Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

Les travaux de la Chambre ont repris le
21 septembre 2017

HANSARD 03-36

DEBATES AND PROCEEDINGS

Speaker: Honourable Murray Scott

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

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

Annual subscriptions available from the Office of the Speaker.

Third Session

WEDNESDAY, MAY 21, 2003

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS:
Environ. & Lbr. - RRFB: Enviro-Depots - Concerns, Mr. D. Hendsbee 2973
Environ. & Lbr. - Chester: Water Pollution - Review, Mr. J. Chataway 2974
Commun. Serv.: RRSS Strike - Settle, Mr. J. Pye 2974
Commun. Serv.: RRSS Strike - Settle, Dr. J. Smith 2975
Commun. Serv.: RRSS Strike - Settle, Mr. W. Gaudet 2975
Commun. Serv.: RRSS Strike - Settle, Mr. W. Gaudet 2975
Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Mineville: Roads - Drainage Issues,
Mr. P. MacEwan 2976
Commun. Serv.: RRSS Strike - Settle, Mr. B. Barnet 2976
Commun. Serv.: RRSS Strike - Settle, Mr. D. Wilson 2976
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 1510, Research Coun. (Can.) Awards: Recipients - Congrats.,
Hon. A. MacIsaac 2977
Vote - Affirmative 2977
Res. 1511, Beaton, Allan - Gaelic Language: Preservation - Thank,
Hon. Rodney MacDonald 2977
Vote - Affirmative 2978
Res. 1512, EMS Wk. - Acknowledge, Hon. J. Purves 2978
Vote - Affirmative 2979
Res. 1513, Can. Science Fair (2007) - Truro: Bid Committee -
Congrats., Hon. A. MacIsaac 2979
Vote - Affirmative 2980
Res. 1514, Tourism - Life Network Scenic Drives: Cabot Trail/
South Shore - Congrats., Hon. Rodney MacDonald 2980
Vote - Affirmative 2980
Res. 1515, Health - New Hope Clubhouse: Sponsors - Congrats.,
Hon. J. Purves 2981
Vote - Affirmative 2981
INTRODUCTION OF BILLS:
No. 56, Environment Act, Mr. B. Boudreau 2981
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 1516, Gov't. (N.S.) - Water System: Non-Privatization - Confirm,
Mr. D. Dexter 2982
Res. 1517, Sports - C.B. Post Bombers: Hockey Champs (1964-65) -
Congrats., Mr. Manning MacDonald 2982
Vote - Affirmative 2983
Res. 1518, Anna. Valley Apple Blossom Fest.: Organizers/Participants -
Congrats., Mr. M. Parent 2983
Vote - Affirmative 2984
Res. 1519, O'Leary, Brian: E. Hants Vol. of Yr. - Congrats.,
Mr. J. MacDonell 2984
Vote - Affirmative 2985
Res. 1520, Sysco - Assets: Sale - Defence, Mr. P. MacEwan 2985
Res. 1521, MacDonald, Mickey/DownEast Commun.:
Int'l. Wireless Commun. Expo - Congrats., Ms. M. McGrath 2985
Vote - Affirmative 2986
Res. 1522, Enchanted Twist - Astral Dr. Elem. Sch.: Production -
Congrats., Mr. K. Deveaux 2986
Vote - Affirmative 2987
Res. 1523, Barthos, Susan Ann: Gov.-Gen's. Medal - Congrats.,
Mr. D. Wilson 2987
Vote - Affirmative 2988
Res. 1524, Hfx. Rifles: Service - Commend, Mr. D. Hendsbee 2989
Vote - Affirmative 2989
Res. 1525, Cameron, Janice: Can. Science Fair - Congrats.,
Mr. J. MacDonell 2990
Vote - Affirmative 2990
Res. 1526, Sysco: Liquidation - Revelations, Mr. P. MacEwan 2990
Res. 1527, Westville Crime Prevention: Fundraising - Congrats.,
Mr. J. DeWolfe 2991
Vote - Affirmative 2992
Res. 1528, Astral Dr. Elem. Sch. - DARE Prog.: Organizers/
Participants - Congrats., Mr. K. Deveaux 2992
Vote - Affirmative 2992
Res. 1529, Penney, Sandra: Cent. Valley Chamber of Comm. Award -
Congrats., Mr. F. Chipman 2992
Vote - Affirmative 2993
Res. 1530, Rhodenizer, David: Bennett Award - Congrats., Mr. J. Carey 2993
Vote - Affirmative 2994
Res. 1531, MacDonald, Flora - Hon. Deg.: UCCB - Congrats.,
Hon. C. Clarke 2994
Vote - Affirmative 2995
Res. 1532, Rath, Stuart - Truro Sports Heritage Soc.: Honour Roll -
Congrats., Hon. J. Muir 2995
Vote - Affirmative 2995
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 366, Insurance: VON - Effects, Mr. D. Dexter 2996
No. 367, Agric. & Fish. - Beef Ind. (N.S.): Safety - Ensure,
Mr. W. Gaudet 2997
No. 368, Insurance - Facility Assoc. Rates: Freeze (01/05/03) -
Applicability, Mr. D. Dexter 2998
No. 369, Health - Care: Plan - Efficacy, Mr. M. Samson 2999
No. 370, Insurance - Driver-Owned Plan: Prem. - Intentions,
Mr. D. Dexter 3001
No. 371, Insurance - Vol. FDs: Rates - Affordability Ensure,
Mr. F. Corbett 3002
No. 372, Sysco - Assets Sale: Accounting Rules - Inconsistency,
Mr. M. Samson 3004
No. 373, Health - Care: Lib. Plan - Duplication Explain,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 3005
No. 374, Commun. Serv.: Women's Ctrs. - Fund,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 3007
No. 375, Serv. N.S. & Mun. Rel.: Downloading - Cease,
Mr. Manning MacDonald 3008
No. 376, Commun. Serv. - RRSS: Conciliation - Turnaround Explain,
Mr. J. Pye 3009
No. 377, Commun. Serv. - Women's/Men's Ctrs.: Coalition -
Funding, Mr. W. Gaudet 3010
No. 378, Environ. & Lbr.: Green Plan - Time Frame, Mr. H. Epstein 3012
No. 379, Energy - Deep Panuke: Transmission Line - Update,
Mr. Manning MacDonald 3013
No. 380, Health - Nurses: Overtime - Costs, Ms. Maureen MacDonald 3014
No. 381, Educ. - C.B. The Lakes: Teacher Cuts - Effects,
Mr. B. Boudreau 3015
No. 382, Environ. & Lbr.: Protected Areas - Enumerate,
Mr. K. MacAskill 3016
No. 383, Educ.: Transport. Regs. - Change, Mr. K. Deveaux 3017
No. 384, Health - Roseway Hosp. ER: Service Reduction - Effects,
Dr. J. Smith 3019
No. 385, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Pt. Aconi: Toxic Waste Transport. -
Details, Mr. B. Boudreau 3020
No. 386, Health: Hants East Resource Ctr. - Fund, Mr. J. MacDonell 3022
No. 387, Sysco - Parts Sale: Zoom Proposal - Update, Mr. P. MacEwan 3023
OPPOSITION MEMBERS' BUSINESS:
MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS:
Res. 796, Gov't. (N.S.) - Insurance: Issue Awareness - Time Frame,
Mr. Manning MacDonald 3023
Mr. M. Samson 3024
Hon. D. Morse 3028
Mr. G. Steele 3032
Mr. F. Corbett 3035
Mr. W. Gaudet 3037
Mr. J. Carey 3039
PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 39, Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act 3040
Mr. D. Wilson 3040
Hon. N. LeBlanc 3043
Mr. K. Deveaux 3047
Mr. M. Samson 3051
Hon. G. Balser 3054
PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES:
Law Amendments Committee, Hon. P. Christie 3055
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Econ. Dev. - Pictou Co.: Activity - Recognize:
Mr. J. DeWolfe 3056
Mr. J. MacDonell 3059
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Thur., May 22nd at 12:00 noon 3061
NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3):
Res. 1533, Abriel, Dr. David L.: Birthday (50th) - Congrats.,
Hon. M. Baker 3062
Res. 1534, Kavanaugh, Jim: Can. Top Principal Award - Congrats.,
Hon. C. Clarke 3062
Res. 1535, McCallum, Doris: Ecumenical Award - Congrats.,
Hon. C. Clarke 3063
Res. 1536, Simon, Irwin D. - Hon. Deg.: UCCB - Congrats.,
Hon. C. Clarke 3063
Res. 1537, Yazer, Jack - Hon. Deg.: UCCB - Congrats.,
Hon. C. Clarke 3064
Res. 1538, Abbass, Rev. Paul - Hon. Deg.: UCCB - Congrats.,
Hon. C. Clarke 3064
Res. 1539, Labatt People In Action Prog.: Work - Applaud,
Hon. C. Clarke 3065
Res. 1540, Gallagher, Matt: Summer Internship - Congrats.,
Hon. E. Fage 3065
Res. 1541, Rafuse, Margaret: Work Ethic - Commend, Mr. J. Carey 3066
Res. 1542, Easson, Bill & Phil - Commun. Spirit: Warm Wishes -
Extend, Mr. J. Carey 3067
Res. 1543, Williams, Cameron: Accomplishments - Congrats.,
Mr. J. Carey 3067
Res. 1544, Robinson, Mark/Chris Hirtle: WKDHS Hockey Team -
Congrats., Mr. J. Carey 3068
Res. 1545, Clifton Agricultural Dist.: Efforts - Applaud, Mr. B. Taylor 3068
Res. 1546, Cent. Valley Chamber of Comm.: Work - Commend,
Mr. F. Chipman 3069
Res. 1547, Kaupp, Rick - Truro Sports Heritage Soc.: Merit Award
(Posthumous) - Congrats., Hon. J. Muir 3069
Res. 1548, Conrad, Ron - Truro Sports Heritage Soc.: Honour Roll -
Congrats., Hon. J. Muir 3070
Res. 1549, Dennis, Donnie - Truro Sports Heritage Soc.: Honour Roll -
Congrats., Hon. J. Muir 3070
Res. 1550, Meisner, Chris: Athletic Accomplishments - Congrats.,
Hon. M. Baker 3071
Res. 1551, Black, Jeremy: NSSAF Track Meet - Congrats., The Speaker 3071
Res. 1552, Rector, Megan: NSSAF Track Meet - Congrats., The Speaker 3072
Res. 1553, Purdy, Nick: NSSAF Track Meet - Congrats., The Speaker 3072
Res. 1554, Purcell, Brian: NSSAF Track Meet - Congrats., The Speaker 3073
Res. 1555, Myers, Michelle: NSSAF Track Meet - Congrats.,
The Speaker 3073
Res. 1556, Murray, JR: NSSAF Track Meet - Congrats., The Speaker 3073
Res. 1557, Moore, Samantha: NSSAF Track Meet - Congrats.,
The Speaker 3074
Res. 1558, MacLean, Bobby: NSSAF Track Meet - Congrats.,
The Speaker 3074
Res. 1559, King, Virginia: NSSAF Track Meet - Congrats.,
The Speaker 3075
Res. 1560, Hoffman, James: NSSAF Track Meet - Congrats.,
The Speaker 3075
Res. 1561, Carter, Andrea: NSSAF Track Meet - Congrats.,
The Speaker 3076
Res. 1562, Blades, Bruce: NSSAF Track Meet - Congrats.,
The Speaker 3076
Res. 1563, Ripley, Katelyn: NSSAF Track Meet - Congrats.,
The Speaker 3076

[Page 2973]

HALIFAX, WEDNESDAY, MAY 21, 2003

Fifty-eighth General Assembly

Third Session

2:00 P.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Murray Scott

DEPUTY SPEAKERS

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

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would like to remind honourable members that the late show tonight is:

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House recognize the tremendous economic activity within the County of Pictou.

That was submitted by the honourable member for Pictou East.

We will begin the daily routine.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Preston.

MR. DAVID HENDSBEE: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of 74 signatures who left letters of concern at the Enviro-Depot, Karen's Recycling in Westphal at 805 Main Street, filed a petition of 74 signatures in a protest letter concerned about the RRFB and the Enviro-Depot's concerns over the recyclable fees. The date of that petition was April 28th.

2973

[Page 2974]

MR. SPEAKER: Did the honourable member sign the petition?

MR. HENDSBEE: I have affixed my signature to it.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Chester-St. Margaret's.

MR. JOHN CHATAWAY: Mr. Speaker, I would like to table a petition where the people of Chester have expressed their concern over the possible pollution of groundwater and surface water from the presence of a large manure pile. The petition was forwarded to me from the Municipality of Chester. They are requesting, that is the Municipality of Chester is requesting that the Nova Scotia Department of Environment and Labour and the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries investigate the situation and request a formal application through the Farm Practices Act to have the operation reviewed.

MR. SPEAKER: Has the honourable member signed the petition?

MR. CHATAWAY: He has indeed, sir.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition with some 3,370 names. The operative clause of the petition reads, we the undersigned constituents of Bill Dooks, MLA for Eastern Shore; Jane Purves, MLA for Halifax Citadel and, of course, the Minister of Health; Barry Barnet, MLA for Sackville-Beaver Bank; Ron Russell, MLA for Hants West; and the Hamm Government, ". . . call on the Hamm government to end the strike by group home workers by agreeing to have the contract settled by a third party arbitrator. We believe that by denying arbitration, the government is acting unfairly and is discriminating against group home workers and disabled men and women for whom they care for." I have affixed my signature to the petition and I would hope that the honourable members will look at the signatures of these petitions once they are tabled.

MR. SPEAKER: Has the honourable member signed the petition?

MR. PYE: I have affixed my signature, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

[Page 2975]

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition bearing the signatures of 539 residents of Dartmouth South who are concerned about the ongoing strike of Regional Residential Services Society. The operative clause reads, "We, the undersigned constituents of Tim Olive, MLA for Dartmouth South call on the Hamm Government to end the strike by group home workers by agreeing to have the contract settled by a third party arbitrator. We believe that by denying arbitration, the government is unfairly . . . discriminating against group home workers and the disabled men and women for whom they care for." I have affixed my signature.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable Leader in the House of the Liberal Party.

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition bearing the signatures of 235 citizens who are concerned about the ongoing strike at Regional Residential Services Society. The operative clause reads, ". . . we, the undersigned family members, counsellors and other concerned persons, call on the Hamm government to show that it cares about the residents of the Regional Residential Services Society by giving that agency a mandate and appropriate funding to negotiate wage parity for their residential counsellors as soon as possible." I have affixed my signature to that petition as well.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable Leader in the House of the Liberal Party.

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition bearing the signatures of 44 residents of Bedford, who are concerned about the ongoing strike at Regional Residential Services Society. The operative clause reads, "We, the undersigned constituents of Peter Christie, MLA for Bedford, call on the Hamm government to end the strike by group home workers by agreeing to have the contract settled by a third party arbitrator. We believe that by denying arbitration, the government is acting unfairly and is discriminating against group home workers and the disabled men and women for whom they care for." I have affixed my name to that petition.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Pictou East on an introduction.

MR. JAMES DEWOLFE: Mr. Speaker, through you to the members of the House, I would like to introduce one of the finest people I have ever met, from Lismore in Pictou East, Francis MacDonald. Along with Francis is a constituent of the honourable member for Eastern Shore, whose name is Mike Cox and he's from East Petpeswick - I got that out - and I would like to ask them to rise and receive the warm welcome of the House. (Applause)

[Page 2976]

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

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition bearing the signatures of 17 residents of Candy Mountain Road in Mineville, Nova Scotia - they have lots of coal mines there, I hear - who are concerned about the lack of response they have received from the Department of Transportation and Public Works on the issue of drainage of their roads. These residents feel that the issue is now one of safety for their homes. I have affixed my signature to the petition.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Sackville-Beaver Bank.

MR. BARRY BARNET: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition signed by 139 residents of Sackville-Beaver Bank, as well as other constituencies. The operative clause reads, "We, the undersigned, call on the Hamm government to end the strike by group home workers . . ." I have affixed my signature.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled. There seems to be lots of petitions today.

The honourable member for Glace Bay.

MR. DAVID WILSON: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition bearing the signatures of 264 residents of Halifax Bedford Basin, who are concerned about the ongoing strike at the Regional Residential Services Society. The operative clause reads, "We, the undersigned constituents of Mary Ann McGrath, MLA for Halifax-Bedford Basin call on the Hamm Government to end the strike by group home workers by agreeing to have the contract settled by a third party arbitrator. We believe that by denying arbitration, the government is unfairly . . . discriminating against group home workers and the disabled men and women for whom they care for." I have affixed my signature to the petition as well.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

[Page 2977]

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Education.

RESOLUTION NO. 1510

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

Whereas the Research Council of Canada recently awarded six scholarships of $34,600 each to top senior science students at St. F.X.; and

Whereas the recipients of the 2003 Natural Sciences and Engineering awards are: Jennifer Jamieson of Guysborough, Ryan Lukeman and Ryan MacDougall of Antigonish, Craig Power of Sydney Mines, Gabrielle Tompkins of Dartmouth, and Sean Kennedy of Gloucester, Ontario; and

Whereas these awards will significantly support their work as they strive towards innovations and discoveries of tomorrow;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House join me in congratulating the students for their academic achievements and wish them all the best with their future endeavours.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Tourism and Culture.

RESOLUTION NO. 1511

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

[Page 2978]

Whereas a memorandum of agreement between the Nova Scotia Government and the Highland Council of Scotland will boost Gaelic language and culture in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas the agreement was signed last year during a visit to Nova Scotia by six members of the Highland Council; and

Whereas one of those members, Allan Beaton, has recently retired from the Highland Council;

Therefore be it resolved that all members extend thanks to Mr. Beaton for his enthusiasm and work to preserve and present the Gaelic language and culture for the benefit of all Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[2:15 p.m.]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Health.

RESOLUTION NO. 1512

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

Whereas Nova Scotians have access to emergency health care services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week through its land and air ambulance system with approximately 85,000 Nova Scotians transported by ambulance each year; and

Whereas in Long and Brier Islands, paramedics are active members of the health care teams, providing blood pressure checks and blood tests in people's homes, a nationally recognized, innovative way to maximize the service of emergency medical services; and

[Page 2979]

Whereas Nova Scotia's paramedics and 911 emergency operators have been recognized as being among the best in North America;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join me in acknowledging this week, Emergency Medical Services Week, and in thanking Nova Scotia's EMS team for their commitment to providing a service that saves lives every 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.

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Education.

RESOLUTION NO. 1513

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

Whereas 27 young Nova Scotia scientists represented this province at the Canada-Wide Science Fair in Calgary last week and returned with three medals, several prizes and a number of honourable mentions; and

Whereas Truro students Katie Atkinson and Jay and Jenna McNeil, who are brother and sister, each won a silver medal, $700 and a $1,000 university entrance scholarship for their projects; and

Whereas Truro has won the bid to host 450 young scientists from across the country for the 2007 Canada-Wide Science Fair;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate our students and the Truro bid committee on their success, and thank science teachers across the province for encouraging their students to bring their scientific pursuits to this level.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 2980]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Tourism and Culture.

RESOLUTION NO. 1514

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

Whereas both the Cabot Trail and the South Shore have been selected as 2 of the top 10 most scenic drives in Canada by Life Network.ca; and

Whereas Life Network.ca brings on-line visitors information on various topics such as travel and adventure; and

Whereas Nova Scotia also has a number of other scenic drives;

Therefore be it resolved that all members recognize the achievement of having 2 of our 11 scenic drives as among the very best in Canada.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Health.

[Page 2981]

RESOLUTION NO. 1515

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

Whereas a clubhouse program is an internationally accepted model for rehabilitation of clients with severe mental illness and through participation in work units, an opportunity for these clients to gain life skills that enable them to function better in their community; and

Whereas the Aberdeen Hospital Auxiliary has donated $30,000 to the Pictou County Health Authority to purchase all of the required equipment and furniture for the New Hope clubhouse in New Glasgow; and

Whereas research has consistently shown the clubhouse program to reduce hospitalization, increase employability and raise the quality of life for clients with mental illness;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate the Pictou County Health Authority in this initiative and sincerely thank the Aberdeen Hospital Auxiliary for donating the funds to make it happen.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

Bill No. 56 - Entitled an Act to Amend Chapter 1 of the Acts of 1994-95. The Environment Act. (Mr. Brian Boudreau)

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

[Page 2982]

NOTICES OF MOTION

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

RESOLUTION NO. 1516

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

Whereas the minister whose responsibilities include skyrocketing insurance rates yesterday stated, "I presume that the pat answer from the New Democratic Party is that we should establish a government water system."; and

Whereas it will apparently come as a surprise to the minister and the Conservative Government that Nova Scotians already enjoy publicly run and publicly accountable water systems; and

Whereas laboratory analysis found that tap water from the Halifax Water Commission is of higher quality than most bottled water;

Therefore be it resolved that this House urge the Premier to make it clear that, despite statements by the minister who struggles with skyrocketing insurance rates, the Conservatives do not intend to make water as expensive and unreliable as auto insurance.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton South.

RESOLUTION NO. 1517

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

[Page 2983]

Whereas the Cape Breton Post Bombers will be inducted into the Cape Breton Sports Hall of Fame during the annual induction ceremony and sports heritage awards banquet Saturday, May 31st; and

Whereas the Bombers swept a best-of-three series over Summerside, P.E.I., 2-0 to capture the 1964-65 Maritime Junior A Hockey Championship; and

Whereas the Cape Breton Post Bombers were the last Cape Breton team to win the Maritime Junior A Hockey Championship after a long-fought battle against Glace Bay and Halifax for the provincial title, bringing a great deal of pride to Cape Breton Island and Sydney in particular;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize the outstanding accomplishment of the Cape Breton Post Bombers on their 1964-65 Maritime Junior A Hockey Championship victory and on their induction into the Cape Breton Sports Hall of Fame.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Kings North.

RESOLUTION NO. 1518

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

Whereas the Annapolis Valley Apple Blossom Festival is an annual celebration of our Nova Scotia traditions and agricultural heritage and is the leading such festival in Atlantic Canada; and

Whereas this year the popular festival will take place from May 28th to June 2nd with activities such as the crowning of Queen Annapolisa, fireworks, various concerts and - a perennial favourite - the Apple Blossom Grand Street Parade; and

[Page 2984]

Whereas the festival is a long-standing Valley tradition, celebrating 71 years;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House join me in congratulating the organizers and participants of this year's Annapolis Valley Apple Blossom Festival and send them our good wishes for another very successful festival.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice and I invite all the members to come to the Apple Blossom Festival this year.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Hants East.

