Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

Les travaux de la Chambre ont repris le
21 septembre 2017

Hansard -- Wed., Nov. 25, 1998

First Session

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 25, 1998

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS:
Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Yarmouth Co.: Canaan Rd. - Pave,
Mr. John Deveau 4340
PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES:
Private and Local Bills Committee, Hon. Manning MacDonald 4340
Private and Local Bills Committee, Hon. Manning MacDonald 4340
Law Amendments Committee, Hon. J. Smith 4341
Law Amendments Committee, Hon. J. Smith 4341
STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS:
Econ. Dev. & Tourism: MedMira Laboratories - Open,
Hon. Manning MacDonald 4341
Fin. - Public Service Superannuation Fund: Contribution Holiday -
Approved, Hon. D. Downe 4343
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 2094, Human Rts. Comm'n. - AIDS: Educ. - Support, Hon. J. Smith 4347
Vote - Affirmative 4347
Res. 2095, Environ. - Recycling & Conservation: Dave Harris (Yar.) -
Recognition Congrats., Hon. K. Colwell 4348
Vote - Affirmative 4348
Res. 2096, Fin. - Hfx., Port of [Terminal (N. America) New]:
Final Contender - Belief Reaffirm, Hon. D. Downe 4348
Vote - Affirmative 4349
Res. 2097, Women - Violence Against: Purple Ribbon - Wear,
Hon. F. Cosman 4349
Vote - Affirmative 4350
Res. 2098, Transport. - Hfx., Port of: Megaships - Ready,
Hon. C. Huskilson 4350
Vote - Affirmative 4351
Res. 2099, Environ. - Gulf of Maine Council: Pam Berman (CBC) -
Award Congrats., Hon. K. Colwell 4351
Vote - Affirmative 4351
Res. 2100, Nat. Res. - Christmas Tree (Boston): Hfx. Explosion
(06/12/17) Remembrance - Tradition Endorse, Hon. K. MacAskill 4351
Vote - Affirmative 4352
Res. 2101, Educ. - Novanet: Achievement - Recognize, Hon. R. Harrison 4352
Vote - Affirmative 4353
Res. 2102, Health - SIDS Fdn.: Contribution - Recognize, Hon. J. Smith 4353
Vote - Affirmative 4354
Res. 2103, Environ. - Operation Cleansweep: Success - Congrats.,
Hon. D. Downe 4354
Vote - Affirmative 4354
Res. 2104, Nat. Res. - Hunters: Safety Efforts - Commend,
Hon. K. MacAskill 4355
Vote - Affirmative 4355
Res. 2105, Bus. & Cons. Serv. - LPAs Task Force: Implementation -
Recognize, Hon. K. Colwell 4355
Vote - Affirmative 4356
Res. 2106, Human Rights: Day (Dec. 10th) - Support, Hon. J. Smith 4356
Vote - Affirmative 4357
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 2107, Marine Atlantic - Ferry (N.S.-Nfld.): Third - Urge,
Ms. Helen MacDonald 4357
Res. 2108, Res. 1899 [Health - Youth: Drug Prevention Prog. -
Comm. (Depts.) Strike] - Progress, Mr. G. Moody 4358
Vote - Affirmative 4359
Res. 2109, NDP (N.S.)/Halifax Chebucto MLA - Sports (Skating):
World Assist. - Seek, Mr. L. Montgomery 4359
Res. 2110, Women - Violence Against: End - Commitment Renew,
Ms. Y. Atwell 4359
Vote - Affirmative 4360
Res. 2111, Women - Violence Against: Progs. Strengthen - Commit,
Mr. J. Muir 4360
Vote - Affirmative 4361
Res. 2112, Econ. Dev. & Tourism - Dev. Isle Madame: CEO -
Achievement Congrats., Mr. M. Samson 4361
Vote - Affirmative 4361
Res. 2113, Sports - Hockey (Novice AAA): TASA - Congrats.,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 4362
Vote - Affirmative 4362
Res. 2114, Exco - Internat. Ocean Inst. (Peace in the Oceans Conf.):
Participation - Ensure, Mr. J. DeWolfe 4362
Res. 2115, Halifax Chebucto MLA: Principles Retain -
Resign (NDP Caucus), Mr. P. MacEwan 4363
Res. 2116, Health - Victoria: Drs. Kenneth Murray & Carlyle Chow -
Service Congrats., Hon. K. MacAskill 4364
Vote - Affirmative 4364
Res. 2117, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Road Paving: Policy Fairness -
Follow, Mr. C. Parker 4365
Res. 2118, Sports - Swimming (Dal. Tigers): Angela MacAlpine -
Congrats., Mr. G. Balser 4365
Vote - Affirmative 4366
Res. 2119, Fall River & Riverlake Dist. Lions Club: Commun.
Contribution - Congrats., Hon. F. Cosman 4366
Vote - Affirmative 4367
Res. 2120, Environ. - Trans Canada Trail: Volunteers - Appreciate,
Mr. G. Fogarty 4367
Vote - Affirmative 4367
Res. 2121, Econ. Dev. & Tourism: Old Fashioned Christmas
(St. Mary's & Sherbrooke): Success - Wish, Mr. R. White 4367
Vote - Affirmative 4368
Res. 2122, Aboriginal Affs. - Morley Googoo (Waycobah Band Chief):
Re-Election - Congrats., Mr. Charles MacDonald 4368
Vote - Affirmative 4369
Res. 2123, NDP Leaders (Can. & N.S.) - Meet: Real World Entry -
Pact Make, Mr. H. Fraser 4369
Res. 2124, RCMP Sheet Hbr. - Service: Anniv. 66th - Congrats.,
Hon. K. Colwell 4369
Vote - Affirmative 4370
Res. 2125, NDP (N.S.) - Future Min. (Fin.): Views - Publicize,
Mr. P. MacEwan 4370
Res. 2126, Fall River Friendly Group of Seniors: Anniv. 25th -
Congrats., Hon. F. Cosman 4371
Vote - Affirmative 4371
Res. 2127, NDP (N.S.) - Taxation High: Fairness - Reject,
Hon. D. Downe 4372
Res. 2128, NDP - Gov't. Future: Tax Increases - Publicize,
Mr. R. White 4372
Res. 2129, NDP (N.S.) Leader - Businesses: Policy Variance -
Clarify, Hon. D. Downe 4373
Res. 2130, GG (Can.) - Fire Serv. Exemplary Service Medal:
Mr. Carl Deveau (Little Brook) - Congrats., Hon. W. Gaudet 4374
Vote - Affirmative 4374
Res. 2131, National Unity - NDP Leader: Position Unstated -
Recognize, Mr. M. Samson 4374
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 584, Health - QE II Health Sc. Ctr.: Business Plan (06/11/98) -
Publicize, Mr. R. Chisholm 4376
No. 585, Health - QE II Health Sc. Ctr.: Business Plan - Clarify,
Dr. J. Hamm 4377
No. 586, Health - Mental Health Progs.: Problems - Address,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 4378
No. 587, Health - Mammograms: Wait Times - Acceptability,
Dr. J. Hamm 4380
No. 588, Lbr.: OH&S - Violation (PLI Environ. [Sysco]),
Mr. F. Corbett 4381
No. 589, Health - Y2K Problem: Funding - Clarify, Mr. G. Balser 4382
No. 590, Human Rts. Comm'n.: Chair (Mary MacLellan) -
Non-Confidence Vote, Mr. Kevin Deveaux 4384
No. 591, Human Rts. Comm'n. - Exec. Director: Search - Cost,
Mr. Kevin Deveaux 4385
No. 592, Educ. - P3: Beechville-Lakeside-Timberlea - Site Selection,
Mr. E. Fage 4386
No. 593, Health - Gaming: Addiction - Counsellors Hire,
Ms. Helen MacDonald 4387
No. 594, Educ. - Schools: Construction - Site Selection Process,
Mr. E. Fage 4388
No. 595, Fin. - Y2K Problem: Costs Full - Reveal, Mr. P. Delefes 4389
No. 596, Human Res. - Affirmative Action Prog.: Goals - Attained,
Mr. G. Archibald 4390
No. 597, Commun. Serv. - Social Assistance: Benefits - Housing,
Mr. J. Pye 4391
No. 598, Nat. Res. - Forests: Harvesting - Statistics Accuracy,
Mr. J. DeWolfe 4392
No. 599, Commun. Serv. - Social Assistance: Restructuring -
Report Contents, Mr. J. Pye 4393
No. 600, Commun. Serv. - Non-Profit Agencies: Funding - Disclose,
Mr. J. Pye 4394
No. 601, Commun. Serv. - Senior Citizens' Property Tax Rebate:
Mrs. Florence Dean - Eligibility, Mr. B. Taylor 4395
No. 602, Educ. - P3 Schools: Construction Costs - Unchanged,
Ms. E. O'Connell 4395
No. 603, Justice - Drug Use: Students Study - Action, Mr. M. Scott 4396
No. 604, Nat. Res. - Stellarton: Pioneer Coal - Strip Mining,
Mr. C. Parker 4398
No. 605, Health - Cumb. South: Physicians - Recruit, Mr. M. Scott 4399
No. 606, Fin. - HST: Health Necessities - Relief, Ms. E. O'Connell 4400
No. 607, Educ.: Special Needs - Funding, Mr. E. Fage 4401
No. 608, Health - HIV: Youth Infection (Rural N.S.) -
Reduction Plans, Ms. Maureen MacDonald 4402
No. 609, Health - Brain Injured: Progs. - Access,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 4403
No. 610, Bus. & Cons. Serv.: Funeral Sales - Unlicensed, Mr. B. Taylor 4404
No. 611, Econ. Dev. - Pictou Industries: Project (LOFF) -
Loan Guarantee, Mr. C. Parker 4405
No. 612, Housing & Mun. Affs.: HRM - Police Cuts, Mr. M. Baker 4406
No. 613, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Five Island Lake: PCBs -
Clean-Up Plans, Mr. W. Estabrooks 4408
No. 614, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Truro (Bridge): Traffic Study -
Necessity, Mr. J. Muir 4408
No. 615, Lbr. - Kent Bldg. Store: Fatality - Investigate, Mr. F. Corbett 4409
OPPOSITION MEMBERS' BUSINESS:
PRIVATE MEMBERS' PUBLIC BILLS FOR SECOND READING:
No. 61, Hepatitis C Compensation Act 4410
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 4410
Hon. J. Smith 4412
Mr. G. Moody 4414
Dr. H. Bitter-Suermann 4417
Mr. M. Samson 4419
No. 76, Grants and Loans Moratorium (1998) Act 4419
Mr. D. Dexter 4419
Hon. Manning MacDonald 4422
Mr. G. Balser 4424
Mr. H. Epstein 4427
No. 44, Amendments to the Information Act 4430
Mr. Kevin Deveaux 4430
Mr. P. MacEwan 4431
Mr. M. Scott 4432
Ms. Y. Atwell 4433
Hon. R. MacKinnon 4434
PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES:
Law Amendments Committee, Hon. Manning MacDonald 4435
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Gov't. (N.S.): Econ. Growth - Congrats.:
Mr. H. Fraser 4435
Mr. D. Dexter 4438
Mr. G. Balser 4441
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Thur., Nov. 26th at 12:00 p.m. 4444
NOTICE OF QUESTION FOR WRITTEN ANSWER:
No. 12, Justice: Spicer Building (Dartmouth) - Closure, Mr. M. Scott 4445

[Page 4339]

HALIFAX, WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 25, 1998

Fifty-seventh General Assembly

First Session

2:00 P.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Ronald Russell

DEPUTY SPEAKER

Mr. Donald Chard

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The late debate today was submitted by the honourable member for Antigonish and it reads as follows:

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House acknowledge that recent reports from Statistics Canada, the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council, the Royal Bank, Standard and Poor's, and other financial analysts indicate that Nova Scotia is entering a period of unprecedented economic prosperity, and that the Government of Premier Russell MacLellan should be congratulated for creating an atmosphere conducive to economic growth.

That will be debated at 6:00 p.m.

We will commence the daily routine.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Yarmouth.

4339

[Page 4340]

MR. JOHN DEVEAU: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition of 667 names from area residents of the Canaan Road who request, "We, the undersigned, hereby petition to have the Canaan Road . . . progressed to the 20th Century with asphalt pavement.". I have affixed my name to the petition.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Chairman of the Committee on Private and Local Bills, I am directed to report that the committee has met and considered the following bills:

Bill No. 74 - The Halifax Insurance Company Capacity and Powers Act.

Bill No. 77 - Sisters of Saint Martha Act.

Bill No. 82 - Greenwich Fire Protection Act.

Bill No. 88 - Upper Stewiacke Fire Protection Act.

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

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the Chairman of the Committee on Private and Local Bills, I am directed to report that the committee has met and considered the following bills:

Bill No. 69 - Lunenburg Fire Protection Agreement Implementation Act.

Bill No. 75 - King's College Act.

and the committee recommends these bills to the favourable consideration of the House, with certain amendments.

[Page 4341]

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

The honourable Minister of Justice.

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

Bill No. 5 - Forests Act.

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

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

The honourable Minister of Justice.

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

Bill No. 23 - Certified General Accountants Act.

and the committee recommends this bill to the favourable consideration of the House, without amendment.

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

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Economic Development

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, a few days ago we celebrated another economic success in the life of our province with the official opening of MedMira Laboratories in the Bayers Lake Business Park. This opening was marked with an announcement of further diagnostic breakthroughs by the company. These breakthroughs could have a profound effect on the health of men and women worldwide. And they are ones which, I am proud to say, were made right here in Nova Scotia. It is more proof that Nova

[Page 4342]

Scotians are not just contenders when it comes to research, development and innovation. We are world leaders.

Mr. Speaker, MedMira's new breast cancer and prostate cancer screening tests are simple, rapid and cost-effective. The success of the clinical trials under way in Europe on the breast cancer screening kit alone brings new hope to women, in particular, who live in constant fear of developing this devastating disease. The company's new tests have other benefits as well, and many of these are economic ones.

A short time ago, MedMira Laboratories captured worldwide attention with its fast-action HIV and hepatitis C tests. Since receiving Health Canada approval, the market potential for the test kits has been staggering. In fact, the kits are already being produced here for use in European hospitals and labs.

Mr. Speaker, the products that are developed and manufactured in the company's new Bayers Lake facility will be exported to customers all over the world, and that is great news for our province. The research, development and production of the MedMira kits here mean more jobs for Nova Scotians. More jobs mean greater revenues through direct and indirect taxation. Greater revenues mean more money for our hospitals and schools.

Today MedMira employs 30 people. That is 10 more employees than the company had just five months ago. And the North American distribution contract with Schein Pharmaceutical also announced this week means there will be even more jobs at the company's new labs within the next 12 months. This is just the beginning.

Commercial production of the company's test kits for breast and prostate cancer can only breed similar success. Like the HIV and hep C tests, market potential for these products is remarkable. Mr. Speaker, MedMira is an impressive company and one that the province is proud to support. Our investment has helped MedMira to expand into its wonderful new facility. It is an expansion that is already starting to pay off in good jobs for Nova Scotians.

Mr. Speaker, this week's announcement by MedMira adds more excitement to Nova Scotia's burgeoning life sciences sector. R & D activities at the new facility are bringing international attention to our province - the attention of medical and biotechnology experts and investors from all over the world. That is good news, Mr. Speaker, for our universities, our hospitals and our entire life sciences sector. Thank you.

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

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to take the opportunity to add my voice to the congratulations of MedMira with the opening of their laboratory and facility in Bayers Lake Business Park. Obviously, and this is something that we have been saying for a long time, when research and development is done within the province then the spin-offs

[Page 4343]

from the that, the production work that flows from research and development helps to assist the economy in many ways.

This is obviously good news. We want to see the expansion of jobs that come along with the expansion of the facility. That is good news. I am not so enthusiastic in the congratulations to the government. You will remember some months ago, when we pushed them on this issue and brought forward our concerns with the way in which the Department of Economic Development was dealing with this application. I think if there is credit here, it goes all the way around. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Digby-Annapolis.

MR. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to rise and echo the comments of my colleague, and say that it is a good thing to see industry in Nova Scotia having the opportunity to grow and expand. The fact that they are focusing on research and development is, as was said earlier, an opportunity to grow the industry beyond just the niche that it occupies, and that is, it ties into university training and other opportunities. What would be truly nice is if the industry could be replicated so that it can expand and increase other opportunities as well. This is a good thing for Nova Scotians, and we hope to see more of it. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Finance.

HON. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, I know all members of the House, along with provincial Public Service and retired public servants have been waiting for the news that I am able to deliver here today. An independent actuary has completed an up-to-date assessment of the province's Public Service Superannuation Fund, and the results are in. I can report to the House, and to all other interested Nova Scotians, that the fund remains on solid ground. Indeed, it remains in surplus and the pension contribution holiday announced in the budget will proceed.

Mr. Speaker, the reasons for this action remain as valid today as they were when the pension holiday was announced some five months ago. The fund is in surplus. Those who contributed to the health of the pension fund should and will benefit. Current and former public servants and the taxpayers of Nova Scotia all helped fund the plan, and so they will all benefit. The public servants receive their share by way of a pension contribution holiday. Contributions to the plan will be suspended as of the first pay cheque in January. Contributions made previously will be refunded in a lump sum on the second pay cheque in January.

Retired public employees who paid into this plan and their spouses will also benefit. The Financial Measures (1998) Act raises the spousal pensions from 60 per cent to 66.66 per cent. This is a considerable permanent improvement for the families of the pensioners. The

[Page 4344]

taxpayers of Nova Scotia benefit by virtue of a holiday in provincial contributions. The government savings are being used to fund the services Nova Scotians expect from their government.

Mr. Speaker, I also want to speak for a moment about the overall health of the Public Service Plan. For several years now, our pension funds have been very well managed. They are among the top performing funds anywhere in this country. As a result, this fund accumulated a substantial surplus. That is the reason why the pension contribution holiday and pension improvements are a prudent and fair course of action. However, all members know there was also some concern that the contribution holiday, combined with the shock waves on the financial markets worldwide, could push the Nova Scotia fund into some jeopardy.

The government took that concern seriously, Mr. Speaker, and again chose the prudent course of action. The plan to share the surplus benefits among the pensioners, employees and the employers was conditional on advice from an independent actuary as to the current state of the fund. It also depended upon the final judgement of the trustee.

[2:15 p.m.]

The firm of Morneau and Sobeco has examined the fund using updated assumptions about future liabilities. These assumptions include forecasts of future inflation, investment returns and so on. I want to assure the House that those assumptions are realistic with a margin of error already built in. The independent actuary found the plan to be over-funded as of October 31, 1998. In fact, if the changes approved by the House in the budget and, more recently, with the passage of the Financial Measures (1998) Act, did not proceed, the pension plan would have been above 109 per cent funded. The evaluation further confirms that with the implementation of measures announced in the budget the fund will still have a surplus as of October 31, 1998, of $38.6 million and remain about 102 per cent funded.

Mr. Speaker, the experience of the past performance has shown that the province manages the fund and its obligations to pensioners in a prudent manner. We intend to maintain that same management approach to maintain a healthy balance into the future. Through prudent management and by working with our unions we have been able to eliminate the unfunded liabilities in the Public Service plan and make substantial progress toward the same goal in the Teachers' Pension Plan. In both cases we have been able to offer employees and pensioners a more secure future. Taxpayers can also rest assured that the funds are healthy so there will be no need for them to step in on any breach.

Accordingly, Mr. Speaker, I would like to inform all members of the House, as well as our employees past and employees present, that the pension fund is sound and is in surplus. Therefore, the pension contribution holiday announced in the budget and approved by this House will proceed as scheduled. Thank you very much.

[Page 4345]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased first off for all of those Nova Scotians who will benefit very directly from the wise investments that have been made and the performance of the pension fund so far; what this means is those Nova Scotians who are members of the Civil Service and who will enjoy the benefit of the contribution holiday and those who are retired civil servants who will enjoy the benefits of improved payments under the revisions to the scheme.

Let me say that I am also very pleased that the amendments that we proposed to the Financial Measures (1998) Act were adopted and provided the framework for this actuarial evaluation that has now taken place and, furthermore, that those amendments were along the lines of making sure that before any pension contribution holidays could be taken there has to be an arm's length independent actuarial evaluation to make sure that the plan would not be put in a deficit position as a result of doing that and that this was something that was put in the Statute and was not left to administrative discretion by way of regulation. That was a result of amendments to the Act and I am very pleased that that went through.

Let me say finally that it is extremely important that no government become reliant on balancing its books on the basis of taking pension contribution holidays. These two years, which are the only two years in which this plan has been in surplus, have been exceptional and although there has been a major rise in the stock markets, there has also been a lot of turmoil and decline. We can be thankful that the extent of the investments under prudent management has been such that the investment fund as a whole was able to withstand the turmoil and shocks that we have seen in recent months.

I would like to draw to the attention of the members of the House that after taking the pension contribution holidays the plan is only 101.6 per cent in surplus, that is to say it is only 1.6 per cent above the level that is needed to fully fund the obligations of the plan. That means $38 million, it sounds like a large amount but that is on a base of $2.5 billion or $3 billion that are in the fund so this is a very close margin. We have to pay very close attention to making sure that the fund continues to be healthy and we cannot allow ourselves to assume that in future years a government will be able to rely upon taking pension contribution holidays to give it sums of $28 million or $56 million to attempt to balance its budget. Thank you very much.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Argyle.

MR. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I would like to say that I welcome the minister's remarks in the House today and he precludes my question for Question Period so I might have to go back to the drawing board because I was going to ask what the status of this report was. I would like to say that I am pleased that the minister announced today that the actuarial report has shown that the pension contribution holiday will indeed take place

[Page 4346]

because I think all members of this House wanted to have good news on this. No one was comfortable with the fact of the matter that perhaps this fund would actually be under-funded and we find that that hasn't occurred.

