Assemblée Législative de la Nouvelle-Écosse

Les travaux de la Chambre ont repris le
21 septembre 2017

Hansard -- Tue., Apr. 6, 1999

First Session

TUESDAY, APRIL 6, 1999

TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE
PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS:
Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Ingonish: MacLeod Road - Upgrade,
Ms. Helen MacDonald 5407
Educ. - Pictou Co.: School Closures - Oppose, Ms. E. O'Connell 5408
GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 2534, Lbr. - Minimum Wage: Increase - Awareness (Opposition
Leader [N.S.]), Hon. R. MacKinnon 5408
NOTICES OF MOTION:
Res. 2535, CBC - Technicians: Contribution - Acknowledge,
Mr. R. Chisholm 5409
Vote - Affirmative 5409
Res. 2536, Educ. - P3 Schools: Developers - Contest Launch,
Ms. E. O'Connell 5410
Res. 2537, Health - Long-Term Care Workers: Wage Parity -
Commitment, Dr. J. Hamm 5410
Res. 2538, Educ. - Sydney Academy: Internat. Relief - Efforts Applaud,
Hon. Manning MacDonald 5411
Vote - Affirmative 5411
Res. 2539, Eastern Passage-Cow Bay Lions Club: Anniv. 27th -
Congrats., Mr. Kevin Deveaux 5412
Vote - Affirmative 5412
Res. 2540, Health - Long-Term Care Workers: Wage Parity -
Refusal Explain, Mr. G. Moody 5412
Res. 2541, Congress of Black Women (Can.) - Preston/Cherry Brook/
Lake Loon/Westphal Chapter: Contribution - Acknowledge,
Ms. Y. Atwell 5413
Vote - Affirmative 5414
Res. 2542, St. Matthew's Church (Hfx.): Tapestry (Anniv. 250th) -
Congrats., Dr. J. Hamm 5414
Vote - Affirmative 5414
Res. 2543, James Barkhouse (MLA for Chester-St. Margaret's
[1984-98]): Service - Thanks Extend, Mr. H. Fraser 5414
Vote - Affirmative 5415
Res. 2544, Sports - Field Hockey (Sir John A. Macdonald HS-Girls):
Bermuda Trip - Congrats., Mr. W. Estabrooks 5415
Vote - Affirmative 5416
Res. 2545, Health - Pictou Co.: Family Doctors - Increase,
Mr. J. DeWolfe 5416
Res. 2546, Sports - Boxing (Heavyweight): Kirk Johnson
(North Preston) - Achievement Recognize, Mr. D. Dexter 5417
Vote - Affirmative 5417
Res. 2547, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Hwy. No. 101 (Mt. Uniacke-
St. Croix): Twinning - Funding Ensure, Mr. G. Archibald 5417
Res. 2548, Fish. - Caribou Hbr.: Aquaculture Leases -
Consult Commun., Mr. C. Parker 5418
Res. 2549, Econ. Dev. & Tourism - Min.: New - Seek, Mr. G. Balser 5419
Res. 2550, Housing & Mun. Affs. - Heritage Pty. Act: Strengthen -
Urge, Mr. P. Delefes 5420
Res. 2551, Health - Ambulance Serv.: Emergency Medical Care -
Agreement Release, Mr. G. Moody 5420
Res. 2552, Justice (Can.) - Young Offenders: Minimum Sentence -
Enact, Mr. M. Scott 5421
Res. 2553, Environ. - Water Testing: Muns. Responsibility -
Actions (Min.), Mr. J. DeWolfe 5422
Res. 2554, Econ. Dev. & Tourism - Ryan's IGA (Truro): Leadership
(Roger & Barbara Ryan) - Recognize, Mr. J. Muir 5422
Vote - Affirmative 5423
Res. 2555, Culture - Leonard Paul: Buckhorn Festival - Success Extend,
Mr. E. Fage 5423
Vote - Affirmative 5424
Res. 2556, Westport Commun. Centre: Completion - Congrats.,
Mr. G. Balser 5424
Vote - Affirmative 5425
Res. 2557, George Bell (Mader's Cove [Lun. Co.]) - Home Loss:
Neighbourhood Assist. - Congrats., Mr. M. Baker 5425
Vote - Affirmative 5425
Res. 2558, Culture - Fun Tones Singing Group (Cumb. Co.):
Commun. Spirit - Congrats., Mr. M. Scott 5425
Vote - Affirmative 5426
HOUSE RECESSED AT 2:28 P.M. 5426
HOUSE RECONVENED AT 2:30 P.M. 5426
ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS:
No. 808, Health - Long-Term Care Workers: Wage Parity -
Commitment, Mr. R. Chisholm 5427
No. 809, Health - Long-Term Care Workers: Wage Parity -
Commitment, Dr. J. Hamm 5428
No. 810, Health - Long-Term Care: Strikes - Contingency Plans,
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 5429
No. 811, Ext. Affs. (Can.) - Kosovo: Refugees - Assistance (N.S.),
Dr. J. Hamm 5430
No. 812, Human Rights Comm'n. - Chairman: Appointment -
Compromise, Mr. Kevin Deveaux 5431
No. 813, Fish. - Seniors: Licences - Number, Mr. M. Scott 5432
No. 814, Nat. Res. - Nat. Gas: Goldboro Plant - Pollution,
Mr. J. Holm 5432
No. 815, Fin. - Casino: ITT Sheraton - HST Payments Delay,
Ms. Helen MacDonald 5434
No. 816, Econ. Dev. & Tourism - Mac Timber: Monies - Investigation,
Mr. J. Muir 5435
No. 817, Educ. - Horton School: Private Business - Funding Details,
Ms. E. O'Connell 5436
No. 818, Bus. & Cons. Serv. - Environ. Act: Motor Fuel Regs. (S.15) -
Review, Mr. B. Taylor 5437
No. 819, Fin. - Budget (1999-2000): Dollar Value - Projections,
Mr. H. Epstein 5438
No. 820, Bus. & Cons. Serv.: Electrical Cabling & Maintenance Indust. -
Licensing, Mr. G. Balser 5439
No. 821, Transport. & Pub. Wks.: Hwy. No. 107 (Exits 20-21) - Repair,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 5439
No. 822, Nat. Res. - Nat. Gas: Distribution Policy - Views (Premier),
Mr. G. Archibald 5441
No. 823, Transport. & Pub. Wks.: Snowstorm (03-04/04/99) -
Back-Up Plan, Mr. C. Parker 5441
No. 824, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Hot Patch: Temperature - Regulate,
Mr. C. Parker 5442
No. 825, Sports - Rink (Yarmouth): Proposal - Status, Mr. N. LeBlanc 5443
No. 826, Educ. - Sir John A. Macdonald HS: Renovations - Support,
Mr. W. Estabrooks 5444
No. 827, SCS: Resources - Lack, Mr. M. Scott 5445
No. 828, Health: Long-Term Care Beds - Number, Mr. J. Holm 5446
No. 829, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Doggett Brook: Bridge Reopening -
Date, Mr. B. Taylor 5448
No. 830, Transport. & Pub. Wks. - Hwy. No. 333 (Upper Tantallon-
Peggy's Cove): Re-paving - Timing, Mr. W. Estabrooks 5449
HOUSE RESOLVED INTO CWH ON BILLS AT 3:31 P.M. 5449
HOUSE RECONVENED AT 5:51 P.M. 5449
CWH REPORTS 5450
ADJOURNMENT:
MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5):
Health - Long-Term Care Workers: Settlement - Commit:
Mr. J. Muir 5451
Hon. J. Smith 5453
Ms. Maureen MacDonald 5455
ADJOURNMENT, House rose to meet again on Wed., Apr. 7th at 2:00 p.m. 5457

[Page 5407]

HALIFAX, TUESDAY, APRIL 6, 1999

Fifty-seventh General Assembly

First Session

2:00 P.M.

SPEAKER

Hon. Ronald Russell

DEPUTY SPEAKER

Mr. Donald Chard

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. Before we commence with the daily routine, I would advise members that the debate at 6:00 p.m. was submitted by the Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party. It reads:

Therefore be it resolved that the government commit to finding a fair and just settlement at the earliest possible opportunity by committing to step-wise wage parity.

PRESENTING AND READING PETITIONS

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

MS. HELEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition bearing signatures on behalf of the 15 homeowners and their families who reside on MacLeod Road in Ingonish, Victoria County. The operative clause reads, the residents have requested since 1972 that the road be brought up to standard through ditching, gravelling and installation of culverts. This would prevent flooding of basements, washed away driveways and damage to their automobiles. They also request that the road be plowed on a timely basis during the winter. I have affixed my signature to the document.

5407

[Page 5408]

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

MS. EILEEN O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, I beg leave to table a petition bearing 231 signatures from residents of Pictou County who are concerned about public-private partnering in the construction of new schools. The operative clause reads, "We, the undersigned, are opposed to the closure of our seven high schools in Pictou County, which are to be replaced by two 'mega schools'.". I have affixed my signature to the petition.

MR. SPEAKER: The petition is tabled.

PRESENTING REPORTS OF COMMITTEES

TABLING REPORTS, REGULATIONS AND OTHER PAPERS

STATEMENTS BY MINISTERS

GOVERNMENT NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Labour.

RESOLUTION NO. 2534

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

Whereas the minimum wage in Nova Scotia will increase by 30 cents in three stages beginning October 1, 1999; and

Whereas these phased-in increases will provide Nova Scotia workers with the highest minimum wage in Atlantic Canada; and

Whereas this workforce, so wrongly portrayed by the Leader of the Opposition last week, has been for the past six years the most stable in Canada with a work stoppage rate of 0.2 per cent compared to the national average of 0.1 per cent;

Therefore be it resolved that the Leader of the socialist Party, who rarely lets facts stand in the way of a good huff and puff make himself aware of Nova Scotia, in particular its workforce, before his next attempt at discouraging economic growth in Nova Scotia.

