recipients - Congrats., Mr. D. Dexter 2561
Vote - Affirmative 2561
GOVERNMENT BUSINESS:
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 45, Insurance Act 2562
Mr. K. Deveaux 2562
Mr. M. Samson 2563
Mr. Robert Chisholm 2574
Mr. J. Pye 2581
Mr. H. Epstein 2587
Hon. R. Russell 2597
Vote - Affirmative 2597
PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES:
Law Amendments Committee, Hon. R. Russell 2598
PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 50, Interior Designers Act 2598
Ms. M. McGrath 2598
Mr. H. Epstein 2598
Mr. Manning MacDonald 2599
Mr. M. Samson 2600
Ms. M. McGrath 2600
Vote - Affirmative 2600
PRIVATE AND LOCAL BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 29, Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities Act 2601
No. 34, Riverport District Fire Protection Act 2601
No. 35, An Act to Incorporate the Truro Golf Club 2601
No. 37, Hantsport Memorial Community Centre Financial
Assistance (2003) Act 2601
No. 40, Sisters of Saint Martha Act 2601
No. 44, Chipman Corner Cemetery Company Act 2601
No. 47, Associated Alumni of Acadia College Incorporation Act 2601
No. 48, Lunenburg Common Lands Act 2601
No. 51, Crosbie Memorial Trust Fund Act 2601
PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 1, Firefighters' Compensation Act 2602
Mr. M. Samson 2602
Mr. J. MacDonell 2603
Hon. R. Russell 2604
Vote - Affirmative 2605
No. 43, Members' Retiring Allowances Act 2605
No. 28, Apprenticeship and Trades Qualifications Act 2605
Hon. A. MacIsaac 2605
Mr. W. Estabrooks 2607
Mr. D. Wilson 2607
Hon. A. MacIsaac 2608
Vote - Affirmative 2608
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Mon., May 12th at 2:00 p.m. 2609
NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3):
Res. 1275, Teacher Appreciation Wk. - East.-Shore Schools: Staff -
Congrats., Mr. W. Dooks 2610
Res. 1276, Teacher Appreciation Wk. - Lakefront Cons. Elem. Sch.:
Staff - Congrats., Mr. W. Dooks 2610
Res. 1277, Teacher Appreciation Wk. - East. Cons. Elem. Sch.:
Staff - Congrats., Mr. W. Dooks 2611
Res. 1278, Teacher Appreciation Wk. - East. Shore DHS: Staff -
Congrats., Mr. W. Dooks 2611
Res. 1279, Teacher Appreciation Wk. - Gaetz Brook JHS: Staff -
Congrats., Mr. W. Dooks 2612
Res. 1280, Teacher Appreciation Wk. - W. Chezzetcook Elem. Sch.:
Staff - Congrats., Mr. W. Dooks 2612
Res. 1281, Teacher Appreciation Wk. - Lakeview Cons. Sch.: Staff -
Congrats., Mr. W. Dooks 2613
Res. 1282, Teacher Appreciation Wk. - Atlantic View Sch.: Staff -
Congrats., Mr. W. Dooks 2613
Res. 1283, Teacher Appreciation Wk. - Harbourside Elem. Sch.:
Staff - Congrats., Mr. W. Dooks 2614
Res. 1284, Teacher Appreciation Wk. - Jeddore-Lakeville Sch.: Staff -
Congrats., Mr. W. Dooks 2614
Res. 1285, Teacher Appreciation Wk. - Musq. Hbr. Elem. Sch.: Staff -
Congrats., Mr. W. Dooks 2615
Res. 1286, Teacher Appreciation Wk. - Robert Jamieson Elem. Sch.:
Staff - Congrats., Mr. W. Dooks 2615
Res. 1287, Teacher Appreciation Wk. - Ross Rd. Elem. Sch.: Staff -
Congrats., Mr. W. Dooks 2616
Res. 1288, Teacher Appreciation Wk. - Sheet Hbr. Cons. Sch.: Staff -
Congrats., Mr. W. Dooks 2616
Res. 1289, Fralic, Shirley: Queen's Jubilee Medal - Congrats.,
Mr. F. Chipman 2617
Res. 1290, Whitman, Kirk - RCL Port Ryl. Branch 21:
Lifetime Membership - Congrats., Mr. F. Chipman 2617
Res. 1291, N. Sydney FD - Shattered City: Appearance - Congrats.,
Hon. C. Clarke 2618
Res. 1292, IWK Health Ctr. - Kimberly-Clark/Students: Efforts -
Recognize, Hon. T. Olive 2618
Res. 1293, Taylor Fam. (Collingwood): Vol. Wk. - Congrats.,
The Speaker 2619
Res. 1294, Hoffman, David - NSCC Board: Appt. - Congrats.,
The Speaker 2619
Res. 1295, Leicester FD Aux. - Bowling Team: Trophy - Congrats.,
The Speaker 2620
Res. 1296, Sports - Dart Tournaments: Springhill Team - Congrats.,
The Speaker 2620
Res. 1297, Enviorn. & Lbr. - Westray Mine Disaster: Victims -
Memory Respect/Honour, Mr. W. Gaudet 2621

[Page 2557]

HALIFAX, FRIDAY, MAY 9, 2003

Fifty-eighth General Assembly

Third Session

9:00 A.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Murray Scott

DEPUTY SPEAKERS

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

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

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, as Chairman of the Committee on Law Amendments, I am directed to report that the committee has met and considered the following bill:

Bill No. 3 - Personal Property Security Act.

and the committee recommends this bill to the favourable consideration of the House, with certain amendments.

MR. SPEAKER: Ordered that this bill be referred to the Committee of the Whole House on Bills.

2557

[Page 2558]

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Education.

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I will table a document entitled Parents and Their Children's Education: Defining a Meaningful Role for School Advisory Councils. This is a discussion paper and it's a Learning for Life initiative.

MR. SPEAKER: The document is tabled.

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Environment and Labour.

RESOLUTION NO. 1272

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

Whereas today is the 11th Anniversary of the tragic explosion in the Westray Mine in which 26 miners were killed and the lives of their family members and community were changed forever; and

Whereas the death of those miners has provided a lasting lesson to Nova Scotians about the continuing need to put safety on the job above all other considerations; and

Whereas the legacy of Westray will be felt every day a worker returns home safely from work;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House respect and honour the memory of those who died at Westray and use that memory as our inspiration to remain vigilant in the cause of safety in Nova Scotia workplaces.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice and I would ask the House to observe one minute of silence in memory of those who lost their lives.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 2559]

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

The motion is carried.

I would ask the House to rise and for the members to observe one minute of silence for those who lost their lives in the Westray disaster.

[One minute of silence was observed.]

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you. Please be seated.

The honourable member for Halifax Bedford Basin.

MS. MARY ANN MCGRATH: Mr. Speaker, if I may, I would like to make an introduction before I introduce my bill.

In the Speaker's Gallery, we have with us members of the Interior Designers of Nova Scotia: their president, Kelly Moore, and their past-president, Kara MacGregor. If they would rise and receive the warm welcome of the House, please. (Applause)

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

Bill No. 50 - Entitled an Act Respecting Interior Designers. (Ms. Mary Ann McGrath)

Bill No. 51 - Entitled an Act to Establish the Dr. Jack Crosbie Memorial Addictions Trust Fund. (Mr. Mark Parent)

MR. SPEAKER: Ordered that these bills be read a second time on a future day.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I would ask for unanimous consent of the House that those two bills be added to the order paper for today.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

As a result of unanimous consent of the House the bills will be heard later today.

The honourable member for Pictou East on an introduction.

[Page 2560]

MR. JAMES DEWOLFE: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct the members' attention, through you, to the east gallery, where sits a long-time friend and an employee with the Department of Environment and Labour, from my constituency - he lives in Barneys River - Mr. Gordon Anderson. I would ask Gordon to rise and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

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

NOTICES OF MOTION

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

RESOLUTION NO. 1273

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

Whereas coal mining in Nova Scotia has always been marked by grief, sorrow and many tears; and

Whereas on this day in 1992, another dark chapter in this history unfolded when 26 men perished in the depths of the Westray Mine in Plymouth, Pictou County; and

Whereas despite a massive rescue operation by their fellow miners, crews from Cape Breton, and scores of other groups and volunteers, it soon became apparent that the explosion had robbed the families and friends that day of the 26 loved ones who toiled at the coal face below;

Therefore be it resolved that this House honour the memory of the 26 men who perished on this date in 1992, in the tragic Westray Mine disaster and offers its deepest sympathy to their families and friends for the deep anguish and sorrow that will always visit upon them on this day.

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 2561]

The motion is carried.

The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 1274

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 Elizabeth Fry Society of Mainland Nova Scotia is a non-profit organization established in 1982 to work with women in conflict with the law and those at risk of coming into conflict with the law; and

Whereas this evening, Friday, May 9th, the Elizabeth Fry Society is celebrating National E-Fry Week and holding its 5th Annual Rebels With a Cause event to honour five outstanding women who have championed issues of human rights and social equality; and

Whereas the worthy recipients of this year's awards are community development activist and former MLA Yvonne Atwell, social worker Carrie Boudreau, lawyer Darlene Jamieson, education consultant Sister Dorothy Moore, and community activist Lorna Pendleton;

Therefore be it resolved that this House extend sincere congratulations to this year's Rebels With a Cause - Yvonne Atwell, Carrie Boudreau, Darlene Jamieson, Sister Dorothy Moore and Lorna Pendleton - as they are honoured tonight for their advocacy work on behalf of women, children and their families in our community.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

[Page 2562]

ORDERS OF THE DAY

GOVERNMENT BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

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

PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 45.

Bill No. 45 - Insurance Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I started last night at the time of adjournment, talking about Bill No. 45, and I just wanted to wrap up before I pass it on to the member for Richmond, who is speaking next, but I did want to take a few minutes to talk about, in summary, Bill No. 45 because what we have with this piece of legislation, as I said last night, is not a freeze on insurance rates, but a postponement, a delay - and not even a very good one at that.

[9:15 a.m.]

As I said, there are many people out there - and I refer to a couple of my constituents who are getting, even this week, letters saying that their rates are going up. They were confused, and what was happening was that their insurance companies have been raising rates over the last year on an incremental basis every other month or so - in September 2002, in the winter of 2002-03, and then again on May 1, 2003, each time 10 per cent, and what that has resulted in is they are going to get a rate increase. Maybe it wouldn't be as high, maybe that 10 per cent on May 1st will be dropped, maybe there are others who have insurance companies who raised their rates on April 1st, or April 15th or even April 30th, in which case that will still come into effect for those insurance holders.

That is the main problem with this legislation - it does not do what it is supposed to do. That is an issue that we all need to ensure is being dealt with. I would suggest to you that Nova Scotians don't believe this legislation is appropriate, it doesn't do what it is supposed to do and they aren't happy with its contents.

[Page 2563]

They're going to get a chance with the next election. They're going to get a chance to talk about insurance rates, to talk about which Party has the ideas, has the vision to ensure not only stopping the rapid increase in insurance rates, but actually reducing insurance rates. Sometimes when you talk to Nova Scotians, they sort of look at you and say, do you think we could actually reduce them, and I say yes.

Let's talk about that; let's go out and consult; let's hear what people are saying; and let's begin to build a system that can actually reduce rates in Nova Scotia. This is about giving a break to Nova Scotians, giving them a break on auto insurance rates, giving them a break in other areas as well. It can be done; I know our Party has some ideas that we're ready to talk to Nova Scotians about - we're still consulting, but those ideas are going to come out and we're going to begin to talk to Nova Scotians about how we can reduce auto insurance rates.

Bill No. 45, as far as it goes in this, sort of a slight postponement of rates I guess, is a half-measure from this government that can be supported, but unfortunately it goes nowhere near what most Nova Scotians need or want in order to survive, in order to ensure an essential service. I compared it yesterday to power rates, to telephone rates. It's an essential service, it's an essential thing that all Nova Scotians need and it's important that it be there for them at a reasonable rate, and that's not happening in Nova Scotia. It hasn't been happening in Nova Scotia for the last two years and it's time something be done. Bill No. 45 doesn't do that, and we look forward to a debate where we'll be able to talk more about what can be done to actually reduce auto rates in this province. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise in my place and speak on Bill No. 45, the Insurance Act. As many of the speakers before me have indicated, this is a most pressing issue facing pretty much the vast majority of Nova Scotians from one end of this province to the other. Is it an issue that only affects a certain sector of our population? Not at all. Does it affect only a ceratin age group? Not at all. It certainly does not only affect a certain income group, it is an impact being felt by Nova Scotians not only outside of this House, it's an impact being faced by each and every one of us inside this House who look at their insurance and have seen where their insurance has gone over the last number of years. This is one of those issues where we often get calls from constituents expressing their frustrations as to what is going on and the hardships that they are encountering as a result of this.

It's not too often that I will agree with the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, but I think when he spoke the other night and indicated that it was unfair for one Party to stand in this House and say that only they were the ones who were aware of the impact of the insurance issue on Nova Scotians, I had to agree with him. I believe every

[Page 2564]

single member of this House has had calls from their own constituents, or representations made on this issue, and we're all extremely concerned.

I intend to speak about a few of the examples that I have. When I talk to the people of Richmond County and they tell me the impact this has had, whether it be car insurance or home insurance, at the end of the day they say I'd like you to look into this and see what can be done, but I don't want my name used. I don't want my name bandied about, I don't want to see my name on the front page of The Chronicle-Herald or on the front page of The Daily News. I'm a private citizen and I like my privacy, but this is an important issue and I would like for it to be dealt with and I would like you to bring my concerns without having to use my name on the front page of the media.

I respect that, Mr. Speaker, and I believe that is something that many members in this House also respect. So just because members don't stand up here and throw around names of their own constituents, or names of others to be used in the media, certainly it is not an excuse for a Party to stand up and say no one else cares because they're not willing to put pictures or names of people in the media, but is that to say that the people of Richmond County do not have the same concerns as the examples that have been shown here in this House? Not at all, not at all, but what they've asked is, don't put my picture on the front page of the paper, don't throw my name around the House, or in press releases, address the problem, raise it and see what kind of solutions can be brought.

Mr. Speaker, that is what I intend to do today and that's why, as I said, it's rare that I do agree with the member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, but in this case I think it's important that members of this House respect the fact that we are all working very hard on behalf of our constituents, that we do get the phone calls from our constituents, and just because we don't stand in our place and throw around their names, their examples and their addresses, certainly it does not mean that we're not as concerned as anyone else on this issue.

Mr. Speaker, I got a phone call just a few weeks ago from a gentleman who had been on workers' compensation benefits. He had decided to take advantage of the program that allows you to take all of your future benefits at once to allow you to set up a business and his business idea was to set up a type of taxi service for the Richmond County area, especially in the Isle Madame and Louisdale area. As a rural area, we do not have any systems of public transportation in our area. Many of our seniors, many others who cannot afford the luxury of a vehicle, are at a disadvantage in being able to get out to go grocery shopping, pick up their mail, go up to Port Hawkesbury to the mall, and so this was a business idea he had. He did a business plan and it indicated there was a need for this service.