I would like to say that first of all, this means that our provincial civil servants will have a pension holiday and while I guess as it is so close to Christmas it will almost be in the form of a Christmas benefit, whether they receive it before or subsequently after Christmas, they can at least plan on that and make provisions for it. They have answers and they didn't have that before and I think they require that. At the same time, this is giving the government funds to work toward addressing a lot of the programs that are still required in this province and for that, we are grateful.

I will make the comment that this, in my estimation, is a practice that we should not become reliant upon. I don't think that pension plans are things that government should be trying to dip into to balance their budgets. I know that this time the final result is 101.6 per cent funded, which means that we are very close. I always find myself very uncomfortable about doing this procedure because the fact of the matter is that pension funds go up and pension funds go down depending on what the results are. I would like to have the margin of error be a little bigger than that before governments would actually try to use this type of contribution holiday and bring revenues into the general revenues of the province.

I would like to say that on behalf of our Party, we are very pleased that the actuary has found that it is funded. In closing, I would like to compliment the Investment Committee, which has brought about changes in investment in this province that wasn't there in the past. I will be the first one to say that. The unions have been very responsible in this regard and when they came on stream they were looking for more progressive ways of investing. They brought about changes which have helped both this plan and other plans that involve government.

In closing, I would like to compliment all of the progressive measures that they brought about to the whole investment scheme and say that we are extremely pleased that the civil servants of this province will indeed have a pension holiday while at the same time our retired civil servants will also have increases in their pension benefits. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: Before we carry on with Statements by Minister, I would like to draw to the attention of all members to the presence in the Speaker's Gallery of Major Harold Long, a long-time serving member of this House as Sergeant-at-Arms, a person who really looked after this place during his time here and in large measure is responsible for the present state of the building, particularly the renovations that had taken place about seven or eight years ago. So it is a great pleasure to welcome back Major Long. He comes to visit with us every session and certainly, Harold, please keep coming back. (Applause)

The honourable member for Truro-Bible Hill on an introduction.

[Page 4347]

MR. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I draw the attention of the members of the House to the west gallery and ask them to welcome 15 students from the Nova Scotia Community College, Truro Campus and their instructor, Dan Criss. Welcome to the House, good to see you here. (Applause)

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health.

RESOLUTION NO. 2094

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

Whereas the Human Rights Commission works to eliminate discrimination and create a fair and welcoming society for all Nova Scotians; and

Whereas there have been protections in this province's human rights law since 1991 to prevent men, women and children with illnesses from suffering discrimination based on the irrational fear of those illnesses; and

Whereas November 23rd to November 30th is National AIDS Awareness Week in Canada, to be followed immediately by World AIDS Day on December 1st;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House support people with AIDS and the support groups who work with them in their efforts to better educate and inform the public so that no person with HIV or AIDS experiences discrimination based on irrational fear.

Mr. Speaker, I 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 Minister of Fisheries.

[Page 4348]

RESOLUTION NO. 2095

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

Whereas last week the Gulf of Maine Council held its semi-annual meeting here in Halifax; and

Whereas the council presented Mr. David Harris, a businessman and environmentalist from Yarmouth, with an award at this meeting; and

Whereas Mr. Harris was honoured for the work of one of his companies, H & H Recovery Limited, for aggressively pursuing markets for recycled plastics and oil containers;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Mr. Harris on receiving this award and wish him and his company every success in years to come.

Mr. Speaker, I 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 Minister of Finance.

RESOLUTION NO. 2096

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

Whereas all Parties in this House have been united in their efforts to promote Halifax as a site for a major new North American container port terminal; and

Whereas a successful bid by Halifax means more than 2,000 well-paying jobs directly and 3,000 indirectly for Nova Scotians; and

[Page 4349]

Whereas the American publication, the Journal of Commerce yesterday quoted a senior official of Maersk that a short list of contenders will be created by the end of this week or the beginning of next week;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House reaffirm their belief that Halifax should be one of the final contenders for this critical bid to improve our economy and furthermore offer the Halifax port group all the assistance necessary to go forward for being on the short list and being on the winning list.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to table this report that was presented yesterday. I would ask the Page to photocopy it and send it to all members.

Mr. Speaker, I request 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 Minister of Community Services.

RESOLUTION NO. 2097

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

Whereas November 25th is the International Day to End Violence Against Women and marks the beginning of a period known as 16 Days of Activism Against Gender Violence; and

Whereas in spite of the progress that has been made, the violence against women has not yet been eliminated, as evidenced by the fact that during 1998, five Nova Scotian women were murdered;

Therefore be it resolved that all members support the movement to end violence against women, through personal commitment, organizational support and community action, and that we make our commitment known by wearing a purple ribbon during these 16 Days of Action on Gender Violence.

[Page 4350]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Transportation and Public Works.

RESOLUTION NO. 2098

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

Whereas an article in the New York Times describes in detail the woeful state of that country's ability to accommodate megaships; and

Whereas the same editorial identifies Halifax as the port that requires the least upgrading to handle the coming age of the mega container ship; and

Whereas we can still deliver goods to the American Midwest a day earlier than from New York;

Therefore be it resolved that given the article states that any shipping line, "feels no need to restrict itself to United States ports to serve American markets . . . Feeding goods into the United States from ports in Canada . . . would do just as well.", this House gives notice to the ports of the United States that we are on the map, in the game, on the ball, and ready to join the starting line-up in the billion-dollar megaship business of the next century.

[2:30 p.m.]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

[Page 4351]

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Fisheries.

RESOLUTION NO. 2099

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

Whereas last week the Gulf of Maine Council held its semi-annual meeting here in Halifax; and

Whereas as part of these meetings a number of individuals and associations were recognized for their role in supporting environmental sustainability and conservation in the Gulf area; and

Whereas CBC Information Morning reporter, Pam Berman, was presented with an award for her series on lobster conservation in the Gulf of Maine;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate Pam Berman on receiving this award and thank her for the contribution she has made to these conservation issues.

Mr. Speaker, I 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 Minister of Natural Resources.

RESOLUTION NO. 2100

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

[Page 4352]

Whereas it has become a long-standing tradition for the people of Nova Scotia to present a Christmas tree to the people of Boston in remembrance and recognition of assistance provided during the Halifax explosion in December 1917; and

Whereas the tree for this Christmas is a lovely 50-foot white spruce from New Ross, Lunenburg County, that showcases the health and quality of the Nova Scotia Christmas tree industry; and

Whereas this gesture fosters peace, good will, trade and tourism among the people of both New England and Nova Scotia;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House applaud, endorse and help to maintain this long-standing tradition.

Mr. Speaker, I 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 Minister of Education.

RESOLUTION NO. 2101

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

Whereas Novanet is a consortium of Nova Scotian university libraries which owns and operates an automated library system; and

Whereas the Novanet system promotes the sharing of library resources and the full use of university library systems; and

Whereas Novanet is celebrating its 10th Anniversary, growing from five metro university libraries in 1988 to eight university and all Nova Scotia Community College libraries today;

[Page 4353]

Therefore be it resolved that this House acknowledge and recognize the achievement of Novanet in establishing a world-class automated library system for Nova Scotians and extend its congratulations on the 10th Anniversary of Novanet's inception.

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

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Health.

RESOLUTION NO. 2102

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

Whereas Sudden Infant Death Syndrome remains the leading cause of death in Canadian infants between one month and one year of age; and

Whereas public health messages aimed at reducing the risk of this tragedy have contributed to a 44 per cent decrease in the SIDS rate since 1979; and

Whereas the Canadian Foundation on the Study of Infant Deaths is the only organization in this country dedicated solely to SIDS public awareness, parent support and research;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House recognize the contribution that the SIDS Foundation has made to the health of our country's children and congratulate them on their 25th Anniversary of charitable service to the Canadian public.

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

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 4354]

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 the Environment.

RESOLUTION NO. 2103

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

Whereas last week Nova Scotian farmers participated in Operation Cleansweep, a collection program for unwanted and obsolete pesticides; and

Whereas Operation Cleansweep was sponsored by the Nova Scotia Department of the Environment, the Department of Agriculture and Marketing, the Crop Protection Institute of Canada, Crop Protection Institute Atlantic Provincial Council, and Retail Pesticide Dealers; and

Whereas more than 5,000 kilograms of dry material and 5,000 litres of liquid were collected from over 300 farms across the province;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate all participants and organizers in this very successful campaign to avert potential hazards in Nova Scotia.

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

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable Minister of Natural Resources.

[Page 4355]

RESOLUTION NO. 2104

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

Whereas preliminary reports indicate another highly successful moose hunt in October with no hunter mishaps during the 12-day season; and

Whereas so far there has been only one minor hunting accident injury during the current deer season which ends on December 7th; and

Whereas Nova Scotia hunters have achieved an enviable and excellent record since mandatory hunter education was introduced nearly 20 years ago;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House commend hunters for their efforts and success in making hunting safer and wish them continued success and safety for the remainder of the hunting season.

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

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 Business and Consumer Services.

RESOLUTION NO. 2105

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

Whereas over a period of six months a provincial task force reviewed 288 licenses, permits, approvals, registrations and certificates administered by 14 departments across government; and

[Page 4356]

Whereas as a result of this work the task force recommended 36 general policies be implemented across government as well as 96 specific changes to licenses, permits, registrations and certifications; and

Whereas the small business community was instrumental in identifying areas to cut red tape and continues to be involved in the implementation of these recommendations;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize the ongoing efforts to implement the task force report to help create and maintain an environment where businesses in Nova Scotia can thrive.

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 Minister of Justice.

RESOLUTION NO. 2106

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

Whereas December 10th is celebrated each year across the world as Human Rights Day; and

Whereas this year December 10th marks a special opportunity to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the United Nations document that describes basic rights for all humanity; and

Whereas human rights are intrinsic to a free and democratic society where all citizens have the opportunity to prosper and grow;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House support Human Rights Day and take on the personal challenge to fight injustice, ignorance and hatred whenever they are confronted by it in their public or their private lives.

[Page 4357]

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 on an introduction.

MR. JAMES DEWOLFE: Mr. Speaker, I would like to bring the attention of the House to a member in the west gallery. I would like you to greet the Warden of Pictou County, Hank Dunnewold. Hank, would you stand up and receive the welcome of the House. (Applause)

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

NOTICES OF MOTION

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

RESOLUTION NO. 2107

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

Whereas Marine Atlantic's ferry service is an important link between mainland Nova Scotia and Newfoundland; and

Whereas truck traffic carrying fresh produce and other consumables valued in excess of $100,000 is often sidelined because of priority of other ferry traffic; and

Whereas Marine Atlantic Gulf Services recognizes the service offered does pose limitation on commercial units;

Therefore be it resolved that this provincial government urge the federal Liberal Government to explore the option of assigning a third super ferry to Marine Atlantic's Trans Canada fleet to Newfoundland.

[Page 4358]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Kings West.

RESOLUTION NO. 2108

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

Whereas Cape Breton Regional Police are now commenting on an alarming trend that has seen a massive influx of cocaine in the Sydney area; and

Whereas police have sporadically laid charges in the past for cocaine use but are now encountering its use several times a week and have noted that children as young as 12 have been found experimenting with coke; and

Whereas this trend coincides with a Nova Scotia Health Department report released last week indicating that there has been a dramatic increase among teenagers with the use of drugs in the past seven years;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier advise the members of this House on the progress made on the Notice of Motion, which received consent last week, calling for the government to strike a working committee of representatives from the Departments of Health, Justice, Education, and Community Services, to evaluate existing drug prevention programs and to identify new approaches.

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.

[Page 4359]

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 2109

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 Scotia is about to welcome back Elvis and the Canon '98 Tour of Champions; and

Whereas a number of the world's top figure skaters and figure skating coaches will be in Halifax on November 26th; and

Whereas the Leader of the Opposition and his member from Halifax-Chebucto continue to skate around the issue of accountability for their support of the Financial Measures (1998) Act;

Therefore be it resolved that the socialist Leader and the member for Halifax-Chebucto seek assistance from these world-class athletes in an attempt to fine-tune their new-found talents.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Preston.

RESOLUTION NO. 2110

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

Whereas November 25th is the International Day to End Violence Against Women; and

Whereas in Nova Scotia, beginning on November 25th and ending on December 6th, Canada's National Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women, we signify our commitment to the elimination of violence against women by wearing a purple ribbon; and

Whereas during the next 12 days, we will remember the 14 women who died in Montreal on December 6, 1989, all women who have died violently across Canada, and the many thousands who continue to live with abuse;

[Page 4360]

Therefore be it resolved that this House renew its commitment to ending violence against women and commit adequate resources to supports and services for abused women in the Province of Nova Scotia.

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 Truro-Bible Hill.

RESOLUTION NO. 2111

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

Whereas violence against women continues to be a problem in Nova Scotia and across the country, too often resulting in senseless murders and abuse, and enabling a culture of fear to win the day; and

Whereas December 6th marks the anniversary of 14 young women who were murdered, at the École Polytechnique in Montreal, simply because they were women; and

Whereas November 25th through December 6th, men and women in this province signify their commitment to the elimination of violence against women by wearing a purple ribbon;

Therefore be it resolved that this government commit to strengthening current programs, identifying new approaches, and preparing implementation plans to demonstrate its resolve to ending violence against women.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 4361]

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. 2112

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 first-ever Community Economic Development Awards and Showcase will be held tomorrow in Halifax; and

Whereas Development Isle Madame has been chosen among the top three finalists in five of the six categories; and

Whereas these finalists include: Jason Boudrot, Chairman of Development Isle Madame, for outstanding achievement; Development Isle Madame for Contribution to Economic Growth, Innovation in Community Economic Development, Excellence in Client Service; and Development Isle Madame (Community Fisheries Management Co-op) for Excellence in Cooperation;

Therefore be it resolved that this House extend congratulations to Jason Boudrot and Development Isle Madame for their outstanding achievement in the field of Community Economic Development and wish them every success in the future.

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 member for Timberlea-Prospect.

[Page 4362]

RESOLUTION NO. 2113

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

Whereas fund-raising has become one of the major activities for any parent who has a son or daughter registered in minor hockey; and

Whereas parents and other supporters of TASA's Novice AAA hockey team held a highly successful auction in Timberlea on Saturday, November 21st, which resulted in the team rasing $2,609; and

[2:45 p.m.]

Whereas area businesses contributed to the resounding success of this event;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate all involved with TASA's Novice AAA Hockey team with best wishes for a great hockey season on and off the ice.

Mr. Speaker, I request 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. 2114

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

Whereas delegates including academics, scientists, legal experts, policy makers and industry leaders from all over the world will be meeting in Halifax next week for the International Ocean's Institute, Peace in the Oceans conference; and

[Page 4363]

Whereas the conference, which will include the largest collection of VIPs since the G7 Summit, is scheduled to run from November 29th to December 3rd at the World Trade and Convention Centre to address a number of critical issues facing the oceans in the next century; and

Whereas organizers have said that there is a crisis of knowledge about what to do to protect the oceans and have included such topics for discussion as the crisis in the world fisheries, the impact of offshore oil and gas development, the globalization of shipping and the development of Canada's ocean strategy;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier and the Cabinet make every effort to ensure that Nova Scotia, a province known as Canada's Ocean Playground, is a full and active participant in this extremely important conference focusing on issues affecting our prized natural resources.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

RESOLUTION NO. 2115

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

Whereas in 1995 the honourable member for Halifax Chebucto demanded to know why the province was supporting mining and the burning of fossil fuels; and

Whereas in 1996, while speaking on behalf of the Ecology Action Centre, the honourable member said that for environmental reasons, all coal mines should close; and

Whereas when the Leader of the NDP said that his Party would support ways and means to keep the coal mines open, the honourable member for Halifax Chebucto changed his tune;

[Page 4364]

Therefore be it resolved that the member for Halifax Chebucto, rather than keep flip-flopping, stick to his principles and resign from the NDP caucus.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Natural Resources.

RESOLUTION NO. 2116

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

Whereas the current Liberal Government remains committed to providing the best possible health care to all Nova Scotians regardless of where they reside; and

Whereas two excellent examples of this quality and long-standing medical care include that by Dr. Kenneth Murray who has served northern Victoria County for 26 years and that by Dr. Carlyle Chow who has practised in Baddeck for over 30 years; and

Whereas it is this type of life-long commitment to serving rural Nova Scotia residents which is encouraging the recruitment efforts by the province to secure additional general practitioners and specialists for more rural communities;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House join me in extending congratulations and best wishes to Dr. Kenneth Murray and Dr. Carlyle Chow as well as many other physicians and caregivers for their continued commitment and support of health care in our province.

Mr. Speaker, I 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 West.

[Page 4365]

RESOLUTION NO. 2117

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

Whereas the Minister of Transportation and Public Works says there is no political favouritism in road paving in this province; and

Whereas the riding of Pictou West has not seen one centimetre of paving on secondary roads in 1998; and

Whereas roads such as White Hill, Route 4 at Mount Thom, the West Branch Road to River John, the Scotch Hill Road and the Millbrook Road are just some of the roads in desperate condition in Pictou West;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Transportation and Public Works follow a policy of fairness in road paving in Nova Scotia and in Pictou West.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Digby-Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 2118

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

Whereas Angela MacAlpine won the 200 metre freestyle and the 100 metre butterfly at a recent Dalhousie Invitational swim meet; and

Whereas during the 1996-97 swim meet season Angela was named the Dalhousie rookie of the year; and

Whereas Angela is the Tiger's swim team co-captain and the team's first member to qualify for next spring's CIAU championships;

[Page 4366]

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House extend their congratulations and best wishes to Angela MacAlpine of the Dalhousie Tigers Swim Team.

Mr. Speaker, I would seek 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 Minister of Community Services.

RESOLUTION NO. 2119

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 Lions Clubs throughout Canada and Nova Scotia have always contributed much to our country and our communities; and

Whereas this fall, the Fall River and Riverlake District Lions Club held its 12th Charter Night Anniversary and awards night to present awards to many Lions for their efforts and achievements throughout 1998; and

Whereas Sandra Mitchell received a special achievement award for her work in the club, Dave Conrad was named Lion of the Year and Ken Boutilier was named a Melvin Jones Fellow, the highest honour awarded by Lions Club Internationals, for his 10 years of volunteer work;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate all the Lions of this club for their contribution to their club and community and in particular extend congratulations to Ms. Mitchell, Mr. Conrad and Mr. Boutilier for their extra achievements.

Mr. Speaker, I am asking for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 4367]

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. 2120

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

Whereas yesterday, in the Red Chamber, a ceremony was held to announce the province's participation in the Trans Canada Trail project; and

Whereas the trail will be part of Nova Scotia's and Canada's millennium celebration; and

Whereas the trail in Nova Scotia will cover a total of 1,300 kilometres from Amherst to North Sydney, Tatamagouche to Halifax and from St. Margaret's Bay to Yarmouth;

Therefore be it resolved that this House extend its deep appreciation to all volunteers who have participated in the development of the Trans Canada Trail.

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 Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury.

RESOLUTION NO. 2121

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

[Page 4368]

Whereas the St. Mary's Tourism Association and Sherbrooke Village are hosting their 3rd Annual Old Fashioned Christmas on November 27th, 28th and 29th and on December 4th, 5th and 6th; and

Whereas the past two Old Fashioned Christmas celebrations have been a resounding success; and

Whereas one of the highlights of the celebration is the nightly light display of over 6,000 lights;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House extend best wishes to the organizers of the Old Fashioned Christmas and best wishes for a successful celebration.

Mr. Speaker, I request 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 Inverness.

RESOLUTION NO. 2122

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

Whereas earlier this fall, the Waycobah First Nations Band Council elections were held; and

Whereas Morley Googoo was elected Band Chief for his fourth consecutive two year term; and

Whereas there were three candidates in the election and Mr. Googoo received 69 per cent of the votes cast;

Therefore be it resolved that this House extend congratulations and best wishes to Mr. Googoo and wish him every success as he continues to serve the people of Waycobah.

[Page 4369]

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Antigonish.

RESOLUTION NO. 2123

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 recent Globe and Mail/Angus Reid poll shows the federal Liberal Government with a solid 17 point lead over the Progressive Conservative Party; and

Whereas the ultra-right wing views of Preston Manning and the Reform Party only managed to get a 13 per cent approval rating; and

Whereas the federal NDP who preach the same socialist message as their counterparts opposite had a mere 11 per cent approval rating, a scant 1 point better than the Bloc Quebecois;

Therefore be it resolved that the Leader of the NDP, who continues to echo the words of his previous Leader, get together with the former Leader of the NDP and together they make a pact to gradually and carefully enter the real world.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Fisheries.

RESOLUTION NO. 2124

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

[Page 4370]

Whereas on November 28th, the Sheet Harbour detachment of the RCMP will be holding their annual Christmas party; and

Whereas the RCMP detachment in Sheet Harbour was opened on April 30, 1932; and

Whereas since that time, 98 members have been stationed at the Sheet Harbour detachment;

Therefore be it resolved that this House thank the Sheet Harbour RCMP detachment for their 66 years of service to the community and wish their members all the best in the months and years to come.

Mr. Speaker, I 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 Cape Breton Nova.

RESOLUTION NO. 2125

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

Whereas in 1996, the Department of Biology of Dalhousie University held a symposium, during which the honourable member for Halifax Chebucto was a panellist; and

Whereas during the course of the symposium, the NDP member held that economics had no business dominating public discussions; and

Whereas the Leader of the NDP has seen fit to have this member, who wants economics out of public decisions, as his Finance Critic and shadow Minister of Finance;

[Page 4371]

Therefore be it resolved that Nova Scotians should be made aware that the Party that hopes to form the government in the future would have as its Minister of Finance, (Interruption) Which may form the government of the future will have as its Minister of Finance a member who holds that the economy is not an important matter.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Community Services. (Interruptions)

Order, please.