RESOLUTION NO. 1519

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

Whereas volunteers are the fabric that holds our communities together; and

Whereas Mr. Brian O'Leary has been instrumental in and central to much of the recreational opportunities in Lantz through his 10-year position as President of the Lantz Recreation Society, among many other posts; and

Whereas Mr. O'Leary was honoured on April 30th in Upper Rawdon by the Municipality of East Hants for his much-appreciated work as a volunteer;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Brian O'Leary of Lantz for being named an East Hants Volunteer of the Year and thank him for his unflagging dedication to the well-being of his community.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 2985]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

RESOLUTION NO. 1520

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

Whereas the strategy of this Tory Government for Sydney Steel Corporation has been to sell the operational part of it off to Zoom Developers, Ltd., of India, for $4 million; and

Whereas the price of $4 million in no way reflects the appraised value of an operating electric arc reduction furnace and associated rolling and finishing mills; and

Whereas the Tory brainwaves feel that this Sysco giveaway can be defended to the voters on the grounds that the net result of it all will be to create jobs - in India - by reassembling the Sysco plant there to make steel which can then be sold at a profit to Canada; (Interruptions)

Therefore be it resolved - the NDP can comment on this later on if they wish, but let me get back to the resolve - that this Tory catastrophe can only be sold to those who know nothing about making steel, know nothing about economics and, above all, know nothing about preserving and maintaining established Nova Scotian industries.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Bedford Basin.

RESOLUTION NO. 1521

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

[Page 2986]

Whereas recently the International Wireless Communication Expo took place in Las Vegas; and

Whereas DownEast Communications President Mickey MacDonald was again honoured for his company's numerous successes in 2002, including first-rate product sales and growth, achieving 128 per cent of its target for the year; and

Whereas DownEast also claimed the Pinnacle Eagle, Prestigious Club, and Entrepreneur Awards for 2002, with one of their account executives, Rob Lowe, being named salesperson of the year;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Mickey MacDonald and all of his staff at DownEast Communications for their winning performance at the International Wireless Communication Expo, and wish them continued success in their future endeavours.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

RESOLUTION NO. 1522

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

Whereas on Friday, May 2nd, the staff, parents and students of Astral Drive Elementary School collaborated to present a successful musical entitled Enchanted Twist; and

Whereas the musical featured members of the Astral Drive Elementary School Choir and the theme demonstrated how joint efforts can find a peaceful solution when challenges involving property rights, economic development and protection of the environment all come head to head; and

[Page 2987]

Whereas the musical, Enchanted Twist, was written and directed by the school's music teacher, Melanie Kennedy, and composed by Garry Williams;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate all the students, staff and supporters of Astral Drive Elementary School on the successful production of Enchanted Twist, and for the demonstration of peaceful problem solving through effective communication skills.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Glace Bay.

RESOLUTION NO. 1523

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

Whereas at this year's president's dinner at UCCB, Susan Ann Barthos accepted the Governor General's Gold Medal; and

Whereas this medal is awarded to the student with the highest academic achievement on the courses for the Master of Business Administration Community Economic Development; and

Whereas the UCCB's president's dinner is an annual tradition that recognizes the outstanding achievement of its students;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Susan Ann Barthos on her outstanding success and for being this year's recipient of the Governor General's Gold Medal award at UCCB .

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 2988]

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.

Honourable members, there is a lot of chatter in here and it's not all coming in from the outside. So I would ask honourable members if they could please try to be a little more quiet so we can hear the honourable members who do have the floor.

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. I didn't hear that last resolution put forward by the honourable member for Glace Bay and I said no. I would like to have it read again, if I may.

MR. SPEAKER: Does the honourable member wish to have the resolution read in its entirety?

MR. RUSSELL: Just the "Therefore be it resolved" clause.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

The honourable member for Glace Bay.

MR. DAVID WILSON: Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Susan Ann Barthos on her outstanding success and for being this year's recipient of the Governor General's Gold Medal award at UCCB.

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 2989]

Certainly that is indicative of the problem that we all have in here, hearing honourable members, so please try to be as quiet as you can.

The honourable member for Preston.

[2:30 p.m.]

RESOLUTION NO. 1524

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

Whereas the Halifax Rifles share their beginnings with their historic namesake, when in 1749, all able-bodied men were called to the Grand Parade to form six militia companies, officially becoming the 63rd Battalion, the Halifax Rifles, in 1860; and

Whereas the Halifax Rifles 23rd Armoured Regiment, RCAC, was made inactive over 35 years ago, members of the Rifles served in more battles than any other unit, including some of the most horrific of World War I; and

Whereas the 13 surviving members of the Rifles have placed a bottle of single malt Scotch under lock and key at the Royal Artillery Park, and have agreed that when only three of them are left they will come together to raise a toast to the 23rd Armoured Regiment;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House commend and remember the members of the Halifax Rifles for serving and protecting Canada for many years, and let's hope that the Scotch remains untouched for many years to come.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Hants East.

[Page 2990]

RESOLUTION NO. 1525

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

Whereas each year, the very best students from regional science fairs attend the Canada-Wide Science Fair, held this year in Calgary from May 10th to May 18th; and

Whereas this fair recognizes the talents and creativity of striving young scientists who are the building blocks of our exciting future; and

Whereas this year, Janice Cameron, a Grade 8 student at Riverside Education Centre in Milford, won the $250 Canadian Junior Association of Physics Award for her project showing how muscle action could be used to build walking robots;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Janice Cameron of Riverside Education Centre for her success at this year's Canada-Wide Science Fair in Calgary, and wish her and all award recipients from Nova Scotia all the best in their future endeavours.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

RESOLUTION NO. 1526

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

Whereas the strategy of this Tory Government for the Sydney Steel Corporation has been, shall we say, a "ZOOMing" one; and

[Page 2991]

Whereas the Zoom Company plans to take the Sydney steel plant apart, with all its parts labelled with numbers, ship these to India, and then reassemble them there to make steel; and

Whereas the Tory Government of Nova Scotia has expedited this by first selling Sysco to Zoom for only $4 million, and then providing the technical know-how at this end to assist the planned Sysco relocation to India;

Therefore be it resolved that this Tory liquidation of Sydney Steel reveals the true quality of Hammite Government, much better than any study of blue book one, blue book two or the fudge-it budget they have tabled.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Pictou East.

RESOLUTION NO. 1527

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

Whereas the annual yard sale sponsored by Westville Crime Prevention was again held in the local curling rink; and

Whereas spokesperson Barry Sponagle says it was the biggest and most successful so far, raising in excess of $1,600; and

Whereas the proceeds will go towards Neighbourhood Watch, Crime Prevention, Senior's Watch and to sell 911 signs;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Westville Crime Prevention on the success of this year's yard sale, thank all those who donated items for the yard sale and wish them continued success in next year's event.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

[Page 2992]

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

RESOLUTION NO. 1528

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

Whereas DARE, the Drug Abuse Resistance Education program, is designed to educate and protect children from the dangers of drugs and encourage students to make healthy choices in life; and

Whereas the DARE program operates in the school system with the support and sponsorship of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police; and

Whereas at an awards ceremony on June 11th, four teachers and three Grade 6 classes will be honoured with DARE awards for their successful participation;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the Grade 6 students as Astral Drive Elementary School, Constable Pat Tardiff of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and teacher-participants Joe Hines, Karin Myers, Nancy Schurman, Diana Goodz and principal Dorothy Haley for their efforts in the delivery of the DARE program.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 1529

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

[Page 2993]

Whereas at the recent Annual General Meeting of the Central Valley Chamber of Commerce, an important part of the evening's business was honouring local business people; and

Whereas this year, Sandra Penney was named Business Person of the Year; and

Whereas Ms. Penney credited the quality staff at Valley Drug Mart and voiced her pleasure at providing good service to her customers;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Sandra Penney on this award, and commend Valley Drug Mart and all the new businesses in the area for the employment they create and the services they bring to the community.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Kings West.

RESOLUTION NO. 1530

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

Whereas David Rhodenizer, who has driven for Easson's Transport or one of their affiliated companies for the past 11 years, was recognized by his peers for his professionalism, both on and off the road, in winning the 2002 Steve Bennett Memorial Professional Driver of the Year award; and

Whereas Dave, in his 11 years of employment with Easson's, has driven more than 2.5 million accident-free kilometres; and

Whereas when Dave is not on the road travelling he can be found at home with his family;

[Page 2994]

Therefore be it resolved that all MLAs applaud Mr. Rhodenizer for his excellent driving record and everything he exemplifies as a professional in Nova Scotia's trucking industry.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Economic Development.

RESOLUTION NO. 1531

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

Whereas Flora MacDonald, a native of North Sydney, is one of four outstanding citizens receiving one of the University College of Cape Breton honorary Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, at their Spring Convocation - I just note the others being Irwin D. Simon, Jack Yazer and Rev. Paul Abbass; and

Whereas graduating from Empire Business College, Ms. MacDonald went on to study at the National Defence College; and

Whereas she was a Progressive Conservative Member of Parliament for 16 years, serving in three different Cabinet posts, and now spends her time on humanitarian endeavours, travelling internationally on behalf of a number of aid organizations;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Flora MacDonald on the receipt of the honorary Doctor of Laws she received from the University College of Cape Breton.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

[Page 2995]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Justice.

RESOLUTION NO. 1532

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

Whereas Stuart Rath of Truro was added to the Honour Roll of the Truro Sport Heritage Society at the 2003 Sports Award Dinner; and

Whereas Stuart Rath has sponsored many sports teams in the past quarter century, including the Truro Senior Bearcats hockey team, which won the 1998 Allan Cup, and the Truro Junior "A" Bearcats of the Maritime Junior "A" Hockey League; and

Whereas Stuart Rath, one our province's best promoters of hockey, brought the Allan Cup and the Fred Page Cup to Truro and was chairman of the Truro portion of the 2001 Under-17 World Hockey Challenge;

Therefore be it resolved that the House congratulate Stuart Rath on being named to the Honour Roll of the Truro Sport Heritage Society and thank him for his ongoing leadership in the sports community in Truro and in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

[Page 2996]

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: Question Period will run until 4:09 p.m.

The honourable Leader of the Official Opposition.

INSURANCE: VON - EFFECTS

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Environment and Labour who, incidentally, is also responsible for the skyrocketing insurance rates. Skyrocketing rates have been affecting Nova Scotians across this province and today my office has learned that it may be affecting their health care. Janet Hazelton, President of the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union, says that VON nurses have been especially affected by skyrocketing insurance rates because many of them depend on their own vehicles. She says auto insurance rates are becoming a barrier for attracting people to the VON. My question to the minister is quite simply this, how much longer are you going to make nurses in this province pay for your inaction?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, it will take as long as it takes the Opposition to pass the bill that will enable us to do something.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, skyrocketing insurance rates are making it more costly for VON nurses to do their job. These nurses provide home care across the province and they depend on their vehicles. They are required to be on the road no matter the weather and thousands of people rely on their services. The Nova Scotia Nurses' Union says skyrocketing insurance rates will make it more difficult to attract people to that profession. Given the nursing shortage in this province and the home care needs, Nova Scotia cannot afford an auto insurance barrier. My question is simple, Mr. Minister, how do you plan to resolve this issue?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I intend to resolve this issue, as I said before, when the Opposition passes the Insurance Bill.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the minister knows full well that passage of this bill has nothing to do with this problem, it doesn't address the system which is the problem. Skyrocketing insurance rates are affecting nurses in this province who provide needed home care. The Nova Scotia Nurses' Union says sky-high rates are a barrier that will affect their ability to attract nurses to this line of work. Surely by now there can be no doubt that skyrocketing rates are affecting everyone in this province and, Mr. Minister, your government can no longer justify your inaction on this issue. What are you going to do to lower the rates in this province?

[Page 2997]

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, it's about time that the Leader of the Opposition stops passing the buck and instead of that, pass the bill.

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

AGRIC. & FISH. - BEEF IND. (N.S.): SAFETY - ENSURE

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier. Whether there is a real or perceived threat, some Nova Scotians are worried about the implications of the discovery of mad cow disease in Alberta. There is obviously a health concern but there's also an economic concern. There are over 800 beef farms of various sizes and the industry is worth close to $31 million in Nova Scotia. It has been 24 hours since this has hit the media and yesterday, there was no press release or statement that the situation is under control. My first question to the Premier is, what is the Premier doing to ensure Nova Scotians that their health is not at risk and that Nova Scotia beef is among the best and healthiest stock in the country?

HON. JOHN HAMM (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, that is a good question and I refer it to the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries.

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for the question because this is a significant issue. I reassure the member opposite, all members of this House, and in fact, all Nova Scotians that the beef industry in this province is safe. Beef is secure, in fact, it shows the system works. The animal that was identified did not enter into the human food chain so people were not at risk. We are working very closely with the federal government and provincial counterparts to develop a strategy. So for Nova Scotians, for all Canadians, the beef that they consume is safe.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, again to the Premier. This issue requires the leadership of our Premier. Last night the Premier was demanding that the feds take a leadership role. If this Premier's track record in dealing with Ottawa is any guide, Nova Scotians will be waiting a long time for any help. It is the Premier who must look out for the interests of Nova Scotians. Again to the Premier, what specifically is the Premier doing to take a decisive leadership role to protect the interests of Nova Scotians?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I refer that to the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries.

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, CFIA, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has the lead on this. In fact, it was that organization that was able to identify the problem as it existed. We have in this province inspectors whose job it is to deal with this problem, so we have in place the mechanism, we are dealing very aggressively with it and again to Nova Scotians, the beef is safe.

[Page 2998]

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, again to the Premier. This scare will have a devastating effect on the price of beef if it's not contained. Farmers are not consulted by this government at the best of times. Again to the Premier, what steps will the Premier take to ensure adequate stable beef prices in consultation with industry, instead of the current do-nothing approach?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I know that the member brings a very important issue to the attention of the House. What I can say is that there is no evidence that there is any problem with the beef supply in Nova Scotia and I would certainly hope that our eating practices will not be influenced by any hysteria that is being created by mad cow disease. It is my understanding that the animal in question has been destroyed, the herd out West has been isolated. I think the appropriate measures are being taken to contain the illness to the herd that it was initially discovered in. I hope we don't create the kind of hysteria that was created in this country by SARS. In reality, I believe that with a coordination by the federal government and if each province does its part then, in fact, I think that very quickly the beef industry will return to normal in this country.

[2:45 p.m.]

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

INSURANCE - FACILITY ASSOC. RATES:

FREEZE (01/05/03) - APPLICABILITY

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the minister responsible for the skyrocketing insurance rates says they have a plan and says that he wants the Opposition to pass the bill. Do you know something, Mr. Speaker? One group that was ignored by this government completely is the Facility Association. Last November the URB held hearings on a requested rate increase by the Facility Association, or, insurer of last resort. The URB used the information before it to allow a 28 per cent increase in private passenger Facility Association rates, effective May 1st. But much has changed with Facility Association since that approval. Since the overall URB rate review began, 14,000 more vehicles were put into Facility Association. My question for the minister is this, why did his May 1st rate freeze not stop the 28 per cent increase in Facility Association rates?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, we haven't passed the bill as yet so we haven't stopped anything. However, I will take the honourable member's question under advisement and I'll give him the exact reason because there is a reason and it's quite complex. Thank you.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, ever since the URB hearings, more drivers are being forced into Facility Association and we know that many of these people have perfect driving records. They simply got put into Facility Association because they may have missed a

[Page 2999]

payment with their insurer. The result of this is that the Facility Association pool is likely, in fact, to see a reduction in the level of risk. But the risk reduction happened after the URB handed out a 28 per cent rate increase. I want to ask the minister responsible for skyrocketing car insurance rates what he's going to do about the thousands of drivers, his so-called rate freeze, left out in the cold?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, we could have done something about that last week if the Opposition had passed the insurance bill amendment. Under that amendment we have the opportunity to put in place regulations and the regulations that we'll put in place will probably mean that the many, many people who would have been, under the old system, transferred to the Facility Association no longer will be.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, of course, questions are not on the bill, but if the minister took the time to read it he would find out that it does not apply in fact. He does not have the power to do that which he says he does. Facility Association got its rate increase based on its numbers projected for 2002. The number of people on Facility Association has doubled in the last year, many of them good drivers, because the insurance companies are simply using Facility Association as a collection agency. The Facility Association rates are probably no longer justified, they're only reviewed at the request of the Facility Association itself. So, my question to the minister is, what's to stop the Facility Association from collecting unfair premiums next year for more?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, we have a plan and we have a bill. It's up to the Opposition to permit the passage of the bill. When they do that, we'll come forward with the plan.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

HEALTH - CARE: PLAN - EFFICACY

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, during the last election the Premier of this province said that $1.5 billion was enough to run the health care system, that it just needed some better efficiencies and better management. Today, with this budget, the spending is now up to $2.1 billion with no end in sight.

Mr. Speaker, the Premier replaced the old health system that was under the regional health boards and he replaced it with what he claimed were the district health authorities which would be more efficient, would not have any cost overruns and be more accountable. In the blue book the Premier said on the very first page, "As your premier, my first priority will be to fix the health care system." Now, he used the word 'fix' in the blue book, he has never used it once again in the last four years of his administration.

[Page 3000]

Mr. Speaker, on June 21, 1999, the then Tory Leader issued a press release in which he said that hard work, co-operating with health care providers and being honest with Nova Scotians, not just borrowing a huge pile of money, must be the foundation of restoring the health care system. District health authorities under this administration last year overspent by $17 million and this year they are coming and asking for an additional $40 million than what the government has offered. My question to the Premier is, given that the Premier has failed to rein in health costs, will he be honest with Nova Scotians today and tell them that his plan for health care, if he ever had one, has failed miserably?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, this is an excellent opportunity for me to remind the member opposite that the second last year when the government of which he was a member was running health care, the regional health boards had a cost overrun of $182 million. The last year of their time in office, it was a cost overrun of $130 million. Bearing in mind that we did not believe the regional health boards were the answer, I believe that the district health boards are doing a much, much better job than their regional health boards did.

MR. SAMSON: Well, Mr. Speaker, four years later that this government has had to fix this problem, an extra $1 billion per year in revenue, and yet they have still failed to be able to provide a health care system that is affordable and that works for Nova Scotians. As I said, $1 billion more in revenue per year than what the government of 1999 had and yet money is still being poured into health care with no end in sight and improvements to patient care are just not there as a result of it.

Mr. Speaker, it was the Premier who said in 1999 that he could fix health care, he didn't need any more money, and he could do it with $1.5 billion. My question to the Premier is, will the Premier tell the House what exactly the district health authorities don't need in their $40 million wish list so as to tell Nova Scotians today what kind of care will be denied to them as a result of this government's inability to manage the health care system?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite makes reference to the fact that, among other things, we were elected to fix health care. When we took over back in the summer of 1999, we had the worst program for the diagnosis and treatment of osteoporosis in the entire country and, thanks to the efforts of the long-serving Minister of Health, Minister Muir, we now have among the best programs in the country. That is something we fixed.

MR. SAMSON: Well, Mr. Speaker, next he's going to be saying all the new health equipment in the hospitals is because of this government also although we all know it's money that came from Ottawa. When you have a Premier on the front page of the blue book, you know, his picture right here that says I will fix health care, and now he can only mention one small item of health care, an important one, but one item that he claims that he has fixed, yet money continues to be borrowed, we're at $2.1 billion, there's no end in sight, and it looks like the DHAs will overspend again next year under this government. I ask again, Mr.

[Page 3001]

Premier, how can you say that you have fixed health care with a straight face and balanced a budget when it is clear that the overspending last year proves that your budget was not balanced by the fact that you tried to put that overspending directly on the debt rather than show it as a yearly loss in your budget?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, one of the things that we faced in health care when we took office in the summer of 1999 were unacceptable waits for CAT scans. We put additional CAT scans in the district hospitals and now every district hospital in this province has a CAT scan and we have among the lowest waits for CAT scans in the entire country, something again that we fixed.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

INSURANCE - DRIVER-OWNED PLAN: PREM. - INTENTIONS

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier who has now taken responsibility for the skyrocketing insurance rates. The Premier won headlines in all four Atlantic Provinces last week by apparently proposing a regional driver-owned, non-profit auto insurance plan. Yesterday, though, neither the Premier nor the minister had one good thing to say about such a plan and other governments have now indicated that this is nothing more than a plan to harmonize regulations. My question is quite straightforward, will the Premier explain why he created the impression that he is leading the charge toward a regional driver-owned auto insurance plan when the opposite is true?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, yes, we do have a plan. It involves sending the issue to the URB, it involves a discussion paper, it involves an insurance advocate, it involves a consultation with the people of Nova Scotia, because it is an issue that is very important to anyone who owns an automobile, and they should have a way in which they can input to the solution that government will come forward with to reduce insurance rates and to control insurance rates in this province.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, last week the Premier said, well, I talked to Premier Binns, I talked to Premier Lord. Well, I can tell you how urgent this issue is for the Atlantic Premiers. In 1996, they decided to harmonize their insurance laws, in 1999 they released a discussion paper, in the year 2000 a model Act was submitted to a committee, and in 2003 the government's business plan says that in the future it will develop harmonized legislation. Since skyrocketing insurance rates are an urgent issue, my question for the Premier is, why is he promoting a group that needs seven years to simply draft a piece of legislation?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the only thing we're promoting is a rapid passage of our insurance bill so we can get on with the job of moderating increases in insurance rates in Nova Scotia, until such time as we come up with the proper consultation process, resulting in the long-term solution.

[Page 3002]

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, the Premier seems to think that he can float a regional driver-owned plan one week and then dismiss it the next. Last night the New Brunswick Tories crumbled on this issue, vowing an affordable insurance alternative no matter what. Every comparison shows that the driver-owned plan provides the lowest and the fairest rates. What does his minister say, he says it's flat roads in Manitoba and something about a driver-owned insurance policy leading to public water systems. Why isn't a non-profit driver-owned plan the first priority of this Premier and his government?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, it would appear that in an attempt, I think, to influence people and to try to convince the people of Nova Scotia that they have a solution without doing the proper research is in the best interests of the people of Nova Scotia. I think not. I think that we have to go about this slowly and deliberately, making sure that we come up with the very best that is possible for the insurance purchasers in the Province of Nova Scotia, and we will do it. We're not going to allow ourselves to be pushed by any particular political Party into doing something that, ultimately, could be proven to be wrong. We will take our time, but we will do it right.

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

INSURANCE - VOL. FDs: RATES - AFFORDABILITY ENSURE

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, today's media reports that the volunteer fire departments within the Cape Breton Regional Municipality are experiencing problems acquiring affordable insurance. Such departments as the Port Morien Volunteer Fire Department and Donkin have both said publicly that they're having problems. As we know, the volunteer fire departments require a number of insurance policies on their buildings, vehicles, as well as coverage around accidents such as slips and falls. Without these needed policies, these organizations simply can't do their job in protecting rural Nova Scotia. I want to ask the minister, what are you going to do to ensure volunteer fire departments are able to maintain affordable insurance rates so they can do that valuable work of protecting rural Nova Scotians?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I don't think the honourable member knows what he's talking about, quite frankly. The honourable member, I presume, is talking about casualty and liability insurance rather than auto insurance. If he's talking about property insurance, et cetera, I can advise him that the fire marshal has been in contact with all the volunteer fire departments across this province and is assisting them in locating suitable insurance.

[Page 3003]

[3:00 p.m.]