I believe, Mr. Speaker, he was able to earn a modest living off this business, but all of a sudden the insurance bill came in. I don't have the exact figures with me, but I can tell you they basically doubled from what he previously had. Now, clearly when he did his business plan a year or two ago, he did not foresee that he would be faced with almost a

[Page 2565]

doubling of his insurance rates and when you're dealing with such a small market as the Isle Madame and Louisdale area for this type of business, a doubling of rates to go from the range of over $1,000 to over $3,000 has a significant impact on the business and has put into question in his mind whether his business is still sustainable. So that's one example. He's now wondering what he should do because of the fact that he has used his workers' compensation benefits, his future benefits, to start up this business, he's left asking what do I do now to provide income for my family and for future earnings?

Mr. Speaker, I've heard many other examples of car insurance, but one of the issues I can tell you here which has not been discussed and that the government seems to have turned a blind eye to in all this is the issue of home insurance. There is a crisis looming on the issue of home insurance in Nova Scotia. I can certainly tell you it has hit home in Richmond County because the insurance companies have now started the famous home visits and home inspections. One example, I had a gentleman whose home had been left to him by his grandmother. It was an older home naturally and she had been with the same insurance company I believe for 20 years, 20 years of loyalty to this insurance company. He had cared for her in her last days and she left him the home. So he and his wife are in the home now.

All of a sudden, they get a notice that there's going to be a visit from an inspector from the insurance company. When he arrives, he does the inspection and the report comes back and it's four pages long, typed. It says you've got to replace your roof. You've got to replace your chimney. Your stove is a few inches too close to where the chimney is or too far away from where the chimney is. Your oil tank looks like it needs to be replaced. The windows need to be replaced. The wiring is outdated. Your electrical box should be upgraded. At the end of the day, conservative estimates pegged it at about $22,000 in necessary repairs.

Mr. Speaker, this is an older home, a modest home, and the gentleman living in it had a modest income. Both he and his wife worked but, at the end of the day, it was a modest income. The insurance company said, you're either going to fix all of these concerns we've raised now, or we're going to cancel your policy. Well, what did he do? He picked up the phone and called the insurance company and said, you have to be joking, here's how much money I make and you want me to do $22,000 in repairs and still continue the regular upkeep of my home. They said, we told you, you're either going to fix it or we're going to cancel your policy. I believe he got fairly animated with the person he was talking to, and that's unfortunate but I can understand his frustration.

He called me and said, can they even do this? After 20 years of loyalty, can an insurance company just pick up and say, your policy is cancelled? I said, I'm not sure. Let me look into it. It sounds a little strange that they would act so quickly. I made a phone call to the broker and I was quickly directed to the head office in Moncton. I spoke to the supervisor there who said, very simply, he's either going to fix all the concerns we've raised or we're going to cancel the policy.

[Page 2566]

Mr. Speaker, I tried to explain his situation, his fiscal situation, the fact that he may be able to address some of these concerns in a step-by-step process, and it was clearly indicated, it's either all done at once or we're cancelling the policy. I had not hung up the phone, the notice came in within a few days indicating to the gentleman that his policy - I believe it's his 30-day notice - was going to be cancelled, and that was it. That is one of the examples of the crisis that we're facing, I would say, especially in rural areas, where we have a number of older homes, a number of homes that were built a significant time ago, with different wiring and everything that needs to be upgraded. I believe we would like to see all of them be upgraded, just for safety if nothing else.

But to ask Nova Scotians, overnight, to undertake $20,000 in repairs to their homes is just not reasonable. I can give you an example. Now one of the first things - I know from my time in Environment and Labour, one would like to think they're doing this for environment concerns and safety concerns, but I question whether that's the case - when you go to purchase a home and you call the insurance company, the first question is, what is your heating system? If you indicate that it is oil-based, they ask you, how old is your tank?

Mr. Speaker, I had a friend who had just bought a home, spent a considerable amount of money, it was going to require a significant amount of repairs and investments in that home. When he called, they said, tell us the age of your tank. He said, okay. They said, there should be either a sticker or a plate on it that tells you the year of the tank and the manufacturer. He had just purchased a home and never thought this to be an issue. He went downstairs - had been told by the previous owners that the tank was relatively new - looked up and down the tank and could not find the plate on it that indicated its age. He called in a local electrician/plumbing businessman to come in and check to see if he could determine the structural integrity of the tank. That gentleman said, this tank is clearly less than five years old. It's fine.

So he called back the insurance company and said, I can't find the plate, I can't tell you the age, but I had a guy in who is experienced in this and he says the tank is fine. What was the response? Sir, you either replace the tank or don't bother calling us again. He had to buy a new tank, pay to get the old tank removed, get the new one installed; $1,100 on top of the purchase price of unanticipated costs for the purchase of that home. Now he was in the fiscal position that he could absorb that. How many of our constituents out there are, especially young couples who are looking to purchase homes, they're having to go out and get 25-year mortgages, and then when they go to get insurance they're being told, you have to do this, this and this before you're going to be covered.

Mr. Speaker, I would submit to you, it's not going to get better. It is only going to get worse. Right now, if you call for insurance, that is the number one question, what is the age of your oil tank, and if you cannot find that plate on it that gives them the age, they say, replace the tank or don't call again. That is another example of the costs. I would submit to you, more and more of these inspections are going to be done by insurance companies, telling

[Page 2567]

Nova Scotians, you are either going to fix all of the deficiencies we find in your home, or we are going to cancel your policy.

[9:30 a.m.]

I gave the experience, earlier, of the gentleman who had his grandmother's home. When I called and said, how can you possibly just cancel his policy, his grandmother was with you for 20 long years of loyalty and you are just going to turn around and cancel his policy. It didn't matter. They appreciated her loyalty but that wasn't going to change their mind. I said, so what does he do now? She said, it's not going to get any better for him because the next time he applies for insurance, that company he calls will call us and ask why did you cancel his policy. She said, we will send them the inspector's report we had and the reasons why we cancelled him, that will be sent along to the new company. There is no way out for that gentleman. Where does he turn? You can only imagine what the new company is going to say when he calls, when they receive the report from the old company, it's going to be the same deal.

I know the issue has been raised about how many Nova Scotians drive without car insurance. I think one of the issues we should look at is how many Nova Scotians go to bed at night, each and every night, without any house insurance. I would submit to you it is my belief that that number would be alarming to all of us and that is an extremely unfortunate

fact. I can tell you that right now, you are seeing it more and more.

I spoke to an RCMP officer in Richmond County who said, never before have we seen so much arson taking place. He said, what is happening is people just cannot afford to keep their houses insured any more, especially people trying to rent out homes, who can't find tenants and the homes remain empty for any period of time. What is happening? They're going up in flames. That is a very unfortunate reality, that people are turning - as has been suggested before, under this government and the insurance industry - law-abiding citizens into criminals because of the onerous costs that are being faced and the fact that they just cannot make ends meet any more because the insurance industry is becoming out of control.

Because there have been concerns about arson, now - what the officer went on to say - it is to the point that if you have any fire or damage to your home, the insurance companies automatically assume intent. It is up to the homeowner to prove there was no intent. He made it very clear in saying, if they decide to deny your claim and go to court over it, who do you think has the best resources to keep fighting it? Is it the homeowner or the insurance company? I'm sure we all know the answer to that and, again, that is one of the unfortunate realities.

Yes, automobile insurance is important, we need to find some solution to get control of this. But again, on this issue, let's not forget about home insurance and the impact that is having on seniors, on low-income earners, on single individuals, and people in this province,

[Page 2568]

who we want to continue to see remaining in their own home, not have to abandon their home, or leave it, or sell it, because of the fact they can't afford basic insurance on their home.

Back to the issue of auto insurance and Bill No. 45. There has been great confusion caused by the government's action on this. First, they tell us the solution is to go to the URB and that will get control of the rates - don't worry, we've got it under control. Lo and behold, the rug is pulled from under their feet, the insurance rates continue to go up, obviously showing the insurance companies do not take this government very seriously, as they continue to go in to ask for further rate increases.

At the end of the day, the government says, we're going to put a freeze on automobile insurance and that was the message to everyone, there is a freeze. So, the average Nova Scotian is sitting out there saying, whew, I got my notice from the insurance company about this increase they wanted to make but now the Tory House Leader and Minister of Environment and Labour, who is responsible for insurance, has got a freeze on it, so I'm safe. We now all know that those who got their notices before the announcement more than likely are going to see that increase going through. The gentleman I gave the example on who has the taxi business and got his notice a few months ago, that more than likely is going to stand.

So, Mr. Speaker, the minister stands in his place and tells us in Question Period, pass Bill No. 45. That is going to be the solution to dealing with this. The reality is, I believe, as many of those who have spoken before me have pointed out, Bill No. 45 is not the solution. It is one of the small measures that have been taken by this government but it is certainly not the solution for those who are out there right now, wondering how they are possibly going to afford to pay the insurance that is being charged to them.

Mr. Speaker, it causes me great sadness when I get a call from a senior who says, this is my only freedom that I have, my ability to go into my car, to go for a drive, to go visit and to not be housebound. Right now, I'm to the point, because I'm on a fixed income, I can no longer afford a vehicle. I think that would cause concern to any of us to see our seniors in their golden years have to abandon their freedom, those who are especially fortunate enough to still be able to drive and still be able to get around as they wish.

Mr. Speaker, is it only insurance? Not at all. This is the same government that has put an unprecedented hike on licence fees, on licence renewal, that has put a 2 cent hike on the price of gas which brought them in last year $25 million in additional revenue, which came out of the pockets of seniors and Nova Scotians because of a 2 cent hike in gas. Yet, on top of this, the government sits back while the insurance industry continues to raise the premiums.

[Page 2569]

Mr. Speaker, this is not an issue that was just raised recently. I remember us debating this issue well before Christmas of last year when we last sat and the question always was, at that time, why is the government not taking action now? Why are they sitting back? Why are they saying the market will govern itself, it will get better? Why is the Minister of Finance not stepping in and saying we have to get control of this? Lo and behold, just before Christmas when the Minister of Finance gave his final quarterly report, there was this pocket of money that suddenly appeared. He said look, my surplus is bigger than I expected and upon further examination, when he was asked where did these millions of dollars come from, the Minister of Finance said, it's because of our additional revenue we've gotten from the taxation of insurance rates.

Now, Mr. Speaker, not wanting to impugn motive or anything in this House, which I know you would say is unparliamentary, but it does beg the question because of the additional revenue coming in from taxation on insurance rates, could that possibly be one of the reasons why the Minister of Finance and the government chose not to take action on insurance rates, knowing that the higher the insurance rate, the more revenue that comes into government, the more government can go out and try to claim we've balanced the budget and all is well with our finances. Well, we all know and our caucus has been able to reveal the fact to Nova Scotians that a balanced budget is not the response to the financial needs of this province. It is but a mere step and that while balancing the budget, this government has continued to increase the overall debt of this province which, again, is saying someone else will deal with it in the future.

So, Mr. Speaker, we saw, I believe, in the final budget numbers that were presented by the Minister of Finance, $7 million to $8 million was raised for this government by the insurance industry because of the increase in insurance rates. So there is $7 million or $8 million from insurance, $25 million from the 2 cent increase on gas, how many million dollars from the increased licence renewals.

Mr. Speaker, I went the other day, to give you an example, to renew the plates on my 1999 Explorer and I have an old pickup truck, a 1986 F150. To renew the plates for both of those vehicles for two years each, I believe is how they renew them, $386. That is the cost now to renew your plates. I think it was $140-something for each vehicle. That is an unprecedented amount of money being charged. So with all of the revenue coming in, at what point was the government going to say enough is enough? I would submit to you that as long as the money kept rolling in, this government was willing to look the other way and not acknowledge there was a crisis developing in insurance rates in this province, knowing the amount of revenue they would be achieving from this. That's extremely unfortunate.

I would submit to you, the senior in this province who has had to give up his vehicle, regardless of what happens in this House and regardless of what happens, will not be buying another vehicle and that independence they had is now gone and they won't get it back and that is extremely unfortunate. It's not as if the government can sit back and say we didn't

[Page 2570]

know, no one warned us. We weren't aware. This crept up on us overnight. That wasn't the case. They had been warned about this. They were given the opportunity to take action and they made the decision not to do so and I would submit to you the additional finances rolling in was a major part of those decisions.

Mr. Speaker, we continue to hear the horror stories from individuals who indicate that because of age their rates have suddenly jumped up although they have a very good driving record. More and more we hear of people with older vehicles whose rates are going up because of the age of the vehicle. I can tell you, hearing all the talk about insurance in the last few weeks and before that, I decided one day, well, I'm on a monthly deduction myself so I don't pay too close attention to where my rates are, but I said maybe I should check just to see how my rates have done. I can tell you, for example, my 1986 Ford pickup truck, F150, a great little truck, I first bought it - I shouldn't say I bought it, I got it from my father, it's my father's old truck. He would be upset if I said I bought it so I better not say that. (Interruption) There was a purchase value there when I got to the registry, they made sure of that.

When I bought the truck, for one year of insurance, $386. For an old pickup truck, $386, PLPD. Well, I said that's not bad, that's good, it's good to have a pickup truck. So I checked the other day just to see where I am today, has it moved, I hadn't paid too much attention, but there's a lot of talk about older trucks and where they're at. That $386, that was about three or four years ago, is now up to $700 a year. It has basically doubled. Mr. Speaker, I will absorb that cost, but how many people in this province is such a jump too much for them to continue to be able to maintain their vehicle and to operate their vehicle? That is but one example.

The government continues to tell us that they are going to get control over the issues of the insurance companies determining rates based on the age of the vehicle, based on the age of the driver and based on other factors and what we are hearing more and more is the fact that this government will not have control over those underwriting rules. This government in this bill does not have the ability to be able to dictate to the industry not to continue those unfair practices and Nova Scotians who are sitting at home with the belief that this government with Bill No. 45 is going to be taking care of the insurance needs of this province are sadly mistaken. As has been said by many before me, this was brought in on the eve of an election to try to make Nova Scotians believe that something is being done by this government on insurance.

Again, this bill and this legislation has not been based on sound public policy. This is based on political advice given from the spin doctors of this government as to what can a government possibly do to try to convince Nova Scotians they've done something while actually doing little or nothing. This is not the first time. This is the same as Sunday shopping. Now we get it in the insurance bill. It's the same as what the government is saying on their fiscal management and I would submit to you, Mr. Speaker, more to come. This is

[Page 2571]

window dressing and an attempt by the government to try to make Nova Scotians believe that it has put together a viable solution to this problem.

Mr. Speaker, we have made it very clear that our Party will be bringing forward a plan to present to Nova Scotians as to what we see is a possibility to deal with the issues of insurance. One of the things I can tell you about this plan, which will clearly differentiate ourselves from our socialist colleagues here, is that our plan will involve original thought, something which I realize is a foreign concept to the NDP caucus. The idea of using an original thought to the NDP is something that they haven't had in mind since 1960 I would say, or as my colleague, the member for Cape Breton Nova, would suggest, possibly the days of the Regina manifesto, but I certainly don't intend on going back that far.

Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians realize there's a problem, but to simply stand here and tell them here's the problem, and when we're given an opportunity to provide a solution, the NDP says we're going to copycat what another province is doing. We're going to go with public insurance which is being used by other provinces and everything is going to be fine.

[9:45 a.m.]

Nova Scotians are not buying it. We're not buying it and that's why I tell you I'm anticipating and looking forward to when we will present a plan that Nova Scotians will clearly see is a real plan that addresses the problems that we have here in this province, that addresses the problems that Nova Scotians are going to be facing and that provides them with real solutions. The government clearly has failed to do this. The NDP continues to fail to do this, although as they throw out one plan, they keep saying there's something better coming, there's more to come, because they see that the reaction is not favourable to any of the suggestions they have made yet.

When one looks at the glossy brochure and they say they are looking for input from Nova Scotians, I think many speakers before me have indicated that when you send out a brochure in this day and age, the year 2003, using taxpayers' money and say, do you believe auto insurance has gone up and it says, yes or no. Questions like that. Do you believe we need lower insurance rates? Yes or no. Really, is that what you call consultation? Is that what you call asking Nova Scotians real questions about their real situations? Then, on the comment line, I have to tell you, I'd have a hard time being able to spell my name on that comment line, let alone provide any reasonable ability for input onto this problem. (Interruption)

Well, no, Mr. Speaker, the member for Timberlea-Prospect asks if I have a hard time spelling my name. No, I do not have a hard time spelling my name and one of the things I don't have a hard time recognizing is when a Party is trying to mock Nova Scotians and trying to use an issue for political gain to tell them, we will send you out this glossy brochure with a picture of our Leader trying to make you believe we're going to solve insurance by

[Page 2572]

asking you questions such as, do you think insurance rates should be lower? Nova Scotians are not going to buy this. It is again a desperate attempt by a Party that realizes it is dropping in the polls by the day and trying to find some way of again convincing Nova Scotians that they have a solution.

I've said often enough that this is a government that is more interested in spin doctors than in medical doctors and I have to say I believe that the NDP caucus can be accused of that very same fact because they're more interested in trying to convince Nova Scotians they're dealing with this and will provide a real solution rather than actually doing so.

At the end of the day, it is Nova Scotians that we must keep in mind in the debate here. Bill No. 45 is clearly not the answer in dealing with the problems we have. Bill No. 45 is an attempt for a government, preparing on the eve of an election, to say we are going to be dealing with this and then they tell us more to come later. This government has had ample opportunity to get a grasp of this issue, ample opportunity to be able to put the interests of Nova Scotians first when it comes to auto insurance. They've had ample opportunity to put the interests of Nova Scotians first when it comes to a variety of issues. They've failed on those issues. This is a government which I have clearly said a number of times that in four years they will be known as a government of missed opportunities, of lost opportunities.

An unprecedented growth in our economy is what this government has had. Because of their sound financial management? No. Because of a growing economy that has benefited our entire country and other parts of the world. From 1999 to today, this government, under their tenure, has an additional $1 billion in revenue than what the previous administration had. With an extra $1 billion, when the Premier stands up and is asked about his fiscal mismanagement, he refers back to 10 years ago. For the Premier to believe any Nova Scotian is going to be fooled into thinking that the economy of 2003 is comparable to the economy of 1993, no one's buying it. What it's meant to do is a desperate attempt by a government to try to hide their failures on the issue of fiscal management.

Nova Scotians will not be fooled. They will not be fooled by the fact that Bill No. 45 is another lost opportunity to take advantage of this. What the insurance companies in this province have done is laughed at this government. They've thumbed their noses at this government in saying, we realize on other issues you have not been able to deal with them appropriately and we certainly anticipate that it will be no different for our issue. Even while the government tries to get control, they're trumpeting down to the URB to file for more increases.

I would submit to you, Mr. Speaker, more to come, there is more to come with this government. This is a government that clearly, when it comes to public policy decisions, does everything it possibly can to give a half-measure, hoping that Nova Scotians will fall for it. Clearly, I would submit to you, because of how this government has dealt with the debt, fiscal management, education, Sunday shopping and insurance, those are some of the

[Page 2573]

main reasons why the Premier stood in his place yesterday and said, we don't need to pass the bill dealing with elections and allowing 18-year-olds to stand for office or to run and sit as members. I would submit to you, those issues and the government's failure on these issues has a lot to do with why this government is saying we will not go to the polls before May 28th.

Mr. Speaker, I would submit to you, the reason why the Minister of Transportation and Public Works, the Chairman of Treasury and Policy Board, does not want to show us his polling results is because of the fact that those polling results are not favourable and they are not very kind to this government. The $155 cheque, the 10 per cent tax cut, the fact that they want to borrow until the year 2013, I would submit to you that the results that have come back have clearly been negative for this government, and that is why they do not wish to go to the polls, that is why they would hope that Nova Scotians, over the summer, may somehow start to forget some of the important issues that our caucus has raised about this government's performance.

Mr. Speaker, I would submit to you that they're probably looking at a summer of trying to do as much paving as possible, in the hope that Nova Scotians will say, oh my, lots of pavement coming, maybe we can forgive them for the fiscal mismanagement, we can forgive them for not fixing health care, we can forgive them for not addressing insurance rates, we can forgive them for not getting control of the debt. I understand why the Premier keeps referring back to 1993, it's because this government is stuck in a mentality of 10 years, if not 20 years, ago when it comes to respecting Nova Scotia voters. While they remain 10 years back . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I just want to remind the honourable member for Richmond that the debate before the House is on Bill No. 45, second reading of the Insurance Act, and I would ask him to bring his comments back to the bill, please.

The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, I wasn't sure how long you were going to let me go before I got that, but it is Friday morning. As I pointed out, on Bill No. 45, the impression has been left out there, to Nova Scotians, that this is going to stop the insurance rates from going up, that the notice they got from their insurance company last November, last December, January, February, March, April, all of a sudden those rates won't be going up. That is the impression. That is the impression this government wants to leave. At the end of the day, that is not the reality. If you got your notice before, then your rates are up, and the chances of getting them down again, right now, appear questionable under this government's current approach. That is an important fact.

[Page 2574]

Mr. Speaker, I believe that because of the debate that is taking place here, the government hoped that this bill will get speedy passage and that no one would pay attention to the fact that this actually didn't deal with the increases already put in place. We have been able to take this opportunity to tell Nova Scotians, clearly, those who are here today and those who are watching, this bill is not going to reverse those increases, Nova Scotians will have to find a way of dealing with that very important issue.

Again, Mr. Speaker, I want to tell you that this is an issue that affects the people of Richmond County a great deal. I continue to get phone calls. If you are waiting for me to stand in my place and give the names of my constituents, their addresses, their ages, their family members, the make of their car, their social insurance number and everything else, no, you will not get that from me. I do not ask that from my constituents. Their problems are real, their problems need to be addressed. Do they need to have their faces on the front page of The Chronicle-Herald, on the front page of The Daily News, sitting beside the Leader of the NDP? I don't think so. Nova Scotians respect their privacy, they expect their privacy to be upheld, but they want their problems, their real problems to be dealt with.

I will continue to do my utmost as the member for Richmond to bring those issues here, to bring those examples here, but to respect the privacy of my constituents, because regardless of their names, regardless of where they live, their problems are real, they are problems that are being encountered by Nova Scotians throughout this province, and they are problems that we must act responsibly as elected officials in dealing with them. The fact is that Bill No. 45, again, is another example of a lost opportunity by this government to deal with a very real problem. Again, it will be added to the list of this government's lost opportunities during their tenure as a majority government, with an unprecedented economy, a booming economy.

With that, Mr. Speaker, I look forward, as a member of the Law Amendments Committee, to seeing this bill go to the Law Amendments Committee, to see what input we get from Nova Scotians, maybe from industry representatives, from brokers and others who can come before us and indicate their views on Bill No. 45, the concerns that they have, and at the end of the day, hopefully, we will be able to work with the government in trying to come forward with workable solutions that will deal with the real problems facing Nova Scotians in regard to insurance, rather than simply dealing with window dressing and political spin doctoring rather than solving the real problems.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and speak for a few moments on Bill No. 45, An Act to Amend Chapter 231 of the Revised Statutes of 1989, the Insurance Act. It's a bill that's been introduced by the government. It's a knee-jerk response to the escalating crisis faced by many Nova Scotians as a result of rising insurance rates, insurance premiums. It is a stop-gap measure that I think is simply inadequate. It doesn't go

[Page 2575]

far enough. It doesn't, in fact, go any distance at all. Some might suggest that they are trying to paper over a problem which has become extraordinarily significant in the lives of thousands of Nova Scotians from one end of the province to the other.

Mr. Speaker, the whole question of rising insurance premiums, of discriminatory coverage, discriminatory practices in rates in coverage is not something that just appeared within the last month or so. It is a problem that we have been seeing increasingly over the past couple of years. As the global financial difficulties have developed, the insurance companies have increased the avenues they have available to them to find a revenue. As their investments from the stock markets have decreased, they have gone in other directions trying to find a way to ensure that the dividends to their shareholders are maintained or, in fact, even increased.

The results, as I've seen them across the industry, have been increasing demands placed on brokers, increasing demands placed on policy holders, less flexibility. Certainly, brokers, agents, have seen themselves under a much stricter regime being imposed by insurance companies. There used to be a time when insurance agents used to be able to work directly with a policy holder and work them through any changes that might happen. If they had a claim, help them through that claim. If they were having difficulties in terms of finding insurance coverage, they would shop that particular situation from one insurance company to the other.

What we've seen and what they've found over the past number of years is that the number of insurance companies in the business has decreased. They've merged together and there certainly seems to be much more similarity in terms of the philosophy of insurance companies, in terms of what they will cover and what the rates will be for any given coverage. So the job for brokers has become more difficult and, above all, the options available to the policy holders, Mr. Speaker, have certainly decreased.

[10:00 a.m.]

The Party of which I'm a part and the caucus of which I'm a part, led by the member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour, has examined this whole issue. We have heard from Nova Scotians - from New Democrats, from Nova Scotians of all political stripes and Nova Scotians of no political stripe - who have spoken out about the problems that they're encountering as a result of these increased rates, as a result of discriminatory practices in the application of these rates, have heard the problems that people are facing as a result of these increases, the problems faced by people who are having their insurance cancelled, and a year ago we urged this government to do something about it.

Mr. Speaker, we asked them to refer the matter to the URB. That finally happened after some considerable foot-dragging but, beyond that, we asked the government to examine what's happening out there, to recognize that the difficulties being faced by Nova Scotians

[Page 2576]

is real and it's a very serious problem, that Nova Scotians here in Halifax, in rural parts of the province, are being faced with decisions as a result of the increase in rates, decisions that are simply not fair, decisions about whether or not they are able to keep a used car, whether they are able to afford a new car, whether they're able to operate a motor vehicle at all in order to transport them, to transport their family, to get back and forth to work, to attend medical appointments, to look for work, and to do other things that they are required to do in the course of carrying out their activities in the Province of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, we've asked the government, on more occasions than I care to mention, to do something about this serious problem and, unfortunately, the government which has become, I think sort of part of their strategy, they've become known for really doing very little, if anything, about any particular problem facing Nova Scotians, whether that's skyrocketing fuel costs and the impact that has on seniors, people on fixed incomes, who are trying to heat their homes, to environmental problems, to health problems, increasing lineups, private provision of private health care, all of these problems, we've asked the government, Nova Scotians have asked the government to respond, to actually do something about it, and they have failed to do that.

Nursing home costs, Mr. Speaker, that are being faced by seniors, costs that no other Nova Scotian faces, only seniors who are entering nursing homes, only seniors who enter nursing homes are the ones who have to pay for the cost of the health care that they receive. They receive that same health care anywhere else in the system. Anywhere else in the province they wouldn't have to pay it, no other Nova Scotian has to pay it, and we asked this government to do something about it and they took baby steps in the direction of trying to find a solution, but the result is that the problem won't be resolved until 2007. Under this government's plan, the result is that tens of millions more dollars will be sucked out of the pockets of seniors simply because they are seniors and simply because they require nursing care, but another example of this government's failure to move, to try to solve the problems that are being faced by Nova Scotians.

In the face of a government that is failing to act and in the face of a government that doesn't want to take on the insurance industry, Mr. Speaker, the NDP, led by the member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour, established a task force where they went out around the province and talked with Nova Scotians, talked with experts in the field here in this province - brokers, insurance companies and others - about what's happening in the insurance industry. Why are the rates increasing? What is the impact being faced by Nova Scotians? What is the insight that brokers can bring to this whole question? What do people think can be done in order to solve the problem?

So we took a number of months to do that. At the same time we collected information on the systems that now exist across the country. There are different systems, there are publicly-run systems, driver owned, they're known as driver-owned insurance plans across the country, there's a hybrid of private and public, there are public systems that are regulated

[Page 2577]

by governments through a body like the Utility and Review Board and there are strictly private systems.

So we examined all of those and we looked at the rates, we compared rates, apples with apples across the province, across those jurisdictions trying to pull together a clear understanding of the system as it exists - not only in this province, but in other provinces - that looked at the strengths and the weaknesses of all of those different systems, that looked at the costs of those systems, that ultimately looked at the options that were available to the Government of Nova Scotia were they to find the will to try to solve this real problem.

We examined those different systems and found for example that in those systems where there is some regulation in Newfoundland, for example, that there are some parameters set up within which the rates may be increased. There needs to be notice given by the companies to the URB and some explanation, but it doesn't prevent increases. In fact, because of the requirement for reasons why and instead of blanket increases, specific targeted increases, it almost encourages discrimination within rate increases within coverage.

In other systems, in New Brunswick, for example, even though they brought in legislation this Spring to try to control increases, what they've found is that they have very little authority under that legislation to be able to deal with any of the extraordinary increases of 75 per cent and up, increases that many New Brunswickers have been faced with.

So, what we came down to is that - and this has been discussed in some detail by my colleagues - we found that in those systems that are known as programs that are driver owned and specifically they exist in Manitoba, in Saskatchewan, in British Columbia, was that across the board the rates for comparable drivers, comparable scenarios, the rates were lower, much lower. The rates were half the levels that they were here in Nova Scotia and, as important, is that the increases were negligible over the past number of years - over the past few years, when Nova Scotians have really been gouged by insurance companies - in those provinces where there are driver-owned programs, where it's not a question of a private-sector company trying to maintain or increase the dividends that are paid out to shareholders, have no relation to the actual policyholders, in those programs the rates have, if they've increased at all, they've increased minimally.

You see, what happens in these driver-owned programs is that the money that is made, the profits that are generated through these systems either go back into the system to help keep the rates down or - and I should say and/or, because it happens both ways - the rates are kept down with the profits that are made, with the returns that are generated from these programs. They go to help keep the rates down, but they are also reinvested in the province. They are reinvested by government, either in the general fund or in targeted programs, to highways and other such ways of keeping the rates down, keeping the cost of insurance down, or they likewise go into some kind of investment within the province.

