Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

Les travaux de la Chambre ont repris le
21 septembre 2017

Hansard -- Wed., June 10, 1998

First Session

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 10, 1998

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 563, Agric. - 4-H Council (Can.): Joy Palmer -
Life Member Congrats., Hon. E. Lorraine 1107
Vote - Affirmative 1108
Res. 564, Justice - Safe Graduation: Communities - Applaud,
Hon. J. Smith 1108
Vote - Affirmative 1109
Res. 565, Nat. Res. - Sable Gas: Sydney Eng. Small Job Incs. -
Success Congrats., The Premier 1109
Vote - Affirmative 1110
Res. 566, Educ. - Skills Competition (Vancouver): Students Success -
Congrats., Hon. R. Harrison 1110
Vote - Affirmative 1111
Res. 567, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Hfx. Internat. Airport: Transfer -
Commun. Campaign Support, The Premier 1111
Vote - Affirmative 1111
Res. 568, Fish. - Sportfishing Weekend: Organizers - Congrats.,
Hon. K. Colwell 1111
Vote - Affirmative 1112
Res. 569, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Drivers: Construction Areas -
Speed Reduce, Hon. C. Huskilson 1113
Vote - Affirmative 1113
Res. 570, Educ. - Teaching Excellence (PM Award 1997): Winners -
Congrats., Hon. R. Harrison 1113
Vote - Affirmative 1114
Res. 571, Bus. & Cons. Serv. - Operation Air Brake: Cooperation -
Applaud, Hon. K. Colwell 1114
Vote - Affirmative 1115
Res. 572, Health: Spina Bifida Month (Can.) - Recognize, Hon. J. Smith 1115
Vote - Affirmative 1116
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 573, Educ. - P3: Leases - Aud. Gen. Opinion Give, Mr. H. Epstein 1116
Res. 574, Health - Pharmacare Prog.: Initiatives (PC) - Adopt,
Dr. J. Hamm 1117
Res. 575, Davis Day - Miners: Working Conditions - Safety Ensure,
Mr. R. Chisholm 1119
Vote - Affirmative 1119
Res. 576, Health - Pharmacare Prog.: Premium-Based - Abandon,
Mr. J. Leefe 1119
Res. 577, Gov't. (N.S.) - Muns.: Downloading - Condemn,
Mr. F. Corbett 1120
Res. 578, Culture - Rankins: CD (7th) - Congrats.,
Mr. Charles MacDonald 1120
Vote - Affirmative 1121
Res. 579, C.B. Nova MLA - Arsenic (Whitney Pier):
Info. (Environ. Min.) - Provide, Mr. J. DeWolfe 1121
Res. 580, Health - Hepatitis C: Comments (PM [Can.]) -
Reconsideration Urge, Mr. J. Holm 1122
Res. 581, Sysco - Coke Ovens Site: Remediation Prog. - Support,
Mr. P. MacEwan 1122
Res. 582, Health - Dept. (Admin.): M. Gagne-Koch -
Co-Administrator Appoint, Dr. H. Bitter-Suermann 1123
Res. 583, Nat. Res. - Sable Gas: Eastern Shore - Positivity Recognize,
Hon. K. Colwell 1124
Vote - Affirmative 1125
Res. 584, Educ. - CBRM: Downloading - Experts Appoint, Mr. B. Taylor 1125
Res. 585, Educ. - Home Support Workers: Conditions - Improve,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 1126
Res. 586, Fin. - Public Serv. Sup'n. Fund: Mgt. - Commend,
Mr. G. Fogarty 1126
Res. 587, Davis Day: Coal Miners - Remember, Mr. M. Scott 1127
Vote - Affirmative 1127
Res. 588, Educ. - Marie Crimp (Wreck Cove): Foreign Study Award -
Congrats., Hon. K. MacAskill 1128
Vote - Affirmative 1128
Res. 589, RCL - Poster Contest: Pamela Bartlett - Success Congrats.,
The Premier 1128
Vote - Affirmative 1129
Res. 590, Educ. - Camb. Elem. School: Environ. Achievements -
Congrats., Hon. R. Harrison 1129
Vote - Affirmative 1130
Res. 591, Commun. Serv. - Antigonish Commun. Food Bank:
Volunteers - Commend, Mr. H. Fraser 1131
Vote - Affirmative 1131
Res. 592, Educ. - Student Entrepreneur (Atl. Can.): Jonathan Moules
(Jordan Ferry) - Congrats., Hon. C. Huskilson 1131
Vote - Affirmative 1132
Res. 593, Health: Cops for Cancer (HRM) - Congrats., Hon. K. Colwell 1132
Vote - Affirmative 1133
Res. 594, Culture: Celtic Colours Internat. Festival (C.B.) - Attend,
Hon. K. MacAskill 1133
Vote - Affirmative 1134
Res. 595, NDP (N.S.) - Budget: Opposition - Unjust, Mr. P. MacEwan 1134
Res. 596, Kinsmen & Kinette Clubs (Can.) - Can. Day Prog.:
Vern & Audrey Grantham (Bedford) - Congrats., Hon. F. Cosman 1134
Vote - Affirmative 1135
Res. 597, Health - Surgeons (QE II-Drs. Legare, Baskett & Arora):
Success - Congrats., Mr. G. Fogarty 1135
Vote - Affirmative 1136
Res. 598, NDP (N.S.) - Agenda: Anti-Business - Reveal, Mr. M. Samson 1136
Res. 599, NDP (N.S.) - Promises: Bizarre - Condemn, Mr. H. Fraser 1136
Res. 600, Commun. Serv./Environ. - Clean-Up: Efforts - Support,
Hon. F. Cosman 1137
Vote - Affirmative 1138
Res. 601, Fin. - Budget (1998-99): Positivity - MLAs Communicate,
Hon. D. Downe 1138
Res. 602, Fin. - NSTPP: Improvements - Co-Partners Applaud,
Mr. L. Montgomery 1138
Res. 603, NDP (N.S.): Gov't. Future - Ill-Equipped, Mr. M. Samson 1139
Res. 604, Lebanese Commun.: Contributions - Praise,
Hon. Manning MacDonald 1140
Vote - Affirmative 1140
Res. 605, Sports - Swimming: Dart. Crusaders - Success Congrats.,
Hon. J. Smith 1140
Vote - Affirmative 1141
Res. 606, Sports - Bowling: Nathan LeBlanc (Digby Co.) -
Success Congrats., Hon. W. Gaudet 1141
Vote - Affirmative 1142
Res. 607, NDP (N.S.) - Health Care (C.B.): Achievements - Realize,
Hon. Manning MacDonald 1142
Res. 608, Health - Care: System - Efforts Acknowledge,
Mr. L. Montgomery 1143
Res. 609, NDP Leader - Integrity: Absence - Condemn,
Hon. R. MacKinnon 1143
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 105, Educ. - P3: Options - All-Party Discussion, Mr. R. Chisholm 1145
No. 106, Health: Pharmacare Prog. - Commitment, Dr. J. Hamm 1147
No. 107, Health - Pharmacare Prog.: Premiums - Unchanged,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 1148
No. 108, Fin. - HST: Heating Oil - Commitment Honour, Dr. J. Hamm 1149
No. 109, Health - Hepatitis C: Compensation Package -
Comments (PM [Can.]), Mr. R. Chisholm 1150
No. 110, Educ. - P3: Leases - Aud. Gen. Review, Mr. E. Fage 1152
No. 111, Fin. - HST: Seniors - Relief, Mr. H. Epstein 1153
No. 112, Educ.: Career Acad. of Aviation - Funding Freeze,
Ms. E. O'Connell 1154
No. 113, Transport. & Pub. Wks.: Hfx. Internat. Airport - Privatization,
Mr. B. Taylor 1155
No. 114, Health - Home Care: Crisis - Inaction, Ms. Maureen MacDonald 1157
No. 115, Lbr. - Metro Transit: Negotiations - Min. Action, Mr. M. Baker 1158
No. 116, Nat. Res. - Nat. Gas: Laterals (Hfx.) - Size Increase,
Mr. J. Holm 1159
No. 117, Nat. Res. - Sable Gas: Share (N.S.) - Guarantee,
Mr. G. Archibald 1161
No. 118, Lbr. - Health & Safety: Inspectors - Hiring, Mr. F. Corbett 1162
No. 119, Health: Hepatitis C - Comments (PM [Can.]), Mr. J. Leefe 1164
No. 120, Econ. Dev. & Tourism - Mentor Networks: Investment -
Further, Mr. D. Dexter 1165
No. 121, Commun. Serv. - Disabled Persons: Shelter Allowance -
Change (1994), Mr. J. Pye 1166
No. 122, Health - Kidney Dialysis: Cumb. Co. - Travel, Mr. M. Scott 1167
No. 123, Housing & Mun. Affs.: Social Housing - Initiatives,
Ms. R. Godin 1169
No. 124, Health - Arsenic: Absorption - Methods, Mr. J. DeWolfe 1170
No. 125, Fish. - Enterprise Allocation Agreement (DFO): Scallops -
Compensation, Mr. John Deveau 1171
No. 126, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Rural Roads: Plan - Features,
Dr. H. Bitter-Suermann 1172
No. 127, Nat. Res. - Barrett Lumber: Allocation - Promise,
Mr. C. Parker 1173
OPPOSITION MEMBERS' BUSINESS:
PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 8, Provincial Finance Act 1174
Dr. J. Hamm 1174
Mr. H. Epstein 1176
Hon. D. Downe 1178
Mr. R. Chisholm 1179
Vote - Affirmative 1179
No. 7, Crown Attorneys Terms and Conditions of Employment Act 1180
Mr. Kevin Deveaux 1180
Hon. J. Smith 1183
Hon. W. Gaudet 1187
Mr. M. Scott 1188
Mr. R. Chisholm 1190
Mr. M. Samson 1193
Mr. P. MacEwan 1195
Mr. R. Harrison 1197
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Sysco - Coke Ovens Site: Remediation - Support:
Mr. P. MacEwan 1198
Ms. Helen MacDonald 1201
Mr. J. DeWolfe 1203
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Thur., June 10th at 12:00 p.m. 1205

[Page 1107]

HALIFAX, WEDNESDAY, JUNE 10, 1998

Fifty-seventh General Assembly

First Session

2:00 P.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Ronald Russell

DEPUTY SPEAKER

Mr. Donald Chard

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

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Agriculture.

RESOLUTION NO. 563

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

1107

[Page 1108]

Whereas Joy Palmer from Hants County has been a dedicated 4-H leader of the Three Cornered 4-H Club for over 18 years along with being actively involved in other agricultural organizations; and

Whereas Ms. Palmer has been instrumental in working with 4-H'ers, participating locally in 4-H as well as the Royal Winter Fair so that members learn to be the best they can be; and

Whereas the Canadian 4-H Council, the national organization of 4-H, welcomed Joy Palmer as an honorary life member for being a true leader in both name and action;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize Joy Palmer for her outstanding contribution in developing 4-H citizens and congratulate her on receiving the prestigious honorary lifetime membership to the Canadian 4-H Council.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Health.

RESOLUTION NO. 564

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

Whereas since 1984, Safe Graduation has provided many young Nova Scotians with safe, alcohol and drug-free graduation celebrations; and

Whereas the overwhelming public support of this program has resulted in a greater awareness and acceptance of the Safe Graduation celebrations as an alternative to the use of drugs and alcohol that can lead to tragedy this time of year; and

[Page 1109]

Whereas high schools in Nova Scotia have received support from the RCMP, municipal police forces, the Nova Scotia Liquor Commission, Drug Dependency Commission, Health and Welfare Canada, MADD Canada and many community organizations and businesses;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House applaud the efforts of our communities to support our youth as they celebrate their graduation drug free by preventing tragedy and taking responsibility for their actions.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Premier.

RESOLUTION NO. 565

HON. RUSSELL MACLELLAN, Q.C. (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, I hereby give notice that on a future day I shall move the adoption of the following resolution:

Whereas the Sable gas project will inject millions of dollars into the Nova Scotian economy and become the catalyst for future investment and growth; and

Whereas Sydney Engineering Small Jobs Inc. has 24 tradespeople working around the clock to complete a refit of a drilling barge that will go into service on the Terra Nova oil megaproject off western Newfoundland; and

Whereas the tradespeople built an 18 ton drill bit protection frame, a 25 ton dredge pump tank and a 15 ton discharge hose buoy for the barge, all completed at the company's site at Sydport;

Therefore be it resolved that this House extend to Sydney Engineering Small Jobs Inc., their management and staff, sincere congratulations on the successful bid on a major tender related to the oil and gas activity off the Atlantic Coast, the first successful tender of this size by a company in industrial Cape Breton.

[Page 1110]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice and passage without debate.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Education.

RESOLUTION NO. 566

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

Whereas 15 students and apprentices represented Nova Scotia at the recent Skills Competition in Vancouver, in such areas as plumbing, hairdressing, carpentry, mechanical design, refrigeration, baking, welding, and culinary arts; and

Whereas the event was an excellent opportunity for the students to measure their skills in selected trades and technologies against more than 1,000 finalists from across the country; and

Whereas three Nova Scotians: Patrick Doucette of Yarmouth, Rebecca Park of Halifax, and Dana McCarthy of Barrington were each awarded bronze medals in the Olympic-style competition;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House congratulate the efforts of all of our representatives for displaying to the rest of Canada the tremendous level of talent we have here in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 1111]

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Premier.

RESOLUTION NO. 567

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

Whereas Halifax International Airport is the hub of Atlantic Canada's air transport system, generating $1.3 billion for the local economy and employing 9,500 Nova Scotians; and

Whereas Halifax International Airport is the last major airport in Canada to be transferred to the community under the National Airport Policy; and

Whereas Halifax International Airport has experienced the most traffic growth of any airport in Canada during the 1980's and early 1990's, yet it is the only major airport not to be modernized by the federal government prior to transfer;

Therefore be it resolved that the Nova Scotia Legislature support the community's campaign for fairness in the transfer of Halifax International Airport to the local community.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice and passage without debate.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

RESOLUTION NO. 568

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

[Page 1112]

Whereas this past weekend thousands of Nova Scotians participated in the 4th Annual Sportfishing Weekend, sponsored by the Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture and the Nova Scotia Wildlife Association; and

Whereas 20 official events, including several fishing derbys, were held across the province attracting sponsorship from local businesses and not-for-profit organizations like Big Brothers and Big Sisters; and

Whereas sportfishing is an $82 million a year annual industry involving 60,000 recreational license holders in Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the organizers of the 4th Annual Fishing Weekend around the province and recognize the important contribution they have made to promoting sportfishing in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Pictou East on an introduction.

MR. JAMES DEWOLFE: Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to introduce the Grade 12 law class from Westville High School and I would direct your attention to the west gallery. The class has been touring our museums and the waterfront today and finishing up with a visit to historic Province House. I would ask you to join me in welcoming them and their teachers, Bruce Moore and Paul Martin. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham on an introduction.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the House to extend a welcome to the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union Home Support Workers' Council in the Speaker's Gallery, representing approximately 700 home support workers who are here today to call for government action on the severe shortage of home support workers. They are Ruth Meisner, President of the Council; Linda MacKinnon from

[Page 1113]

the Central Region; Joan Morrison from Annapolis County; Ruth Corbett from Sydney; and Patricia Sabean from Digby County. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Transportation and Public Works.

RESOLUTION NO. 569

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

Whereas road construction season is well underway in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas the men and women employed doing road work in Nova Scotia are all required to be properly safety certified to perform traffic control and construction activities; and

Whereas the future safety of these workers and motorists alike depends on travellers slowing down when approaching and driving through construction areas;

Therefore be it resolved that this House unanimously ask the travelling public to reduce their speed when approaching road and highway construction areas and take direction from the traffic control personnel on site.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Education.

RESOLUTION NO. 570

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

[Page 1114]

Whereas three Nova Scotia teachers are recipients of the 1997 Prime Minister's Awards for Teaching Excellence, recognizing teachers who have best prepared their students for the challenges of our changing society; and

Whereas Janice Farrell and Stephanie Krszwda of Colby-St. Joseph Complex in Sydney and Diane Racette of Oxford School in Halifax, have each taken time to help their students develop hands-on skills to meet the challenges of the future; and

Whereas these three teachers were recognized out of nearly 300 submissions for the award;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House of Assembly congratulate the efforts of these caring and committed teachers, as they are an inspiration to their students and to educators across this country.

[2:15 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Business and Consumer Services.

RESOLUTION NO. 571

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

Whereas on May 13th, mechanical inspectors of the Department of Business and Consumer Services held a 24 hour check of air brakes on commercial vehicles; and

Whereas the objective of Operation Air Brake was to promote, among drivers and commercial vehicle owners, the importance of brakes to truck safety; and

[Page 1115]

Whereas the majority of truckers cooperated fully and appreciated this initiative, as it was targetted at making their vehicles and our highways safer;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House applaud the efforts of everyone involved in the trucking industry, including the mechanical inspectors of Business and Consumer Services, to make our highways safer for us all.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Health.

RESOLUTION NO. 572

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

Whereas June is National Spina Bifida Month, a disabling condition with no known cause or cure; and

Whereas spina bifida is Canada's most common disabling birth defect, affecting 1 in every 750 babies born in Canada; and

Whereas the Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus Association of Nova Scotia is providing invaluable support to Nova Scotians affected by spina bifida through personal support, research, advocacy, and awareness programs;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize June as National Spina Bifida Month and commend the Spina Bifida and Hydrocephalus Association of Nova Scotia for their ongoing commitment to improve the quality of life of all individuals with spina bifida and their families.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver of notice.

[Page 1116]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Natural Resources.

HON. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, I would like to introduce to you and to all members of the House a councillor from my great constituency of Victoria. I would ask Mr. Sampson to please rise and receive the warm welcome of all members of our House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Premier.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to introduce in the same gallery as well, Mr. James Connolly, who is the Commissioner for the Department of Telecommunications and Energy for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and I would ask he stand and be recognized. (Applause)

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

RESOLUTION NO. 573

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

Whereas the issue of whether P3 leases for school construction are to be regarded under generally accepted accounting principles as capital or operating leases is a crucial matter for determining whether the 1997-98 and 1998-99 budgets are in surplus or in deficit; and

Whereas this matter can be determined by the Auditor General forthwith, rather than waiting for his next annual report in February 1999;

[Page 1117]

Therefore be it resolved that this House request the Auditor General to give his opinion on the proper method of accounting for P3 leases in a special report to be tabled within one month.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 574

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

Whereas in 1995 this Liberal Government announced with great fanfare changes to the Seniors' Pharmacare Program it claimed would be a win-win situation for seniors and taxpayers; and

Whereas with almost every other Liberal health form initiative changes to the Pharmacare Program have not come within a country-mile of government's rosy predictions; and

Whereas the Minister of Health is finally admitting a fee increase is in store for seniors and their much-touted best program in the country will have to be revisited;

Therefore be it resolved that this Liberal Government adopt the Pharmacare initiatives proposed by the members of the Progressive Conservative caucus which will relieve seniors of the $215 annual premium and end the multimillion dollar subsidy Nova Scotia taxpayers are providing the federal pension plan.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of privilege relating to yesterday's debate in the Committee of the Whole House on Supply on the Estimates of the Department of Health. I thought that it was a constructive debate and the members of the

[Page 1118]

House, most notably the Opposition Health Critics, conducted themselves well, asking intelligent questions to which I tried to provide some answers.

However, when I read a report of the debate in today's Halifax Herald, I was amazed. The headline in the newspaper read "Pharmacare fees to rise". The story went on to say that Nova Scotia's seniors face higher costs for Pharmacare as a result of the budget and reports that I said increased premiums are an option being considered as part of Pharmacare restructuring. This is not true. The story also reports that I told this House that regional health boards did not save any money, another inaccuracy.

Let me deal with the Pharmacare issue first. I checked with Hansard. I have a copy and I want to thank, Mr. Speaker, Mr. Caley and his excellent staff for providing that. A check with Hansard which will clearly indicate that I never said there would be fee increases for seniors enrolled in the Seniors' Pharmacare Program. A further check will also show that I did not discuss raising premiums. I did not even discuss raising premiums as an option that was being considered. What I did say was that there are some options available which include eliminating the premium, not increasing it. (Applause)

On the other issue, the newspaper reported that I said regional health boards did not save the government money last year. Again, Mr. Speaker, I do not know where the newspaper reporter obtained this information. In response to a question about costs at the Queen Elizabeth II Health Science Centre, I responded that there are often transition costs associated with amalgamation, be it amalgamation of health care complexes or municipal units.