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, I'll put my knowledge of what we learned about the insurance industry against that minister's any day. What we're talking about here is the last time he told the House that he helped a volunteer fire service, it was a phone call to another broker. That's the type of assistance they can expect from you and your department. The head of fire services in the CBRM, Bernie MacKinnon, is investigating this situation within this jurisdiction as we speak. One-third of all the volunteer departments in his coverage area are having difficulties - that's 11 out of 33. We raised this through my Leader on April 10th in a question concerning the Port Hawkesbury Volunteer Fire Department and now we have the chief of the CBRM looking for some coverage for his people.

I want to ask this minister who knows all about insurance, you told us on April 10th how much you value the volunteer fire departments of this province, can you now tell us what you have done to assist these hard-working women and men so they can maintain that service throughout the year?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, it's again a very convoluted question because he's talking out of both sides of his mouth at the same time. He derided the fire marshal's effort to provide information that the volunteer fire department was looking for and he did it on the telephone. That's service, that's what that is.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, you know what that is? That's doublespeak. It's doublespeak what this minister has been doing all through on the insurance issue. He has not given any concrete answers. He came in and said we found a solution, we found one solution, we didn't get the rates lowered, they were higher rates, but we found somebody that wasn't as mean-spirited as Royal Sun Alliance to cover them. So don't come in and say you're finding solutions, you're causing problems. So, minister, I want to ask you a very simple question. Will you commit to a province-led effort to provide uniform, affordable insurance coverage at affordable rates for our volunteer firefighters that are so desperately needed now that the summer forestfire season is upon us?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I'm told now that summer is upon us. Well, I can see that out the window. In answer to his question, we are providing information to volunteer fire services that are having problems with insurance and if they phone the fire marshal, the fire marshal phones back and offers them an alternate solution. I don't know what the honourable member wants us to do.

[Page 3004]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

SYSCO - ASSETS SALE: ACCOUNTING RULES - INCONSISTENCY

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, more and more questions are being asked about the accuracy of the budget tabled by the Minister of Finance just last month. I asked a question to the minister yesterday and he appeared to be somewhat confused, so hopefully, we'll try to make it a little easier for him today. In this year's Budget Address, 2003, it clearly states that the sale of Sysco assets will go directly to the debt. Yesterday, the minister said that no revenue will be realized from the sale of Sysco even though items will be sold this year. In the 2002 Budget Address, the minister said Sysco would be generating revenue and that money went to balancing his budget last year, even though Sysco discontinued operations in 1999. So my question to the Minister of Finance is, why is this minister changing the accounting rules he uses year by year?

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, we have not changed the rules year by year. The member opposite points out accurately that last year there was some sale of some of the scrap and was included in our financial statements for the last fiscal year, the one that ended on March 31, 2003. In this year, in this budget that we have tabled, there are no revenues regarding the sale of scrap from Sydney Steel. If there are and if there are some revenues this year, that's fine. However, if we're going to be selling an asset, will it be applied against the borrowing of the Province of Nova Scotia? The answer is yes. I can't be any clearer than that. If the member opposite has difficulty in that explanation, I'll try to clarify it even further in my second answer.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, in one year the sale of assets from Sysco is revenue and the next year it's to go directly to the debt. So if there's not a contradiction there, Mr. Minister, in the statements that you have provided, I don't know what else it takes to tell you that you are sending two different signals out there. You clearly say in your 2003 Budget Address that proceeds from the sale of Crown assets, like Sysco, will be applied directly to the debt, yet last year it went to the bottom line. Again, Nova Scotians are wondering as to how accurate this budget is in the first place.

The Minister of Finance should go back and look at his books and report to the House why the sale of Sysco assets, for example, are being treated differently year from year. The minister is clearly not answering the questions here and one has to wonder what he has to hide. My question is again, will the minister therefore admit that profits from the Sysco scrap sold last year were incorrectly accounted for in the 2002 budget, inflating the surplus and making the minister look good, instead of properly accounting for those assets under traditional accounting rules?

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, the only person making me look good is the member opposite. (Applause)

[Page 3005]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. (Interruptions) Order, please. It is very difficult to hear the honourable Minister of Finance.

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, in regard to the sale of the assets of Sydney Steel, the situation is that some of the assets were actually sold in the last fiscal year and will be dismantled this year. The member opposite brings up whether or not there will be some additional sales of scrap in this fiscal year, there may be. The fact of the matter is that they have not been budgeted for. If there are some additional sales, that's fine. It's good for the taxpayers of Nova Scotia. In regard to the accounting for last year of Sydney Steel, I stand with the numbers that we have put forward and the fact of the matter is, last year, I believe it was $12 million or $14 million of sales of scrap. That came about from the fact that scrap prices came up and the Province of Nova Scotia and the minister responsible and the team assembled took advantage of that. That speaks well for the taxpayers and the people of this province.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, what we are clearly seeing, and what has even been alleged by the NDP Finance Critic is that this minister will change all of the accounting rules required to try to make his government look good. Even after $1 billion of additional revenue, they are still borrowing money each year. What we see clearly here is how they are changing the rules as they go along to try to add to their bottom line. In last year's budget, the minister placed profits from the sale of Sysco scrap on a line called, net income from government-owned business enterprises. They did this even though the Public Accounts clearly states that Sysco discontinued operations in 1999-2000, yet, last year, it was convenient to use that money to try to claim an artificial surplus. I ask again, how can the Minister of Finance say that his surplus was $14 million last year when the bulk of that money came from a company that was deemed no longer in operation in 1999-2000?

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite mentions the fact that Sydney Steel was a government business entity. It was before, and it still is until it's wrapped up. The fact of the matter is that last year we did have sales of scrap and the fact of the matter is, it almost seems that the member opposite seems to wish that it hadn't happened. We told people we would balance the budget last year. That Liberal Party said time and time again that we would not do it. When we did achieve it, they seemed to be disappointed. Who are you speaking for, the Liberal Party or the people of Nova Scotia? I believe the people of Nova Scotia wanted us to balance the budget. Maybe the Liberal Party didn't want us to do it, but I believe that Nova Scotians wanted us to, and we did.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

HEALTH - CARE: LIB. PLAN - DUPLICATION EXPLAIN

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Health. In 1999, the Auditor General said when health boards are not informed

[Page 3006]

of funding decisions on a timely basis and are told that they must maintain services and cannot implement initiatives until approved, then the boards are effectively paralyzed. Today, that is exactly what this government has done. The budgets still aren't approved two months into the year and yesterday the Premier ordered DHAs to maintain services and the minister said they have not approved new initiatives. My question for the Minister of Health is, why are you knowingly following the failed Liberal group blueprint for health care mismanagement?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, what has been happening this year is what has been happening during the last four budgets, actually five budgets, that this government has been dealing with health authorities and all other government departments, agencies, including school boards. We go through a business planning process and a budget process that is a process of negotiation and finalization. We have brought stability and have given increased funding to health boards. That is the important thing. It does not obviate the need for budget discussions on an ongoing basis.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the Auditor General says this practice paralyzes district health authorities. This Premier is failing in the exact way the Liberals failed before him. He is trying to hide DHA deficits in an election year but his political motives are causing chaos at DHAs, who still don't have approved budgets. The Auditor General has already condemned this practice. So I want to ask the Premier, how could you have placed your own political considerations ahead of the good health of Nova Scotians?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite has asked a number of questions on the delivery of health in our province since this sitting of the Legislature began, always finding fault with what government does, always suggesting that government doesn't spend enough. On the other hand, if you would look back in the pages of Hansard over the last three weeks, the suggestions that have come from the Opposition Party, the New Democratic Party in this province if, in fact, had been followed by the government would have bankrupted this province in short order. Literally put, that is the Party that identifies the problems but never, never comes up with a solution.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the Premier knows full well that we're talking about planning, we're not talking about spending and what we're doing is we're using the very report of the Auditor General that this government should be paying attention to. The Auditor General himself said back in 1999, that you paralyze district health authorities by delaying budgetary approval, freezing new initiatives and ordering services to be maintained. It makes for great politics but terrible health care. The Liberals proved that and now this Premier is destined to prove it as well. Mr. Premier, why can't you understand that placing your political ambitions ahead of common sense will cause lasting damage to health care in this province?

[Page 3007]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the government always takes very seriously the comments made by the Auditor General. We certainly took that one seriously, that's why, for example, we came up with multi-year funding for the district health authorities so, in fact, they would not go through the annual agony of dealing with an unknown budget. They now know that we are covering all of their salary increments for the next three years. They now know that we have given them an operational increase of 7 per cent per year, which should allow them the flexibility to not only deliver all current services but with good fiscal management they, as well, can increase the kinds of services that they provide in our communities.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

COMMUN. SERV.: WOMEN'S CTRS. - FUND

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question this time is for the Minister of Community Services. Last year this government attempted to cut $1 million, practically, from transition houses, men's programs and women's centres. Since then the Transition House Association of Nova Scotia, the association of Men's Intervention Programs and Women's Centres CONNECT have been trying to work with government to establish sustainable funding. The coalition released their review and recommendations during a press conference held just a few hours ago. I want to ask the minister, coalition members have yet to receive any further comments from your government, will you guarantee sustainable funding and that all shelters and women's centres will remain open in this province?

[3:15 p.m.]

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for bringing forward that question. Yes, indeed, the coalition did meet with senior staff, including the regional administrators, today. I am pleased to receive the report and look forward to having staff's comments on it, and look forward to the department taking a position. In the meantime we are committed to the commitment that was made to the group by the former minister in his letter of last Fall, which included stable funding for those services.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, there's a big difference between stable funding and funding that they require to operate. Think about what the fuel bills must have been like in 24-bed shelters in this province over the winter. These shelters have had their funding frozen for a considerable period of time. Across this province transition houses, intervention programs, and women's centres, are providing needed services, and in many cases workers simply do not have the resources to meet the needs of women and children in their community. Bryony House here in the HRM provides shelter and support for women and children who have been abused. The 24-hour service and the 24 beds at Bryony House

[Page 3008]

are almost always full. I want to ask the minister, will your government commit to helping coalition members enhance their services?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I am sure the member opposite would be concerned that these services be available right across the province. One of the main reasons for doing this was to come up with a plan to give services right across the Province of Nova Scotia. That would be the answer.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Well, what a revisionist kind of statement about history in this province. The plan was to close services throughout the province. I want to ask the minister, will you ensure that no transition houses or women's centres will close, and will you guarantee sustainable multi-year funding for these organizations?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, as was committed by my predecessor, I will reiterate our commitment to work with those groups so that those services can be provided right across the province. We are pleased to be providing approximately $5 million in funding for these initiatives every year, and we will continue on that commitment.

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

SERV. N.S. & MUN. REL.: DOWNLOADING - CEASE

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question today is to the Premier. The Premier has failed in his campaign for fairness with the federal government, and now his government is turning its attention to destroying goodwill between the province and municipalities. In eastern Nova Scotia, municipalities are denied much-needed tax dollars because the government is not taking a leadership role in negotiations with the Sable partners. Today we learned that the Halifax Regional Municipality is ready to sue this government over the failure of this province to notify it of potential downloading. In fact, the minister is sending coded letters to the HRM, instead of being upfront by giving notice. My question to the Premier is, why won't the Premier insist that his minister start working with municipalities instead of downloading everything it can?

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

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: Mr. Speaker, I don't know what the honourable member is referring to, about downloading. We have an equalization agreement. The government made a commitment to keep that equalization agreement going for two years. We have done that. We have met with the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities to talk about it. Any letter that was sent to them simply said there would be discussions with the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities before anything else changes in the future.

[Page 3009]

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations doesn't know what I'm talking about, in asking that question, and that's why I didn't ask him the question, I asked the Premier - I might remind you that's the 97th time in this session that the Premier has ducked a question. Maybe I will try for 98 with a supplementary - the Premier is again ducking his duty as the Leader of this province. Regional councillors are upset with the government and are being forced to seek legal action instead of working with the province. My supplementary again to the Premier is, why does this Premier want to start a war with the Halifax Regional Municipality at a time when he should be working with them, not against them?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, this government is forging an improving relationship with all municipalities. We are working very hard with the government of HRM to participate, for example, in the harbour cleanup. We're going to form with them a capital transportation authority. We're going to form a capital commission improvement committee. We are working hard with the council in HRM and the citizens of HRM to make this a better place, the same way as we're working with all 55 municipalities to make all of those places better places.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, somebody should tell the mayor and council of the HRM what good relations are existing, the ones that the Premier talks about. The bottom line is that the Premier has given up on the HRM like he has given up on Cape Breton. The members for Halifax Bedford Basin, Bedford-Fall River, Sackville-Beaver Bank, Dartmouth South, Preston, Eastern Shore, and Halifax Citadel will pay dearly for this Premier's neglect of the Halifax Regional Municipality. So my final supplementary to the Premier is, why is the Premier willing to sacrifice his seats in the HRM because of the incompetence and belligerence of his Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I'm particularly pleased at what we have been able to achieve in HRM. You've seen unprecedented economic growth over the last four years. You've seen unprecedented job numbers over the last four years. You have seen unprecedented support for HRM projects over the last four years. I believe we've done a good job in working with HRM.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

COMMUN. SERV. - RRSS:

CONCILIATION - TURNAROUND EXPLAIN

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Community Services. Counsellors at the Regional Residential Services Society have been in front of this House for many weeks now. We understand that a conciliator has asked the union to come

[Page 3010]

back to the table tomorrow. My question to the Minister of Community Services is, why now has the Minister of Community Services made a 360-degree turn?

HON. DAVID MORSE: I thank the member opposite. It seems to me that over the last number of weeks that I've been fairly consistent, as has this government, in encouraging the members to get back to the table. We've been consistent in pointing out that a conciliator was in place and we're delighted that the parties are making use of the conciliator.

MR. PYE: I would say, Mr. Speaker, that this probably has absolutely nothing to do with the election trail coming up and that the government is going to be shadowed by the counsellors out there of RRSS. I'm tired of hearing the minister's pat answers. I would in fact call him the minister responsible for unfair pay rates. However, the Premier says that we need good conciliation, but he knows as well as the minister that the only thing to conciliate is the rate of pay for which RRSS has no room to move. My question to the Minister of Community Services, is he now telling us that there are additional monies going to the conciliation process to move these negotiations forward?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, perhaps I was not clear in my first answer and maybe I have not been clear over the last number of weeks, but I welcome the fact that the parties are going back to the table and I think that that's an appropriate place for negotiations to take place.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, we welcome the government's intervention in having a conciliator, but we also know there needs to be more money at the table. We know the issue. The union knows the issue as well. There is a dilemma, but the Premier and his minister wouldn't allow it to happen; they wouldn't allow RRSS more money and they vetoed the binding arbitration. My question to the Minister of Community Services is, will he now make a commitment that these two parties will sit at the table until a satisfactory settlement is reached?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I will make the commitment that we will continue to respect the collective bargaining process. We're delighted that the parties are actively engaged and are at the table again. I certainly hope that they can reach a satisfactory conclusion.

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

COMMUN. SERV. - WOMEN'S/MEN'S CTRS.:

COALITION - FUNDING

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Community Services. More than a year ago, a coalition developed which included representatives from the Women's Centres CONNECT, the Transition House Association

[Page 3011]

of Nova Scotia and the Men's Intervention Programs. This coalition was formed as a result of what can be best described as the debacle which saw the elimination of almost $1 million from their combined budgets. Today, they released their proposed service model, one which identifies some very serious issues that need to be addressed. One such issue is that the needs of diversified communities, for example, African-Nova Scotians, Acadians and immigrants, are not being appropriately addressed. My first question to the minister is, given that the minister knew this redesigned process was coming to a conclusion, did he allocate any additional resources to address the gaps identified during the process?

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, we have committed to follow through on the commitment of my predecessor, to work with the groups so that the services that are required not only in the areas which have been fortunate enough to have these facilities but right across the province would be available to all Nova Scotians. We will follow through on that commitment.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, this response is not surprising, coming from this government. After all, this is a government that saw fit to slash $1 million from the budget of groups that provide services to vulnerable women and children. Yet, they can find $68 million to provide cheques to give their friends in time for the next election. Other gaps identified for the record were a lack of programs for children, a huge waiting list for men's intervention programs and a crisis situation at Bryony House where women and children are turned away on a regular basis. My question to the minister is, in the interests of the safety of vulnerable women and children, could the minister please indicate today when the coalition can expect a response to the issues they have identified as requiring immediate attention?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I think it is appropriate that the Opposition Parties recognize the importance of the services provided by this coalition. We certainly recognize it, that's why we are working with them. This sort of feedback is very helpful in reaching an appropriate conclusion to the challenges faced by the women, children and men requiring treatment across the province.

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I'm not surprised by that type of response. I take his response to mean wait until after the election and then we will deal with you. I think that's what the minister meant. This Liberal caucus believes that organizations represented in this coalition provide valuable cost-effective service and deserve to be treated with respect. Again to the minister, given the findings and the redesign process, will the minister reassure the coalition today that all of the almost $1 million that was restored the last fiscal year will remain in their budget this fiscal year?

MR. MORSE: Mr. Speaker, I think the member opposite is pointing out that we spent approximately $5 million a year for these purposes, to assist members of the coalition in providing these services. We're very pleased to continue that support. I think that this

[Page 3012]

government's record in the past, of keeping its promises, is second to none, and we will continue to do so, including working with the coalition.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

ENVIRON. & LBR.: GREEN PLAN - TIME FRAME

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, this question will be directed to the Premier. I would like to remind the government of another broken campaign promise. Four years ago the Premier promised Nova Scotians a green plan. In fact, on Page 32 of the blue book, the Premier said that a PC Government, during its first mandate, will establish an environmental green plan for Nova Scotia. The Premier seems to have forgotten about this promise, because he certainly hasn't mentioned it since, perhaps he's been hoping we'll all forget. I wonder if the Premier will tell us whether he ever indeed had any intention of fulfilling this promise?

[3:30 p.m.]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, through you, I can report to the member for Halifax Chebucto that the environmental green plan that we did promise in the 1999 election is going through the final stages of approval.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind the Premier that the explicit promise was for a green plan in the third year of the mandate, we are now, of course, in the fourth year. What this means is that there was a promise but the promise was broken. Indeed, the government has shown a blatant disregard for the environment over the last four years. I can give you some examples: still fighting about the Kyoto treaty and refusing to put in place an action plan to reduce greenhouse gases; forcing a mega-quarry on the residents of Digby Neck, even though they don't want it; the protected areas network still hasn't been completed; and a toothless water strategy that was widely criticized as too little, too late. I wonder if the Premier will tell us why he promised a green plan when he knew he wasn't going to deliver it?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, perhaps the member opposite didn't hear me. The green plan is forthcoming. It is in the final stages of approval and it will be delivered.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, in estimates when I asked questions about the green plan, it became evident that it wasn't about to arrive, that there was a long process that may well result in something, some future date, maybe. This is another broken promise to add to the long list. Protecting the environment is not and has never been a priority of this government. What I would like to know from the Premier is how could he possibly justify breaking this very important promise?

[Page 3013]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the one thing that one could not accuse the member for Halifax Chebucto of being is not persistent. He certainly is persistent, the problem is, he doesn't listen. The blue plan has a green plan and the green plan will be delivered by the blue team.

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

ENERGY - DEEP PANUKE: TRANSMISSION LINE - UPDATE

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: My question, Mr. Speaker, is to the Minister of Energy. This government has been among the most secretive in Canada, yet sometimes we do get some information. In 2001, the previous minister tabled two letters in the House from Walter Tucker to Larry LeBlanc of PanCanadian, now EnCana, and I would like to table those letters again in the House today. In these letters the government indicated that it would be exercising its option to obtain 50 per cent of the Deep Panuke transmission line, which is the province's legislative right. I repeatedly asked in this House what the province has done since but I have encountered a wall of silence. So my question to the minister is, in the spirit of openness and accountability, will the minister explain to the House what has taken place since those letters were tabled two years ago?

HON. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable member, there has been a process where a number of proposals have been examined through a call for proposals for transmission in the offshore and those are currently being evaluated.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Well, Mr. Speaker, it has only been two years, so I guess that's not too long, it depends on which side of the House you're sitting on. Last session our caucus released the secret communications plan entitled the Rumsfeld plan before this House. In that plan it was stated that a 50 per cent buy-in should be played up as a win by the government. Now, since that time, the EnCana project has been delayed. In my first supplementary to the minister, could the minister indicate whether the province has called for bids on the government's interest in the Deep Panuke line and table related information in this House?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, as we all know on the Sable project, the previous government gave the right of back-in away. This government, unlike the previous government, does know that that has value and that is part of the discussions in the call for proposals that we're now examining.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, if you're talking about giveaways, the great Nova Scotia giveaway occurred earlier this week when the remaining shares in NSRL were sold for a song to try to improve the minister's bottom line. Nova Scotians have a right to know whether this government's handling of the Deep Panuke file has resulted in its delay and possible cancellation. There are many questions, including whether EnCana

[Page 3014]

could even work with proposed bidders or whether or not EnCana was consulted. My final supplementary, will the minister table all documents surrounding the government's interest in the 50 per cent of the Deep Panuke transmission line, including who has bid on the pipeline and whether anyone was successful?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, as we all know and as EnCana put forward, their time out was a result of making sure there was enough gas resource there. Critical to any gas coming ashore is more discoveries and exploration in Nova Scotia. But, on the issue of the proposals, they are being evaluated. When that process is done, we will inform the people of Nova Scotia. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

HEALTH - NURSES: OVERTIME - COSTS

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Health. Media reports indicate that hospitals in Truro and Tatamagouche spent more than $0.5 million on overtime last year. That's two hospitals spending $625,000 on overtime. That could have hired more than 10 full-time nurses. Meanwhile, several graduates at Dalhousie School of Nursing have indicated they can't find a full-time job, even outside of metropolitan Halifax. I want to ask the Minister of Health, why are hospitals spending so much on overtime for nurses instead of turning more casual positions into full-time jobs?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, there are a number of issues involved here. In this particular case, the member for Halifax Needham answered her own question because one of the reasons that we're paying so much in overtime in some areas is because we have converted so many casual positions to full-time positions, but there aren't enough casuals to do the overtime, we have to pay the full-time people.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the Canadian Nursing Advisory Committee says, while the number of regulated nurses remains high, the devastating impacts of government funding cuts in the 1990s need to be acknowledged. The ratio of nurses to population has declined, but the report makes it clear that government cuts, overuse of casual and part-time positions and stress caused by too much overtime, is partly to blame for the present nursing shortage. I want to ask the minister, when will she admit that cuts to full-time positions are partly to blame for the high amount of overtime in our hospitals?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I know the member should understand this and probably does, but I would like to repeat that in this particular area of nursing, it is precisely because we are creating more full-time jobs that we now have another difficult situation of not enough casuals in certain areas to fill in for summer and when people are ill. So it is precisely partly a result of the creation of full-time jobs that's causing the overtime situation. Thank you.

[Page 3015]

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, this is the minister that comes in here and repeatedly crows about the success of this government's nursing recruitment and retention strategy. But so far, my office has met runaround after runaround attempting to obtain the DHA budget so we can't tell you how much other hospitals have spent on overtime. We know two hospitals alone account for over $0.5 million. No wonder the DHAs want $40 million more in funding this year. I want to ask the Minister of Health, will you table in this House the total amount of the cost of overtime spent by all hospitals in this province last year?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I will endeavour to table that information, and if I can do so, relative to other years, as soon as we can compile the information in the way that the member opposite asks.