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

[Page 5409]

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

INTRODUCTION OF BILLS

NOTICES OF MOTION

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

RESOLUTION NO. 2535

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

Whereas the Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union, representing CBC technicians, has settled with CBC management ending a strike of nearly two months; and

Whereas the labour dispute highlighted the contribution of camera operators, sound specialists, lighting workers and others; and

Whereas CBC viewers and listeners are pleased to have the technicians back on the job today;

Therefore be it resolved that this House acknowledge the contribution of CBC technicians and welcome them back to work.

Mr. Speaker, I would like to seek waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

[Page 5410]

The honourable member of Halifax Fairview.

RESOLUTION NO. 2536

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

Whereas under the revised P3 school construction regime, some communities are forced to go begging to their municipalities for necessary facilities; and

Whereas under P3, Nova Scotia schools operate under the auspices of business rather than education; and

Whereas businesses frequently engage in product promotion;

Therefore be it resolved that this House urge P3 developers to launch a roll up the rim and win a gym contest.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 2537

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

Whereas in the fall, the lives of long-term care residents and their families were turned upside down as the result of an avoidable labour dispute; and

Whereas history is once again repeating itself with strikes at Breton Bay Nursing Home and Seaview Manor, causing great concern and anxiety for both the residents and management; and

Whereas management will not be able to provide the heavy level of care required by the elderly patients in these homes much beyond the end of the day;

Therefore be it resolved that the government commit to finding a fair and just settlement at the earliest possible opportunity by committing to step-wise wage parity.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver.

[Page 5411]

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honorable Minister of Economic Development and Tourism.

RESOLUTION NO. 2538

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

Whereas some 65 Sydney Academy students will participate in the annual World Vision 30 Hour Famine this weekend; and

Whereas this event is being sponsored by the Key Club, Kiwanis Educating Youth, as well, the organizing committee has secured sponsorships from a number of community sponsors including Sobeys, SuperValu, Scotsburn Dairy, and Sparkling Springs; and

Whereas the organizing committee is hoping to raise $2,000 in order to help with World Vision's international relief efforts;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this Assembly applaud the efforts of Sydney's youth in assisting with international relief and support their continued efforts to improve the lives of others through their own sacrifice, hard work and dedication.

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 Cole Harbour-Eastern Passage.

[Page 5412]

RESOLUTION NO. 2539

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

Whereas the Eastern Passage-Cow Bay Lions Club received its charter in 1972; and

Whereas the Eastern Passage-Cow Bay Lions Club has shown leadership in the community through such projects as an annual food drive, Christmas care packages, and countless other services for those in need; and

Whereas this club has been active in Nova Scotia, Canada and World Lionism including the sponsorship of underprivileged children in the Third World;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the Eastern Passage-Cow Bay Lions Club on its 27th Anniversary and wish them every success in the future.

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 Kings West.

RESOLUTION NO. 2540

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

Whereas the government has known for months that CUPE workers at Nova Scotia's nursing homes were poised for strike action; and

Whereas despite the pleas of nursing home administrators that the government increase long-term care budgets to provide for a fair and just settlement for its workers, the government refused to come to the table; and

[Page 5413]

Whereas the failure of government to accept its responsibility and to work with employers in finding a just and timely settlement has resulted in strikes at two long-term care facilities in Cape Breton, with almost 40 others poised for action;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Health explain why after offering wage parity to Registered Nurses, licensed practical nurses, dieticians and others, his government refuses to offer it to those who are the lowest paid employees in the continuing care sector.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Preston.

RESOLUTION NO. 2541

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

Whereas the Congress of Black Women of Canada is a voluntary, non-profit organization dedicated to improving the welfare of Black women and their families in their local communities and nationally; and

Whereas the Congress of Black Women of Canada provides a network of solidarity for Black women in Canada and serves as a united voice in the defence and extension of human rights and liberties for Black women in Canada; and

Whereas on Saturday, April 3rd, the Preston-Cherry Brook-Lake Loon-Westphal and area chapter held their 9th Annual Recognition Dinner in honour of seven women and four men who have made a difference in their communities;

Therefore be it resolved that this House acknowledge and commend the contribution this group has made in fostering a climate for Black women to examine and improve the issues which affect our families and our communities.

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.

[Page 5414]

The motion is carried.

The honourable Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party.

RESOLUTION NO. 2542

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

Whereas St. Matthew's Church in Halifax was the first Protestant congregation in all of Canada; and

Whereas this year marks the 250th Anniversary of the founding of the congregation; and

Whereas to celebrate this important milestone, approximately 30 members of the congregation have woven a huge, colourful tapestry depicting the rich history of the church and its congregation;

Therefore be it resolved that this House congratulate the individuals who have contributed their time, talent and energy to this remarkable project, and further that we recognize their efforts in celebrating their church, their congregation and their Christian faith in such a memorable and lasting way.

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 Antigonish.

RESOLUTION NO. 2543

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

[Page 5415]

Whereas this evening at the Oak Island Inn and Marina in Western Shore, a testimonial dinner is being held in honour of Jim Barkhouse, former MLA for Chester-St. Margaret's; and

Whereas Mr. Barkhouse was first elected as the member for Lunenburg East in 1984, serving as a member of this House until 1998; and

Whereas when the Liberal Government came to power in 1993, Mr. Barkhouse was appointed Minister of Fisheries, a position in which he served faithfully, representing the interests of the Nova Scotia fishing community;

Therefore be it resolved that this House extend its thanks to Mr. Barkhouse for serving the citizens of Nova Scotia for 14 years and wish him every success in the future.

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 Timberlea-Prospect.

RESOLUTION NO. 2544

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

Whereas the Sir John A. Macdonald High School girls field hockey team will be travelling to Bermuda during the first week of May; and

Whereas the team members and their parents have been working hard to raise funds for this trip; and

Whereas this year's team of 22 young women continue a tradition that has won the metro league championship five consecutive years, 1993 to 1997;

[Page 5416]

Therefore be it resolved that this House offer its congratulations to the team for its fund-raising efforts, and best of luck in Bermuda as they represent our province and our country.

I ask for waiver, Mr. Speaker.

[2:15 p.m.]

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

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Pictou East.

RESOLUTION NO. 2545

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

Whereas an 81 year old Pictou County widow recently went to an emergency department because she had no family doctor; and

Whereas six hours later she was given a Tylenol and sent home; and

Whereas the lack of a family doctor has created fear and frustration for thousands of Nova Scotians, resulting in long and unacceptable waits in Nova Scotia's emergency rooms and increased costs to the health care system;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Health acknowledge this urgent matter requires a more aggressive and sustained effort by his department.

Mr. Speaker, I ask for waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

[Page 5417]

I hear a No.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Dartmouth-Cole Harbour.

RESOLUTION NO. 2546

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

Whereas North Preston heavyweight boxer, Kirk Johnson, recently won a 10 round unanimous decision; and

Whereas this win brings his career total to 27 wins and 1 draw; and

Whereas Johnson is looking ahead to a title bout, perhaps before the end of the year;

Therefore be it resolved that this House recognize the achievements of this superb athlete as he returns home to Nova Scotia.

Mr. Speaker, I would 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 member for Kings North.

RESOLUTION NO. 2547

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

Whereas Highway No. 101 car crashes have claimed over 40 lives in recent years with the most dangerous stretch, based on the number of fatal accidents having taken place, being between Mount Uniacke and St. Croix; and

[Page 5418]

Whereas the minister has repeatedly been told through petitions, as well as letters and at meetings about the safety concerns existing on Highway No. 101; and

Whereas despite hearing this message loud and clear, the Minister of Transportation and Public Works has made it abundantly clear that twinning will not begin;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Transportation and Public Works ensure funding is set aside in this year's provincial budget so that work can be done on the stretch of Highway No. 101 between Mount Uniacke and St. Croix.

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 Pictou West.

RESOLUTION NO. 2548

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

Whereas Caribou Harbour, Pictou County, is an unspoiled natural estuary; and

Whereas Atlantic Shellfish Inc. of Prince Edward Island has now withdrawn its application to lease 150 acres in this harbour for a mussel operation; and

Whereas the people of this area are firmly opposed to mussel farming in this harbour because of unsightliness, property devaluation, blockage of the harbour for recreational boating and the potential loss of ecotourism;

Therefore be it resolved that this government fully listen to the concerns of the community before any further aquaculture leases are considered for Caribou Harbour.

Mr. Speaker, I will ask for waiver.

[Page 5419]

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Digby-Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 2549

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

Whereas the Minister of Economic Development refuses to release key information relative to deals his department has arranged at taxpayers' expense; and

Whereas he continuously responds to legitimate questions in this House with derisive nonsense that suggests he either doesn't know the answer or doesn't have a good one; and

Whereas his steadfast refusal to come clean on the Mac Timber deal, the Sysco deal, the Sheet Harbour deal and the Staples deal are a clear indication he doesn't give two hoots about the taxpayers' right to know;

Therefore be it resolved that the Premier look for a more forthcoming and mature member of his caucus to be responsible for the multimillion budget of the Department of Economic Development and Tourism.

Mr. Speaker, I would 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 Halifax Citadel.

[Page 5420]

RESOLUTION NO. 2550

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

Whereas a designated heritage property, the little Irving garage on the corner of Sackville Street and Dresden Row in Halifax, was demolished on Thursday, April 1, 1999, to make way for an apartment complex; and

Whereas this municipally designated heritage building was representative of a unique architectural style for small garages in the 1920's; and

Whereas the building's designation as a heritage property could only save it from the wrecker's ball for a period of one year;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House urge the Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs to consider ways in which the Heritage Property Act can be strengthened to offer more protection to our heritage buildings.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Kings West.

RESOLUTION NO. 2551

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

Whereas it has been two years since the government announced its intention to give Emergency Medical Care monopoly control over ambulance service in the province; and

Whereas despite a ruling from the Freedom of Information review officer the government has refused to provide any details with respect to its agreement with EMC; and

[Page 5421]

Whereas taxpayers have the right to know how much the agreement with EMC is costing as well as any details respecting performance standards relative to the provision of ambulance service;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of Health immediately release the details of its multimillion dollar agreement with Emergency Medical Care.

MR. SPEAKER: The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Cumberland South.