I was not asked, nor was I speaking about regional health boards. In fact, if the reporter had asked me, I could have pointed out numerous examples of cost-saving that have resulted from regionalization, even though that was not the primary objective. As this House knows, the primary objective of regionalization was decentralization of decision making and integration of services at the regional level. This irresponsible reporting has caused great concern among the seniors of this province. Our department has contacted seniors' groups to assure them that the newspaper story is wrong. The newspaper has confirmed this and will be printing a correction tomorrow. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: As the minister is probably aware, where there is a variance between a statement made in the House and the newspaper reporting, there is no point of privilege. However, you were probably better on your feet on a point of clarification rather than a point of privilege.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

[Page 1119]

RESOLUTION NO. 575

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

Whereas mining communities all across Nova Scotia will tomorrow mark Davis Day, or Miners' Memorial Day; and

Whereas the day is held in memory of Cape Breton miner, Bill Davis, who was shot and killed by company police in New Waterford on June 11, 1925, while protesting the high-handed actions of the British Empire Steel and Coal Corporation; and

Whereas on Davis Day Nova Scotians recognize all miners killed on the job in this province and reflect on the contribution that miners have made both to the economy and the struggle for justice throughout our province's history;

Therefore be it resolved that this House commemorate Davis Day by committing to measures to ensure safe working conditions and economic fairness for the miners of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I would seek waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Queens.

RESOLUTION NO. 576

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

Whereas thousands of senior citizens are paying twice for Pharmacare, once through their private plans and once through the taxpayer funded plan; and

[Page 1120]

Whereas the burden of one annual premium per senior, let alone a double premium, is more than seniors should ever have to bear; and

Whereas it would be better to have private plans serve as first payers rather than the taxpayer funded Liberal Pharmacare plan;

Therefore be it resolved that the Liberal Government abandon this premium-based Seniors' Pharmacare Program and replace it with a co-pay plan as envisioned on Page 3 in the 1998 Progressive Conservative platform entitled Putting People First.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre.

RESOLUTION NO. 577

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

Whereas the Cape Breton Regional School Board has discovered a worm in the educational apple presented to school boards in last week's budget; and

Whereas the worm consists of a bill of $821,000, representing the municipal share of increased school grants made necessary by four years of Liberal education cutbacks; and

Whereas according to the mayor of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality the cost to the municipality of paying for the damage caused by four years of Liberal cuts to education will mean higher property taxes;

Therefore be it resolved that this House condemn the Liberal Government for downloading onto the municipalities the consequences of its own irresponsible cuts to education.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Inverness.

RESOLUTION NO. 578

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

Whereas the Rankins of Mabou are releasing their seventh CD, entitled Uprooted; and

[Page 1121]

Whereas the Rankins are a driving force behind the Canadian music scene; and

Whereas the Rankins have earned record sales of close to 2 million units in the last six years, five Juno awards, over a dozen East Coast Music Awards, five SOCAN awards and two Canadian music awards;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the Rankins on this their latest release and their continuing promotion of East Coast music.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Pictou East.

RESOLUTION NO. 579

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

Whereas a certain level of arsenic poisoning is lethal whether you drink it from a cup of tea, digest it with a bowl of Rice Krispies or simply inhale it; and

Whereas the member for Cape Breton Nova has somehow determined that arsenic is only lethal if you drink it from a bowl; and

Whereas the member for Cape Breton Nova should be assisting families in the Frederick Street area of Whitney Pier instead of merely providing them with his misinformed state of ignorance on arsenic contamination;

Therefore be it resolved that the member for Cape Breton Nova immediately move to have his Minister of the Environment to provide the residents of Frederick Street in Whitney Pier with a detailed and informed package of information instead of simply labelling concerns on arsenic poisoning as political grandstanding.

[Page 1122]

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

RESOLUTION NO. 580

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

Whereas Prime Minister Chretien has made the ridiculous suggestion that smokers with cancer have as much right to federal compensation as people who got hepatitis C from bad blood; and

Whereas Chretien's statement adds insult to the injury already caused by the Liberal Government's refusal to compensate all Canadians who have contracted hepatitis C from tainted blood; and

Whereas Canadians deserve more reasonable and compassionate leadership from their Prime Minister;

Therefore be it resolved that this House urge the Prime Minister to reconsider his ill-advised remarks, listen to hepatitis C victims and the majority of Canadians, and proceed with the compensation program for all those whose health has been damaged by the blood system.

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 Nova.

RESOLUTION NO. 581

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

[Page 1123]

Whereas the coke ovens site remediation program being undertaken by this government at the site of the former coke ovens adjacent to the Sydney steel plant is a very serious project, and does not merit the treatment it was accorded in today's Chronicle-Herald or, indeed, in the motion that we just heard from across the way; and

[2:30 p.m.]

Whereas the coke ovens site remediation project is an honest attempt to correct the effects of 100 years of dumping of various substances on the ground at this site, which may well involve large numbers of toxic or potentially hazardous substances; and

Whereas it was for this very reason that this government awarded a $400,000 contract for coke ovens site remediation to Phillip Environmental Limited, experts in environmental remediation, who operate under strict environmental rules including a detailed health and safety plan;

Therefore be it resolved that these honest and serious efforts to correct a century old problem at Sydney deserve the support of this House, of all its members (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Order, please. The notice of motion is much . . .

MR. MACEWAN: . . . and of the press, and that the efforts to downplay the seriousness of this work, whether inspired by journalistic mischief or political opportunism, are not warranted.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

That last notice of motion was much too long.

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

RESOLUTION NO. 582

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

Whereas the Minister of Health appointed Madame Gagne-Koch, CEO in Moncton, to co-administer the Highland View Regional Hospital in Amherst; and

Whereas the Minister of Health thinks that it is a positive development to hire a New Brunswick health care bureaucrat for part-time duty in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas the Premier has asked me to focus on health care success stories;

[Page 1124]

Therefore be it resolved that Madame Gagne-Koch also co-administer the Department of Health which would free the Minister of Health to scour our province for other positive health care news that may be just around the corner. (Laughter)

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes.

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

Whereas soil tests done by Environment Canada have revealed arsenic levels 18.5 times higher than acceptable limits near the Frederick Street area of Whitney Pier; and

Whereas the Poison Control Centre in Halifax indicates that arsenic can be absorbed through the skin, by inhalation and through the eyes as well being ingested; and

Whereas environmental officials have advised residents in the area to avoid the contaminated site;

Therefore be it resolved that the member for Cape Breton Nova be chastised for misinforming residents of the real dangers that exist near their homes on Frederick Street and urge the Liberal Government to move quickly to protect residents from the latest legacy of the tar ponds.

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, on a point of order. I would ask your honour to take that resolution under advisement because it accuses me of things that I have never done, sir, which I consider absolutely outrageous, such accusations against my integrity and my honour as a member of this House.

MR. SPEAKER: I will take the notice of motion and examine it. It appeared to be okay at first sight.

The honourable Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

RESOLUTION NO. 583

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

[Page 1125]

Whereas the same Sable gas project will provide an economic boost to the Province of Nova Scotia, in general, and the Eastern Shore, in particular; and

Whereas evidence of this has already presented itself in the Sheet Harbour area, where the Shaw & Shaw Group has received a contract for anti-corrosion and concrete weight coating of subsea interfield flow lines and the main gathering line for the Sable project; and

Whereas at least 190 direct jobs and countless indirect jobs will be created as a result of this project, providing much-needed employment in the Sheet Harbour area;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize that the Sable gas project is already having positive economic impact on the Eastern Shore and around the province and Nova Scotians are reaping the benefits of the Sable gas, as they so richly deserve.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

RESOLUTION NO. 584

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

Whereas this Liberal Government said that amalgamation in Cape Breton would not increase taxes; and

Whereas the exact opposite has been true in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality and, for that matter, in the Halifax Regional Municipality, since it was formed; and

Whereas yesterday, Cape Breton Regional Municipality Mayor David Muise called the downloading of educational costs by the province, "an absolute outrage", after Cape Breton Regional Municipality was formally notified Tuesday that education costs for them this fiscal year totalled $821,000;

[Page 1126]

Therefore be it resolved that this Liberal Government immediately put together a team of financial experts excluding, of course, past and present Ministers of Education and Finance and come up with a long-term solution towards the cost of education that will not continually send a variety of municipal units into debt.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

RESOLUTION NO. 585

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

Whereas as home support workers are becoming an increasingly important element in our health care system; and

Whereas hundreds of home support workers are leaving their jobs every year because of poor wages, benefits and working conditions; and

Whereas this turn-over has meant that home support workers and home care agencies have insufficient trained staff to meet growing public needs;

Therefore be it resolved that this House urges that decent wages, benefits and working conditions for home support workers be a health care spending priority.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Bedford Basin.

RESOLUTION NO. 586

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

Whereas Nova Scotia's Public Service Pension Fund has been very well-managed and invested; and

Whereas the government is now in a position to offer a dividend to the contributors, the taxpayers of Nova Scotia and the employees of government; and

Whereas in 1997-98 and 1998-99, the taxpayers' contributions will be redirected to education and health care while the employees will receive a direct contribution holiday;

[Page 1127]

Therefore be it resolved that this House commend the Minister of Finance and his highly dedicated staff for their commitment to the financial well-being of all Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cumberland South.

RESOLUTION NO. 587

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

Whereas tomorrow, June 11, 1998, will be Bill Davis Miners' Memorial Day; and

Whereas the communities of Springhill and River Hebert were built upon a coal mining history; and

Whereas the communities of Springhill and River Hebert will be gathering to keep the memories alive of those who perished in the coal mines;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House remember the young boys and men who lost their lives in the depths of the coal mines in Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

[Page 1128]

The honourable Minister of Natural Resources.

RESOLUTION NO. 588

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

Whereas Marie Crimp of Wreck Cove, a student in my riding, recently has been awarded a partial scholarship from Education Foundation High School Year to study in a foreign country, in this case Germany; and

Whereas Miss Crimp represents one of only three students from across Canada chose under this international academic exchange program operated by Education Foundation, a non-profit group with the goal of promoting cultural awareness and mutual respect between participating countries; and

Whereas Miss Crimp should be proud of her accomplishment in getting selected for this program sought after by numerous applicants as her commitment to her studies has been strong and her desire to succeed commendable;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House extend congratulations and best wishes to Miss Crimp for a productive and rewarding experience while in Germany for this program, which commences this fall. I know that she will serve as an important ambassador for not only her community but our province and country.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice and passage without debate.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Premier.

RESOLUTION NO. 589

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

[Page 1129]

Whereas each year thousands of school children across Canada participate in the Royal Canadian Legion's poster, poetry and essay contest in conjunction with Remembrance Day services; and

Whereas the contest is conducted each year to raise awareness among school children and the community on the importance of Remembrance Day; and

Whereas Pamela Bartlett, a student at Sydney Mines Junior High School, was the national winner of the intermediate level of the essay category;

Therefore be it resolved that this House extend to Ms. Bartlett their sincere congratulations on this exceptional national achievement and wish her all the best as she continues along the educational highway of lifelong learning.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice and passage without debate.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Education.

RESOLUTION NO. 590

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

Whereas the SEEDS Foundation offers support to students, teachers and schools across Canada in the areas of energy and environmental studies; and

Whereas Cambridge and District Elementary School has taken part in the Learners in Action program, having become a Green School in 1993, a Jade Green School in 1995; and

Whereas Cambridge and District Elementary School has continued this program and in recognition of completing 500 projects to enhance the environment or communicate about the environment, has been named an Emerald Green School, the 246th such school in Canada, Mr. Speaker;

[Page 1130]

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House extend congratulations to the students including co-captains Kyle DeWolfe and Tara Llewelyn and staff and staff representative Jenny Jolly for attaining this outstanding environmental accomplisment.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for wavier of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Labour.

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

Whereas in 1991 the honourable member for Cape Breton East was found guilty by the Nova Scotia Bar Society of professional misconduct; and

Whereas once the Bar Society concludes a disciplinary hearing, the disciplinary reports are provided to all members of the Nova Scotia Bar Society; and

Whereas the Leader of the socialist NDP receives counsel from such notable members of the Bar Society as Ray Larkin, Kevin Deveaux and Darrell Dexter;

Therefore be it resolved that in the opinion of this House there is no way the Leader of the socialist NDP was unaware of the accusations that were made by the member for Cape Breton East.

MR. SPEAKER: I would like to have a look at that notice of motion.

The honourable member for Antigonish.

[Page 1131]

RESOLUTION NO. 591

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

Whereas the Antigonish Community Food Bank held an open house on Sunday, May 31st; and

Whereas the Antigonish Community Food Bank, established in 1992, has recently moved into new quarters as a result of the generosity of a number of businesses and the Municipality of the County of Antigonish; and

Whereas the Antigonish Community Food Bank serves between 60 and 80 families per week;

Therefore be it resolved that this House commend the efforts of the many community volunteers who keep the Antigonish Community Food Bank in operation, serving all those local families who are in need of assistance.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Transportation and Public Works.

RESOLUTION NO. 592

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

Whereas the Young Entrepreneurs Going Places Conference, sponsored by the Department of Education, was held recently in Halifax; and

Whereas Jonathan Moules of Jordan Ferry, Shelburne County, was recognized as Atlantic Canada's Student Entrepreneur of the year; and

[Page 1132]

Whereas Jonathan's business acumen in building his very successful lawn care company is made all the more remarkable by virtue of his young age of 17;

Therefore be it resolved that this House offer its congratulations to Jonathan Moules on this significant achievement and wish him well in his future endeavours.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

RESOLUTION NO. 593

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

Whereas this past weekend 100 police officers, 23 Department of Justice recruits, 100 firefighters and 40 paramedics from the Halifax Regional Municipality participated in the Cops for Cancer event that was held across the province; and

Whereas during this event participants had their heads shaved to raise money for the fight against cancer; and

Whereas the Halifax Regional Municipality police force has raised $55,000 to date from this event and is well on the way to reaching its $80,000 target;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate all the participants in the Cops for Cancer event for the Halifax Regional Municipality and recognize that through their involvement they have made an important contribution in the fight against cancer.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

[Page 1133]

[2:45 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 Natural Resources.

RESOLUTION NO. 594

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

Whereas plans are now being finalized for this fall's 2nd Annual Celtic Colours International Festival, a celebration of Celtic culture held last year at many venues across Cape Breton Island and which proved to be a resounding success; and

Whereas it recently has been decided that this year's event will be headquartered in Baddeck, the renowned tourism hub of Cape Breton Island, which means that during the festival all the artists and performers will stay in Baddeck and travel to the various events across Cape Breton and then return to Baddeck for the evening; and

Whereas I am very pleased by the significant economic benefit which my riding will gain from using Baddeck as a central location for this festival and so I wish to congratulate all those involved in supporting this proposal and hope that my riding of Victoria will have the opportunity to host such future events;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of the House make note of the increasing popularity of this festival and make plans to attend one or more of the concerts, ceilidhs or square dances now being arranged for this music and cultural celebration this October.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 1134]

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. 595

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 socialist NDP has served notice that it intends to deny Supply unto Her Majesty by refusing passage of the budget; and

Whereas the course of action proposed by the NDP is identical to that adopted by the Republican Party in the United States which in December 1995 shut down the operations of the federal government for close to a month by refusing to grant Supply and pass the budget; and

Whereas the shutdown of the federal U.S. government services in December 1995 caused immense anguish and grief to many millions of U.S. citizens and taxpayers;

Therefore be it resolved that the implementation of such political medicine here in Nova Scotia, by refusing to grant Supply, is a most unjust and undeserved reward for the 155,680 voters who placed their faith in the socialist NDP by voting for them on March 24th.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Community Services.

RESOLUTION NO. 596

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

Whereas the Kinsmen and Kinette Clubs of Canada, the Canadian Capital Cities Organization, the National Capital Commission and many of their partners are sponsoring Celebrate Canada in the Capitals for Canada Day; and

Whereas this program aims to foster pride in Canadians from all over the country and to create a greater appreciation of Canada; and

[Page 1135]

Whereas this program fosters this pride by hosting 60 families, five from each province and territory, in one of five Canadian capital cities;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Vern and Audrey Grantham of Bedford for their selection as one of the five Nova Scotia families who will participate in this program.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Halifax Bedford Basin.

RESOLUTION NO. 597

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

Whereas Dr. J.F. Legare, Dr. Roger Baskett and Dr. Rakesh Arora are residents in cardiovascular surgery and are training in cardiac surgery at the QE II Health Sciences Centre; and

Whereas Drs. Legare, Baskett and Arora recently presented papers at the National Meeting of the Cardiac Surgery Residents in Toronto; and

Whereas these residents in cardiovascular surgery carried off three of the top four prizes at this meeting;

Therefore be it resolved that this House extend congratulations to Drs. Legare, Baskett and Arora on their outstanding accomplishment and wish them continued success as they complete their residency requirements.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver and passage without debate.

[Page 1136]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Richmond.

RESOLUTION NO. 598

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

Whereas the NDP are making it increasingly clear that they have no use for the private company, Michelin Tire, as they continuously harp on a loan write-off which pales in comparison to the $17 million in income tax paid by Michelin employees each year; and

Whereas the NDP have failed to state how they would make up for the loss of revenue to the province under a socialist administration bent on chasing private industry out of Nova Scotia; and

Whereas the NDP member for Timberlea-Prospect, in this Speech from the Throne reply, condemned large pulp and paper companies as not looking out for the little guy, despite the fact that Stora and other pulp and paper companies have invested heavily with their own money in Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that the socialist NDP reveal their true anti-business agenda to the people of Nova Scotia before offering themselves up as an alternative government.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Antigonish.

RESOLUTION NO. 599

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

[Page 1137]

Whereas the member for Halifax Chebucto has stated, "During the election, our Party was extremely cautious in what it is we said we thought we could do if we had the opportunity"; and

Whereas the NDP made over 80 promises during the election predicated on a budget which they did not believe was balanced in the first place; and

Whereas the socialist NDP are continuing the farce as they criticize the budget for not being balanced, followed by statements that they believe the government is not spending enough money;

Therefore be it resolved that the NDP be condemned for a logic that can only be described as bizarre and a behaviour indicative of a Party desperate for power at any cost.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Community Services.

RESOLUTION NO. 600

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

Whereas the Departments of Community Services and Environment are continuing to successfully partner in the Nova Scotia Youth Conservation Corps; and

Whereas projects in this employment program involve such things as solid waste management, watershed management, integrated pest management, eco-tourism and environment education and pollution prevention; and

Whereas these projects will provide employment for up to 20 youths who are dependents of those receiving social assistance, youth directly in receipt of social assistance, or youth in care;

Therefore be it resolved that this House supports the efforts of government and local communities to protect and clean our environment and at the same time provide employment to the youth of Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 1138]

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 Finance.

RESOLUTION NO. 601

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

Whereas on May 21, 1998, the Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia, the Honourable John James Kinley delivered the Speech from the Throne; and

Whereas in the speech, His Honour set out the government's priorities including increased investment in health care, education, children and job creation; and

Whereas these priorities formed the framework for the budget that I tabled on June 4, 1998;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of the Legislative Assembly communicate the positive aspects of this document to their constituents as soon as possible.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 602

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

Whereas just a few years ago the Nova Scotia Teachers' Pension Fund was in very bad financial shape, with an unfunded liability of 53 per cent as of July 31, 1991; and

Whereas Nova Scotia's Minister of Finance recently announced in the provincial budget details of significant improvements in the Nova Scotia Teachers' Pension Fund; and

Whereas for the past three years, the Nova Scotia Teachers' Pension Fund has ranked in the top quartile of Canadian pension plans, as measured by one of the country's leading performance measurement firms;

[Page 1139]

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Assembly applaud the outstanding action taken by teachers and government working together to secure the Nova Scotia Teachers' Pension Fund for today and into the future.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Richmond.

RESOLUTION NO. 603

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

Whereas the socialist NDP member for Cape Breton The Lakes has decried the appointment of what she has called, the business dominated Economic Advisory Council; and

Whereas despite changes in socialist dogma throughout the world, the NDP remains caught in a time warp where business is considered bad, and that only a socialist Utopia will bring harmony to Nova Scotia; and

Whereas it is business and not government programs that create wealth and jobs as we have witnessed with the expansion of Stora, Michelin, and we will witness also with the advent of a natural gas industry;

Therefore be it resolved that the socialist NDP in Nova Scotia is simply not capable to run a government in a world where it is business and not government who can provide prosperity as long as government does not interfere with the market as the NDP is prepared to do.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Economic Development.

[Page 1140]

RESOLUTION NO. 604

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

Whereas Dr. Assem Jaber, the Lebanese Ambassador to Canada, was recently a guest of St. Joseph's Lebanese Benevolent Society, attended Sunday mass and a lunch prepared by the Daughters of Mary at the Cedars Club in Sydney; and

Whereas the visit was warmly received by the Lebanese community in Sydney, a community that forms an important part of our cultural mosaic in Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Assembly offer praise and thanks to the Nova Scotia Lebanese community for its valued contribution to community, province and country.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Health.