RESOLUTION NO. 2126

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

Whereas seniors are an important and vital part of our communities; and

Whereas in many communities there are organizations which provide support, friendship and social interaction for seniors; and

Whereas this fall, the Fall River Friendly Group of Seniors celebrated their 25th Anniversary;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the officers and members of this club on their continuing contribution, for 25 years, to the social and community well-being of the seniors in the Fall River area.

Mr. Speaker, I request 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 Minister of the Environment.

[Page 4372]

RESOLUTION NO. 2127

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

Whereas the NDP is proposing to raise taxes and impose new ones in the name of fairness and refuses to explain how more taxes and higher taxes are fair taxes; and

Whereas the NDP steadfastly claim that the tax system in Saskatchewan is fairer than the one in Nova Scotia; and

Whereas Saskatchewan's surtaxes, flat taxes, small business tax, gasoline gas and capital tax all add up to higher taxes;

Therefore be it resolved that this House reject the NDP theory and practice that a high tax system is a fair tax system.

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

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Guysborough-Port Hawkesbury.

RESOLUTION NO. 2128

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

Whereas during the term of Bob Rae, as NDP Premier of Ontario, the government commissioned at a cost of $9 million, a Fair Tax Commission; and

Whereas as a result of the Fair Tax Commission, taxes in Ontario were raised by $2 billion in the NDP Government's last budget; and

Whereas during a debate in the last election campaign, the member for Halifax Chebucto held up a 1,000 page book entitled, Fair Tax Commission, saying the book would form the basis of the NDP's fiscal agenda;

[Page 4373]

Therefore be it resolved that Nova Scotians be made aware of the significant tax increases they would face should the NDP ever form the government.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Minister of Finance.

RESOLUTION NO. 2129

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

Whereas the honourable member for Sackville-Cobequid is on the record as saying he is in favour of cutting red tape and making life easier for small businesses; and

Whereas the honourable member for Halifax Chebucto is also on record saying he wants to impose a new sales tax on businesses and consumers; and

[3:00 p.m.]

Whereas the Alliance of Manufacturers and Exporters, a group that represents 75 per cent of this country's industrial production and 95 per cent of its exports, says that the HST has been beneficial and going back to a dual tax system would be costly;

Therefore be it resolved that the Leader of the NDP tell this House which of his members speak for his Party; the one who wants to cut red tape or the one who wants to wrap the economy in it.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Inverness on an introduction.

MR. CHARLES MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, through you and to the rest of the House, I would like to introduce a lady in the gallery opposite. She is well known to the Opposition group here and she ran against me in the last election in Inverness County, Miss

[Page 4374]

Maria Coady. She also just returned from Puerto Rico. She was working with the relief program there. I would like the House to extend her warm applause. If you would stand up, Maria. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs.

RESOLUTION NO. 2130

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

Whereas Carl Deveau, Captain and Training Officer with the Little Brook Volunteer Fire Department has been serving his community for over 17 years; and

Whereas Mr. Deveau's commitment and contribution was recently recognized with the presentation of the Fire Services Exemplary Service Medal on behalf of the Governor General of Canada; and

Whereas this award acknowledges Mr. Deveau's many years of exemplary service in public safety;

Therefore be it resolved that this House extend its recognition and thanks to Mr. Deveau for his hard work over the years in the community and congratulate him on this national award.

Mr. Speaker, I 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 Richmond.

RESOLUTION NO. 2131

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

[Page 4375]

Whereas already, in this House, the Leader of the Opposition has had a number of opportunities to state where he stands with respect to Canadian unity and the results of the forthcoming Quebec general election; and

Whereas both Premier MacLellan and the Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party have stated in the Chronicle-Herald of November 14th that they support Mr. Charest and the cause of Canadian unity; and

Whereas the Leader of the Opposition in the same article in the Chronicle-Herald refused once again to state his support for Canadian unity;

Therefore be it resolved that the people of Nova Scotia and the members of this House recognize that the most important matter of national unity plays second fiddle to the so-called socialist Leader's frantic and pathetic attempt to gain power in Nova Scotia.

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 Minister of Finance.

HON. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, in the east gallery I would like to introduce two distinguished individuals. Mr. Brian Boudreau is Deputy Mayor of the Cape Breton Regional Municipality and Barry Holland from Cape Breton. I would ask the members of the House of Assembly to give them a warm welcome and let them know that we care about Cape Breton. (Applause)

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: The time being 3:04 p.m., we will terminate at 4:34 p.m.

The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

[Page 4376]

HEALTH - QE II HEALTH SC. CTR.:

BUSINESS PLAN (06/11/98) - PUBLICIZE

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I want to direct a question through you to the Premier and it has to do with the QE II business plan dated November 6, 1998. Since the Premier took office again on March 25th, there are 106, at least, fewer people delivering health services to patients at the QE II Health Sciences Centre and this government refuses to acknowledge that there is a plan. My question to the Premier is, why is the Liberal plan for the QE II the most highly guarded state secret? Why does this government refuse to make public their plans regarding the major hospital serving Nova Scotians?

HON. RUSSELL MACLELLAN, Q.C. (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, the information that the Leader of the Opposition is stating is totally incorrect, and I would ask the Minister of Health to clarify it.

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, the plan that the honourable member mentions was a plan that has been worked on for some time. We are working with business plans, no different with the QE II than with the IWK-Grace, the non-designated facilities and the regional health boards. We allow the hospitals to design their own plan. I don't think the Department of Health or this House of Assembly should be directing patient care, we leave that to the administrators and the officials and the professionals in that institution.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, we are talking about plans here. On Page 2 of the QE II business plan, it says that other equipment needs, including a priority list valued at $3.9 million are deferred due to lack of funding. I want to ask the Premier, what is the government's plan to ensure that the lack of hospital equipment that this hospital considers a priority will not mean even longer waiting lists and reduced patient care?

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

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, our department is working with the QE II and all the other facilities. The gentleman is quoting from a document that the day it's tabled, it's out of date. It is ongoing, that is not the final word. (Interruptions) He laughs, Mr. Speaker, he thinks this is funny.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

DR. SMITH: Because he gets the . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

[Page 4377]

DR. SMITH: Why doesn't he get an update? At least some of the other members of the House have up-to-date material.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, this is not an up-to-date business plan for the QE II.

MR. CHISHOLM: I can't believe it. We have a plan that says November 1998. My final supplementary, and I will go to the Minister of Health and save the Premier the trouble. The QE II and other hospitals across this province say in provincial strategy and priority hospital equipment is essential. My question to the Minister of Health. Does this government know what effect the lack of hospital equipment is having on patient care, or is this, along with the lay-offs in the hospital sector, just another way to try to shave budgets?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, we are working with the hospitals, the regional health boards. There is no question, there is much new technology. We are trying to balance the new technology with the new programs in the community. There are major changes happening throughout all of our health care systems and our delivery system of health in this province.

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

HEALTH - QE II HEALTH SC. CTR.: BUSINESS PLAN - CLARIFY

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I, too, will cut out the middleman and go right to the Minister of Health. Six days ago, in this House, this minister separated himself from any acknowledgement of a November 6th business plan for the QE II. This morning, the CEO of that same hospital said that as far as he is concerned this is the plan from which he is working. Can the minister explain the difference between his position and the position taken by the CEO at the hospital?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, the board, the chair, and the CEO of that hospital, like all other hospitals in Nova Scotia and the regional boards, are working on business plans. That plan, I am sure, will form the basis of the final business plan to be approved. It is not terribly complicated. Why don't they get some more up-to-date issues to deal with? That is as good as I can say. I am not withholding information. That is as good as I can answer that question.

DR. HAMM: To continue with the minister, the minister is confusing everyone. We have the CEO that says that this is the business plan. As a matter of fact, as late as yesterday, that minister's deputy minister met with the CEO . . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

[Page 4378]

DR. HAMM: . . . and it was not requested to change the plan. Will the minister confirm whether or not the November 6th plan is the plan, the document that he supports as the business plan of the Queen Elizabeth II?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, you can tell where he is getting his information. He is getting it out of the media. The Deputy Minister of Health was out yesterday with a group of other persons and deputy ministers that were meeting with CEOs. That is what that meeting was, it was not a specific meeting with the QE II. I would just like to update. Whatever is being circulated on the floor of this House dated November 6th is not the updated plan. It is not the plan that will be approved for the QE II and that is a fact.

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, by way of final supplementary to the minister, despite what the minister says, the CEO of the hospital says that he has not received any new marching orders from the minister. He has not even spoken with the minister.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

DR. HAMM: My question to the minister is, will this minister table any directives, report on any conversations, any communication he has had with the CEO to try to get some rational approach to delivery of health care at the Queen Elizabeth II?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I really do not believe that that honourable member, and I know him to be an honest person, really believes in what he is standing up and saying here today. He is asking the Minister of Health to give marching orders to the CEO of the QE II Hospital.

Mr. Speaker, you ask me, is that any way to run a health care system? We trust our professionals. We will work for them. We are the funding body. We are responsible for the quality of care and we will be working with them.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

HEALTH - MENTAL HEALTH PROGS.: PROBLEMS - ADDRESS

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is also for the Minister of Health. At a recent NDP health care forum in Yarmouth people expressed concern about the lack of programs for people with mental illnesses living in their communities. Last night, in Port Hawkesbury, we were told the lack of community mental health services is resulting in a revolving door of readmissions and discharges at the Cape Breton Hospital.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

[Page 4379]

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Is the minister aware of these concerns and what steps is his department taking to address these problems?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for that question. Mental health issues are very important issues for Nova Scotians. They are very important for myself as Minister of Health. We have a provincial strategy team on mental health matters. As we build the regional services, as I mentioned in the western community, there is a clinical director that is in place. Programs are being addressed. The Home Care Programs, for instance, as in the northern region, are addressing specifically mental health.

That is a change, Mr. Speaker. There are changes happening and we are working with the consumers.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my supplementary is also for the Minister of Health. This certainly is not what we were hearing last night. We were told, specifically in Port Hawkesbury, that programs are not being provided. We were told there is no mental health specialist in the Strait area or in Richmond.

MR. SPEAKER: Your question, please.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: My question is what is the minister's plan for developing more comprehensive services for people with mental illnesses living in rural Nova Scotia?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, we are moving services and programs for mental health closer to the consumer in their communities. We are doing that through the Home Care Program. We are working with the consumer, the mental health groups, the advocacy groups, and we are providing alternate funding for specialties throughout the regions. That is new. We are building teams, social workers, nurses and workers in mental health.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the Yarmouth report on mental health services that came out recently showed that the minister's inaction is leading to inadequate care and suffering. Will the minister take action now to ensure that mental health services are available and safe for all Nova Scotians?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I again thank the honourable member for that question. This is very important. I take this very seriously. It has been a concern of mine since I came to this House in 1984, mental health, particularly for children and youth. The honourable member though said that report in Yarmouth mental health review was recent. It is not recent. I think that has been quite well documented the last few days in the House. We take it very seriously. We have acted upon it. We have seen improvements . . .

[Page 4380]

MR. SPEAKER: Next question, please.

The honourable Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party.

HEALTH - MAMMOGRAMS: WAIT TIMES - ACCEPTABILITY

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health. The Minister of Health has been defending the approach of this province in terms of wait times for mammography. Will the minister reconfirm here today that he supports the position of the Canadian Cancer Society that recommends an acceptable wait period for routine mammography is four to six weeks?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, the wait time for a diagnostic mammography I am informed is on an average of about five days in this province. The national standards of the routine screening, even though we have three mobile units now throughout the province - or two and one will be added - we are well under the national average on the routine screening, but they can be done within a day or within five days if it is a diagnostic procedure.

[3:15 p.m.]

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, the minister seems to want us to believe that somehow we are meeting some kind of national average. I am tabling a letter from a lady from East Lawrencetown, whose doctor applied to have routine mammography done on November 5, 1998 . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

DR. HAMM: . . . and received . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

DR. HAMM: . . . received an appointment for December 8, 1999.

AN HON. MEMBER: Question.

DR. HAMM: Thirteen months . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Question.

DR. HAMM: Will this minister stand up and tell us what he thinks about a wait period of 13 months in this province to have routine mammography?

[Page 4381]

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, if I was a practising physician and my patient was given that, I would take action and I would get the appointment earlier and I am sure that that can be done. That is not acceptable, although I assume it is a routine and there are other measures to detect breast cancer but I, in no way, will rise in the House today to defend that particular initiative. The family doctor has a responsibility there.

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, I welcome the remarks of the minister, saying he would do better by his patient. I hope the minister will try to do better for the people of Nova Scotia. That is what this is all about. My final question to the minister. Will he, on the standing of this House, start looking at wait times for diagnostic procedures of all types in Nova Scotia and start to bring those within acceptable national standards?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, again, we will work with the regional health boards, the hospitals. The mammograms specifically, we are adding another mobile unit in the central region here and we are currently looking at adding staff at one of the outreach programs within the metro community. There is activity in that area.

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

LBR.: OH&S - VIOLATION (PLI ENVIRON. [SYSCO])

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is for the Minister of Labour and deals with the complaint investigation report on August 21, 1998, on the alleged OH&S violation by PLI Environmental Inc. on the Sysco site. The report concluded the workers weren't exposed to asbestos during the incident; in fact, on February 10th, PLI was cleared of all wrongdoing. Would the minister agree that he must be clairvoyant, as he predicted publicly a week before the report's completion that PLI would be exonerated?

HON. RUSSELL MACKINNON: First of all, Mr. Speaker, this is the honourable member who, even before the investigation commenced, accused it of being another Westray, with no facts whatsoever. Now, the slanderous tone to that itself would ask any reasoned individual to question the ability of that member to deal with it. As far as the inference that the honourable member refers to, when you are provided regular updates by your staff and you are asked by the . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. MACKINNON: . . . Official Opposition for a response, you give it.

MR. CORBETT: I think that goes to the independence of that group.

[Page 4382]

Mr. Speaker, I would like to table with you this letter. The letter is an appendix from a PLI complaint investigation report, which gives the results of the lab tests on stoves at the blast furnace . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. CORBETT: . . . dismantled at the PLI site. The lab results have been changed . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please. Question, please.

MR. CORBETT: . . . by hand, Mr. Speaker. Would the minister agree that this seems to be a massive coincidence?

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, we received a call from a researcher at the NDP caucus office who asked about why the numbers one, two, three and four furnaces were identified with the reports accordingly, and the recording process that the honourable member refers to, in fact, were done in reverse order. So that is why they are stroked through. They weren't erased or anything and the professional context, as I explained to the researcher at the NDP caucus office, when an error is made, you put a stroke through and you put the correct number, but unfortunately the honourable member doesn't understand the professional context.

MR. CORBETT: In most professional contexts, I think the person would initial it too, Mr. Speaker, because the Director of UCCB, Environmental Services Lab, confirmed on the phone not long ago that those alterations were not present when they left. Can the minister tell us, then, who changed the report and why?

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, with the questions that are coming from the honourable member, pretty soon we are going to send them a sympathy card because if he had checked his records, he would find that there was a subsequent report done to that and he would have received the correct information, he seems to be alluding to some diabolical plot.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Digby-Annapolis.

HEALTH - Y2K PROBLEM: FUNDING - CLARIFY

MR. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Health. The Minister responsible for the Technology and Science Secretariat in this Legislature yesterday said that his government is committing the funds necessary to address the Y2K problem. The Minister of Health, on November 17th, when asked if relief was going to be provided for health care facilities to assist in Y2K, answered, no. Would the minister please tell me, who is correct, the Minister of Health or the Minister responsible for the Technology and Science Secretariat?

[Page 4383]

HON. JAMES SMITH: I am sorry, Mr. Speaker, I can only speak for myself. I tried to get my earpiece out because there was a bit of noise, I couldn't hear what the alleged comments were. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. BALSER: The question is, who is correct, is it going to be, no, you are not going to help or, yes, you are going to contribute the $70 million that may be required for health care? It is very simple.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I can only say that from the Department of Health's point of view, we are working with the hospitals on this and I am really glad to hear that some of the reports we are getting up at the QE II, where they have assessed 95 per cent of all of their medical devices, only 1 per cent or 2 per cent show that they are incompatible. So instead of looking at $30 million, what some of the honourable members have been saying, we are saying around $20 million, it is probably going to be less than $20 million for, say, the QE II. But we will assist them within our budgetary abilities to defray that. That is a commitment we have made to the hospital.

MR. BALSER: I am just curious, if the estimate overall is $70 million for health care, if $20 million of that is going to the QE II, which is one facility alone, how much money is left to address all the other regional boards. Is it going to be enough money? Is $70 million enough money . . .

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

MR. BALSER: . . . to address the health care problem? I think not.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I didn't say there was $20 million; he could have chosen a lower number, I said less than $20 million, maybe $18 million. What we have to do is look at the integration of the services. This is a very major undertaking and it is one that we are working with the hospitals on. We are providing support where we can. But, I think whatever it is, we are going to meet it but we are finding that the threat isn't as great as we may have thought and we are working with that, and that's encouraging.

MR. BALSER: Let's assume that the threat isn't as bad as they expect. There is still the risk that machinery will fail. What contingency plan is in place when life support equipment fails as a result of non-compliance? Do you have a contingency plan?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I am told by, for instance, by the QE II, I have learned that they will be in place and their plan will be complete by summer. Through all of this, companies are being formed. There is a great to-do about this. This is a very serious matter. But one thing we have to think about and that I think the plans should include, what about

[Page 4384]

the people who are working in these systems? What about the concerns that they have? I think there has to be a comprehensive plan and we are working on that.

MR. SPEAKER: Thank you.

DR. SMITH: But let's not forget the people that are involved.

MR. SPEAKER: Next question, please.

The honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

HUMAN RTS. COMM'N.: CHAIR (MARY MACLELLAN) -

NON-CONFIDENCE VOTE

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, through you, my question to the Minister of Justice and the Minister responsible for the administration of the Human Rights Act. On June 11th, I informed the Minister of Justice that every human rights commissioner, except Mary MacLellan, the Chair of the Human Rights Commission, wrote a letter to the minister supporting Wayne MacKay's reappointment as Executive Director of the Human Rights Commission. My question to the Minister of Justice is, is he aware that the commissioners have passed a vote of non-confidence in Ms. MacLellan as the Chair of the commission, requesting that she step down?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, he is speaking about the Executive Director, Mr. MacKay, who, as I have told him before in the House, needed a commitment to return to his work, so we have moved beyond that.

There have been letters circulating around, Mr. Speaker. I have had no recent communications within, I would say, the last two months on any matters relative. I have visited and I am sure the Human Rights Commission is working.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, again, through to the Minister of Justice, it is our understanding that in late August or early September the Vice-Chair of the commission, Alison Scott Butler, wrote a letter to you explaining that all the commissioners did not have confidence in the chair. So my question to the minister is, why did you not act on their vote and remove Ms. MacLellan from chair of the commission?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I think there are ways that we do business. I have had discussions with those persons. I have confidence in Ms. MacLellan.

[Page 4385]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. This chit-chat across the floor is out of order.

DR. SMITH: There might have been other issues going on at that time, Mr. Speaker, that were clouding their judgement perhaps.

MR. SPEAKER: It is out of order.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: My final question, Mr. Speaker, is again to the Minister of Justice. The Human Rights Act gives the minister the power to designate a chair of the commission so why has he failed in this particular case to act at a time in which the Human Rights Commission needs strong, confident leadership?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, we are going through a process that we will have a new executive director in place. We have a very competent person, Ms. Shebib that is there now. We have a commission that is functioning. I feel that we have made great strides with human rights and I am really surprised that the honourable member is so concerned.

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

HUMAN RTS. COMM'N. - EXEC. DIRECTOR: SEARCH - COST

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Again my question is to the Minister responsible for the Human Rights Act. The Human Rights Commission, as he has noted, has been searching for a new executive director. The commission's lawyer has been named the acting director.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Once again, the bulk of the commission's legal work is being farmed out to private firms . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Your question, please.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: . . . and a budget item that in the past has cost $5,200. My question, Mr. Speaker, to the Minister of Justice is can he tell this House how much has been budgeted for the search for a new executive director?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, we are doing what is adequate and what is appropriate. The bills are certainly not complete yet. That will be known in the fullness of time. It will be tabled within the Legislature.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, again to the Minister of Justice, the media reports have placed directly and indirectly the cost of this review at $200,000. Yet the salary of the executive director is only $82,000.

[Page 4386]

MR. SPEAKER: Your question, please.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: My question to the Minister of Justice is will the minister assure this House that the budget for the present search will not outpace the potential salary for an executive director?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, he is quoting figures from the media of which I have no knowledge. I cannot comment on hypothetical questions. It will be done appropriately. It will be done arm's length of government. It will be done appropriately. We have a firm that is very reputable that is looking at that and it will be done appropriately. That is what Nova Scotians want. They want fairness.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Again to the Minister responsible for the Human Rights Act, why is the minister incurring the cost of an expensive search for an executive director when you had an executive director who was willing to stay around and be reappointed?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, there is a function of a commission and the Human Rights Commission, the executive director had done a great service for Nova Scotians. There is no question. There were conditions of the employment. His term had been extended on one occasion previously and it was time to look at another approach and a variety of leadership.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cumberland North.

EDUC. - P3: BEECHVILLE-LAKESIDE-TIMBERLEA -

SITE SELECTION

MR. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, through you my question is to the Minister of Education and Culture. Mr. Minister, again we see your direct influence with the private partner in choosing a site. Yesterday it was announced by you that the site for the selection of the Timberlea-Beechville School had been chosen. Do you not find that relationship on the time-frame of those schools too cosy with the minister's office? Why are you not listening to the community?

HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, the process is set up to precisely do that, to listen to the community, to make sure that the school board weighs all of the issues in the community and ensure that the school board recommends to the department a site that benefits children and community.

MR. FAGE: As the minister knows, the chair of that site selection committee was an employee of the private partner and the private partner and the minister choose the time-frame as well as the location. Will the minister tell this House why that site had to be selected if the school was going to be built in 1999?

[Page 4387]

[3:30 p.m.]

MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, I would be happy to provide a copy of the letter to me from the board indicating why they chose that particular site. There is no mention of time in that letter. The letter addresses the needs of a community and the needs of the children in the community. That is precisely the authority we give school boards in this province.

MR. FAGE: The minister well knows that the school was committed for 1999. Armoyan well knows that they want to build the school on their own site. When they put it to the school board through their employee and then to the minister, if you want your commitment honoured for 1999, build the school. Mr. Minister, why was the site chosen? Was it because of the time-frame in relationship to the private partner?

MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, the answer to the question as to why any site in this province is chosen is that the community and the board determined that those sites are in the best interests of the children of that particular area of Nova Scotia. It is on those sites that we will build the finest schools in Canada, and we will do so affordably, in community after community in the Province of Nova Scotia.

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

HEALTH - GAMING: ADDICTION - COUNSELLORS HIRE

MS. HELEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. When this government got into the casino business, it assured Nova Scotians that it would hire counsellors to handle the increase in gaming addictions. Last night at our health forum in Port Hawkesbury, we were told that although the government advertised for gambling addiction counsellors for that region months ago, the positions have not been filled. My question is, since the government made that commitment to offset the negative impact of gambling, why has it delayed making counsellors available to people who need it desperately?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, those programs are certainly worked out with the Department of Health and the regional health boards in those regions. There is a selection process that obviously has been taking place. I am not positive about any specific vacancies in that particular area, but I will assume that that information is correct. The whole field of the area of addiction, whether it is drug, alcohol or gambling, is a comprehensive team approach, and there are facilities available. We are supporting them, and we are enriching them.

MS. HELEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, in 1996 the study found that over 45,000 Nova Scotians are classified as problem gamblers. What specifically is this government doing, what plans does it have set up to give services to problem gamblers?

[Page 4388]

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, there is access through 1-800 lines, there are referral patterns, there is a drop-in area, for instance here in the metro area. There are mental health programs that we are enriching. We are working with the community health boards, the regional health boards and the dependency programs.

MS. HELEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, if the Minister of Health was aware, he would know that the programs that are needed for areas like the Strait and Cape Breton are not available. Why is this government continuing to play roulette with the health of Nova Scotians?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, we have a plan for health and the health care delivery system of this province. It includes mental health and addiction as well. That is a priority. The mental health, the children and youth services, those are the priorities that I have as a minister and our government has.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cumberland North.

EDUC. - SCHOOLS: CONSTRUCTION - SITE SELECTION PROCESS

MR. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, through you to the Minister of Education again. It appears that not only is the process flawed in the Timberlea and Beechville area after extensive community involvement, but the process seems to be flawed for the people of central Inverness. It doesn't matter whether you are in the Town of Inverness, Judique, Margaree Forks or Whycocomagh, this minister does not listen. Will you listen to the recommendations of the people in those communities, Mr. Minister, on site selection?

HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, the process for building schools or renovating some 60 others is a community-based process. That means that the people in any part of this province, including the areas just mentioned, are sitting down with their school boards trying to determine what is in the best interests of those children in those communities and in those particular schools.

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, to the minister again. I want to table a report. The report is from the Central Inverness Study Group on the Strait Region, dated April 17th.

MR. SPEAKER: Your question, please.

MR. FAGE: To the minister. The minister says he is listening, is he prepared to commit today to accept the recommendations to maintain a school presence in each one of those communities and not cut the heart out of those communities in central Inverness?

[Page 4389]

MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, there have been extensive discussions with those communities by the school board. The member opposite is talking about the authority and control that we give to regional bodies: health boards, school boards, and community advisory councils. Is he suggesting now that we would remove that authority as a result of some controversy in a particular area?

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, to the minister. The minister well knows that that recommendation is for a school presence in each community. I would like to table another document here this afternoon and this is an open letter from Marie Campbell from the school board.

MR. SPEAKER: You are on your final supplementary. Your question please.

MR. FAGE: My question is should the people have a Liberal card to receive a new school or shouldn't the minister ask those people out of that letter to vote Liberal if they want a school removed from their community? If you vote Liberal you will have a school removed from your community.

MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite has a community project under way in his home riding. His riding is having a school built in it because there was a need for a new school in that area of the province. There is not an ounce of political consideration in the site selection for that school, nor an ounce of political consideration in the choice of the partner or what that school needs. They are involved as a community in the design of their school, because their children need a new school.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Citadel.

FIN. - Y2K PROBLEM: COSTS FULL - REVEAL

MR. PETER DELEFES: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Finance. The government has set aside over $60 million to fix the Year 2000 bug in the health system. We now learn that the Department of Business and Consumer Services has set aside $2.5 million over two years to fix its own Year 2000 problems. Both figures work out to roughly 4 per cent of each department's annual budget. If applied to all departments, that adds up to a total of $140 million for Year 2000 costs. My question to the minister is, when will he come clean and add $140 million or more to the real balance sheet?

HON. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, as the member opposite knows, the minister responsible has indicated to this House time and time again, every department is responsible for putting their program together for what is required to meet the compliance aspect. Those are all being developed now and costed out and they will be appropriately added to their budget next year.

[Page 4390]

MR. DELEFES: Mr. Speaker, again to the Minister of Finance. There are two possibilities here: either the minister does not know the cost of the Y2K fix, which would be scandalous; or he does know and he is leaving it to the next government to find out. My question to the minister is simple. Which is it, is he in the dark, or is he just trying to keep the people of Nova Scotia in the dark?

MR. DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, in your wildest dreams you would never want to wake up for a Y2K problem of ever having an NDP Government take over the Province of Nova Scotia.

MR. DELEFES: Mr. Speaker, this government is addicted to secrecy. This government is hiding a serious problem. My question is for the Premier this time. When is his government finally going to tell the people of Nova Scotia the real cost of the Year 2000 bug?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, we have been telling the people, the NDP just aren't listening.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.

HUMAN RES. - AFFIRMATIVE ACTION PROG.:

GOALS - ATTAINED

MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister responsible for the Civil Service Commission. I would just like to know from the minister whether the Affirmative Action Program is having its desired results and whether the minister is meeting the goals that he set out?

HON. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the honourable member for his question. The affirmative action policy that this government has adopted is working very well within this government. If the member has particulars of exactly what he is looking for, maybe he could indicate that to the House and I certainly would be willing and able to provide the information he is looking for, Mr. Speaker.

MR. ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, to the minister, I will table these two documents. In 1993, 8.4 per cent of the Civil Service was made up of persons with disabilities. In 1998, that number was 6.5 per cent persons with disabilities, a reduction of 2 per cent. Is the goal of this minister to eliminate the disabled from the workforce?

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, the answer to his question is absolutely no. It is not our goal to eliminate the disabled from working for the provincial government, for the Public Service. As the member has stated and he brought some numbers to the floor of the House, I do not have those numbers in front of me, but I certainly am willing to go back and certainly

[Page 4391]

provide the honourable member with an update as to the current status within government. No, it is not our intention to leave the disabled people outside the government service.

MR. ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, that answer was not to any question that I asked. I want to know, what is this minister going to do to reverse this despicable percentage change? It has gone down 2 per cent in four years. What is the minister going to do to change that so that persons with disabilities will be able to receive jobs in the Civil Service of Nova Scotia?

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable member, this government will continue, under our affirmative action policy, to recognize disabled persons who are applying for positions within government. We will continue to provide that recognition and continue to hire people with disabilities.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

COMMUN. SERV. - SOCIAL ASSISTANCE: BENEFITS - HOUSING

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Community Services. Yesterday in this House, the minister bragged that Nova Scotians had some of the best social assistance rates in this country. The current social assistance policy allows single people only $250 per month for shelter allowance. I would like to table for this House a rooms for rent section of a local paper. Of the 27 rooms listed, only four were less than $250. My question to the minister, does the minister really think that a person can find safe housing for $250 a month?

HON. FRANCENE COSMAN: Mr. Speaker, I would like to remind the honourable member opposite that the $225 shelter rate is a short-term program. There is a $175 top-up in place for chronic illness, for those fleeing abuse and for those over the age of 55, and that top-up applies to more than half of the clientele in that range.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, that short-term program has been going on for some time. My next question is, under the current social assistance policies, a telephone is not considered a necessity, even though a telephone number is a necessity for 90 per cent of the jobs. Will the minister explain how people are supposed to get offers for work and out of their substandard housing if they cannot be reached by a telephone?

MRS. COSMAN: Mr. Speaker, again, I would like to remind the honourable member opposite that a telephone is something that can be applied for in special circumstances and special needs, particularly for medical reasons.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, my experience has been that they have never been successful for 90 per cent of the time. I want the minister to be aware of that. Those are the kinds of policies that . . .

[Page 4392]

MR. SPEAKER: Your question, please. You're on your final supplementary.

MR. PYE: . . . no wonder we have so many homeless people. Will the minister admit that her department's policies and the policies which are supposed to help get people out of poverty are actually continuing to keep people in poverty?

MRS. COSMAN: Mr. Speaker, again I would like to remind the House and the member opposite that this is the only province in Canada which has increased its budgets for social assistance. It is the only province in Canada that increased its rates this year by adding $10 million to the program.

[3:45 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou East.

NAT. RES. - FORESTS: HARVESTING - STATISTICS ACCURACY

MR. JAMES DEWOLFE: Mr. Speaker, my question is directed to the Minister of Natural Resources. The over-harvesting of our forest land in the province is still taking place at an unprecedented rate. Figures of over-cutting are as high as 160 per cent. Will the minister confirm for me today whether his department is keeping an accurate count of wood being cut in Nova Scotia's forests?

HON. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the honourable member for the question. Of course, our department is keeping up to date as best they can with what is happening out on our lands. It would help our department a lot if we could get the Forest Act passed through this House so we could have our wood acquisition in place and we would have a database whereby we could gather information on all aspects of wood harvesting.

MR. DEWOLFE: Mr. Speaker, again to the minister. The Liberal Government is constantly reducing funding for silviculture, in fact, it has been cut by $3 million. Will the minister commit today to review the issue of silviculture to ensure that proper funding is in place for the 1999-2000 year?

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, again, I thank the honourable member for the question. As the member well knows, we put $3 million last year in the protection of the forests with the tussock moth spray and we will continue to add to our silviculture program as much money as we can muster from this government and through the federal government.

MR. DEWOLFE: Mr. Speaker, again to the minister. Not to be outdone by my colleagues, I would like to table a letter where the minister advises the Canadian Institute of Forestry that government was a funding partner in forest management agreements directed

[Page 4393]

toward increasing funding for silviculture. Will the minister attempt to have funds available to strengthen such agreements in the new fiscal year and stop the assault on Nova Scotia's forests?

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, yes, we will attempt to do everything we can to protect the forests of Nova Scotia and to find whatever money is out there that is available for silviculture programs.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North.

COMMUN. SERV. - SOCIAL ASSISTANCE:

RESTRUCTURING - REPORT CONTENTS

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, my question is once again to the Minister of Community Services. Earlier this year the minister's department held focus groups to get feedback on the social assistance restructuring initiative. This focus group included many front-line workers whose current social assistance benefits levels are putting a strain on community agencies. These comments, however, don't appear to be in the minister's report. My question to the minister is why are the concerns of front-line social workers not reflected in this social assistance restructuring initiative document?

HON. FRANCENE COSMAN: Mr. Speaker, the report of the focus groups was sent out along with 3,00-plus copies of the social assistance restructuring initiative consultation paper, it is fully available to anybody who wants it and needs to read it in order to respond to the second document.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, as this government continues to cut back funding and services, community agencies have to meet a greater demand. My question to the minister is, since the minister's department offers so little social assistance to clients, will the minister offer more financial support to the community agencies which have to pick up the slack?

MRS. COSMAN: Mr. Speaker, we are working with our agencies at this time around their budget needs and certainly giving them their support. They have had quite a constant dialogue with our department around those issues of funding.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, that isn't what the agencies that I hear from are telling me. Many agencies have wonderful, hard-working volunteers who are doing more than their share. My question to the minister is when will the minister to her share and support the people who are providing front-line social work?

MRS. COSMAN: Mr. Speaker, I just want to agree for once with the honourable member opposite that the agencies are doing a phenomenal job for the communities they serve in this province. Clearly, we are in a process of improving our business relationship with our

[Page 4394]

agencies. We are working with the agencies we fund. We are looking for solutions to their needs. We are looking across departments of government for funding for them as well.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Dartmouth North on a new question.

COMMUN. SERV. - NON-PROFIT AGENCIES: FUNDING - DISCLOSE

MR. JERRY PYE: Mr. Speaker, once again to the Minister of Community Services. Non-profit agencies across the province are still waiting for approval from the Department of Community Services for their budgets for 1997-98. These budgets were submitted back in January. The delay meant that agencies like Alice Housing and women's centres have to offer services without knowing exactly how much money they have. My question to the minister is, why has it taken the minister's department a full 10 months to let non-profit agencies know what their funding would be for the present year?

HON. FRANCENE COSMAN: Mr. Speaker, I would remind the honourable member opposite, we are not 10 months into the fiscal year and we are working with our groups across Nova Scotia. Anyone who has had problematic funding requirements, we have dealt with them in a fair manner and they are getting their budget allocations in a very short time. We have been in touch with them.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, many of these agencies are 10 months into a calendar year and let's not forget that. Alice Housing, which provides second stage housing for women, just learned that their budget will be cut by 25 per cent. My question is, can the non-profits still waiting for budget approvals expect the same kind of cuts?

MRS. COSMAN: Mr. Speaker, we have advised our agencies that we are not cutting their budget allocations this year, so I don't know where he is getting his information.

MR. PYE: Mr. Speaker, the Community Services mission statement is to ensure that the basic needs of Nova Scotians are being met. That is not happening. Can the minister tell this Legislature, if the Department of Community Services is not actually supporting community services, what is it doing?

MRS. COSMAN: Mr. Speaker, I think the whole debate around basic needs being met is one of the prime reasons why, for the past four or five years, we have talked about moving to a single tier system. We are in a process now. We have a consultation going. We are moving through the process. We are getting the feedback and the system will be improved.

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

[Page 4395]

COMMUN. SERV. - SENIOR CITIZENS' PROPERTY TAX REBATE:

MRS. FLORENCE DEAN - ELIGIBILITY

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the honorable Minister of Community Services. A 76-year old senior and widow, Mrs. Florence Dean, recently received advance notice that on December 15th, her home is going up for tax sale. Mrs. Dean's only income for the past 11 years has been the Old Age Security and the Guaranteed Income Supplement. She contacted the Department of Community Services and asked if she could be approved for the senior citizens' property tax rebate. She was told no. Will the Minister of Community Services approve Mrs. Dean's application for senior citizens' property tax rebate so she can keep her home?

HON. FRANCENE. COSMAN: Mr. Speaker, it is obvious that I cannot comment on any individual in this House, but certainly, we have debated this issue around the property tax rebate and I have given a commitment in that debate to re-look at this whole question in next year's budget.

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, it seems as if the minister is going to sit idly by and let Mrs. Dean lose her home because she does not qualify. Her only income - she is below poverty level. My question to the minister is simply this, when is the minister going to come in with a plan that treats all seniors fair and equal relative to the senior citizens' property tax rebate?

MRS. COSMAN: Mr. Speaker, I wonder if you would ask the honourable member to table the document he is reading from so that I could have a look at it. Clearly, my answer right now is no different than it was five seconds ago on this question.

MR. TAYLOR: My question is simply this, will the minister approve Mrs. Florence Dean for the senior citizens' property tax rebate? She is 76 years old. She is going to lose her home. She contacted your department and it said no, because she did not apply in 1995.

MRS. COSMAN: Mr. Speaker, again I would ask the honourable member to table the document so we could look at it. My answer is just the same both times he has asked the question.

MR. SPEAKER: We will deal with the tabling motion later on.

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

EDUC. - P3 SCHOOLS: CONSTRUCTION COSTS - UNCHANGED

MS. EILEEN O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education. Last week the New Brunswick Auditor General said Moncton's Evergreen School

[Page 4396]

would have been nearly $1 million cheaper if publicly built and operated. My question for the minister is, can the minister tell this House with complete confidence that P3 schools in Nova Scotia are no more expensive than conventionally built and operated schools?

HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, let me quote from the Auditor General, not of New Brunswick but of Nova Scotia. He said, in his terminology, the only way we can build the much-needed schools without adding to the provincial debt, that is our Auditor General's comment about our process for building schools in Nova Scotia.

MS. O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, our Auditor General also said that when this government compared the two methods of building and maintaining schools, that this government used the apple and orange method. So I want to ask the minister now, will he adopt New Brunswick's more accurate generic model and make some valid comparisons and settle the issue once and for all.

MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, I know that the member opposite is interested in having schools renovated and built in this province, and I know that the honourable member and her Party have introduced a bill that they have yet to call before the House which represents their plan for building schools. Let me remind her, by answering her question, that we will build much-needed schools in this province, we will do so without adding to the debt of the province and we will do so in an affordable manner that is driven by community input.

MS. O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, it is a funny thing but the Education Department has admitted that the projected cost of the 30 new schools has escalated possibly by as much as $40 million, and this is before a single lease has been signed. My question to the minister now is, how and when will Nova Scotians ever know the real cost of P3 schools to the taxpayers of this province?

MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, the Auditor General performs a function in this province, one of which is to ensure that we do things according to rules and according to procedures of accounting nature. We also have a responsibility to taxpayers that when we build new schools that we benchmark those schools against previous contracting methods. We are confident, and we will remain confident, and we will provide a full public accounting for the costs of the new schools in this province. They will be quality schools at an affordable price.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cumberland South.

JUSTICE - DRUG USE: STUDENTS STUDY - ACTION

MR. MURRAY SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Justice. Nova Scotia Student Drug Use 1998 Survey reveals that teenage drug use in Nova Scotia has increased dramatically over the past seven years. On the 17th of November, I introduced a

[Page 4397]

resolution in this House that the government immediately strike a working committee of representatives from the Departments of Health, Education and Justice and Community Services. As well today, the member for Kings West introduced a similar resolution. My question to the Minister of Justice is this. Since this study was released, what has he, his department and this government done to address this very important issue in regard to Nova Scotia children?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, the study has now been circulated and is familiar to all members of the House. The honourable member would know that there has been a dramatic levelling off since 1996, since this government took over from the other government and brought in programs, education programs and other very significant programs. We are showing results; still major problems. There is a committee called CAYAC, people from the Departments of Education, Health, Justice, as the member had mentioned, and they work on issues such as that for children and youth. It is a major public health issue. We are concerned.

MR. SCOTT: Mr. Minister, that wasn't what I asked. Your government agreed to this resolution. Children out there in Nova Scotia have access to drugs that never had it before. What is this government doing to address this very important issue?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I apologize for answering the question a little longer, but I have to clarify the study that he is misrepresenting in this House. There has been a dramatic levelling off in the use of most of the drugs. We are actively pursuing this through our mental health programs, through our drug dependency programs and there is action taking place. There are committees that are working together through four departments of government.

MR. SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, to the minister again. Headline today, cocaine use up in Cape Breton; children 12 years old. It has increased a hundredfold in Cape Breton's children's access to drugs. Will the minister commit today, they agreed to the resolution, will he commit today to form the committee and earmark industrial Cape Breton as a central focal point for this committee to start to work at?

[4:00 p.m.]

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, this is the type of fear-mongering and ill-informed material that comes to the House. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member smugly holds up a media report that is not representative of the study and the facts. There are major issues with children and youth with drug use (Interruption)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

[Page 4398]

DR. SMITH: There are major concerns but the use of drugs in Cape Breton is no different than anywhere else, Mr. Speaker, and that member represents the facts.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.

NAT. RES. - STELLARTON: PIONEER COAL - STRIP MINING

MR. CHARLES PARKER: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Natural Resources. Mr. Minister, I want to ask you about strip mining in the Town of Stellarton. Two weeks ago we had the mayor here and at this point he has got no answers. In fact, from this government there is nothing coming to help them in their problems with the strip mines and their dispute with the Pioneer Coal Company. The community has concerns. The municipality has concerns.

My question, Mr. Speaker, to the minister is, what specifically is he planning to do to help solve this problem in the Town of Stellarton?

HON. KENNETH MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, I am sorry, I do not know of any problems in strip mining in Stellarton relative to the Department of Natural Resources. We are not doing any strip mining down there.

MR. PARKER: Mr. Speaker, not once has anybody from this government stood up and defended the people in the Town of Stellarton or the people of that community and I am wondering why because there is a problem there. So my question to the Minister of Natural Resources is, why will your government not take a stand and help the people in the Town of Stellarton?

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, I understand there is strip mining going on in Stellarton. I think they have all the necessary permits to carry out their strip mining. They are paying their royalties to the province and they have paid to the province the fee for Crown access. If there are other issues, maybe the honourable member could bring the community together and Pioneer Coal.

MR. PARKER: There are ongoing problems there with dust, noise, street damage and royalties to the Town of Stellarton. I want to table, Mr. Speaker, a list of political donations given by Pioneer Coal Company to the Liberal Party.

MR. CHAIRMAN: This is your final supplementary. Question, please.

MR. PARKER: So my question, there is $36,000 given in the last two years to the Liberal Party of Nova Scotia. (Interruptions)

[Page 4399]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. PARKER: Why, Mr. Minister, is your government more concerned about patronage and $36,000 than looking after the residents of the Town of Stellarton?

MR. MACASKILL: Mr. Speaker, as I said before, Pioneer Coal has applied and received all the necessary permits to carry out strip mining in Stellarton but maybe if I could refer to the Minister of the Environment, maybe there is a problem there that the honourable member is trying to get at.

MR. CHAIRMAN: Next question, please.

The honourable member for Cumberland South.

HEALTH - CUMB. SOUTH: PHYSICIANS - RECRUIT

MR. MURRAY SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Health. I rose in this House a few weeks ago and brought the concern of the shortage of doctors in Cumberland South to the attention of the minister. He very quickly identified the fact that the government had attracted two doctors the day before but within a week one of our only two permanent doctors left and another one has since resigned.