[Page 2578]

Mr. Speaker, the other piece of information which was interesting is that these Crown Corporations that exist in these jurisdictions, when they invest the money that they have within the program, they invest the money within the province; the majority of the money that's invested by these companies, these Crown Corporations, the money is invested within the province. What you have in these programs is you have drivers benefiting because rates are stable, rates are not discriminatory; in other words rates are not based on age, are not based on where a person lives - they're based on your driving record, they're based on your motor vehicle. In other words your age, your gender, these factors are not part of establishing the rates, so the rates are stable and they are not discriminatory.

The companies take the revenue and they make investments in other provincial and other companies and other operations within other programs, within a particular company, within that particular province, so the money, like so often happens in the Maritimes, for example, companies that operate here, even pension funds and otherwise, investments are made outside this region. The money that gets generated here, the capital that gets generated in the Maritimes, in the Province of Nova Scotia, doesn't then go to benefit companies here in Nova Scotia and its people, it goes outside the province, and far too often goes outside the country to be invested.

That's one of the benefits of having a Crown Corporation, that it can direct the investments in a way that is much more targeted to the overall economy of a particular jurisdiction. Finally, the revenues of those Crown Corporations can be invested in programs that are carried out on behalf of the people of a particular province by that government.

[10:15 a.m.]

So, Mr. Speaker, we've got a problem and that is skyrocketing insurance rates; the discriminatory application of insurance rates that is having a profound impact on the lives of Nova Scotians. There are options out there. There are very real options out there. We've examined them and we have urged this government to examine them. Unfortunately, this government has put their ideological blinkers on and they have said, well, it's a Crown Corporation, it's a publicly-owned company, it's run by civil servants, so therefore it must be bad. It must be bad. They can't look at the merits of what exists in other provinces and the fact that these forms of enterprise have a hugely positive impact on the economy of those jurisdictions as well as the fact that they solve the problem that is being faced by the people of Nova Scotia, the skyrocketing insurance rates, simply because of ideological considerations that they are against public ownership.

It's ironic that at the same time the minister responsible for skyrocketing insurance rates looks down his nose and scoffs at the idea of a publicly-owned corporation being responsible for insurance in the Province of Nova Scotia, his government has engaged the services of a Crown Corporation from Saskatchewan, SaskEnergy, as the company that will give them the best deal to provide a natural gas distribution network throughout the Province

[Page 2579]

of Nova Scotia. You see, that's a public company, a Crown Corporation, that has organized itself in such a way, has conducted its activities in such a way that they are extremely successful. They pay back dividends of tens of millions of dollars annually to the taxpayers of that province because they are so successful.

They are so successful that they're able to come down to Nova Scotia and engage in commercial enterprises in the energy field which will result in taxpayers' dollars from Nova Scotia going out to Saskatchewan and being invested in the economy in Saskatchewan. That's a benefit of a properly-run Crown Corporation, so many benefits, and I just simply wish that this government would listen to the merits of it, would consider the fact that this may be the answer to the problem that we have in this province and once and for all, provide some sanity, provide some discipline, provide some measure of security for Nova Scotians in the area of automobile insurance.

Mr. Speaker, as speakers previously have mentioned, it's not just automobile insurance, homeowner insurance is just around the corner. Problems are appearing as a result of the behaviour of insurance companies' expectations, rate increases and so on. Options available to homeowners are going down as a result of the activity of these insurance companies. Small businesses are being impacted by the turmoil in the insurance industry and certainly in the area of liability insurance that is also and likewise a problem.

There's a solution at hand, there's a solution at hand which will benefit the people of Nova Scotia and I think that this government has an obligation to consider it, to consider it in a real way so that we can move forward in a speedy and constructive fashion to resolve this problem. Bill No. 45 simply does not do that, Mr. Speaker. All Bill No. 45 is meant to do is to try to put off the problem until after the next election to try to give the impression that the government is actually doing something about the problems being faced by Nova Scotians when, in fact, all they're doing is putting it off.

Mr. Speaker, what I'm hearing when I'm out there canvassing across Halifax Atlantic, in my constituency, whether it's in Harrietsfield or Spryfield or Herring Cove or elsewhere, is that the people who live in the constituency I represent are very upset about what's happening with insurance rates for automobiles. They are being forced to pay out hundreds and hundreds of extra dollars for reasons that are simply unfair and discriminatory. They expect the government to do that. They are paying attention, let me tell you, to the options that we are presenting, that the New Democratic Party is putting out there in the public. We're throwing out options, real concrete evidence about what we might do with this problem, and Nova Scotians, people in Halifax Atlantic and other places, are responding positively and saying that's the kind of leadership that they expect and the kind of leadership that they are looking for in a government, and that this is an issue.

[Page 2580]

This is an issue, Mr. Speaker, that is vote-determining; this is an issue which will have a determining impact on the next election. I believe that, and I've heard it from people. I hear what people are saying; I see the concern. I see the attention in their eyes, that this is something real, it affects their pocketbooks, it affects their ability to work, to earn a living, to raise their family, to be a productive member of society in this province, and if this government doesn't do anything about it and somebody else puts forward a fair and reasonable proposition to resolve the problem, then they are going to vote on the basis of who can come up with the most fair and reasonable solution to an immediate problem that they are facing.

I believe it's imminent. The solution has to be brought forward. I think we have it, largely. I think we have shown, with our research, that we can establish a driver-owned program in the Province of Nova Scotia, and that the cost of establishing that will not be prohibitive, that those costs will be paid back by a driver-owned program in short order, and that it will not cost taxpayers any money whatsoever. In fact, the result of a driver-owned program is that extra revenues are poured back in, to the benefit of the taxpayer, rather than what now exists, which is multinational insurance companies sucking money out of this province, out of the pockets of individual women and men, out of this province to Toronto or to Connecticut or to Geneva or to other places around the world to benefit them, not to benefit Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, as I conclude my remarks on Bill No. 45, I want to say to you that the problem that exists that Bill No. 45 is supposedly responding to is a very serious problem; it's a very serious problem being faced by many thousands of Nova Scotians. Bill No. 45 goes absolutely no distance, nowhere near solving that problem, or even providing an opportunity to find a solution for that problem, that there are real options out there.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I'm just wondering if honourable members would try to lessen the din a little bit in here this morning. It's quite difficult to hear the honourable member for Halifax Atlantic. He does have the floor. Thank you, honourable member.

The honourable member for Halifax Atlantic.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, there are options out there, real, viable options to find a solution that will bring some sanity to the insurance industry in the Province of Nova Scotia, that will stabilize insurance rates, that will bring insurance rates down to levels that are much more reasonable and comparable with other jurisdictions, rates that are affordable for ordinary Nova Scotians. There are solutions. We have presented a number of them and we think that if we work on this issue, if we are serious about trying to find a solution, that we can find a made-in-Nova-Scotia solution that will benefit not only the drivers and insurance policyholders in the Province of Nova Scotia but will be of a benefit to the overall economy in the Province of Nova Scotia, will be of a benefit to the taxpayers and will show us that with leadership, with some conviction, with some confidence, that the

[Page 2581]

Government of Nova Scotia can take immediate steps to solve a very serious problem facing people within this province.

So, Mr. Speaker, I'm very disappointed with Bill No. 45. I will, nonetheless, look at it going forward because at the very least it does attempt to freeze, I don't think the authority is provided in the bill that will even allow that to happen. Nonetheless, if it has the effect of even lessening the burden on one Nova Scotian, then it is worth going through but it is a sad attempt by this government and I say to you that Nova Scotians deserve much better.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, I rise to take my place to speak on Bill No. 45. Honourable members who have spoken before me are quite right in making an assessment of this bill. The bill certainly is not a freeze, it's a delay in the insurance increases and it's a delay until after this provincial election is over and a delay until January 2004.

Mr. Speaker, there have been many comments made with respect to the NDP out there just simply trying to use this as an election campaign. I want to tell you that long before the election campaign came forward, the NDP set up a task force and that task force toured the province and that task force is made up of the members for Halifax Fairview, Halifax Chebucto and Cape Breton Centre. Those members went across this province and listened to many Nova Scotians, many Nova Scotians in rural communities who need their automobiles to travel because there is no public transportation in rural communities. So insurance is very vital and extremely important for those individuals in order to be able to operate their automobiles because it's mandatory. It's mandatory by the Province of Nova Scotia under legislation. It's also mandatory in the Province of Nova Scotia to have your vehicle safety inspected and when your vehicle reaches that safety inspection period, the next point is to make sure that that automobile is insured.

Mr. Speaker, that's exactly what we have learned going across this province. We have also learned by going across this province that there are many people, working citizens of Nova Scotia, who simply can't afford the insurance policy.

There has been much talk, Mr. Speaker, with respect to the postcard we had sent out across the province as well. I want you to know that a week ago Sunday evening, as a matter of fact, a number of us in the Dartmouth North constituency decided to go out and to canvass with this leaflet. The canvass with this leaflet was extremely positive. They were very pleased that in fact there is an Opposition Party in the provincial Legislature that speaks up on behalf of Nova Scotians. They recognized that this was an extremely important issue, insurance. Some people have told us on the doorstep that their insurance premiums have increased some 25 per cent and some people even up to 85 per cent; I guess, on average, there's a quote of about 65 per cent.

[Page 2582]

[10:30 a.m.]

Many of the people have indicated that the government is not listening to them, that they don't see any move in sight. There was supposed to be a Utility and Review Board hearing on insurance policy, that is yet to come before this Legislature. They were saying to us on the doorstep, when is this government going to bring this report forward? I could not tell them when the report is going to come forward. I've heard the government members say soon, soon, very soon. That's what I told people on the doorstep. Then when they said, how will we know what's going to happen here? I said I can't tell you because I'm not on the government side.

I do know that our Party has a policy on addressing this issue. We are waiting to hear from all Nova Scotians to make sure that we've got a fit, in Nova Scotian policy on insurance, in making sure that Nova Scotians are insured. When, at the end of the month or whenever that fit in Nova Scotia policy comes forward and Nova Scotians have told us what they want if it is public auto insurance or if it's no-fault insurance or if it's a hybrid of both, then Nova Scotians will certainly let us know.

After we completely hear from Nova Scotians - mind you, it's amazing that the brochure, which I won't lift because it will be a prop and I do know that many members have already lifted it within the Legislature, but I will refer to the postcard and I will refer to the postcard as one of those postcards that went out to 150,000 households in this province. Already, we are receiving hundreds of responses a day and, as a matter of fact, 150,000 of our closest friends now, and they certainly will make the government aware of that on election day. I know that it's only because of the pressure of the New Democratic Party on making sure that insurance rates are an issue in this Legislature that it's before this Legislative Assembly. If it were not for us, do you think the Third Party would have brought that issue forward or the government would have brought that issue forward? Definitely not. It's because we consistently told the government of the day what Nova Scotians wanted with respect to an insurance policy.

When I was out on the doorstep there were a number of people who were concerned about this issue of public auto insurance. I could only tell them in layman's terms what I thought this public auto insurance might do. They said, will it penalize us from making soft tissue claims that are really genuine complaints, which they are and will it prevent us from getting the maximum because of the injury that's incurred? I said to them, as far as I understand, the public auto insurance will not restrict individuals from making insurance claims, particularly on soft tissue injuries.

The other concern, they asked if it will provide merit to those individuals who have very clean driving records and have never had an accident, will they be rewarded for that? I said, look, I can't tell you, but I do believe there's an opportunity for a merit system. If there isn't, it's one that you can certainly write on that postcard and send to our Party and let our

[Page 2583]

Party know what you think about that. There were a number of individuals who said, if public auto insurance comes to the fore, will Nova Scotians be expected to pay that through their tax dollars? I informed them on the doorstep that, no, Nova Scotians will not be expected to pay that through their tax dollars, it will be paid by way of premiums. Premiums will fund the public auto insurance that comes through the Province of Nova Scotia.

I know a number of individuals who work in the insurance industry and they've said to me, that's going to be a huge cost to the province and will the province be able to afford that cost? I said to them that as far as I understand - in trying to grasp the whole insurance issue - what will happen is that the province may need to borrow some money up front, much like Manitoba, some $350 million up front, but it's anticipated that all that will be paid back in one year through an insurance premium; if not, it will be gradually phased over a period of time and will not cost the taxpayers any money - again, because it will be premium-funded.

That's what we need to make Nova Scotians aware of, because there are many Nova Scotians out there who are hearing two sides of this particular story, one with respect to the no-fault, which I believe is in Saskatchewan, a hybrid of no-fault public auto in Manitoba, and in British Columbia, under the IBBC, the Insurance Bureau of British Columbia, I believe there is a total public auto insurance policy, and there are no restrictions on the right to sue for fiscal or medical damages as a result of that.

Mr. Speaker, there needs to be some clarity around the issue. I want to say that there is certainly clarity once you get out there and talk to Nova Scotians. The task force - the members for Halifax Fairview, Halifax Chebucto, and Cape Breton Centre - when they toured the province, I am sure that they heard all of this from Nova Scotians. They heard from Nova Scotians, probably even some sage advice with respect to what should be in the insurance policy and how people should not be penalized as a result of having a clean driving record, and how seniors should not be penalized because of their age, and how youth should not be, or the youngest driver in the household should not be considered a primary driver so that the insurance rates will automatically climb.

Mr. Speaker, all of this, I'm sure, has been heard by our task force committee. So to say that we did nothing with respect to contacting Nova Scotians is totally wrong. Not only did we send that task force out across the province, we also mailed out a postcard. This political Party has done two things: we visited Nova Scotians by way of a task force; and we have also sent out, by way of a postcard to Nova Scotians, what we believe is the right and sane direction to go with respect to this important issue.

We also heard back from a number of Nova Scotians. As a matter of fact, I know that some members of the task force have visited the constituency of Dartmouth North, particularly because there is the Burnside Industrial Park, which has a huge number of businesses, some of which provide fleet services to their companies and so on and who are

[Page 2584]

affected by skyrocketing insurance rates. Many of those individuals have been spoken to, some of those individuals have asked for a personal audience with certain members of the task force, and they have spoken to them and enlightened them as to exactly what we intend to do if we go for a publicly-funded auto insurance policy in the Province of Nova Scotia.

All of that has been looked at, all of that has been considered, all of that has been given a great deal of thought with respect to how we're going to unfold this so that Nova Scotians know that they're going to get the best deal. There have been members of this Legislative Assembly who consider us socialist in that we want to nationalize everything we put our fingers on and that this was just another possible move with respect to nationalizing the auto insurance industry. Mr. Speaker, when you have a responsibility as government and you know that there needs to be a protection of its people, then you have that responsibility to make sure that all Nova Scotians - in this particular case - are protected.

We do that by way of the health care system, we make sure that it's a publicly-funded health care system, we make sure that it's a publicly-funded education system, we make sure that it partners publicly-funded Pharmacare programs for seniors, we make sure that these things happen and we also make sure that there should be a publicly-funded auto insurance policy if in fact we are going to make certain that Nova Scotians will be able to drive with an insurance policy.