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

EDUC. - C.B. THE LAKES: TEACHER CUTS - EFFECTS

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Education. Residents continue to express to me, in regard to education in Cape Breton The Lakes, we are a rural community. Residents fear our children are being punished because of student decline. Population has increased over the past 10 years in Cape Breton The Lakes, yet this year, instead of increasing the teacher:student ratio, 52 teaching positions are being cut. My question is, had the minister consulted with human resources at the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board before they were directed to cut these 52 jobs? Is the minister confident that these cuts will not jeopardize the level of education in Cape Breton?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I can tell the honourable member that we're in constant communication with school boards. On a monthly basis, the deputy minister meets with the superintendents in Halifax. They go over, in detail, all of the budgetary considerations. They do rather detailed analysis of the budget and the implications of that budget. I can assure the honourable member that all of the priorities which the government has set out in its Learning for Life are being addressed by the Cape Breton-Victoria board. We will continue to ensure that they have the funding to meet our priorities.

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, students with learning difficulties continue to be the focus of concern for many parents. This year, 2002-03, the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board required approximately 55 more teachers' aides than resources allowed officials to provide for students. Beginning in September, approximately 260 needs have been identified by the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board. My question is, will the minister, taking into consideration teaching job losses, commit to ensuring that the Cape Breton-Victoria Regional School Board will have ample resources this year to provide the same level of education in Cape Breton as in other parts of Nova Scotia?

[Page 3016]

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I can assure the honourable member that the concerns of which he speaks are indeed being addressed. They are being addressed in a number of ways. First of all, the change in funding is always based on previous years' figures, so that the funding that the board will get will be based on last year's figures rather than the actual figures in the coming year, which means there is a lag effect with respect to any decline that may occur. Secondly, the concerns which he speaks about with respect to children with learning disabilities are, in fact, addressed by the budget, and they are part of the Learning for Life Program. We are adding additional resource teachers and resource personnel in the schools, and certainly the Cape Breton-Victoria board will receive its share with respect to those resources. As I indicated at the start of my answer, if you in fact incorporate the lag effect, they are probably slightly better on a per student basis than perhaps some other boards are.

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, since 1999, education in my part of Nova Scotia, at least, has been impacted. Schools have been closed. Teaching positions have been lost. Class grades have been combined. Many people believe the students with learning difficulties are not receiving the necessary assistance. However, there is one bright spot for my rural community and it's the new Rankin School in Iona, of course. The minister has indicated that some confusion surfaced in regard to the construction date of this new school. He has now attempted to relax, I believe. So my question is, will the minister confirm that the Rankin School in Iona will be built according to schedule, beginning in 2004?

[3:45 p.m.]

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I can confirm for the honourable member that the property has in fact been purchased for that school, that the design work is in fact underway, and that the delays that were caused as a result of attempting to obtain the appropriate infrastructure relative to the operation of that school have been resolved, and will be proceeding. The exact timetable I will get and make available to the honourable member at a future date, and perhaps even have that for him tomorrow.

I can tell the honourable member and members of the House, Mr. Speaker, that perhaps yesterday I was a bit remiss in not providing the full details of increased funding for education. It was relative to what he's asking about with respect to numbers. In 1999-2000 the per student allocation was $4,840; in 2000-01, $4,939; 2001-02, $5,072; 2002-03, $5,322; and in 2003-04 the number is $5,910 - and that is well over $1,000 per student.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Victoria.

ENVIRON. & LBR.: PROTECTED AREAS - ENUMERATE

MR. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Environment and Labour. In 1992 the provincial government committed to protecting

[Page 3017]

wilderness lands in each of Nova Scotia's 80 natural landscapes. These lands are referred to as the protected areas network. When the Liberals left office in 1999 there were 31 areas protected out of the possible 80. My question to the minister today is, how many of the remaining 49 areas has your government protected over the last four years?

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the program of protected areas is one that was certainly applauded by this government when they were in Opposition, because we think it is a program that is worthy of support. With regard to the numbers that have been protected since the government changed in 1999, I believe that there have been no additional properties added, however, I should point out that we have a large number at the present time under active consideration.

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, a study of Eigg Mountain and James River was completed by the Protected Areas Branch in the Department of Environment and Labour in July 2001. It wasn't made public until March of this year, only after an environmental group obtained the study through the government's expensive FOIPOP system. We have seen no movement by this government to add to the protected area network over the last four years; in fact, the minister is quoted as saying things move very, very slowly in government and things seem to take forever sometimes. So my question to the minister is, judging by the minister's comments, is it safe to assume the reason why the Tories have been so ineffective when it comes to protected areas is because your government has a habit of moving very slowly?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, we don't move slowly, but we move with surety; in other words we make sure where we're stepping before we move forward.

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, Eigg Mountain and Gully Lake are home to patches of old growth forest, the watershed feeds the Town of Antigonish, there is a small moose population, and it has one of Nova Scotia's last healthy salmon rivers. So my final question to the minister would be, your government has had four years so how much longer do you expect Nova Scotians to wait for areas of such importance as Eigg Mountain and Gully Lake to be added to the protected areas network?

MR. RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, I can advise the honourable member for Victoria that Eigg Mountain and Gully Lake are the two areas that at the present time are at the top of the priority list. I would expect that some movement will be made later this year.

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

EDUC.: TRANSPORT. REGS. - CHANGE

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education. There are a number of issues around transportation that this Department of Education needs

[Page 3018]

to be addressing. I want to take one example in my community of Eastern Passage where student safety is a major concern because transportation funding is not provided for students living within 3.6 kilometres of a junior high or senior high school. This regulation does not appear to take safety into consideration. For example, students who live within 3.6 kilometres have been forced to walk along Cow Bay Road in Eastern Passage - even though it doesn't have a sidewalk and the speed limit is 70 kilometres an hour. In the winter, it's only worse because of snowbanks lining the side of the road and the students have nowhere to go. So my question for the minister is, will the minister change the transportation regulation that his department has in funding schools to make sure that safety is a factor so our children can reach school safely?

HON. ANGUS MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for the question. Safety of our children attending school is always a priority of our department. I will certainly inquire about the problems that the honourable member references and see that there is some discussion between the department and the school board with respect to those concerns. I can tell the honourable member that we do take the issue of safety very, very seriously.

MR. DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I want to make it clear that my colleague from Timberlea-Prospect raised this same issue with the same department only a couple of years ago. So your department, the Department of Education has been well aware of this issue for some time. These regulations were set a long time ago and it's time that they be reviewed. In the far north end of Halifax, parents and students are asking that this policy be reviewed. They point out that 3.6 kilometres is too long a distance to walk, especially in temperatures that we faced this past winter. Safety is a very big concern. Walking 3.6 kilometres in heavy traffic is also not safe. My question for the Minister of Education, given the safety and fairness issues involved, will his department review the regulation and resolve this issue as soon as possible?

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, as I indicated in my earlier answer, I will in fact inquire as to the circumstances to which the honourable member makes reference. We will do so with the safety of the students as being a priority with respect to that discussion. I will be glad to report back to the honourable member after such discussions have taken place.

MR. DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the minister's candor in saying that he will look into it. Quite frankly, these regulations were set up years ago, this isn't the first time this issue has been brought up in this House. Safety and fairness issues are involved. Parents and students across the province have asked for some action. So I will ask the minister one final question, will the minister ensure that before the next school year starts in September of 2003, his department will make a commitment to review and make a decision about changing the transportation regulations?

[Page 3019]

MR. MACISAAC: Mr. Speaker, safety indeed is a very important concern with respect to the issue of busing students, but there are other concerns that we have with respect to the issue of busing and it's not so much the issue of busing as it is the issue of active children. Whether or not we're going to get involved in regulations that take away the opportunity for students to be active. I recognize that the honourable member is concerned about the issue of safety, but I'm concerned that we not alter regulations - there are other ways of looking after safety - in such a way that we take away from students the opportunity to get some good exercise on their way back and forth from school.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth East.

HEALTH - ROSEWAY HOSP. ER:

SERVICE-REDUCTION - EFFECTS

DR. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health. Recently we've learned that the Roseway Hospital in Shelburne will be reducing its emergency room services from 24 hours a day to 15 hours a day. If residents in Shelburne County had an emergency between 11:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m., they'll have to travel 100 kilometres to the nearest hospital in Yarmouth. My question is, could the minister please outline what action is she prepared to take to ensure that the residents of Shelburne County will have 24-hour emergency room care?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, that is an unfortunate situation, we are working with the DHA and our recruiter to try to find a new doctor. The situation is that one of the doctors who was on the emergency rotation will be leaving and another doctor, I believe, is ill. So, we are aware of that. The plan has been put in place but we are not satisfied with that being a long-term solution to the issue, so we'll be working on that.

DR. SMITH: I thank the minister but that's not much comfort to people in Shelburne County. In November 2002, the Premier addressed the Empire Club in Toronto and boasted about the virtues of multi-year funding. He stated, "we brought in 'rolling three-year health care budgets' from now on so health care can stay stable and secure . . ." My question to the minister is, how are you going to convince the people in Shelburne that three-year rolling budgets have been good thing when emergency room services at Roseway are far from being stable and secure, in fact, non-existent at very crucial hours?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, we do take this issue seriously and we would like to be able to keep the emergency ward open 24 hours a day, but under the circumstances, for the time being we are going to have to work with the four remaining doctors there to deliver their services. It is unclear to me what the member opposite would have us do, shackle every health professional to the bedpost or what, to keep them here in Nova Scotia when they choose to leave or move?

[Page 3020]

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, maybe the first thing the minister could do is apologize to physicians in this province when she said at the federal meetings at one juncture that they weren't going to pay them to play tiddlywinks in the middle of the night. That's coming home to rest now. So, yes, chain them to the bedpost and that sort of thing. But it is an attitude, it is a lack of a plan and it is an attitude of this government and people are fed up with it. So once again, the words for the people in Shelburne . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Honourable members, the commentary and editorials going into questions and to a degree the answers is somewhat a little bit extensive.

The honourable member for Dartmouth East on his final supplementary.

DR. SMITH: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. You have the patience of Job, because how can you respond to a minister who says to shackle doctors to bedposts. One day the residents of Shelburne will have 24-hour emergency room services and on the next day a critical patient seeking emergency services between 11:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m. can look forward to a 100 kilometre ambulance ride. My question, simply to the minister, will this minister admit that health care has deteriorated in Shelburne County under her watch and the watch of this government?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I apologize if I overreacted to that question but the reality is that doctors and nurses and other people in the province do choose to move sometimes and it is not something that we can entirely control. What we can do is plan for it and we can recruit new people to take there places. I think, again, the questioner partly answered his own question when he said, yes, there will be ambulance at the hospital. The ambulance service now is good, very good, a lot due to the efforts of Liberal Governments in the 1990s and we will have an ambulance and we will have trained paramedics. So this is not a disaster for the patients, we would just prefer to have 24-hour service.

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

TRANSPORT. & PUB. WKS. - PT. ACONI:

TOXIC WASTE TRANSPORT. - DETAILS

MR. BRIAN BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Environment and Labour. Residents have been contacting my office from the Point Aconi area of Cape Breton The Lakes, of course. The government apparently has a plan to transport toxic waste from the tar ponds in Sydney to Point Aconi, and permit burning of these toxic materials in the power plant owned by Nova Scotia Power. My question is simple, can the minister confirm that his department is in fact reviewing this proposal?

[Page 3021]

[4:00 p.m.]

HON. RONALD RUSSELL: Mr. Speaker, the Department of Environment and Labour is the regulatory department, however, the action department is the Department of Transportation and Public Works, so I defer to the minister.

HON. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, as the honourable member knows, the Sydney Tar Ponds Agency is tasked with the job of the cleanup at the tar ponds. We are pursuing, obviously, the cleanup in accordance with community wishes, as they are unfolding.

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, the transportation, of course, of this proposal is accepted. The transportation of this type of material is known to be dangerous to human life. It impacts Mother Nature negatively. My question is, can the minister provide details as to how this material will be transported from Sydney to Point Aconi?

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, as I'm sure the honourable member is aware, the Joint Action Group and the workbooks that have come out from the community, that information has only recently become available to government. No decision has been made on what the exact nature of the cleanup is going to be with respect to the Sydney tar ponds or the coke ovens site, so it's impossible to give the member details because no decision has been made.

MR. BOUDREAU: Mr. Speaker, perhaps consultation with the local community over in Point Aconi could relax some of the fears that are in that community. The former Tory Government, in 1992, was part of a government that decided to build and construct the Point Aconi power project. Also, during that process, it created a community liaison committees, associated with the construction and the operation of that power plant. This provides this government an ideal opportunity and a direct link to the local community in Point Aconi. My question is, will the minister direct his staff to consult with this committee and initiate the process, call the committee together and provide an overview of this proposal so that the local community in Point Aconi can be brought up to speed as to what this government or JAG or the Department of Environment and Labour, or whatever, has planned in regard to this proposal? Will the minister commit to directing his staff to participate in this liaison committee?

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member raised a good issue. If and when a decision is made to consider moving forward with any one of the co-burning kind of options, I am sure the community will be consulted. Frankly, it's premature at this point to have those discussions, because we may not be going down the road of a burning option. That is just one of the possibilities that is being considered at the present time.

[Page 3022]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

HEALTH: HANTS EAST RESOURCE CTR. - FUND

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, my question will be for the Minister of Health. The Minister of Health will, hopefully, remember my questioning of her around the building of a resource centre in Elmsdale. This facility is part of the health plan for the East Hants Community Health Board. It's intended to house services presently offered in different communities and buildings in the constituency supported by the Health Department. The Corporate Services Committee of the municipality has voted against funding the construction of this facility to the tune of $5 million. The minister told me during the budget debate that her department may fund the construction of that facility. So I ask the minister, will your department fund this resource centre for the Hants East area?

HON. JANE PURVES: Mr. Speaker, I would have to check back with officials in my department but I can give him an answer to that question tomorrow.

MR. MACDONELL: Well, I will look forward to the minister's answer and a couple more today, Mr. Speaker. The minister would also know of funding by her department or supposedly approved for other areas of that DHA: a new hospital in Amherst, a new proposed hospital in Truro, as well as a new facility in Tatamagouche, which, by the way, has about half the population of the corridor area in Hants East. So in light of your funding commitments in the other areas of the northern district, Madam Minister, don't you think it's only fair to do the same for the people of Hants East?

MISS PURVES: Mr. Speaker, yes, I do, but still what I'll have to check on in regards to that particular facility is at what stage the funding plan is and so on, on the details because the other projects that he mentioned - he well knows - they were multi-year projects and they have taken and will take a number of years to implement.

MR. MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I want to tell the minister that the East Hants Community Health Board has spent years developing their plan, from the previous government to this government, and to me it seems like they really have been stalled more than they have been helped.

Mr. Speaker, Hants East has no hospital and doesn't have a multi-service centre like the one in Sackville. Residents are only asking for a facility that could be a start towards eventually having a facility like the Cobequid Multi-Service Centre. A resource centre will enhance health service delivery in the more rural areas of my constituency by allowing satellite services to run out of that facility. So in light of what your government has spent in other parts of the DHA, considered over multi-year funding, can the minister give me a reasonable excuse that I can give to my constituents as to why the government would not be willing to offer them this necessary and appropriate facility that they rightly deserve?

[Page 3023]

MISS PURVES: As I said earlier, Mr. Speaker, I will get some details on that for the member tomorrow.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova. He has approximately one minute.

SYSCO - PARIS SALE: ZOOM PROPOSAL - UPDATE

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, I was asking the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries a day or two ago about the Sydney Steel Corporation and the sale to ZOOM Development Ltd. of India. They propose to take down the Sydney Steel Plant piece by piece, number them all, and reassemble them in India like a jigsaw puzzle whereupon they will make steel and sell it to whatever customers they can find, probably Canadians among them. I was wondering if the minister could update the House on the ZOOM proposal and bring us up to date on how it is moving along?

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, I could be facetious and say it's zooming right along, but, in fact, we are moving forward. We do have an opportunity to remove that asset and, as the member opposite indicated in his question, have it located in India. At $4 million, it represents a significant return, not as much of course . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The time has zoomed right along as well and we are out of time allotted for Question Period.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova on a point of order?

MR. MACEWAN: Oh, no, Mr. Speaker, I wanted to zoom along with that question. (Laughter)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The time has expired.

OPPOSITION MEMBERS' BUSINESS

MOTIONS OTHER THAN GOVERNMENT MOTIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Liberal House Leader.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Resolution No. 796.

Res. No. 796, Gov't. (N.S.) - Insurance: Issue Awareness - Time Frame - notice given Apr. 23/03 - (Mr. Manning MacDonald)

[Page 3024]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, it's a pleasure to rise today and speak on a most important issue affecting Nova Scotians from one end of the province to the next, an issue which has been discussed here several times, the issue of insurance in this province. Now, as I said before, we've heard a lot of debate in this House and a lot of the concerns raised and what has been lacking are concrete solutions to this most serious problem facing Nova Scotians.

What we previously had been faced with is the socialist Party telling us they wanted the government to take over every industry in this province and run it at a profit, then we had the government flip-flopping day by day as to government-run insurance is good, government-run insurance is bad, then maybe it's good, then maybe it's bad. That's what Nova Scotians have been subjected to.

Mr. Speaker, I was pleased today to be present for the news conference this morning at 11:00 a.m. where our Leader, Danny Graham, set out our four-point plan to deal with automobile insurance here in Nova Scotia. I can tell you a great deal of work and effort went into preparing this plan - discussion with Nova Scotians, discussion with different stakeholder groups, various meetings that have been taking place over the last number of months to try to work out a plan that will bring a solution to Nova Scotians.

Now, Mr. Speaker, is this a perfect plan? I don't think any plan would be considered perfect, but is it something that will address the issue of rising insurance rates in this province? Yes, it will. What it will bring about is an immediate 15 per cent reduction across the board in insurance rates. What it will do is work through the URB and to be able to establish through the URB a scale to be put in place for the general damages aspect of soft tissue, of whiplash-type, injuries.

Mr. Speaker, we hear the government clucking over there - the Minister of Transportation and Public Works primarily - but let them stand in their place and tell us exactly what their plan is for the government. Four years, he being a senior member of government, he being a member of the Bar, I'm sure he has probably done a bit of personal injury work himself, maybe he can stand in his place and give us the solution here today rather than sit in his place mocking others when they have not brought forward any reasonable solution other than waving the white flag of surrender and saying approve a bill to freeze rates so we can buy some more time.

You know, Mr. Speaker, it's almost a mockery to hear the Government House Leader saying we have a plan, then the Premier turns around and goes outside and says we don't have a plan, we're still working on one, and I would present to you again the fact that why we are not on an election campaign right now is due to the fact this government has completely failed to even try to get a grasp over this most important issue. We've continually

[Page 3025]

heard, both from the government and the socialist Party, where is your plan? Well it is now here for all of them to see. Here is the plan; here is a plan presented to Nova Scotians for them to examine and for them to see.

Mr. Speaker, I'm proud to say that we are the only Party in this province that has come forward with a plan that Nova Scotians can examine and that Nova Scotians can have faith that it is a reasoned attempt to bring forward. (Interruption) Now if the member for Yarmouth has a plan that he might want to bring forward, other than his constant clucking and name-calling from the deep bowls of the backbench, maybe he can bring forward his plan, but then again, you know he did fix a mailbox in his constituency, so there is one thing he can say he has done in his four years here in the House other than being an absolute nuisance from the backbench.

Mr. Speaker, as I was saying, we have brought forward a plan. It is a made-in-Nova Scotia plan for a made-in-Nova Scotia solution. What was the reaction of the socialist Party and the member for Halifax Chebucto once he saw the plan? The sky is falling, the sky is falling, the sky is falling. He was so confused because - do you know what? - this plan actually has original thought involved in it. It's not cutting and pasting from another province. It's saying, oh, my God, this plan wasn't put in place by a socialist government so it is confusing to us, it is foreign to us, and we don't know how to respond. That's what the answer was.

Yet, Mr. Speaker, yesterday I heard the member for Halifax Fairview continually clucking, where's your plan, where's your plan? Well, today I asked a simple question, where is the socialist Party plan? There is none. There is no plan. They continue to tell us they want government-run insurance and that's going to solve all the problems with the industry. So, again, as I said yesterday, it's saying we've got a car with two flat tires and the solution to that is don't fix the tires, change the driver and the car is going to work.

That's what the NDP are saying, but the one part of their plan, if they even have one - I shouldn't say have one, but one of the major planks that they're looking at, that they don't want to discuss, is they want to add no-fault as part of their scheme of government-run insurance because they keep on talking about Manitoba and Saskatchewan and the success, but both of those provinces have a no-fault insurance system, yet the Leader of the NDP and the rest of his socialist colleagues don't want to discuss that. How amusing, to hear the member for Halifax Chebucto say that under our plan, which would see a scale put in place for general damages, one item of the awards given for injuries, his claiming that the Liberals were going towards no-fault. Well, that's an absolute mockery - that's what it is - for an educated man to go and make that kind of statement, from a Party that it is clear wants no-fault in this province.

[Page 3026]

[4:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, as our Leader said during his speech, no-fault has not produced lower rates, it has not produced better awards, it has not led to safer roads, and that's why we've concluded that no-fault is no good for Nova Scotians. To simply try to cut and paste a system used in another province and to say that is what the solution is for Nova Scotia is just not good enough. What this does is it takes a Nova Scotia problem and it gives a Nova Scotia solution. We didn't have to go out and cut and paste from another province, we brought in a solution here that can work.

Right away the NDP say, oh, you're in with the industry. Well, how surprising, coming from socialists who want government to run every single aspect of the lives of Nova Scotians. No surprise there. As far as they're concerned, every business is bad. Every private business is bad. Every industry is bad. So how surprising, to hear them attack us by saying that we actually want to work not only with consumers, not only with Nova Scotians but to work with businesses and to try to address some of the concerns that are in place.

Mr. Speaker, the plan is extremely and very specific as to where we want to go. Not only will it bring about an immediate 15 per cent reduction in rates, it will put in place the system required to bring all the rates down over time in an efficient manner. I ask you, and I would ask my socialist colleagues, and I am sure they are going to go and criticize everything about the plan, but they have none. The Leader now says there is no plan at all, as he walks in. Where is their plan? Well, we have a glossy brochure sent by the NDP, where it said, please check off; we want to consult, please check off, do you think insurance rates have increased, yes or no; do you think auto insurance rates should go down, yes or no; and please write your comments on these two tiny little lines. That is what they send out, and they try to tell us this is what their plan is.