My question to the minister is this, what is he and what is the provincial recruiter doing at this point to attract doctors to Cumberland South?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, we are dealing with all parts of the province. We have, I believe, the best programs in place, particularly for rural communities. Some communities have more difficulties than others. There is a multi-faceted group of issues surrounding why physicians leave communities. I think particularly their retention has been a problem in that particular area but we are working with them as we are with all other parts of Nova Scotia.

MR. SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, again to the Minister of Health. Will the Minister of Health state here today, in regard to the incentive program that is out there for rural areas for doctors, whether or not a doctor can take advantage of that program and whether or not he has to also commit to be on-call in the emergency departments of those hospitals for the area he is serving? Can he receive that incentive program without the service of on-call?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, the area that the honourable member speaks of is a diverse area with a larger rural population. As far as the on-call system arrangement, that is determined by the hospital, and who in fact will take call, you can't guarantee that any physician will be on the call system. There is a community group established there in Springhill that our recruiter has been working with, but the Parrsboro area, for instance, that

[Page 4400]

particular town would be eligible. The call system, I think the hospital usually restricts as to how many miles they are away, this is another complex area that is impacted by other rules.

MR. SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, again to the minister. Will the minister commit here today to have the provincial recruiter give special consideration to Cumberland South, because we are in a crisis situation today with no permanent doctors - none - in Cumberland South with regard to the Springhill and Oxford area? Will the minister commit here today to give special consideration . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, the Oxford-Springhill area is a priority of this government, and the recruiter, and we will work with the communities. I want to pay tribute to the communities. This is the first time, to my knowledge and in my time, that those communities of Parrsboro, Advocate and the Springhill community, that they have actually had community groups. I think if we want to retain physicians in those areas that the community must work together.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

FIN. - HST: HEALTH NECESSITIES - RELIEF

MS. EILEEN O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Finance. Last August I paid over $60 in HST on a medically prescribed wig. I was lucky to have a health plan, but many Nova Scotians do not and are too poor to pay the inflated cost of a wig, plus the HST. I would like to ask the Minister of Finance this question. Does the minister support the raising of revenues from those disadvantaged not only by poverty, but by disease?

HON. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, of course I do not. I appreciate the member's question. I will have to look into it and find out whether or not the tax really does apply. I agree with her and, if it does, I will look into the matter.

MS. O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, I can assure the minister that the tax does apply because I paid it. I would like to ask my first supplementary to the Minister of Health. Does the Minister of Health agree with this policy of raising provincial revenues in this way?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, this brings the whole issue of technical aids and ancillary services to people with illnesses that do require them, that is the disabled community. I think from our point of view in the Department of Health, we work on a per case basis and we try to assist in any way we can and also be advocates for those people, if they are, in our opinion, being unfairly dealt with by the tax system. That is an issue that is very complex and impacts on many services.

[Page 4401]

MS. O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, my final supplementary is for the Minister of Community Services and the Minister responsible for the Status of Women. Social and cultural conditions make baldness less acceptable for women than for men. Does the minister support a government policy which impacts most forcefully on poor women?

HON. FRANCENE COSMAN: Mr. Speaker, I really appreciate this kind of a question because, fundamentally, I am in my role as an advocate on these issues, and an advocate for the rights of women and I think the honourable member opposite knows that. Certainly the question you have raised here today is a very important one for the women of this province and I will be discussing it with other ministers and I thank you for raising it.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cumberland North.

EDUC.: SPECIAL NEEDS - FUNDING

MR. ERNEST FAGE: Mr. Speaker, through you to the Minister of Education. I would like the Minister of Education's comments on the serious situation that is out there in our school system right now. We have many children with special needs. One of the calls that I would receive most, as critic, is from parents of high-needs children.

Is the minister satisfied with the current arrangement for funding for special needs children and instructors in the classrooms of Nova Scotia?

HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, as I recollect back over questions from both Parties, this is the first question that deals with the operating side of the education budget. The answer to the question is, are we satisfied with special needs? No. Clearly, we have progress to make. We have dollars to invest and there are more needs out there than we are meeting at the moment. Have we come a long way? Have those children with exceptional needs in this province been met with new policies, new programs and more investment? Without question.

MR. FAGE: Mr. Speaker, to the minister, Mr. Minister, I wish to bring to your attention one particular situation and there are many in every school in this province. Cobequid Elementary School in Old Barns, it comes to my attention from parents and staff there, that there are 66 children with special needs in that school being serviced by one-quarter of the resources through special aids instructors.

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. FAGE: Will the minister ensure that situations like this will not continue and that those resources are supplied?

[Page 4402]

MR. HARRISON: Part of ensuring that those situations, Mr. Speaker, are resolved is by giving boards adequate budgets, by ensuring that they have policies within which to work that provide equitable services to children with exceptional needs. That board received its share of $80 million last year invested in the children of this province.

MR. FAGE: The minister well knows where the majority of increase in budget operating went to and it wasn't just special needs children. Special needs children are a situation that has to be resolved in this province.

Will the minister commit today that additional funding, earmarked and tagged, so it actually gets to those classrooms where special needs instruction resources are required, will happen? Will he make sure that extra funding will be targeted for those situations . . .

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Education.

MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, we have some $40 million that is tagged exactly as the member opposite describes. Boards spend well in excess of that, $20 million to $30 million annually more than that in providing the needs of exceptional children in the schools of this province. They are investing more. They are receiving better results. The children are being better served and we have a way to go. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

HEALTH - HIV: YOUTH INFECTION (RURAL N.S.) -

REDUCTION PLANS

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Health. The UN has just reported that global AIDS cases have risen 10 per cent in 1998. In Nova Scotia, the number of HIV cases in people under 24 is rising. One of the best ways to prevent HIV infection is through education, but youth in rural Nova Scotia often don't have access to prevention programs.

My question for the minister is, what are the minister's plans to reduce the number of youth infected with HIV in rural Nova Scotia?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, that is a good question, in my opinion. That is really a relevant issue, particularly as we face the statistics that are arriving; particularly young people and particularly women increased. I think the rural communities are a challenge in developing preventive programs. We are working with the AIDS Commission and the AIDS Coalition group together to form a strategy in conjunction with the federal strategy, which would involve prevention and programs in those communities.

[Page 4403]

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, well, the Department of Health gives Planned Parenthood only $150,000 for six offices to cover sexual education through the entire province. That is about $22,000 for each office.

My question for the minister is, given the rising number of HIV infections among youth, will the minister allocate a reasonable level of resources so that all Nova Scotians have access to sexuality education?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, this is a priority, particularly in services to children and youth. Planned Parenthood does not have the connection throughout all the province, as the honourable member would know. We will be working with the community boards and, particularly, the regional health boards, which have budgets for those types of programs, but also in conjunction with the Ministers of Education and Community Services.

[4:15 p.m.]

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, well, this government got rid of sexuality education resource nurses, leaving a big gap in sexual health education in rural areas. Will the minister make the health of our youth a priority by developing comprehensive plans for sexual health education.

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, we are working on an AIDS strategy that will complement the federal program and those are the priorities. But I thank the honourable member for her question. This is a most important issue. It is an issue sometimes also of poverty that we know that in certain socio-economic groups and certain locations. I think she has targeted the area of concern.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham on a new question.

HEALTH - BRAIN INJURED: PROGS. - ACCESS

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, this question is also for the Minister of Health. Families of people with brain injuries have told us that the Department of Health isn't helping them get the care they need in excellent facilities, such as Peter's Place. Most Nova Scotians cannot afford brain injury treatment programs, which can cost over $200,000 a year. In many cases, this lack of access to treatment prevents people from living full lives.

MR. SPEAKER: Question.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Will the minister please explain this government's failure to help people with brain injuries live better lives by providing access to rehabilitation programs?

[Page 4404]

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, we have targeted budgetary and other programs through the Brain Injury Society. We have established a three person facility in Dartmouth that was innovative and new. We are committed to multi-year funding and we are also funding people at Peter's Place, as she mentioned, which is an extremely costly facility.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, many of the measures this government has promised haven't materialized. How long will families of brain injured people have to wait for recommendations from the working group on acquired brain injury to be implemented?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, we have kept our promises. We made promises and we have kept them. The honourable member cannot be listening. We have established a three-person facility in Dartmouth. We kept our promises and we will do more. We have placed at least one person in Peter's Place. Another group that I met with in Truro recently, we are working with that. We are doing it behind the scenes. (Interruption) We are doing that and we have results.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: I am very happy to hear that one person with a brain injury is getting services in the Province of Nova Scotia, Mr. Speaker. Surely, all Nova Scotians are entitled to live their lives to the fullest potential.

Will the minister tell us when the Department of Health will develop a long-term care program specifically for people with brain injuries?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I am not sure how to respond to that honourable member because I don't think she is being actively deceitful. I did not say that we are providing services to one person in this province. We have a plan. We have made a $200,000 commitment. We have results and it is working. I will not answer questions that are prefaced by comments that are misleading, as the honourable member has done.

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

BUS. & CONS. SERV.: FUNERAL SALES - UNLICENSED

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the honourable Minister of Business and Consumer Services. The minister's department has received complaints from funeral directors, the Funeral Directors' Association of Nova Scotia, respecting unlicensed funeral sales.

Will the minister confirm that fly-by-night casket sales are contributing to the underground economy? (Laughter)

[Page 4405]

HON. KEITH COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, we have been investigating allegations of sales of caskets, not quite the way the honourable member described, but we have been investigating that and we will continue to do that.

MR. TAYLOR: The legislation, the Embalmers and Funeral Directors Act of Nova Scotia, states that complaints are to be investigated and not buried. Will the minister tell me how many investigations his department has ongoing at this time?

MR. COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, we are investigating at least one that I am aware of. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. COLWELL: This is not a funny matter actually but we are investigating one instance that I am aware of and any other instances that come to my attention we will fully investigate.

MR. TAYLOR: I appreciate that. One particular concern that the funeral directors have is down in the Sydney area. I wonder if the minister could confirm, without naming the fly-by-night casket sale company, is the minister and his department investigating the underground economy relative to that company?

MR. COLWELL: Mr. Speaker, we are doing an investigation in Cape Breton and, unfortunately, I cannot comment any more than that.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.

ECON. DEV. - PICTOU INDUSTRIES:

PROJECT (LOFF) - LOAN GUARANTEE

MR. CHARLES PARKER: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Economic Development. Mr. Minister, I want to ask you about the project in Pictou being proposed by Lake Ontario Fast Ferries. There are some people in town today meeting with your department, hoping that they can buy ships in Pictou to take on Lake Ontario. My question to the minister is when can Pictou expect a decision on whether the province will offer a loan guarantee on this project so it can go ahead?

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Yes, Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member opposite for the question. A few weeks ago, LOFF, Lake Ontario Fast Ferries, sailed into Nova Scotia and went to Pictou County and held a press conference down there regarding the particular project, before they had met with me. Subsequent to that, they met with me and discussed the project. It was the first I had heard of the project and that was only a few weeks ago although my department was aware of it. My department is presently working with this

[Page 4406]

group to see if there is anything available for that particular facility in Pictou County regarding that project.

MR. PARKER: Mr. Speaker, as you know, Mr. Minister, Pictou Industries is not asking for a loan but they are asking for a loan guarantee similar to the one that has been provided to Irving. So my question, Mr. Minister, will he assure the people of Pictou that if the company passes all the due diligence tests of his department, will he provide the loan guarantee?

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite, the honourable member for Pictou West, makes reference to loan guarantees and what this government could do and cannot do, or should do and should not do, which is again a departure from what I perceive to be a mixed-up policy of the NDP. In one respect they want to give loans to somebody and in the other respect they do not want to give loans. All I can tell you is that we will take a look at that.

First, Mr. Speaker, they came to Pictou County and said that they wanted a $122 million loan guarantee or they were going to Australia with the project and gave us a deadline. We do not operate . . .

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West, your final supplementary.

MR. PARKER: Mr. Speaker, as you know, Lake Ontario Fast Ferries have said themselves that they need a decision on this loan guarantee to make it happen by the end of this calendar year. My question to the minister is, will he assure this House that they will have an answer by the end of this year?

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I certainly will not assure the House of anything. We will do due diligence on that project. That member, Mr. Speaker, stood in Pictou and gave full credibility to this project without even seeing the project. Without even seeing it, he wanted the government to give a $122 million guarantee on a $140 million project.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Thank you very much.

The honourable member for Lunenburg.

HOUSING & MUN. AFFS.: HRM - POLICE CUTS

MR. MICHAEL BAKER: Mr. Speaker, my question is to the Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs. The minister was a member of the Savage Government that forced the municipal amalgamation on HRM. This municipal amalgamation is leading to cuts to police services in Halifax. Nova Scotians have been shocked over the last number of weeks by the

[Page 4407]

problem with murders in Halifax. What is the minister going to do to help the HRM, so that there are no further police cuts and they can hire the police officers they need to protect Nova Scotians?

HON. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the honourable member for raising this question. As the honourable member knows, this is strictly an issue that is being dealt with by the HRM. At the same time, I just want to bring this to the member's attention, our department staff has worked and will continue to work with all 55 municipal units across this province.

MR. BAKER: My first supplementary is to the Minister of Justice. Mr. Minister, it appears as if the Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs is not going to be doing anything. What is your department going to do to ensure that the graduates of the Police Academy in Halifax, that your department has created, get jobs, because we have wasted taxpayers' money and the students' money on jobs that they are not being hired for, what is the minister going to do?

MR. GAUDET: Can I ask the honourable member to repeat the question?

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, I will repeat the question. The supplementary was to the Minister of Justice. Based on the fact that the Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs has no plan to deal with the problem, what is the minister's plan to assist the Halifax Regional Municipality to hire the police officers who have just graduated, so that there are police officers hired in metro?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member must know that policing is a municipal responsibility, that they are responsible for the hiring of the police officers, and that will be within their budgetary restraints and the administration of that program.

MR. BAKER: Mr. Speaker, my final supplementary is to the Minister of Justice. Thirty-three individuals graduated from the Police Academy. Those 33 individuals, are any of those people going to be getting a job in the HRM or anywhere else in Nova Scotia, or did they waste their time and money?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I met those 33 graduates, and am very pleased to review the program and the qualifications and skills that they have developed over that period of time. I repeat, the Department of Justice will not be hiring police officers, but I am sure they will be qualified; I am sure that they will end up working in many locations.

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

[Page 4408]

TRANSPORT. & PUB. WKS. - FIVE ISLAND LAKE:

PCBs - CLEAN-UP PLANS

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is for the Minister of Transportation and Public Works. Your department, Mr. Minister, is responsible for the clean-up of the toxic waste site at Five Island Lake. Back in 1989, PCB-contaminated soil was stored on Junky Jim's site in 40-foot long containers. The storage was supposed to be temporary. It is now 1998, and it has come to our attention that these containers are still there and they are deteriorating. Mr. Minister, what do you plan to do with those containers containing PCBs at Five Island Lake?

HON. CLIFFORD HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, to the member, I would like to tell the member that this year we put aside $500,000, that we are working on this project, and we are looking into the fact of moving these containers to a place in Canada where the PCBs will be destroyed.

MR. ESTABROOKS: I would like to repeat the question. When are you going to do something with those containers, Mr. Minister? When?

MR. HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable member. I understand that some of these containers have already been shipped out, and we will be proceeding with this project.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I ask again that question word, when? It has been almost 10 years since the toxic waste problem at Five Island Lake came to your attention. Can you tell this House when the clean-up will be finalized at Five Island Lake?

MR. HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable member, I just want to tell him that that project is going to cost $8.4 million. When the money becomes available, that project will be completed.

[4:30 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Truro-Bible Hill.

TRANSPORT. & PUB. WKS. - TRURO (BRIDGE):

TRAFFIC STUDY - NECESSITY

MR. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Transportation and Public Works. In response to a question I raised yesterday about truck traffic going into the Sproule or the Irving mill outside of Truro, he replied that they were going to do a traffic study to see if they were going to build a new bridge. My question to the minister is, the

[Page 4409]

bridge won't support the trucks that have to go across it, why on earth is your department conducting a traffic study?

HON. CLIFFORD HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, to the member, I would like to just recall to him that I said there was a study going on at this time and there are several bridges in the area that were being looked at and there are different ways of getting in and getting out of this same area. We want to see which bridge is the most economical one to replace.

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, the most economical way to get to that mill right now appears to detour temporarily through the Town of Truro at great wear and tear on the streets of my community. Would the minister agree that it would be fair for his department to assist financially the Town of Truro with its street maintenance budget until he gets a satisfactory solution or route for those trucks that are going to the Sproule mill?

MR. HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, I understand that the company that owns this mill spoke with the Town of Truro and with the mayor and they came up with an agreement with the Town of Truro, not the Department of Transportation and Public Works. That agreement was between those two individuals. I also stated that I would speak with the mayor on a future occasion.

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, whatever he says, it appears to me he is confirming one thing. The Town of Truro is subsidizing the budget of the Department of Transportation and Public Works. Will the minister confirm to this House that he will reconsider the request by the Town of Truro for compensation to help effect necessary repairs to the roads damaged by this excess truck traffic?

MR. HUSKILSON: No.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cape Breton Centre. You have enough time for one fast question.

LBR. - KENT BLDG. STORE: FATALITY - INVESTIGATE

MR. FRANK CORBETT: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Labour. In March 1998, just before the last election, the wife of the former Minister of Labour was slightly injured when hit by boxes that fell from a shelf in a Kent store in the Bayers Lake industrial park. The minister immediately ordered a blitz of retail stores throughout the province involving 43 stores . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

[Page 4410]

MR. CORBETT: . . . with 259 orders. Mr. Speaker, in that same store, a young man was killed there. Will the minister do the same due diligence there as his previous minister did?

HON. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, first of all, my wife wasn't hit by boxes as the honourable member suggested. Second of all, the accountability and the due diligence process that we have, the IRS system, within the Department of Labour is second to none in any provincial jurisdiction and federal jurisdiction in Canada and we stand by it and our professionals.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The time for the Oral Question Period has 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. 61.

Bill No. 61 - Hepatitis C Compensation Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, Bill No. 61, an Act to Guarantee Equality of Treatment for All Sufferers of Hepatitis C, essentially is a bill that we introduced on November 3rd with the intention that all sufferers of hepatitis C in Nova Scotia be compensated in a fair manner, that we not buy in to the rather Draconian and narrow view adopted by the federal Health Minister that only those who received tainted blood and, therefore, the hepatitis C virus after 1986 be entitled to compensation, but that persons who received blood prior to 1986 and, therefore, this rather insidious and life-threatening virus, also be compensated. This is very much in keeping with the recommendations of Mr. Justice Krever in his report of which tomorrow will be the first anniversary.

It is rather shocking and it is rather sad that here we are, one year later, after an inquiry of some significance in this country, and absolutely not one cent of compensation has been paid to people who in good faith went into hospitals in our country and in our province, in the belief that they would be receiving good quality health care and that they would be well

[Page 4411]

looked after if blood transfusions and blood products were required, because this is a health care system where such matters would be carefully monitored. The shock that these people must have felt when they found out that was not the case and that they and their families will pay for that for many years is really hard to believe and come to grips with.

I think it was just last week that Nova Scotians picked up newspapers one morning to find that the Government House Leader called bills before this Legislature, introduced by ourselves here in the Official Opposition, frivolous. I would like to take a moment to address that, because I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, there is nothing frivolous about this bill. There is absolutely nothing frivolous about asking this government to uphold the recommendations of the Krever Commission. There is absolutely nothing frivolous about letting Nova Scotians know that members of this caucus are prepared to fight for a fair deal for people who went into our health care system in good faith and they can expect fair treatment from members of this caucus, even if they cannot expect fair treatment from members of the government. (Applause)

Mr. Speaker, the federal government is currently in a situation where they have a surplus of billions of dollars. They are stalling and they are dragging their heels on providing compensation to people with hepatitis C who, through no fault of their own, have contracted this deadly and devastating disease. Even Mike Harris, who is not renowned for having the largest social conscience in this country, has seen fit to offer compensation to people in his province. What are we doing in this province? We are doing nothing. We are accusing members of the Official Opposition, who have had the courage to say where they stand and to introduce this bill, we are accusing us of being frivolous. That is the response of the government. The response of the government has not been to show political courage or leadership or compassion. It has been to attack the Official Opposition. This is not acceptable, Mr. Speaker, and we will not tolerate it. (Applause)

Tomorrow is the beginning of a journey by a woman whose name is Connie Lake, who is a victim of hepatitis C. She will be walking through Windsor, Wolfville, New Minas and Kentville in an attempt to keep this issue before the public. You know what, Mr. Speaker? Nova Scotians support her and Nova Scotians support the intention of this bill.

Nova Scotians know that these people who have contacted hepatitis C deserve fair and equitable treatment from their governments, at a provincial and a federal level and, ultimately, it will be Nova Scotians who will pass judgement on just how frivolous the intentions of this particular bill are. When Nova Scotians have an opportunity to do that, they will say that this government failed to show leadership, to show compassion and to stand up in the interests of all Nova Scotians who want to see this government do the decent thing.

Health care is one of the most important services that Nova Scotians have. They want to know that when the health care system fails in any way, government will be accountable; they will take responsibility; they will have the ability to say they are sorry and to address the

[Page 4412]

issues and move on. What is wrong with that? That is what you would expect of your government in a decent society. Mr. Speaker, it is very important that Nova Scotians know that this Party stands in absolute support and solidarity with the persons who contacted hepatitis C, a horrible and devastating disease and, when the chips are down, we will be there to fight with them for fair and equitable compensation. Thank you. (Applause).

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health.

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I rise to begin debate on Bill No. 61, the Hepatitis C Compensation Act. I just listened to the honourable member's words with interest. It is really interesting, painting those provinces that aren't responding in the way that they think they should be responding on an illness that little was known about back in the early days when infection was taking place and which now more is known about and the mode of infection.