RESOLUTION NO. 2552

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

Whereas the federal Minister of Justice has finally introduced the new Youth Justice Strategy which focuses on young offenders; and

Whereas toughening Canada's laws to demonstrate that illegal activity will not be tolerated is a significant matter regardless of age; and

Whereas the federal Progressive Conservative Justice Critic, Peter MacKay, has pressed the federal Justice Minister to amend the Criminal Code to provide tougher sentencing for repeat offenders convicted of break and enter;

Therefore be it resolved that the Nova Scotia Justice Minister encourage his federal counterpart to enact this minimum sentence and demonstrate that the federal Liberals are indeed interested in getting tough with crime.

Mr. Speaker, I request waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Pictou East.

[Page 5422]

RESOLUTION NO. 2553

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

Whereas last week the Minister of the Environment said that adequate notice had been given to Nova Scotia municipalities with respect to the downloading of water testing; and

Whereas the minister committed to having meetings with the UNSM and the Minister of Housing and Municipal Affairs to discuss his recent downloading move; and

Whereas despite the minister's statement, the Union of Nova Scotia Municipalities has said that adequate notice was not given;

Therefore be it resolved that the Minister of the Environment admit that his action with this matter reflect the backhanded and dishonest approach that this government has become known for in its dealings with Nova Scotia municipalities.

Mr. Speaker, I seek waiver of notice.

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

Is it agreed?

I hear several Noes.

The notice is tabled.

The honourable member for Truro-Bible Hill.

RESOLUTION NO. 2554

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

Whereas Roger and Barbara Ryan will be selling Ryan's IGA in early April ending the Ryan family involvement in the grocery business in Truro which began in 1904; and

Whereas Roger and Barbara Ryan have combined excellence in business with an exemplary commitment to community service in the 27 years they have operated Ryan's IGA; and

[Page 5423]

Whereas the Truro and District Chamber of Commerce recognized Roger Ryan as Business Person of the Year in 1990 and Roger and Barbara as Entrepreneur Patrons for 1997;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this House recognize and thank Roger and Barbara Ryan for their 27 years of leadership in and support for the growth and improvement of their community and for clearly demonstrating the meaning of their slogan, Hometown Proud.

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 member for Cumberland North.

RESOLUTION NO. 2555

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

Whereas Mi'kmaq artist Leonard Paul is the first Nova Scotian and the first Mi'kmaq to be accepted to show his work at the prestigious Buckhorn Wildlife Arts Festival in Buckhorn, Ontario; and

Whereas Mr. Paul won the Ducks Unlimited Award last year for his depictions of nature and of Nova Scotia landscapes and has recently been exhibited in three major international art galleries located in New Mexico, the United States and Germany; and

Whereas Mr. Paul will be displaying 15 new pieces of his work at the Buckhorn Festival scheduled for August;

Therefore be it resolved that members of this House congratulate Mr. Leonard Paul for his outstanding achievements and wish him well with his prestigious works at the Buckhorn Festival.

[Page 5424]

Mr. Speaker, I respectfully 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 Digby-Annapolis.

RESOLUTION NO. 2556

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

Whereas since the time of Joshua Slocum, the residents of Brier Island have prided themselves on their willingness to work together in order to support the needs of their community; and

Whereas the recent construction of a much needed community centre for the Village of Westport is a shining example of just such an effort; and

Whereas the building committee which coordinated the Westport Community Centre project included Glenda Welch, Norma Dakin, Corinne Titus, Krista Denton, Jeffery Thomson, Donna Moore, Aaron Titus, Dennis Welch and Penny Graham;

Therefore be it resolved that the members of this House extend congratulations and best wishes to the residents of Westport on the completion of the new Westport Community Centre.

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 5425]

The motion is carried.

The honourable member for Lunenburg.

RESOLUTION NO. 2557

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

Whereas George Bell of Mader's Cove in the County of Lunenburg lost his home to a fire on March 18, 1999; and

Whereas a large group of volunteers have pitched in to assist Mr. Bell by providing labour and materials to allow him to construct a small bungalow; and

Whereas other members of the community pitched in to help Mr. Bell by providing food to volunteers;

Therefore be it resolved that the House of Assembly congratulate the people who have pitched in to help a neighbour in need and wish George Bell the best in his recovery from the tragic fire of March 18, 1999.

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 member for Cumberland South.

RESOLUTION NO. 2558

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

Whereas on Sunday, March 28, 1999, the Fun Tones Singing Group hosted an evening of music at the Trinity United Church in Oxford; and

[Page 5426]

Whereas on this evening many talents throughout Cumberland County were brought together for an evening of music and praise to use their abilities and talents to make life better for others; and

Whereas proceeds from this event will be dedicated to those with autism in Cumberland County;

Therefore be it resolved that all members of this Legislature congratulate the members of the Fun Tones Singing Group for their community spirit and dedication to those who are less fortunate.

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 Labour.

HON. RUSSELL MACKINNON: Mr. Speaker, my understanding is the Premier will be along momentarily, he has been detained. Perhaps if it is agreeable with the Leader of the Opposition . . .

MR. SPEAKER: We can wait for two minutes. Okay, we will recess until 2:30 p.m.

[2:28 p.m. The House recessed.]

[2:30 p.m. The House reconvened.]

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. We will start Question Period at 2:30 p.m. and terminate at 3:30 p.m.

ORDERS OF THE DAY

ORAL QUESTIONS PUT BY MEMBERS

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Leader of the Opposition.

[Page 5427]

HEALTH - LONG-TERM CARE WORKERS:

WAGE PARITY - COMMITMENT

MR. ROBERT CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question through you to the Premier. It is with respect to the current situation facing nursing homes in the Province of Nova Scotia. It is welcome news that this government is going to be sitting down later this week with nursing home workers. But I say to the Premier that it has been more than a year since he stated that those working at nursing homes should receive the same wage as hospital workers.

I want to ask the Premier, Mr. Speaker, whether this government is prepared to uphold that position when, in fact, it does sit down with the union representing these workers? Again, what is this government's commitment on wage parity?

HON. RUSSELL MACLELLAN, Q.C. (The Premier): Mr. Speaker, this government's position is fairness for the workers in the long-term care facilities. What we would like to have is standardization in the sector through this round, we have said that before. We are concerned about the residents of the long-term care facilities and we are very concerned in making sure that we have fair settlements. To look for parity with the acute care workers I don't think is reasonable at this particular time.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, the federal government has just given the Province of Nova Scotia $107 million to spend on health care. I want to ask the Premier, in light of this new money, why will the Premier not keep his commitment on wage parity and avoid the risk in the disruption of care to the seniors of this province?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I am as concerned as anyone in this House about disruption at long-term care facilities. We want to be fair with the workers. We are determined to be and, in fact, we were the ones who insisted on drawing the line in saying that this difference in the settlements among long-term care workers in different facilities had to stop, that there had to be a standardization. That had to be the first step in dealing with any kind of relationship with the salaries in acute care facilities. So this is a first stage and we go on from there.

MR. CHISHOLM: Mr. Speaker, I wonder if the Premier would explain to the workers that are currently poised to go on strike as a result of the fact that they are the only workers remaining in the long-term care sector who have not been awarded wage parity. Will the Premier explain to these workers, many of them the lowest paid in this sector . . .

MR. SPEAKER: Question, please.

MR. CHISHOLM: . . . why it is that they are not entitled to the same level of fairness their co-workers have received?

[Page 5428]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, they are entitled to fairness and we are going to be ensuring that they get fairness. We, over the last year and one-half, have settled contracts with thousands of provincial employees and we have done a darn good job of it and we will continue to do a darn good job of it.

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

HEALTH - LONG-TERM CARE WORKERS:

WAGE PARITY - COMMITMENT

DR. JOHN HAMM: Mr. Speaker, to the Premier. On March 18, 1998, the Premier indicated to the long-term sector three things: fairness, equity and parity. My question to the Premier is, does this Premier really believe that having said that and given that to many workers in the long-term care sector that others who have lower salary levels should expect anything less?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, this is the government that realized that there was a distinct difference in the salaries of people in long-term care facilities. This is the government that said that that is totally unacceptable, these people are not being treated fairly, all of these people should be treated equally. We set about to do that at this round of wage negotiations. This is the first step, we move on from there.

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, 254 workers are on strike at Breton Bay, 110 at Seaview Manor. At Seaview Manor there are nine management people and three RNs are trying to look after 100 residents. This Premier knows that they can't do that. My question to the Premier is, does he not realize by creating inequity in the long-term care sector he is guaranteeing a huge strike in this province if he doesn't get involved and if the government doesn't keep its commitment to long-term care workers?

THE PREMIER: I would like to correct the comments of the Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party. There is no inequity in the long-term care sector; in fact, what this government is doing is creating equity within the long-term care sector. That is what we are doing. We want to get everybody in the long-term care sector treated equally and then to move on to deal with the differences with the acute care sector at a later stage. Believe me, there is no joy in anyone on this side of the House with any labour disruption in long-term care facilities.

DR. HAMM: To continue with the Premier by way of final supplementary, the Premier wants to avoid a strike, all Nova Scotians want a strike avoided, the workers want the strike avoided. Will this Premier commit at Thursday's meeting to have government represented and to fulfil its commitment to long-term care workers of fairness, equity and parity?

[Page 5429]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, at the meeting on Thursday, we hope that that will be a major turning point in this problem. We cannot say for sure, but I can assure the members of this House that this government wants a settlement in this issue and we are very concerned about the residents of these facilities.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

HEALTH - LONG-TERM CARE: STRIKES - CONTINGENCY PLANS

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Health. During last fall's nursing home strikes, residents didn't get the care they are used to, meals were late, some people had to remain in bed all day. My question is, what are the details of the minister's contingency plans to ensure that residents receive quality care during these strikes?