RESOLUTION NO. 605

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

Whereas Mr. Jeff Bailey of Dartmouth East was the top senior men's swimmer at the Ken Dunn Memorial Swim Championships this past weekend in Halifax, thereby qualifying him for the Commonwealth Games Trials in Toronto; and

Whereas Liz Weis of Dartmouth East shared the top senior female award at the same competition; and

[Page 1141]

Whereas the Dartmouth Crusaders Swim Club was the overall winner of the large team trophy;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House congratulate Jeff Bailey and Liz Weis and the Dartmouth Crusaders for their strong individual and overall team performances.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs.

RESOLUTION NO. 606

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

Whereas Nathan LeBlanc, son of Randy and Denise LeBlanc, of Little Brook, Digby County, a Grade 9 student at École Secondaire de Clare is a well-known competitive bowler who has been bowling since he was five years old; and

Whereas Nathan holds the champion title in the 12-16 age group of the Atlantic Youth Bowling Council; and

Whereas at the National Bowling Tournament in Dieppe, New Brunswick, May 16, 1998, Nathan won the Junior Boys' division by bowling 638 in five games;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House congratulate Nathan LeBlanc for his achievements at the May bowling tournament and for winning the Atlantic Youth Bowling Council Junior Boys' title.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver of notice.

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

[Page 1142]

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. 607

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

Whereas the member from Halifax Chebucto and socialist NDP Finance Critic has stated, when referring to health, that Nova Scotians have to realize that the money is not going into increased services to be delivered to them through the health care system; and

Whereas despite Opposition claims to the contrary health care is improving as will be witnessed with the opening of a cancer treatment centre at the Cape Breton Regional Hospital which will result in fewer Cape Bretoners seeking treatment off the Island; and

Whereas Medical Director of the Cape Breton Regional Hospital, Dr. Mahmood Naqvi has stated our goal is to develop a centre of excellence in health care outside Halifax, and we'll take a big step in that direction as of July 1st when we'll have 10 more doctors;

Therefore be it resolved that the socialist NDP's grasp for power is blinding them as to the true achievements in health care under the current government, as Cape Breton is finally getting the kind of health care service that other Nova Scotians have taken for granted for decades.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Annapolis.

[Page 1143]

RESOLUTION NO. 608

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

Whereas Nova Scotians have indicated that their cherished health care program is among their top priority; and

Whereas MS patient, Nadine LeGier was reported in our local newspaper overjoyed to hear the news that the provincial budget will cover the cost of the new medication, Betaseron; and

Whereas Tory Leader John Hamm and NDP Health Critic Maureen MacDonald are reported in the same paper as applauding this new funding;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Assembly acknowledge the collaborative efforts of this government, working together to create the very best health care system in this province's history.

[3:00 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Labour.

RESOLUTION NO. 609

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

Whereas the Honourable Robert Stanfield was Leader of the federal PC Party, when he refused to sign the nomination papers of Leonard Jones of Moncton; and

Whereas Leonard Jones had made public pronouncements that indicated an anti-French, anti-Acadian basis; and

Whereas Mr. Stanfield displayed integrity, strength of character and the courage of his convictions, which are characteristic of a real political Leader;

Therefore be it resolved that this House condemn the Leader of the NDP socialists for not displaying the integrity, strength of character and courage of his convictions that the public demands of its political Leaders such as Mr. Robert Stanfield.

[Page 1144]

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

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

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

There were two notices of motion that I held today and the first one was submitted by the honourable member for Cape Breton The Lakes. I am not going to allow that notice of motion because I believe it is imputing that a member lied and imputations are not permissible.

The second resolution by the honourable Minister of Labour is for the same reason that it does impute that somebody has lied.

You can use different words and the notice of motion would be acceptable.

For the late debate today the draw was won by the member for Cape Breton Nova. It reads:

Therefore be it resolved that the situation involving the eruption of a yellow ooze from a railway embankment at Whitney Pier is a serious matter and is not to be made light of as was done in today's Chronicle-Herald and that the efforts of this government to undertake environmental remediation at the coke ovens site in Sydney deserves the support of this House and its members.

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, would you please revert to the order of business, Statements by Ministers.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, not at the present time, I'm sorry. No, the advance notice was not given to the Opposition caucuses and the government has used up sufficient time already today.

MR. SPEAKER: If you cannot get unanimous consent, the motion is not carried.

Question Period today is one hour, 30 minutes today, so we will go to 4:33 p.m.

[Page 1145]

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

EDUC. - P3: OPTIONS - ALL-PARTY DISCUSSION

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question, through you, to the Premier.

I do not think there is any question that members of this House and, in fact, many Nova Scotians are becoming increasingly frustrated by the issue of whether we are going to get the stamp of approval on the P3 method of financing and constructing schools from the Auditor General. We have all heard it here that there is going to be a letter and there is going to be this and there is going to be that. Yet the days and weeks go by and we are still no closer to finding out what that decision is going to be. So I must say that I was extremely pleased by the report in Saturday's Chronicle-Herald - that much maligned Chronicle-Herald today - Saturday June 6th, which reported that the Premier indicated that Education, Public Works and the Premier's Office are reworking the Liberals' controversial P3 initiative for building schools; that they are actively working on several options.

I am pleased to see that that is going on, but I want to ask the Premier why it is that he has not shared that whole discussion of options with the other Parties, with other Nova Scotians who are interested in whether or not we are going to be able to build and finance these schools in a way that makes sense for the taxpayers of this province?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, we have told the Leader of the Opposition and the Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party that what we want, as I am sure they do, is new schools for Nova Scotia. We don't want to have the cost on the bottom line of the financial statements of the province. Other than that, we are prepared to do what we can to get these new schools. They said they wanted options to the P3 process. We said, fine, we will provide those options if we can. We are now investigating options to the P3 process, just as they suggested we do. We are quite glad to do it. We feel it is in the interest of the province to do it. We want those new schools, and we are going to do everything we possibly can to find the best way to deliver those schools without bankrupting the province.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, trying to sort out what the Premier and the ministers are doing on this issue is like sorting through sludge. It just never gets clearer. We never get closer to an answer. The Premier said outside this House, not more than an hour ago, that he doesn't care about whether it is on the books, they are going to keep pushing through with P3.

[Page 1146]

MR. SPEAKER: Question.

MR. CHISHOLM: My first supplementary is to the Premier. Mr. Speaker, he has again indicated here today the old business about the spirit of cooperation and so on. Will the Premier agree, here in this House today, to refer the fact that they are reworking the Liberals' controversial P3 initiative, looking at options, actively working on several of them . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Question.

MR. CHISHOLM: Will he refer this review immediately to the Public Accounts Committee of this Legislature?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Opposition says he doesn't hear. He doesn't want to hear. All he wants is chaos with respect to new schools in this province. That is all he wants. I have said, and I will say it again, that we want a way of funding new schools that doesn't put it on the bottom line of the province. We want these new schools as fast as possible. We will consider any way, including any means that the Leader of the Opposition may have, to finance these new schools. It is not the building of the schools, that is not the problem, it is the financing of the schools that we have to look into and we are looking into it. We are doing everything. We will accept any suggestion that he or anybody else may have. It is not a clandestine study, it is not rocket science, it is finding the cheapest way, the most effective way for the province to build these new schools.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotians can draw no other conclusion than the fact that they are being misled on this issue by the Premier and by his government. He could have cleared up this issue . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I would ask the honourable member to rephrase that statement he made about misleading the House.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I will rephrase that. What I will say is that once again Nova Scotians are not getting the straight goods on what is happening with respect to the method that this government is using to construct and to finance schools in the Province of Nova Scotia, because that Premier has had all kinds of opportunities to be able to give this issue to the Auditor General once and for all and he has given up that opportunity. (Applause)

My final supplementary is this, Mr. Speaker. The Premier will know that this government has made a commitment to the parents in Lantz . . .

MR. SPEAKER: I will ask the honourable Leader of the Opposition for his question.

MR. CHISHOLM: . . . to build that school by June 15th . . .

[Page 1147]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party. (Applause)

HEALTH: PHARMACARE PROG. - COMMITMENT

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Health. The Minister of Health has created a lot of confusion in the minds of seniors as to what is going to happen to the cost of participating in the government's Pharmacare Program. I want to, by way of my question, give the minister an opportunity to clarify this situation. Is the minister prepared to commit here today that seniors in this province will not have any increase in participating in the Seniors' Pharamcare Program, either in the premium or the co-pay for as long or as short as this government is in power?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, for the benefit of the honourable member, I could make yesterday's transcript of Hansard available to him and, I think if he reads that, he will find that it is very clear what we were speaking of.

We informed the seniors, Mr. Speaker, that this year there will be no changes in the premium or the co-pay. There are no plans (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

DR. SMITH: Last year, we put an additional $11 million in (Interruptions) Mr. Speaker, do they want to hear this? Can they handle the truth?

MR. SPEAKER: The minister will shorten up his answer.

DR. SMITH: I will try, Mr. Speaker, thank you very much. Last year we put an extra $11 million into the Seniors' Pharmacare Program. This we have allocated a further increase of $2.8 million. There are no plans whatsoever to increase either the premium or the co-pay of the Seniors' Pharmacare Program. Is that clear?

DR. HAMM: To the Minister of Health, Mr. Speaker. When the government announced its program in 1995, it announced it was going to share the cost 50/50 with seniors. Has that policy changed, or is he prepared to guarantee seniors for as long as or as short as this government is in power that they will not face an increase in either premiums or co-pay to participate in the Pharmacare Program of this province?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, that is a good point, the 50/50 sharing at the start of this program. As I indicated yesterday, we have now moved into an 80/20, with the province, the government, the taxpayers of Nova Scotia, paying 80 per cent and the seniors contributing 20 per cent. There are no plans whatsoever to change the cost of the premium or the co-pay to the Seniors' Pharmacare Program in Nova Scotia.

[Page 1148]

DR. HAMM: I thank the minister. Mr. Speaker, as the minister knows full well that since this Seniors' Pharmacare Program is sponsored by or providing a premium to Nova Scotia's seniors, is subsidizing, among others, the federal pension plan, is the minister prepared to commit here today - as he appeared to allude to when he rose on his point of privilege - is he prepared to investigate eliminating the Pharmacare premium as provided in the platform of the Nova Scotia Progressive Conservative Party in the last election, because it then would put the onus back on the federal pension plan and other private insurers to pay their share of providing drugs here to Nova Scotians?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for this, I think this is an excellent point and is one that I would look forward to working with the honourable member and his caucus on. There is no question, our concern has been a guarantee that those persons that maybe have the federal program take responsibilities for, that they are not left out in the cold. We want to protect them. We have had correspondence on this particular matter. We are looking at that. I think, personally, that it may be doable and I want to do that and I look forward to working with the honourable member on that particular initiative.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

HEALTH - PHARMACARE PROG.: PREMIUMS - UNCHANGED

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, even before today's media report with respect to Pharmacare premiums, this was of real concern to many seniors in Nova Scotia, certainly in the election, and both the Opposition Parties spoke to this issue in their platform, however, the government was silent throughout the election campaign on what precisely their plans were. I, too, have the transcripts from yesterday and, while I acknowledge the minister certainly made no admission that Pharmacare premiums would be increased, there was no admission that any consideration was being given to reduction or elimination either.

Perhaps the minister wasn't being his usual articulate self, so this question, Mr. Speaker, to the minister, gives the minister an opportunity to clarify. What steps are being taken by the government to ensure that seniors will not have to pay more for Pharmacare coverage as costs rise?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I would refer that honourable member to the transcripts of yesterday and that I did say that the doing away of the premium was an option that we were looking at where those costs could be folded into other parts of the program.

[3:15 p.m.]

What we are doing, last year we contributed an extra $11 million above budget, this year we have allocated $2.8 million to ensure that seniors will not be charged any extra. In

[Page 1149]

fact, we will be able to look at expanding that program and addressing the issue of new drugs. It is an important program, we are protecting it. That is our commitment.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, thank you and thank you minister. I am sure that you have been speaking with members of senior citizens' organizations as I have in the past months and weeks. I am wondering if the minister will assure the House that there will be no changes in the Pharmacare Program without broad and comprehensive consultation with seniors' groups such as Canadian Pensioners Concerned and the Federation of Senior Citizens of Nova Scotia?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, the answer to the honourable member is absolutely. This is an area that there has been consultation with. I have been involved, as Minister of Community Services, with the Senior Citizens Secretariat where I helped initiate programs, pilot projects for seniors in the Valley region, for instance, that would help seniors to better understand the medication they are taking and those types of programs, along with the prescribing habits of physicians. There are a lot of initiatives and I thank the honourable member for the question, absolutely, it is an area of consultation I am committed to.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my final question to the minister, will he table in the House forthwith all studies, cost-benefit analyses regarding funding of the Pharmacare Program so that the public and Opposition Parties will have the benefit of that analysis?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I will consult with senior members of my staff to see what is available and what I can share. I will not make a time commitment but I will do that in a timely fashion.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party.

FIN. - HST: HEATING OIL - COMMITMENT HONOUR

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Premier. In June 1997, 11 months ago and into early July, the Premier made a number of commitments to Nova Scotians. Among the most memorable of those commitments was the Premier indicating that he was as unhappy as members of the Opposition with the blended sales tax. The Premier made a commitment to Nova Scotians who heat their homes with heating oil that he was going to give them BST relief. He said that not once, not twice, not three times, but many times and Nova Scotians remember that. They now see that in the budget that the Premier has forgotten his commitment. I ask the Premier, is he prepared to live up to that commitment to Nova Scotians who use other than electricity to heat their homes, that he will provide some measure of blended sales tax relief or is he prepared to abandon his commitment?

[Page 1150]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I have no intention of abandoning my commitment. I have no intention either of being irresponsible with the money of the Province of Nova Scotia. The commitment was to give relief to the people of Nova Scotia on electricity, heating oil and children's clothing. Those commitments will be kept but will be kept when the funding is available to do so.

In the last fiscal year, we didn't feel we had the funding. It turned out at the end we did, so we gave a rebate to the people of Nova Scotia. That rebate was because the monies of this province were well-managed during the last fiscal year.

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I will continue with the Premier. I make reference to something that is reported on Page 803 of Hansard. These are remarks that are those of the Minister of Finance. "Again, we are being prudent in promising to deliver only when we know we can do so.". I would ask the Premier, in view of his last answer, when did this become policy of the Liberal Party and the Liberal Government and that is, we are being prudent in promising to deliver only when we know we can do so. When did this change of policy occur?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the policy of becoming prudent in the finances of the people of Nova Scotia, the money that these people give to the Province of Nova Scotia, and making sure that every dollar is used to the best advantage of the people of Nova Scotia, particularly those in need and who need the help of their government, has been the policy of the Liberal Party of Nova Scotia since it was founded.

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, my final supplementary is to the Premier. Nova Scotians heard as early as 11 months ago the Premier say this to Nova Scotians, that he was going to give blended sales tax relief, particularly on children's clothing. He said that not once, not twice, not three times, but many times. Eleven months later Nova Scotians are still not getting blended sales tax relief on children's clothing. When is this Premier going to fulfil that commitment that he made to the people of Nova Scotia?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I will do everything I possibly can, as soon as I possibly can, to give the GST portion relief from the BST on children's clothing.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

HEALTH - HEPATITIS C:

COMPENSATION PACKAGE - COMMENTS (PM [CAN.])

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question through you to the Premier. As you may be aware, there has been widespread concern over comments made yesterday by the Prime Minister comparing those infected with hepatitis C through the blood system with people who have cancer because they smoke cigarettes, clearly an offensive comparison and showing a lack of compassion for people who involuntarily were

[Page 1151]

affected through the blood system. I would like to ask the Premier, does he, as do I, and I think many Nova Scotians, reject these comments by the Prime Minister and has he communicated such to the Prime Minister on behalf of Nova Scotians?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I do not think anybody in this country has to speak for the Prime Minister of Canada. He is well able to speak for himself.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, the whole issue of compensation for victims of hepatitis C through tainted blood, has been urging this government, along with other governments in Canada, to come up with a compensation package that, in fact, represents the real hardship created by this tragedy. The Province of Nova Scotia has recently changed the numbers that are affected, bringing them down quite considerably. I would like to ask the Premier if he would, in fact, indicate whether he believes, and perhaps he would explain, whether or not the comments made by the Prime Minister might, in fact, be blocking the resolution of this outstanding negotiation?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to refer that question to the honourable Minister of Health.

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I was listening to the question that was addressed to the Premier. I would just like to say that we have an excellent program in Nova Scotia for a look back, trace-back program, to identify those with hepatitis C. Fortunately, the good news is that the numbers are not as high as national surveys projected. I think that is the good news. We are not changing our numbers. It is not like some sinister plot to have them sound higher than they actually are. We have been a team player on this whole issue of hepatitis C assistance program. We continue to be. Our senior officials are meeting and as soon as there is a federal minister or territorial or provincial meeting called, I hope to be in attendance at that and we will be taking Nova Scotia's position.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, the Leader of the Third Party, and myself representing the New Democratic Party have written to the Premier and the Minister of Health urging them on behalf of the people of Nova Scotia to, in fact, make compensation available to those people infected through no fault of their own by tainted blood. I want to ask the Premier if he will, in fact, indicate that his government will go to the meetings held with the other jurisdictions and push that a compensation package be put together involving all of those people who have been unfortunately tainted or have been made ill as a result of the blood system?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I certainly would agree with the Leader of the Opposition that any such meeting that deals with not only questions of hepatitis C but any meeting that deals with the health of Nova Scotians would be a meeting at which we would be well represented. I know the Minister of Health would be glad to attend.

[Page 1152]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cumberland North.

EDUC. - P3: LEASES - AUD. GEN. REVIEW

MR. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, a question, through you, to the Premier. The Premier during his leadership bid had many concerns about Liberal policy during the last year. One of those concerns during that leadership was P3 construction, the construction of schools. Through the fall the Premier had the same concern. He wanted value for taxpayers' dollars. He wanted it off of the balance sheet of the province. We went through an election campaign. That assessment was supposed to be done by the Auditor General. The Auditor General didn't get the letter. We have arrived at this point in time where we all agree in this House, I think every single member, that schools need to be built as quickly as possible.

My question to the Premier is exactly that. How, if the Auditor General is going to look at it, is there going to be protection or value for taxpayers' dollars ensured so that we can proceed with this process? There have been far too many delays.

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I would say to the honourable member for Cumberland North, now he knows why I expressed concern about P3 schools last spring if he has been following the dialogue ever since. I would like to give this question, please, to the honourable Minister of Education and Culture.

HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, the Auditor General in his report last February indicated certain areas that he wanted to see improved in the whole business of school construction. The member opposite will know well, in fact he will know first-hand from his own area, that a high school is long overdue in terms of the need of the people of Amherst. We continue to work through the process that establishes value for money, at least no more cost to the taxpayers, that we try to do it in terms of off book but most importantly that we share the risk. One of the most important set of constituents that is being left out of this discussion are the children themselves. We are trying to get those schools open as quickly as possible for the children of this province.

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, to the Premier again. We all know that the Minister of Education, Mr. Premier, was not even aware when you had concerns. The papers clearly say that last fall. That is why this question of credibility to the people of Nova Scotia, to the students who need their schools out there, is so important. What assurance can you give us today, after the Auditor General, this morning, told us if he examines the lease, which he has been asked to, for the Porter's Lake school, that he can't do a value for money analysis on it. All he can do is say whether it is an operational lease or a capital lease which says it is on the books or off the books of the province. What assurance can you give this House today that we can proceed with schools and it is going to be value for taxpayers' dollars?

[Page 1153]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, whatever the Auditor General said this morning is certainly a concern for many people but I have to tell you that questions referred to the Auditor General don't come with a time-frame. We don't know how long it is going to take the Auditor General to reply. We have to assume that it is going to take a while and I respect the honourable member's question but I would want to say that we have to build those schools as soon as possible. We owe that to the children, to the parents, to all Nova Scotians and we are going to find a way that is the best way we possibly can. It will be in conjunction with notification of both Opposition Parties and we are moving ahead as quickly as we possibly can. It is a question on which I put the greatest urgency right now in the Province of Nova Scotia.

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, to the Premier again. Mr. Premier, if you believe in the spirit of cooperation, if you believe, as every other member of this House does, that those schools need to be built, the documents for another high school were sent this morning, or the other day with that letter as well to the Auditor General. If we agree that the expediency of those schools, making sure that there is value for dollar, will you commit to table today the documents for that other lease and let's debate it here in the House and decide and build schools in Nova Scotia?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I am glad someone finally acknowledged that we sent a letter to the Auditor General. I want to say, too, we have to decide one way or the other, whether they want new schools as quickly as possible or they want to put as much red tape, in the way of getting a good solution, as they possibly can. We're prepared to work with both Opposition Parties, all we want is for them to acknowledge the fact that there are other possibilities and come and work with us on that basis, and not try to throw red herrings and find excuses why we can't start the new schools.