Mr. Speaker, I tell you again, let them table their plan. Yesterday, as I said, the member for Halifax Fairview, the Leader of the NDP and the member for Cape Breton Centre were all clucking, where is your plan? Well, we've tabled ours. Now they can mock it, but at the end of the day there is hypocrisy coming from there when they don't have one that they can present to Nova Scotians. It's very simple. (Interruptions) Now the member for Cape Breton Centre can find that amusing and laugh. It doesn't take much to make him laugh here in this House, as we have seen over the years. As I said, we have put together a plan which clearly addresses the problems in the industry and offers solutions to Nova Scotians. (Interruptions)

Let the Leader of the socialist Party get up and make the type of statements, the foolish statements that he is making there as he sits back in his chair. This is a Party that says they want government-run insurance, to create a new level of bureaucracy, take over an industry, put in no-fault and everything is going to be fine. Go to bed, and you will know that

[Page 3027]

everything is going to be fine. That is where they are going, but they have yet to stand before Nova Scotians and say exactly what their solution is going to be.

Mr. Speaker, let me talk a bit more specifically about what we have said. First of all, an immediate 15 per cent reduction across the board. Then we will work (Interruptions) Well, if the socialist Party doesn't feel the URB is capable of working under the system, let them stand in their place and make that statement. As I said, we will then look at putting in place an enhanced process for the URB to prevent the type of rate-shock that we have seen. One of the ways of doing that is that because of this plan and because of the fact that it addresses some of the industry's concerns about increasing awards and how to bring those more in line, then any request from there, forwarded by an insurance company, for an increase of more than 5 per cent would automatically trigger a hearing by the URB.

Why? Because we feel, under this plan, having talked to the different stakeholders, there should not be a need for an increase of 5 per cent in rates in a year. Therefore, if a company feels that they are justified in doing so, they will have to go before the URB and plead their case. One of the other things is the URB will immediately be asked to examine the underwriting rules which are in place in this province, being used by the insurance industry, something which was not specifically asked for by the government when they sent this issue to the URB. We want to specifically ask them to review the issues around age, around the age of vehicles and around regional discrimination, based on where Nova Scotians live in this province.

Mr. Speaker, we want to make sure that Nova Scotians are confident that the underwriting rules being used in this province are transparent and that they are fair and that they are being applied equally across the board. I can tell you, if you ask the average Nova Scotian today whether they believe that is the case, they will tell you no. They do not believe that the underwriting rules are fair, they do not believe that they are being applied appropriately, and they want to see some changes put in place, which is why the URB will be asked to looked at that.

Again, what we have said that we would do is establish a permanent consumer advocate. Not just a temporary make-work advocate, a consumer advocate who will be there on a permanent basis and that advocate will report directly to the Legislature. Not simply just to the Premier or to the Minister of Environment and Labour, but be able to report directly to the Legislature. This consumer advocate will be able to investigate complaints and will be able to review consumer issues and will provide an annual report.

One of the other protections put in there through the consumer advocate is that if an insurance company asks for a rate increase which is less than 5 per cent - that means it doesn't automatically trigger a review by the URB and a hearing - the consumer advocate, even if it's lower, let's say 4.6 per cent or 4.7 per cent, will have the power to trigger an automatic hearing by the URB to justify the increase that is taking place.

[Page 3028]

There's a lot of discussion going on and the important thing is that Nova Scotians realize that what this is doing is applying a scale to general damages. Now, what are general damages? They are damages that are awarded above and beyond your traditional compensation for injury, such as lost wages, non-economic loss and now, on top of it, Nova Scotia has another type of damage which is called general damages which are above and beyond the damages that are traditionally awarded. Many provinces do not award general damages for these types of injuries; Nova Scotia does. What we are saying is that we want the URB to be able to review the general damages that are currently being awarded and to establish a scale for the minor type of injuries on the issue of general damages.

So when the member for Halifax Chebucto says they want to eliminate all the damages being provided, that's simply not the case. We were very specific in the plan that it only applies to general damages. This is not something that will be taken away, it is not something that will be eliminated, it is something that will be reviewed and it will be examined in a means to bring it more in line.

At the end of the day, Nova Scotians expect balance. They don't expect a pie-in-the-sky solution that's going to drop their rates down to zero, they expect a government that will be responsible, a Party that can bring forward a plan that does not pit one against the other but works with the players involved in this industry, that supports competition and, at the end of the day, provides fairness to the consumers so that they can have reasonable insurance rates that seniors, low-income earners and those who use their vehicles for employment and families can have reasonable auto insurance rates. This is a plan that brings together the concerns raised by Nova Scotians. It rejects no-fault. It rejects government-run industry. It supports the idea of competition and it supports the idea of fairness for both the industry and more importantly, fairness to the consumers of Nova Scotia. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Community Services.

HON. DAVID MORSE: Mr. Speaker, it's a great pleasure to get up and debate the resolution that's been brought forward by the Liberal caucus today. I would like to start by congratulating them for entering the debate, I think it's appropriate. I'm not going to stand here and say that their ideas are without merit. I think that their ideas should be vetted through our consumer advocate that we have in place. We should give Nova Scotians a chance to comment on them and it is possible that perhaps Nova Scotians will embrace some and it's possible that they may not. But I think that we should congratulate the Liberals for bringing forward a plan. They now join the NDP and the PCs, who have been there for about a year and a half. It is appropriate that they bring forward something other than criticisms.

I would also like to point out that we have the government's Insurance Bill, a bill to amend the Insurance Act, on the table, and that is something that, indeed, takes some very positive steps forward as we move through this. This is an issue that deserves attention in debate, and it is also a great opportunity to communicate further with Nova Scotians about

[Page 3029]

our legislation and how it affects them. We understand that rising auto insurance rates have affected many Nova Scotians, especially students, seniors, working families and businesses. It is an issue that can easily turn into a quick catchphrase. As a result, it is an issue that has been and continues to be frequently oversimplified.

Yet, anyone who has looked into the matter, even casually, will tell you there is no one-size-fits-all answer, and there is no simple fix. I would suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, that the differing points of view that have come forward from the Liberal and the NDP caucuses and our plan to go out and consult with Nova Scotians and some of the steps we are taking in the interim just lend credence to that statement, that it is a complex issue. Most Nova Scotians have figured this out. They know it can't be reduced to a good-guy-bad-guy or right-versus-wrong argument. They know that informed discussion, guided by good management practice, not rhetoric, is what we need to find a solution that is practical, sustainable and fair. Above all, it has to be fair, because fair solutions are ones that are sustainable and ones that will serve us in the long run.

Like any other complex problem, it is one that can be understood by breaking it into its component parts and seeing how they relate and interact. That is exactly the way in which we have chosen to deal with this matter. We're confident that we will get to the right answer because we have been steadily following a plan, a plan that the Minister of Environment and Labour has referred to many times during this session, and it will take us to an appropriate solution for Nova Scotians. As my fellow colleagues know, rising insurance premiums is not only a Nova Scotian issue but a global one. We are taking a careful, considered and well-planned approach to managing this issue for Nova Scotia drivers.

At this point, Mr. Speaker, I would point out that a little over a year ago, when I was the minister responsible for this file, in fact, we recognized at that time that it was more than a Nova Scotia issue. We started meeting with ministers from the Atlantic Provinces and listening to what they had discovered about the problems as it pertained to them, and some of the steps that they were taking to move forward on this.

We have kept an open door to the industry and to consumers, to discuss their concerns and have clearly indicated that we want to do all that we can to maintain a thriving and competitive marketplace here. We have taken steps to enhance awareness and understanding through the development of a plain language brochure. We encourage consumers to educate themselves so that they understand exactly what they are purchasing when they purchase their policies and to work with their brokers, because an informed consumer is a consumer who is empowered to make the best decisions for their particular needs.

We have asked the Utility and Review Board to review rates and to determine, through the actuarial methods, what the financial issues are. The board's report was issued last week, and it shows that there are many components to any potential solution. Mr.

[Page 3030]

Speaker, this was done, again, some time ago. It has proven to be a very complex issue, and it has taken longer than, perhaps, we anticipated to deliver their report. I would like to acknowledge that the NDP also supported the government in the measure to send this to the Utility and Review Board, and it has given us an independent, arm's-length opinion on what is going on with the insurance industry and the appropriateness of their rates, and some guidance as to how we should go forward.

[4:30 p.m.]

The URB report contains a lot of information that will inform our decision-making, but one thing is for sure, it has validated our view from the beginning that there is no simple solution and that a broad range of perspectives has to be considered. The board also addresses concerns regarding the rate regulation system and restrictive underwriting practices, which are both addressed in our consultation paper and are issues that are being examined by the consumer advocate, George Jordan. The new legislation before the House will address many of the concerns consumers are having about Facility Association.

Mr. Speaker, Facility Association is the coverage that's available for those consumers who have been deemed to be high risk by the insurance industry, and indeed that's an area which is of concern to this government and, I think, to all Parties, the alarming number of people who are being put into Facility Association. It's something that we should, I am sure, address with whatever comes forward in the long-term plan.

The consumer advocate for auto insurance has been well received by Nova Scotians. In the very near future, he will release a preliminary report that will give us a more complete understanding of what our reworked policy on auto insurance should be. This, again, will give us insight into how to address the concern of consumers who are being insured through the Facility Association. I would suggest this is an eminently sensible approach to solving a problem that affects every Nova Scotian - lay out the concerns, draw on the work that has been done in other provinces and here in Nova Scotia, ask them for feedback, put a very credible, well-respected person in as a consumer advocate to hear from Nova Scotians.

Nova Scotians are responding, Mr. Speaker, they are calling George Jordan and they are contributing to the process. At the end of the day Mr. Jordan's report will provide government with the guidance that we need to move forward on this file, guidance that is derived by listening to Nova Scotians and everybody involved with the insurance industry so that we can make the right decisions, not only in the short term, but in the long term.

We have also acted to bring some stability to the situation while we work towards the solution. We introduced Bill No. 45 to hold the line on some increases. We have circulated draft regulations. We want to make sure that we do right by Nova Scotia's consumers. The board concluded that the rate increases imposed by the insurance companies on consumers have been extremely harsh and appear to have been imposed without consideration of

[Page 3031]

consumers' ability to pay. This is consistent with what we're hearing from consumers and supports our reasoning for amendments to the Insurance Act which provide for a rate increase time-out from May 1, 2003, to January 1, 2004.

Mr. Speaker, it would seem appropriate at this time perhaps that I might table this memo from the Economical Insurance Group. I'm just going to read a couple of sections of it and then I'm going to table it. It refers to Bill No. 45 and the insurance industry's reaction to that legislation: Legislation has forced the retraction of recent Economical automobile insurance rates. The Economical Insurance Group is retracting recent automobile insurance rate increases in Nova Scotia for Economical Insurance and Federation Insurance. The increases were to be effective on the following dates - and what's interesting here is they have not only retracted rate increases that were to be effective May 1st, but in fact, on the Economical Insurance for the personal lines, they made it effective April 1, 2003. I think that speaks volumes to the message that the insurance industry is hearing from this legislation the need for a time-out to work through this until we come up with a long-term solution.

They go on to explain why they're doing this: The decision was made to abide by the Nova Scotia Government's recent legislative proposal that forbids insurance companies from increasing automobile insurance rates between May 1, 2003, and January 1, 2004. They go on to talk about the impact on policyholders, Mr. Speaker: All personal and commercial automobile renewals and new business issued under the premium increases noted on the first page will be retracted and reissued under the prior rates. Then it goes on to explain how the brokers should make sure that their clients, their customers, get the appropriate reductions in their premiums and for those who have paid the annual premium, clearly they would be issued a cheque. That is good news and one that we welcome, and I know that all Parties in this House would welcome because certainly Nova Scotians welcome this. I would like to table this now if I could.

We are also open to looking at a regional solution that will put the brakes on rising insurance rates. We look forward to discussing this further with our Atlantic counterparts but rest assured that we will produce a sustainable solution that works for Nova Scotians. The bottom line, we will not allow Nova Scotia drivers to be treated unfairly. We will not allow insurance companies to continue to raise rates while a rate review is still underway. While we don't know what the solution may eventually be, we do know it will be a mix of many things, many things that Nova Scotians guide us in through our consumer advocate, George Jordan. It will have to be because it will be based on the most solid of foundations, a broad perspective of the issue, Mr. Speaker. This government has been attentive to this issue and will continue to listen to consumers, business and industry over the next few months. We will stick to our action plan and will develop a reasonable solution for Nova Scotians.

[Page 3032]

Again, Mr. Speaker, I'm not going to criticize the Liberals for bringing forward a plan. They are not perhaps as attentive to the situation as this government, and subsequent to the government, the NDP bringing forward solutions, but I do congratulate them on finally recognizing there is a problem. I congratulate them on bringing forward proposed solutions. I'm not sure that I congratulate them on the way that they've gone forward with it though. It seems to remind me very much of the Sunday shopping issue where Danny Graham, their Leader, has come forward with his vision and somehow or other I feel that does leave out the consultation process which I think is critical to coming up with the right plan, not only in the short term, but in the long term. But I do give you credit, the Liberal Party, for coming forward with something, be it late in the debate.

The Progressive Conservative approach is centred on including Nova Scotians, Mr. Speaker. The consultation process is critical and I would say that I would just like to reflect briefly on some of the issues that have been taken in Newfoundland and New Brunswick as I met with my counterparts on February 22nd of 2002. We learned that Newfoundland had in fact two all-Party committees that had gone around the province and they listened to Newfoundlanders and Newfoundlanders had many suggestions. At the end of the day there was an election so there was a second committee and then they did it again, and then they brought forward their suggestions.

Mr. Speaker, the suggestions were not well-received by Newfoundlanders, even though some of those suggestions are included in some of the Liberal suggestions. So it is important that when you go out and gather that information that you do it in a way that you can filter out the lobby groups; you've got to have a consumer advocate, somebody who can consider all the evidence and bring an informed decision that is representative of the wishes of Nova Scotians.

In New Brunswick, which also went about with their select committee, they came back, they had good suggestions, but what came forward did not reflect the work of the committee. That's why, Mr. Speaker, we feel the consumer advocate and the Progressive Conservative plan is the right plan. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

MR. GRAHAM STEELE: Mr. Speaker, I think the resolution on the floor of the House today gives us an opportunity to examine the latest entry, shall we say, into the auto insurance debate and that is the so-called Liberal plan that was brought forward this morning. It's nice to welcome the Liberals to the debate. This is the way that we are going to get auto insurance solutions, everybody participating and putting forward their analysis, their solutions, and if we have this array of solutions on the table, we will have the opportunity to choose what's best for Nova Scotians since we all have the same objective here. What is going to deliver the lowest and the fairest auto insurance rates to Nova Scotians? Whatever that ultimate solution may be, it's not going to be the Liberal plan.

[Page 3033]

I thought that we all had enough of Liberal hocus-pocus when the honourable Don Downe came in here and waved his magic wand and made $600 million disappear off the province's books. So we kind of jokingly referred to him ever after as Merlin the Minister. But we see the same kind of hocus-pocus here because the Liberals say that they're going to wave their magic wand and wipe 15 per cent off the auto premium of every Nova Scotian. How are they going to do that? Well, they can't quite say.

If you look at the numbers, it doesn't add up. We could at the very least say if Shawn Graham in New Brunswick can offer 25 per cent, why are we getting only 15 per cent? But, it's the same kind of Liberal hocus-pocus that Shawn Graham's offering in New Brunswick - just a lower number.

What is the problem in Nova Scotia? It's high rates. Rates went up on average 65.9 per cent last year. As much as the IBC tries to dispute that number, it's from Statistics Canada and they can't dispute it. So let's just suppose the Liberal plan could work, which it won't, but let's suppose that it could. You take 15 per cent off 65 per cent and you get 50 per cent, which is apparently acceptable to the Liberal Party. That if your rates go up 50 per cent, that's okay because they're going to take 15 per cent out.

Now, here's the bit that the Liberals seem to have missed since they appear only to be reading the parts of the Utility and Review Board report that they like, not the bits that don't fit in with their so-called plan. That is that despite the large increases in auto insurance rates in Nova Scotia, the URB says the insurance companies need 47 per cent more than they're currently charging to return to profitability and then they need at least 7 per cent each and every year after that.

If they roll back rates by 15 per cent, then in order to be profitable the insurance companies need to raise the rates this year only 32 per cent, which apparently is acceptable to the Liberal Party. Now, the Liberals, I don't know who they think they're kidding when they say they talked to thousands of Nova Scotians and did extensive research over many months, but if they had looked across the country, they would realize that what they're proposing is very similar to Newfoundland and Labrador. There's a few differences in details, but essentially it's the same. You have a full tort system with some benefit caps and then you have pre-approval at the regulatory authority. But what happened in Newfoundland this year, guess which province was just a shade behind Nova Scotia in the increase in rates? Well, it was Newfoundland and Labrador. Their rates are through the roof.

Guess which city in Canada, which metropolitan area has the highest rates - bar none - in Canada? It's St. John's, Newfoundland. This crowd wants us to go down the road of basically copying what they're doing in Newfoundland and Labrador. If they had done any research at all they'd realize that the Newfoundland system hasn't done a thing to put the brakes on auto insurance rates in that province. Yet, that's the road that they want us to go down.

[Page 3034]

They say they're going to wave their magic wand and make 15 per cent disappear. Where's the beef? In a day when mad cow is in the news, it's probably not an appropriate question, but they cannot produce one single set of figures showing that even eliminating pain and suffering awards for whiplash produces enough money to reduce rates by a dime, never mind 15 per cent. Where are the rates?

[4:45 p.m.]

The IBC's statistical summary doesn't even break out awards into pain and suffering and the other categories. How do the Liberals know that if you - and they're not even talking about eliminating pain and suffering, they're just talking about reducing it - or in a beautiful turn of phrase, a beautiful political turn of phrase, they're talking about modifying pain and suffering. That's a beautiful-sounding word, they're going to modify our pain-and-suffering awards. What they really mean is they're either going to cut them or eliminate them, but they can't say by how much and they have no evidence whatsoever, none at all, no evidence to show that it's going to make a dent in insurance rates, because after all they have gone up 65 per cent and the URB says they need to go up another 47 per cent in order to return to profitability.

Mr. Speaker, that's the part of the Liberal plan that makes absolutely no sense. The NDP, on the other hand, in contrast, has released two well-researched, well-received interim reports which the member for Richmond has admitted he hasn't read yet, and yet he says he knows everything about the NDP plan. So what I would say to the member for Richmond is, before you start talking about our proposals, why don't you read our interim reports? They are well-researched, well-received - there has been no serious criticism of them. The only criticism we've had are the silly things, like the minister saying, what is it next, is it public water systems? We have to remind him that, in fact, in Nova Scotia we already have a public water system.

Apparently it's enough for the minister to say something is publicly owned for him to dismiss it out of hand and say it's socialist, oh, my golly, the Reds are under the bed, the communists are coming. The 60 per cent of the people of Halifax Fairview that voted for me, they're all communist, they're socialists. What's going to happen? We might have public ownership of our water, or maybe our auto insurance.

What's interesting is that in every province that has introduced a public auto system, no political Party of whatever stripe has dared to change it because they know that it works. They know that it works, and what we do know is that this Liberal plan is more hocus-pocus, just a waving of the magic wand, it is not going to deliver lower, fairer rates to Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, I forgot to say at the outset of my remarks that I was going to share my time with the member for Cape Breton Centre, and that is what I would like to do now.

[Page 3035]

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

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, we're here today debating Resolution No. 796, which started off, basically, by telling us that we're seeing - what is it that they say about the all-Party committee and it being rejected out of hand? Well, we've talked about the all-Party committee. I know my learned friends in the Liberal Party have often said this, that all-Party committees don't work because the government has a majority, and they will bring it forward.

AN HON. MEMBER: What about Workers' Comp.?

MR. CORBETT: There's another one. Nonetheless, that didn't work.

AN HON. MEMBER: Oh, it didn't work?

MR. CORBETT: No, it didn't work. When government got in here with the substantive parts of the bill, they decided to re-edit them.

AN HON. MEMBER: . . . how did that happen then?

MR. CORBETT: Because the Tories propped them up. Mr. Speaker, that's what they brought in. What we have here is a government, first of all they're telling us don't worry about it, we've got a consumer advocate out there and we have a bill in front of you that's going to resolve all the issues around insurance. Well, there's nothing in their bill that's going to resolve anything around insurance. What they have is a delay, a bill that will delay rates until the year 2004 - January 1, 2004. That's all it's going to do, delay the rates.

As I said yesterday in this House, there's nothing here that prevents an insurance company - and we hear this from consumers all the time, sometime in May they would have gotten a notice that their insurance was due, and they will call me up and say, well, I thought there was a freeze on, I thought the rates weren't going to go up anymore. We said, no, no, this government - as opposed to saying, okay, we're going to go back, when they say all this happened, go back 18 months and put a freeze on, it went back less than a month and says, okay, as of this date what happens is if your insurance was redone before that, you're on the hook for a higher increase.

Now the Liberal bill and the government bill really do nothing to make insurance rates fairer. There is nothing in either one of these bills that stops insurance companies from doing that little voodoo that they do so well at their offices. So what they do, is they go in and say, okay, you and your partner were driving down the road last month, before renewal, and you happened to get a ticket for not having one of the seatbelts fastened. So your insurance rates go up on an internal. Now the Liberal bill doesn't say, roll that back. That doesn't make sense. You own the car, you're driving the car, a person of age is sitting there,

[Page 3036]

they made the mistake, but yet your insurance is paying for it. How do any one of these bills or the plan or the bill, I should say, how do any one of those protect the consumers? How are you going to roll that 15 per cent back? There is no way. What they are saying is if they apply for rates, they're going up.

We know, and the experience is, and the provinces, because they call this the Nova Scotian solution, it's a hybrid solution, it's not a Nova Scotian solution, and what they've done, and we know in provinces where you've got to ask before you get your increase in your assessments. That it is by and large pro forma and if you lose it, then they give you your 5 per cent and then you come back at another time and get it there. So it's not like, what it is, it's a gold mine, if you will, for the commissioners, the URB and other legal entities, Mr. Speaker, because that's where it's at. There is no plan there, there is no real actual savings.

Another one I want to talk about, because insurance companies now are wanting to make larger, define the use of Facility Association. Insurance companies would like to include young female drivers in that notorious category where they put young male drivers.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. If the members could just bring it down a bit, please.

The member for Cape Breton Centre has the floor.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, what I was talking about, insurance companies now are talking about moving young female drivers into that infamous category of new driver to age 25 area, putting female drivers in there, where there was never really a need to have them in there but, for some reason now, they are going to have it there. So there is nothing in the infamous plan that was announced today that shows that there will be a way to get clawed back at that 15 per cent because surely, by putting somebody in Facility Association, is going to be much more than 15 per cent. How do we assess new drivers during this plan? How do we get the 15 per cent on drivers? How do you establish that their rates are over 15 per cent?

Well we don't know but what we have to do, we need a system that certainly shows that you are given one set of rules, you know when you enter the system and upon entering the system, that the rules are simple. If you are the cause of an accident, there is a percentage that your insurance goes up. That part isn't magic. Why should we allow insurances rates to go up for car owners, exponentially, just because somebody else had the car and had an accident with it? I appreciate there is a bit of an onus on the person because of ownership but reality says that if you loaned your car to somebody with a good driving record, and they had an accident, why should your insurance go up? Shouldn't insurance follow the driver? Yet neither of these plans talk about that. Neither of these plans talk about a real consumer advocate with teeth that could really help the insurance purchaser in this province. So there is really nothing at all in either one of these plans by the government bill or the Liberal plan that really in any way helps the consumer of Nova Scotia to get cheaper automobile rates. Thank you.