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, the honourable member is correct, strikes are very disruptive. We are very concerned about strikes, particularly when we have a process in place in this province that is working and we are moving toward equity throughout the long-term care sector. We have been reviewing since the strikes last fall particularly. It has been a very intensive reviewing of the contingency plans of the nursing homes. As far as providing quality care, that will be very difficult under the circumstances, but there will be care that will be adequate and that will be monitored. We have people within those institutions who will be monitoring the level of care.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, this government will need a better plan than it had last fall if all 42 nursing homes go on strike. My question is, what is this government doing differently than it did last fall to respond to nursing home strikes?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I commend the people last year within that particular union, those 20 out of the 25 homes that have settled. I think that that points the way. We will be following that direction. There are plans in place, their contingency plans have been reviewed. I would just ask that honourable member not to join the picket line unnecessarily to arouse the workers (Interruptions)

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, still no plan. There is still no plan. Will the minister ensure quality care and quality working conditions? Will he make wage parity possible?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I just simply want to say that there is a plan, it is in place, and it will work. It will not be high-quality care, but it will be adequate care. This Premier and this government have committed $84 million over the next three years to meet parity, equity across the system within long-term care. That is a strong commitment. How much more can we afford than the $84 million, and that is what we have committed to see this through.

[Page 5430]

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

EXT. AFFS. (CAN.) - KOSOVO: REFUGEES - ASSISTANCE (N.S.)

DR. JOHN HAMM: To the Premier, the last few days many Nova Scotians have been moved by the television shots about the plight of the refugees in Kosovo and Nova Scotians are noted for their compassion and their willingness to help others. Has this Premier given any thought as to how Nova Scotians can help?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, we have not as yet talked to the federal government, who is the lead agency in dealing with these refugees. It is my understanding that 5,000 refugees will be brought to Canada and they will be going initially to Ontario but we have not as a province inquired of the federal government what happens after that.

DR. HAMM: To continue with the Premier, and I thank the Premier for his answer, many Nova Scotians are anxious to help but they just simply do not know how it is that they can help, to which agencies they should direct their particular inquiries, and how, in fact, they can in a material-tangible way help these refugees. I am talking about perhaps providing housing or clothing or facilities.

MR. SPEAKER: Your question, please.

DR. HAMM: My question to the Premier is, will the Premier commit to contact the External Affairs Department of the Government of Canada to determine how it is that Nova Scotians can help as individuals and how this government can help as a government representing Nova Scotians?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, we would certainly be glad to ask External Affairs how people of Nova Scotia can help. We are not going to be making any offer to the federal government of assistance as a government. As you know, we have got other obligations that we have to fulfil as a province. If the federal government comes to us and asks us to play a role, certainly we would consider it but we are not going to take the initiative.

DR. HAMM: Mr. Speaker, by way of final supplementary to the Premier, there is urgency to this and while I appreciated the Premier's response, it was rather open-ended. My question to the Premier is, would he commit to come back to the House no later than Thursday, having made an inquiry in Ottawa, and present to the people of Nova Scotia how it is they can help the refugees in Kosovo?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I will not be giving any particular deadline but certainly if the people of Nova Scotia have questions, they can contact their own Members of Parliament in that regard, but we will be contacting External Affairs to find out if there is a

[Page 5431]

role that they have envisioned for the people of this province or any other province to play. I think that is a fair question. (Applause)

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

HUMAN RIGHTS COMM'N. - CHAIRMAN:

APPOINTMENT - COMPROMISE

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, through you my question is to the Minister of Justice. I think it goes without saying that the Human Rights Commission must not only be seen to be beyond reproach but also must be beyond reproach. So my question through you to the Minister of Justice, this morning the Liberals and Tories voted to appoint the Minister of Justice's official agent to chair the Human Rights Commission. Why has the Minister of Justice compromised the Human Rights Commission by appointing his official agent at this time? (Applause)

HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, the Human Rights Commission has not been compromised by the appointment of someone with a 21 year history in the field of law, with experience in mediation and alternate dispute resolution, all of which are priorities for the Human Rights Commission of the Province of Nova Scotia.

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Other members of the new Human Rights Commission are also Liberal supporters even though many of the former commissioners had reapplied for positions on the Human Rights Commission. My question, through you, Mr. Speaker, as the patronage issue is now being addressed by the Human Rights Commission, why were experienced commissioners denied reappointment? (Applause)

MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, it is any government's job to put before the Human Resources Committee of this Legislature those names deemed the best capable of serving the interests of this province. Those names put before the Human Resources Committee were signed personally by me as those individuals with the skills, the talents, the ability and reflecting the diversity of this province, who can serve the Human Rights Commission of Nova Scotia. (Applause)

MR. KEVIN DEVEAUX: Mr. Speaker, again through you to the Minister of Justice, is it not true that the Liberal Government purged the Human Rights Commission, filled it with Liberal supporters, in an attempt to get a favourable decision from the Human Rights Commission on the patronage issue? (Applause)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

That question is out of order. It is imputing motives.

[Page 5432]

MR. HARRISON: May I respond to the question, Mr. Speaker?

MR. SPEAKER: No, no.

The honourable member for Cumberland South.

FISH. - SENIORS: LICENCES - NUMBER

MR. MURRAY SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture. How many seniors in the Province of Nova Scotia purchased a provincial fishing licence in the year of 1998?

HON. KEITH COLWELL: I would like to thank the honourable member for the question. I do not have the exact number, but I can get the number and bring it back to the Legislature.

[2:45 p.m.]

MR. SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, again to the minister. A resolution was passed with unanimous consent during the spring sitting of the Nova Scotia Legislature in 1998, that was to offer seniors of this province a free fishing licence in this year. My question to the minister is, will that be done this year?

MR. COLWELL: The simple answer unfortunately is, no.

MR. SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, the minister is well aware that his government agreed to this resolution and seniors of this province feel they are being abandoned on this issue like many more by this government. Why will the minister not follow through on a commitment made by the members of this Legislature and more importantly, his government?

MR. COLWELL: When originally the seniors were charged for fishing licences, it was agreed to by the seniors' organizations in the province. We haven't heard from the seniors' organizations anything to the contrary since then.

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

NAT. RES. - NAT. GAS: GOLDBORO PLANT - POLLUTION

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, as I begin I would like to table, with this House, a lawsuit that was filed by Alan Hunter which makes very serious allegations about the future operation of the gas plant at Goldboro. Mr. Hunter, who was hired to provide start-up instructions for the gas plant, claims he was fired because he questioned why SOEP was commissioning a plant that would emit noxious gas fumes into the atmosphere. My question

[Page 5433]

to the Minister responsible for Petroleum Directorate is, is SOEP building a gas plant at Goldboro that will emit noxious gas fumes into the atmosphere during its start-up and commissioning phases?

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I have no idea, but I can certainly find out the information. I would expect that we have regulatory agencies in effect in this province that would stop that, if, in fact, there is anything to what the member is saying, which I doubt.

AN HON. MEMBER: It is so much easier when you don't know right, Manning? I don't know.

MR. HOLM: Yes, it is easier when the minister doesn't know that he can answer a question. I am raising a very serious issue here that was brought to our attention as a result of a lawsuit that was filed. Mr. Hunter alleges that he was hired and that he was instructed to provide start-up and commissioning instructions that would result in the emissions of those noxious fumes. My question to the minister is, what steps will he be taking to make sure that the commissioning of the gas plant will meet all federal and provincial environmental Statutes?

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I don't have to take any steps. They will meet all federal and provincial environmental Statutes and requirements that this government will insist on.

MR. HOLM: A minute ago the minister said that he didn't know. My question to the minister then is what independent analysis has this government undertaken to make sure that the gas plant at Goldboro will not emit noxious gas fumes during its start-up and commissioning phases?

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, obviously since he is not going to accept my answer, I will refer it to the Minister of the Environment.

HON. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the honourable minister for referring this to me. We hear today that the honourable member claims his concern about the impact on the environment and how this could affect the environment. We accept that and there are regulatory agencies there. But once again we see how the Opposition would rather play politics with these kinds of issues than get concrete answers. They don't bring these sort of questions to our departments. They don't bring these questions to us, they raise them here, they try to play politics with every single issue that they can, and this is just one more example.

[Page 5434]

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

FIN. - CASINO: ITT SHERATON - HST PAYMENTS DELAY

MS. HELEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Finance. In June 1998, an arbitrator decided that the HST was an operating expense at the Halifax casino. The province won the arbitration and is owed $5.5 million. Sheraton lost the arbitration, but hasn't paid a cent yet. Will the minister explain to the House why the Sheraton has not yet paid this money?

HON. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, the fact was that we went to arbitration and our position was upheld, they have come back with another position and that is going through its normal process.

MS. HELEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, Article 9 of the operating agreement between Sheraton and the casino says that the decision of the arbitrator is final and binding. My question to the minister. What is he doing to insist that Sheraton pay this province what it is owed? (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. DOWNE: It is quite clear, Mr. Speaker, that the members opposite don't want to hear the response. They just want to play politics, as the member opposite said earlier. We followed the dispute resolution procedures set out by the casino contracts and I understand that the Nova Scotia Gaming Corporation, the financial statements fully disclosed all the particulars with regard to that dispute. That's straightforward, upfront, all made public to the public of Nova Scotia.

MS. HELEN MACDONALD: My final question, Mr. Speaker, is to ask the minister what steps he is taking to make sure that this $5.5 million doesn't fall victim to political lobbying as has happened before with the Halifax casino?

MR. DOWNE: The problem, Mr. Speaker, with regard to that is we have followed all our procedures according, as I indicated before, to our policy and position. Where the breakdown came was with regard to legislation from the federal government's point of view. We have been after them to harmonize with our position and then we can go forward with regard to collecting the money, but that's being negotiated.

[Page 5435]

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

ECON. DEV. & TOURISM - MAC TIMBER:

MONIES - INVESTIGATION

MR. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Premier. It was reported in the media over the weekend, Mr. Premier, that you have agreed that there will be an investigation into the Mac Timber fiasco. Who will the investigators be?

THE PREMIER: The department is doing an investigation, Mr. Speaker, and I would refer the question to the Minister of Economic Development and Tourism.

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, as I reported to the House last week, our department officials are now meeting with the receivers on the Mac Timber issue. We are gathering information as to exactly what transpired there. Our department will be making further statements over the next few days on what our intentions are.

MR. MUIR: Mr. Minister, I am not really entirely sure what your answer meant. I am not clear whether there is an investigation going on or not. So my question is this. Will the Premier guarantee that any investigation - the investigation that he has said will be carried out - will be carried out by an agency that is arm's length from his government?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I want to assure the honourable member that we are as anxious as he is to find out the circumstances relating to Mac Timber. Any investigation we do will be thorough and above board, but for further particulars I would refer you to the Minister of Economic Development and Tourism.