[3:30 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

FIN. - HST: SENIORS - RELIEF

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, a question for the Minister of Finance. The minister will know that a great many of the seniors in Nova Scotia are grandparents, grandparents who enjoy the simple pleasure of buying their grandchildren presents. Presents, for example, like children's clothing. The minister will also know that many seniors, two-thirds of them, heat their homes with oil, not with electricity. My question for the minister. Why is he so intent on giving seniors a rough time with his inadequate BST relief program?

HON. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, we went through this yesterday, we are paying as we go. In regard to the seniors and others who are less financially able to deal with the affairs of the day, we in turn have brought in a number of initiatives over the last couple

[Page 1154]

of years, low income assistance programs that have been beneficial to all those who are in financial need.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, the minister should know that there are 120,000 seniors in our province, and that of those the average income for seniors in our province is the second lowest in all of Canada. I want to know, is the minister prepared to commit, right now, to a BST relief program that's permanent and covers all three of the areas that the Premier promised last year?

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I find that interesting, a member opposite who, before he even saw the budget and realizing what was in it, was saying, no, absolutely not supporting an initiative to come forward with a balanced budget. Didn't support it. I am in no way in a position to be able (Interruptions) The Leader of the Opposition had his turn a minute ago and you sat him down, let me finish my comment. (Interruptions)

My position is that we're going to go as forward as (Interruptions) we'll deal with this matter as the Premier has indicated, as we can afford to do so.

MR. EPSTEIN: It's clearly a refusal on the part of the minister to make any commitment for the future, and we've seen the betrayal of the promises in the past. Can the minister tell us how any senior in this province can have any faith in the government that it's going to keep any promise that it makes?

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, we just finished debating here a minute ago about the issue of Pharmacare, which was wrongly stated in the local newspaper. We've increased the Pharmacare Program in the Province of Nova Scotia that helps who? Seniors. In fact, we have one of the best programs, if not the best program in all of Canada. I would ask the member opposite, what does the Province of Saskatchewan provide for a Pharmacare Program for their seniors in that so-called socialistic province? (Interruptions) This province and this government has provided programs for seniors and will continue to do so.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

EDUC.: CAREER ACAD. OF AVIATION - FUNDING FREEZE

MS. EILEEN O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education. It's with regard to the Career Academy of Aviation. On May 5th, the Minister of Education assured me, in a letter, that until the situation at that school is resolved, no funds are being released for new applicants to that school. Last Thursday, the minister accused me of maligning the school, saying that the problems there have been resolved. So my question for the minister. Why is it the student aid office is continuing its freeze on new aid money to students who want to apply to the Career Academy of Aviation?

[Page 1155]

HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, part of what we're trying to do is work with, in this particular case, this particular school primarily for the benefit of the students that are involved there. The honourable member may or may not have heard a report from Newfoundland this morning that talked precisely about this problem, and interviewed one of the students who said that he believes his troubles are behind him as a student in that school. It's our belief that we can deal both in a regulatory fashion and in a compassionate fashion on behalf of students while, at the same time, holding those schools responsible for high-quality programs.

MS. O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, in the light of that compassion, I'd like to ask the minister, what weight did the minister give to the two lawsuits filed in Newfoundland against one of the Career Academy's other schools when he allowed the school to continue operating here, charging $21,500 a year in tuition?

MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, our primary focus was for the students who were attending that school here in Nova Scotia, to ensure that they met all of the federal Department of Transport standards, to work with the school officials, to make sure that the students were properly cared for in terms of their contractual obligations, and again, I can only refer to the comments on CBC this morning - which are the latest comments - indicating that the students are pleased with the intervention by the school, the province and DoT federally, to ensure that their program needs are met.

MS. O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, 17 students from the academy are meeting with a lawyer tomorrow and it is quite likely there will be a lawsuit against the school. I would like to ask the Minister of Education, is that what the minister and his department mean when they say, buyer beware?

MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, we have offered to the honourable member opposite a full transcript of the consultations with the entire roughly 100 or more private trade schools in this province. There is no question that the Auditor General pointed out some time ago that this province's regulations needed to be brought up to a proper standard. We believe in achieving that standard by working with the industry, to maximize the self-policing that should occur in the private sector and, at the same time, make sure that we fulfil our regulatory responsibility to the students of Nova Scotia.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley.

TRANSPORT. & PUB. WKS.:

HFX. INTERNAT. AIRPORT - PRIVATIZATION

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question to the honourable Minister of Transportation and Public Works. The Halifax International Airport is a huge contributor to this province's economy; in fact, on an annual basis it pumps $1

[Page 1156]

billion into our local economy. For the past two years, the Halifax International Airport Authority and the federal government - the Chrétien Liberals - have been negotiating the transfer of the airport to local control. The Halifax International Airport Authority and the federal government, unfortunately, have reached an impasse in those discussions. The main problem is that the federal government will not address the fact that the Halifax International Airport has been underfunded by the Chrétien Liberals.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, my question is simply this. Whereas Montreal, Ottawa and Winnipeg, previous to privatization, have received millions and millions of dollars from the federal Chrétien Liberals, I want to know what efforts this minister has made to resolve the significant gap between the two parties?

HON. CLIFFORD HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, this is a very important issue, and I thank the honourable member for the question. As the member already knows, on March 23rd the Halifax International Airport Authority put in a proposal and we, as a government, certainly support that proposal. We have written to the federal minister showing support for this proposal and we certainly want to see this resolved as soon as possible.

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, we learned today that three business organizations are, in fact, joining forces: TIANS, the Metropolitan Halifax Chamber of Commerce and, I believe, the hotel association. They have seen the need to pressure Ottawa to provide this province with equal treatment; in fact, the Halifax International Airport.

I would like to direct my supplementary to the Premier. I did support the resolution that the Premier put forward today; I appreciate that. Seeing that the Minister of Transportation and Communications has essentially agreed that a proposal is there, that there is a gap between the two sides, what efforts is the Premier making to essentially resolve the significant gap between the two parties?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I think that is a very fair question and I want to assure the honourable member that this has gone on long enough, that it is time the federal government started to negotiate more seriously with this community on that airport. It is a tremendous asset not only to the Halifax Regional Municipality, but to the whole province. I have spoken many times with the Minister of Transport. As soon as the House adjourns, I am going to meet with the Prime Minister. I have got a meeting set up. We have got to bring this to a head. This has gone on long enough.

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I know the Premier is interested in this concern. It is a big issue that is facing Nova Scotia. Would the Premier agree then to establish an all-Party committee that will, in cooperation with the Halifax International Airport Authority and the three business organizations that recently joined forces, actively pressure the federal

[Page 1157]

government so as to secure a fair and equitable deal that will provide for the long-term economic viability of the Halifax International Airport?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, the private sector has been working very hard on this and we support the efforts that they have put forward. As I have said, I am going to be speaking to the Prime Minister about it and I am going to pursue it until this is resolved. I welcome the assistance from the honourable member and the Progressive Conservative Party but I am hopeful that this matter is going to be resolved sooner rather than later.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

HEALTH - HOME CARE: CRISIS - INACTION

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. In May of this year, Home Support Nova Scotia Association reported that approximately 730 home support workers had left their jobs since June 1995 and almost 60 per cent of these workers reported that they had left due to poor pay, benefits and working conditions. Agencies that provide home support workers throughout Nova Scotia are unable to recruit and retain sufficient staff to meet growing needs. Around the metro area there are quite a few notices up that say home support workers are urgently needed.

My question, Mr. Speaker, for the minister is why hasn't this government taken steps to avoid throwing the home care system into crisis?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, the home support component of home care is an extremely important one and one that we recognize as being an integral part of a comprehensive integrated Home Care Program. This year we have focused on addressing waiting times which have been reduced essentially to zero waiting time with assessments and all the other initiatives. We have been meeting with groups. Senior staff have been meeting with agencies and both those representing the private and the Home Care Nova Scotia part of the home care delivery system. It is an integral part. We have funds designated. We are putting over $8 million extra into home care this year and part of that will be going into the home support programs.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, we all recognize the importance of home support workers but recognition with all due respect is not enough. We have to do something about it. We have to take some action. My supplementary question to the minister is what steps is the government taking now, today, to deal with the shortage and the crisis of home support workers in our system?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, we are working with all the key stakeholders within the Home Care Program, including those with the home support worker. We are acquainting them with standards, which is the Department of Health's responsibility, and working also

[Page 1158]

with the curriculum development on a program. This is an area of great change where there is more of a formalization of those standards around the home support worker and we are working with them very clearly on that. As I said, there are resources within the Home Care Program, Nova Scotia Home Care, and part of that will be for the home support workers.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question to the Minister of Health through you is quite simple. It is whether or not the minister is prepared to introduce standards that guarantee a fair and living wage for these women who are expected to go out and be caring and compassionate and empathetic day after day after day in circumstances that are often very trying?

DR. SMITH: Yes, Mr. Speaker, the honourable member is right. These people are caring, they work under very difficult circumstances, often, and they are a very important and integral part. We are committed to the standardization of that program and working with the Department of Education on the curriculum and development of that training. It is a high priority. It is one that we are working with continuously.

[3:45 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Lunenburg.

LBR. - METRO TRANSIT: NEGOTIATIONS - MIN. ACTION

MR. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Labour. The Metro Transit workers' strike is dragging on. We have people in this province who use the Access-A-Bus service who haven't been able to get adequate access to physicians, to groceries, to do the ordinary things in their life. We have people in this province who ordinarily use the Metro Transit system who have been horrendously inconvenienced by the fact that they can't get to their job, they can't get to job interviews, they have no ability to transport themselves around metro. We have a system in this province that we have been trying to encourage people to use, public transit. People are getting out of the habit of using public transit.

My question to the Minister of Labour is what is he doing to make sure that this strike stops and that these people get back to work?

HON. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for his question. It is a very important and timely question. As the honourable member knows, we are acting as a facilitator at this juncture of the strike process. The honourable member, I have apprised him of such. We are waiting for either of the two parties to advise as to whether they would want a mediator to pursue and involve our department at a further level.

[Page 1159]

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, again to the Minister of Labour. The difficulty we have in this province is that nothing appears to be happening with the strike. Will the Minister of Labour appoint a mediator to ensure that the parties get back to the bargaining table or are we going to continue to allow this matter to drag along? How long is the minister prepared to let the matter go before he takes action?

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, first of all, we are not allowing it to drag on. We are respecting the collective bargaining process, and I would expect the honourable member would expect that we, as a government, would abide by our own laws. That's first and foremost. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, perhaps if the honourable member is suggesting that we should take a heavy-handed approach then certainly the honourable member should say so.

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, again to the Minister of Labour. The situation, as I have indicated earlier, is critical. People need something done now. Has the Minister of Labour or members of his department approached the Metro Transit workers and the Halifax Regional Municipality to see whether or not they would voluntarily agree to binding arbitration so that the matter can be resolved? Again, something needs to be done, when is the minister going to do something?

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, my conciliator is in daily contact with both parties and both parties are fully aware that our department is prepared to address whatever concerns they have. If they want us to be involved at a further level, both parties are fully apprised of the fact that we are prepared to do so.

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

NAT. RES. - NAT. GAS: LATERALS (HFX.) - SIZE INCREASE

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, my question, through you, sir, is to the Premier. Of course the Premier will know that Maritimes & Northeast Pipeline has filed an application with the National Energy Board to build laterals, one to Saint John, New Brunswick, and another one to Halifax. The Premier, of course, will or certainly should be aware that the proposed lateral to Saint John will carry twice the amount of gas or almost twice as much natural gas as the proposed lateral to Halifax. My question to the Premier is simply this, is the Premier prepared to make a presentation or representation to the National Energy Board to be requesting that the size of the lateral serving the Halifax area be increased, at least to the size of that going to Saint John?

[Page 1160]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I don't want to get into a war of pipeline sizes with New Brunswick. I think what we will require is that the lateral to Halifax be large enough so that we can have other laterals to the Annapolis Valley, along the South Shore, so that natural gas can come to service this whole part of Nova Scotia. That is going to be the criteria that we are going to require.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, that, I am sure, is the kind of comment that warms the hearts of those in southwest Nova Scotia and the Valley, to think that the Premier is in fact paying attention to their concerns. However, from the reports that I have read none of them are taking the Premier's comments to the bank yet, they want to see some action.

My question to the Premier is that since he has said that he is prepared to do that, I want to know if the Premier's department has done the studies to determine the size of the lateral that is required to ensure that there is not only sufficient gas to service the metropolitan area but also to provide gas to the residents and businesses in the Valley and in southwest Nova Scotia. Has his department done those studies and will he produce those results to this House?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, it is not difficult to determine the size of the pipeline necessary and we haven't done anything because the hearings haven't started yet. But we will be ready with a presentation, I can assure the honourable member, for a provincial intervention on the pipeline.

MR. HOLM: Indeed the Premier is right because others have done that kind of an analysis and my information is that the size of the proposed pipeline to Halifax is certainly insufficient to be able to carry the amount of gas that would be required to service, for example, Mr. Speaker, the area of the province that you come from and the area that the Minister of Finance and others come from down on the South Shore. The Premier has said that those studies are easy to do.

I want to ask the Premier then, what guarantees is he prepared to provide to ensure, what is he prepared to do to guarantee, that the residents of those areas will, in fact, have access to that gas and that the lateral will in fact be of a proper size, in other words, at least 16 inches in diameter?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I have already given my assurances, as the honourable member knows, to people in all parts of this province that natural gas will be made available to them. In order to do that, we have got to be able to assure people in all parts of the province that the main pipeline and the various laterals are of a sufficient size to deliver that natural gas. I mean, that is part of the undertaking.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.

[Page 1161]

NAT. RES. - SABLE GAS: SHARE (N.S.) - GUARANTEE

MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Premier in his position as minister in charge of the offshore natural gas and things like that. Massachusetts indicated they wanted all of our Sable gas. The Governor of Maine was indicating that he felt just like Texas without rattlesnakes. New Brunswick wants our gas. The Minister of Finance signed the deal to give 80 per cent of the natural gas production on our offshore to the United States. What assurance can the Premier of this province give Nova Scotians that there will be an adequate supply of gas when it comes ashore?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I am just delighted, quite frankly, that everybody wants our natural gas and the honourable member left out P.E.I. which also wants a lateral. The fact of the matter is it is much better to be in a position where people want to buy the natural gas than in a position where no one wants to buy the natural gas. (Interruption) Our first concern is to have as much natural gas available for Nova Scotians as Nova Scotians want, at a preferred price. After we have fulfilled our own needs, where the natural gas goes it doesn't matter. We will be supplying as much as we possibly can. There is a second tier to the SOEP and what this demand will mean is the second tier will come on much sooner than we originally expected.

MR. ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, through you to the Premier, the pipeline that is proposed to be built to Saint John will have over twice the capacity of the pipeline that they are planning to build into Halifax, which is 16 inches versus 12 inches. A 12-inch pipeline will barely service the needs of Nova Scotia Power Corporation.

There does not seem to be any leadership coming from this government. The municipal units are meeting. The press clippings are here of all the meetings they are having.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. ARCHIBALD: When will this Premier and this government begin to take a leadership role so the municipal units have some assurance that this government actually cares about Kentville, Yarmouth and Bridgewater, to make sure that those areas of Nova Scotia are in line for natural gas. When will you begin to show the leadership, Mr. Premier?

THE PREMIER: I have already stated in this House that I want the municipalities to be in a position where they can make applications. I have said unequivocally that they would not be prohibited from making an application to the Utility and Review Board because of cost. I have said that I wanted to give them time to be able to familiarize themselves with the process. I have said that any way that we could we would be prepared to help the municipalities. I do not know what else we can do.

[Page 1162]

I do not hear the municipalities as really feeling that they are being denied information or do not feel they can do it. If they do feel that way, we encourage them to make some kind of overtures to us so we can help.

MR. ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, the Governor of Maine said he felt like a Texan without rattlesnakes. Nova Scotians are going to be feeling like Texans without gas, if this keeps up.

The Premier is telling us that he is interested and Nova Scotians should feel comfort. The municipal units are paying to bring in people with great knowledge about natural gas and development. The Premier says they should not feel neglected.

The Premier has indicated that Nova Scotians will get the majority of the jobs. So far only 23 per cent of the jobs are going to Nova Scotians. Why should the province and why should the municipal units feel that the Premier is going to assure that Nova Scotians have gas? He assured us jobs and we have seen that as hollow. Why now should Nova Scotians feel that when the Premier assures us we will have gas that we will?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I can assure them because if all else fails, Nova Scotia Resources has 8.4 per cent of the production of the solid fuel, and the reason we said that, the reason we kept that percentage of the project was so that we could assure Nova Scotians that there was natural gas available for their benefit. That is without any question. We kept that so we can assure Nova Scotians they have the benefit of their own natural gas, if they do not get natural gas some other way.

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

LBR. - HEALTH & SAFETY: INSPECTORS - HIRING

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is for the Minister of Labour. Given that the Plummer Report demanded an increase in the number of inspectors in the Occupational Health and Safety Division of the Department of Labour, and that the minister announced in April that his department would act with dispatch in responding to the report, would the Minister explain to the House why this government has been delaying unnecessarily on the matter of hiring even one single new inspector in the Occupational Health and Safety Division of his department.

HON. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, that process has commenced, and I think if the honourable member were to review the proposed budget for my department, he will readily agree that issue is, will, and certainly has been actively pursued since the announcement of the Plummer Report and even before.

[Page 1163]

MR. CORBETT: As we all know in this House, it has been six years since the Westray explosion.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

If the members want to have a conversation among themselves, would they please vacate the Chamber.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre has the floor.

MR. CORBETT: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

As I said, it has been six years since the Westray explosion, six months since Justice Richard reported that there were profound problems in the Department of Labour and the Occupational Health and Safety Division in particular. The time is now ticking away since the Plummer Report, which found that the department was greatly improved, but, also, more pressingly, found that there were grave issues that still needed to be addressed by the government.

[4:00 p.m.]

Can the minister explain why the budget is drawing money out of the Workers' Compensation Board to provide the very protections that workers need in the first place, to prevent injury in the workplace? Doesn't this seem a little backwards to the minister?

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, that is a very important question. I believe if the honourable member were to confer with anyone either from my department or, indeed, officials from the Workers' Compensation Board, they will readily agree that any investment, and I underline investment, that has been made by the Workers' Compensation Board to the OH&S Division of this department will readily agree that it has been very worthwhile. The total number of incidents of work place injuries that have been reported with the board have been reduced by close to 30 per cent in the last two years.

MR. CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, well, that just sounds like more Liberal money magic to me. Will the minister commit to the immediate increase in personnel resources in the Occupational Health and Safety Division of the Department of Labour to unshackle existing inspectors in that division so that they are able to effectively protect Nova Scotian workers without looting the funds of the Workers' Compensation Board?

MR. MACKINNON: First, Mr. Speaker, I find it very unsettling that a member of this Legislature would impute motive on any individual that works in the OH&S Division of this department as not being concerned about the safety and well-being of any worker in this province. The head of the OH&S Division of this department and all staff have done an

[Page 1164]

excellent job of ensuring that workers' safety is paramount. The increase in staffing with 11 additional inspectors this fiscal year coming is certainly an effort, plus the IRS changes that have been made within that. All the honourable member has to do is to check with the officials within the department or, indeed, with workers' compensation or, indeed, the different stakeholders in the industry, including labour. He would certainly agree that his comments are unwarranted.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Queens.

HEALTH: HEPATITIS C - COMMENTS (PM [CAN.])

MR. JOHN LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. We know that there are some 280 Nova Scotians who are suffering from hepatitis C as a consequence of receiving tainted blood transfusions. We have no idea of how many there may be who are suffering who fall outside the 1986 to 1990 frame.

Yesterday and in days preceding, the Prime Minister expressed as a policy view of the Government of Canada, that those persons who suffered from hepatitis C as a consequence of receiving tainted blood transfusions were no different in one instance than people who were suffering as a consequence of using infected needles and were no different, more recently, than those who were smokers and now have cancer.

My question to the Minister of Health is, does this government share the view and the policy as stated by the Prime Minister of Canada respecting these victims?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I would point out to the honourable member that the number that he has quoted there are pretty accurate as to what we have identified in our look-back, trace-back program. Half of those are within that 1986-1990 window and half are outside of it, the pre. There have also been a few since there, which really demonstrates what a difficult issue this will be in the long term.