[Page 3037]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Just a suggestion that perhaps some of the members who are congregating in certain corners could please take their seats. I would appreciate it.

The honourable Leader in the House of the Liberal Party.

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and speak on Resolution No. 796 that's before the House today. This resolution touches a very sensitive, a very important issue that's affecting many, many people in this province. High insurance premiums in our province has been a hot topic for quite some time now and no doubt will remain a hot topic and a hot issue for weeks and months to come. I'm sure everyone in this House has been contacted by constituents from home and have heard personal stories from constituents paying higher insurance premiums.

Mr. Speaker, according to Statistics Canada, we have seen insurance rates going up by 65 per cent on average in Nova Scotia in the last year, 65 per cent. Across Canada insurance rates rose by 30 per cent in the last year. Nova Scotia was the province that faced the second-highest increase with insurance rates across Canada. High insurance rates have also been a hot issue in our neighbouring Province of New Brunswick. I want to make reference to an article here dated Monday, May 12, 2003. It's entitled, Lord's rivals quick to make insurance hot election issue.

Mr. Speaker, high insurance rates have become a hot election issue in New Brunswick in this election campaign and probably will continue to be a hot issue in this election campaign in New Brunswick. I'm sure that our Premier is following the New Brunswick election very closely and is watching the insurance debate and this campaign. You know the Premier could delay the election call here in Nova Scotia pending on the outcome of the June 9th, general election in New Brunswick. Not just in New Brunswick has this been a very hot issue, you know, this issue certainly has been of concern to many people here in this province.

Mr. Speaker, we have been hearing for weeks now, for months now, you know, the possibility of a Spring election. I'm sure that the Premier is watching what's happening in New Brunswick and it may or it may not, pending on the outcome of those results on election day in New Brunswick, have some bearing on when our Premier will decide to call the election in Nova Scotia. So again looking over at our neighbouring province, high insurance rates continues to be a hot election issue.

Mr. Speaker, everyone recognizes that this whole insurance debate is a very complex issue and it's also a real political issue. We have seen very little action so far by our government, you know, that's a given, to address skyrocketing insurance rates in Nova Scotia. As you're aware, the government has decided to bring a bill forward during this session to freeze insurance rates until January 1, 2004. We've heard that the insurance companies are trying to figure out what real impact this legislation will have on them and on

[Page 3038]

their clients. You know I don't anticipate that we will have all the answers before this bill eventually goes through the House, but I do anticipate that this bill will continue to raise more questions.

In speaking with individuals from Clare and I know, Mr. Speaker, I'm sure you've had the same opportunity in speaking with folks in your area, people have raised concerns with me and I'm sure they've raised concerns with their local member as well. Some individuals have asked me, why is the government only looking at a freeze until January 1, 2004? Some individuals have asked me what's going to happen to insurance rates after January 1, 2004, once the freeze is over? Some individuals who have renewed their insurance policy prior to May 1st of this year, have asked if they will be entitled to a rebate from their insurance companies because of higher insurance premiums that they have paid as well or will they be out of luck.

[5:00 p.m.]

Again, Mr. Speaker, this bill that's before the House now clearly shows that this is nothing more than a delay tactic to get the Tory Government through the election campaign. So by freezing insurance rates now, it will get this Tory Government through the election campaign and then what? That's the million dollar question.

I don't believe that the people of Nova Scotia will be fooled by this band-aid solution. As I said earlier, Mr. Speaker, this is a very complex issue and with the debate that is ongoing in the House as we speak on this government piece of legislation is nothing more than a band-aid solution. The government has heard from the insurance industry in Nova Scotia why rates are going up. We're told the insurance companies have been losing money, because of all the claims that they have received, especially on those soft tissue injury claims.

Mr. Speaker, I'll table this letter later, this was a letter forwarded by the Insurance Bureau of Canada and it indicates that our research in the Atlantic Region shows that the main reason for rising automobile insurance rates is soft tissue injury claims and even though accident rates have dropped in each province in the region, the number of bodily injury claims continues to rise. This is the result of the growing practice of hiring a lawyer after every car accident, now it is no longer simply about helping people get well following an accident, now it is about how much extra money a person can receive for even the most minor of injuries, such as a sore neck or sore back. I'll table this in a minute.

Mr. Speaker, it's that simple. On one side of the equation you have all the money that is being collected for insurance premiums and on the other side of the equation you have all the claims that have been forwarded to the insurance companies and paid for. Yes, the insurance companies, the private insurance companies have to make some money, that's understandable throughout all of this, that's why they're in business.

[Page 3039]

Mr. Speaker, the government earlier had asked the URB to review automobile rates in Nova Scotia. On May 15th, just last week, the Utility and Review Board reported that the local insurance industry incurred losses of $224 million from $1997 to 2001. So now that the URB has reported back on private passenger automobile insurance rates in Nova Scotia, telling us that insurance rates are going up and insurance companies are losing money. Where does the government go?

I want to make reference to an article here that appeared just recently, last Thursday, a headline, Hamm may back public insurance. Mr. Speaker, the Premier said a publicly-run auto insurance system involving all four Atlantic Provinces might be the way to tackle skyrocketing rates. He also talked about getting together with these other Atlantic Provinces, because our province is too small to fund such an expensive program alone. He goes further, indicating that we don't have the numbers. It's not feasible. Then, just going back to an article of this Monday, from the Premier's comments one would assume that the Premier is interested in looking at publicly-run auto insurance. The resolution that is before us today calls for:

"Therefore be it resolved that pretending that it is interested in addressing auto insurance rates for seniors and young people at the last minute and shamefully during election year, the Conservative Government admit that it could have done more, but it chose instead not to address the matter earlier."

Mr. Speaker, at this time I would like to move that the question on Resolution No. 796 be put.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.

MR. JON CAREY: Mr. Speaker, this insurance thing is certainly something that has come down hard on business. As a former person involved in business, I would just like to spend some time on the effect that it will have on it. The equipment business that I was in, our insurance was relatively high anyway. We had a pile of claims from the various machinery dealers, we had to protect ourselves from different accidents, having so many vehicles on the road and so on. (Interruptions) Well, it was John Deere equipment, the best equipment in the world, of course. Through our three outlets, we had several vehicles on the road and it was important that we have proper insurance.

We would tender our insurance to the various brokers, and I have a great deal of sympathy for the brokers because they're caught in the middle of this situation. They're businessmen who have to make a living, and they get the best possible quotes they can. I think a good number of the MLAs from our side and from the Opposition met with them not too long ago and had a very informative evening. They were very helpful, but they're caught in a situation that they can't control. They're gathering information, and I am sure that

[Page 3040]

they're working on getting their information to try to talk to the insurance companies that provide the insurance for them. Each one of them represent several companies, I understand, and trying to get a rate that is reasonable for people to stay in business is very difficult.

Ours, for example, went from about $12,000 a year up to $80,000 a year when we wanted to haul into the United States. So you can see that crossing into another country is a very costly thing to do. We searched the entire country, trying to find a rate that would be reasonable for us to afford to do it, because your return on business is certainly not great enough that you can take those kinds of increases. I have great sympathy for people who have had their insurance increased.

I was never overly pleased to see young boys, in particular, having rates that were high, for no apparent reason. I realize they had researched it, probably some young people were a little aggressive in their driving, but nevertheless they seem to have to pay dearly for that privilege, while the females, at various times, seem to get off a little easier. I would like to see a little more equity there. I think it's unfortunate when seniors who depend on vehicles to pick up their groceries or whatever, drive very short distances, who have perfect driving records, have a problem getting insurance. These are all issues that I think are very important.

I guess I've run out of time so I'll return another day.

MR. SPEAKER: The time allotted for Resolution No. 796 has expired.

The honourable Liberal House Leader.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: 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 Liberal House Leader.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 39.

Bill No. 39 - Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Glace Bay.

MR. DAVID WILSON: It's an honour to rise and speak on Bill No. 39, an Act to Amend Chapter 5of the Acts of 1993, the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. "This Bill amends the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act to prohibit the disclosure of the identity of an applicant except to the extent necessary to deal with a request for access to a record."

[Page 3041]

Further on in this debate my colleague for Richmond is going to deal in more substance to the exact body of this bill itself, because he was involved in - I think it was during estimates with the Minister of Justice - an incident which I think sparked the introduction of this bill. It's a perfect example of why this bill is needed in the first place. It also gives me a chance for a few minutes here to give somewhat of an overview as to what has led to a lot of problems with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act to begin with.

Just prior to debating this bill earlier today I had a chance to do my own little informal survey of the Legislature press gallery. I talked with some of the members who are from the electronic media, I talked with some of the members of the press to see just exactly how the changes that have been made by this government to the Freedom of Information Act, changes that saw, for instance, the increase, the cost of filing a freedom of information request go from $5 to $25. The informal survey that I conducted was just to sit down and have a chat with a few people who were in the press gallery and ask them how that increase has affected you in how you do your job and how has it affected how you use freedom of information requests?

Much to my surprise - well, not really, but the figures are somewhat alarming by some - there's been an overall, I think in the vicinity of a 20 per cent drop in the number of freedom of information requests that are now filed by the media outlets I spoke to. This is, again, a rather informal survey. One reporter in particular whom I talked to, a legislative reporter for the Canadian Press, for Broadcast News, the number of requests they used to file has been cut by 50 per cent since the increase came into effect. Since last November, that figure is well over 50 per cent.

As an example, I was told that in particular, one member of the Canadian Press normally would have filed in that time frame - from November to now - 15 freedom of information requests, but this time around, not one. Not one. The reason why is not because this person is not doing his job, this person is probably one of the better reporters, in my personal opinion, that you'll find in Nova Scotia, but this person in particular says now what happens is that your average request for freedom of information is going to run you in the vicinity of $65 because there's a $15 fee for every half hour for search time as well. So, on average, a request for freedom of information is going to run you around $65.

What happens to reporters in this case - it also affects a lot of other different groups, it affects everything from non-profit organizations to media outlets to caucuses - there's a hesitancy to file a freedom of information request now because of the cost that are associated with it. That hesitancy, because of the fact that the reporters who were at the field level, I used to call it, that's probably an old-fashion term right now, but reporters who would be covering the Legislature, or covering whatever beat they have, would have to go to their immediate bosses in this case and they would have to ask their immediate bosses, look, can I have the $65, or times however many requests I want to make. Can I have that amount of

[Page 3042]

money in my budget now, which used to be only $5, it's now $25 on top of the search time. Can I have that money to file some freedom of information requests to find out what's going on?

[5:15 p.m.]

Of course, Mr. Speaker, as you would well know, media outlets are no different than a lot of other organizations. They're faced with restrictive budgets and rising costs and they certainly would have to take a look at whether or not this is going to be a hindrance in their overall budget and how it affects everything from payrolls to other resources that they have to provide to reporters to do their job. So you can see that now that hesitation is there, it has made a major difference to those media outlets, to those newspapers. I may add, as well, that every reporter I've talked to so far has said, look, we did not use freedom of information requests to go on some sort of a fishing expedition just for the sake of launching freedom of information requests, because they only cost $5 we would throw in a whole batch of them and try to catch something. That's not the reason, they told me, that they were using them.

They were looking for specific details on matters where they could not get the answer from government, Mr. Speaker. They could not get that answer so they would file a specific request and ask for it. Now, instead of costing what it used to cost, as I said, that' s going to run on average about $65, and it's too restrictive. It's restrictive for major media outlets. Imagine how restrictive it is for smaller outlets, for smaller newspapers. They simply cannot afford it. So they will just stop filing freedom of information requests altogether because of the restrictions now that have been put on by this government.

Now, Mr. Speaker, this is information by the way that probably should be made available without having to file a freedom of information request. This is information that should be available, if you're doing your research or doing your homework in that case, as a reporter, you would be able to find it. But if you're forced to use a freedom of information request, the first thing now that you have to deal with is this second thought and in the back of your mind you have to deal with the fact, well, maybe this is costing a whole lot of money and my media boss, my person there, is going to say no because it costs so much money.

When I debated this topic before in this House, Mr. Speaker, I mentioned that perhaps the former Minister of Education, the Minister of Health currently, would have been appalled by this situation because she is a former newspaper editor who would have at one time instructed her staff, if you can't get that information, you file a freedom of information request because that will get you that information. Now, I dare say that the minister, who was then an editor of, I think everybody knows she was the chief, well, she was pretty high up in the editorial structure in The Halifax Chronicle-Herald, she was right there and certainly had a say over reporters filing freedom of information requests, or not, and would certainly have a say at a budgetary level. (Interruption) The Finance Minister would know something about - I was going to say knew something about budgets, but that wouldn't be a true comment.

[Page 3043]

The then Minister of Education, the current Minister of Health, would know that to file freedom of information requests meant that reporters were doing their jobs but, as I said, this not only affects reporters, this was just an informal survey I did with some reporters this afternoon. I've been told that these fee increases have made such a major difference that there are at least three community groups in this province that have stopped filing freedom of information requests altogether, and those community groups had dealt with such things as environmental issues, worker's compensation issues, and labour issues. They can't file freedom of information requests any longer either, because it costs their organizations too much money and that money could be going towards other purposes.

But the bottom line on this, Mr. Speaker, is because of a dramatic fee increase, this government has tried to stop what amounts to freedom of information, freedom of the press. I don't know what's more basic to a democracy than the two things I've just mentioned. How can you have an open and accountable government if you're not willing to say to anybody in the general public, including the media, that we are so open and accountable you shouldn't even have to file a freedom of information request? File away, because we will give you whatever information you need - we're transparent, we're accountable.

Mr. Speaker, that's why I'm glad that I've had this opportunity to bring that to the attention of the general public because, as I said, those principles, such principles - and they sound sometimes, when we hear politicians speak about freedom of speech and freedom of the press, kind of corny, but they are the foundation, the building blocks of a free and democratic society. The limits put on freedom of information by this government have suppressed not only the media, but the public in general in this province.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance.

HON. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I am more than happy to speak on this bill that has been presented by the Liberal Party. I have been listening to the comments by the member for Glace Bay. A lot of times I think relevance is a very important thing, and oftentimes I have been accused of not following the debate very closely. The member for Glace Bay spoke for the last 10 or 12 minutes on the fees and the costs of it. The bill is a one-clause bill, and it says here:

"The head of a public body to which a request is made for access to a record, or any officer or employee of the public body, shall not disclose the identify of the applicant to any person except to the extent that disclosure is necessary for the request to be dealt with in accordance with this Act."

This bill that we're debating is about whether or not information about the requests, the person or group that's making the request, should be made public or should be kept confidential. I listened to the member for Glace Bay speak for 12 minutes, and he never came within a country mile of talking about the issue. (Interruptions) Obviously it's important that

[Page 3044]

he didn't read the bill before he got up to speak on it. He mentioned the fact (Interruptions) But then again, I guess you could go back in his history, and in his history he isn't usually that pertinent to what we're discussing in the House. After a while you do come back to the point, and he never did, which I kind of find funny.

The other thing he talked about is about whether or not this bill is necessary. This all came about from the member for Richmond saying that the Minister of Justice - my colleague, who is in the Law Amendments Committee at this time and can't participate in the debate, and that's why I'm here - but the issue is along the lines of whether or not he had knowledge of the request that came forward from the member for Richmond. The minister stated at that time that these are points that were brought up by the member opposite himself, and that as such, that's why he was referring to it.

The member for Richmond will be getting up last on this debate, so he will have the floor and he will have the opportunity to dispute it. The fact of the matter is that my colleague made mention that he was not aware it was the member for Richmond who had made those requests. The fact that he mentioned it subsequent to that was the first that he was aware of it. He made mention that there were three requests that he felt were trivial, the information that they were requesting.

The issue is whether or not, first of all, he was aware of it and whether or not this bill that's before us is required. The fact is that this bill that's come forward doesn't bring anything new. The Act that's there now precludes that information from being shared with ministers and the fact of the matter is, Mr. Speaker, in my department, there is a freedom of information officer, whose name is Constance - my mind has gone blank here for a second - but anyway, it is her responsibility to deal with those requests that come forward. Many of those requests are for information on HST, they may be requests on what kind of internal audits that we've done. Oftentimes Opposition Parties will request that information. They may request information about the budget process and a lot of that information is private and they know that before they ask it, but sometimes they have asked that in the past.

The fact of the matter is, Mr. Speaker, that is a request that comes forward. Now I'm not privy to who has made those requests and I should not be, and the fact of the matter is, that's why the Act was there. This has been a contentious issue in the past. It's one that our Premier and our government said that we would follow the Act that's in place. That Act basically ensures that the person making the request, that their identity would not be divulged except in certain circumstances which, if I could remember, on certain limited circumstances which are listed in the Act. So I state that the bill which has been tabled by the member for Richmond is not required. It is already in legislation.

You have to ask yourself, why are we debating a bill which is already in place? So what we are having here, I think, to be more than candid, Mr. Speaker, is a bit of political grandstanding by the member for Richmond, trying to say that his - I think he was in the

[Page 3045]

House, on a note of personal privilege, that his rights had been violated by the Minister of Justice. I think what we have here is somebody who is building up a case which doesn't exist. What we have here is someone who is trying to make political points where they don't exist and the fact of the matter is that the Freedom of Information Act is in place for people to get information.

The member for Glace Bay talked a lot about the fees. He also talked about the fact that they were exorbitant. Mr. Speaker, I think that the fee increases that we put forward are reasonable. I know that many people don't agree with that but I do believe that in the past there have been some requests which I think are silly. I've had requests in my department - there was a whole list of people - whether or not I had any phone calls from them, whether I had any meetings with them. It was a list of about 10 or 12 people who were of Conservative history. They wanted to know whether or not I had met with them, and I'm sort of saying, what has this got to do with the Department of Finance? What we really had here was a witch hunt.

Well, the request came back, when it was filled out, that I hadn't met with these people, hadn't spoken with these people. You are sort of saying, what has that got to do with it, and how much time does a freedom of information officer have to go out and look through records and to see whether or not that basically I had those meetings? As to who asked for the information, Mr. Speaker, I don't know, but I look at that and it kind of degrades the freedom of information. I look at the information that's coming forward. If they are asking questions on many issues that involve my department, whether or not it be pension funds or whether or not it be the HST or whether or not it be the changes to the income tax that were brought about a few years ago when we moved from a tax on tax to a new TONI system which is tax on net income, those are at least reasonable requests. When I look at the questions that are coming forward, I often wonder who is making these requests and whether or not they've done any research into whether or not this is reasonable, or whether or not they are just shooting in the dark.

I look at freedom of information. I believe that the Act is required. I believe that government should be held accountable and there are times that we have disagreed in the past with information to be released. I will quote the information coming forward from Cabinet and we've had some discussions on this at length, and even with the member for Halifax Fairview, who has the belief that all discussions - I shouldn't say all discussions, but a lot of discussions - that happen in Cabinet should be open. I really believe that those discussions at Cabinet have been held confidential over the course of history to ensure that there is a full debate on issues, Mr. Speaker, and that is why there has been Cabinet confidentiality in the past and why I think it is important that it be done in the future.

[Page 3046]

[5:30 p.m.]

I think we should get advice from our staff that is open and not guarded so that we can make the best decision possible. I think that is the reasoning behind Cabinet confidentiality. It's one that's been challenged in the courts and probably will be challenged as we go forward into the future. I believe very much that Cabinet should have that type of discussion and not have very guarded conversations. I think the debate should be full and that whatever decisions we make, we will have to be accountable for. We'll be accountable to the electorate when we go back to the polls. That's something that appears to be happening this year. This may be the last time I have a debate on a bill, it's been one that I've enjoyed very much taking part in.

To go back to the bill that's here, I want to re-emphasize again that my colleague stated in this House and he stated to the member opposite that he was not aware of the fact that he had made those requests on behalf of the Liberal Party. The member opposite is obviously refusing to accept his explanation and he is stating that his rights have been violated. Well, Mr. Speaker, I believe the member for Truro-Bible Hill when he says that.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. There's too much noise in the Chamber. I'd ask the honourable members to take their conversations outside if they have to talk.

The honourable Minister of Finance has the floor.

MR. LEBLANC: I believe the Minister of Justice when he says that. I do want to say one thing, the member for Richmond has said in this House that - if I remember, I can't quote him exactly - he was saying that we talk about freedom of information at Cabinet and we share all this information amongst colleagues so that we would know who has made these requests. I sit at Cabinet and that is not the case. The member opposite is making allegations which aren't true. We respect the freedom of information. If he wants to go in the gutter and make those types of accusations, so be it. We will stand by our convictions as a government. We are taking the leadership of our Premier. He has set standards for himself, he has set standards for our caucus. He has set standards for our Cabinet and we have met those standards and we will continue to do so. To do anything other than that would be to cause us to lose the faith of the people of Nova Scotia. Our intention is not to do that, our intention is to keep that faith by doing what's right all the time, not just when it's politically opportunistic to do so.

The member opposite, I go back to the point, this bill is not required. It's already in the Act, so what we have here is basically political grandstanding and as such, I have nothing else to add. Obviously, I will not be supporting this bill because it's frivolous and first of all, the facts that it's based on are false. The fact is, to say that it's frivolous - it's not required, it's already in the existing legislation and so this is not required. Thank you.

[Page 3047]

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

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: I'm glad to have an opportunity to get up on Bill No. 39 and talk about it for a few moments on behalf of my caucus as the Justice Critic and Critic for Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. The member for Richmond has presented us with a bill and we've had a healthy debate so far with regard to this legislation.

This is a symptom of a much bigger problem. In fact, this government has admitted they have a problem because they've appointed a committee to go out and actually find out how to improve the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. So this government has already admitted, even before this legislation was introduced and other legislation that we've introduced this session and in previous sessions, this government has admitted in the past six months to a year, whenever that committee was scheduled to be created, that was something that they already knew was a problem because they've sent this committee out to look at it.

I know the member for Richmond, I believe, made a presentation to that committee. I did as well. I'm not sure if any of the government backbenchers who may use the Freedom of Information Act or the Minister of Finance, I'm not sure if they've had an opportunity to go before the committee, but I wanted to take an opportunity to put on the record here as well the fact that there are a lot of problems, notwithstanding the comments of the Minister of Finance, with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. The member for Richmond has drawn attention to one of them - one that's obviously an important issue. There should be a certain amount of privacy or confidentiality with regard to applications being made.

This is an issue that actually came up in our presentation to administrators. I want to take a few minutes to talk about that and some of the other issues facing freedom of information in this province. Let's talk about the broader strokes of this problem. The fact is that this province has had a Freedom of Information Act and that's a good thing. It's good that we at least have legislation saying that someone can apply to the government for information that's in the public domain. That's good. It's also good that we have rules protecting certain privacy issues of confidential information. That's good.