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, there is a process in place that we are obliged to follow. We are doing that. We are meeting with the receiver. We are trying to get to the bottom of exactly what happened with the Mac Timber situation and, unfortunately, the loss of jobs in that particular area of Nova Scotia. We are working on it and, believe me, there will be nobody more pleased to get this matter resolved than I will be.

MR. MUIR: Mr. Speaker, to the Minister of Economic Development and Tourism. You have indicated that there is going to be an investigation and you are working out the details of it. Will you guarantee that the results of that investigation will be made public?

MR. MANNING MACDONALD: All I can tell you, Mr. Speaker, is that we are working on it. We are meeting with the receiver. We want to find out exactly the details of everything that happened there from the time the loan was given until the time that the Mac Timber plant closed. When we get all of this information, we will take further steps at that time and once we take those further steps, we will certainly make that information available. (Applause)

[Page 5436]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Fairview.

EDUC. - HORTON SCHOOL:

PRIVATE BUSINESS - FUNDING DETAILS

MS. EILEEN O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Education and Culture. Last week the NDP asked the Minister of Education and Culture a simple question, who owns Horton High School?

Mr. Speaker, Hansard shows that the minister's answer bore no relation to the question at all so I want to ask the minister, has the minister figured out the answer yet and will he table it in the House? (Applause)

HON. WAYNE GAUDET: The answer, Mr. Speaker, is yes, I will table that information.

MS. O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, does that mean he has to table it now?

AN HON. MEMBER: No. (Interruption)

MS. O'CONNELL: Oh, in the fullness of time. Mr. Speaker, last week we tabled a letter from Hardman Lindsay, the consortium which built Horton High School, saying that it does not own the school. So my question to the minister now, is the document he is tabling going to be a document that says that Hardman Lindsay owns the school, which it does not, or is there some other person or company that put up the money for Horton High School and why will he not tell us? (Applause)

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, as I have indicated to the honourable member, that information will be tabled. As the honourable member has indicated, our developer for that school was Hardman Lindsay and we certainly will provide the opposite member with the information that she is requesting.

MS. O'CONNELL: Mr. Speaker, I cannot believe my ears. Nova Scotians really want to know and they will want to know even more now why the government allowed a non-profit society to be set up as a front for the real owners of Horton High School.

MR. SPEAKER: Your question, please.

MS. O'CONNELL: So, Mr. Speaker, my question is, is this simply a loophole to allow the owners to avoid some of their tax obligations on $200,000 a month, monthly income? (Applause)

[Page 5437]

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, as I have indicated last week to all members of this House, this government is committed to building schools, much needed schools throughout the Province of Nova Scotia. We have already announced 38 new schools and we are currently looking at announcing a few more that are badly needed for the children of this province. We will continue to build schools for Nova Scotian students. (Applause)

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

BUS. & CONS. SERV. - ENVIRON. ACT:

MOTOR FUEL REGS. (S.15) - REVIEW

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question to the honourable Minister of Business and Consumer Services. Section 15 of the motive fuel regulations under the Environment Act protects this province's 800 gasoline retailers' margin from being eroded by the cost of promotions run by the wholesaler being charged to the retailer. Will the minister confirm that a giant oil company has questioned the appropriateness of this province's Section 15 and as a consequence the minister has opened Section 15 for a full public review?

HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite does not have his facts straight but (Interruptions) However, in the interest of being helpful, we are looking at Section 15 from the point of view to ensure that, in fact, it does its original job. Does it need to be changed, does it need to be strengthened, is it a section that serves its original purpose.

MR. TAYLOR: Yes, Mr. Speaker, and the minister I believe has said, yes, he has opened up Section 15 because a giant oil company has asked that Section 15 be opened. Does the minister then have any concerns that should the giant oil company's lobby be successful that many small Nova Scotia businesses, 800 gasoline retailers and their employers, many who work for minimum wage, could be thrown out of work?

[3:00 p.m.]

MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, I wish the member opposite would name the giant oil company that he believes is lobbying the government. In fact, there was an initiative taken by PetroCanada that involves points in their system. (Interruptions) In fact, it is Section 15 that is protecting those retailers right now from what we will call an erosion of the retail margin. We are working both with the retailers and with the companies to try to resolve this issue.

MR. TAYLOR: My final question is simply this, Mr. Speaker. If Section 15 of the motive fuel regulations protects this province's 800 gasoline retailers and their employers, why has the minister opened it up for review if it was not to appease the giant oil company, PetroCanada?

[Page 5438]

MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, it wasn't opened up for review. The issue is under discussion primarily because there were questions as to whether those retailers, whether those independent business owners in the gasoline section were afforded the full protection of Section 15. It is precisely for that reason that we have opened it up and each one of those retailers have received a letter asking for input.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Chebucto.

FIN. - BUDGET (1999-2000): DOLLAR VALUE - PROJECTIONS

MR. HOWARD EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, when the honourable Minister of Finance tabled the budget last year it was June 4th, but when he did so, he was relying on projections for the value of the Canadian dollar that had been generated by entities like Nesbitt Burns and the Conference Board of Canada as early as January and February of 1998, completely out of date. I wonder if the minister can tell us whether he is going to be relying on up-to-date projections this year?

HON. DONALD DOWNE: Mr. Speaker, the answer is yes.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, I wonder then if the minister can tell us from what entities he is going to be taking his advice and what are the dates?

MR. DOWNE: If I recall, the member opposite was the one who was opposed to the budget before he even saw it and, in fact, went on and told all Nova Scotians that he knew exactly where (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. DOWNE: . . . the Canadian currency was going to be at any point in time. So I ask the member opposite if he would put to the table today what he thinks the dollar is and we will see how he stacks up.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please. The Opposition asks the questions, not the minister.

MR. EPSTEIN: Mr. Speaker, the honourable minister doesn't seem to know from whom he is going to be taking his advice. Is he, by any chance, able to tell us what his current projection is for the exchange rate for the value of the dollar this year?

MR. DOWNE: The honourable member opposite is kind of slipping, I thought he would be a little brighter than that but, nevertheless, Mr. Speaker, (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

[Page 5439]

MR. DOWNE: . . . the bottom line is we have pegged the dollar at 65 cents, Mr. Speaker, and he will just have to wait and see when the budget is released exactly where we put the Canadian dollar.

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

BUS. & CONS. SERV.:

ELECTRICAL CABLING & MAINTENANCE INDUST. - LICENSING

MR. GORDON BALSER: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Business and Consumer Services. Will the minister confirm that, effective May 1st, the electrical cabling and maintenance industry will be subject to a new licensing structure?

HON. ROBERT HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, I can't confirm that, but if the member opposite would supply me with that information I can get confirmation by the end of the House sitting today.

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, I will ensure that the minister receives that information because it has substantial implications that the fee structure will result in cost increases to the small-business operator. Would you confirm that there have been discussions around that issue, around the restructuring of the fees?

MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, again, I offered to receive the information and to get the detailed information for him, but I can assure him in the experience that I have had in Business and Consumer Services over the past four months that there is not a group in the province with whom there isn't extensive consultation before any changes are made.

MR. BALSER: Mr. Speaker, I can understand that the minister doesn't seem to know, so I will ensure that he gets that. Should that be the case, will he ensure that whatever consultation process is open to all participants, small and large?

MR. HARRISON: Mr. Speaker, one of the challenges that all government departments have in this province is measuring the interests of small versus medium and large interests, whether it is forestry or, in this case, small, medium and large businesses. We will ensure that not only will our government do that, but the Department of Business and Consumer Services will endeavour to do that as well.

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

TRANSPORT. & PUB. WKS.: HWY. NO. 107 (EXITS 20-21) - REPAIR

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works. Over the Easter weekend a woman on the

[Page 5440]

Eastern Shore was involved in a serious accident on that notorious stretch of the Eastern Shore highway, I am talking about the stretch of Highway No. 107 between Exits 20 and 21. This woman could have been killed and now the province faces possible litigation. When is this stretch of the Eastern Shore highway going to be repaired?

HON. CLIFFORD HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable member, I would like to inform him that we take this incident very seriously. Our department is looking into this and we want to see the situation rectified as soon as possible.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, I know it is a serious matter and for once, Mr. Minister, you haven't used the excuse, we will have to wait until we hear from Ottawa. What does this Nova Scotia Government intend to do about the sorry state of our roads?

MR. HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable member, I have stood in my place many times in this Legislature and talked about the rural roads, right from Yarmouth to Cape Breton. We need more infrastructure money for our rural roads and for our 100-Series Highways. I have given the commitment that I will work with the federal government, and also with my Cabinet colleagues, to try to get more money to put on the rural roads of the Province of Nova Scotia.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Minister, there have been numerous accidents on this wicked stretch of road on Highway No. 107. That is not a rural road; it is a 100-Series Highway. If ever there was a time to invoke the extreme deterioration rule in your road re-paving policy, isn't this one of those cases? Put it up on that priority list, at the top . . .

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

MR. HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, I would just like to remind the honourable member that this situation didn't happen overnight.

MR. ESTABROOKS: We know that.

MR. HUSKILSON: This has been going on for a long period of time and it won't be rectified overnight either. (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. HUSKILSON: But we are working to try to get extra funding so that we can work on these 100-Series Highways along with our rural roads and repair them.

[Page 5441]

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Kings North.

NAT. RES. - NAT. GAS:

DISTRIBUTION POLICY - VIEWS (PREMIER)

MR. GEORGE ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Premier. I was in the Red Room, Mr. Premier, when you made the announcement about distribution of gas throughout Nova Scotia to 62 per cent of residences in all 18 counties. My question is, were you really serious about that? Did you really mean that or were you just kind of fooling around? (Laughter)

THE PREMIER: As the honourable member knows, Mr. Speaker, I never fool around. I am always deadly serious and I was serious about this as well. (Applause)

MR. ARCHIBALD: If you really meant it and you are going to hold them to it, why is there a provision for a Cabinet exemption to the 62 per cent in all 18 counties? Why is there a Cabinet exclusion provision in the regulations?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, there is not going to be any Cabinet exclusion at this time. The matter is now in the hands of the Utility and Review Board. They are going to make the decision; they are going to evaluate the two applicants and decide which applicant is going to be successful.