It is very interesting that she differs from her NDP Governments in British Columbia and Saskatchewan. Saskatchewan, I think Clay Serby was one of the most compassionate people that I have met as a minister at meetings. He chaired those meetings, Mr. Speaker, when decisions were made that are contrary. So I really don't accept that Clay Serby is not a compassionate person. He is an NDPer, albeit, but he is also a compassionate person.

Mr. Speaker, it is fine to play politics with people's lives, but we are trying to do what is right and we are trying to do what is fair and we will do that, but I do want to make some comments on Bill No. 61 here today. First and foremost, I would like to pay tribute to the men, the women and the children living in this province who have been infected with hepatitis C. It has been a difficult time for them and for their families. I am very concerned that people eligible for the $1.1 billion package, particularly those most ill, receive assistance as soon as possible. Negotiations are very complex and they are continuing. All provincial Health Ministers, of all Parties, all political stripes, are hoping for an early agreement.

I want to take the opportunity today to say where I stand on the issue of compensation. The individuals who contacted hepatitis C through a failure of Canada's blood supply, from 1986 to 1990, should receive assistance. This was the time slot deemed to be most appropriate as it was during this four year period that steps could have been taken to prevent some infections through the introduction of testing, as was done in the United States.

[4:45 p.m.]

We feel a great deal of sympathy for those who may have been infected before 1986, however, when governments provide financial assistance in the health sector it must be done on the basis of a clear rationale. It was not an easy decision but one that had to be made. (Interruption) It is fine for the Leader of the Official Opposition over there beating his gums and playing politics with peoples' lives. We have addressed this with the other governments

[Page 4413]

of Canada and if he is someone who disagrees with Mr. Romanow and Mr. Clark, he should take it up with them when they have the socialist hordes gathering.

This province, as do all other provinces, certainly has a role to play both in providing assistance and increased levels of health care for people who have been infected. The bill we are debating today deals with the issues of equality of treatment for all suffers of hepatitis C, who have contracted the disease through the blood supply.

The National Assistance Program announced in September will equally benefit all sufferers of hepatitis C. Both federal and provincial governments are working beyond compensation. We must provide people infected with hepatitis C with the best our health care system has to offer. If we really want to help people, which is what this government is committed to do, we have to ensure that we have long-term care solutions to meet their health care needs. A cheque is not necessarily the final solution.

In September, Minister Rock presented a comprehensive proposal to provide better hepatitis C disease prevention and treatment, significantly strengthened blood safety and helped Canadians infected with hepatitis C through the blood system prior to 1986 and after 1990. The proposal will help to provide security equally to all Canadians in the future. This is a most important step and this will help all of those who have been infected by hepatitis C through blood in the past.

The components include a commitment of $125 million over five years to strengthen blood regulation and disease surveillance following the recommendations of the Krever Commission, so that the risk of future blood supply system tragedies is minimized. This will be made possible through the establishment of the new Canadian Blood Services. In addition, new hepatitis C disease prevention, community-based support programs and research will be developed in consultation with those who contracted hepatitis C through the blood system and their representatives at a cost of up to $50 million over five years.

The proposal also helps to ensure that Canadians who have been infected by hepatitis C through the blood system do not incur out-of-pocket expenses for medical treatment. To this end the proposal includes:

No. 1. A special transfer to the provinces of $300 million over 20 years so that we may provide access to needed medical care not currently covered by provincial health care programs to people infected with hepatitis C. It is estimated that the total cost of these services would be approximately $600 million.

No. 2. In addition the federal government will cover half the cost of provincial and territorial look-back, trace-back initiatives to help identify people who have been infected through the blood system or who have donated infected blood. The federal government estimates its share to be about $25 million to $50 million.

[Page 4414]

No. 3. A five year review of those initiatives is part of the overall proposal. It will give an opportunity to both assess the effectiveness of the program and to make any necessary changes.

No. 4. I would like to note at this time that Nova Scotia is one of only three provinces in this country with a province-wide trace-back program. The notification program was launched in June 1997, to trace Nova Scotians who may have been exposed to hepatitis C through blood or blood products through 1984 to 1990. We need to identify these people for their own health and for the health of the general population.

No. 5. The notification program is going very well. Most people who have been notified have been tested and only a very small percentage of those people have tested positive for hepatitis C.

No. 6. The risk notification program is very important for public health. We need to do what we can to stop the potential spread of hepatitis C infection. The more people know about their personal health, then they can make better decisions to protect both themselves and others.

Mr. Speaker, these initiatives, which I have highlighted, will help to ensure that those infected with hepatitis C are in fact treated equally. Money, all too often is identified as the ideal solution. We notice in Ontario, $10,000 is not going to go a long way. They need other programs and support. This is not always the most feasible approach. We need to direct our efforts to the special - and I underline the special - health care needs of those affected by this disease of hepatitis C.

Mr. Speaker, we must provide them all with the best the health care system has to offer, and this is what we intend to do. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings West.

MR. GEORGE MOODY: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and speak on Bill No. 61, an Act to Guarantee Equality of Treatment for All Sufferers of Hepatitis C, but I am also saddened that I have to get up and speak on this legislation. Saddened from the fact that we shouldn't need this kind of legislation to get what is fair in this province and what is right; we shouldn't need legislation to do that.

Mr. Speaker, I will give the minister credit on the trace-back. A few things have been done, but you know, I have had a little experience being Minister of Health. When other provinces say no to what you really feel is right, we all can say yes. Every minister that goes to those meetings is compassionate. I understand that, but it takes courage to stand alone. It is easy to stand in a group and say you can't do something, because everybody else stands together. I went to ministers' meetings and they all said, we have to stick together. You know

[Page 4415]

why? Because they went back home, and everybody used the excuse, we have to stick together. That is exactly what has happened in this issue.

I made the commitment, and I was fortunate in that the Connors entered my life, and I actually sat down with some people who were infected with HIV. I understood why they were coming for a package. I understood how their family living had to change, how it affected them personally and their family members and, after holding those meetings I thought, what is the right thing to do? Is it right to stick together? I tried to convince my colleague to reconsider this decision not to compensate. It would have been easy for me to stand and go along with the group; that was an easy decision, not hard.

For me personally, I agonized and said, if I am going to stand alone, and yes, I had calls from other governments in Canada, yes, the NDP Government of Ontario at the time, and whether it is PC or Liberal across the country, saying to me, don't do it. Now they were all compassionate people. I understood that, but I also understood that once in a while one has to do what is right, even if it means standing alone. Mr. Speaker, when I stood alone, I don't think there was a Nova Scotian in this province that said, you did the wrong thing by standing alone; as a matter of fact, a lot of people, hundreds and thousands of people, have said you did the right thing by standing alone.

Now here again, we have a group of people that were infected. At the time, when we made that decision with HIV, we were not aware of the hepatitis C issue. It became known very shortly after. I thought Krever, who everybody thought was fair, did an excellent job, those that were infected with HIV or hepatitis C and across this country, Krever spent many weeks, a long time, longer than it should have taken, but because he wanted to do such a good job, and because of the court challenges, it took a long time. One year ago tomorrow - it will be one year tomorrow - that he recommended that all those infected, and how do you tell somebody that you were infected in 1985, you don't count, you were infected in 1991, and I know there have been people since 1990 infected, how do you tell them and their families that they are going to be treated differently than those who were infected between that window that the federal government has led the provinces to believe is the answer?

The provinces are not leading this. The federal government is leading it, and they are going along with it. You might wonder, is the issue about money? Maybe it is the issue about money. If it is money, then I wish people would say it is about money. No one can stand up in this House, I have never heard an argument that if you are going to do what is right and you are going to be fair, you can't recognize that the blood system did me in or somebody else in, that you are not going to recognize them. I understand that there is not a lot of money in any province, but I can understand what the government said. When that program was announced last spring, not one person has received one cent yet through that program. I have talked to some of them, some of them who are going through a very difficult time and they fit in that time-frame. Now, if people knew that the government said we are going to treat you

[Page 4416]

fairly, it is going to take us some time, but we are actually going to do what is right, and we are going to say to these people that we are going to work out a level of compensation.

With HIV everybody got the same. I know with hepatitis C there are various levels and there are going to be various levels of compensation. I understand that. It is going to be a little more complicated. I understand that. If it is not so complicated that we can actually help those between 1986 and 1990, and that is not too complicated to work out, why can't we help the others who missed out on that window of opportunity? This bill should never have reached the floor of the House. Government should have taken the lead and said, look, the minister can stand up - and he is a compassionate individual and I acknowledge that, but you have to go the next step. You have to have a little courage. You have to understand what fairness is all about.

You know, Mr. Speaker, as long as I have been an MLA, I never got into trouble when I said I could explain what fairness was and you all got treated the same if you were in the same sort of category; in other words, a universal program, a fair program, it does not matter. I have had people call me up. They cannot understand how in 1992 they got infected. They know they got infected through the blood system, but they don't understand why they do not qualify. They don't understand in 1984 or 1985. I cannot explain to them why a decision was made that if the blood system actually let them down, I cannot understand why the system that was run by government - we acknowledge that, we acknowledge what Krever has said - a system that governments were responsible for, that we are now going to say to these people that we are going to slot you into categories. When you start slotting people, you are asking for trouble. Nova Scotians from one end of this province to the other want fairness. They want people to be treated fairly. I love this province, I love the people in it and I am proud of this province and I would be so proud if our government of the day took the lead and said we are going to revisit this issue and we are going to have another look at this issue because we feel in our heart of hearts that those people who missed that window deserve some compensation.

We will start and put in motion a process where fairness will prevail. Never mind what the other ministers say. If they feel they want to follow, which they did in 1993 after we made that decision with HIV across this country everybody followed. We ended up with the best program, the fairest program but they all followed. Do you know what is going to happen? Many of the governments are going to have to give in. Why do they have to be bullied? Why do they have to be pressured? Why can't we upfront take the lead, take the agony away from these people and these people are suffering?

I have one individual who is going in hospital. Many of you know Dianna Parsons, who has been a leader in this field. Dianna is going through a very tough time. She is in hospital tomorrow, going through another very serious operation. She knows this is one year from the Krever report. She actually fits in this window, but we do not know when the compensation is going to be worked out. All I know, Mr. Speaker, is that we as a Legislature should put

[Page 4417]

politics aside. Let's not play politics with this. Let's actually work together for fairness. I know there will always be people who will say, yes, everything we talk about in here is political. Everybody is in here for a different reason and everybody obviously wants to be government. I understand all of that, but there are issues like this that have to do with the human side, the compassionate side. It is, again, about doing the right thing. We should be able to put partisan politics aside when we deal with those kind of issues. Partisan politics should not be a factor in a decision like this; the right thing and what is right.

[5:00 p.m.]

I think if you took a poll across this province, if you asked Nova Scotians, what is fair, what do you want your government to do on this issue, I know that the results would be overwhelming that Nova Scotia would support doing the right thing. Nova Scotians would say, I am proud to be a Nova Scotian because our government of the day is compassionate, is fair and wants to help those who are less fortunate and are sick because a system that the government has operated let them down.

I know my time is running out, Mr. Speaker, and, unfortunately, this will probably never come to a vote. What I am hoping is that goodness will prevail. That somehow this government will understand what it is they are doing to these unfortunate people who don't fit into that window. If this government actually will take the lead and actually do the right thing, I would applaud and I know all Nova Scotians would applaud, if that could happen. (Applause)

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

DR. HINRICH BITTER-SUERMANN: Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to speak briefly on Bill No. 61, an Act to Guarantee Equality of Treatment for all Sufferers of Hepatitis C, that was introduced by my colleague for Halifax Needham and so eloquently supported by the honourable member for Kings West.

Mr. Speaker, there is no other disease I could talk better about than hepatitis C. The reason for that is that as a liver transplanter, as the surgeon who introduced the technique of transplantation of the liver to Atlantic Canada, I do know the tail-end of sufferers of liver disease, the ones that slip into comas after they have contracted various forms of liver disease and then they die.

I would like to just bring the attention of this House to an interesting remark that the Minister of Health, just a few minutes ago, made. That is, that he was pumping his breast and proudly said that a good screening program has been conducted and only a very few Nova Scotians are, indeed, suffering from hepatitis C acquired by tainted blood in that very narrow and callously chosen window, namely from 1986 to 1990. Since the Minister of Health knows, obviously, that it is only a very few people that would be concerned by this very

[Page 4418]

generous piece of legislation, I, of course, am not surprised that he has left the Chamber because it must hurt his ears to listen to the honourable member for Kings West.

MR. RAYMOND WHITE: On a point of order, Mr. Speaker. As you are aware, parliamentary procedure does not allow or does not condone mentioning if a member is present or not during debate.

MR. SPEAKER: That is correct. Honourable members must not draw attention to the absence of another member.

DR. BITTER-SUERMANN: Mr. Speaker, I obviously apologize for that faux pas. Nonetheless, the patients that are at the tail-end of a liver disease like hepatitis C, come to my team, to the team of which I am a member, and get transplanted if they are in good luck and there is a donor around.

However, that is not really what the Honourable Allan Rock had in mind when he, a few months ago, announced not cash but care. The federal Minister of Health forgot that here in Nova Scotia, health care is not always an option. Our health care program, the way that the honourable member for Kings West left to Nova Scotians in 1993, has been eroding ever since. We have a more expensive health care program that is less efficient. When Allan Rock in Ottawa pronounces that hepatitis C sufferers should get care but not cash, he forgets that Nova Scotia is off the map when it comes to pronouncements like that.

Our people who are at this moment at the tail-end of hepatitis C need help now and it is totally inappropriate for the Minister of Health to point out that there is a legalistic issue at hand that would narrow the window of help to something between 1986 and 1990 when tainted blood was administered. On top of it, it is frivolous to suggest that this government here is working on a schedule to pay over the next 20 years people who are not living another two or three years. What a way to deal with an issue that requires compassion and not legalistic lingo.

When I listened the other day to the honourable House Leader, when he pronounced that our legislation here in our social democratic NDP caucus is frivolous, then I challenge the House Leader to explain to me what it means to come with a 20 year plan for people who will be dead in not more than five years time, or two years time. That is shameful. It is frivolous and it is unheard of, in my view, for a lawmaker that should have the interests of people in his province at heart and not to play politics with the state of their health and their state of health is indeed not good.

Mr. Speaker, when I came from the United States to this country to start liver transplantation, I came because I was attracted by that wonderful idea of equality and universality of health care. That is something we Canadians have to defend. That is something that is unequivocally noble. It is something that we shall not give up in Nova Scotia. To create

[Page 4419]

a narrow window means there is no equality and there is no universality. It means that some unfortunate sufferers of hepatitis C, but fortunate enough to have gotten sick between 1986 and 1990, will get help. The ones that are on either side of the cliff fall off. That is a Liberal cliff. That is not a Canadian cliff. That is not a cliff that Canadians believe in. That is a cliff that was erected in Ottawa against the substance of the Krever Report.

The Krever Report clearly stated that there should be compensation for all sufferers of HIV or of, in analogy, hepatitis C. That is what Canadians believe in. They do not believe in lawyerish narrow interpretations of something that fate has delivered. They are sick. They will die and they need help. My colleague, the honourable member for Halifax Needham, has put forward a simple piece of legislation. It has one paragraph. It is understandable. To call it frivolous is absolutely outrageous. I appeal to this House to consider at this moment my request. I respectfully request to bring this bill, Bill No. 61, to a vote. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Richmond.

MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, while it gives me a privilege to speak on this bill, it certainly does not give me any pleasure. Like most members here in the House, we are very aware of the serious matter that is here before us in this bill. (Interruptions)

Recently, Mr. Speaker, I spoke with a friend . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member's time is up.

The honourable Acting Opposition House Leader.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 76.

Bill No. 76 - Grants and Loans Moratorium (1998) Act.

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

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to the bill entitled the Grants and Loans Moratorium (1998) Act. I introduced this bill a week ago in response to the continuation of this government's program of write-offs in grants to large corporations.

This bill requires that these grants and write-offs be suspended until the Auditor General completes a value for money audit of the program. This bill is brought forward for consideration of the House to assist the troubled Minister of Economic Development. He said in the spring that the budget of his department was reduced for exactly the principle contained in the bill. The minister said at that time that there would be no more grants to big corporations and we agreed that that was an enlightened pronouncement by the minister but -

[Page 4420]

and it is a big but - his deeds do not match his words. I believe it is because he can't help himself. So if he can't help himself, we are here to help.

A value for money audit is a basic planning tool, similar to a cost-benefit analysis only more tightly focused. I propose this in the context of the budget introduced by the Minister of Finance and the less than laudable activities of the government, generally.

This bill is brought forward for consideration and although the Minister of Economic Development mouths the words of restraint, he sits there is his massive obstinacy and he moans to the press, this is frivolous. This government believes that we are frivolous. When we try to assist them in reaching the good goals that they set for themselves, they call us frivolous. This government, this health-care wrecking, truth-twisting, service-smashing, tax-raising, privatizing government, them. The government which brings in a budget with a pledge that it is balanced, then having escaped this House, smirking over their shoulders at the complicity of their friends huddled in this corner. Then the troubled Minister of Economic Development comes in here and he rolls out a massive tax write-off. (Interruption) Can you hear the wailings and lamentations on that side. You know, it reminds me of a little verse from Lord Byron. He said, I publish right or wrong. Fools are my theme, let satire be my song.

Well, not so coincidentally, the troubled Minister of Finance has been embarrassed by what he calls a financial burp, an $82 million deficit, an $82 million burden on the taxpayers of this province that handicaps the ability of this government to deal responsibly with the debts of hospitals and those organizations that are necessarily incidental to the running of government.

I want to draw the attention of the government to a special report that was done by Time Magazine, no less. I will table a copy. I want to refer to a few things in this report. First of all, it finds that the cost per job is enormous. Then it finds that the incentives offered have favoured large corporations, no surprise. Once the grant is made the report finds that there is not always good follow-up to ensure jobs are created. This is a problem we have referred to in this House repeatedly. Next, if penalties exist they are not always enforced. In fact, in many instances the failure of the corporation to comply with the requirements of grants or loan conditions coincides with the general failure of the corporation, leaving employees and the taxpayers out in the cold.

[5:15 p.m.]

To reinforce the point, this report says that the industries supported are sometimes of dubious viability. Indeed, this report indicates that governments involved with loans and grant systems tend to be secretive about the details of the cases. This is a problem, again, that we have flagged. Finally - and this is not an exhaustive list of what exists in the report - it says that in many States that were reviewed, it was noted that the industries have moved to extract benefits to allow the retention of jobs, rather than to attract jobs.

[Page 4421]

For the information of the government, I would also point out that the independent audit of ACOA programs in 1992, by outside independent auditors, Price Waterhouse, and earlier in 1991 there was an evaluation of Enterprise Cape Breton done by an assessment team to specifically look at the balance between the financial risk-taking of the government and the proper safeguarding of public money - and that is what this is - interestingly, the report found, this is their report, that the cost ranged from $22,000 per job on smaller projects to $154,000 a job for larger projects. The average cost per job was slightly over $97,000. This is the context of this bill, Mr. Speaker.

The principle of this bill, to which it is dedicated, is very plain. Is the supply granted to the Department of Economic Development being used in the best interest of the people of the province? If they have something to say, Mr. Speaker . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. I can appreciate the fact that heckling is a finer part of the parliamentary tradition, but it would be nice to hear the speaker. If I can't hear the person who has the floor, I am sure there are many other members who can't hear him either.

MR. DEXTER: By what standard do you measure the success of write-offs, Mr. Speaker? When you decide that $40 million is better spent on corporate welfare than for the welfare of the sick and injured, what is the offsetting value received that justifies the expenditure? Clearly, this bill recognizes and contemplates that this government can justify its undertaking, but scrutiny and transparency are demanded by the public and, I might add, it is demanded by common sense.

A value-for-money audit asked the question, what is the province receiving for the money spent and how much are we paying for each job created as a result thereof? These are the radical and frivolous questions that the members of the Opposition are asking. Mr. Speaker, the services of food banks are expanding, it is, unfortunately, one of our fastest growing franchises. The fate of the poor continues to be thrown to the vagaries of charity; child poverty remains a pressing problem for the consideration of this House; and the erosion of real wages by roll-backs and inflation have cut deeply into disposable income.

So the principle of this bill asks a very relevant question, what does the expenditure of this money give the province, so we can balance it against the other interests that I have just enumerated? Who joins us in the devious and frivolous question? None other than Peter O'Brien, a leading business spokesman, who called for the wholesale shutdown of the Economic Development loans, grants and handouts - those are his words, not mine - these do little to foster economic development.

Mr. Speaker, this bill is an exercise in moderation . . .

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member's time is up. (Applause)

[Page 4422]

The honourable Minister of Economic Development and Tourism.

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, Bill No. 76 is one of those ridiculous bills that I spoke of publicly the other day that the NDP are introducing in this House. The sucking and the blowing of the NDP is something to behold. On the one hand, they are talking about the structure of the Economic Development Department and, on the other hand, last spring in the session, they wanted me to give $10 million to a firm from away to sew underwear in the province, without even seeing them. Most recently, they wanted me to give a $122 million loan guarantee without even seeing the proposal. Now that is the inconsistency of the NDP in these matters.

Let me start, Mr. Speaker, by reminding the House that the Nova Scotia economy is growing very well. You do not have to take my word for it. A couple of weeks ago the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council predicted that Nova Scotia's economy would be one of the strongest in the country this year and next. Consumer spending is remarkably strong and exports are up more than 7.5 per cent over the first half of last year. APEC says our Gross Domestic Product should grow by 3 per cent and employment by 2 per cent next year. That would be sad news to the NDP, if the employment grew in the province. That is the fastest rate of growth in the Atlantic Region.