The worst thing that can possibly happen in the Province of Nova Scotia, and it's happening now, some 2,700 in the last two years have been charged for driving without auto insurance. That number has gone up some 45 per cent from previous years. That should be an indicator that government has to step in to address a very important issue. Many Nova Scotians out there who are working citizens in Nova Scotia, many who earn an income of less than $25,000 a year, and because of an antiquated public transportation system throughout the most part of Nova Scotia - and I would even go so far as to say in the Halifax metropolitan area, the capital region of Nova Scotia - because of that, many people are forced to drive automobiles and they're forced to drive automobiles to get to and from work and, as a result of having to be forced to drive automobiles, insurance premiums are a major cost.

So I want to say to you, Mr. Speaker, I had not intended to stand here and I had not intended to speak long on this issue simply because I believe much has been said, but I want to say to you that I have referred individuals to the Insurance Bureau of Canada and I have referred them directly to Don Forgeron when, in fact, they've had difficulty with the fact their auto insurance people weren't going to insure them. The only advice that they have ever received from the Insurance Bureau of Canada through Mr. Forgeron was to shop around to see if you can get another insurer and often that did not happen, Mr. Speaker, so they were left to go to the Facility Association.

[Page 2585]

Also, just the other day, I had an individual who called me and I told him to call the consumer advocate, Mr. George Jordan, who was appointed by the government of the day and to speak to him about his insurance rate which had gone up some 25 per cent. He had never had an accident in the last 10 years, I think he told me. As a matter of fact, he said he had a completely clean driving record and maybe with the exception of a few tickets in the last 10 years, you know, parking tickets and so on, minor tickets, and that was about it and he couldn't figure out why his insurance rate had gone up. He called his insurance company and his insurance company sent him out the bill on May 7th. On May 7th the bill went out. I told him that the government has legislation before the House which is retroactive to May 1st and in fact what would happen is that that would put at least a delay on the increase in his insurance premium and that delay would be there for at least until January 2004.

I told him to call Mr. Jordan, the consumer advocate, and seek advice and direction from him and he said, well, you will want to know something, I have already spoken to the consumer advocate and he has offered exactly the same advice that you have offered which was very little advice, Mr. Speaker, because when the insurance company doesn't respond to your issue or your concern, where do you go? You would hope that the consumer advocate would at least give him some direction. Of course, the consumer advocate, in fairness to him, is there to seek the complaints and concerns that Nova Scotians have and he certainly lodged his complaint and concern and in fairness to the consumer advocate, I would have to say that the consumer advocate said to him that, yes, I will record that and the government will certainly know your position on this particular issue.

At the end of our telephone conversation he said I want you to know your Party is doing a fine job on this insurance policy, the same way that you have done a fine job on long-term care. He said when it comes election time, if the government doesn't have a clear-cut strategy for this insurance policy, you can rest assured that my vote will be in the ballot box and I said that isn't the reason why we're doing this. I said we're doing this because Nova Scotians need to be protected and it's in the interest of all Nova Scotians, Mr. Speaker, to be protected by an insurance policy. If we are expecting Nova Scotians to drive on our highways, we are expecting them to be protected and that there is a minimum public liability requirement by legislation that a driver must hold, then I think it's a responsibility of this government to make sure that in fact there is an insurance policy that people can afford.

[10:45 a.m.]

Nova Scotians, Mr. Speaker, are looking towards having an insurance policy that they can afford because no Nova Scotian out there wants to drive without insurance. There is not one Nova Scotian that I know who wants to drive without insurance. They want to be able to have insurance that they can afford and they want to be able to put that insurance on their automobile because that is their only means of transportation. When I was down to the Eastern Shore and I went through Musquodoboit Valley and then I went up into Truro and other areas, I talked to some individuals, during the summertime, particularly when these rate

[Page 2586]

increases were going up some 45 per cent and 60 per cent. They said, you know, the only means of transportation in rural Nova Scotia is by us having an automobile. There is no public transportation system here. You can go out and stand on the street on a 24-hour day and you're not likely - and as a matter of fact they said we can guarantee you that you won't see a bus go by. So, Mr. Speaker, the crux of the whole problem is that we need to make sure that Nova Scotians have an affordable insurance plan that they can tap into that won't strip them of every dollar they earn in order to put their automobile on the street.

Mr. Speaker, I want to say as well that we're not naive on this political side of the floor. We know that if this is an election campaign issue, the guns will be coming out swinging, that the insurance companies across Canada, who insure many Nova Scotians, will be out there with their campaign flying high during the election campaign and they will be making every attempt to discredit Nova Scotians from becoming involved in a public auto insurance policy.

They will certainly be attacking those individual candidates out there who will be running on the banner of making sure that Nova Scotians get a fair and just insurance policy. You can rest assured, as true as I stand in this Legislature, that there will be billboards, there will be leaflets, there will be the silent campaign, all those sorts of campaigns that go on, Mr. Speaker, during an election campaign in which they will not be committed to or tied to an election expense that will certainly be coming forward.

We're prepared and we will be prepared and we will be awaiting their campaign to come forward because at the end of the day, Mr. Speaker, after the task force has gone through Nova Scotia, which we've already done, after putting out the 150,000 postcards and which the responses are coming back, we will then give our final report on what the policy will be with respect to making sure that Nova Scotians are safeguarded with an affordable and fair auto insurance policy. (Interruptions)

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

MR. PYE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I was just about to wrap up anyway, so thank you very much. I'm just going to say, with this in mind, that it will be a pleasure for me as a New Democrat to go out there when the election writ is dropped and to start canvassing on this very important issue of auto insurance, much the same as the long-term care issue. I can tell you that we're in tune and we're in touch with Nova Scotians out there and it will surely reflect its picture when on whatever particular day E minus zero is, or E minus one, then we will certainly know what Nova Scotians have to say about this particular issue. Every member across that Legislature floor has to campaign on the same doorsteps that we will be

campaigning on, both rural and urban areas. The insurance issue has no jurisdiction, there are no defined boundaries , it covers the entire Province of Nova Scotia. With that, I'm about to give my place to the honourable member for Halifax Chebucto. Thank you very much.

[Page 2587]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, we're dealing here with second reading on Bill No. 45. Bill No. 45 is the government's interference with the private sector automobile insurance market. It's interesting that the minister, who has declared on any number of occasions that he is a basic believer in the operation of the free market in the private marketplace, has sponsored a bill that is designed specifically to interfere with what it is that the so-called free market is saying to Nova Scotians is the appropriate rate for their automobile insurance. That's clearly what Bill No. 45 is all about.

Bill No. 45 says the insurance rates as of May 1, 2003, are to be frozen and that's to last all the way through until January 1, 2004. Well, a price freeze is clearly an instrument of interference with the marketplace. So, manifestly, there must be something about the situation that has prompted this government to move in this way. The government has been prompted to move in a way in which it says normally it's philosophically opposed to. Normally, they tell us it's wrong to interfere with the free marketplace. Indeed, when it comes to the alternative that has begun to emerge so strongly from the research that this caucus is doing, that is the alternative of a driver-owned public automobile insurance plan, the government has been saying this is not an appropriate role for the public sector, leave it to the private sector.

MR. SPEAKER: Would the member permit an introduction?

MR. EPSTEIN: I certainly would.

MR. SPEAKER: The member for Halifax Chebucto permits an introduction.

The member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury.

MR. RONALD CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Halifax Chebucto for allowing me to do this. In the Speaker's Gallery today from the Town of Canso we have Mayor Frank Fraser, Deputy Mayor Fin Armsworthy, Councillor Vince Cohoon, and Quinn Taggart, the CEO for the Town of Canso. I would ask all members of the House to give them their usual warm welcome. (Applause)

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

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto on Bill No. 45, the Insurance Act.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I'm happy to continue and happy as well to acknowledge the presence in the gallery of the visitors from Guysborough County. I'm sure they'll take advantage of the opportunity to read the Hansard adjournment debate from the

[Page 2588]

other night which focused on their county and their towns. Members of the House had interesting things to say.

In any event, I was noting that Bill No. 45, which we're dealing with now in second reading, is the government's attempt to deal with what is clearly a problem with the operation of the private marketplace. Obviously there is a problem, every Nova Scotian knows that. It's exactly the kind of problem that is one of a long list of problems that are pocketbook issues that Nova Scotians have had to struggle with very little help from their government over the last four years.

In saying that, I have in mind items like huge increases in tuition fees for post-secondary education. Very little action from the government on that. Certainly no tuition freeze, certainly no tuition rollback. We have in mind as well, the problem of long-term care and the health care costs for those in long-term care. This is something that has been an ongoing anomaly and an element of discrimination felt by those who have their friends and relatives in long-term care. Why, they ask themselves, do we have to pay for the health care costs of these people when no other Nova Scotian has to do that?

The HST remains on essentials. Another pocketbook issue, hasn't been touched; fees going up, another pocketbook issue, it's been added to by this government. Water rates and property taxes also going up, problems that are pocketbook issues and now we have this problem on top of it of increases that are way out of line with what it is that Nova Scotians believe they ought to be paying for their automobile insurance.

The core problem here is a matter for dispute, because when one asks the insurance companies why it is that they're putting up their rates so enormously, they claim that it's because, as they put it, they have to pay out more each year in claims to the insured than they take in in premiums. They have, furthermore, an explanation for why they have to do that. They say that the court awards for soft-tissue injuries are just too high. They don't say that they've lost money in the stock market. If you read their professional literature, that is the magazines and journals and news articles that are focused on the insurance industry and that are distributed primarily to members of the insurance industry, that's what they say there.

That, in fact, is what the financial press says, if you read any of the large financial journals and read the articles that they've published over the last few years about the insurance industry, that's exactly what they say. They say that, worldwide, the problem with the insurance industry is that they, like other big investors in the stock market, in the bond market, have lost money. They have had particularly bad years. We all know that any big investors, including small investors, too, in the stock market have had some troubled years.

Why should this impact on the automobile insurance rates that we pay in Nova Scotia? The answer is that most of the companies that we're dealing with are big international companies. They're not Nova Scotia companies that are supplying our

[Page 2589]

automobile insurance, most of them aren't Canadian companies, most of them are big international companies, headquartered either in the United States or in Europe, and they make their investments, pooled on a worldwide basis.

Now, all of us recognize that insurance is a very large and complicated undertaking. It's a business to be approached with respect. It's not to be tinkered with. It's to be thought about very carefully. We agree with that. We recognize that if there are to be any changes in the regulation of insurance, it has to be approached on a research basis and on a careful basis, and that is exactly the approach that we have tried to take. We've tried to start by understanding what the problem is that underlies the increase in rates in Nova Scotia. I don't think the same can be said about Bill No. 45.

We don't hear anything particular from the government about why it is that they think there's an underlying move to increase the rates by the insurance company. I don't think I've heard the minister declare himself on this issue. They simply say, the rates are going up, it's becoming politically intolerable for us to ignore the question, so we're going to do something. They've been pushed to it by us, they've been pushed to it by consumers, and they've been pushed to it by their own constituents, of course. The press has run a whole series of articles on the unfairness and that too has pushed the government.

Mr. Speaker, I understand you have another introduction.

MR. SPEAKER: Yes, the member for Halifax Chebucto is quite generous this morning, as he is permitting another introduction. (Interruptions) Yes, as usual.

The honourable member for Pictou East on an introduction.

MR. JAMES DEWOLFE: Thank you to the member for Halifax Chebucto for yielding his time. I would like to bring to your attention, in the east gallery, two long-time friends, retired members of the government, both on the executive of the Nova Scotia Government Retired Employees Association, Bernie LaRusic is standing - Bernie's team once beat the Premier's in New Glasgow in 1952. I'm not giving away ages here, am I, Bernie - and Steve MacDonald. I would ask the House to recognize them in the usual manner. (Applause)

[11:00 a.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: Yes, welcome to the gentlemen as introduced by the member for Pictou East. If they are friends of the honourable member for Pictou East they must be very fine gentlemen, welcome indeed. Welcome to all our guests in the gallery.

The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

[Page 2590]

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, thank you very much for the opportunity to continue. We were attempting to explore what actually led to the large increases in automobile insurance rates for Nova Scotians. There is a competition when it comes to the explanations. I was pointing out that on the one hand, we hear from the insurance industry in Canada that it has to do with soft-tissue claims and the costs associated with that; on the other hand, we hear from many other voices that the essential reason is problems with their investments.

Well, I've had a look at this, to the best that I can, over the last number of months. I think you and I were together, Mr. [Deputy] Speaker, in one of the legislative committees when we heard from the representatives of the insurance industry and we engaged with them on this issue probably about six months ago. We pointed out to them - I certainly did at the time - that all of the literature seemed to indicate that their problems were really with their investments.

I want to turn to that for just a moment. I want to remind the members of this House, as I have on a couple of other occasions, of what is the normal practice when it comes to property and casualty insurance companies. Property and casualty insurance is a different category from life insurance. The financial side of the life insurance industry is a different picture and life insurance companies are not the same as property and casualty insurance companies. Property and casualty insurance companies are the ones that deal with automobile insurance.

I had a look at the Web site of the federal government's Department of Finance to read about property and casualty insurance companies. In their description of this segment of the financial industry of Canada, they made what, to me, was a very striking statement. Please recall, Mr. Speaker, that this statement was made as part of a multi-page, general description of the property and casualty insurance industry as it operates in Canada. It wasn't a featured item, it was simply part of the normal routine description that the federal Department of Finance offered for how they saw property and casualty insurance companies operating. What they said was that it is normal, that it is usual, that it is the expected thing, that in any given year these insurance companies will pay out more in claims than they take in in premiums. That's normal business for these insurance companies. They went on to say, in this federal Department of Finance Web site, that the way these companies make their money is through their investments in the stock market, in the bond market, in mortgages. That's how they make their money.

Now if that's the case, then it cannot be any kind of an effective argument for the insurance companies to come and say that we paid out more money this year than we took in in premiums. That can't be an argument for putting up their premiums if that's the normal way they do business. They get to hold on to this money for a while before they pay out their claims and they invest it in the interim, plus they have cumulative amounts that they have generated over the many decades in which those companies have been in existence and they invest that money. Most of their revenue, most of their profits come from their investments.

[Page 2591]

We should make no mistake. These companies are profitable. They are not losing money. From their perspective, the issue is how much money they make, the extent of their profits. It's not that they're losing money, what they're saying is they're not making as much money as they would like to make. They're not making as much money as they made a few years ago, they're not making as much money as if they were a bank or a trust company. Well, you know what? Too bad.

Historically, property and casualty insurance companies don't make as much money as banks or trust companies. Their rate of return is around 8 per cent, compared to 10 per cent or 12 per cent for banks or trust companies. Well, when the stock market and the bond market and the mortgage market were doing very well for them, they were beginning to increase that number, they were beginning to increase their historical pattern of 8 per cent return, up to about 10 per cent return. They were beginning to do very well on their investments and they were beginning to have a taste for it, their stockholders were having a taste for it, and their executives were having a taste for it.

Now that the stock market whacked them upside the head a little bit, they went back down to 8 per cent and in some cases, a little bit below that and they don't like it. And that is what it is that is leading them to say to Nova Scotians, we want you to pay more. They are saying to us, we want you to pay more so that the value of our stock will go up, we want you to pay more so that the dividends we pay to our shareholders can go up, we want you to pay more so that the remuneration to our senior executives can go up. They are not saying, we want you to pay more so we can give you better service. They are not saying, we want you to pay more so we can pay you more if you're injured. They are not saying, we're going to improve our service in some way.