MR. ARCHIBALD: Mr. Speaker, one of the applicants has said right from the get-go that they do not plan to serve 62 per cent nor 18 of the counties, yet the hearings are still going on. They are counting on this Cabinet exemption. Could the Premier indicate why we are having the hearings when one Party does not even qualify?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, we have to allow the decision to be made by the Utility and Review Board. The Utility and Review Board will make the decision as to which of the two applicants is going to be successful. The Cabinet exemption does not have any materiality at all until after the Utility and Review Board has made their decision.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.

TRANSPORT. & PUB. WKS.:

SNOWSTORM (03-04/04/99) - BACK-UP PLAN

MR. CHARLES PARKER: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Transportation and Public Works. This past weekend Nova Scotians were subjected to our traditional early spring snowstorm. Given that winter snowplow crews across the province were laid off on March 27th, what back-up plan, Mr. Minister, did your department have to deal with this particular snowfall?

[Page 5442]

HON. CLIFFORD HUSKILSON: To the honourable member, I would like to just inform him that we do have crews that are on standby to go out when we have a snowfall. I would like to remind the honourable member that our budget for snow removal and ice removal this year was $33.3 million that we have to work with to take care of cleaning the ice and snow from the province.

MR. PARKER: Mr. Minister, I don't know what conditions were like where you live, but in my riding, my office received several calls from individuals who were very concerned about being snowed in, some for as long as 36 hours. Some were unable to get out to work. Mr. Minister, my question is, are rural residents now expected to lose time from work in order to make up for the lack of dollars in the Transportation budget?

MR. HUSKILSON: No, Mr. Speaker.

MR. PARKER: The other issue is, for those 36 hours, ambulances, fire trucks, police cars were not able to navigate through the heavy snowbanks and through the secondary roads, possibly putting lives in danger. Mr. Minister is this what rural Nova Scotians can expect now from this government?

MR. HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, I just want to remind the honourable member, as I mentioned previously, the budget for ice and snow removal this year was $33.3 million, that is an increase in the budget from what it was last year for ice and snow removal. I feel that is adequate for the Province of Nova Scotia.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Pictou West.

TRANSPORT. & PUB. WKS. - HOT PATCH:

TEMPERATURE - REGULATE

MR. CHARLES PARKER: Mr. Speaker, a new question. Switching from winter to summer, and again to the Minister of Transportation, every year, usually starting in the spring, our roads are in a terrible rutted mess, and the department dispatches hot-patch crews to fill in the gashes in our rural paved roads. However by the time that asphalt which comes from Halifax this time of year reaches Pictou County it is cold. My question is, is the province using any mechanism to regulate the temperature of the hot patch being delivered to all parts of Nova Scotia?

HON. CLIFFORD HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable member, I would like to inform the honourable member that Transportation and Public Works this year is taking on a new vehicle. This vehicle can patch going 30 miles an hour. This is a trial run for this new vehicle that we are going to use all over Nova Scotia, on the rural roads and on the 100-Series Highways.

[Page 5443]

MR. PARKER: Mr. Minister, that is good to hear. I know the hot-patch crews with the spring weight restrictions being lifted in the province now are getting out much earlier. The Trans Canada Highway is being done. What about rural roads? When are they going to be looked after?

MR. HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, I had a little difficulty hearing that question, but I believe what the honourable member wants to know is when the rural roads are going to be looked after, you are drawing (Interruptions) Pardon me? (Interruptions) As I said, with the use of this new vehicle, when this vehicle puts down the pavement, it will be hot and it can do it at 30 miles an hour as that vehicle is moving along.

MR. PARKER: Mr. Speaker, I am not sure if I heard the answer there, but I know last week there was a five ton load (Interruptions)

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please.

MR. PARKER: Mr. Speaker, last week in Pictou County there was a five ton load of hot patch delivered along the Trans Canada Highway to fill some of the huge gashes that were there, but many of our rural secondary roads are still being ignored. If the Trans Canada Highway can be hot patched now, why can't our rural roads?

MR. HUSKILSON: To the honourable member, we deal with the 100-Series Highways first. They are the highways that are travelled more and our 100-Series Highways take precedence. However, we do want to see that the rural roads are looked after also, and we will do that.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Argyle.

SPORTS - RINK (YARMOUTH): PROPOSAL - STATUS

MR. NEIL LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the honourable Premier. I am aware that the Premier visited the Yarmouth County area two weeks ago and met with quite a few residents of the County of Yarmouth. In regard to the Skate Yarmouth proposals, which is in regard to the rink, the Premier indicated at that time that this matter was still outstanding. Could he please inform the House as to what the status of this project is as of today?

[3:15 p.m.]

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I cannot tell him exactly what the status is but I understand the point that the honourable member is making. There is great support for this project in the Yarmouth area. We understand that. We are working on it. I took the time as

[Page 5444]

well to visit the present facility and I understand the concern of the residents with respect to the present facility.

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I thank the Premier for his answer. I would like to point out that Skate Yarmouth has been working on this for over three years and has done the impossible. It has brought the people together to make this proposal possible. There is funding at the federal level that is going to be expiring if we do not deal with this issue, I can ask the Premier once again as to what he can do, personally or through his Ministers of the Crown, his Cabinet, to bring this forward because my understanding is it is being held up at the federal level and maybe he could confirm that to the House?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I cannot disclose any concerns that may be existing with respect to this project but I will tell the honourable member and the whole House that we are doing everything we possibly can with respect to this project.

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the Premier giving us the answer and I am trying to keep my composure. I have a very strong interest in this proposal and I really feel that the people of Yarmouth County have for about 30 years been underserviced and we see rinks go across this whole province in little communities and we have a county of 25,000 people who do not have a rink.

MR. SPEAKER: Your question, please. (Interruptions)

Order, please.

MR. LEBLANC: Mr. Speaker, I still believe that the Premier will have to become involved in it. I ask him again whether he, individually, will take the initiative to make this happen?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, I would like to assure the honourable member that the whole government is involved in this project. We are working on it and we are working on it very carefully. (Applause)

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

EDUC. - SIR JOHN A. MACDONALD HS:

RENOVATIONS - SUPPORT

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: Mr. Speaker, my question through you is to the Minister of Education and Culture. Last week in this House, Mr. Minister, you came forth with a big-time support for school boards making decisions locally. On Tuesday, February 23rd, the Halifax Regional School Board announced that Sir John A. Macdonald High

[Page 5445]

School, a 32 year old facility, has become that board's top priority for renovations. Mr. Minister, what will you do to support this decision? (Applause)

HON. WAYNE GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the honourable member for raising this question on the floor of the House. As the honourable member knows, I have indicated this earlier, that elected school boards basically look at their current needs of replacing old buildings and those requests do come forward to the department. Once they do arrive, our staff closely works with the people at the school board level and if the department staff feels that this should be a priority on our list, then, therefore, that priority would be brought to Cabinet for future consideration.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Mr. Minister, local decisions involve renovations to that school, not replacing that grand, old school. Will the minister assure area parents that Sir John A. Macdonald's much needed renovations will be given the same priority with his department that it has with the Halifax Regional School Board? (Applause)

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, I can tell the honourable member that in the last three months the requests that have been coming forward, not just from elected school board members, from parents, from students that have been calling me, personally, requesting new schools, that their school for whatever reasons needs to be replaced, I am committed, our government is committed to help in providing communities throughout Nova Scotia with much needed schools. We are building schools.

MR. ESTABROOKS: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. The elementary and junior high schools near Sir John A. Macdonald are overflowing and new schools are being built that will feed into this old high school. What plans does this department have to deal with the serious crowding problems soon to arrive on the doorsteps of Sir John A. Macdonald High School?

MR. GAUDET: Mr. Speaker, in regard to the honourable member's last question, I will have to take that question under advisement. I promise I will return back to the House, to the honourable member with an answer to his question.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Cumberland South.

SCS: RESOURCES - LACK

MR. MURRAY SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Community Services who is also responsible for the Senior Citizens Secretariat. My question is, is the minister aware of a letter that was sent to the Premier's Office from a group that represents seniors in the province stating that they are not satisfied with the service they are receiving from the Senior Citizens Secretariat, mainly as a result of the lack of resources?

[Page 5446]

HON. FRANCENE COSMAN: Mr. Speaker, I think it is fair to say that we do have an excellent vehicle in the form of the Senior Citizens Secretariat. That doesn't mean to say that it can't always look at questions of concern that are raised with it from seniors' organizations, and if there is a way to process improve, we certainly would look at that question and attempt to make that effort.

MR. SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, again to the Minister of Community Services. Many seniors have indicated that they are not satisfied. Many issues that face them today in this province - HST, Pharmacare, Seniors' Property Tax Rebate, gun registrations and the list goes on - many of them have not had their issues and concerns addressed properly. What has the minister been doing on behalf of the seniors of this province to address those very important issues?

MRS. COSMAN: Mr. Speaker, I would really highly recommend to the member opposite that he actually start with the review of the publication that is put out by the seniors in this province through the secretariat. It spells out all the programs that we engage in and there are some very serious concerns that seniors present today, right across Canada not just in Nova Scotia. We have a consultative meeting with them two times a year, we hear their concerns, we respond in writing to the briefs they present. There are a variety of ways that we work with our seniors' groups through the secretariat.

MR. SCOTT: Mr. Speaker, my final question is to the Premier. Will the Premier commit today to the senior citizens of Nova Scotia that the resources needed by the Senior Citizens Secretariat to address the seniors' issues and concerns will be made available to that office?

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

MRS. COSMAN: Mr. Speaker, I have a sense perhaps that the honourable member opposite is trying to jump a budget question here prior to the budget for the upcoming financial year. I would love to be able to comment on budget, but I am afraid I am not in a position to do that.