That's probably where it ends because this government, since it got elected, has proven it does not have a commitment to enforcing or promoting the use of that legislation. I would suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, in any democracy that is going to thrive in North America, in Canada, in the world, you need to have freedom of information legislation. I had an opportunity to work in Kosovo last year with an American group and, as part of that, you know, one of the first pieces of good government is legislation and I may note, tomorrow, it will be debated tomorrow in the Kosovo Assembly. The fact is that the first piece of good governance legislation, the first piece of legislation entrenching democracy in Kosovo is freedom of information legislation. That's how important that legislation is. It is seen as one

[Page 3048]

of the most important tenets of a democracy, that we have legislation ensuring citizens have access to official documents that are in the public domain.

Yet this government has taken the opportunity to try to reduce the opportunity for Nova Scotians to access that. How? Through higher fees, through eliminating two free hours of research - I will get to that a little later, Mr. Speaker - through this sense that there are frivolous applications that must be stopped, and I will talk a bit more about that. Here's one that's very important - by the role of the administrators. We have in this government freedom of information administrators and it is their job to administer. So if I apply, or any other citizen in Nova Scotia applies to the Department of Environment and Labour, or the Department of Natural Resources, it goes through an administrator whose job it is to review the application, to go around and collect the information and investigate and decide what, if anything, can be released under the Freedom of Information Act.

Mr. Speaker, as a result of that, they then will have an opportunity to tell us, me, the applicant, or whoever the applicant is, listen, after 30 days of investigating, we think that there were no documents we can release, or we think that these are the documents we can release. As a result, we have a dialogue between the government and citizens as to access to that information. That's how it works in theory. In practice, the problem is, and this is something that we noted in our presentation, we have heard from more than one administrator, of possible opportunities for interference from people who are not necessarily the minister, but staff of ministers, Communications staff and others who take the opportunity, whether directly or indirectly, to get involved in the application process.

We've seen in some departments, at least one, where the responses to applications come on the letterhead of the deputy minister's office, or the Director of Communications. That pretty well shows that the issues have gone beyond an administrator whose job it is to be, you know, sort of create this sort of invisible barrier. I wouldn't call it independent or quasi-judicial, but at least a sense that those people are supposed to be doing a specific function under this legislation that should require them to do the job to the best of their ability without any political thought to it.

We see that's not happening, that the government has been in some form or another using political means to try to ensure that certain documents are not released. We suggest that that's a fact and one that we think needs to be addressed, and this is the problem, administrators can't do their jobs. Some will say they can. Some will say they cannot. Some may feel they can't tell us, but the fact is that this legislation is not working very well when what is supposed to be a relatively independent review by a civil servant is not happening without some level of discussion with people in the political level of a department and we think that's wrong.

[Page 3049]

The administrators tell us something else, Mr. Speaker. They tell us that with regard to this legislation, they like the two free hours of research. I will tell you why. Because, if I apply, or again anyone else applies, and we created a long list of documents that might be 1,000 pages long, it may take a day or several days to do that research, in order to get those documents photocopied and developed and handed to me. In many cases those administrators would use those two free hours to someone and say, listen, you've called for an application, it's quite broad and quite sweeping in its jurisdiction of what you want. I can give you two free hours, after that I have to start charging you a certain amount of money per hour, but within those two free hours I can get you this many documents. These are the key documents that you want and it won't cost you very much at all, other than the application fee of $5, which is what it used to be.

So within those two hours, and these administrators have told us this, Mr. Speaker, they felt that that gave them the hammer in order to negotiate with applicants. Right now, now that this government has eliminated those two free hours, we have a situation where if an applicant applies and they say, look, you're going to spend this much for two hour's work, or this much for five hour's work, in many cases the applicant will say you might as well do the five hour's work. When there were two free hours of research in the departments, that allowed for the administrators to negotiate with the applicants to pare down, to whittle down what would be released to the salient documents that were required by the applicant. That worked well. Now, that wasn't part of the Act, it wasn't meant to be part of the Act, but what happened was it ended up being, de facto, the way the Act worked, and I think that was a good thing. We hear from administrators that that was a good thing, and that is something, again another example, like this bill, where there have to be changes to the Freedom of Information Act.

There were fees. We talked about fees. We noted, in fact Mr. Dean Jobb, I think, in his article in Saturday's Chronicle-Herald, May 17th, he noted the costs last year raised around $14,000, $15,000 in fees through the FOIPOP application process. Half of that was from our office, the NDP. Now, we're probably the most diligent users of the legislation, we have the resources because we're the Official Opposition, but it's our job as the Opposition. Journalists use it, individual citizens use it, other political Parties use it, it is used by a lot of people, but the fact is that those fees are deterring people from actually using the legislation.

When I was asked at the review committee, by the chairman, Mr. O'Brien, or one of the other members - I can't remember which one - whether we thought this was reasonable, a $25 fee, that's a reasonable fee, that's what it is now, I made the point, I said it's the cost of democracy. That's what the Freedom of Information Act is - it's the cost of democracy, it's about ensuring that we have a democracy that's open, that we have a government that's accountable, and that people have access to documents that are in the public domain. Quite frankly, whether it's $5 or $25 is a big difference. I can understand a $5 fee in order to ensure that there is some thought put to the applications, but making it $25 has put a freeze on the opportunity of people applying.

[Page 3050]

Fewer applications have been made - this government will admit that. The fact is that they will say it got rid of the frivolous ones. I would argue, Mr. Speaker, it got rid of applications that were serious applications. Why? Because the applicants wanted the information. In a democracy there is no such thing as a frivolous application. These are applications that that individual, as a voter, as a citizen of this province, wanted that information, and they have the right to that information. It's not up to any government or any minister to say that is frivolous or that it shouldn't be done or that we're going to crank fees up to the point where we prevent them or discourage them from doing it, and that is the crux of what this government has done with this legislation, what it has done to the people of Nova Scotia, and has done to democracy in this province.

I think I have three minutes left, is that right, Mr. Speaker?

MR. SPEAKER: Three minutes.

MR. DEVEAUX: I want to talk about something else that I've picked up on through some research I've done in this area, particularly in Europe. I've suggested this to the review committee, and I will put this on the record here as well. I've seen in Europe, they call it access to official documents as compared to freedom of information, but tomato or tomato, really what we're talking about is the fact that they have, in Europe, a registry - and now with the Internet I think it's even easier - that would then allow people to know what documents are in the public domain.

Documents that are in the public domain are put out there for people to know, they can access it, again through the Internet, through an office maybe, where it's a hard copy, but it would give them an opportunity, from each department, to see what documents - it could be discussion papers, it could be documents that maybe were released a year or two ago but now are in the public domain, or maybe they became part of political issues, or part of the debate in the House, or a journalist's application that resulted in some sort of media story, that information is then put in a registry, so instead of someone having to go back and file another application, pay another fee, they can go in and look at this registry and see what documents are out there, what documents are already in the public domain. It puts - and this is what's important - the burden on the government to recognize that they have a role to proactively make documents public, instead of saying we assume all documents are private, we will shove them in a corner somewhere and hope that no one ever asks for them, and if by chance they do we will hope it was such a broad application that we will whittle it down and prevent them from getting it.

Mr. Speaker, again, it's a right of the people of Nova Scotia to have this information, and it is a responsibility of any democratically elected government in Nova Scotia to ensure that those people can get those documents, and that starts by being proactive and ensuring that those documents are out there. Someone shouldn't have to apply, certain documents should be part of the public domain, and therefore should be presented through the Internet,

[Page 3051]

through hard copies, so people know they're out there. They do that. I know they lay documents on the table here, and they're tabled. Mr. Speaker, but for every document here, I would suggest there are 100 or 1,000 other public documents that could be made public and this government does not do it unless asked.

[5:45 p.m.]

I would suggest to you, Mr. Speaker, that if we are to have an effective means of freedom of information access to official documents in this province, if we are truly serious about ensuring that democracy will thrive in this province, the government must not only try, as they have, to whittle down or deny people their right to access information, they also must be proactive, proactive in ensuring that Nova Scotians know what documents are public, proactive in the sense of putting them on a registry. This is done in other countries. This is done in Europe. It may even be done in other parts of North America, and maybe we can learn something from other people who have had the opportunity to do similar legislation.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, how ironic, how privileged one could be to see that a bill being called on Opposition Day, to see the almighty Minister of Finance be the one to respond. Imagine, and after hearing his remarks . . .

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

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, after hearing the minister's remarks, it appears that once he leaves this Chamber he's going to get a job as the Nova Scotia version of Judge Judy and that he now is going to pass judgment on what he feels is, he said, she said; or he said, he said; or what's a reasonable request, what isn't. So now it's quite interesting to see where he plans on going. I would submit that we take him just as seriously as we take Judge Judy when we watch TV, when it comes to the Minister of Finance passing judgment on these types of issues.

Mr. Speaker, when I hear the Minister of Finance say there is already protection for this in the bill, he knows that in the Freedom of Information Act the protection that we are asking for in this bill is not currently there. He knows that. Where it has been put, there was vague comments made in the Premier's Code of Ethics for his government. That's where it's at.

Now, I didn't want to have to go down this road but obviously the Minister of Finance, by his statements, leaves me no choice. Again, it's time for a bit of a look into history. What brought us to where we are today? Shortly after the 1999 election, a member of the Executive Council of the Tory Party and the Tory Government went to a reporter and

[Page 3052]

said, why did you file this freedom of information request looking for this information? If you had just asked me, I could have told you, and was very upset with that reporter.

That's what brought this issue to such importance, Mr. Speaker, when this government, when one of its own members of the Executive Council - who is no longer there, ironically - went out and shared that type of information. The Minister of Finance knows that and for him to come and say there has never been any examples of his government betraying the intent and the spirit of freedom of information, he knows it's just not true. We have a modern day example under his own administration that he has seen. He knows that.

The Minister of Finance was not in the Red Chamber when we were discussing the Justice estimates, so for him to now pass judgment as to what happened and what was said without him even having asked for a record from Hansard as to what was said, once again shows how credible his statements are to be taken by Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, in a very simple exchange, everything was going so smoothly with the Justice estimates, when all of a sudden when asked about freedom of information fees, the Minister of Justice turned around to a staff member and asked to be given three examples of freedom of information requests that had been made. I hadn't said a word, I just asked about the fees. He turned around and came back and said there are frivolous requests and then, when he turned around to his staff members, the communications director, he said, give me that piece of paper and he started rhyming off three examples of requests he felt were frivolous. As he said, the three requests, he looked and he said, tell me these did not come from your caucus office. I didn't say that, I was still sitting there. He's the one who's still talking. As I started to respond to those three requests, he shouted out again, tell me right now on the record that they didn't come from your caucus. Well, Mr. Speaker, if he was not aware of where those requests came from, then why would he make those two statements? He made the statements because he was well aware of where the requests came from. He was well aware of the nature of the requests and it brings up the issue again.

The Minister of Finance took offence at my suggesting that this was chitchat around the Cabinet Table, freedom of information requests, but maybe the Minister of Finance could explain to me why the Minister of Justice was aware of the nature of freedom of information requests made to other departments. Can the Minister of Finance explain that? If this is not chitchat around the Tory Cabinet Table or around the Tory caucus room, how would he possibly have been made aware of that? When the Minister of Justice was asked, he said somebody told me. Well now, Mr. Speaker, that raises serious issues as to who within the system is sharing this type of information. So I asked him again to tell us, who gave you that information? Was it the Minister of Finance, was it another member of the Executive Council, was it the Premier? Was it the member for Eastern Shore, who was it? By not answering, he left a black cloud over every single one of his colleagues, not knowing the person who was sharing this type of information.

[Page 3053]

So, Mr. Speaker, this bill is not only about addressing the issue of the identity of the person who makes the request, tell me, why should the Minister of Tourism, for example, be aware of a freedom of information request made to the Minister of Finance? Now if the Minister of Tourism gets up and says, I thought the request made to the Finance Department asking for pension losses was frivolous, doesn't that immediately send off an alarm saying why would the Minister of Tourism be aware of the nature of the freedom of information request made to the Finance Department? Yet what the Minister of Finance has to say is that's fine. How ironic. Now keep in mind, and I think the Minister of Finance needs to be reminded of the former regime that he was part of, and how Nova Scotians and historians have passed judgment on that former regime and the leadership that was shown there and the respect for the Legislature and respect for the Rules of this House.

Now, Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance says that he thought it was frivolous, the freedom of information request on whether he had met with certain individuals. That's frivolous, he says, why should Nova Scotians know who I meet with? I shouldn't have to tell them, what are they fishing for? Yet it was specific individuals that were asked. It wasn't, who did you meet with over the last six months; it asked, have you met with these particular individuals? According to him - I'm not even sure what he's talking about, but I'm going by what he said - he says that's frivolous.

Well if that's frivolous, Mr. Speaker, why did we put a Lobbyists' Registration Act in this province? The government says we are open and accountable, we are putting the first Lobbyists' Registration Act in a province. So we said, okay, you are requiring lobbyists to register, let's go one step further, let's have ministers also register each month and indicate who they've met with. Because we are curious? No, it would be a method of cross-checking the Lobbyists' Registration Act. So if agent or Mr. X met with the Minister of Finance and didn't file, yet he is a lobbyist, yet the minister at the end of the month said I met with Mr. X, doesn't have to say why, he can just say I met with him, and Mr. X didn't register, there you have a means of checking. Your check and balance for that system. Yet what the Minister of Finance is saying, that being asked whether he met with certain individuals, he the Minister of Finance, he who has to make decisions about public policy, about the spending and investment of public money, he shouldn't have to give that information, he thinks it's frivolous.

Right there, Mr. Speaker, it shows you there are serious problems. As much as this government likes to put on its face and say we are open and accountable, just not buying it. I find it ironic that the Minister of Finance would like Nova Scotians to believe it's only the member for Richmond who is making these accusations and we're a great government, it's just him, he is the only one saying this. I invite the Minister of Finance and his colleagues to simply walk through the doors and go talk to the press outside and ask them whether they think this government has been great when it comes to freedom of information requests at giving information, doing so in a timely fashion, and that the fees imposed are adequate and appropriate?

[Page 3054]

Mr. Speaker, it is not I who nominated this government for the Canadian journalist award for - what is it - most secrecy or most secret government (Interruption) the code of silence award. Bunker mentality is what they said this government had when it came to releasing information. I didn't say that. These are journalists outside this Legislature who are making this statement. Oh, I agree with them, have no doubt. I wholeheartedly agree with them, I commend them for giving an award where it is so well deserved. So let us not be fooled by the Minister of Finance trying to claim this is just partisanship here, that this is just

the Liberal Party trying to paint the government in a light that it doesn't belong. Their actions have spoken for themselves. Nova Scotians have seen that this government has played around with the Freedom of Information Act. The Minister of Finance - how ironic. We rose here in this House the other day again, his own deputy told the Public Accounts Committee he would provide information on pension losses and on the state of the investments and those investment losses. That was almost a month ago. The Minister of Finance, or his deputy, still hasn't provided that information yet he tells us don't bother filing a freedom of information, just ask and I'll give you the information.

If that Minister of Finance stands by his own word and what he said today, he will make sure to table that information tomorrow - information that we asked for and that the deputy said he would provide. I would submit to you that we're not going to see that tomorrow. He's in no rush.

I think there has been adequate debate on this and at this point I would move second reading of Bill No. 39.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries.

HON. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, I certainly appreciate the opportunity to rise in my place and take part in this discussion about the bill. It's interesting this comes up as a recurring theme. In fact, this bill is really a resurrection of an issue that was settled quite some time ago by this government. In fact, in November 1999 we passed Bill No. 14 and we would have thought that would have adequately dealt with this issue, but it seems to be one of those recurring themes. I can remember the approach that we used when we were in Opposition with regard to FOIPOP and oftentimes it was used as little more than a fishing expedition. There's a great deal of cost associated with these undertakings. In fact, when I was the Minister of Economic Development, we had two people whose full-time occupation was dealing with FOIPOP requests. For a government, that's a tremendous cost.

Now, people do, of course, require access to information and we have proven to be an open and accountable government. In many instances, when the requests are made, they are processed without the need for a FOIPOP application to be processed. I think that when you're sitting in Opposition, there's a certain amount of cachet that comes with being able to say, we obtained this particular piece of information through a freedom of information request. Oftentimes when I've seen the documents after the fact when they're tabled here in

[Page 3055]

the House, you find that it's a relatively innocuous piece of correspondence that somehow has been steeped in some mystique because it came forward through a FOIPOP application.

As I said, this issue has been before this House many, many times. In 1993, the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act was passed and again in November, 1999 this government undertook to deal with the issue yet again. This government did in fact listen to the recommendations of the Jobb committee report that was filed in 1996 . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The time allotted for debate on Bill No. 39 has expired.

The honourable Leader in the House of the Liberal Party.

MR. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, that completes our business for today. Thank you.

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

MR. WILLIAM DOOKS: Mr. Speaker, I would ask for the unanimous support of the House to go back to Presenting Reports of Committee.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

HON. PETER CHRISTIE: 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 bills:

Bill No. 17 - Justice Administration Amendment (2003) Act.

Bill No. 32 - Farm Machinery Dealers and Vendors Act.

and the committee recommends these bills to the favourable consideration of the House, without amendment.

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

The honourable Deputy Government House Leader.

[Page 3056]

MR. WILLIAM DOOKS: Mr. Speaker, I move that the House do now rise to meet tomorrow at the hour of 12:00 noon to 10:00 p.m. After that we'll start off with the daily routine (Interruptions) During the hours, the daily routine, Committee of the Whole House on Bills, Public Bills for Third Reading and Private Members' Public Bills.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The House is adjourned.

[The subject for this evening's late debate is: "Therefore be it resolved that members of this House recognize the tremendous economic activity within the County of Pictou."]

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou East.

ECON. DEV. - PICTOU CO.: ACTIVITY - RECOGNIZE

MR. JAMES DEWOLFE: Mr. Speaker, I'm honoured to have the opportunity tonight to rise in my place to speak about the prosperity in my constituency of Pictou East. It's an opportunity to highlight the many initiatives underway, initiatives that are designated to create healthy, prosperous communities in every region of the province. We intend to make Nova Scotia the best place in Canada to live, work and raise a family by 2010. We will reach that goal. We will do it by tapping into the talents and creativity of Nova Scotians through our economic growth strategy.

[6:00 p.m.]

The latest employment report from Statistics Canada, released on May 9th, shows the total number of Nova Scotians employed for the month of April 2003 at 439,000. That's an increase of 2,700 jobs over the last month and 29,900 jobs since 1999. It's also the sixth time in 18 months that Nova Scotia has set a new record for jobs. These figures are supported by Statistics Canada. Nova Scotia has been sharing in the highest levels of economic activity

[Page 3057]

in the country. Our growth strategy has been responsible for investment of more than $40 million in municipal infrastructure. We have doubled our investment in our ferries, bridges, roads and highways. Regional development authorities have continued to grow investments and jobs in Nova Scotia in rural communities. Through Community Economic Development Investment Funds, $4 million has been made available for these investments in local businesses. Over 400 individual Nova Scotia investors have raised more than $2 million in this year alone.

The co-operative sector is also an important partner. Small business finance options specifically aimed at community development are about to be expanded through the credit union system. In providing access to credit and financing, we're keeping investment in Nova Scotia, giving small businesses a chance to create even more jobs. Simply put, we're giving communities the power to prosper. We know that small businesses account for 80 per cent of our economy. That's one of the reasons we are developing a community economic development policy.

Over the next several months, people in over 25 communities across the province will be asking about the challenges and opportunities they face in growing the economy. We want to create a community economic development policy that reflects the views of the people who live and work there, the people who know their community best. We want the people to think about how to integrate economic development with broader community development and social programs. We want to help build on the assets already in communities and ensure that Nova Scotians in every corner of the province can thrive.

Last week, the Premier kicked off a discussion in Truro that brought together social, cultural, business and government representatives to help outline a plan for prosperity. We are connecting Nova Scotia to the world through fully integrated telecommunications and digital connections. In fact, we're now a Canadian leader in community connections. That's what will keep small businesses growing and our community healthy. It is critical that we keep our eye on the opportunities for innovation in the industries of the future, along with those who have sustained us for many years.

We are welcoming new sectors and the jobs they bring, such as the IT jobs that have been opening in my area through Convergys. The Pictou County Connect project supports local jobs by making businesses and their employees increasingly ready for the knowledge economy. In partnership with the federal government, we manage the development of the province's CAP network, a network of hundreds of Internet access sites that can link businesses and markets or any knowledge base in the world. We continue to work with the private sector and educational institutions to create a cultural innovation. Nova Scotia Business Inc., has met with more than 500 businesses, providing advice on identifying new export opportunities and discovering new markets.

[Page 3058]

We've balanced two budgets, reduced taxes and made strategic investments in our workforce and infrastructure. In other words, we've created a climate for business of any size. We've made a great deal of progress, largely because we believe in the strength of our province and in our ability to be the best. And it's the best we will be. That's why our growth strategy is working. That's why it will continue to work for the long-term prosperity and self-sufficiency of Nova Scotians. It means that our young people won't have to leave our communities and our province to go to the wealthier provinces or the United States for opportunities they couldn't find at home, we are creating opportunities here in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, this has been a hard and sad fact for Nova Scotian families for decades, but now the cycle has been broken; the jobs will be in Nova Scotia. I was proud to be part of an announcement this Spring that meant a great deal to our young people; that is the expansion of the Nova Scotia Community College, an investment over the years of $123 million. At our Pictou campus alone, our government is investing $11.2 million and will be adding 364 seats to provide invaluable opportunities for our students - our future - it's just tremendous news. I was proud to be part of a government which finally provided tangible proof of our strong commitment to the Nova Scotia college system.

We have needed an expanded system to provide the training to support our citizens to take advantage of emerging economic opportunities. I was fascinated to learn that in the past five years the Nova Scotia Community College has modified 50 per cent of the 100 programs to match employer needs for skilled workers - that shows just how closely our college system is working alongside this province's employers. As a father and a grandfather, I know just how important it is to ensure that our young people have the educational opportunities that match those within the job markets so that we can keep our families together.

So this long-term injection of funds to the community college is definitely music to my ears. This initiative is thanks to top-rate campus principals like Mike Hill of our Pictou campus, back home, and Nova Scotia Community College President Ray Ivany, for their vision and faith in the community college system. I understood the importance of such investments to constituents in Pictou East, and I have worked hard to see those come through.

We are continuing to invest in other infrastructure like roads, links which are key to our economy's health, Mr. Speaker. In fact, in Pictou East, over $900,000 was spent through the RIM fund in the last two fiscal years, money that went directly into our roads and bridges. The opening of the rest area on Highway No. 104, near Westville, also is good economic news; it has created over 40 jobs. It was good news for all travellers and greatly supported by the tourist industry and truckers alike. With the improvements already made on Highway No. 104, and now with plans to twin Highway No. 104, our vital transportation routes and commuters on those routes are getting the lift they definitely need.

[Page 3059]

These really are good reasons to be optimistic, Mr. Speaker, and as I spoke in this House before, the people of Pictou County are working through an economic business summit to come up with more ideas to help improve our economy. Ours is a constituency where our history and our heritage is important, but our future is even more important.

I had the pleasure of being invited to the third Pictou County Business Summit this Spring, and I was very impressed with not only the individuals who have involved themselves in this process, but of the ideas and excitement they are generating. They looked at the government's action plan for Nova Scotia's economic growth - Opportunities for Prosperity - and challenged themselves to look for new solutions to grow our local economy.