They are simply saying, we want you to pay more and indeed, they tend to couple that with a promise that they're going to give you less service because they claim that the underlying reason for the increase in premiums is that they're having to pay out too much in soft tissue injuries. So they're saying, we want you to pay more and if we had our way, we would pay less back to you for your claims. Now that's it, in its starkness and it isn't justified, and Nova Scotians know that it's not justified, and Nova Scotians are not about to put up with it.

Finally, after months of talking and wrangling, finally, after months of this Party leading the action by calling for an inquiry through the limited legal mechanism that we have now in place in Nova Scotia, the URB, the government took some action. Fully a year ago - well, it was more than a year ago because it was in January or February 2002 - when we called for a public inquiry through the Utility and Review Board to look at the rates that were being routinely filed with the board by the insurance companies, the minister who was then responsible for insurance said, nope, that isn't going to happen. The minister who was then responsible for insurance said, let the marketplace take care of itself, my head hurts when I have to think about this problem.

[Page 2592]

Public pressure grew and within three weeks, the Premier was forced to change him mind and order this matter dealt with by the Utility and Review Board. But let's look at that. First, of course, this was ordered on February 2002 and here it is the middle of May 2003, and there is still no ruling from the Utility and Review Board. The Utility and Review Board started its hearings in September, the hearings finished after a month or two, and there's no ruling, no guidance, no observation, no analysis, nothing yet from the Utility and Review Board.

Although we looked to the Utility and Review Board, ultimately to do a good job on this issue, this is a slow process and an inadequate process. The lesson we learn from this is that the mechanism that is in place right now, the existing system, which is after-the-fact review by the Utility and Review Board, but only if ordered by the minister, and only then through a public hearing, and without a consumer advocate there to speak on behalf of the public interest. Clearly, the existing system is not an adequate system, but we do look for good advice from the Utility and Review Board when it finally does report. Yet, the important thing to note about this process is that the government had to be forced into it through clamouring. The government did not voluntarily want to even use the mechanism that was there for it to use all the time. It was reluctant to do that.

This issue, of course, has not gone away during the time that the Utility and Review Board has been dealing with it. Because it's been going on so long, the insurance companies have continued to file their next annual increases. We've seen whole instances of this going on. When one thinks about the possibilities in terms of regulation and dealing with the problem, one possibility is the system we have in place right now. We've seen how reluctant the government is to act, we've seen how slow the Utility and Review Board is to move ahead with it, we have yet to see their results, and we know that that system doesn't operate with a designated consumer advocate to speak up for the public in Nova Scotia, the insurance-buying public in Nova Scotia.

Well, what other alternatives are there? One alternative is the alternative that we have in front of us now in Bill No. 45. Bill No. 45 is an ad hoc, once-off, temporary-freeze interference with what the insurance companies would otherwise wish to do. Do we want to continue to have a system in which we have to rely upon ad hoc pieces of legislation that might or might not come forward? Is that a way to deal with these kinds of problems? We know that this question of automobile insurance is not going away. If there is any striking fact about the change in social life in North America and worldwide for the last 100 years, it is that it has become a car culture.

Ever since automobiles began to be mass produced, they have taken over our lives. We build highway systems in order to accommodate them, we build our homes to accommodate them. Many people have such an affection for their automobiles that if they could keep them in their bedrooms and park them beside their desks at work, they would do that. They have become such an integrated part of our lives that we spend enormous amounts

[Page 2593]

of money on roads, on highways, on accidents, on insurance. They drive urban planning. They drive, literally, the way in which we can live and where we can go to work. Parking becomes another problem. If there is anything that's striking about the last 100 years, it's that we have had to reorient ourselves around the car. Our cities have been built around them, our towns have been built around them, even the countrysides have been built around them.

Another aspect of it, of course, is insurance, because they're dangerous. Accidents happen all the time. They're expensive items. If they're dinged, seriously or not seriously, they're expensive to fix. If people are injured, there's potential for enormous damage to people, and accidents are hugely frequent. The number of deaths on the road is enormous. The number of injuries is enormous. This drives up the cost of our health care system. It's a cost to the economy. We know all of that.

Because we know this, one of the things that has become universal public policy is the requirement that anyone who drives carries insurance. They have to carry insurance because there are accidents. They have to carry insurance because there are so many accidents. Well, that brings us engaged with this issue. If we know we can't escape it, we know we have to do something about this, and we know, because we've heard from the insurance companies that they have a desire to continue increasing their rates, what are we going to do? Are we going to meet in this Legislature every year and discuss a new Bill No. 45, that's going to freeze or perhaps, maybe, blessedly, roll back the insurance rates? On what basis is the government going to do that?

We haven't even heard a real explanation, apart from clamour, public clamour, as to what the government thinks it's going to accomplish through a freeze. Well, we know that they will freeze some rates during that time, but have they said to us what the rates ought to be? They haven't said to us what the rates ought to be. They haven't told us what their target is for insurance rates. They haven't even told us a target range for insurance rates. Have we heard a number from the government that says insurance rates in this company are x per cent too high - we haven't heard that - or for some other company, y per cent too high? We haven't heard that kind of analysis.

[11:15 a.m.]

What's the government going to do, just bring in some kind of special legislation every year, and what's it going to take, the kind of massive lobbying through the newspapers, by our Party through the mail-out campaign that we've engaged in, through relentless questions in Question Period, what's it going to take to get a government to act? Well, do you know what, ad hoc legislation like Bill No. 45 every year isn't the answer. It's not the answer. It's not the way to go. Is there some other alternative?

[Page 2594]

Perhaps before I turn to two other alternatives, let me just look at a couple of the problems that I haven't even mentioned with the freeze. One, of course, is that it doesn't affect those increases that were filed by the companies prior to May 1st and all of us have had calls from people who read in the newspaper about the freeze and who then contacted their insurance brokers in anticipation of the time, about to come when they had to buy renewals of their insurance, hoping that there would be a freeze in place.

Unfortunately, the brokers were caught in the middle between the insurance companies, the government and their customers as consumers and they had to break the bad news. The bad news they had to break to many of their clients was that the freeze doesn't affect them because they're insured with a company which had filed its increase before May 1st and for the customer who had thought that they were okay because their policy came up for renewal sometime in May, sometime in June, sometime in July, they thought the freeze would help them, no. They found out that because their company had filed for their increase prior to May 1st, even though their policy doesn't come up for renewal until later in May, later in June, later in July, they still have to pay the increase. All of us have had calls from members of the public who are caught in that situation. They don't like it.

So that freeze is not exactly effective. Furthermore, there are ways, a large number of ways, for the companies to get around those freezes. They can put people in particular categories. There's nothing to stop them from putting people in special categories. They're virtually unfettered when it comes to that or, and this is my favourite, they simply look at it and say, well, your car is a year older so it's perhaps a little more dangerous to be driving your car now and it might have gone down a little bit in value, but it's now a little more dangerous so although our rates are frozen, we will put you in a different category so far as your car is concerned. There are just too many ways around this freeze for it to be effective. It sounds good, but that's all we can really say about the freeze, is that it sounds good. Whenever you have a good hard look at it, it doesn't work, it vanishes. It's like smoke. It's insubstantial. You blow at it, it floats away and, believe me, insurance companies are going to be doing a little bit more than just puff at it a little bit.

Well, what other alternatives are there? There are two other alternatives. There's what's called pre-approval of the rates and we don't have that system right now, what we have is a registration system right now. If insurance companies want to put up their rates, they just send letters to the Utility and Review Board listing their rates. If the government is moved to order an inquiry then the Utility and Review Board can, after the fact, inquire into the matter, but a different system would be pre-approval. Pre-approval would say that if an insurance company wants to increase its rates, that it has to get the specific approval of the Utility and Review Board or some similar body after a full-scale public hearing into the matter.

[Page 2595]

Would that be a good system? It would certainly be a better system than the one we have now. It would certainly be a better system than something like Bill No. 45, which essentially means ad hoc, stop-gap measures. A number of jurisdictions do have good pre-approval systems. I think particularly about the California system. Consumer advocate Ralph Nader was in town last week and he's pointed out the virtues of the system as it exists in California. This is a pre-approval system. I think when a person of Ralph Nader's experience and qualifications and accomplishments directs our attention to a system, we should pay attention. We have looked at that system. I have to say it has much virtue about it. Mr. Nader was certainly right.

I think, however, there is yet another alternative. As long as we're appealing to the authority of Mr. Nader here, I should say that it's an alternative that he endorses as well, the possibility of a driver-owned system. This is something that our Party is looking at very seriously. It's known also as a public automobile insurance scheme. That's another alternative. I'm not going to go into detail about how that would work. We're looking at it, it exists in three provinces in Canada, and those are the provinces that have both the lowest rates and the fairest rates.

When I say fairest, I mean that they are prohibited from discriminating against people on the basis of age, either old age or youth. They're prohibited from discriminating against people except on the basis of relevant matters. They're told that they can set their categories according to the value of the car that you drive and according to your personal driving record and in some limited circumstances, according to where you live. That is, do you live in the big city or do you live in a smaller area where there might be fewer vehicles and, historically, fewer accidents, but they can't discriminate on the basis of age, and that's an important matter. That's what I mean by fairness. When we look at the existing public auto systems, that is publicly-owned or driver-owned automobile insurance plans in Canada - in B.C. and Saskatchewan, in Manitoba - the preliminary indications are very compelling that we should be looking at that here.

As long as I've mentioned this, I think it's important that I point out that driver- owned or public auto schemes are not the same thing as no-fault. No-fault is, of course, a different question entirely. No-fault is the issue of whether litigation over individual damage is to continue or whether there is a set scale of fees and compensation to be paid. Whether a system is public or private, it might also be a no-fault or not a no-fault scheme. There are separate issues that have to be debated quite separately and they involve a lot of analysis, both of them.

I'm not again going to get into that, but I do want to make it clear to people that anyone who advocates for a driver-owned or publicly-owned automobile insurance scheme is not automatically, by any means, also advocating for a no-fault scheme. Everyone has to bear that in mind. These are separate issues and have to be debated separately.

[Page 2596]

This brings us back to the question of what it is that Bill No. 45 does. I've tried to outline, that strikingly, what we see in Bill No. 45 is the government moving to do something that it regularly tells us it doesn't like to do, it regularly tells us it doesn't like to interfere with the private marketplace. Particularly, the minister who is now responsible for insurance matters is a strong advocate of the virtues of the private marketplace - and many of us would agree with him within the appropriate sphere - yet he and his government have taken this extraordinary step, through Bill No. 45, to freeze insurance rates. We have to recognize what it is that has driven this government to take a step to interfere within what would normally be the free interaction of the marketplace, in which the private insurance companies would set their rates and customers, if they don't like it, could take their business somewhere else.

Well, clearly what's happened is that the public demand has been for the government to do something. The public demand, unrelentingly over the last year and a half, has been for the government to do something. They finally have. Is it adequate? I don't think so. In my comments, Mr. Speaker, I have tried to set out what I think are the alternatives. Clearly, the system that we have right now, the system of mere registration with the Utility and Review Board is not adequate. The alternative, represented by Bill No. 45, of ad hoc decisions from time to time, doesn't do it either.

There are two other possibilities: the system of pre-approval, and the system of a driver-owned automobile insurance company. Both of those last two are the only two that really seem worthwhile to investigate when it comes to serious, long-lasting, beneficial change to the automobile insurance system in Nova Scotia. Earlier on I pointed out that insurance is a complicated international business. It's something to be approached with respect; it's something to be approached carefully. But if we are to take effective steps in our own province to protect our own people, then it is not beyond our abilities to do that - we simply have to craft the solution in an appropriate way.

If it means we have to move away from being so tied to an international system, then so be it; if it means we have to take charge of automobile insurance rates for Nova Scotians in Nova Scotia through the mechanism of a driver-owned system, then so be it. That, in fact, is what the government is here for, that is the value of having a government that responds to the people's needs; that's the job of the government. The job of the government is to recognize when people need help with the pocketbook issues that they have to struggle with from day to day. It is not the case that government is powerless; it is not the case that the government has no alternatives; it is not the case that power resides somewhere else, wherever that somewhere else might be, and we can't, in a small province - admittedly a small province - do anything about it. I don't believe that.

If I believed that, I wouldn't be in politics, because someone who believes that believes that government has no function or, if they believe that it has a function, it's a really tiny function. That's not my view of government. My view is that government can do things. My view is that the people of Nova Scotia ought to be able to look to their government to act

[Page 2597]

for them when it's necessary; in fact, it's my belief that the people of Nova Scotia should be able to look to their government to have taken proactive steps before the troubles come, to have thought on their behalf in advance, to have put regulations and protections in place, to have looked out for them when it comes to occupational health and safety - something worth remembering on the anniversary of Westray facing this government.

The people of Nova Scotia should be able to look to their government to have taken steps to protect and to be stewards for the environment, not to wait for disasters to strike but to act in advance. When it comes to the economic realm, the people of Nova Scotia should look to their government and expect their government to take effective steps, whatever the ambit of those steps might be. We can't be shy about this. If we have to take the step of setting up a driver-owned system, then let's do it, but this alternative, the one we have in front of us in Bill No. 45, isn't up to scratch. It's ad hoc, it's inadequate and the voters of Nova Scotia see through it. Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

[11:30 a.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: If I recognize the minister it will be to close the debate.

The honourable Minister of Environment and Labour.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to move second reading of Bill No. 45. I would like to thank all members who participated in the debate and I look for speedy passage of the bill because then we can get on with the regulatory requirements to put into effect for insurance.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 45. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I request the concurrence of the House to revert to the order of business, Presenting Reports of Committees.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 2598]

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Chairman of the Committee on Law Amendments, I am directed to report that the committee has met and considered the following bill:

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

and the committee recommends this bill to the favourable consideration of the House, with certain amendments.

MR. SPEAKER: Ordered that this bill be referred to the Committee of the Whole House on Bills.

The honourable Government House Leader.

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

PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 50.

Bill No. 50 - Interior Designers Act.

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

MS. MARY ANN MCGRATH: Mr. Speaker, I rise in my place to speak on Bill No. 50, an Act respecting Interior Designers. This legislation will recognize interior designers as serious professionals who work very hard to maintain high standards and excellence. They have invested a great deal of time and energy to bring this legislation forward as evidenced by their continued presence with us this morning. With that, it is my pleasure to move second reading of Bill No. 50.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I want to just offer a couple of comments, if I may, about the creation of a new, self-regulating profession. I know we have had a number of guests here in the gallery today to watch the proceedings because they are

[Page 2599]

particularly concerned with this bill. I want to say that I wish the interior designers well in setting up a new self-regulating profession and I'm only taking a moment to speak on this bill because I, myself, participate in a profession that is self-regulating.

Because there are present in the gallery today some members of the profession, I want to offer some comments to them about how important it is that they think very carefully and act very carefully whenever they deal with the full range of responsibilities that they are being given because they are being given serious legal responsibilities. They are being given the responsibility to decide about education standards for people who will practise their profession. That is tied, of course, to the credit of their profession, to the ability of the profession to gain respect among the general public. That's a serious undertaking and one that they have to enter into with care, caution and with a degree of professionalism that will do themselves credit.