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

HEALTH: LONG-TERM CARE BEDS - NUMBER

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, through you a question to the Minister of Health. During last year's election campaign, the pretty well one-issue plank of the Liberal Party was that they were going to be providing an additional 170 long-term care beds. I am wondering if the Minister of Health could tell us how many of those 170 beds have now been allocated?

[Page 5447]

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I think that was a question last Thursday in Question Period. I think the honourable member for Cumberland South or Cumberland North asked it. I will repeat the answer. The answer, to my knowledge at this juncture, to be precise, is 41 have been allocated. There are many proposals from various regions across the province and they are being assessed.

MR. HOLM: So about 130 to go. The minister, of course, will know that the Cobequid Community Health Board, the Northwest Community Council and the Halifax Regional Municipality Council have all endorsed the call for the creation of long-term care beds within the Cobequid Community Health Board area. My question to the minister is, the commitment was made approximately one year ago, how much longer before the residents who are in need of these beds in the Cobequid Community Health Board area, how much longer are they going to have to wait before the government finally makes up its mind?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I think this is an important issue that the member has brought before the House. I certainly believe that the long-term care sector is one that has been neglected. That is why we have designated $84 million for wages to address the long-term care. I think it is a balance of what we can do and when we can do it. As the member would know, it takes at least 18 months to process a proposal and to get to any area where we can designate the beds. We are looking at the regions. There has been a lot of endorsement from right around the province, and we are trying to prioritize and be fair throughout the province.

MR. HOLM: Mr. Speaker, it is indeed a very important issue, and it is far more important for those members of our society who are waiting for one of those beds and for the families. Eighteen months is a long time to wait.

I wonder if the minister would agree to table, before the end of the day or at least by the end of the week, the number of persons who are on the waiting list for a long-term care bed within the Cobequid community health care region?

DR. SMITH: Mr. Speaker, that may be available. As the honourable member would know, many people are on several different waiting lists. It is really not accurate. I think we acknowledge the need for more beds, particularly in industrial Cape Breton in the long-term care sector. There are some areas in the member's own area, the catchment area, that we are looking at and we are dealing with other corporations, other homes that may be placing beds in that community and, at least, manage them. So it is a complex issue. I will not make a commitment today to table the waiting lists, but I will do it over a period time, if they are available.

[Page 5448]

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

TRANSPORT. & PUB. WKS. - DOGGETT BROOK:

BRIDGE REOPENING - DATE

MR. BROOKE TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, I would like to direct my question to the honourable Minister of Transportation and Public Works. The minister will recall and acknowledge that residents in Lower Truro, Truro Heights and Old Barns have been greatly inconvenienced since the bridge that crosses Doggett Brook washed out a few weeks ago. I wonder if the minister could tell us, today, when will that bridge reopen?

HON. CLIFFORD HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable member, I am very pleased with the work that the crews have taken care of in the last few weeks on this structure. To the best of my knowledge, I believe the bridge will be opened on Thursday, or Friday at the latest.

MR. TAYLOR: I thank the minister for that response and I understand that the Department of Transportation workers, engineers, et cetera, along with the contractor, worked very hard. Last year, the minister promised to call highway tenders early on so the construction industry, the Nova Scotia Roadbuilders Associates, et cetera, could better prepare for the construction season. This year, not much of that has happened. Can the minister tell us why?

MR. HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable member, as he knows, we are putting together our priority lists for paving in the rural areas. Also, we certainly have to have a budget to work with. So I want to find out exactly what I have to work with for finances and, when we have that determined, and our priority lists, we will push ahead with our announcements.

MR. TAYLOR: Mr. Speaker, last week, in the National Post, federal Transport Minister, the Honourable David Collenette, indicated that he is taking a $3.5 billion roadbuilding plan to his caucus colleagues for support. I wonder if the Minister of Transportation in this province can tell us how much input he has had into that national plan, or is it primarily in support of Ontario and some of the richer provinces in Canada?

MR. HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, to the honourable member, I feel that I have certainly had a lot of input with the federal minister. I have met with the Honourable David Collenette in Ottawa. I have also met with him here in Halifax and every time that I have had the opportunity to meet with him, I have pushed very hard for more funding for the Province of Nova Scotia for our 100-Series Highways.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Timberlea-Prospect, I am just going to remind you that you only have about 40 seconds.

[Page 5449]

TRANSPORT. & PUB. WKS. - HWY. NO. 333

(UPPER TANTALLON-PEGGY'S COVE): RE-PAVING - TIMING

MR. WILLIAM ESTABROOKS: I am ready. Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Transportation. The repaving of Highway No. 333 from Upper Tantallon to Seabright has been described as ludicrous. To re-pave that section of highway toward Peggy's Cove in the middle of the summer is just not a wise decision. Is it necessary to do this work in the middle of the summer and the tourist season?

HON. CLIFFORD HUSKILSON: Mr. Speaker, this honourable member really confuses me. I get requests every day about MLAs who want paving in their areas. Here this honourable member says that he doesn't want it paved. I am totally confused.

[3:30 p.m.]

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

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I move that you do now leave the Chair and the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole House on Bills.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is that the Speaker do now leave the Chair and the House resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole House on Bills.

Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

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

The motion is carried.

[3:31 p.m. The House resolved itself into a CWH on Bills with Deputy Speaker Mr. Donald Chard in the Chair.]

[5:51 p.m. CWH on Bills rose and the House reconvened. Mr. Speaker, Hon. Ronald Russell, resumed the Chair.]

MR. SPEAKER: The Chairman of the Committee of the Whole House on Bills reports:

[Page 5450]

THE CLERK: That the committee has met and made progress and begs leave to sit again.

MR. SPEAKER: Is it agreed?

It is agreed.

The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, tomorrow the House will sit from the hours of 2:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. It is Opposition Day tomorrow and I would defer to the honourable Opposition House Leader.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Opposition House Leader.

MR. JOHN HOLM: Mr. Speaker, tomorrow we will be dealing with Bill No. 79, the Homes for Special Care Standards Development (1998) Act; and Bill No. 94, the Dangerous Goods and Transportation Act.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Government House Leader.

HON. MANNING MACDONALD: Before we adjourn, I would remind the House that Thursday we will be going into extended hours; the hours Thursday will be from 12:00 noon until 6:00 p.m. I might also advise the House that it is our intention to sit Friday from 10:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. I move that we now adjourn.

MR. SPEAKER: The motion is to adjourn.

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

The motion is carried.

The time is now 5:52 p.m., we will accept this as being the moment of consideration of the late debate. It was submitted by the honourable Leader of the Progressive Conservative Party. The honourable member for Truro-Bible Hill will be leading the debate.

ADJOURNMENT

MOTION UNDER RULE 5(5)

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

[Page 5451]

HEALTH - LONG-TERM CARE WORKERS:

SETTLEMENT - COMMIT

MR. JAMES MUIR: Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise to speak about this resolution, "Therefore be it resolved that the government commit to finding a fair and just settlement at the earliest possible opportunity by committing to step-wise wage parity.".

I think everybody is well aware of the situation in which the province finds itself with regard to long-term care in the continuing-care sector. There are about 42 nursing homes that are in a position to not to be able to provide services to their residents because of an impending labour dispute which involves CUPE. Somewhere around 3,000 people are going to be affected by this. Needless to say, some sort of resolution is in the best interests of everybody.

From our position, what we are interested in is a fair solution. The experience that we had here in Halifax last fall, when the workers went on strike at a couple of nursing homes is not a pretty one and also in Cape Breton where a similar thing occurred. We very rapidly found that the residents were not particularly well cared for and there were a number of reasons for that. Management and those who were brought in as replacement people simply were not able, they just didn't have the numbers to provide the care that we would like the people in those facilities to have.

As well, I think that the Premier has gone on record as indicating that he would like wage parity between the continuing or long-term care sector and the acute care sector. Now whether or not it is practical to bring that parity immediately is another question. But I think in the interests of the province and in the interests of the patients, the employers and whatnot, it is the government who very much dictates exactly what is going to happen in these wage settlements because it is the government that establishes per diem rates and, in many cases, does provide the funding that enables these homes to work.

Now I know there are private-pay patients in some of these facilities but, nonetheless, the majority, or a good many are paid for from the public purse. When you talk to the operators or hear the side of the operators, they are saying that we really can't negotiate as we would like to because we are dependent on the wishes of the government.

Now the government has, in terms of fairness and parity, in the parity issue, committed to having the RNs and also the licensed practical nurses and the dietitians, those are some of the workers at these continuing care facilities which have been able, basically, to achieve wage parity with their counterparts in the acute-care sector. So what we have, Mr. Speaker, seems to be a double standard. Certain workers in the continuing or long-care sector are recognized that they should have parity with their counterparts in the acute-care sector, but then there is a certain group - personal care workers, some of the housekeeping staff, the maintenance staff, some of the people who work in the kitchen, the dietary staff and some clerical staff -

[Page 5452]

who are saying, well, gee, although we think the RNs and the LPNs deserve a fair shake, we are not so sure, we won't make the commitment to you.

I don't think this dual standard does much for anybody. It certainly doesn't create an atmosphere which enables the workers in these homes, or encourage the workers in these homes to put all the effort in that they can. Human nature, being what it is, is saying that if you are I are doing the same job, basically, maybe 200 yards or 300 yards apart or a couple of miles apart, then probably, if we are doing the same job, it would be reasonable to have the same wage coming to us.

I would think, Mr. Speaker, that we are talking about the element of fair and just. If we are going to settle this strike before it gets further under way, it is going to take some movement by the government. The government is going to have to take the initiative simply, as I have said before, because those who operate the homes depend on government revenue to make them tick, and if they don't get sufficient revenue or per diems from the government, then they are not in a position to offer the wages.

I think it would be fair to say that the homes' operators would probably be happy to provide parity in the interest of labour stability, but the only way that can be done is that commitment has to be there and that has to come from the departments of government to provide the monies to keep these homes operating.

It may not be going to come, as I said earlier, all in one year. That may not be practical. The government obviously has certainly commitments in many areas, not only in the health care sector but other sectors as well. It would be helpful if the government could make a statement - abundantly helpful, which would probably help resolve this issue fairly quickly - and say that we are going to have sort of a step-wise that we will narrow the gap in the year 2000, in 2001 the gap will be narrowed even further and perhaps in 2002. The ideal thing would be it is going to be completely removed in 1999. I don't know whether that is entirely possible.