The T-D Bank, the Bank of Montreal and other economic analysts are making similar judgements about Nova Scotia's economy. Investment growth will be stronger here than anywhere else in Canada. We are number two in overall economic growth. This picture is no accident. It reflects growing business confidence, not just in the offshore, but all over the province in all sorts of industries. That business confidence reflects the effectiveness of the economic policies of this government. This bill calls for a moratorium on grants and loans to large corporations until the Auditor General completes a value for money audit of government assistance to business.

The Auditor General is welcome to examine the activities of my department at any time. In fact, the Auditor General is a regular visitor and has just completed an examination of our Business Development Corporation. What is the Auditor General finding? A well-run operation. (Applause)

Economic Development and Tourism provides loans, loan guarantees, equity investments and, from time to time, forgivable loans to companies which are expanding in Nova Scotia. We currently have more than 900 active files, the vast majority of which are companies in rural Nova Scotia. These companies employ close to 8,000 Nova Scotians and pay $173 million a year in wages. In many cases, these companies are the major employer in their community and an important source of that community's prosperity.

[Page 4423]

These businesses that Economic Development and Tourism are assisting generate over $1 billion in sales each year, and 70 per cent of those are export sales. These companies are making a contribution to their communities, to their employees and to all Nova Scotians. The provincial government is receiving an additional $48 million a year in payroll taxes from the operation of these companies. Those funds are paying for our schools, for our health care system and for other programs that Nova Scotians cherish.

The vast majority of our investments are in home-grown, small Nova Scotia businesses. Yes, we also invest in large companies. This seems to be the issue at the heart of this bill. All of our investments follow a very simple principle. We pay out a dollar to get two dollars back. Our loans to businesses are generally made at a higher interest rate than those charged by the banks. When we forgive a loan, we make our investment back through payroll taxes, usually within three or four years. Then we keep benefitting from those tax revenues year after year.

Our investments are helping local companies to grow and they are helping new companies to make a home in our province. ED&T's investments in knowledge-based firms like Keane, Orenda Recip Aerospace and Cisco Systems has helped to bring each of these world-class organizations to Nova Scotia. The returns; huge infusions of new capital and high-end work for hundreds of Nova Scotians. Our investments in the Bank of Nova Scotia and CIBC have triggered the development of world-class training programs for the teleservice industry. They are also creating thousands of jobs which are creating new revenues to invest in our health care and education systems.

Our business case is a solid one. It is built upon our quality workforce, our infrastructure, our access to markets, our transportation advantages and our business environment. These attributes get us to the table but they do not close the deal. We are competing with other provinces and other countries trying to lure corporations into their own home towns. Other jurisdictions are more happy to offer land, buildings, tax holidays and cash in order to win. Nova Scotia spends less money per capita on direct subsidies to business than any other province in Canada.

Let me say, Mr. Speaker, I want to make sure that all members of the House catch this fact. Nova Scotia spends less money on direct subsidies to business than any other province in Canada, but we are competing with other provinces for investment. The competition from American states is even more intense and the money that we do invest comes back to us many times over.

Let me illustrate my point with a company that has been mentioned often in this House, Michelin. Three times in the last 12 months, Michelin has announced expansions in Nova Scotia. These expansions are worth $310 million of new investment, and they will create 294 jobs in rural Nova Scotia. These projects will also generate about $85 million in new business for outside contractors. That is on top of the $35 million in contracts the company already provides each year.

[Page 4424]

The province has invested in these Michelin expansions, much to the displeasure of the NDP. I have taken a lot of heat for it, but I will take heat any day for supporting successful businesses in this province. The returns on the Michelin investment have been enormous. Michelin has invested over $2 billion in this province over the years, and more than $2.5 billion in wages. It has created thousands of direct and indirect jobs, mostly all of them in rural Nova Scotia.

The company generates $40 million in direct and indirect tax revenues for provincial and municipal coffers, every year, year in and year out. The provincial government has provided about $85 million to the company and we are receiving $0.75 billion in additional revenues through taxes on Michelin payroll and spin-off jobs since the company opened in Nova Scotia 30 years ago.

Mr. Speaker, the NDP is obviously not going to be satisfied, not until Michelin leaves Nova Scotia. They are not going to be satisfied until Michelin takes their 4,000 jobs and goes to the United States with them. That is what will make the NDP happy. If we hadn't invested in Michelin, they would have gone somewhere else, but we have them here in Nova Scotia providing well-paying jobs in rural Nova Scotia, jobs that otherwise wouldn't exist in those parts of this province.

I could go on and on here, because I am awfully pleased that the member opposite raised this topic today, because I like talking about economic development in this province. I like talking about it an awful lot. We are making the moves in this province, we are making the right moves in this province. We are creating a business climate in this province that is the envy of every single province in this country. I am going to tell you, Mr. Speaker, we have ensured right down the street here 400 jobs in the City of Halifax by initiatives of this government, jobs that would have gone to New Brunswick. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Digby-Annapolis.

MR. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, it gives me pleasure to rise today and speak a few words regarding Bill No. 76 - an Act to Impose a Moratorium on Grants and Loans to Large Corporations until the Auditor General Completes a Value-for-Money Audit of Government Assistance to Business. In light of the fact that the Act's title is longer than the Act itself, I think it is appropriate that they have renamed it for simplicity's purposes the Grants and Loans Moratorium (1998) Act. I think that will make it much simpler for everyone to understand.

At first glance, one would look at this and say, if you were a member of the public, good. This is the kind of legislation that we need. Let's put an end to government supporting their powerful friends in big business. The big guys don't need tax dollars. Why does government always subsidize and bail out those big businesses that could get by on their own?

[Page 4425]

The rich are getting richer and on the story goes. But the question really is, is perception reality? Is this perception the truth when it comes to business development.

A second question that really needs to be asked is, what would motivate this particular legislation at this point in time? Certainly government sponsorship of business in various forms has been a way of life, a way of doing business since business began. Is this bill motivated to address a real problem, or is it simply motivated to address a perception that exists that big business is getting a larger share of government largesse than is their due? That is a question that needs to be looked at.

Big business, and small business, is the engine that drives this economy. It drives society. Business is a fact of life. We can rail about excesses, we can say that business exploits resources, it exploits people, it exploits opportunity, but the reality is business creates opportunity. The creation of wealth is what allows Nova Scotians, it allows the world economy to run. It gives us those things that to some degree we take for granted.

[5:30 p.m.]

This is not an apology to business and it is not absolution for excess. What it is, it is simply stating the reality of business, of a way of life in western civilization. That is a fact. Business is needed. Business is necessary. This bill leaves the feeling that there is something inherently wrong, bad or evil about big business. If big is the issue, if it is big that is the problem, then is there a problem inherently with big unions, big hospitals, big everything, is that the issue? Is big the problem? If it is, there is a problem.

In some cases big is a problem, in many others it is not. There is nothing absolute about this. This bill is about borrowing and lending. It is about what goes on every day in the business world, in businesses large and small. This bill is restrictive and it will increase the bureaucracy associated with doing business. It will increase the bureaucracy associated with government monitoring of business and, to a large degree, it is putting a large and onerous burden on the Office of the Auditor General. Is this something that his office is able to handle? Will his department be able to do justice to the task that is being assigned them? Will this bill do what is intended? What will happen if it comes to pass?

It would seem that the cure to this problem is not legislation that restricts business from accessing funds because of size, the problem is that we need to put in place mechanisms whereby loans are granted and monitored. What needs to happen is that we need to look at the repayment records of the companies involved. Are they credible, viable companies? Are they able to meet their commitments? Are they going to repay according to schedules? If, in fact, part of the guarantees or the grants are tied to employment targets, have those targets been met? If they have, then that is part of the overall plan.

[Page 4426]

Banks do not restrict loans based on size. That is not one of their criteria. When a bank is approached for lending (Interruption) What we are doing here is we are talking about an economic climate. Since the Department of Economic Development and Tourism, since government very much is involved in the business development of this province, it is realistic to assume that they have to have in place mechanisms that parallel what is available in the private sector. Sometimes there are business opportunities that may not necessarily fit normal standards or normal criteria.

Most lending institutions when lending to a business, look at such issues as cash flow, equity, corporate history, collateral, sales projections. All those factors, which are business factors, need to be entertained. Banks lend primarily on the soundness of the business plan and, by and large, that is what the Department of Economic Development does.

They tend to, when they are looking at business plans, review them at arm's length and try and determine whether or not this plan is viable and will, in fact, create job opportunities that may not exist ordinarily. It would seem that while who gets the money can be an issue, an even greater concern should be whether or not the parameters of the loan conditions are going to be met. That seems to be the issue to me. It is not whether or not money is loaned based on size of business but whether or not it is viable and whether or not it is going to contribute to the overall economic climate of Nova Scotia.

The reality is that in Nova Scotia we have difficulties that are unique to areas and so sometimes the government has to lend a hand, nurturing and developing businesses that might not necessarily be viable on their own. A sound loan or grant to a large business, which is repaid, which hits and maintains employment targets, or which creates employment opportunities in an economically depressed area, is a better decision than to grant a loan to a small company which defaults on payments or does not meet the commitment.

One of the inherent risks associated with talking about this bill and speaking in support of large business is that one can be perceived to be anti-small business and that is not the case. A decision to support business large or small should be based on sound financial, social and economic information. There is a fundamental problem associated with a government involvement when that involvement goes beyond that. There are difficulties, there is no question.

When governments are approached to consider supporting business plans there is the risk that those decisions may take on political overtones. When that happens, sometimes the objectivity can be lost and that is the issue. The issue is if it is a sound decision based on sound business and economic principles, then perhaps it has merit, regardless of the size. To dismiss a decision simply based on size is problematic. One of the interesting things is that in the legislation it speaks specifically to large business.

[Page 4427]

I did obtain a copy of what a large business is under the Income Tax Act. That particular document is longer than the bill and in fact, it requires a great deal of detail to interpret it. One of the very leading questions is, what is a big business and what is a small business? I think that needs to be clarified and the bill fails to do that. Does it cover all businesses, some businesses? I think the risk here is that the legislation as it is proposed is a bit excessive and that needs to be addressed.

Politicians when they look at these decisions that must be made are often influenced, as I said earlier, by things that extend beyond the bottom line. Once again I would like to say that the problem with this particular piece of legislation is that it is not founded on fundamental, sound business practices. If a business is sound and viable, then it should get support. Thank you. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I don't think you could possibly imagine the pleasure with which I take the opportunity to speak to this bill. The reason I am so pleased is that this affords me the opportunity to speak directly to those many members on the benches opposite who have occasionally asked the question, what would you do? What is your plan? What would you do faced with all of the red ink that is being bled out of this province and out of the provincial government? There are a whole variety of answers to that of which this bill forms one component. Let me set it within a context.

One of the first things we would do is offer a government that is honest and competent. That would be a refreshing change in this province. Not only would it be a refreshing change, it is a refreshing change that would be welcomed by the business community which for too many years has not been happy with what it has had to face from successive governments in Nova Scotia. Even though they paid it, what company was happy with paying extra fees on cartons of beer to get the right to sell their alcohol? There was never a company that was happy with that. Every company would welcome having an honest and competent government here.

What else would we offer? It has been suggested any number of times that we and I in particular am somehow on the record as having said that taxes would be raised. I want to say that this is in no wise the case. When after the vote was taken in June with respect to the budget the honourable Leader of the Third Party issued a statement at that time in which he said that one of the reasons that he and his Party, most of them, voted to support the budget was that he believed that I, during the course of the election had said that the NDP would raise taxes. When I saw this I immediately wrote to the Finance Critic for the Third Party and said, I was puzzled by this statement and could he, the honourable member for Argyle, help me understand how the Leader of his Party could possibly have arrived at that conclusion. I wrote him in July and I have never had a reply from that member to my letter because I never said that.

[Page 4428]

The extent to which we have committed ourselves is to say that we would like to see a fair tax commission or some form of study of the taxation system. None of us is over here saying that we are H & R Block and, for your individual taxes, some element will go up and some element will go down. We are saying that the whole tax system has to be studied and that is another step that we would take. Dealing with the red ink, that is what Bill No. 76 is about because one of the first things you do is you plug the leaks. If money is bleeding out of the system, you plug the leaks and that is what this bill is about. That is the essence of it. You stop giving money away in vast amounts, which is what we saw in the first quarterly statements of this goverment that clearly indicated that one of the chief reasons for the deficit that was being projected at that time was loss of money through the Department of so-called Economic Development.

What is the problem with the Department of Economic Development? The problem is that they don't have a plan and they don't know what they are doing. We heard today that there is (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. EPSTEIN: We heard today, Mr. Speaker, that there is an array of possible incentives that that department is prepared to offer to companies, either to come and locate here, or, unfortunately, to keep them from moving away, apparently. We have heard the array: it is equity investment; it is loan guarantees; it is loans and, of course, loan forgivenesses; and it is tax breaks. The honourable minister didn't mention tax breaks, but that is another item which is sometimes used in this province.

The difficulty is this. When does that department decide that it is going to support some particular industry? There is nothing on the record anywhere that indicates how they make up their minds? What is it? Is it a sectoral strategy or is it any takers, or is it takers that they somehow like the looks of? There is nothing to indicate how they go about choosing companies that they are prepared to support.

All members of the Legislature today received copies of something called Nova Scotia Quarterly, put out by the Department of so-called Economic Development and Tourism. Now, they talk about expeditions to New England. They go there and they have, obviously, cast the nets wide. They are, apparently, prepared to take any companies that will come and locate here. They don't know though, and they cannot tell us and we have never heard from that minister, whether our strategy in Nova Scotia is to try to develop high technology, bio-technology, ocean technology, engineering, or is it our natural resources sectors or is it shipbuilding or is something else? Which sectors do they favour and on what principle and on what amounts? They don't know. They have never told us and no one in Nova Scotia can judge whether they are doing a good job, except by looking at the individual grants that they pay, because it is obvious that they don't have a strategy within which to make their decisions.

[Page 4429]

This bill has to do with value-for-money accounting. It says that if we are going to put money into supporting businesses, then we have to make sure that we are getting value for our money. I did not hear a word from the minister that suggested that he regretted being sucked in to this non-productive game of interjurisdictional competition in order to attract businesses from one jurisdiction to another. Now it is one thing to say that we feel trapped. We have no choice. We don't like it, but we have been beaten up on and we think we have to do it. I don't hear that from the minister. What I hear him say is that he wants to do it, that it is wonderful and it pays dividends to Nova Scotia. Well, if it pays dividends, let's see the dollar calculations.

The honourable minister brought up the example of Michelin. Let's look at this same document that we were handed today, as well. The three expansions in the last 12 months at Michelin that he is talking about, let's focus on those. What did it cost us? It cost us, in Nova Scotia, about $66 million in forgiven loans or in money that is going to be invested in order to provide training for people to work there. What is the investment? What is the return? There are 294 jobs, according to this document. (Interruptions) Do you want to do the arithmetic? The cost of that is $225,000 per job to create that job. Now that is an enormous amount of money. There is nothing wrong with the arithmetic.

I am perfectly prepared to agree that . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The honourable member has one minute.

MR. EPSTEIN: I am perfectly prepared to agree that you could look at the whole set of circumstances and say, well, they invested millions of dollars into construction, how much of that money went into local companies? Just as we hear with Sable Gas. You have to ask that question; it hasn't been answered. You have to focus on this. When we find that the very largest of companies, including - as the minister just proudly said - the Bank of Nova Scotia and CIBC, are also returners of this money, he cannot say that three or four years will give a return on that money; that is just not the case. What we are asking for, and what this bill asks for, is value-for-money accounting. If you are so sure that the value is there, you should vote for this bill.

[5:45 p.m.]

MR. SPEAKER: The time has expired for Bill No. 76.

The honourable Acting Opposition House Leader.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, would you please call Bill No. 44.

[Page 4430]

Bill No. 44 - Amendments to the Information Act.

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

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, I stand with pride, as the introducer of Bill No. 44 earlier this session, to be able to debate this bill in second reading on our Opposition Day. Bill No. 44, the long title is An Act to Amend Chapter 5 of the Acts of 1993, the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. The short version is a new form of freedom of information and protection of privacy in this province, which is long overdue. Long overdue, after many years of an ineffectual piece of legislation known as the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act that we now have in place.

The introduction of Bill No. 44 is based on a report in 1996 - I believe March 1, 1996 - it was presented to the Liberal Government that is still across the way for now. In particular, that was the Advisory Council on Freedom of Information, which included many journalists, who obviously are quite close to the issue and deal with the Freedom of Information Act on a regular basis but, indeed, it also included a member of the government benches. The member for Antigonish was on this committee, it produced a report that he endorsed, when he, I think, at the time was in Antigonish County as a politician, and that report produced many recommendations for changing the Freedom of Information Act.

But like so many - just from my own critic area I can list a few - recommendations made by advisory committees and reports that are produced recommending changes to the legislation based on consensus of the stakeholders, this government has chosen to ignore the recommendations of that advisory committee.

Before I get to those recommendations and what Bill No. 44 says, I want to talk briefly about some of the problems we have had with the current Act. I will use an example, the Public Prosecution Service. During the Westray prosecution, that service was asked by a journalist, I believe at the Chronicle-Herald, to produce a report on the Westray prosecution. The semantics put forward by the Public Prosecution Service was there is no report, a report won't be produced until March 1998. Indeed, what had actually happened was that there were six individual reports produced that they tried to claim was one report.

They were reprimanded by the review officer, Mr. Fardy under the Freedom of Information Act, as he said that he had major concerns with the way that they produced their particular report and that they were clearly obstructing the application, and he had a lot of problems with the way that they did that. That is only one example. Indeed, even though the review officer had concerns, there was nothing he could do about the particular changes that he wanted, because the review officer has no powers, and the department can ignore the application if it really wants. We would like to see a few changes, and this bill would put forward these changes. Here are a few of them.

[Page 4431]

If the government department or an individual in that department obstructs or produces a false statement with regard to an application for Freedom of Information, they should have to pay a fine or penalty. Right now, there are no penalties against someone who obstructs in the order of trying to deal with the Freedom of Information Act, and that gives it no teeth. We would like to see fines and penalties in place.

We would also like to see departments have to swear an affidavit that they have responded fully to the application. Then it is on paper, a sworn affidavit that they have done their job. We would also like to see this applied to things like municipalities, universities, schools and hospitals - the MUSH that it is sometimes called - because we think that people deserve to get that information as well as anyone else.

Finally, we would like to see that where the department fails to comply with the Freedom of Information, that the review officer has real teeth to enforce it. Those are the changes that we think would make a better Freedom of Information Act in this province.

MR. SPEAKER: Your time has expired.

The honourable member for Cape Breton Nova.

MR. PAUL MACEWAN: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to the bill put forward by the honourable member for Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage. Bill No. 44, which runs 13 pages, 18 sections, and has two schedules at the end of it. Schedule "A" adds - I counted them - 258 organizations and institutions to the scope of the existing legislation, while the further schedule, Schedule B, adds an additional 26 institutions and organizations to the existing program for a total of 284 additional institutions and organizations that his bill, if passed, would extend the scope of the existing legislation to, above and beyond the ordinary operations of government.

A very quick examination of some of the organizations listed in this schedule of institutions that would find themselves under the scrutiny of the procedure if this bill were to pass includes such giants as the Apple Maggot Control Board, the Atlantic School of Theology Foundation, the Deer Farming Advisory Committee, the Fur Institute, the Premier's Council on the Electronic Marketplace, the Wildlife Advisory Council and so on and so forth.

I would like to begin by pointing out that it was our Liberal Government that put the current Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act in place. Our record of openness and accountability is a strong one. It was a Liberal Government that strengthened the laws relating to access to information building on the first Act that was passed in 1978. In fact, Nova Scotia was the first province in Canada to put in place legislation relating to information access and we have been leading the way ever since. While I agree that some changes to the current Act might be advisable, let us not forget for a moment that the current Act is working and it is working well.

[Page 4432]

The number of applications received each year continues to increase. When the Act was passed in 1995, government received approximately 320 applications in the first year. By the end of 1997, that number had increased to 550 and the number continues to grow. If we were to proceed as the honourable member is suggesting, we would be legislating changes that could and should, in my view, be handled by a more practical approach. Simply put, many of the amendments included in the bill are better handled through more diligent attention to policies and procedures and, in particular, the use of good old-fashioned common sense.

Let me give you an example, I have much to say, only one minute left?

MR. SPEAKER: You have less than that now.

MR. MACEWAN: I have only just begun. Well, I suggest that there is so much in this bill that is objectionable that it does not merit passage. The NDP is suggesting that municipalities should be covered by the legislation but the opportunity to do that was seized with the introduction of the Municipal Act on October 27, 1998, legislation which will be carried unless the NDP talk it to death. There are many, many things wrong with this bill. The title of the Statute that we are dealing with is the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. Even the title is showing how the Act seeks to balance these two considerations one against the other. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cumberland South.

MR. MURRAY SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to speak to Bill No. 44, an Act to Amend Chapter 5 of the Acts of 1993, the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. This Act extends fundamental rights in a democratic society and increases accountability and openness of all public bodies in this province. This is very important today as faith in our democratic system and public bodies must be revitalized.

The purpose of this legislation is to ensure that public bodies are fully accountable, while at the same time protecting the privacy of individuals in the Province of Nova Scotia. These principles must he upheld and as legislators we must ensure this is done through the best legislation possible.

A review of this Act was done by this government but the Liberal Government is not taking any action on the report of the Advisory Committee on the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. Mr. Speaker, if this government had acted on that, we wouldn't be here today debating this piece of legislation, because if they had acted upon those recommendations that were made, 65 of them in all, the NDP would not have had to bring forward this bill today, which they felt was necessary on behalf of Nova Scotians.

[Page 4433]

Mr. Speaker, during the campaign, the Premier indicated to the Canadian Association of Journalists, my government recognizes this issue is a significant one and promise, following the election on March 24th, the matter will be further reviewed by the Minister of Justice. What has happened since then? There was no review, nothing. Again, if these issues had been addressed by the government, we would not be here today debating this very important issue.