Mr. Speaker, as briefly and concisely as I can and straightforward and honest as I can be, I am not aware of what the Prime Minister said, exactly. I have not seen a transcript. I have only heard the conversation here in the House. The honourable member said it was the policy of the government. I think the Prime Minister could be giving a personal opinion, to which he is entitled and he can speak for himself. I know that Health Minister Rock has been working very hard on this. He is very concerned. He is a very compassionate and caring person and he is trying to do what is right and just and fair for those people suffering from hepatitis C infection.

MR. LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, it has been abundantly clear that the Prime Minister has been speaking as the Prime Minister, not as private citizen, Jean Chrétien.

[Page 1165]

My question to the minister is this. Will he undertake to write both Mr. Rock and the Prime Minister and make it very clear to them that this province, and every citizen in this province, who seeks fairness with respect to these sufferers, disassociates itself and ourselves from those callous remarks made by the Prime Minister of Canada.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, we have been supportive, I personally have been very supportive of the program, the national assistance program, that we've been working on as the provincial minister as has the federal minister. As far as the comments, as clarification, I would like to know more about that. I have had much correspondence and phone calls and personal notes from the Health Minister. There has been nothing but positive in his attitude towards those persons infected with hepatitis C, and I have no intention of drafting a letter at this junction, until I know more about the context of the question.

MR. LEEFE: Mr. Speaker, I am disappointed in the minister's response, but I will ask him to make this undertaking. As a consequence of the questions that he clearly will want to raise, perhaps as early as today, certainly no later than tomorrow, respecting those disgraceful comments by the Prime Minister of Canada, will he undertake to report back to this House, from his place at the appropriate moment in the sitting of the House each day, to advise the House what he has found out, and what action he is prepared to take respecting this very important matter?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, on all matters relating to hepatitis C, I will keep this House informed and I will do so in a timely fashion.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

ECON. DEV. & TOURISM - MENTOR NETWORKS:

INVESTMENT - FURTHER

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, my question through you, is to the Minister of Economic Development. In December 1996, Mr. Minister, your department invested some $4.5 million in Mentor Networks and HPG, Mentor's wholly owned subsidiary. Four months ago, the department invested a further $1 million of taxpayers' money. Does the minister anticipate investing any more public money to keep this company afloat?

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: No.

MR. DEXTER: Can the minister tell the House what actions have been taken to protect the investment of taxpayers, so that this is not just another Dynatech throwing away the taxpayers' money, the working people of Nova Scotia?

[Page 1166]

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I don't think we have to take any action to ensure anything with Mentor, it's a good company, it's operating in Nova Scotia, it's employing 55 people presently, at very good salaries in the Halifax Metro area, it's a well-positioned company to grow in the future. We have no difficulties with Mentor, so I fail to understand the meaning of the question.

MR. DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, reports attributed to the minister yesterday morning, indicated that the Mentor project had reached only 39 per cent of the job projections made. Can the minister tell the House whether he expects the current budget forecast to be as accurate as his job projections?

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, Mentor has invested $10 million in the community since its inception a year and a half ago, it presently employs, as I stated, 55 people. It's anticipated that a major contract they're on the verge of landing will up the workforce to 130 people within the next year. I think a lot of the problems that are facing Mentor now comes as a result of an employee that used to work for Mentor and is attracting the interest of Opposition politicians. In his claim, Mentor has not done well by him and he has a legal suit against, I think, the Mentor company which we're not getting involved in.

All I can tell you is that, this government, right now, is pleased with the way Mentor is operating. We haven't invested money, we have taken an equity position in the company. It's paying salaries in the range of $50,000 to $55,000 a year, and we're quite pleased at the way the company is operating. We have no difficulty with Mentor.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

COMMUN. SERV. - DISABLED PERSONS:

SHELTER ALLOWANCE - CHANGE (1994)

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Community Services. The minister, in a reply to the Speech from the Throne, when not reminiscing about wet t-shirts and a dunk tank, actually made some serious comments. In it, the minister quoted the humanitarian, Hubert H. Humphrey, who was a supporter of special needs children, having had one of his own. I agree with the minister's quote of Hubert H. Humphrey, that government will surely be judged on how it treats its weakest members. Therefore I ask, how can the minister quote Mr. Hubert Humphrey knowing full well, her department in 1994 under her predecessor, who now is Minister of Justice and Health took the shelter allowance away from disabled persons living at home with their parents?

HON. FRANCENE COSMAN: I think the honourable member opposite is drawing a long line here between the reality of this province and Nova Scotia being the only province in Canada that has raised rates for its social assistance recipients. We have done that under very constraining times. (Applause)

[Page 1167]

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, I guess it is quite clear that the minister was not listening to the question that I had asked because it was a retroactive payment which in fact had taken place. The minister is very much aware, of course, that last year the Nova Scotia Court of Appeal in the Way case ruled in 1994 the regulations eliminating shelter allowance contravene the Family Benefits Act and ordered Ms. Way's shelter allowance to be reinstated, retroactive to November 1, 1994. I understand, however, . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Would you please put your question.

MR. PYE: Can the minister explain why her department did not reinstate retroactively all the benefits to those affected?

MRS. COSMAN: Mr. Speaker, I think it is clear that we complied with the court order in terms of the court action that was taken. The shelter allowance for that person affected in that court case was reinstated. The rest of the clients on our client caseload (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MRS. COSMAN: There seems to be a fair amount of interruption across the way, Mr. Speaker. Clearly, we reinstated the dollars required for the rest of the client caseload back to the date of the court decision.

MR PYE: Mr. Speaker, my final supplementary is to the minister. The minister may be aware that the legal opinion of the Department of Justice states that the Way decision is not a precedent, that the retroactive remedies are applicable to every individual who has been denied benefits during the regulation which was struck down.

Will the minister assure this House and the people affected that she will not hide behind the legal opinion but rather that she will do the right thing, the moral thing, and restore these benefits retroactively to the recipients who are affected by this decision?

MRS. COSMAN: Mr. Speaker, as far as I am concerned, with the department's budgets, any time that I have any extra capacity to spend money in the Province of Nova Scotia on any of our programs, I will certainly do a very good analysis of where those dollars could go.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cumberland South.

HEALTH - KIDNEY DIALYSIS: CUMB. CO. - TRAVEL

MR. MURRAY SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. Presently in Cumberland County, there are 17 residents who are travelling to Moncton or Halifax for dialysis treatment. Moncton is 60 miles away; Halifax is 120 miles. Most of these

[Page 1168]

people are too sick to travel on their own and many are too poor to own a vehicle and you have a hard time affording public transportation. I know of one individual who has spent three days a week on a bus, 12 hours a day, to receive treatment in Moncton. Unfortunately, he passed away two weeks ago. My question to the minister, when do you intend to address the situation of dialysis in Cumberland County?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, this is a very important issue. It is an issue that there are many stories of difficulties placed upon families for travel, and many of them seniors. They are in the budget. There are increases provided for dialysis in the program and we are looking at active regionalization of this particular service. It is a good question and I thank the member for that. It is an area that we have provided in the budget for increased services.

MR. SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, again to the Minister of Health, I wonder if the Minister of Health might tell us today, the cost of dialysis in New Brunswick and who is paying the bill for these patients to travel there that receive that treatment?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, that is something that I would have to have access to. I could provide those figures for the honourable member. It is not something I have at my fingertips today. We do see a fair number of people going from the Cumberland area into Moncton, which has university connections, and it is a centre that is offering services that people from around the region, including Prince Edward Island, are actually going to, as well. I would make a commitment to try to get that. If he could give me a note on exactly what he wants, I will make a commitment to bring that and table that in the House.

[4:15 p.m.]

MR. SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, to the Minister of Health, the residents of Cumberland County, Mr. Minister, are tired of waiting for answers. They would like to know today, when can the people of Cumberland County receive an answer to when they may be able to have access to dialysis treatment in Cumberland County?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, the residents of Cumberland County have many areas that have been addressed by this government: as recently as a short time ago, we helped the Town of Springhill recruit two new physicians; the action and activities of the Northern Health Board in supporting the Highland View Regional Hospital. A program has been put in place there to put a team in. Many programs are coming out of that hospital. This government has committed $2.2 million to increasing services within the renal dialysis program and Cumberland County will be part of that facility.

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

[Page 1169]

HOUSING & MUN. AFFS.: SOCIAL HOUSING - INITIATIVES

MS. ROSEMARY GODIN: Mr. Speaker, through you, to the Minister of Housing, just today, a Statistics Canada report, based on the 1996 census, said that real income declined far more than the real cost of housing between 1990 and 1995. Further, in 1996, 47 per cent of Nova Scotia renters paid 30 per cent or more of their income in rent. This is not new information for the Department of Housing because, in their July 1997 report, Housing for Tomorrow, it mentions that one in six Nova Scotians spends more than 30 per cent of their income on housing.

MR. SPEAKER: Would the honourable member please put the question.

MS. GODIN: My question is, what is this government doing to create affordable, safe, warm, healthy housing for Nova Scotians who are currently living without it?

HON. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I think the honourable member knows, especially with the various programs that presently the government is offering Nova Scotians throughout the province. The social housing issue, as the honourable member knows, there is no doubt that if we had more funding available, we certainly could provide more to Nova Scotians. We certainly are doing a various number of good things across the province. We certainly are looking at this year and probably the member knows, as well. She will probably notice that, this year, our department has increased the funding that is going into social housing.

I will end by indicating that we certainly will make a commitment that we will continue to look at social housing throughout Nova Scotia, because we certainly understand that there are people in great need and we will continue to examine this very closely.

MS. GODIN: Mr. Speaker, there are a lot of people in this province who are having trouble paying their rent. Community Services Social Assistance permits only $225 a month for a single person. So I want to ask the Minister of Housing, if that is all the government is going to give somebody is $225 a month, when is this government going to commit itself to building living spaces that can be rented for $225 a month that are suitable?

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, as I have indicated to all members of the House, this government has certainly looked at this issue very closely. We are very pleased that we were able to find additional dollars to bring forward to help with the program. No doubt, we could certainly have put more money in the program. It is something that I certainly will make a commitment that we will continue to work upon improving, better housing for all Nova Scotians.

[Page 1170]

MS. GODIN: Mr. Speaker, earlier, I referred to the July 1997 report out of the Department of Housing. I was wondering, could the minister tell me when the recommendations that came out of this report in which he consulted with people in the province and received answers like a need for rent geared to housing or more cooperative housing, I was wondering when these recommendations would be implemented?

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I will take that question under advisement and get back to the honourable member on a future day.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou East.

HEALTH - ARSENIC: ABSORPTION - METHODS

MR. JAMES DEWOLFE: Mr. Speaker, I will direct my question to the Minister of Health. Mr. Minister, I think most reasonable people would agree that arsenic is indeed a dangerous toxin. My question is, will the Minister of Health please confirm the contention of the honourable member for Cape Breton Nova that arsenic cannot be absorbed through the skin or by inhalation, but rather only through swallowing it?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I am the Minister of Health. I don't feel qualified to get involved in a debate between two members, and I think you do an adequate job at refereeing that. I will not respond to that question.

MR. DEWOLFE: I will direct my next supplementary to the Minister of the Environment. The Minister of Health just confirmed to me that he doesn't follow the guidelines set out by Elizabeth Brown of the Poison Control Centre of Halifax. Even though tests clearly show that the samples indicated results of 18.5 times higher than acceptable limits, why does the minister require further evaluation to find the source instead of solving the problem that exists, that is there now?

HON. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, to answer the question. The results that came forward, to my knowledge, were from a very small sampling that was done. The federal Department of the Environment have come in, along with the Department of Transportation and Public Works and all of the other appropriate ministries, including Health, and they are doing a study. The report of that study should be here by the end of the week with regard to a broader range of applications and studies to determine the effect of what is out there and that is what we are waiting for right now.

MR. DEWOLFE: Mr. Speaker, again to the Minister of the Environment. The chief medical officer said it would be prudent to avoid the site. What more does the minister need, for people to die?

[Page 1171]

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, this is getting a little bizarre here. The minister responsible for this issue is obviously the Minister of Transportation and Public Works and they have sent scientists up there to review the issue and concerns that are there. As a precautionary note, Dr. Scott had indicated to the people in the community not to go to that area, and as a precautionary move, I think it is a very prudent move; it is the move that should be made. Until we know the degree of the problem, until we know the facts of the problem - unlike some members who like to have everybody scared to death before we know the reality of the problem - we are doing it in a scientific and prudent way and will have the facts before us before we jump off the edge of the world and say that the world is coming to an end.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Yarmouth.

FISH. - ENTERPRISE ALLOCATION AGREEMENT (DFO):

SCALLOPS - COMPENSATION

MR. JOHN DEVEAU: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Fisheries. The main idea under the Enterprise Allocation Agreement system for the scallop fishery was to provide stability for fishers. Knowing that, to date, fishers like Eric Himmelman of Lunenburg and 700 other fishers like him are without work in an industry they have worked at all of their lives, my question to the minister is, will he demand compensation for displaced, laid-off scallop fishers who have been affected since the finalization of the EA Agreement?

HON. KEITH COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the honourable member for that question. As he is well aware, the Enterprise Allocation Agreement has resulted in the industry going from basically 67 vessels to fewer than 25 and that has been based on a program that the federal government has put in and one that the federal government seems to pursue in the future. As I have said publicly many times, I feel it is important that we look at the economic impact on communities as well as on the industry. We are working closely with the industry and with DFO to see if we can't come to some resolution of this problem.

MR. JOHN DEVEAU: Mr. Speaker, the scallop fishers of this province feel that their concerns have fallen on deaf ears. This is an industry to which most of these fishers have committed their lives and are very knowledgeable of. My question is to the Minister of Fisheries, through you, will the Minister insist that DFO create an advisory board similar to the FRCC, consisting of representatives from scallop fishers' organizations, vessel owners and DFO officials, to provide recommendations on a regular basis to DFO?

MR. COLWELL: I will take that under advisement.

MR. JOHN DEVEAU: Mr. Speaker, the scallop quota has not changed to reflect the job loss and vessel loss in the industry over the same period. So the vessels left and their crews are fishing 12 months of the year.

[Page 1172]

My question is, for the sake of conservation and safety of the fishers involved in the industry, will the minister insist that there be no fishing of scallops during the months of January, February and March?

MR. COLWELL: Again, I would like to thank the honourable member for that question. I think it is a very important question but unfortunately it is outside the realm of the provincial Department of Fisheries, it falls under DFO. I would be glad to discuss that with DFO in length.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Chester-St. Margaret's.

TRANSPORT. & PUB. WKS. - RURAL ROADS: PLAN - FEATURES

DR. HINRICH BITTER-SUERMANN: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works. Some time ago, he advised this House that he and his staff would work on a comprehensive plan for paving and reconstruction of rural roads in Nova Scotia. Could he please tell me what the salient features of this plan are?

HON. CLIFFORD HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for the question. In rural Nova Scotia, there are several secondary highways and we certainly want to formulate a plan that we are going to work on these secondary highways in the Province of Nova Scotia. We feel that secondary highways in the rural areas are connectors, they move people back and forth and certainly we have to have good gravel roads, for example. We have money in the budget for gravelling the roads and we have money in our budget also for repaving and fixing up these secondary roads.

DR. BITTER-SUERMANN: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the caution by which the minister time and again eludes an answer. The people in Canaan and New Ross are not just commuters, they are taxpayers. When will they get service for their taxes?

MR. HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for the question. We have a road plan for repaving and fixing up our secondary roads. I am sure the honourable member is aware of that because we discussed this in a late debate. I laid out the way we do these rural roads. I personally spoke with this honourable member about this. He was in my office one day about this and I told him that we will put this in the assessment and we will see how it comes out and we will look at it.

DR. BITTER-SUERMANN: The Liberal Government of Nova Scotia appears to have abandoned rural Nova Scotia because rural Nova Scotia did not vote Liberal. How much longer do you wish to punish rural Nova Scotia?

[Page 1173]

MR. HUSKILSON: I am sorry, I didn't hear that final question but I know he did say something about rural Nova Scotia not voting Liberal. Well, I am from rural Nova Scotia, Shelburne County, and they did vote Liberal. (Applause)

[4:30 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.

NAT. RES. - BARRETT LUMBER: ALLOCATION - PROMISE

MR. CHARLES PARKER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question, through you, to the Minister of Natural Resources. I want to ask you, Mr. Minister, about the importance of developing small and local medium size businesses in Nova Scotia. In particular, I want to ask you about Barrett Lumber Company of Lower Sackville. It is a medium size company that employs over 50 people. It has been in business for over 72 years, but I understand that they are going to be closing down if they don't get some Crown land stumpage for saw logs.

My question to you, Mr. Minister, is why is it that this government will not allocate timber to the Barrett Lumber Company, within their defined area, timber they need to survive, to keep on going, as promised in the 1992 letter?

HON. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for his question. I did not write the letter in 1992, so I am not sure of the substance of it. But I can assure the honourable member that if there is (Interruption)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, can he answer the question? (Laughter) I will take that under advisement. I would assume that if there is timber available and if the Barrett Lumber Company brings to our attention a piece of Crown land that is not already under lease, it could be available to Barrett Lumber. I am sure we could work something out to save this company. Every company or project in Nova Scotia that employs people, we take very seriously.

MR. PARKER: Mr. Speaker, I will provide a copy of that letter to you, if you don't have it within your department. My supplementary question is that it seems like a lot of Crown land leases are going to large companies from outside of Nova Scotia and not to local, independent, family-owned businesses.

My question simply is, why is it that the department is favouring the large outside corporations for Crown leases and not our local, independent, family-owned businesses?

[Page 1174]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable minister has 15 seconds to respond.

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, I am not sure if the honourable member means that there are timber leases going outside the province. I hope that is not true. If that is the case, that is not correct. I am not aware of any timber that is leased to any company outside of Nova Scotia.

MR. SPEAKER: The time allotted for the Oral Question Period has now expired.

OPPOSITION MEMBERS' BUSINESS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Opposition House Leader.

MR. JOHN HOLM: 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 Opposition House Leader.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 8.

Bill No. 8 - Provincial Finance Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party.

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to enter into second reading of Bill No. 8, . . .

MR. JOHN HOLM: And you appreciate us calling it.

DR. JOHN HAMM: An Act to Amend the Auditor General and the Provincial Finance Act. As prompted by the House Leader of the New Democratic Party, I do appreciate them calling the bill.

The Auditor General has been a particularly visible public official over the last number of months being called upon more and more to comment on fiscal policy and the state of the province's finances. I believe that is the appropriate thing to do. I believe that is a function that will grow in the future because the Auditor General is the one that has, I believe, in the minds of the public, brings that unvarnished view of what is going on in government circles, particularly as it relates to the provincial finances. So, I believe that the bill is an appreciation of what the public believes should be happening, and that is that we should have an individual

[Page 1175]

appointed at arm's length who will be the watchdog for the public in terms of being an evaluator of what's going on here at Province House and in government circles.

This bill, if enacted, will transfer responsibility for the annual examination and audit of the accounts of the Province of Nova Scotia from an accounting firm appointed by the Governor in Council to the Auditor General. The bill is almost identical to the bill I introduced last May, with the only difference being the necessary requirement to change the effective date of the legislation.

I do want to make the point that this in no way reflects upon the professional firms that have conducted the audit in years past. I believe, if memory serves me right, that this province has been well served for perhaps six or seven decades by the same private firm who has provided help to the province in carrying out an accurate audit of what in fact is going on with the taxpayers' money.

This bill will encompass the main recommendations submitted by the all-Party Standing Committee on Public Accounts. One of the points that was discussed by the all-Party committee, but not agreed upon by the then Liberal-dominated committee, was the recommendation that the Auditor General be the auditor of record.

This legislation will get us in step with other provinces, as Nova Scotia is the last province that does not have the independent watchdog, the Auditor General, evaluate the province's finances.

During debate on the near identical bill which I introduced in the spring of 1997, the then Minister of Finance indicated that because Nova Scotia uses a private firm as the provincial auditor, Nova Scotia is leading the country in this respect. That was a quote by the then Minister of Finance. (Interruptions)

I would argue that in this regard, we are so far behind that we think we are first. Nova Scotia is the only province that does not have the Auditor General as the auditor of record. That begs to ask the question, are all the other provinces wrong? Is the federal government wrong by having the Auditor General, an arm's length watchdog of accounting policies, reporting on the finances of the country? I think not. I think other provinces are in step with each other, and we are, in fact, out of step.

I would like to remind members opposite and for the new members, that the same former Minister of Finance indicated, and this is a quote from Hansard, "We are the only province in the country that does not have a legislative auditor attest to our accounts. What is wrong with our Auditor General? Doesn't the minister and the government think that our legislative auditor is up to the job? I think, our Office of the Auditor General can handle it . . .".