However, the fact is, as everybody knows, this government did receive a substantial amount of money from the federal government to put into the health care sector. The government has not yet told us how this money is going to be used. Is it possible that some of this additional revenue that has come in - sort of, I do not like to call it on a windfall basis but certainly has come down at an appropriate time to help the government when it comes to balancing budgets and so on - could be committed to improving the lot of the worker in the long-term care sector?

[Page 5453]

[6:00 p.m.]

This, Mr. Speaker, is something which I think the government could make a statement on. It would be helpful for us all to know how the government intends to use these additional health care dollars that have come to us from the federal government. It distresses me to see that the government has not made that statement. One of the things that our Department of Health has been criticized for is lack of planning and this is probably more evidence of that. Reform in health care can mean establishment of just and fair settlements as well as it does mean structural organization, consolidation and all of these other things.

When you are defining the reformation of our health care system, you have to look at the whole thing. Our government in their redesign of the health care system, appears to be haphazard in a lot of cases, has not considered all of the factors such as, the continuing care sectors and the wages that are paid in those institutions, and to recognize how important these institutions are in our society.

I think too, Mr. Speaker, that we have to very much be aware of the increasing numbers of our Nova Scotia citizens that are going to become resident in these continuing care facilities. The numbers of seniors in the province is increasing at a great rate and the licensed continuing care facilities cannot accommodate all the people who should be accommodated in them and it has created some other difficulties. We are coping with that for other reasons but I would just like to say in closing, that given the situation that we have, we have to have a fair and just settlement and the government could assist us greatly by committing some of that money to wage parity in a step-wise fashion. Thank you.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable Minister of Health.

HON. JAMES SMITH: Mr. Speaker, I thank the honourable member for the introduction of the resolution to be debated tonight. It gives us an opportunity to make a statement regarding matters relative to long-term care. I certainly would agree with many of the statements, also recognizing that strikes in any sector, particularly in the health care sector are particularly disruptive. I would hope they would not be undertaken unless there was a feeling that that was the only alternative and I do not believe that that is the only alternative and I will mention why.

As a government, our overwhelming concern is for the health and safety of the residents. We only have to look at last fall's strikes that occurred in two Sydney area nursing homes to understand that it is the elderly residents of these homes who suffer most from labour disruptions. There was also a strike in the Halifax area.

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Anticipating the possibility of further work stoppages this spring, the Department of Health contacted every nursing home in the province over the past several months in order to ensure that they had a strike contingency plan in place, one that was functional and realistic. Those plans were reviewed and updated.

When employees walked out of Breton Bay and Seaview over the Easter long weekend, plans in those two facilities were activated. Senior officials in our department are in constant contact with the two homes in order to monitor, on an ongoing basis, factors affecting the health of the residents. In addition, I have also sent the department's physician advisor on long-term care, Dr. Murray Nixon, to Cape Breton today in order to report back on conditions within the two homes. We are particularly concerned, Mr. Speaker, about an outbreak of viral flu, which has occurred in both homes. Dr. Nixon will be paying particular attention to the flu problem.

Mr. Speaker, the timing of the two walkouts was unfortunate, given the fact that mediation was scheduled to resume this Thursday with mediator Milton Venoit. It was Mr. Venoit who successfully mediated an end to strikes at the Cove and the Miners Memorial Nursing Home last November. I would hope that we can avoid further strike action while this current mediation process is taking place.

To help the union and the employers through this process, the government has agreed to participate in the mediation process by providing whatever assistance we can during these mediation talks. I would remind the House that we are dealing with 32 individual bargaining groups, each with a myriad of local issues. In other words, the contracts are all different. I think that has really resulted in much inequality across the long-term care sector and are giving us many of the difficulties that we are experiencing today. We are trying to make sense out of nonsense, perhaps, Mr. Speaker, as this system has grown over the years.

Mr. Speaker, you will know that there is a need for additional nursing home beds in this province. We all acknowledge that. But there are limits to what Nova Scotia can afford and I will assure the honourable member that there is, in fact, as he mentioned, no great windfall of money coming from Ottawa. We are struggling to replace the monies that were held back under the CHST transfers and that amounted to $342 million over three years. So whether there is $100 million coming for this year, or to be used over the next three years, I think we are really going to have to apportion those monies very carefully. So while we are trying to be fair to the nursing home employees, the simple fact is that the more we allocate to wages, the less money there is for additional beds.

Nursing home employees deserve a raise. There is no question. No one will debate that. Like many other employees in Nova Scotia in the last several years, they have really put their shoulder to the wheel and helped turn this province around. I want to recognize that here tonight, Mr. Speaker. To that end, we have identified an additional $84 million in wage increases for nursing home employees over the next three years. That, I believe, we would

[Page 5455]

all agree, in the House of Assembly and throughout Nova Scotia, is quite a commitment; $84 million is a lot of money. For some employees, that will mean wage increases of between 80 per cent to 90 per cent and that is almost double what they are currently making.

Much has been said, Mr. Speaker, about the issue of nursing home wages and parity with the acute care sector. Our position is that parity within the long-term care sector is the number one priority. We already have a number of nursing homes in the province with union contracts that provide for wage parity at the end of a three year contract. I think that is important. Of the 25 homes last fall and throughout, 20 have settled. There are six unions involved in that. The ones we are talking about now are those that are in CUPE, but the other six unions have resulted in settlements and agreements within 20 of the 25 nursing homes. So that is what the $84 million is for, wages to achieve parity throughout the long-term care sector.

I might add, to bring wages to the acute care level would cost at least another $17 million, Mr. Speaker. Throughout this period, we have been attempting to treat employees of long-term care facilities fairly by providing the financial resources necessary for them to achieve wage parity within their sector. We remain optimistic that outstanding issues will be resolved at the bargaining table.

I must repeat, however, that our most immediate concern is for the welfare of the residents, mostly seniors, living in Nova Scotia's long-term care facilities. As a government, we are both obligated and committed to take whatever measures are necessary to protect their health and safety. I thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: The honourable member for Halifax Needham.

MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I want to start by thanking the Leader of the Third Party for introducing this resolution at this time. I think it is a very important issue and one that needs to have some airing among the members of the Legislature. I think that needs to be said.

This is a resolution that certainly our Party can support in principle. As I read the resolution, it is clear that the intent of this resolution, as the honourable member for Truro-Bible Hill has indicated, is to nudge the government toward some action in what I think we are all hoping will not be a significant labour-management dispute in the long-term care sector.

I would say with great respect, that perhaps the resolution is a little vague in its wording and it could have been somewhat more strongly worded in terms of getting this government to act.

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When I read the resolution, the business about committing to finding a fair and just settlement at the earliest possible opportunity causes me some concern in that the earliest possible opportunity has increasingly become code, for the Minister of Health in this government for what really means a very serious crisis developing. We need to have a government that is much more proactive. What we have is a very reactive form of policy-making in the health care field.

I think it is important to say there was a time in this province when women were paid less money for doing the exact same work as their male counterparts. In the early 1970's this was recognized as a grave injustice and it was rectified. The concept of wage parity - equal pay for equal work - was legislated. This, in fact, is what this issue is all about.

Workers in the long-term care sector, mostly women, in occupational groups such as dietary aids and personal care workers, maintenance people, cleaning staff, some clerical people, are asking that the work they do inside a nursing home receive the same rate of pay as other workers doing the precise same work in hospital settings. This is what they are asking for - wage parity between the long-term care sector and the hospital sector. They are asking that they have pension plans and that the wage freeze they have experienced and the suspension of collective bargaining that has taken place be rectified.

If you think about the fact that this group of workers has been without wage increases for nine years, then, Mr. Speaker, the implications of allowing these workers to be in that situation are, in fact, dramatic. A grave injustice has been done to the least well remunerated group of workers in our health care system, and it requires a fairly dramatic and immediate response from government.

[6:15 p.m.]

This government would not consider saying to a physician that the medical service you provide inside this hospital is going to be paid at a higher rate of pay than the medical service you provide over here in a nursing home. That doesn't happen. Physicians are paid the same rate of pay for their services regardless of where they provide those services. The same now is true for nurses. And the same is true for most LPNs, licenced practical nurses, not all.

What message are we sending to people in the health care field if we are saying that this group of workers will have parity in their wages regardless of where, because it is the service and the quality of that service we are paying for. What we are saying to these workers is you are not professionals, you are not professionally trained, so we are not going to remunerate you appropriately. That is not fair, because the fact that these workers don't have professional degrees doesn't mean they have no skills. It doesn't mean that they have no commitment, and it certainly doesn't mean they lack professionalism, because they are a tremendous group of workers.

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I know many workers who work in this sector, and they are very dedicated, committed, skilled and very professional. We need to recognize that and we need to have a commitment from this government for equal pay for equal work in the health care sector, regardless of where the worker is located.

The problem that is confronting us today is perhaps of a magnitude that we haven't seen in Nova Scotia before because we have upwards of 30-some nursing homes and residential facilities that are potentially moving us towards a province-wide strike around this issue. I think as the minister correctly pointed out, the impact of such a scenario on senior citizens, on persons with disabilities or the mentally challenged, people with mental health issues, these are all persons who are unable to live independently and whose family members are unable to provide the level of care that they require, so they are in these residential facilities.

The impact of a strike on residents, on family members, on their communities, on the administrators, on the nurses, on the volunteers will be dramatic. Not only will it be dramatic at the time of any kind of labour disruption, but I can tell you that following a strike in any kind of enterprise, there are deep wounds, quite often, that require a tremendous amount of attention to bring the working relationship back to where it was and where it should be to provide adequate care.

I think that it is really very important that the Minister of Health understand that sending his medical officer off to meet with nursing administrators, nursing home administrators and what have you, while it is important, the absolute importance of averting strikes in this sector by reasoned and strong intervention from this government in terms of making wage parity possible is absolutely essential. Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

MR. SPEAKER: We will adjourn.

[The House rose at 6:21 p.m.]