The other thing that they are being given, by way of a power, is the power of admission and, to a limited extent, therefore, of discipline of their own members. Any self-regulating body that has the power over admission and therefore of licensing has a serious economic power over the lives of their members or those who would like to become their members. That's a power that has to be exercised in a careful, balanced and a judicial fashion. I would urge those who come to exercise that power to think very carefully about how they set up that process, to think about including those who have, perhaps, expertise from other self-regulating professions, to think about including members of the public, to think, always, about their rights and responsibilities and the stamp of fundamental fairness that must always adhere to any proceedings when they deal with their members.

Some professions, even professions like law, medicine and teaching, which, to some extent, are self-regulating have run into problems when it comes to respecting the rights of their members when it comes to a question of how to hold hearings and enquiries. I know this may be jumping ahead to something that may never arise or may arise very infrequently but I want the members of this newly-created profession, which will have powers of self-regulation, to ask themselves about these questions, to think about these questions. As I said at the beginning of my comments, I wish them all very well in their endeavours.

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

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I would just like to rise for a few moments in support of the bill that was tabled earlier today in the House, and to suggest that my comments would be a little bit longer or perhaps more relevant if we had a copy of the bill. We are just now getting copies of the bill, I don't know what happened earlier. We did agree to have the bill tabled in the House today, because we feel it's important that this bill be given due consideration. Our Party will be supporting this bill in second reading.

[Page 2600]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, I just want to point out, on behalf of our caucus, that I know the members of the interior design group had some discussions with our staff at caucus about the bill. It is my understanding that they have had letters of support from a number of different organizations, issuing support. I commended them on that. I believe the government told them it was the best and prudent approach to take, because you would be aware of a few other pieces of legislation that organizations have brought here that we all thought were supported only to find out at the Law Amendments Committee that there wasn't very much support for it at all. That was a surprise not only to government but for our caucuses also. It is my understanding that this bill has been discussed with other organizations, and that that support is there.

This is very much bringing this legislation back into the 2003 and better reflecting today's market, that these individuals work in. We certainly do appreciate the fact that they did bring this to our attention, to our caucus. I want to thank our staff member, Allan MacAvoy, who did have discussions with them, and reviewed the legislation and the supporting documentation. We certainly look forward to this bill making it to the Law Amendments Committee, and hopefully there will be no surprises when we get to the Law Amendments Committee so that we can see a speedy passage of this particular piece of legislation.

MR. SPEAKER: If I recognize the honourable member for Halifax Bedford Basin it will be to close the debate.

MS. MARY ANN MCGRATH: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable members for their kind comments, and I move second reading of Bill No. 50.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 50. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

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

[Page 2601]

PRIVATE AND LOCAL BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, do we do these en bloc if it's suitable (Interruptions) All right.

Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bills No. 29, No. 34, No. 35, No. 37, No. 40, No. 44, No. 47, No. 48 and No. 51.

Bill No. 29 - Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities Act.

Bill No. 34 - Riverport District Fire Protection Act.

Bill No. 35 - An Act to Incorporate the Truro Golf Club.

Bill No. 37 - Hansport Memorial Community Centre Financial Assistance (2003) Act.

Bill No. 40 - Sisters of Saint Martha Act.

Bill No. 44 - Chipman Corner Cemetery Company Act.

Bill No. 47 - Associated Alumni of Acadia College Incorporation Act.

Bill No. 48 - Lunenburg Common Lands Act.

Bill No. 51 - Crosbie Memorial Trust Fund Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move second reading of Bills No. 29, No. 34, No. 35, No. 37, No. 40, No. 44, No. 47, No. 48 and No. 51.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bills No. 29, No. 34, No. 35, No. 37, No. 40, No. 44, No. 47, No. 48 and No. 51. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

Ordered that these bills be referred to the Committee on Private and Local Bills.

The honourable Government House Leader.

[Page 2602]

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

PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 1.

Bill No. 1 - Firefighters' Compensation Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, I have just a few brief comments to make on this. We are all pleased to see that better protection is going to be provided to our firefighters under the Workers' Compensation Act, especially in dealing with cancers caused in their line of duty. I just want to reiterate, I know that my colleague, the member for Cape Breton West, has spoken at length on this, and as a result of the concerns he has raised I had the opportunity to speak with a number of fire chiefs in Richmond County. Richmond County, like many other counties in the province, is set up in a way that the municipality collects a rate for the volunteer fire departments, but it is the departments themselves that govern their finances and determine where they are going to make purchases and what sort of coverage they are going to have.

Mr. Speaker, the unfortunate part is, it was my understanding - and I will be confirming that in the days coming - from one of the chiefs that it was his belief that not one of the volunteer fire departments in Richmond County used workers' compensation as their insurance, and the reason for that is because they just simply cannot afford the premiums charged under the workers' compensation system. They are forced to go out and look for private insurers. I would say it's not only a situation in Richmond, because we heard just a few weeks ago that the Port Hood Fire Department was also raising concerns about how their private insurer had gone up, but they too were using private insurance.

The concern that I raise here is that while this is good for workers' compensation, this will not directly benefit the volunteer firefighters in Richmond County, who put their lives on the line and work very hard to protect the people of Richmond County in these situations. The reason for that is the departments have made a decision they simply just cannot afford workers' compensation premiums.

Therefore, I want to take this opportunity to call upon the minister to see whether, after these changes are implemented, he is willing to look into the costs of the premiums charged to these volunteer fire departments, especially in municipal units where it is the departments themselves that are forced to go out and find the coverage for their members,

[Page 2603]

and it's not the municipalities themselves that are paying for this. It is a concern, because when I asked the chiefs, well, because there will be this added coverage provided for volunteer firefighters, will it make a difference? The response was, the premiums aren't going to change, we couldn't afford them yesterday, even though they changed the benefits, we won't be able to afford them tomorrow unless there is something done about the rate and the premiums that are being charged to volunteer fire departments, such as the ones we have in Richmond.

[11:45 a.m.]

I just want to red flag this again for the minister, that while this is an important step, there is a significant number of volunteer firefighters in Richmond and other areas of the province that will not stand to benefit from this because they simply just cannot afford the current premiums being charged to them under workers' compensation. So I do hope the minister will be willing to have a look at this to see what can be done in conjunction with these departments so we can do everything possible to ensure that all of our firefighters - volunteer or paid - can enjoy the additional protection and benefits being offered under this legislation. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I'll be brief. I want to say that I think this is a positive move on the part of the government; I sincerely hope that it will be received as such. Our caucus does have some reservations. I'll ditto the comments by the member for Richmond. I want the government to be aware that in my constituency I think there's somewhere in the range of five different volunteer fire departments. To my knowledge, there's only one of those that actually has full-time, paid people and the rest would be, even in that department, all volunteer. For all the other departments, they would be purely volunteer.

I think I've stated in the House earlier, actually, certainly yesterday, that the incident of a firefighter injured in the course of doing his work and a volunteer on top of that, actually because he was injured on a call, when the ambulance took him to the hospital, he was charged $500. So, to me, this is the point of ridiculousness. If ever there was a case of adding insult to injury, that is it. Although I think the Department of Health actually helped him out with this, which I was glad to see, the fact that the service provider was willing to bill them, I thought was ridiculous.

In light of that, I want the government to think seriously about the negative impacts on these people who offer themselves as volunteers for the benefit of the residents in their communities. I certainly would expect that in practically all of the fire departments that would be in my constituency, that there would be no workers' comp paid and I'll actually ask some questions about that and I would be very surprised. For the most part, some of them,

[Page 2604]

they're lucky to be able to afford to have the equipment they need, let alone the added expense of workers' compensation.

I think I would be accurate in saying that it's just not in the realm of possibilities that these volunteer firefighters who are cash strapped at any time, would have the resources to be paying into workers' comp and I would see that as a necessary component to compensation in this regard. We're glad to see some retroactivity in this bill and we may have more comments or amendments as this bill moves forward. But we do, definitely, see this as a positive step on the part of the government. It's none too soon, but certainly appropriate, so thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: If I recognize the honourable Minister of Environment and Labour it will be to close the debate.

The honourable Minister of Environment and Labour.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I'm truly delighted to move second reading of Bill No. 1. I think it's a giant step forward in protection for firefighters, in particular volunteer firefighters and heaven only knows, we do have to support the volunteer fire services in this province whenever we have the opportunity because those people perform an invaluable service that I doubt very much if government, even though some people in this Chamber believe government can do everything, I don't think government could replicate the service that is provided by volunteer firefighters.

With regard to premiums, Mr. Speaker, I believe the majority - and I was trying desperately to go through my notes and I still haven't found it - of volunteer firefighters at the present time are covered under workers' compensation. The majority of professional firefighters are not, so there is a difference there. The professional firefighters - I would assume in the next round of negotiations - will have the opportunity if they want, to change their carrier from their present private carrier to workers' compensation.

The rates charged by workers' compensation for volunteer firefighters, Mr. Speaker, is not a particularly high rate but, however, depending on the size of the department, it's still a cost. I would suggest that members who have within their ridings small volunteer firefighting companies that they approach their local municipality to cover them as an extension of their present coverage that they have on the workers in their municipal office and that is possible.

Mr. Speaker, with those few words, I thank you and everybody in the House very much. I look forward, once again, for this bill to proceed right along. I move second reading.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 1. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

[Page 2605]

The motion is carried.

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 43.

Bill No. 43 - Members' Retiring Allowances Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I move second reading of Bill No. 43.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 43. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 28.

Bill No. 28 - Apprenticeship and Trades Qualifications Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Education.

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I move that this bill be now read a second time.

Mr. Speaker, we're considering this bill when apprenticeship is celebrating its 66th year in Nova Scotia. We have more than 4,800 active apprentices registered in our province in 53 designated trades. The revisions to Bill No. 28 will allow for even more improvements to take place. They will enable Nova Scotians to access the spectrum of lifelong learning, including youth apprenticeship, pre-employment, essential skills training, upgrading and skills enhancement. Tradespeople who are already certified will benefit from the revisions we're introducing. They will have the opportunity to enhance their trade skills through refresher courses and essential skills assessment and training. Those who have worked in a skilled trade for a significant period of time without certification will have the opportunity to acquire the necessary essential skills that will help them to pass the certification examinations.

[Page 2606]

Essential skills programs help workers improve their reading, writing, math, basic computer, critical-thinking, problem-solving, oral communication, and teamwork skills on the job. All these are essential skills apprentices need to continue to be a valuable part of our workforce. The essential skills assessment will ensure that apprentices and trades qualifiers who write the exams will be better prepared and that they will have the skills required to participate successfully in their chosen fields.

The updated legislation lays the groundwork for youth apprenticeship to get young people on track earlier for careers in skilled trades. Through youth apprenticeship, Nova Scotia's youth will be able to learn while they earn and prepare for careers in skilled trades. It will provide participants the opportunity to obtain credits toward high school completion, post-secondary programs and practical hours in their chosen trades programs. Assessments will also be done for those experienced tradespeople who want to access certification examinations to become a journeyperson without going through the apprenticeship system.

These initiatives encourage our tradespeople to keep their skills current in a cycle of lifelong learning which will make their work more meaningful and rewarding, and at the same time they will continue to have a vital role as part of our workforce, contributing to a prosperous society.

The revisions of this bill honour commitments in Strong Leadership . . . . a clear course. They establish a comprehensive and modern apprenticeship program in consultation with our partners in business, labour, industry and training. Additionally, improvements to the apprenticeship program are part of the Skills Nova Scotia initiative. The revisions of the apprenticeship legislation are based on the public consultations led by Carol MacCulloch and Jim Henley and our partners in business, labour, industry and training.

Employers play a key role in helping apprentices acquire skills training. There are more than 3,000 employers who participate in the Provincial Apprenticeship Program - 85 per cent of apprenticeship training is done on the job and 15 per cent in the classroom. The revisions will provide an opportunity for our partners to become more closely involved with apprenticeship. The strength of the apprenticeship system is found in the quality of relationships between the partners that support it, and we are fortifying Nova Scotia's apprenticeship system through the revisions through this bill. The involvement of business, labour and industry will mean a strong apprenticeship system which will help our economy grow.

The revisions to the Apprenticeship and Trades Qualifications Act are good for the apprenticeship system for further development of our workforce, for employers, but most of all for apprentices. The revisions will create more opportunities for Nova Scotians to pursue skills training and employment opportunities right here at home. Thank you.

[Page 2607]

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

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I thank the minister for bringing forth these revisions. After all, we all know in many cases we've waited for many long years for these improvements. I want you to know that last evening I had the occasion to attend an event attended by the metro locals of the Teachers Union here within the HRM. At that time, around the discussion table we were talking about some of the alternatives, particularly important when we look at the fact that in certain trades we are in need of having tradespeople there to be able to supply the services.

I can mention the chef business in particular and I can mention plumbing, bricklaying and so on. The stakeholders from business, labour, and of course industry have been involved in the process. That's a credit to the process, that's a credit to the minister. The response, of course, will be interesting to see as we move forward to the Law Amendments Committee and when we go to the Law Amendments Committee, I'm sure that we're going to hear from presenters, perhaps to a degree, on the topic of fees, but then again we should look at the progressive step that has been taken. It is a step that at this stage I look forward to going through to the Law Amendments Committee and hearing from the people involved in the process.

At times we have been sadly lacking in the public school system on this issue of preparing young people for these much-needed trades. There are, without doubt, a number of vacancies as more and more older tradespeople look forward to eventual retirement. The initiative particularly directed towards youth apprenticeship is one that I look forward to having more details on, young people who will have the opportunity to be able to refine the skills necessary to be able to pass the important examinations for certification and to be able to move into the workforce in a meaningful way. So I look forward to the Law Amendments Committee and I thank the minister for bringing it forth at this time.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, the Liberal caucus will also look forward to hearing more at the Law Amendments Committee. It's important that young Nova Scotians will get better trades training through improvements in the apprenticeship program. There is a concern with the fees for training, the fees for exams, and the fees for certifications as well. There are many Nova Scotians who want to become tradespeople, who will soon be paying higher fees, because the province is expanding its apprenticeship program for industries such as construction.

[Page 2608]

[12:00 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, there are a great deal of concerns here. Again, on behalf of the Liberal caucus, we share some of those concerns, especially about fee increases. We look forward to hearing more from the people who are affected most by this during the Law Amendments Committee.

MR. SPEAKER: If I recognize the honourable Minister of Education it will be to close the debate.

The honourable Minister of Education.

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable members for their comments. I can say to those members and all members of the House that considerable consultation occurred with respect to the fee structure that accompanies the proposals in this legislation. We feel very confident that the participants in this program will find that the fees are appropriate to the programs and, indeed, will still be among the lowest fees in the country for apprenticeship programs. I believe the considerable consultation that occurred will result in people seeing the reasonableness of the fee structure as it is proposed. I thank the honourable members for their comments and their intention of support for the legislation. I would move Bill No. 28 for second reading.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is for second reading of Bill No. 28. Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.

The motion is carried.