[Page 1176]

I believe that the policy of one government and two accounting systems is confusing to the public and it undermines the effectiveness of the Auditor General in his role as public watchdog. And, I think back to when we had those contentious debates as to whether or not previous budgets and the accounting of this province were in fact balanced. We would have on one side the Auditor General saying there is no surplus, and we would have another accounting firm, a private accounting firm, saying, yes, there is a surplus. What could be more confusing to the public of Nova Scotia, when we have to engage in a debate as to whether or not there is a surplus, or there is not a surplus, when after all, two legitimate evaluators have come up with a different analysis of what it is the province has achieved and what it is the government has achieved?

This is not in the public's interest. The debate should not be whether or not one accounting is more accurate than another, but we must have an accounting that has the public trust. I believe that the public of Nova Scotia, increasingly, is leaning towards the Auditor General to provide those kinds of analyses that we need, whether it be on a P3 school, or whether it be on the finances, or whether it be on all of the initiatives that government embarks on, and which eventually come under the scrutiny of the Auditor General.

Now in addition, Bill No. 8 also provides that the Auditor General may make two special reports per year in addition to the annual report. Those of us who wait for the Auditor General's Annual Report are always very impatient, that a year seems simply too long to wait for the Auditor General to make his pronouncement on things that are of intense interest not only to legislators but, more importantly, to the people of Nova Scotia.

The Auditor General by way of this bill would be required to report to the House on or before December 31st on the fiscal year ended in April of the same year. That is more timely. In other words, it would provide a requirement to the Auditor General that he reports earlier and reporting too long after the fact is not really in the public interest. The bill also provides that the Act will apply to the 1999-2000 year and subsequent fiscal years.

I think this is good legislation. I think it should go forward and have the scrutiny of the Law Amendments Committee whereby it may require a little fine-tuning. I would not object to that. I believe it is the right thing to do. I believe it is the right time to do it and I am pleased to move this bill for second reading.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: I am pleased to have the opportunity to make some comments about Bill 8. As one would expect with a bill dealing with the Auditor General, this bill itself is economically drafted. It covers six points in a page and a half. Of the six points, I would like to comment, I must say, on each and every one of them so that our views can be clear on the record.

[Page 1177]

The first thing that this bill seeks to do is to reaffirm the content of the existing Section 9 of the Auditor General Act. This is entirely appropriate. We have no problem with that.

There are, however, several new provisions that are being proposed by Bill 8. The second point that emerges in the bill is that it evinces a desire to expand the powers that the Auditor General would have to deal with a broader range of the financial statements that are given by the government at the time it puts forward its budget. I have no problem with that. That seems entirely appropriate and quite the right thing to do.

The third point, as referred to by the honourable Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party, is that there is an invitation to the Auditor General in Clause 1, Section 9A(1) to make, should he wish, in addition to any special report, two additional reports. Again, this seems a useful item of flexibility to offer to the Auditor General. I have no problem with that provision.

The fourth item that emerges in Bill 8 is better timing in terms of receipt of the report that will come from the Auditor General. We know the problem that we have now with respect to the Auditor General's report. The legislation essentially says that his report on the previous fiscal year, that is to say a fiscal year that will end at the end of March in any given calendar year, his report cannot be tabled until the next calendar year. That is to say, to give an example from our current timetable, that his official report on the fiscal year ending at the end of March 1998, cannot be tabled until sometime in 1999. This is entirely too long to wait.

What the proposed Clause 1, Section 9A(2) will do is to move this up. We know, we saw it this past year when we got the Auditor General's Report for the preceding year February 11th or 12th. This is too long to wait. What this clause says is let's get the Auditor General's report more quickly. This is entirely the right thing to do. It may require us to fund the Auditor General's office at a higher level. It is an extremely lean office as we know. It may be that additional staff is required there to meet this, but it is the right thing to do in terms of the timeliness of the information coming before this House and the public.

The last two points that are in the bill are as follows. First, Section 65 of the existing Auditor General Act would be repealed and Section 65A would be repealed. On the former, I agree completely. Section 65 is the section that provides for an external auditor to be appointed by the Governor in Council, that is to say, the provincial Cabinet, the Party that forms the government of the day. This is not the right way to go. We saw some intimation that this government is thinking that some form of revision of this particular existing statutory provision is appropriate.

We saw the beginnings of movement in that direction in a reference in the Speech from the Throne in which they invited some form of consultation with the Public Accounts Committee to move towards a different form of dealing with that problem. That is entirely appropriate but, again, to cut right through it, the main thing and the easiest thing would

[Page 1178]

simply be to repeal Section 65 and because that is included in Bill No. 8, I have no problem with that. That seems to me entirely the right thing to do.

[4:45 p.m.]

The one point I have to say on which I have any hesitation about what is included in Bill No. 8 is the very last provision to repeal Section 65A of the Auditor General Act. I am not sure what led to the proposal in Bill No. 8 that this be eliminated. Section 65A, as you know, is the section of the Auditor General Act that requires the Auditor General to give an opinion as to whether the estimates of revenue upon which the budget for the year is based are reasonable estimates. Indeed, we saw the letter included in the Budget Report this year, in the Budget Speech this year, as we have seen it in previous years, in which the Auditor General says that he has looked at these items (Interruption) I am told that it has happened now for three years, that we see this statement from the Auditor General.

I do not see the problem with this. It seems to me a very prudent provision to have in the Auditor General Act. It seems to me reasonable to seek the advice of the Auditor General on this particular provision. This is not to say that in any given year any of us will necessarily agree with what the Auditor General might say or what is said. I note, for example, that the budget projections for this coming year are based on a Canadian dollar that is supposed to be at 71 cents. The Auditor General has suggested to us this might be reasonable.

On the other hand, we have known for very many months it has been down at 68 cents and does not seem to be moving. So I had a bit of a problem with the statement that the Auditor General included there and with that particular projection as an underlying assumption for the revenue projections of the province. I found that a little puzzling and a little worrisome, I have to say, but that has nothing to do, any particular instance has nothing to do with whether it is reasonable to ask the Auditor General to give his opinion about the general macroeconomic observations that have led to the Budget Statement.

I know that he does that in consultation with people in the private sector. I know that he has an advisory committee with whom he meets and it seems to me that this is exactly the kind of provision that ought to be in the legislation, that ought to be followed and, with that one reservation about that clause in Bill No. 8, I am perfectly prepared to endorse it and look forward to more detailed scrutiny in front of the committee. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance.

HON. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I do not want to prolong the debate in the House on this matter because of its time. The position of the government is that the bill would go forward at this time to the Law Amendments Committee. This process will allow members to obtain further public consultation and advice on the principles and the details on this very important bill.

[Page 1179]

We believe that it is the best course of action for us today and we have no further comment to make other than to allow it to go beyond second reading.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and bring this debate to a close perhaps. I appreciate the Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party bringing this bill forward, I should say tabling this bill in the House. We brought it forward under Opposition Members' Business because we believe, and have for some time, that it is extremely important that the Auditor General, in a manner that is consistent with other Legislatures and the House of Commons in this country - all others in fact - be the sole auditor for the Province of Nova Scotia for the finances, an independent auditor.

I think what needs to be said is basically this, that when you have an independent auditor as we do, the Auditor General, who reports to the House, that is clear. It is clear in whose interests the decisions are being made and the assumptions are predicated upon and so on. When you have an Auditor General and an auditor paid for by the Minister of Finance, it is simply adds a different layer, a different level of involvement that need not exist.

I am pleased to hear the government, the Minister of Finance, indicate that they will, in fact, be voting to move this bill forward. As our Finance Critic, the honourable member for Halifax Chebucto indicated, this is certainly a bill that we are firmly in support of and look forward to being able to debate it further at second reading and, hopefully, see it move on to the Law Amendments Committee, Mr. Speaker. So I understand, as I think all members do, that this bill can move forward to second reading, with the unanimous consent of the House. I look forward now to that question being put.

MR. SPEAKER: The members have heard the question. The question is for second reading of Bill No. 8.

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

The motion is carried. (Applause)

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

The honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would now call Bill No. 7 for debate and, as we had such cooperation on the first bill, there is additional time. So what I would propose doing is adding, if need be, up to five minutes to each speaker's time and, if it dissolves early, and if we have a vote ahead of that time, we move adjournment at that point in time.

[Page 1180]

Bill No. 7 - Crown Attorneys Terms and Conditions of Employment Act.

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

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I rise to debate Bill No. 7 which I introduced on June 1, 1998. It is An Act Respecting the Terms and Conditions of Employment of Crown Attorneys. Bill No. 7, as I noted, was introduced on June 1, 1998, in response to the Crown Attorneys' work stoppage which began on that day and lasted until June 2, 1998.

I want to start by briefly discussing the intent of Bill No. 7 and why I introduced it. Originally it was an attempt to bring Nova Scotia in line with other forward-thinking jurisdictions with regard to how government would deal with the Crown Attorneys within a province and, in particular, how the Department of Justice and the Public Prosecution Service would deal with the Crown Attorneys in Nova Scotia.

Furthermore, Mr. Speaker, this was an opportunity to allow Crown Attorneys to have a formal structure in which to address their monetary and non-monetary workplace conditions. As you will note as I go through my particular discussion of this bill, there are various conditions within the workplace of Crown Attorneys that need and currently do not have, a formal means of being addressed.

Mr. Speaker, first I want to start by speaking a bit about those conditions and noting my own personal experience. In my response to the Speech from the Throne, I stated, I am a lawyer by training. For the record, I was called to the Bar in Ontario in 1991 and to the Bar in Nova Scotia in 1992. I was a Crown Attorney in Ontario and also in Nova Scotia and for the last five years I have been employed as a government lawyer in Nova Scotia. So, based on that background, I can tell you that I have very good knowledge of the conditions imposed on Crown Attorneys in this province and with government lawyers in general, although this particular bill deals only with Crown Attorneys and their dealings with the Public Prosecution Service.

In particular, Mr. Speaker, the conditions of Crown Attorneys are difficult. There are three particular points I want to raise with regard to that and why this bill has come forward. First of all, the average workloads of Crown Attorneys is between 200 and 300 cases; that is two to three times the rate in the private sector, where approximately 100 cases per lawyer would be the normal standard. Indeed, the Barristers Society of Nova Scotia has concerns, I believe, with caseloads of 200 to 300. It is a concern, also, for the Crown Attorneys. At that volume of cases, it is very difficult to have the preparation time to be able to do the work and to be able to ensure that you are able to take every case seriously and address all issues within the case in a fair and equitable manner. That is the role of a Crown Attorney to be fair and equitable. As the famous old saying among lawyers, it is not the job of a Crown Attorney to convict, but to ensure that justice is done. Well, it is my position that justice cannot be done when you have caseloads of 200 to 300 per Crown Attorney.

[Page 1181]

Secondly, Mr. Speaker, is the poor quality and antiquated equipment with which the Crown Attorneys must work. I am aware that the Public Prosecution Service has, in recent years, made attempts to improve the equipment, though I do believe, at the moment, it is not enough and still equipment is out of date. Without such equipment, Crown Attorneys do not have an ability to do the legal research necessary to be able to do the job properly. When a Crown Attorney goes to court, coupled with the amount of cases they have to do, it is important that they be able to quickly get the research, get the legal cases, get the precedents and be able to bring them to court and do the job in order to either convict or make a decision not to proceed.

Unfortunately, Mr. Speaker, given the equipment used, or the lack of equipment being used by Crown Attorneys and the lack of research facilities in the various offices, Crown Attorneys do not have that opportunity, currently. That puts them at a disadvantage with the defence counsel, who do have the facilities to be able to produce well-researched legal opinions that have the legal precedents available when they do go to court. In our adversarial system of law, which is common to the common law system, it is important that both sides, both the defence and the Crown, have the necessary resources to ensure that they can do the job.

The third aspect of it, Mr. Speaker, that makes the job difficult is the stress level. There are very few jobs in which when a person goes to work, people's lives are directly affected by what they do. I am not only talking about the defendants, who may be found guilty or not guilty, depending on the job done by a prosecutor, there are obviously the victims. I can tell you from personal knowledge, having had to deal with sexual assault trials or child abuse cases, the amount of work required to provide the proper prosecution and prosecutorial effect and its impact on victims is very difficult, both emotionally draining and there are a lot of time resources required. Not only defendants and victims, but families and communities are also affected.

The justice system has been drastically impacted by the Crown Attorneys' working conditions. There is an inability to properly prepare for important trials, as I noted earlier, given the number of cases they have to deal with, the working conditions and the stress level. Furthermore, there is no time or resources to ensure the legal research can be done, Mr. Speaker. I must admit that both police and others within the justice system are aware of these problems and they are concerned. The conditions that the Crown Attorneys work under at the current time cry out for better workplace conditions and that is why Bill No. 7 was introduced.

Furthermore, Mr. Speaker, there are other areas that need to be addressed with regard to why Crown Attorneys are not being provided with collective bargaining or another form of binding arbitration. Firstly, others within the justice system have that right, police, sheriffs, court clerks, and correctional officers all have the right to collectively bargain. They are all

[Page 1182]

members of unions and they all have the ability to collectively bargain, not only monetary, but non-monetary conditions of their employment.

On top of that, they have the right to a grievance procedure, so they cannot be unjustly disciplined or fired from their jobs. Even the judges that hear the cases, Mr. Speaker, although they are not unionized, have the right to an independent process for the determination of their salaries, as we recently saw when they received a pay raise.

So the only parties, Mr. Speaker, within the justice system that are employed by the Crown that do not have the right to collectively bargain, to have a grievance procedure, to have salaries negotiated fairly are the Crown Attorneys. There are other provinces though where it has been allowed. Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia and Manitoba all allow collective bargaining of some form with the Crown Attorneys. Among those four provinces, 70 per cent of the Crown Attorneys have the right to collectively bargain.

[5:00 p.m.]

Finally, as government employees who have no managerial or confidentiality role, Crown Attorneys should have the same right to collectively bargain as others, whether they be transport workers or correctional workers or anyone else who is a civil servant. When they are not in a managerial or confidential role, the Crown Attorneys should have the right to collectively bargain.

Back in 1994, this Liberal Government created a process for reviewing the independence of the Public Prosecution Service. Joe Ghiz, formerly the Premier of P.E.I. and at that time the Dean of Dalhousie Law School, and Bruce Archibald who, I believe, was also a professor of law at Dalhousie at the time, undertook to evaluate the Public Prosecution Service and its independence.

Thirty-five recommendations were made with regard to that particular report. I am not going to go into them in any detail, but I will note two particular recommendations that were made in the Ghiz-Archibald report, as it has come to be known. Recommendations No. 8 and No. 18 both deal with collective bargaining and with the right of employees, specifically Crown Attorneys of the Public Prosecution Service, to have the right to collectively bargain.

Under Recommendation No. 8, Ghiz-Archibald recommended an independent salary negotiation process. They identified four alternatives for the Minister of Justice and the DPP to address the problem. One was called the fixed-peg approach; the second was the independent salary resolution, which is similar to the way judges have it done; third was an all-Party legislative committee that would determine the salaries of Crown Attorneys; and fourth was collective bargaining. All four options were put forward in Recommendation No. 8.

[Page 1183]

Recommendation No. 18 of the Ghiz-Archibald report went further and said that Crown Attorneys require not only a way of negotiating their salaries, but a way of addressing the grievances, so that when there are unjust conditions in the workplace there is a means of addressing them and in Recommendation No. 18, the Ghiz-Archibald report recommended that if collective bargaining was not adopted, a grievance procedure was necessary to ensure fairness to Crown Attorneys within the workplace.

Unfortunately, neither Recommendation No. 8 nor No. 18 has ever been adopted by this government. There is no independent salary review, there is no collective bargaining, and there is no grievance procedure that allows Crown Attorneys to address their problems within the workplace in a fair and effective manner.

Crown Attorneys were forced into a job action on June 1st and 2nd because this government has failed to act on the report produced for its own government. There are poor conditions in the workplace and they have no ability for addressing them in a fair and arbitrary manner. With regard to salary, the Crown Attorneys in this province come 11th out of 13 jurisdictions in Canada. They are the 11th lowest in Canada. Most recently, since the job action, 94 per cent of the Crown Attorneys specifically want collective bargaining. They want job security, they want a grievance procedure to address their problems, and they want the ability to negotiate their salaries with their employer.

Bill No. 7, as I introduced it, Mr. Speaker, creates that process for binding arbitration between the Public Prosecution Service and the Crown Attorneys. It is a fair means of addressing their problems; it is an effective means. It is good for the justice system and there has been no rationale ever provided why binding arbitration should not be allowed.

If some members of this House have particular problems with this bill or feel that some of the conditions need to be adjusted, then I submit to them that that is something that can be done through the Law Amendments Committee. At this point I would encourage, for the fairness of Crown Attorneys and for the betterment of the justice system as a whole, that Bill No. 7 be moved to second reading and then on to Law Amendments. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Justice.

HON. JAMES SMITH: I thank you for the opportunity to rise and address Bill No. 7.

The honourable member, in introducing this bill, spoke of his qualifications as a lawyer and his personal work in the field of law. I certainly would not question that, but the bill that he has brought forward I would, Mr. Speaker. I question that; I believe it is a flawed bill.

Mr. Speaker, at the onset, I realize we are allocating different times and with your permission, if time permits, I would ask the honourable Minister of Human Resources to use our allotted time because his department has been very involved. In fact he has met with me,

[Page 1184]

also when we met the Crowns, and there's a working group within his department. Thank you very much.

So, I'm pleased to address the House regarding this particular issue, and the Private Member's Public Bill put forward by the honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage. The bill the honourable member is putting forward offers an approach to the issue of collective bargaining for Crown Attorneys. Is it the right approach? We believe that issue should be further explored.

Bill No. 7 simply suggests that the Crown Attorneys should negotiate the terms and conditions of their employment with the Director of Public Prosecutions. Should these discussions prove unsuccessful, the bill proposes that the matter be referred for binding arbitration under the Arbitration Act. A quick solution? Maybe. Is it the right solution? Let's give it some time to find out.

On May 29th, the Minister of Human Resources and I, along with staff, met with the Crown Attorneys Association. We outlined the wage package that had been approved by our Cabinet. At that time, we made a commitment to fully examine the issues of collective bargaining. We did not close the door on collective bargaining. What we did say is that we want some time to look at what is in place in other jurisdictions, we want some time to find a process that fits.

Why do we want that time? Well, there are several issues that we must be mindful of when examining the issue of collective bargaining. In Nova Scotia, we have a relationship with the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union. They are recognized as the sole bargaining agent for the province. They deserve our consideration in this discussion. We have a responsibility to discuss with them in this process.

We have heard the Ghiz-Archibald report cited many times during the course of this discussion. I would like to take some time to cite that report as well. The Ghiz-Archibald report recommended that an independent salary mechanism be put in place for the Public Prosecution Service and, as the honourable member mentioned, four options were put forward in that report. The report recommended a fixed formula approach. One option was to peg the salaries of Crown Attorneys for various classifications as a percentage of Provincial Court judges and, as you know, an independent tribunal sets salaries for provincial judges. The Consumer Price Index is another formula offered as an option that could be used in the fixed formula approach.

The Ghiz-Archibald report suggested an independent salary commission as the second option. A third option put forward was a review of salaries by an all-Party committee here in the House. The report notes that such an open and publicly visible committee may not be the best place to discuss the sensitive and personal issues that are usually associated with discussions around salaries.

[Page 1185]

The fourth option put forward in the Ghiz-Archibald report was collective bargaining. While collective bargaining is put forward as an option, there are some cautions raised in the Ghiz-Archibald report relating to this particular approach. For instance, should the government simply amend the Civil Service Collective Bargaining Act? That amendment could potentially affect all government lawyers. As the NSGEU is our recognized bargaining agent, that could mean that government lawyers would then be represented by the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union. We must be mindful of the wishes of the government lawyers who do not work for the Public Prosecution Service and, of course, be mindful of the Nova Scotia Government Employees Union.

Other jurisdictions in this country have put in place collective bargaining rights for lawyers; Ontario, Manitoba, and Quebec have a system in place. They have a process, but that hasn't solved their problems. We read of the job stress faced by Ontario's Crown Attorneys in the Globe and Mail on May 25th of this year. On that same day, a Canadian Press story focused on the fact that one-sixth of the Crown Attorneys in Manitoba have left due to stress. We want to find the best approach for Nova Scotia.

The Department of Human Resources is committed to fully examining the issue with us. We are in the process of putting in place a working group that will undertake a study of collective bargaining mechanisms across this country. Just as the Human Resources Department fully examined the issues of salaries for lawyers in government, they will now do the same for the collective bargaining on the collective bargaining issue.