Mr. Speaker, as an example, one year ago, our Party through an application through the FOI asked about the deal made in this province regarding the ambulance service. Over one year later, we are still waiting for the results of that request. But the problem is, what teeth are in legislation today to force the government to reveal the public dollars that are being spent in this province, to reveal transactions such as the Amherst deal that was done. If there is nothing else in this legislation that would be forced by this new legislation introduced by the NDP, but has addressed an issue such as that, which will be comments back from the people in this province, and that is putting teeth into this legislation, to force the government of the day to reveal deals that have been made spending their dollars.

Mr. Speaker, the FOI, often themselves, have criticized the Public Prosecution Service for misleading both journalists and his office after requests for reports on the Westray prosecution. Again, nothing. Our caucus introduced two bills in 1996 and 1997 and the government refused to act upon those. This NDP bill does have some positive suggestions. It talks about the identity of an applicant being discussed without permission of that applicant. It talks about sections being deleted from documents and the reasons have to be given for those deletions. It also talks about municipal units disclosing information.

Mr. Speaker, we do have some concerns. There are some areas which are problematic, in dealing with the Speaker's Office, as an example.

MR. SPEAKER: Your time has expired.

The honourable member for Preston.

MS. YVONNE ATWELL: Mr. Speaker, I just wanted to take a moment to say a word on the Act to Amend Chapter of the Acts of 1993, the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act. I just want to say that this bill makes it easier, I believe, for the general public to get access to public information that is really important. This bill is needed to benefit all Nova Scotians. I just wanted to add my voice to that and I would like to call for a vote.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Labour are you speaking on the bill?

The honourable Minister of Labour.

[Page 4434]

HON. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, yes. (Interruptions) No, I am speaking on the bill.

MR. SPEAKER: The time displayed on the record that I have is 6:00 p.m. for the conclusion of the debate.

MR. MACKINNON: But I am speaking on the bill.

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, if that is the case will I be allotted time to revert to another order of business?

MR. SPEAKER: No, unfortunately you will not.

MR. MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, if it is agreeable with all members of the House, I move to adjourn the debate to yield the floor to the honourable Government House Leader.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

The motion is carried.

The time has expired for Opposition Members' Business.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I would like to revert to the order of business, Presenting Reports of Committees.

MR. SPEAKER: There is a request to revert to the order of business, Presenting Reports of Committees.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

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

[Page 4435]

Bill No. 22 - Health Research Foundation Act.

and the committee recommends this bill to the favourable consideration of the House, without amendment.

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, tomorrow the hours of sitting of the House will be from 12:00 noon until 7:00 p.m. with the late debate taking place at 7:00 p.m., as previously discussed with the other House Leaders. The order of business following the daily routine and Question Period, we are proposing to call, in the Committee of the Whole House on Bills: Public Bills, Bill No. 23, Bill No. 5; and Private and Local Bills, Bill No. 69, Bill No. 24, Bill No. 75, Bill No. 77, Bill No. 82 and Bill No. 88. If we get that far, we will have done well.

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.

[6:00 p.m.]

The hour being 6:00 p.m., we will continue with the late debate this evening. I read the late debate previously. It was submitted by the honourable member for Antigonish.

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Antigonish.

GOV'T. (N.S.): ECON. GROWTH - CONGRATS.

MR. HYLAND FRASER: Mr. Speaker, it gives me great pleasure to stand in the House this evening and deliver some good news about Nova Scotia. The motion before the House tonight reads:

"Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House acknowledge that recent reports from Statistics Canada, the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council, the Royal Bank, Standard and Poor's, and other financial analysts indicate that Nova Scotia is entering a

[Page 4436]

period of unprecedented economic prosperity, and that the Government of Premier Russell MacLellan should be congratulated for creating an atmosphere conducive to economic growth.".

Mr. Speaker, this motion is saying three things. Number one, the economy of Nova Scotia is looking better than it ever has for many decades. Number two, do not take my word for it, many financial experts are saying the same thing. Number three, the reason behind these positive economic forecasts is the vision provided by this Liberal Government under Premier Russell MacLellan. To illustrate this growth and optimism felt in Nova Scotia, I will highlight a few recent economic reports.

Mr. Speaker, according to Statistics Canada, there are now more Nova Scotians with jobs than at any other time in our history. Between October 1997 and October 1998 full-time employment in Nova Scotia has increased by 7,000 people. With more people working, there is a higher demand for office space.

Mr. Speaker, according to Colliers International the commercial vacancy rate for office space in Halifax is at an all-time low. This company says the increase in demand for office and industrial space is a clear indication of a confident business community and a healthy economy.

The banks are also praising Nova Scotia's economy. The Royal Bank Financial Group recently released a financial forecast for our province. This report said that non-residential investment growth in Nova Scotia is expected to be the highest in Canada. The Royal Bank also says economic growth would be fuelled by mining, manufacturing and construction. Also, business services, communications, accommodations and food services will have above average growth.

Mr. Speaker, let's look at what another bank is saying. The Bank of Montreal's annual economic outlook says that construction and other key economic sectors will continue to boost Nova Scotia's economy next year. This report says Nova Scotia's GDP is expected to rise 2 per cent in 1999 after a surge of 3.2 per cent in 1998. The Bank of Montreal also says that an improved labour market will provide support for consumer spending and housing construction.

Speaking of construction, Mr. Speaker, according to a report by the Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation, Nova Scotia will lead Atlantic Canada in new housing construction in the coming year. CMHC says this positive outlook is sponsored by the Sable gas project, the provincial school-building program, continued service sector growth, and the possible port expansion in Halifax. This housing boom is certainly not restricted to metro Halifax. CMHC also says that construction will remain strong in New Glasgow and Truro until late next year.

[Page 4437]

Mr. Speaker, Nova Scotia has also received a glowing forecast from the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council. A recent report from APEC says that Nova Scotia is ending the decade with one of the strongest provincial economies in Canada. I will quote the APEC Report, "With this economic picture, Atlantic Canadians can claim . . . for the first time in a long time . . . that the grass is actually greener on this side of the fence.". The report goes on to say that while the Sable gas project is the major mover of our economy, other numbers are also strong. Consumer spending and retail sales, non-residential construction, and manufacturing shipments are way up. Confidence in the economy is being felt in every corner of Nova Scotia.

Recent surveys conducted for Nova Scotia Power Incorporated and several regional development authorities have shown that rural Nova Scotia businesses are optimistic about the economy. In fact, the surveys say that 20 per cent of businesses in Cumberland County plan to expand in the next two years, as well as hire new staff. The same survey also said that 40 per cent of Cumberland businesses say that they would like to see more government assistance to help business expansion. This figure may come as a shock to members of the Opposition, who feel government should not be giving to businesses. Things are looking so good in Nova Scotia that Standard and Poor's, the international rating agency, has maintained Nova Scotia's good credit rating, despite any talk of a deficit.

I have just named a few of a number of different reports focusing on different areas of our economy, but all these reports share the same message: The Nova Scotia economy is strong, the Nova Scotia economy is growing, and the Nova Scotia economy is on the right track. However, these numbers and figures do not mean much unless Nova Scotians can see the end results in their own communities, and that is why this Liberal Government is committed to working with rural communities, creating new growth.

A great strength of this government's economic development policy is teamwork. The teamwork approach has government representatives working in partnership with community leaders, regional development authorities, and local businesses. We have seen the team approach work in southwestern Nova Scotia, at the former CFB Cornwallis where we are now seeing a thriving business and residential community; in fact, Cornwallis Park has more employees now than it did when it was used by the military as a military base.

Teamwork between government and community organizations is also put to work to encourage new businesses to locate in the abandoned textile mill in Yarmouth. This new business complex is part of our larger rejuvenation on the Yarmouth waterfront. Speaking of waterfront, Mr. Speaker, the Waterfront Development Program has helped over 30 coastal communities make their area more attractive to locals and tourists. With our record-breaking, billion dollar tourist industry, we all know how important this type of work is.

[Page 4438]

This government is also working in partnership with Industry Canada to provide funds for Internet access in rural areas. The Community Access Program recently opened a new Internet site in my constituency at the St. Andrew Junior School, a $14 million school that was built several years ago with state-of-the art equipment, for sure. This Internet access will give local students, community groups, and businesses, exposure to the benefit of information technology.

Premier MacLellan recently announced that he is putting the teamwork approach to work in Cape Breton. A team of government representatives will work with local business and community leaders to explore new ideas for job creation. This is another positive step in sharing our new economic prosperity. Much of this new prosperity is the result of the Sable gas project. This project will result in an investment of as much as $3 billion in the province and will mean hundreds of jobs for Nova Scotians when it is in full operation.

Already the Sable project is causing a positive economic impact in the Strait area of Nova Scotia. Provincial employment on the Sable project was at nearly 2,000 people in October. Construction of the fractionation plant at Point Tupper is also well under way, employing over 200 people, and this number will rise with the recent announcement of a Petro-Can chemical facility in Canso and a pipe assembly yard in Goshen. Apart from widespread economic spin-offs, work on the Sable offshore has benefited my constituency of Antigonish. R. MacLean Forestry, a fine and very reputable company with headquarters in Antigonish, was recently awarded a lucrative contract to clear land for the pipeline route; this means more jobs for rural Nova Scotians.

This government is also helping the rural Nova Scotian economy by introducing local businesses to foreign markets. Critics have said that trade missions are a waste of time and money, but our government maintains that the stay-at-home approach is very short-sighted. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

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

MR. DARRELL DEXTER: Mr. Speaker, I had a look at this resolution when it came forward and I saw that it referred to standard and poor and the government in the same line, and I thought well, they were just adjectives, and then I realized that if they were really referring to the government it would be sub-standard and poor.

I appreciate the fact that the honourable member saw fit to bring forward this particular resolution on this day, given the debate that has taken place earlier in this House around the whole issue of the performance of the Department of Economic Development. I didn't prepare for this resolution, but I want to say, it is an easy one to respond to, because all you have to do is open your desk and you can literally pull out any five pieces of paper in your desk and they will refer in some way to what is going on in Nova Scotia with respect to economic development.

[Page 4439]

When I opened my desk, the first thing that I came out with was the quarterly report of the government. What does it say? Well, it says, the Department of Economic Development in their sterling first quarter managed to throw up a debt of $18.5 million. They overspent their budget in the first quarter. I don't know if that is an indicator of good things or not, but I can tell you, it was certainly not budgeted for when they brought forward their initial budget.

So I thought, well, to be fair, why don't we go back and just have a look at some of the things that the Department of Economic Development has done. I pulled out another piece of paper, and I was reminded of Dynatek. Do you remember Dynatek, Mr. Speaker? Dynatek was a fly-by-nighter of the first order. I am sure a wise investor like the member opposite, if he had to look Dynatek and he has that share, he probably still has his Clairtone shares too. That is exactly what happened with Dynatek. It epitomizes the gullible government waiting to be taken to the cleaners. That is what it does.

Now I have to say, in all fairness, that it was the Tories originally who lured this company here in 1992 with a $12.2 million grant. The feds kicked in another $4.1 million. Savage then pumped in $2.1 million, and the Minister of Economic Development ignored the Opposition and internal department warnings and then took back a $4 million loan guarantee for $3 million in cash. But in order to do that, he gave up the province's claim on Dynatek's building, and in the end, the taxpayers were left with nothing. That is part of the record of this government.

We were in the discussion earlier, and the member opposite mentioned the grant to large corporations, and we had asked, in very simple terms, whether or not there was an audit that could be done to see whether or not these kinds of programs actually presented any value to the people of Nova Scotia. The reality is if a program like that works, if the grants and write-offs are successful and worthwhile, the audit would reveal that. That would be a good thing, because the minister would then be in a position to have a document which he could take out to the whole province and say, look, the province's finances are founded on good, sound public policy. This would be a feather in his cap. It would be a feather, it would be something that he could take out and brag about.

If, on the other hand, such an audit was to reveal that it was wasteful, then the minister would be able to do what he said he was going to do and halt the program of grants and write-offs, and then he would be able to take credit for a sound display of good judgement. That is really a no-lose opportunity for the minister, if he would just grasp it. I have no doubt that if he were to do that, to enhance the economic prosperity of this province, I have no doubt that he would take that document and that program, and he would go out to the people of Nova Scotia and he would say, look, this demonstrates the competence of the Department of Economic Development, and he would then ask for the further approbation of the people of his constituency and perhaps the province.

[Page 4440]

Now you would say, Mr. Speaker, I am sure, do I have any fear in assisting the minister in this way? Well I can tell you that I do not. I don't fear that he would take political credit for the good work that is suggested to him for the benefit of the Province of Nova Scotia to truly enhance the economic prosperity in this province. If it results in him getting credit, then it is of absolutely no concern to me because after all I seek only to serve the best interests of the people of Nova Scotia, however that might best be done.

[6:15 p.m.]

I believe that these kinds of undertakings and these kinds of suggestions only go to enhance what is really the road to economic prosperity in this province because to date this has not been done. What we see is, yes, a road paved with good intentions and we all know where that leads. That is right.

We can look at one of the saddest economic situations here and that is the Han Beck failure. It was announced really cruelly on Christmas Eve back in 1997 and it created a great stir in Louisbourg at the time. It was a Christmas gift for Louisbourg and that was the Cape Breton Post headline. (Interruption) Exactly, ho-ho-ho. More than 460 plant workers in Louisbourg had been laid off back in 1992. Many of them had not worked steady since. The province was to provide $5.1 million and the federal government was going kick in another $3.1 million but when the feds pulled out, citing irregularity, then the province backed out as a result.

The reality is that this just appears, Mr. Speaker, that far from being the road back to prosperity for that community this was an announcement that was designed to generate nothing more than a headline for the minister and for the government. That is really a sad commentary on the way in which we do business and the way in which the Department of Economic Development does business.

I also had an opportunity to look at the Atlantic Report and their report on Nova Scotia. They pointed out, and I think it is worthy of some note, that one of the things that happened in this province that none of us are very happy about is the leaving of Volvo. This is another one of those blows to the economy, a blow to the people of this area of the province and, sadly, when the time came and the opportunity came for the Premier and for the Minister of Economic Development to assist the efforts of the CAW in trying to rescue that plant and they asked them to come along with them to meet with those folks over in Sweden, did they go? No, they did not go and apparently it did not rate up high enough on their agenda.

This is another example. The people of Shelburne have been asking this government to turn over the industrial park and what response do they get from the Department of Economic Development? They are told, we are too busy; the Cabinet has not got time; we cannot deal with it now; maybe we will catch you later. Well, that is some kind of an attitude for the

[Page 4441]

Department of Economic Development to take and it certainly does not augur well for economic prosperity in this province. If they were going to do the responsible thing, if they were going to do the right thing, then what they would have done is they would have moved that along expeditiously and that matter would be resolved.

Mr. Speaker, what meagre little progress has been made in economic development has not been because of the work of this government but rather has been in spite of it. This government continues to be manacled to the outmoded notions of corporate welfare. They are chained to 19th Century economic theory. This is hardly something that they should be congratulated for. However, I do want to congratulate the member for allowing me this opportunity to expose this incompetence. I hope he will extend my congratulations to the Premier. (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Digby-Annapolis.

MR. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, it gives me pleasure to rise tonight and speak to the resolution entered by the honourable member for Antigonish.

"Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House acknowledge that recent reports from Statistics Canada, the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council, the Royal Bank, Standard and Poor's, and other financial analysts indicate that Nova Scotia is entering a period of unprecedented economic prosperity and the Government of Premier Russell MacLellan should be congratulated for creating an atmosphere conducive to economic growth.".

I think that resolution begs the question that was touched on earlier, and that is, because of this government or in spite of this government. I think that probably, by and large, it is in spite of this government. The reality is the economy of North America has, by and large, been booming for the last number of years and we are simply caught up in what is just happening overall. It would be nice to think that the efforts of the government are actually nurturing and creating this economic boom, but I think to some degree it would have happened anyway. The fact that we hear increasingly the prospects that natural gas is going to bring to Nova Scotia, it is just fortuitous more than government involvement that they should be able to catch this wave of opportunity. The fact that they were there - it could have been any government and not necessarily a result of visionary practices.

The reality is that the economy of Nova Scotia, in some areas, is very robust, but in other areas, it is an abysmal failure. That is the problem, the problem that must be addressed is that we have actually two economies, an economy that is focused in metro and an economy that is the reality in other areas. That is something that the Department of Economic Development and Tourism must treat very seriously. It is not enough to stand and mouth platitudes about what we are doing and how visionary we are and how the fact that our Premier is doing these wondrous things is causing this climate where business is growing and

[Page 4442]

blossoming. That is not the truth. The truth is that there are other economies that are doing better than the Nova Scotian economy. We may be doing reasonably well, but there are areas that we need to excel in. We have talked about the growth in the IT industries and that is well and good. We need to look at what we can do to enhance and develop that more.

The reality is, though, as I touched on earlier, there are areas in Nova Scotia where the people are hurting, where the economy is decimated. I look at areas that have for many years been very dependent on the fishery, and the reality is the fishery is in ruin. Those rural economies that were dependent on fisheries have not been able to retool and adjust. There is this view that tourism is going to be the great panacea for the economic woes of rural Nova Scotia. While it is good to grow and develop a tourism industry, and we should be promoting that, it is not enough to rely on that alone.

The reality, too, is that we have over 100,000 people in this province who are reliant, at this very moment, on employment insurance benefits, who are reliant on social assistance. We, as MLAs, see a daily parade of people who are in dire straits. There is no question that their plight is real. There is no question that those people want to break out of the cycle. There is a view that people value the experience of work, that work is rewarding and fulfilling and they need that opportunity. For many, it is an opportunity that does not exist. That is the issue that this government needs to address. It is not to bang the desk and say, look at what we have done in metro, look at the jobs we have created. The question is, what has happened in areas like Louisbourg. It was touched on, the Han Beck difficulties.

There are other areas. Lockeport is facing great difficulty. Shelburne has problems. My area has problems. Small regional areas whose economies are so fragile that they are forcing people to move out, people are leaving. The other thing is that it is fine to talk about job creation and what a wonderful record. The reality is, the jobs that are being created are short term. They are low pay, they have few benefits. There is no future. People who enter the job market now, to some degree, are forced to take term contracts. They are unsure about how long their position will last. They often have to juggle multiple jobs. The reality is that for many of them they are single parents and they are faced with juggling jobs with raising a family, with making the financial commitments necessary to live, and that is a problem. It is a problem for far too many Nova Scotians and it is a problem that this government has failed to address. That is something they need to work toward. If the Premier and his colleagues are able to address that, hats off to them, credit to them. But they have fallen far short of the mark.

All we need to do is look at the difficulty the Halifax Airport Authority faced this spring when they tried to work a deal. When they tried to work a deal, it was raised in this House. The question was asked repeatedly of the Premier and of the various other ministers involved, what are you doing to make sure that we don't miss this opportunity? The answer by and large, platitudes, the reality, nothing. Did the Halifax Airport deal close because of the efforts of this government, or because of the efforts of the community at large who said, enough is

[Page 4443]

enough, and we are going to do what we have to do? That is what happened. The people came together as one unit, and said, let's handle this problem, let's resolve this issue. They did it, no credit to the government. The government was there but so far after the fact that they deserve only passing mention.

The Halifax Port, another economic opportunity that is still in danger of sliding through our fingers. If that happens, it will be unfortunate. The Premier has to take the lead. The Minister of Economic Development and Tourism has to take the lead. They have to set the tone, they have to say, Nova Scotia is open for business, and they have to go out and aggressively and actively pursue business opportunities and bring them here.

The Greater Halifax Partnership is a clear example of what can happen when the private sector decides to do something. They went out for less money, they created a vision for Halifax, a view for Halifax as a place to locate - smart city, smart move is a catchphrase that has caught on. People are proud to say, yes, we live in Halifax, and we are located in Halifax. That is a great thing. I am not trying to create disillusion that I am anti-metro. There is a view that what is good for metro is good for rural Nova Scotia, but the problem that is beginning to occur and becoming apparent is that success begets success. People and businesses will naturally be drawn to the metro area.

The government has, in my riding in particular, taken an opportunity to create a business environment that is attracting new business. With the closure of the Cornwallis base, it was an economic devastation to my riding, and with a great deal of federal government support, they were able to put in place a mechanism to try and create jobs. Now the reality is that it is fine to say more people are working at the park now than were working there before. There is some truth to that. The reality is many of those jobs are seasonal. The reality is many of those jobs pay far less money. The reality is that all those service people who were in the area spending their paycheques are no longer there.

Even though the park has caused some positive influence, the problems still exist. Interestingly enough, one of the cornerstone businesses to locate in that park, I had the opportunity to talk to the person who set up that business, I said I have a question for you, and that is, did you find the Province of Nova Scotia and the government regime very amenable to your location here? The response, if we knew then what we know now, we would have gone somewhere else. The government bureaucracy is restrictive. The climate wasn't positive. They spoke eloquently and most positively about the workforce in Nova Scotia, about the people they met. The problem was that the government wasn't doing enough to support business. That is the issue. It is fine to have a resolution like this, and to say that everything is wonderful in Wonderland, the reality is we still have a long way to go. Thank you.

[Page 4444]

MR. SPEAKER: We stand adjourned until 12:00 noon tomorrow.

[The House rose at 6:30 p.m.]

[Page 4445]

NOTICE OF QUESTION FOR WRITTEN ANSWER

Given on November 24, 1998

(Pursuant to Rule 30)

QUESTION NO. 12

By: Mr. Murray Scott (Cumberland South)

To: Hon. James Smith (Minister of Justice)

There have been suggestions that the Spicer Building, currently a base for a segment of the Dartmouth Police Force, will be closing.

(1) Will the minister confirm that the Spicer Building is scheduled to close?

(2) Will the minister take it upon himself to receive assurances from the municipality that a permanent building will be set aside for the use of the Dartmouth Police Force prior to the closure of the Spicer Building?