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, that concludes the government's business for today. I move that the House do now rise to meet again on Monday at the hour of . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Are you going to give the hours for the whole week?

MR. RUSSELL: Not really, but we'll go a certain way along that. We will meet again on Monday at the hour of 2:00 p.m. and sit until 10:00 p.m. The order of business will be Public Bills for Second Reading and Committee of the Whole House on Bills.

Mr. Speaker, on Tuesday we will sit from 12:00 until 8:00 p.m., and Wednesday will be 2:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. With that, I move adjournment.

[Page 2609]

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that the House adjourn until 2:00 p.m. on Monday.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

We are adjourned.

[The House rose at 12:03 p.m.]

[Page 2610]

NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)

RESOLUTION NO. 1275

By: Mr. William Dooks (Eastern Shore)

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

Whereas May 4th to May 10th marks Teacher Appreciation Week; and

Whereas teachers make a profound difference in our lives and deserve our thanks this week and year-round; and

Whereas the Nova Scotia Teachers Union is presently involved in an ongoing bilingual campaign entitled Power of Learning, with the focus being public education as an economic imperative and valuable cultural resource;

Therefore be it resolved that all MLAs congratulate the principal, teachers and staff from the Atlantic View, Eastern Consolidated, West Chezzetcook, Lakeview Consolidated, Harbourside, Jeddore Lakeville, Musquodoboit Harbour, Robert Jamieson and Ross Road Elementary Schools, as well as the Duncan MacMillan and Eastern Shore District High Schools, the Gaetz Brook Junior High School and the Sheet Harbour and Lakefront Consolidated Schools who are working so diligently with students in their preparation for life's successes.

RESOLUTION NO. 1276

By: Mr. William Dooks (Eastern Shore)

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

Whereas May 4th to May 10th marks Teacher Appreciation Week; and

Whereas teachers of today are the cornerstone to the success of students in their adult years; and

Whereas the Nova Scotia Teachers Union is presently involved in an ongoing bilingual campaign entitled Power of Learning, with the focus being public education as an economic imperative and valuable cultural resource;

[Page 2611]

Therefore be it resolved that all MLAs congratulate the principal, teachers and staff from the Lakefront Consolidated School on Highway No. 7 in Tangier who are working so diligently with students, while providing the necessary challenges which students are looking for as they proceed through the public school system.

RESOLUTION NO. 1277

By: Mr. William Dooks (Eastern Shore)

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

Whereas May 4th to May 10th marks Teacher Appreciation Week; and

Whereas the fact that I can read this resolution is because of a teacher; and

Whereas the Nova Scotia Teachers Union is presently involved in an ongoing bilingual campaign entitled Power of Learning, with the focus being public education as an economic imperative and valuable cultural resource;

Therefore be it resolved that all MLAs congratulate the principal, teachers and staff from the Eastern Consolidated Elementary School in Moser River who are working so diligently with students, while providing the necessary challenges which students are looking for as they proceed through the public school system.

RESOLUTION NO. 1278

By: Mr. William Dooks (Eastern Shore)

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

Whereas May 4th to May 10th marks Teacher Appreciation Week; and

Whereas the fact that I can read this resolution is because of a teacher; and

Whereas the Nova Scotia Teachers Union is presently involved in an ongoing bilingual campaign entitled Power of Learning, with the focus being public education as an economic imperative and valuable cultural resource;

Therefore be it resolved that all MLAs congratulate the principal, teachers and staff from the Eastern Shore District High School in Musquodoboit Harbour who are working so diligently with students in their preparation for life's successes.

[Page 2612]

RESOLUTION NO. 1279

By: Mr. William Dooks (Eastern Shore)

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

Whereas May 4th to May 10th marks Teacher Appreciation Week; and

Whereas teachers of today are the backbone to the success of our children in future years; and

Whereas the Nova Scotia Teachers Union is presently involved in an ongoing bilingual campaign entitled Power of Learning, with the focus being public education as an economic imperative and valuable cultural resource;

Therefore be it resolved that all MLAs congratulate the principal, teachers and staff from the Gaetz Brook Junior High School in Gaetz Brook who are working so diligently with students in their early years of high school to face more challenging years ahead.

RESOLUTION NO. 1280

By: Mr. William Dooks (Eastern Shore)

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

Whereas May 4th to May 10th marks Teacher Appreciation Week; and

Whereas teachers of today are the backbone to the success of our children in future years; and

Whereas the Nova Scotia Teachers Union is presently involved in an ongoing bilingual campaign entitled, Power of Learning, with the focus being public education as an economic imperative and valuable cultural resource;

Therefore be it resolved that all MLAs congratulate the principal, teachers and staff from the West Chezzetcook School in West Chezzetcook, who are working so diligently with students in their preparation for high school and more challenging years ahead.

[Page 2613]

RESOLUTION NO. 1281

By: Mr. William Dooks (Eastern Shore)

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

Whereas May 4th to May 10th marks Teacher Appreciation Week; and

Whereas the fact that I can read this resolution is because of a teacher; and

Whereas the Nova Scotia Teachers Union is presently involved in an ongoing bilingual campaign entitled, Power of Learning, with the focus being public education as an economic imperative and valuable cultural resource;

Therefore be it resolved that all MLAs congratulate the principal, teachers and staff from the Lakeview Consolidated School in Porters Lake, who are working so diligently with students in their preparation for life's successes.

RESOLUTION NO. 1282

By: Mr. William Dooks (Eastern Shore)

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

Whereas May 4th to May 10th marks Teacher Appreciation Week; and

Whereas teachers of today are the backbone to the success of our children in future years; and

Whereas the Nova Scotia Teachers Union is presently involved in an ongoing bilingual campaign entitled, Power of Learning, with the focus being public education as an economic imperative and valuable cultural resource;

Therefore be it resolved that all MLAs congratulate the principal, teachers and staff from the Atlantic View School in Lawrencetown, who are working so diligently with students in their preparation for high school and more challenging years ahead.

[Page 2614]

RESOLUTION NO. 1283

By: Mr. William Dooks (Eastern Shore)

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

Whereas May 4th to May 10th marks Teacher Appreciation Week; and

Whereas the fact that I can read this resolution is because of a teacher; and

Whereas the Nova Scotia Teachers Union is presently involved in an ongoing bilingual campaign entitled, Power of Learning, with the focus being public education as an economic imperative and valuable cultural resource;

Therefore be it resolved that all MLAs congratulate the principal, teachers and staff from the Harbourside Elementary School on the Clam Harbour Road in Lake Charlotte, who are working so diligently with students in their preparation for life's successes.

RESOLUTION NO. 1284

By: Mr. William Dooks (Eastern Shore)

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

Whereas May 4th to May 10th marks Teacher Appreciation Week; and

Whereas teachers of today are the backbone to the success of our children in future years; and

Whereas the Nova Scotia Teachers Union is presently involved in an ongoing bilingual campaign entitled, Power of Learning, with the focus being public education as an economic imperative and valuable cultural resource;

Therefore be it resolved that all MLAs congratulate the principal, teachers and staff from the Jeddore Lakeville Elementary School on the East Jeddore Road at Oyster Pond, who are working so diligently with students in their preparation for high school and more challenging years ahead.

[Page 2615]

RESOLUTION NO. 1285

By: Mr. William Dooks (Eastern Shore)

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

Whereas May 4th to May 10th marks Teacher Appreciation Week; and

Whereas the fact that I can read this resolution is because of a teacher; and

Whereas the Nova Scotia Teachers Union is presently involved in an ongoing bilingual campaign entitled, Power of Learning, with the focus being public education as an economic imperative and valuable cultural resource;

Therefore be it resolved that all MLAs congratulate the principal, teachers and staff from the Musquodoboit Harbour Elementary School, who are working so diligently with students in their preparation for life's successes.

RESOLUTION NO. 1286

By: Mr. William Dooks (Eastern Shore)

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

Whereas May 4th to May 10th marks Teacher Appreciation Week; and

Whereas teachers of today are the backbone to the success of our children in future years; and

Whereas the Nova Scotia Teachers Union is presently involved in an ongoing bilingual campaign entitled, Power of Learning, with the focus being public education as an economic imperative and valuable cultural resource;

Therefore be it resolved that all MLAs congratulate the principal, teachers and staff from the Robert Jamieson Elementary School in the Oyster Pond-Jeddore area on Highway No. 7 along the Eastern Shore, who are working so diligently with students in their preparation for high school and more challenging years ahead.

[Page 2616]

RESOLUTION NO. 1287

By: Mr. William Dooks (Eastern Shore)

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

Whereas May 4th to May 10th marks Teacher Appreciation Week; and

Whereas teachers of today are the cornerstone to the success of students in their adult years; and

Whereas the Nova Scotia Teachers Union is presently involved in an ongoing bilingual campaign entitled, Power of Learning, with the focus being public education as an economic imperative and valuable cultural resource;

Therefore be it resolved that all MLAs congratulate the principal, teachers and staff from the Ross Road Elementary School in Lawrencetown, who are working so diligently with students, while providing the necessary challenges which students are looking for as they proceed through the public school system.

RESOLUTION NO. 1288

By: Mr. William Dooks (Eastern Shore)

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

Whereas May 4th to May 10th marks Teacher Appreciation Week; and

Whereas teachers of today are the cornerstone to the success of students in their in their adult years; and

Whereas the Nova Scotia Teachers Union is presently involved in an ongoing bilingual campaign entitled, Power of Learning, with the focus being public education as an economic imperative and valuable cultural resource;

Therefore be it resolved that all MLAs congratulate the principal, teachers and staff from the Sheet Harbour Consolidated School on the Church Point Road in Sheet Harbour, who are working so diligently with students, while providing the necessary challenges which students are looking for as they proceed through the public school system.

[Page 2617]

RESOLUTION NO. 1289

By: Mr. Frank Chipman (Annapolis)

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

Whereas the Queen's Jubilee Medal is presented to Canadian citizens who are outstanding volunteers, devoting their time to help make their communities better places; and

Whereas Shirley Fralic has been presented with a Queen's Jubilee Medal for the exemplary work she does for the 4-H Program; and

Whereas former president of the Annapolis County 4-H Leaders Council, Ms. Fralic has been a general leader as well as project leader for 20 years at the Clarence 4-H Club, dedicating much of her time to the youth of her community, helping them become better leaders;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Shirley Fralic on the receipt of the Queen's Jubilee Medal, and thank her for the hard work and commitment to her community she exhibits through the 4-H Program.

RESOLUTION NO. 1290

By: Mr. Frank Chipman (Annapolis)

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

Whereas the Port Royal Branch #21 of the Royal Canadian Legion is celebrating its 75th Anniversary this year; and

Whereas during its recent anniversary celebrations, Mr. Kirk Whitman was presented with a lifetime membership in honour of his tremendous service; and

Whereas while many things have changed over the last 75 years, the pride and gratitude Nova Scotians hold for members of the Royal Canadian Legion, because of their service to community and country, remains solid;

Therefore be it resolved that all the members of this House recognize the significant contributions of Port Royal Branch #21 of the Royal Canadian Legion, through its president, Ron Bohaker, thank the members for their service to our communities and country, and salute Kirk Whitman on his special recognition.

[Page 2618]

RESOLUTION NO. 1291

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 CBC is producing a miniseries, Shattered City, on the December 1917 Halifax Explosion, one of the most devastating disasters in our history; and

Whereas North Sydney's own 1919 La France, the first mobile firefighting equipment the city possessed, is featured in the retelling of the disaster; and

Whereas the La France, driven by retired North Sydney Fire Chief James Walsh, was requested for the miniseries because it is in original condition and it is the same model fire truck in commission during the time of the Halifax Explosion;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House wish James Walsh, as well as the crew and actors of Shattered City, success with this miniseries and congratulate the North Sydney Fire Department on having a piece of its history reliving history.

RESOLUTION NO. 1292

By: Hon. Timothy Olive (Natural Resources)

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

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

Whereas during National Forest Week, Kimberly-Clark has partnered with the students of Prince Andrew High School in Dartmouth, along with other metro schools, by providing several thousand tree seedlings from the company's tree nursery near Debert; and

Whereas the funds raised from the project will be used to support the vital work of the IWK Health Centre showing, as Kimberly-Clark has said, that this is "symbolic of how trees help our society in so many ways";

[Page 2619]

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House recognize the efforts of our local high school students, thank Kimberly-Clark for its contribution to the project, and wish the students well with their fundraising activities in support of the work of the IWK Health Centre.

RESOLUTION NO. 1293

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Mr. and Mrs. Rennie Taylor and family of Collingwood, Nova Scotia, were recognized for their volunteer work in April 2003 by the Municipality of Cumberland County; and

Whereas the Taylor family were honoured for all of the hard work and dedication that they give to their community and for all the wonderful causes they work with; and

Whereas the Taylor family is always involved in making the community a better place and have given unselfishly of themselves to whatever cause needs their help at the time;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the Taylor family on being honoured for their volunteer work and wish them all the best in the future.

RESOLUTION NO. 1294

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas David Hoffman of Oxford, Nova Scotia, was named board member-at-large for the inaugural foundation board of directors established by NSCC; and

Whereas David Hoffman is Co-CEO of Oxford Frozen Foods and The Bragg Group of Companies; and

Whereas David has held numerous volunteer positions and is currently a director with Trans Canada Trail Foundation and the Atlantic Chapter of Financial Executives International;

[Page 2620]

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate David Hoffman on being named board member-at-large for the inaugural foundation board of directors established by the NSCC and wish him all the best in the future.

RESOLUTION NO. 1295

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 Leicester Fire Department's auxiliary bowling team was selected as the most sportsmanlike team in the annual bowling tournament hosted by Oxford this year; and

Whereas the award, the Marg Smith Memorial Trophy, was awarded by the Amherst Fire Department's auxiliary; and

Whereas this is the Leicester Fire Department's first year in the bowling tournament with the following members: Buffy Vansnick, Shirley Stanley, Kim Wheaton, Linda Reid, Barb Lowther, Shelly Ripley and Kathy Bickford;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the Leicester Fire Department's auxiliary and wish them continued success in the future.

RESOLUTION NO. 1296

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 foursome of Stu McLeod, Alan Legere, Bobby Smith and Skip White of Springhill will be representing Nova Scotia at the Atlantic region's over-50 Legion dart tournament in Rustico, P.E.I.; and

Whereas the foursome from Springhill earned the right to advance after winning the provincial over-50 title in Stellarton, N.S.; and

Whereas the team has been playing darts together for about four years and was pleased with winning the competition;

[Page 2621]

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the team of Stu McLeod, Alan Legere, Bobby Smith and Skip White on winning the provincials and wish them the best of luck in the provincials.

RESOLUTION NO. 1297

By: Mr. Wayne Gaudet (Clare)

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

Whereas on May 9, 1992, an explosion rumbled through the Westray Mine at 5:18 a.m., trapping 26 men underground and shaking homes more than a kilometre away; and

Whereas on that day hundreds of Nova Scotians came to the mine site to assist in what proved to be a vain attempt to save their lives; and

Whereas the tragic deaths of those 26 brave men must never be forgotten;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House remember those 26 souls who perished at the Westray Mine and urge all members to perform our duties in such a way that will honour their memory.