I want to talk for a moment about the study that was done relating to salaries for Crown Attorneys. Staff at the Human Resources Department looked at salaries in jurisdictions across the country and in the private sector as well. After their comprehensive review, they recommended a raise for senior Crown Attorneys in the vicinity of $5,500 to $5,700 annually. Mr. Speaker, that puts the Crown Attorneys in this province in a comparable salary position with their colleagues across the country, not 10th or 11th as the honourable member had mentioned.

The reason this merit based increase - and I see nothing wrong with basing increases on performance, I think we hear that that is expected of our employees and those who offer services to the government - and the reason that this merit based increase is targeted to senior Crown Attorneys only is because the starting salaries of the Crowns in the province are quite competitive with the rest of the country. So those entering the service are quite well remunerated relative to the rest of Canada. We saw that that was not the case for all Crowns and so we made the appropriate adjustment. In our opinion, in my opinion, it is a fair and a just wage package.

Much has been said, Mr. Speaker, regarding the working conditions of Crown Attorneys. I would like to take a moment to address that issue. The business plan developed by the former Director of the Prosecution Service addresses many of the issues in the Ghiz-

[Page 1186]

Archibald report. The Offices of Crown Attorneys across the province have been upgraded and consolidated. Since the Ghiz-Archibald report was submitted, new space has been secured for Digby, Bridgewater, Shelburne, Liverpool, Sydney, Bedford, Amherst, Kentville, Windsor, Yarmouth, and there is a tendering process now underway for Antigonish and a proposal in the works for Dartmouth. I invite the honourable members to visit the newly acquired office in the Maritime Centre so they are able to see for themselves the working conditions that are faced by the Crown Attorneys.

Staffing resources have been added, Mr. Speaker, including an office administrator. Each Crown Attorney is equipped with a computer. There have been some assertions that these computers do not have the proper software. Six months ago an upgrade of computer systems was begun for the Public Prosecution Service. A private firm is doing the work and it is very near completion. What this upgrade will mean is that Crown Attorneys will have access to a system known as CLASS, which is a research tool designed specifically for criminal law research.

Currently Crowns in the Maritime Centre have access to both the Internet and the Quick Law that we have heard so much about, another research tool used in the legal field. Once the upgrade is completed, all will have access to these tools. All Crown Attorney Offices in the metro area have access to what is known as the Justice Orientation and Information System. This computerized system provides a complete history of an offender.

Let me end, Mr. Speaker, by repeating the commitment that I gave the Crown Attorneys on May 29th of this year. We are prepared to work with them. We have set up a mechanism for a working group to meet monthly to discuss issues of concern, including the issue of collective bargaining. Give us time to look at the other jurisdictions and find a process that fits for Nova Scotia. No one is shutting the door on collective bargaining. I believe we have made a great deal of progress regarding the issues raised by the Crown Attorneys. We have provided an appropriate wage package and have been upgrading and improving offices and computers for the last several months. We have provided additional staffing and training opportunities.

Mr. Speaker, we value the work done by Crown Attorneys in this province. We want to work together. We want to plan for the future. We want to build on the progress that we have made and are committed to making even greater strides in the future. I thank you, Mr. Speaker, and I will now defer to the Minister of Human Resources.

[5:15 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Human Resources. You have four minutes.

[Page 1187]

HON. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague, the honourable Minister of Justice, for allowing me to enter this debate. The bill before the House today deals with an issue of importance to this government, that is the Crown Attorneys who make up the Public Prosecution Service. There is a very marked difference in how the government and the Opposition propose to deal with this issue. As a government, we have chosen another route rather than bringing this amendment forward. We have chosen to address this issue in a way that is mutually beneficial to both the employer and the employees.

This government has already begun that work. My colleague, the Minister of Justice, has devoted much of his time since being appointed to the portfolio to address the concerns of the Crown Attorneys. Work on these fronts began well before the Crown Attorneys threatened to withdraw their services. Staff in the Department of Human Resources has also worked on this initiative.

A working group was established to look at the issue of salaries for Crown Attorneys. Compensation or wage issues were highlighted by the Public Prosecution Service and the attorneys as a major and immediate concern. So working groups set to work immediately, researching the current wages for Crowns across the country and comparing that to the market average. The research pointed out wage gaps between our public prosecutors and other public prosecutors across the provinces. A working group also recommended a way to bridge that gap. They recommended a new performance pay increase that could see experienced Crown Attorneys earn as much as $5,700 more a year.

Mr. Speaker, I believe it is important to underline how quickly government acted on these recommendations. We saw the concerns of the Crown Attorneys as important and Cabinet approved this new pay structure so we could financially recognize these public prosecutors for a job well done.

We did not only deal with the wage issue but we have also agreed to examine the issue of collective bargaining for Crown Attorneys. Mr. Speaker, this aspect does need research. We need to look at the experience in other jurisdictions to see if collective bargaining has, indeed, enabled the Crowns to do their jobs better.

Recent surveys and reports on Crown Attorneys in Ontario and Manitoba, two provinces where they do bargain collectively, have pointed to major problems. In Ontario a survey shows the majority of Crown Attorneys suffer from low morale and lack of job satisfaction and have little time to prepare for cases. In Manitoba 10 of the provinces 60 Crown Attorneys have recently resigned, due to workload and stress. It is clear from these experiences, Mr. Speaker, that enabling prosecutors to bargain collectively does not wipe out problems. The problems are complex, the solution needs to be well thought out and researched.

[Page 1188]

To pass an amendment to legislation that was based on the headlines of the day may not solve the problem and may create other problems. It may be that collective bargaining is not the best route to improve the Public Prosecution Service. We do not know that yet but we, as a government, are willing to examine the issue to find a solution. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cumberland South. You have 15 minutes.

MR. MURRAY SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, the justice system in Nova Scotia has been criticized over the last number of years. Whether it be police, judges, lawyers or prosecutors, the public wants a system where the victims of crime can depend on all those involved to provide them with security and a fair justice system.

Last week we observed the Crown Attorneys of this province resort to carrying pickets on the streets of Halifax to send a message to Nova Scotians and to this government that they felt they were not being treated fairly. This group does not have an avenue by which to bring their concerns to government. This is not only about money, it is about fairness and equality. Seventy per cent of the Crown Attorneys in this country have a process by which they can bring their concerns to their employers and negotiate a fair settlement.

The Crown Attorneys in Nova Scotia are among the lowest paid in this country. They do not feel they have the appropriate number of staff to provide this service properly to the public. They also feel they do not have the tools to effectively carry out their duties.

One of the best criminal lawyers in Nova Scotia walked the picket line with these people. He agrees with them and he stated that some of these Crown Attorneys handle as many as two or three times as many cases a year as he does. When someone who has been a victim of crime has to come to court to face their assailant, it is not an easy thing to do. But when this happens and the victim feels the system is letting him down, it is devastating. We are further victimizing these people by not ensuring that they receive the best possible service that we can provide. This includes Crown Attorneys who are well trained, fully equipped and receiving a fair remuneration to better enable them to do that job.

We should not have our Crown Attorneys using their positions in our courts merely as a training ground for attorneys to jump to a better environment, where they use the skills they learned in the court system to further defend criminals. We must do all we can to attract the best lawyers to defend our justice system and work to see that they are treated fairly so that we are instead able to retain them as the province's prosecutors.

In 1994, the Liberal Government paid $90,000 for the Ghiz-Archibald Report, which was to study the justice system in the Province of Nova Scotia and make recommendations for change. The question I have is, of the 35 recommendations, how many were actually implemented by this government? This government, while its members sat in Opposition, the

[Page 1189]

Justice Minister being one of those in Opposition at the time, made political hay out of the job of the prosecution service at the time. Once in government, they put together the team of Ghiz and Archibald to review the system and make recommendations as to how to fix it. They have had those recommendations sitting on their government desk for four years now. They made this public service a political hot potato when they were looking to score points. Now that this same member is minister and in a position to do something to correct the inadequacies of the Public Prosecution Service, he is sitting on his hands.

According to today's papers, I realize the minister is in the process of responding to the Crown Attorneys on their latest letter outlining their demands for a collective bargaining process. There may be a very positive response in that letter for which this whole House would applaud. However, as the situation stands now, this minister appears willing to let the prosecutors stay where they are while the public awaits further strike action. In the government's own Government By Design document, it states that the Justice Department is committed to the fair and effective administration of justice and to excellence in service to the people in Nova Scotia. A system of law and order and administration of justice is incomplete without a well-equipped Public Prosecution office.

If this government and this Justice Department are committed to that mission statement, they must realize that there can be no excellence in service to the people of Nova Scotia: when prosecutors are on strike due to poor working conditions; when those paid inordinate sums to take their places during these strike days are only in the courts to ask for adjournments; when those adjournments mean that some very serious cases are dismissed and those who should pay for their crime are allowed to walk; and when victims of crimes are made to be pawns in the government's stubborn refusal to accept that 70 per cent of the country's prosecutors are permitted to have bargaining abilities.

I found it odd, too, that this government, in the Justice section of its Government By Design document, states that one of its goals is to improve the efficiency of the courts through technology, such as electronic filing and video conferencing. If this is a goal, why not start with the Prosecution Service, who do have some computers now, but who have been under-equipped. Having computers is one thing, but to have the software to operate on this much-outdated equipment is something else. The efficiency of the province's own Prosecution Service would also equate into efficiency in our courts.

This government is fooling itself if it thinks that words are good enough. The justice system has been under heavy fire for some time now. If the government wants to see changes, see efficiencies in the system, it should start from within. If the government wants to live up to the criticism that it laid on the former government and the Prosecution Service while in Opposition, they must start now. The province has been spending money on other components of the justice system in an effort to ensure criminals come before the courts to pay for their crimes. By allowing this component of our justice system to break down, this government is ignoring a key component of this equation. This simply does not make sense

[Page 1190]

and only hurts any possible benefits of those investments in areas such as our police forces or our courts.

I hope the letter that is currently or already being scripted by the Justice Minister to the Crown Attorneys answers all the questions that we have raised here today, as well as the concerns of the attorneys, on a positive note. For the sake of the people of this province, the wheels of justice had better not stop turning again, as they did on June 1st and June 2nd. It is all up to the decision of this minister as to whether he will adopt this legislation today and move on the reasonable demands of our Public Prosecution Service.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and participate in the debate on Bill No. 7. I believe it is an important bill and it was brought in by the member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage with considerable thought and as a responsible position taken in response not to the headlines, as was suggested by the Minister of Human Resources, but was taken because of the feeling of this caucus and that member that long-standing concerns in the Justice Department, as it relates to the Public Prosecution Services had not been dealt with.

We know that the Ghiz-Archibald tandem were put together back in 1994 because there was considerable frustration and a considerable demand being expressed then. To suggest that this work stoppage that happened here a week or so ago was something that came out of the blue is to try to recreate history that is wrong.

Back in 1994 the reason why the Ghiz-Archibald review was initiated was because there were serious problems bubbling to the surface in the Department of Justice, that recommendations, very clear and documented recommendations, from the Marshall Inquiry had not been followed satisfactorily by that government. There had been the appointment of a Director of Public Prosecutions, there had been the establishment of a separate unit but much of those other factors that would have led to the independence that was so desperately needed, the autonomy that was so desperately required and often stated, was not provided for.

So in 1994 what you had was the Crowns, the Public Prosecution Service, under incredible stress, incredible pressure, the workload had increased remarkably, the wages were not increasing to the satisfaction of those doing the job, the resources were not there in order to allow them to take the responsibility and to carry out the responsibility for which they were responsible under legislation, not dissimilar to the factors that led to this dispute, that led to the Crowns finally walking out, finally saying to the Minister of Justice, we have come to this door, we have come to the office of the Minister of Justice on many occasions. You are not the first, we are not going to hold you solely responsible. We have tried to address these concerns and you folks have not listened. We take what we do extremely seriously and we

[Page 1191]

demand that something be done and feel that the only way we are going to get your attention is if we threaten, first of all, to withdraw services, and then we carry that forward by withdrawing services. That is what they did.

I have talked to a number of the Crowns and don't get the wrong impression that these are a bunch of New Democrats or trade unionists who are walking around here because that is not the case. It is not a political issue anyway but whenever a contentious issue comes forward, this government tries to frame it in political terms. If we are supporting it over here in the Official Opposition benches then these must be radicals. You heard the Minister of Justice stand up in the House when the dispute was going on and lay the blame squarely at the feet of the Crown Attorneys. No reference whatsoever to the fact that there was history here. It was history that led to this dispute as there always is. People that are not prepared to be fair minded are not going to look at that history. They are not going to review a particular situation with good reason and common sense. They are going to look for scapegoats. They are going to look for ways to duck responsibility. They are going to look for ways to avoid accountability and taking responsibility for a particular situation.

[5:30 p.m.]

The Minister of Justice stepped forward said today that the bill is flawed. The bill is flawed. Is this the right approach or do we need more thought? Any time this government does not want to do anything, they say that the bill is flawed. They say that it needs more thought. I can imagine how frustrated those Crown Attorneys and the people working within that justice division must be when they think about how many times they have brought this issue forward and the officials in that department have failed to act. The government has failed to act in order to begin to address that particular question when they finally do up the ante, when somebody finally does come forward with an option, not the answer but an answer maybe something that needs to be considered, that needs to be given some analysis, some thought, in order to address the problem.

We have said in this House on many occasions - I guess we are not quite as fortunate as the Third Party these days who brings in legislation and gets it approved, but recognize, as I think most Nova Scotians do, that legislation is going just so far - that clearly this government is playing games with the people of Nova Scotia once again. On this issue the Minister of Justice says it needs more thought and that he and the Minister of Human Resources have met and a working committee has been established that has done great things. They have reviewed remuneration levels for Crown Attorneys across the country and they are going to talk about this and they are going to consider that. They have told the Crown Prosecutors that they will get back to them and that they really think that this is serious.

How can anybody expect to take that seriously when the government back in 1994 said the same thing? They said we take this seriously. We understand that there is a potential crisis here and we want to see it dealt with. We want to see it addressed. We are so serious that we

[Page 1192]

are going to appoint the former Premier of P.E.I. and the then-director of the Dalhousie Law School, along with a law professor from that same school, to examine and to report on the conditions of which problems have been suggested. And they did.

They also said we are going to carry forward and implement some of those recommendations. Mr. Speaker, they have not. It has been four years, nearly four years and there has not been anything until this spring when the Crown Attorneys finally said, we have had enough. We are going to call some attention to these issues and we are going to try to get some action. Then and now the Minister of Justice says that we are going to put a computer here and we are going to give you some new software. We are going to do a few things about your salaries and so on.

What is not being addressed is that whole question of two things. One, independence, and the second thing is giving the Crown Attorneys an opportunity to participate in decisions with respect to their remuneration and their working conditions.

Mr. Speaker, I don't understand what the problems are and why it is that this government is afraid to move forward on that issue. One can only suppose that the government enjoys having these economically vulnerable employees who will do what they are told, maybe, who are in a vulnerable position and will be somewhat subject to influence. I don't know what it is, but those are concerns that were raised in the Ghiz-Archibald report, that if you don't give the Crowns that kind of attention, if you don't give them an opportunity to deal in an independent way with their important concerns with respect to working conditions, then it is going to affect the whole question of independence.

I want to say that we have had an opportunity to deal with this. I want to say to the members opposite that if they think that this problem is going to go away, then I think they are fooling themselves once again. Whether it is the particular wording of this bill that they are having problems with or what it is, I say to them, let's take this problem and let's deal with it head-on. Let's recognize and acknowledge the fact that we have a problem and that all Parties in this House are willing to put some attention to it and to try to come up with a solution.

The starting point in this, an indication of their willingness to address the problem, Mr. Speaker, would be to accept this bill as tabled and to allow it to move forward to the Law Amendments Committee and then let's have a public debate and a discussion of the details of that particular piece of legislation. If the government has any real solutions, any real substantiative amendments to make at that particular time, then we can deal with them together as members of this House who are concerned about the ability of our justice system to function in a functional way, as opposed to a dysfunctional way, which we see far too often at this particular time.

[Page 1193]

So I want to say, as I conclude, Mr. Speaker, that I commend the member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage for bringing this matter forward. I know that he has some personal experience working as a Crown Attorney in the Public Prosecution Service in another jurisdiction. I certainly know some people who work in this system and I commend them for the dedication that they show, for their commitment to justice and fairness for Nova Scotians.

I implore all members of this House to respond in a favourable way to this legislation as a potential solution to the problem and that we vote to see this matter move forward to the Law Amendments Committee and, as we have seen, we can certainly do that with the unanimous consent of this House. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: There is approximately 22 minutes remaining. If each of the three Parties, perhaps, would wish, we can continue the debate for six minutes per Party.

AN HON. MEMBER: We could have the vote. (Interruption)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. As long as there is a member that wishes to speak, you have to permit that member to speak.

The honourable member for Richmond. (Applause)

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: M. le président, mes collègues me demande de vous adresser en français. Alors, ça me fait grand plaisir de faire ça.

Mr. Speaker, just to begin with, I have the distinct pleasure to rise and speak on this Private Member's Public Bill introduced by the member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage. I had the distinct pleasure last May 1997 to graduate from Dalhousie Law School with my law degree and, at the same time, with a specialization in marine law.

Mr. Speaker, unlike the member for Timberlea-Prospect - he would have it that we would all ship our education money to New Brunswick - I am proud to say that my six years of university and my university money was well spent here in Nova Scotia, not in any of our other provinces.

Mr. Speaker, I am very proud to say I am the first resident from the small Acadian fishing Village of Petit-de-Grat to graduate from law school. I am a proud Acadian and I am very happy to have accomplished this achievement. (Interruptions)

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

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, (Interruptions)

[Page 1194]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The conversation across the floor will cease. (Interruptions) If this conversation is not discontinued, I will name the member. Order.

MR. SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, Richmond County has a very proud history of law graduates. Just recently, more notably, was the appointment of Mr. Justice Arthur J. LeBlanc, Q.C., to the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia. Following graduation, I began my articling last June with the law firm of Blois Nickerson Bryson, here on Hollis Street in Halifax. Blois Nickerson Bryson is a very reputable and historical law firm. I have very fond memories of my time with the law firm and it has been a great learning experience for me.

Mr. Speaker, as part of this Private Member's Bill there is a lot of reference made to the Ghiz-Archibald report. I have the pleasure of informing the House that I did have the pleasure of knowing Mr. Joe Ghiz, a very honourable man, a very decent man, and a great man, not just for his province or our province, but for all of Canada. I actually had the pleasure of having Mr. Ghiz as one of my professors in criminal law. He was not the actual professor, but our professor at the time had taken sick and Dean Ghiz came in to give us a few classes in criminal law. I can say without a doubt, on behalf of all my classmates, those two or three classes we had with Dean Ghiz in criminal law was probably our best experience we had at Dalhousie Law School. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: I will have to ask the honourable member to draw the bow a little shorter, he is speaking to the principle of the bill.

MR. SAMSON: I just wanted to give some background on the Ghiz-Archibald report, Mr. Speaker. There has also been some reference to Mr. Archibald, whom some of the members here were not sure if he was actually still at Dal or not. I am happy to say Mr. Bruce Archibald is not only still at Dal, but is recognized as one of the best criminal law professors in all of Canada. I also had the pleasure of having Mr. Archibald as one of my professors while at law school.

Mr. Speaker, when I first started law school back in 1993 at Dalhousie University, we were all well aware as students that the situation of our Crowns here in Nova Scotia was deplorable. We all knew at that time that their filing system was inadequate. Their computer systems were inadequate. Their staffing was inadequate, and their office space. I am proud to say that, today, under this Liberal Government, every Crown in this province has a computer in his office, something that was non-existent back in 1993. They have better office space; they have better staff; and they have better equipment. Is the job done? We have just begun.

Mr. Speaker, we all know that our Crowns here in this province are not as well-equipped as a private-practice lawyer; that is a reality. Private practices bill and they have lots of money coming in to keep up to date with technology. Unfortunately, based on our limited funds here in this province, we can only fund so much for our Crown Attorneys and we are

[Page 1195]

doing our best to update their computers, and make sure that they have the proper programming to do the job that they need to do as best as they possibly can here in this province, but we have only begun.

I have great faith in our Minister of Justice and his commitment that he has given to Crown Attorneys of this province to continue to work on their behalf, to raise their standards so that they meet the standards of their colleagues throughout the province, and so that they can provide the citizens of Nova Scotia with the proper legal representation that we deserve and that we need. (Applause)

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

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, in rising to address this bill, I would like to say how pleasantly impressed I was with the response of the honourable Minister of Justice. I think that the Minister of Justice demonstrates a very high level of integrity in everything that he does. I know that it's perhaps an unusual combination of positions that he holds, that of being simultaneously Attorney General and also Minister of Health. But of course, as has been pointed out before, the honourable Richard Donahoe held both those positions simultaneously for many years in this province, and was the minister who brought in Medicare in Nova Scotia in the 1960's, which certainly demonstrates that it can be done, and the honourable member, the Minister of Justice is doing the job very well.