I am very proud to represent the incredible people of Pictou East whose spirit and drive is second to none and, Mr. Speaker, I am also very proud to be part of a government which has served this province so well. Our course has taken the province in the right direction. We have made a difference, but there is still more work to be done. I look forward to this government having a second mandate so that we can continue with our plans for economic growth and prosperity for all Nova Scotians. With momentum on our side, we will forge ahead with your interests as our priority. We will target investments in key role sectors, common sense decision making and lower taxes for hardworking families to ensure that Pictou County remains an economic leader in Nova Scotia and indeed in Canada.

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank you for allowing me the opportunity to rise and speak tonight about the beautiful constituency of Pictou East. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Hants East.

MR. JOHN MACDONELL: Mr. Speaker, I would like to add my comments to the debate. I want to say that the honourable member for Pictou East paints a pretty optimistic picture. I'm thinking it must be just a pigment of his imagination. I want to say that there are a few things that have been happening recently that should cause that member and all the members from Pictou County to stop and take notice. I think the best indication of that was when all of the Tory members in the House met with the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board. The reason they met with the Chignecto-Central Regional School Board - well, there may have been many, but I know one of them - was because the board is cutting staff, and those cuts are going to impact Cumberland County and Pictou County.

Mr. Speaker, why would the board cut staff in Pictou County? Well, I'm going to tell you why the board would do that. The board is cutting staff in Pictou County because student numbers are dropping in Pictou County. Why are student numbers dropping in Pictou County? Because there are not as many young families staying or young people staying and having families in Pictou County. That, to me, would indicate that if this government has a strategy, which I don't believe they do, around economic development, it certainly isn't working in Pictou County.

[Page 3060]

The honourable member mentioned about young people staying in the province, well, they may stay in some parts of the province. I would say he could probably look and see that migration is probably heading toward the Halifax area, if it's not leaving the province. Actually there was a couple of young constituents of mine - I just happened to be in the right place at the right time, about a week and a half ago, the weekend before last and ran into them. The car was packed, they were heading for Alberta. The honourable member for Pictou East can take some solace in the fact that they weren't from Pictou County, they were actually from Hants East, from the Mount Uniacke area. But that is a fairly telling tale, I think, about some of the young people in this province, who are leaving to look for work.

Now, what are some of the other things that have happened in Pictou County? Well, the Sutherland-Harris Hospital has been stripped of many of its services under this administration, and that's something the people in Pictou County still feel. Roads, if the honourable member was able to get - I thought he said - $900,000 in RIM money in two years, I have to check and see what's been spent in Hants East in two years. That sure sounds like a lot of money, and if I could say we had that much spent in Hants East, I would be glad to say it.

The one thing about that RIM money that I do not like is it winds up in private hands, and some of those RIM jobs, as much as I'm glad to see them get done, quite often because of staff cuts in the Department of Transportation and Public Works, there is no one there to supervise these jobs. Quite often contractors come in, do the work and leave, and whether they're done correctly or incorrectly, there's no one there to observe that or supervise it. Then the department has to come back and do the remedial work to fix some of those jobs.

The honourable member was talking about the twinning of the highway, he didn't mention, and I'm sure it was just a slip on his part, the Alma Loop and the businesses that were on the old highway, that when the new highway was built that bypassed them, there was someone given a grant of $200,000, I think, to build a truck stop at Exit 21 (Interruption) Exit 20, I may be wrong, but there was nothing offered to those businesses, to help them, the ones that were going to be mostly impacted. These were entrepreneurs from Pictou who had invested some of their money and their sweat equity to develop businesses along that route.

[6:15 p.m.]

I'm assuming that one of the larger employers there would be Kimberly-Clark, it used to be Scott Paper. The honourable member never mentioned the impact of Kimberly-Clark on the economy which, as far as the mill and the jobs, would be significant, but he didn't include the fact that Kimberly-Clark has refused to buy roundwood from small private woodlot owners. They are only interested in buying chips, and they have been to court with woodlot organizations trying to establish what the contracts mean in terms of what wood actually is. Roundwood, to me, would seem to be wood, since, for a few hundred years that's

[Page 3061]

what people bought and sold in this province. So the government has not moved in any way to exert any pressure on Kimberly-Clark to abandon this notion of only buying chips.

I think the people of Pictou County are quite resilient, Mr. Speaker. I think they've done fairly well in spite of this government, but they certainly can't say that the people in Pictou County have been well served and have improved their status in this province because of this government.

Now one of the main things I would think of, when I think about Pictou County, is agriculture. The Agricultural College is putting up its tuition this coming year. I know there's a Pictou County Cattlemen's Association. Beef in this province, we only supply 14 per cent of our province's own needs, Mr. Speaker, and it's been calculated that if we supplied 100 per cent, or close, it would be worth about $80 million to the economy of this province. There has been no move by this government or the previous government to actually put a strategy in place that would address the concern that cattlemen in this province have, that they actually can't get the price that they need for their beef in order to be an incentive for them to produce more of it. If they could make money, they'd do it and the industry would expand. I intended to keep my comments as short as possible, Mr. Speaker, and with that, I will relinquish the floor to another member. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: I would like to thank the honourable members for taking part in the debate this evening. The House is adjourned until 12:00 noon tomorrow.

[The House rose at 6:18 p.m.]

[Page 3062]

NOTICES OF MOTION UNDER RULE 32(3)

RESOLUTION NO. 1533

By: Hon. Michael Baker (Transportation and Public Works)

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

Whereas on Saturday, May 17, 2003, the friends of Dr. David L. Abriel, MD, attended a celebration of his 50th birthday in Mahone Bay; and

Whereas Dr. Abriel is a dedicated member of the Mahone Bay medical community, where he has practised as a family physician for over 20 years; and

Whereas Dr. Abriel is also a respected member of the local musical group, Midlife Crisis, which has recorded an album and volunteered many hours to community projects;

Therefore be it resolved that the House of Assembly congratulates Dr. David L. Abriel on his 50th birthday and thank him for his contribution to his community.

RESOLUTION NO. 1534

By: Hon. Cecil Clarke (Economic Development)

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

Whereas the Canadian Association of Principals Distinguished Principal/Vice-Principal Award is presented annually, the recipient of the accolade this year is Jim Kavanaugh, Principal of Breton Education Centre in New Waterford; and

Whereas Mr. Kavanaugh taught senior high school for five years at Mount Carmel, then for 10 years at BEC before being promoted to vice-principal, a position he occupied for another 10 years; and

Whereas in 1989, he became principal of BEC, and has been actively involved in many school initiatives including a breakfast program, youth health centre, adult day school, preschool classes, a community centre, a wellness centre and various summer grant programs;

[Page 3063]

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Jim Kavanaugh on the receipt of the Canadian Association of Principals Distinguished Principal/Vice-Principal Award and wish him continued success in his future endeavours.

RESOLUTION NO. 1535

By: Hon. Cecil Clarke (Economic Development)

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

Whereas the Canadian Centre for Ecumenism annually recognizes Christians who are promoting ecumenism locally, nationally and internationally; and

Whereas Beaver Brook's Doris McCallum was honoured with the 2002 Canadian Ecumenical Leadership Award for her dedication to bringing together all churches, as well as for her contribution to bring awareness to the area of social justice; and

Whereas nominated by the Atlantic Ecumenical Council, Ms. McCallum was thrilled to be the recipient of the sizeable honour, and credits her success to something that comes naturally to her;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Doris McCallum on receiving the 2002 Canadian Ecumenical Leadership Award, and thank her for the dedication she shows in uniting all churches together.

RESOLUTION NO. 1536

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 Irwin D. Simon is one of four outstanding citizens receiving one of the University College of Cape Breton honorary Doctor of Laws, honoris causa at their Spring Convocation; and

Whereas Mr. Simon, originally from Glace Bay, is founder, Chairman, President and CEO of the Hain Celestial Group, marketing natural and specialty snack foods, his company's annual sales nearing $600 million; and

[Page 3064]

Whereas named Ernst & Young Long Island Entrepreneur of the Year in 1997, he was then elevated to one of the top entrepreneurs in the United States according to Business Week Magazine;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Irwin D. Simon on the receipt of the honorary Doctor of Laws he has received from the University College of Cape Breton.

RESOLUTION NO. 1537

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 Jack Yazer is one of four outstanding citizens receiving one of the University College of Cape Breton honorary Doctor of Laws, honoris causa at their Spring Convocation; and

Whereas after serving in WW II, Mr. Yazer managed Yazer Bros. Clothing Store, and also was the originator of what became popularized as the Graduated Licencing Program, which Nova Scotia was the first to adopt; and

Whereas he is also involved in the Youth Speaks Up Program which is directed at Grade 6 students to encourage them to say no to alcohol, drugs, tobacco and other peer pressure-related issues;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Jack Yazer on the receipt of the honorary Doctor of Laws he has received from the University College of Cape Breton.

RESOLUTION NO. 1538

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 Rev. Paul Abbass is one of four outstanding citizens receiving one of the University College of Cape Breton honorary Doctor of Laws, honoris causa at their Spring Convocation; and

[Page 3065]

Whereas Rev. Abbass first attended the University of King's College to obtain a Bachelor of Arts, from which he moved on to St. Paul's University for his Bachelor of Theology, then was ordained to the Roman Catholic priesthood in 1979; and

Whereas he worked with the Extension Department at St. F.X. University as well as the Toronto District Catholic School Board before being appointed chaplain at UCCB in 1994;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Rev. Paul Abbass on the receipt of the honorary Doctor of Laws he has received from the University College of Cape Breton.

RESOLUTION NO. 1539

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 since 1977, through the Labatt People in Action program, Labatt has funded hundreds of charities, hired more than 3,800 students and committed millions of dollars towards LPIA; and

Whereas LPIA enables local charities to hire an enthusiastic student to assist them over the summer months at no cost to the organization and also helps students to develop important work skills and community involvement; and

Whereas LPIA pays the students' wages over the course of the work term, with the local charity responsible for setting out the job parameters and overseeing the project experience;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House applaud the work of the Labatt People In Action program for its dedication to students as well as to local charities, and wish them continued success for the program in years to come.

RESOLUTION NO. 1540

By: Hon. Ernest Fage (Energy)

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

[Page 3066]

Whereas budding fashion designers in Nova Scotia don't have the options that are presented to those in larger cities, and Amherst's Matt Gallagher realized this and took it upon himself to find an internship in the fashion capital of the U.S.A., New York; and

Whereas Kal Ruttenstein, fashion director for Bloomingdale's for over 25 years, was so impressed by the sample work Mr. Gallagher sent to him, he offered him an internship for the month of August, during which time he will work with the fashion guru; and

Whereas Mr. Gallagher not only had an impact on the Bloomingdale's buyer, but also the revered Parsons School of Design for Fashion and Arts, who offered the 16-year-old a $1,500 U.S. scholarship to study at the institution in July;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House congratulate Matt Gallagher on both his internship this summer with Kal Ruttenstein, and for gaining entry into the Parsons School of Design for Fashion and Arts, and wish him success as he pursues his dreams in New York.

RESOLUTION NO. 1541

By: Mr. Jon Carey (Kings West)

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

Whereas customers have been stopping at Margaret Rafuse's store in East Dalhousie, Kings County, for the past 53 years; and

Whereas at 85 years of age, Margaret believes her small store and two gas pumps in the dooryard of her 150-year-old residence, is an old-fashioned reminder of what community life is all about; and

Whereas Margaret's gasoline pumps are the only place to purchase gasoline when travelling between Morristown, Kings County, and New Germany, Lunenburg County;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs commend Margaret Rafuse for her remarkable work ethic at 85 years of age, and wish her continued success in her celebration of a truly rural way of life.

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RESOLUTION NO. 1542

By: Mr. Jon Carey (Kings West)

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

Whereas the new arena in Berwick is a 100 per cent community-driven initiative; and

Whereas before any building can be started, suitable land must be acquired to construct the facility on; and

Whereas Bill and Phil Easson of Eassons Transport in Berwick assured community leaders that land was available for the new Apple Dome by donating 15 acres adjacent to their trucking business;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs in this House of Assembly extend warm wishes to Bill and Phil Easson from Eassons Transport in Berwick for their strong community spirit and wish all volunteers every success as they continue to move forward with this exciting project.

RESOLUTION NO. 1543

By: Mr. Jon Carey (Kings West)

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

Whereas Cameron Williams of Berwick earned honourable mention at last week's Canada-wide Science Fair for high school students in Calgary for his invention of a remote-controlled robotic destroyer; and

Whereas Cameron earned his right to go to Calgary by winning the Valley region science fair at Kingstec in April; and

Whereas in creating his remote-controlled science invention, Cameron spent a total of $3,000 on parts and supplies this past winter;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs applaud Cameron Williams for his impressive showing in Calgary, while also winning a gold medal in the engineering category of the Valley science fair, an award from the Nova Scotia Community College, and for being voted as the most popular project at the Valley science fair.

[Page 3068]

RESOLUTION NO. 1544

By: Mr. Jon Carey (Kings West)

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

Whereas Mark Robinson of West Kings District High School hockey team was recently named co-winner of the John MacAskill Player of the Year Award in the Valley High School Hockey League; and

Whereas Mark played a pivotal role in leading his team to the league championship, placing second in team scoring with a total of 21 points, on 12 goals and nine assists; and

Whereas goaltender Chris Hirtle also played an integral role in the success of West Kings as he had the league's best goals against average, a sparkling 1.45;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this Legislature commend Mark, Chris and all members of the West Kings District High School hockey team for their success this past fall and winter, and wish them many more great moments in the years to come.

RESOLUTION NO. 1545

By: Mr. Brooke Taylor (Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley)

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

Whereas the Clifton Agricultural District encompasses the communities of Green Oak, Princeport, Beaver Brook, Old Barns and Lower Truro; and

Whereas the Clifton Agricultural District is home to 18 dairy farms as well as a greenhouse operation, an egg production facility, as well as some limited beef production; and

Whereas the Clifton Agricultural District and the 18 dairy farms play a significant role in making Colchester County the leader in the production of dairy cattle in Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that MLAs applaud the hard work of the farmers of the Clifton Agricultural District whose efforts significantly enhance the strong agricultural industry of Nova Scotia.

[Page 3069]

RESOLUTION NO. 1546

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 Central Valley Chamber of Commerce is made up of businesses stretching from Aylesford to Lawrencetown which together employ approximately 4,000 people; and

Whereas in the past three years, 36 of these businesses have expanded, reflecting the growth and greater prosperity of the province and region; and

Whereas the Central Valley Chamber of Commerce has had a busy year and is now coordinating an economic summit which will bring together business groups from across the area this June;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House commend the Central Valley Chamber of Commerce for the work it does and for coordinating this economic summit - an event which will encourage business development and growth even further in the Central Valley area.

RESOLUTION NO. 1547

By: Hon. James Muir (Justice)

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

Whereas Rick Kaupp received a 2002 Merit Award at the Truro Sport Heritage Society 19th Annual Sports Awards Dinner; and

Whereas Rick Kaupp could have played professional football in the CFL, but instead chose to devote his effort to releasing talent in young athletes - he was part of the CEC football excellence for over a decade, never missing a play-off and winning seven titles as well as coaching his son to all-star excellence; and

Whereas in addition to his coaching success, Rick Kaupp was a legend at CEC for his dependability and willingness to help others;

[Page 3070]

Therefore be it resolved that all members congratulate Rick Kaupp, posthumously, on being presented with a 2002 Merit Award by the Truro Sport Heritage Society for being a member of the community who made an outstanding contribution to sport over a number of years.

RESOLUTION NO. 1548

By: Hon. James Muir (Justice)

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

Whereas Ron Conrad was added to the Honour Roll at the Truro Sports Heritage Society 19th Annual Sports Awards Dinner for his contribution to the sport of hockey; and

Whereas Ron Conrad had a long and successful career as a player at the senior and intermediate levels, successfully coached at virtually all levels, and was selected as Coach of the Year in the Metro Valley Junior Hockey League in 1975-76 when his Bearcats won the Maritime title; and

Whereas he served 10 years on the executive of the Nova Scotia Hockey Association and two years on the Board of Directors of the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association and was awarded the 25th Anniversary Pin by the Nova Scotia Hockey Association in 1996;

Therefore be it resolved that all members congratulate Ron Conrad for being added to the Truro Sports Heritage Society's Honour Roll, and thank him for his many contributions to the sport of hockey.

RESOLUTION NO. 1549

By: Hon. James Muir (Justice)

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

Whereas Donnie Dennis of Truro was added to the Honour Roll at the Truro Sports Heritage Society at the 2003 Sports Awards Dinner; and

Whereas Donnie Dennis was one of the first players from Truro to play major junior hockey in Quebec when he was recruited by Chicoutimi; and

Whereas Donnie Dennis was one of Nova Scotia's best senior hockey players in the 1960s and also starred in baseball in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s;

[Page 3071]

Therefore be it resolved that all members congratulate Donnie Dennis on being named to the Honor Roll of the Truro Sport Heritage Society and, as well, thank him for the time and talent he gave to develop the skills of young athletes.

RESOLUTION NO. 1550

By: Hon. Michael Baker (Transportation and Public Works)

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

Whereas last year, Chris Meisner from Lunenburg, Nova Scotia, set a Canadian Junior shot put record and finished 11th at the World Junior Championships; and

Whereas Sport Canada provides funding for eight developmental track and field athletes; and

Whereas Chris Meisner has been awarded one of the eight Athletics Canada Development Cards, which will pay his tuition and books, and provide him with a monthly stipend;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of the House of Assembly congratulate Chris Meisner on his athletic accomplishments and on being awarded an Athletics Canada Development Card, and wish him continued success in his athletic career.

RESOLUTION NO. 1551

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Jeremy Black of Oxford Regional High School did participate in the NSSAF district track and field meet in Oxford on May 12 and 13, 2003; and

Whereas Jeremy did place 4th in the junior boys 200-metre run; and

Whereas Jeremy therefore earned the position to move on to the regional meet being hosted by Oxford later in May;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Jeremy Black on this outstanding achievement, and wish him continued success in the future.

[Page 3072]

RESOLUTION NO. 1552

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Megan Rector of Oxford Regional High School did participate in the NSSAF district track and field meet in Oxford on May 12 and 13, 2003; and

Whereas Megan did place 1st in the senior girls javelin throwing competition and first in discus; and

Whereas Megan therefore earned the position to move on to the regional meet being hosted by Oxford later in May;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Megan Rector on this outstanding achievement, and wish her continued success in the future.

RESOLUTION NO. 1553

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Nick Purdy of Oxford Regional High School did participate in the NSSAF district track and field meet in Oxford on May 12 and May 13, 2003; and

Whereas Nick did place 1st in the intermediate javelin throwing competition and 2nd in discus; and

Whereas Nick therefore earned the position to move on to the regional meet being hosted by Oxford later in May;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Nick Purdy on this outstanding achievement and wish him continued success in the future.

[Page 3073]

RESOLUTION NO. 1554

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Brian Purcell of Oxford Regional High School did participate in the NSSAF district track and field meet in Oxford on May 12 and May 13, 2003; and

Whereas Brian did place 3rd in the junior boys discus; and

Whereas Brian therefore earned the position to move on to the regional meet being hosted by Oxford later in May;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Brian Purcell on this outstanding achievement and wish him continued success in the future.

RESOLUTION NO. 1555

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Michelle Myers of Oxford Regional High School did participate in the NSSAF district track and field meet in Oxford on May 12 and May 13, 2003; and

Whereas Michelle did place 4th in the intermediate girls javelin throwing competition; and

Whereas Michelle therefore earned the position to move on to the regional meet being hosted by Oxford later in May;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Michelle Myers on this outstanding achievement and wish her continued success in the future.

RESOLUTION NO. 1556

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

[Page 3074]

Whereas J.R. Murray of Oxford Regional High School did participate in the NSSAF district track and field meet in Oxford on May 12 and May 13, 2003; and

Whereas J.R. did place 5th in the junior boys 1500-metre run and 2nd in the 300-metre; and

Whereas J.R. therefore earned the position to move on to the regional meet being hosted by Oxford later in May;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate J.R. Murray on this outstanding achievement and wish him continued success in the future.

RESOLUTION NO. 1557

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Samantha Moore of Oxford Regional High School did participate in the NSSAF district track and field meet in Oxford on May 12 and May 13, 2003; and

Whereas Samantha did place 4th in the junior girls discus; and

Whereas Samantha therefore earned the position to move on to the regional meet being hosted by Oxford later in May;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Samantha Moore on this outstanding achievement and wish her continued success in the future.

RESOLUTION NO. 1558

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Bobby MacLean of Oxford Regional High School did participate in the NSSAF district track and field meet in Oxford on May 12 and May 13, 2003; and

Whereas Bobby did place 4th in the senior boys javelin throwing competition; and

[Page 3075]

Whereas Bobby therefore earned the position to move on to the regional meet being hosted by Oxford later in May;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Bobby MacLean on this outstanding achievement and wish him continued success in the future.

RESOLUTION NO. 1559

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Virginia King of Oxford Regional High School did participate in the NSSAF district track and field meet in Oxford on May 12 and May 13, 2003; and

Whereas Virginia did place 2nd in the junior girls 1,500-metre run and 2nd in the 3,000-metre; and

Whereas Virginia therefore earned the position to move on to the regional meet being hosted by Oxford later in May;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Virginia King on this outstanding achievement and we wish her continued success in the future.

RESOLUTION NO. 1560

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas James Hoffman of Oxford Regional High School did participate in the NSSAF district track and field meet in Oxford on May 12 and May 13, 2003; and

Whereas James did place 2nd in the senior boys 5,000-metre run; and

Whereas James therefore earned the position to move on to the regional meet being hosted by Oxford later in May;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate James Hoffman on this outstanding achievement and wish him continued success in the future.

[Page 3076]

RESOLUTION NO. 1561

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Andrea Carter of Oxford Regional High School did participate in the NSSAF district track and field meet in Oxford on May 12 and May 13, 2003; and

Whereas Andrea did place 5th in the intermediate girls javelin throwing competition; and

Whereas Andrea therefore earned the position to move on to the regional meet being hosted by Oxford later in May;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Andrea Carter on this outstanding achievement and wish her continued success in the future.

RESOLUTION NO. 1562

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

Whereas Bruce Blades of Oxford Regional High School did participate in the NSSAF district track and field meet in Oxford on May 12 and May 13, 2003; and

Whereas Bruce did place 2nd in the senior boys discus; and

Whereas Bruce therefore earned the position to move on to the regional meet being hosted by Oxford later in May;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Bruce Blades on this outstanding achievement and wish him continued success in the future.

RESOLUTION NO. 1563

By: Hon. Murray Scott (Speaker)

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

[Page 3077]

Whereas Katelyn Ripley of Oxford Regional High School did participate in the NSSAF district track and field meet in Oxford on May 12 and May 13, 2003; and

Whereas Katelyn did place 1st in the junior girls 200-metre run; and

Whereas Katelyn therefore earned the position to move on to the regional meet being hosted by Oxford later in May;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Katelyn Ripley on this outstanding achievement and wish her continued success in the future.