[5:45 p.m.]

I believe, sir, that one of the duties of government is to govern, and I am not certain as to wisdom, generally speaking, of Opposition-sponsored legislation that is drafted to meet some immediate perceived need, rather than some long-term plan, or some unfolding work representing the measured deliberations and due research of a government department or of a program. Sometimes those who seek to provide instant cures might find that, were their cures are actually put into practice, the cure might be worse than the disease. So, for that reason, I would counsel the House against the speedy passage of the bill.

I'm not sure that it might not merit passage in due course, but I should think that it would be better, perhaps, to exercise a degree of prudence and vigilance, that haste perhaps, might make waste. And therefore, I would commend to the House, the views already enunciated by the Minister of Justice and also by the honourable member for Richmond, who I am very pleased to see in this House at a young age. The honourable member for Richmond, of course, is a practising member of the Bar, or I should say will be in the very near future. I think it's the matter of a week or so, and he will be fully admitted. He has viewed, at close quarters, the operation of our courts and of our justice system in a way, perhaps that many of us have not, perhaps most of us haven't. I would respect his view. I would think he would

[Page 1196]

know what he is talking about. It could be of course, that we all have more to learn. If we need to learn more, it might be well to listen to those who have some actual hands-on experience with the system.

I am not prepared today to pass judgment on some of the unfolding events that this bill has responded to, or attempted to respond to. I think that they are perhaps, better dealt with internally within the Public Prosecution Service, but I would say, sir, that in my view, I don't think it would be wise for us to rush holus-bolus into the passage of this legislation without due and full consideration. I would commend to all honourable members the necessity, perhaps, for some sober second thought before we rush pell-mell into the passage of this bill.

Were the bill to be passed on second reading, of course it would still be subject to scrutiny at the Law Amendment stage, I recognize that. And of course, many witnesses could be summoned in at Law Amendments to give their views on the wisdom of this particular measure, and it could well be that Law Amendments after hearing their submissions might decide, perhaps, to recommend against the bill, or perhaps to amend it. But, we don't know that, because of course, that has not happened yet.

In my considered opinion, I don't believe that it would be wise for us to give passage to this bill this afternoon. Now, sir, I notice the time is 5:49:25 p.m. we might say. Is there a time limit, I might ask you on the discussion of this bill at second reading at this particular stage.

MR. SPEAKER: You, the member for Cape Breton Nova, have to wind up by 5:51 p.m., there's still then two minutes remaining.

MR. MACEWAN: Well, sir, that might give me just a little less time than I actually need to state all that I think ought to be stated on this bill. To put the case as succinctly as I can, and as rapidly as this limited amount of time permits, I might say that I do feel that perhaps, it might be hasty and ill-advised for us to proceed unduly quickly on this matter, and I would urge honourable members to perhaps wait a little bit, to be a little bit on the patient side, because patience is a great virtue, of course.

MR. SPEAKER: I could call the honourable member for repetition.

MR. MACEWAN: Well, Mr. Speaker, let me say this about that. There are some things that bear repetition. So, sir, as I see the second hand of the clock rapidly approaching the moment of time when this debate would be exhausted, I believe 15 seconds time, perhaps there isn't a great deal more that I can think of at this time to say on this particular piece of legislation. Again, I would commend caution and due prudence to the members of the House and I think that, perhaps, that is just about enough for me to say on this particular bill at this particular time. Thank you. (Applause)

[Page 1197]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Education. (Applause)

HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, in a few moments, there will be a meeting of all university presidents and chancellors to talk about, in essence, partnership between a government and 11 institutions about which we have a great deal of pride.

When I listened to the Minister of Justice speak this afternoon in response to the bill itself and the substance of the bill, what he said was that we made a commitment on May 29th to set up a working group to discuss the issues. We have made some progress. In fact, the Auditor General, in Public Accounts today, commended this government for tremendous progress being made in terms of the fiscal accountability of this province - four year budgets, Government By Design, linking objectives of government to Finance. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, there are many areas of Nova Scotia's society, in particular, the relationship between our government and certain arms of the public sector where continued progress is needed. When a Minister of the Crown says that he will set up a working group to examine what other jurisdictions are doing, he has not ruled out the possibility of collective bargaining, but is, in fact, saying let's explore that issue and partnership. We are really talking about a system that restores trust and restores confidence, a system where government sits down with, in this case, employees with a very different relationship to government than many employees in the Public Service in this province, as a result of some needed changes that have been made, to examine working conditions, to aim at having the best prosecution.

MR. SPEAKER: The time for the debate on Bill No. 7 has expired.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, tomorrow we will sit from the hours of 12:00 noon until 6:00 p.m. and, following the daily routine and Question Period, we will continue with Supply unto Her Majesty. Due to the lateness of the hour, I would move that we do now adjourn until 12:00 noon tomorrow.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is to adjourn.

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

The motion is carried.

The winner of the late debate this evening is the honourable member for Cape Breton Nova. The resolution reads:

[Page 1198]

"Therefore be it resolved that the situation involving the eruption of a yellow ooze from a railway embankment at Whitney Pier is a serious matter, and is not to be made light of as was done in today's Chronicle-Herald, and that the efforts of this government to undertake environmental remediation at the coke ovens site in Sydney deserve the support of this House and its members."

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

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

SYSCO - COKE OVENS SITE: REMEDIATION - SUPPORT

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, when I came down here from Sydney to attend this session of the Legislature, I didn't expect to have to rise in my place to try to defend or explain or plead for support for the coke ovens site clean-up project. I thought that was something that all honourable members would support as a matter of course, as well as members of the press gallery. Unfortunately, this appears not to be the case.

Let me explain, first of all, that our government has undertaken an attempt, which may be imperfect, to correct the effects of 100 years of coke-making at the site of the former coke ovens in Sydney, which was closed in 1991 as a productive operation and was not operated during the course of its lifetime with the normal environmental controls or monitoring that one might expect for an operation of that type today but, rather, was operated throughout the earlier part of this century and well into the mid-part of this century virtually without any environmental controls at all, which resulted in the dumping of a great deal of material on-site, materials which at the time were not catalogued. We don't know in many cases what is there.

In any event, I have here a map of the site, which I would like to table. It shows that the coke ovens site is surrounded on three sides by inhabited areas. There are probably approximately 200 to 300 homes that are in proximity to the site on the three sides. The map also shows nine items or nine areas where demolition is to take place and is now taking place on that site, as the result of a $400,000 contract awarded by this government to a firm called Philip Environmental Limited, considered to be experts in the field of environmental remediation.

Now I might say, sir, if I could table this map and honourable members who are interested can look at its content, it will show that there is a coke pile, a coal pile, a steam pipe line, a sulphur pile and building, a coal transfer building, a water standpipe, three rail trestles, another rail trestle and an access road bridge that are being demolished under the present phase of the coke ovens site clean-up project.

[Page 1199]

This government has been in charge of the coke ovens site since 1994. The problem began 98 years ago. So this government is attempting to address a long-standing problem. A group called the Joint Action Group, or JAG for short, has been set up as the agency through which federal and provincial government funding is being delivered to enable this project to proceed.

This is something that Sydney residents have long demanded, they have wanted to have a cleaner and more attractive community. The work that is now being done is operating under strict environmental rules, including a detailed health and safety plan. The work that is now underway will be completed by the end of the current month of June. I believe that nine unemployed steelworkers, who would otherwise be on welfare, are being employed doing that work right now.

So it is an unfolding situation. Every day there are new developments. In today's issue of the Cape Breton Post appeared this item and, because of the limitations of time, I can't read it all word for word. The heading is, Inspection Continues Today at Pier Area Neighbourhood. This refers to efforts underway this very day at that site, to inspect and monitor the effects of the clean-up program on areas that are nearby where people live.

These efforts are being headed up by a team consisting of the Department of the Environment, the Department of Health, the Department of Transportation and Public Works, Health Canada, Environment Canada, the Joint Action Group, the Cape Breton Regional Municipality and the Cape Breton Development Corporation. Members of that committee include Mr. Bruce Cliburn and many other names that I am not going to read now but I will identify the chairperson, that is a Maria Dober of Environment Canada who is chair of this action team that's been set up by governments, federal and provincial, to respond to the needs of the situation that has developed there.

Several months ago a notice was circulated in the Sydney area, especially in the areas immediately adjacent to the site, stating that, "Residents in the vicinity of the Sydney Coke Ovens property will notice increased activity on the site over the next few months. The Nova Scotia Department of Transportation and Public Works, on behalf of the Sydney 'Joint Action Group' (JAG), will be initiating the first phase of site demolition. The site plan map illustrates the 9 items which constitute the scope of this work.".

Now I have already tabled that map, I believe. I think that to avoid reading this entire document I will table it now and those who are interested in this subject can avail themselves of its content.

[6:00 p.m.]

Now, residents of adjoining areas obviously are living on the fringes of one of Canada's worst toxic waste dumps. That is a fact. It is not a fact that I created or this government. It

[Page 1200]

is a fact that we inherited from 98 years of coke-making at Sydney but we are attempting to do something about it. Some problems do arise in the course of an attempt to try to make things right, no question about it. Some problems have arisen which were brought to my attention approximately six weeks ago when it was noted that there was a yellowish substance oozing from the side of a railroad embankment that parallels but is not part of the coke ovens site clean-up and I went to that site because the people that had found this were concerned and said so. I went to that site.

I visited the homes of those concerned and from the kitchen of one of those people I telephoned Environment Canada and asked them to send over a technician to take a sample of that material or substance, find out what it was, and recommend an appropriate course of action. I also communicated at that time and afterwards with Mr. Mike Britten, who is the Executive Director of the Joint Action Group, with the Honourable Clifford Huskilson, with the Honourable Don Downe, with officials of Environment Canada, and of the Departments of the Environment, and Health. So I certainly have been active in bringing this matter to the attention of the powers that be, no question about it.

I came up here to the session of the House after issuing a statement to the press indicating my intent to raise this as an issue when the House sat. I have here a copy of a press release and I am going to read it to enter it into the record. "Cape Breton Nova M.L.A. Paul MacEwan has pledged 'full support' for Frederick Street area residents who live alongside a stream containing a high concentration of toxic chemicals. 'Like everyone else, I've just learned of the test results, but I want it noted that I was among the first to actually visit the site and that I was among those who contacted Environment Canada some weeks ago, asked them to take samples, and have the samples analyzed' . . . MacEwan said he was contacted by Frederick Street residents about six weeks ago after a yellow substance began oozing from the ground alongside a railway embankment. 'Immediately I went to that site, inspected the ooze and other substances complained of, and from the kitchen of one of the residents phoned Environment Canada and requested that they send someone out immediately to take samples,' MacEwan stated. 'I also visited every individual home whose residents had contacted my office expressing concern, and with most of those homes, they were visited twice,'". I think I will table the rest of that press release so it can be read by those that are concerned.

So, sir, I came up here with serious intentions about a serious matter. Some find this a matter of mirth. I do not, Mr. Speaker, I do not. I take this very seriously, sir. I take my job very seriously. I wanted to say that when I picked up today's Chronicle-Herald, I was angered by its content. We know that the front page of today's Chronicle-Herald has already been challenged with a lead new story here, of "Pharmacare fees to rise", the Minister of Health completely denying its content and the headline, particularly the headline. I, too, deny the item about me that appeared on the front page of today's Chronicle-Herald. I say it is equally false and vicious as was the headline article about the Minister of Health.

[Page 1201]

Why that newspaper cares to report things that are not true, I do not know, but I would say this, that any honourable member who would jump on what was reported in the press without checking with me to get the facts and find out what my actual personal opinions are on this matter, I take exception to that kind of thing, sir. I take exception to that because there is a practice in this House, a precedent of an assumption of honour among the members of the House, that we would not willingly accuse another member of saying or doing something that they had not actually said or done. It was, I want to tell you, sir, very sincere in everything that I did on this matter. I am not an expert in the field of toxicity. I have a daughter who holds a Master of Science degree in the field of chemistry. She knows a lot about these things. I do not, but I take advice from those that I can get it from, including Mr. Mike Britten of the Joint Action Group, the Minister of the Environment and his officials, and I was told by those people that the substance arsenic was not lethal unless ingested, whatever that means. I am not a chemist. I am not a doctor. I think that the person that should be providing advice to the people on these matters would be someone who is professionally qualified.

But, sir, as long as I hold this seat in the House I want you to know that I will do my level best to represent my people who sent me here. I take that job very seriously and I resent any suggestion that I have not done that. I have endeavoured to discharge my duties honourably and responsibly, not to jump as some would and claim that the sky is falling down until we have the actual test results. A new battery of tests are being initiated this afternoon, as reported in this newspaper article by a team of scientists. When they have those results back, then we can look at the results and I am sure the Ministers of the Environment and Public Works will do so, and we will formulate a response in this government that is just and that adequately meets the needs of the people, sir. I thank you.

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

MS. HELEN MACDONALD: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. As I listened to the honourable member for Cape Breton Nova, it really made me wonder why we are even debating this resolution tonight, if his representation of the area is so strong and he is so much in control of the situation that is taking place. It really sounds to me as if this is a little bit of damage control. Perhaps the honourable member has been reprimanded by his constituents. I think it is about time because what we have seen is a continuance by this member to try to lower the opinion, we should say, of members of the Official Opposition. That seems to be, from my perspective, what is taking place most of the time in this House.

The resolution that we are looking at asks that this House support the efforts of the government. I would like to suggest that that is not really the question that we should be debating. We should not be debating how the House can support the efforts of the government but rather how this government should be supporting the efforts of that community and the people who live in that community.

[Page 1202]

We have a community speaking out. The minister can say all the things he wants about us being opportunists and fear-mongers. Being born-again environmentalists and grandstanders when we bring issues like this forward. The residents who live around that area, and most of the honourable member's time spent was describing the area to you, the residents who live around that area have some very basic concerns about their health and safety. This did not happen, as I indicated yesterday, or on May 1st when the honourable member takes credit for calling the Department of the Environment. Is that necessary?

We have how many groups looking at this whole issue in Cape Breton? We have Joint Action Group. We have the Sydney Environmental Resource Limited. We have all kinds of community groups. These people were at these groups asking for help. So now the community is supposed to be so thankful that what it had to take was the member for Cape Breton Nova to go there and see orange ooze coming out of the ground and coming out of the water before we could have the Department of the Environment go in and make tests. I say shame. That is what that is, it is shameful that it had to come to that level. These people have been asking these questions. I attended JAG meetings, I do not remember seeing the honourable member there, where people come and talk about these concerns. What happens here is that even JAG, as we can easily determine from the newspapers and from the people who are speaking out, even JAG is falling apart. And why? Because they feel that the government is controlling the committees and they are not going anywhere.

The residents that the honourable member referred to spoke to me today about their concerns. If I am going to be accused of fear-mongering or grandstanding, we should think about what these people are saying. I did not make this stuff up. I did not ask them to send me this. I did not ask them to ask me to speak on their behalf. They have put their concerns down on paper, and we'll table this plea for help, and this is from constituents on Frederick Street, the very street that we are discussing. So when we talk about further testing being done, but yet we have department people and people from the Department of Health go to someone's door at 8:00 o'clock in the night and explain to them the severity of the arsenic level - these people are told not to let their kids out in the backyard, not to let the dogs out in the backyard - why shouldn't we be concerned, and why shouldn't we be raising these issues here in the House? That's what we're here for . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: That is what the MLA should be doing.

MS. HELEN MACDONALD: That's what we're here for, and that's what should be happening instead of . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: . . . and you are against it.

MS. HELEN MACDONALD: Against what? I'd like to know. We've been trying to work with the community to push these projects forward. Has anything happened? All they do is stand up and grandstand about giving a contract to somebody for so many hundreds of

[Page 1203]

thousands of dollars to employ some people to clean up some of the materials that are left around. This has been going on - this just didn't start yesterday or last week or last year - this project is well over 12 years old.

So, I guess what I would like to say is that on behalf of the people there, they have some concerns about their health, serious concerns about their health and their safety, and they want action. They don't want another test. They don't want some more standing up and grandstanding about what's going on, and what we're going to do, and how many departments are involved, and who's going to do it all, they want action.

These people have had headaches, sore throats. I didn't make this up. They go out in their cars in the morning, they have to turn their windshield wipers on to clean some of the stuff off the car that's coming from another site that's burning there that's not supposed to be burning. They have raw sewage burning in their backyard, running in their backyard.

AN HON. MEMBER: I live there, do you?

MS. HELEN MACDONALD: So I guess Mr. Speaker, what we hope is that the member who seems to be outraged now and would like to blame something on the Halifax Herald or on the NDP, hopefully he - who is a member of this government, and who has been a member of this government for years, why hasn't this project been pushed forward? Why hasn't something happened for these people? You know, he talks all the time about the benefits, the benefit it is to having a Liberal MLA. Well this is a fine example of it, because, these people have been fighting for this for years, and they are getting nowhere - so we hope that the minister, after he found out that arsenic is dangerous, maybe he may encourage his government to do something concrete. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou East.

MR. JAMES DEWOLFE: Mr. Speaker, the residents of Frederick Street, Whitney Pier, were witness to arsenic-laced yellow ooze coming from the railway bed adjacent to their homes, and also the water drainage running along the railway that goes near their homes and through some of their properties. They are concerned and their concerns are well-founded. Arsenic is an extremely dangerous toxin, as we said earlier today in this House, and just in case the honourable member for Cape Breton Nova is still unclear about how dangerous arsenic is, I want to read . . .

AN HON. MEMBER: Are you giving a chemistry lecture?

MR. DEWOLFE: . . . some information I obtained from the Internet this morning on arsenic, to go with the comments made by the nurse from the Poison Control Centre at IWK, as well as the province's chief medical officer, which I will also read into the record.

[Page 1204]

First of all, I'll just clear up - there might be a misconception that the yellow substance is just a carrier of the arsenic - arsenic is a natural occurring element that's tasteless and odourless, so you would not even detect it. Arsenic exists in the earth's crust at average levels of between 2,000 and 5,000 micrograms per litre. Mining, manufacturing and pesticide disposal can also contribute to arsenic contamination, and thus the arsenic in that area.

[6:15 p.m.]

As a component of underground rock and soil, arsenic works its way into ground water and enters the food chain through either drinking water or eating plants that have absorbed the mineral. We all have some arsenic in our body's daily consumption of water with greater than 50 micrograms per litre of arsenic but less than 1 per cent of the fatal dose can lead to problems with the skin, circulatory and nervous systems. If arsenic builds up to a higher toxic level, organ cancers and disorders and organ damage often fatal can result. So the body absorbs these toxins and they build up, if you are continually exposed to it. So it is a very dangerous concern and of concern to all of us in the House, I am sure.

I would like to read a letter from Dr. Jeff Scott, the province's Chief Medical Officer that was read by Transportation officials. In it Dr. Scott warned that arsenic is hazardous to human health and could be ingested by eating food planted in contaminated ground, drinking toxic water or inhaling dust with high arsenic levels. It is prudent to avoid the site, he wrote.

Elizabeth Brown from the Poison Control Centre in Halifax said the poison can also be absorbed through the skin by inhalation and through the eyes. Toxicity depends on how much arsenic is in the substance, which makes sense.

Mr. Speaker, the people of Whitney Pier could care less as to whether the member for Cape Breton Nova stuck his finger in a bowl of arsenic. This is not the issue; the issue is safety of the residents and whether their kids are safe. Why wouldn't he address this issue first, instead of ranting on about just when arsenic is dangerous. The member contending that the families should not be moved from the area, I certainly don't agree, but is this the point he is trying to make when he said you had to swallow arsenic before it became dangerous.

Resolutions also said that the Halifax Chronicle-Herald was making light of the situation. Were they, or were they reporting what was said by the member for Cape Breton Nova. I could not help but notice the comments about arsenic having to be drunk from a bowl were direct quotes, Mr. Speaker. I urge the member for Cape Breton Nova to encourage his Minister of the Environment to immediately order the provincial public health assessment and to begin moving in a clear and concise direction so that the families of Whitney Pier near Frederick Street are not living in turmoil on a day-to-day basis.

When this clear and direct leadership is shown, I will be more than willing to offer 100 per cent support for the actions of this government but right now I cannot, Mr. Speaker. I

[Page 1205]

have, however, a great deal of faith in the scientific staff and the inspection team of the Department of the Environment in Sydney, under the direction of Wilf Kaiser and Lawrence MacDonald. If they are able to do their jobs, I feel quite confident that things will be looked after much better. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The time allotted for the late debate has expired.

We stand adjourned.

[The House rose at 6:20 p.m.]